Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Genealogy as a social phenomenon

My recent attendance at the very large genealogy conference called RootsTech 2017 gave me pause to reflect on the interesting social consequences of such a gathering. As was expected and as it is commonly perceived, genealogy attracts a decidedly older segment of the population. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Administration on Aging concerning the population of the United States:
The older population—persons 65 years or older—numbered 46.2 million in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 14.5% of the U.S. population, about one in every seven Americans. By 2060, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2014. People 65+ represented 14.5% of the population in the year 2014 but are expected to grow to be 21.7% of the population by 2040.
If we look at this statistic alone, there should be a significant growth potential for an interest in genealogy. Perhaps focusing on youth is a bad marketing decision for those who are investing in the future of genealogy? The assumption that is being made when the genealogical community focuses on youth is that the older genealogist will need to be replaced by younger ones, but the statistical reality is that the pool of potential oldsters is rapidly increasing and there is no expected shortage of old folks to go to huge genealogy conferences and spend their retirement years doing genealogy and spending money on genealogical products. Additionally, the present situation where the "older" population of the United States is relatively electronically unsophisticated will be solved by the simple fact that the aging population will have grown up with computers.

From my own perspective, if I were starting a genealogy-related business today, I would concentrate on making my programs attractive to the mature user. The dichotomy here is that the developers and programmers today are younger and have a socially induced blind spot when it comes to relating to the older population. Here are some more statistics from the Administration on Aging:
  • The population age 65 and over numbered 46.2 million in 2014, an increase 10 million or 28% since 2004.
  • Between 2004 and 2014 the population age 60 and over increased 32.5% from 48.9 million to 64.8 million.
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades—increased by 17.8% between 2004 and 2014.
  • About one in every seven, or 14.5%, of the population, is an older American.
  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.3 years (20.5 years for females and 18 years for males).
  • There were 72,197 persons aged 100 or more in 2014 (0.2% of the total 65+ population).
  • Older women outnumber older men at 25.9 million older women to 20.4 million older men.
You just might want to think this through if you are running a genealogy business. I recall at RootsTech 2017 the long lines of people purchasing DNA testing kits at a reduced price from Maybe the huge demand for these "less expensive" kits also says something about the population. It did not appear to me that the lines were unrepresentative of the bulk of those attending the conference. 

On Saturday at the Conference, it was "Family Discovery Day." The mixture of the crowd tilted slightly towards younger families with children. However, my observations on the Exhibit Floor were unchanged. The people who were talking to and buying from the vendors were the old folks. The youth really had no reference point to take any interested in what the vendors were selling. 

Aren't the genealogically oriented companies ignoring reality? We should be focusing on the 20-year-old+ segment of the population who are going to be the old people of the future. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Genealogy and the use of the word Legacy

Certain words get overused and thereby lose the meaning. In the genealogical community, the word "legacy" is used in a variety of ways to both name software products and to describe other software products. Mind you, I am not picking on any particular product or service. I am commenting on the way that certain words are adopted by communities and used in a variety of particular ways that dramatically change the original meaning or meanings of the words. Because of my background in linguistics, I am always interested when I see the meaning of a word evolving rapidly.

The word "legacy" comes from the late Middle English denoting the function or office of a deputy, especially a papal legate. A papal legate or Apostolic legate (from the Ancient Roman title legatus) is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic Faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters. See Wikipedia: papal legate.

A woodcut showing Henry II of England greeting the pope's legate
Modern usage of the term has evolved into an entirely different meaning. The most common meaning is as a noun used to describe an amount of money or property left to someone in a will. See The word has been generalized to mean something left or handed down by a predecessor. Interestingly, none of the current genealogical uses of the word come close to any of these three meanings.

Quoting from one product advertisement, "We believe that a Legacy is made from the moments that matter most." The idea is that our personal records are somehow being transformed into a "legacy" to our heirs. Loosely speaking, I guess the third definition of something left or handed down from a predecessor has now been particularized into a "product" that is being sold. This concept is becoming so broad that it now encompasses a DNA test. Perhaps, in one sense our DNA is a legacy but how does that generalize to a DNA test being a legacy? The idea of a will was to provide a way to allow a person some control over the recipients of the legacy. We certainly do not have any choice in the way our DNA is or is not preserved by our descendants.

Most of the "legacy" denoted products are involved in some aspect of digitization. The idea that has become attached to this digitization is preservation as in "preserve your legacy." In this use of the word, it has assumed a degree of autonomy that was not implied in the context of a will and the subsequent probate of an estate. The idea of a legacy in a will was to give the interest in the property to another person, not preserve any particular other interest of the deceased. There were ways to exert control over the use or disposal of the property subsequent to the death of the testator, but the idea of preserving one's information (i.e. life story) was not a primary concern.

Perhaps the idea that "information" is now a form of property that can be owned and inherited is a byproduct of our information age and the transformation of the narrow, legal term into a broad, all inclusive transmittal of information was inevitable.

The GPO and Genealogy

The United States Government is a prolific publisher. Here is a short description of their operations from the website.
The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) is the Federal Government’s official, digital, secure resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the U.S. Government. The GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the Federal Government, including U.S. passports for the Department of State as well as the official publications of Congress, the White House, and other Federal agencies in digital and print formats. GPO provides for permanent public access to Federal Government information at no charge through our govinfo (, partnerships with approximately 1,150 libraries nationwide participating in the Federal Depository Library Program, and our secure online bookstore.
Originally, the bulk of the information available from the GPO was published in paper form and deposited in the various Federal Depository Libraries. It may never have occurred to you, even if you are very familiar with the large libraries, that all these government documents may be a source for genealogical information. You may also be unaware that the Federal Government operates a Genealogy Program. Here is the description from the following:

§103.38 Genealogy Program. (Added effective 8/13/08; 73 FR 28026
(a) Purpose . The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program designed to provide genealogical and historical records and reference services to genealogists, historians, and others seeking documents maintained within the historical record systems.

(b) Scope and limitations . Sections 103.38 through 103.41 comprise the regulations of the Genealogy Program. These regulations apply only to searches for and retrieval of records from the file series described as historical records in 8 CFR 103.39 . These regulations set forth the procedures by which individuals may request searches for historical records and, if responsive records are located, obtain copies of those records.
The Historical Records that are most requested are listed in Section 103.39:
§103.39 Historical Records.

Historical Records are files, forms, and documents now located within the following records series:
(a) Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956 . Copies of records relating to all U.S. naturalizations in Federal, State, county, or municipal courts, overseas military naturalizations, replacement of old law naturalization certificates, and the issuance of Certificates of Citizenship in derivative, repatriation, and resumption cases. The majority of C-Files exist only on microfilm. Standard C-Files generally contain at least one application form (Declaration of Intention and/or Petition for Naturalization, or other application) and a duplicate certifi cate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship. Many files contain additional documents, including correspondence, affidavits, or other records. Only C-Files dating from 1929 onward include photographs.
(b) Microfilmed Alien Registration Forms, from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944 . Microfilmed copies of 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944. The two-page form called for the following information: Name; name at arrival; other names used; street address; post-office address; date of birth; place of birth; citizenship; sex; marital status; race; height; weight; hair and eye color; date, place, vessel, and class of admission of last arrival in United S tates; date of first arrival in United States; number of years in United States; usual occupation; present occupation; name, address, and business of present employer; membership in clubs, organizations, or societies; dates and nature of military or naval service; whether citizenship papers filed, and if so date, place, and court for declaration or petition; number of relatives living in the United States; arrest record, including date, place, and disposition of each arrest; whether or not affiliated with a foreign government; signature; and fingerprint.
(c) Visa Files, from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944 . Original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924. Visa forms contain all information normally found on a ship passenger list of the period, as well as the immigrant's places of residence for 5 years prior to emigration, names of both the immigrant's parents, and other data. In most cases, birth records or affidavits are attached to the visa, and in some cases, marriage, military, or police records may also be attached to the visa.
(d) Registry Files, from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944 . Original records documenting the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found. Most files also include documents supporting the immigrant's claims regarding arrival and residence (e.g., proofs of residence, receipts, and employment records).
(e) Alien-Files numbered below 8 million (A8000000), and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951 . Individual alien case files (A-files) became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated after April 1, 1944. The United States issued A-numbers ranging up to approximately 6 million to aliens and immigrants who were within or entered the United States between 1940 and 1945. The United States entered the 6 million and 7 million series of A-numbers between circa 1944 and May 1, 1951. Any documents dated after May 1, 1951, though found in an A-File numbered below 8 million, will re main subject to FOIA/PA restrictions.
As is the case with many of the Government's websites, you have to be especially persistent to work your way through all the verbiage. Here are the instructions for ordering historical documents.
§103.40 Genealogical Research Requests.

(a) Nature of requests . Genealogy requests are requests for searches and/or copies of historical records relating to a deceased person, usually for genealogy and family history research purposes.
(b) Manner of requesting genealogical searches and records . Requests must be submitted on Form G-1041, Genealogy Index Search Request, or Form G-1041A, Genealogy Records Request, and mailed to the address listed on the form. Beginning on August 13, 2008, USCIS will accept requests electronically through its Web site at . A separate request on Form G-1041 must be submitted for each individual searched, and that form will call for the name, aliases, and all alternate spellings relating to the one individual immigrant. Form G-1041A may be submitted to request one or more separate records relating to separate individuals.
(c) Information required to perform index search . As required on Form G-1041, all requests for index searches to identify records of individual immigrants must include the immigrant's full name (including variant spellings of the name and/or aliases, if any), date of birth, and place of birth. The date of birth must be at least as specific as a year, and the place of birth must be at least as specific as a country (preferably the country name as it existed at the time of the immigrant's immigration or naturalization). Additional information about the imm igrant's date of arrival in the United States, residence at time of naturalization, name of spouse, and names of children may be required to ensure a successful search.
(d) Information required to retrieve records . As required on Form G-1041A, requests for copies of historical records or files must identify the record by number or other specific data used by the Genealogy Program Office to retrieve the record. C-Files must be identified by a naturalization certificate number. Forms AR-2 and A-Files numbered below 8 million must be identified by Alien Registration Number. Visa Files must be identified by the Visa File Number. Registry Files must be identified by the Registry File Number (for example, R-12345).
(e) Information required for release of records . Subjects will be presumed deceased if their birth dates are more than 100 years prior to the date of the request. In other cases, the subject is presumed to be living until the requestor establishes to the satisfaction of the Genealogy Program Office that the subject is deceased. As required on
Form G-1041A, primary or secondary documentary evidence of the subject's death will be required (including but not limited to death records, published obituaries or eulogies, published death notices, church or bible records, photographs of gravestones, and/or copies of official documents relating to payment of death benefits). All documentary evidence must be attached to Form G-1041A or submitted in accordance with instructions provided on Form G-1041A.
(f) Processing of index search requests . This service is designed for customers who are unsure whether USCIS has any record of their ancestor, or who suspect a record exists but cannot identify that record by number. Each request for index search services will generate a search of the indices to determine the existence of responsive historical records. If no record is found, USCIS will notify the customer accordingly. If records are found, USCIS will provide the customer with the search results, including the type of record found and the file nu mber or other information identifying the record. The customer can use this information to request a copy of the record(s).
(g) Processing of record copy requests . This service is designed for customers who can identify a specific record or file to be retrieved, copied, reviewed, and released. Customers may identify one or more files in a single request. However, separate fees will apply to each file requested. Upon receipt of requests identifying specific records by number or other identifying information, USCIS will retrieve, review, duplicate, and then mail the record(s) to the requester. It is possible that USCIS will find a record that contains data that is not releasable to the customer. An example would be names and birth dates of persons who might be living. The FOIA/PA only permits release of this type of information when the affected individual submits a release authorization to USCIS. Therefore, the Genealogy Program Office will contact and inform the customer of this requirement. The customer will have the opportunity to submit the release authorization. The customer can also agree to the transfer of the document request to the FOIA/PA program for treatmen t as a FOIA/PA request as described in 6 CFR Part 5. Document retrieval charges will apply in all cases where documents are retrieved.

§ 6. Section 103.41 is added to read as follows:
§103.41 Genealogy request fees.

(a) Genealogy search fee . See 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1).
(b) Genealogy records fees . See 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1).
(c) Manner of submission . When a request is submitted online, credit card payments are required. These payments will be processed through the Treasury Department's Pay.Gov financial management system. Cashier's checks or money orders in the exact amount must be submitted for requests submitted with Form G-1041 or Form G-1041A in accordance with 8 CFR 103.7(a)(1). Personal Checks will not be accepted.
If all that doesn't discourage you, then you may be rewarded with some valuable information. You may also wish to browse the website for additional gems of information.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Genealogy in the Court Room: State of Hawai'i v. Kuhia

This particular lawsuit involves a problem that I encounter regularly but in this case the issues have been carried to an extreme. Genealogists occasionally get "carried away" in pursuing an unobtainable objective. These objectives sometimes involve "proving" lineage to a specific ancestor in order to inherit property, join a lineage society or obtain affiliation or membership in a Native American reservation. Here is a summary of this case from the court ruling entitled as, State of Hawai'i, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Glenn Kealoha Kuhia, Defendant-Appellant.
Kuhia began actively pursing his Hawaiian genealogy after he learned about a quiet title action permitting the heirs of Mahu to claim an interest in land on Maui. In order to prove his right to intervene in that action, Kuhia embarked on a diligent search to document and prove his Hawaiian roots. Based on his research, Kuhia believed that he was not only an heir of Mahu, but also an heir of Queen Lili`uokalani. For reasons that are not clear, Kuhia's search for his genealogy also led him to believe that his father, whose death in 1960 had been classified as a suicide, had in fact been murdered. 
Kuhia's efforts to prove his Hawaiian genealogy and to assert his rights as a Native Hawaiian brought him into contact with State agencies established to assist Native Hawaiians, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs 593*593 (OHA) and the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). It was Kuhia's confrontations with persons employed by or working under contract for these agencies that led to the charges in this case.
At the present time, we have a similar, but less dramatic, situation in our own family lines where erstwhile researchers become convinced of the accuracy of their conclusions despite a complete lack of documentary support. No amount of reasoning or request for further documentation avails in convincing the researchers that their conclusions are unsupported and inaccurate. It seems easy to dismiss these false and unverified claims as the product of some mental aberration, but unfortunately, other uninformed researchers often side with the claimant due to the persistence of the researcher in asserting the false claims.

In this particular case, the claimant, Kuhia, was both violent and threatening.
On February 2, 1999, Kuhia went to OHA's offices. Kuhia became very angry after reading Kippen's letter, and threw the letter back at Kippen. Kuhia demanded that Kippen return original genealogical documents that Kuhia claimed to have given to OHA staff on previous occasions. Kippen knew it was OHA's policy to make a copy of any original document submitted and to return the original. He also checked with OHA staff members, who all stated that any original documents submitted by Kuhia had been copied and returned to him.

Kuhia was "very upset" and "very angry" when Kippen did not satisfy Kuhia's demand for the original documents. Kuhia yelled, swore, and directed racial epithets at an OHA staff member. Kippen walked away because he could not satisfy Kuhia's demand, and Kuhia called the police. The officers arrived and tried to convince Kuhia that the dispute over the records was a civil matter. However, when Kuhia refused to leave without the records, the police arrested Kuhia for trespassing. After the February 2, 1999 incident, OHA obtained a restraining order against Kuhia.[3]
In many of the similar situations I have encountered during my years of helping patrons in Mesa and Provo, the researcher/claimant alters the presentation of their claim in response to its rejection. The same researcher will attempt to convince someone else in the library that they are correct by presenting the "facts" in a way to attempt to overcome the rejection. In some instances, these people became generally known by all of the support staff and the researchers would watch until he or she spotted a "new" staff member to make the arguments again. Although, I have not had my life threatened, I have had patrons become indignant and angry with me because I did not immediately accept their unsupported conclusions.

The rest of the Kuhia case involves a long discussion of various legal issues regarding the appeal. However, the maintenance of false or unsupported genealogical claims is a real and continuing issue. In fact, as I have recently pointed out, almost every family line that I presently show in the Family Tree ends up with unsupported and fictitious ancestors.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Legacy of Refugees

Names (left to right). First row: Ove Oveson, George Jarvis, Ann Prior Jarvis, Sidney Tanner. Second row: Mayflower pilgrims Richard Warren, Francis Cooke, John Cooke; Rebecca Hill Pettit, Edwin Pettit, Archibald Newell Hill and son Samuel. Third row: Isabella Hood Hill, Samuel Shepherd and wife Charity, Adeline Springthorpe Thomas.

There is still a swirling controversy about refugees in the United States. My daughter, Amy, wrote a recent blog post on the subject for her blog, The Ancestor Files in a very short article entitled appropriately, "Refugees." As Amy points out, our ancestral family is fairly well populated with "refugees" according to any possible definition of the term. The most common definition is "a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster." Many of my own ancestors were forced to leave the United States of American and flee into the wilderness of Mexico. Ironically, through the military efforts of that same United States, they were then involuntarily annexed back into the United States.

As a result of their efforts to maintain their beliefs in the face continued religious persecution both officially and unofficially from the government of the United States, eventually, the United States government sent the largest contingency of armed troops in the then history of the United States to invade my ancestors' homes and confiscate their church-owned, religious property. Some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were then further forced to abandon the United States and once again, flee into Mexico. Because of the invasion of Utah by Federal troops, my Great-Great-grandfather's family was forced to flee from their farms in San Bernardino, California and re-settle in Beaver, Utah.

Of course, the suffering my own ancestors suffered at the hands of soldiers and officials of the United States included actual physical injury. My Great-great-great-grandfather while unarmed, was attacked by militia and severely hit in the head causing a major injury. Here is one account of the injury.
The mob had come up to Father Tanner in his wagon and Captain O'Dell had pointed his gun at him and pulled the trigger twice but it refused to go off. This enraged him, and with a fearful oath, he took hold of the muzzle and struck Elder Tanner over the head with the breech of the gun. This blow would probably have killed him had it not been for his heavy felt hat, the double thickness of which saved his life, but he had a large, ugly gash on his head which bled profusely. "His skull was laid bare to the width of a man's hand" above the temple, and "from the bleeding of his wounds he was besmeared from head to foot," and "the blood ran into his boots" according to various accounts (this incident was mentioned in several affidavits which the Saints wrote up of the wrongs which they had suffered in Missouri, and submitted to government officials. They emphasized Father Tanner's age, that he was an unarmed farmer simply returning home from the mill, and that he was hit over the head for no reason at all). "He was taken prisoner and held for two or three days, during which he wore his bloody clothes and refused (or was not allowed) to wash the blood from himself. He was allowed to keep his team and wagon, and the mob allowed him to go temporarily, on his word of honor, to take the body of a Brother Carey, who had been brutally killed by the mob, to his family."
If you had this family tradition, how sympathetic would you be towards those oppose assisting refugee or even forbidding them assistance and entry into the United States? My refugee ancestors were not just driven from the United States, they also came to America to escape persecution in England, Scotland, Wales and starvation in Ireland.

4 Million Views for Genealogy's Star

Every so often I pass another milestone. Sometime in the next 24 hours or so, this blog will pass 4 million views. This will put the total for all three blogs; Genealogy's Star, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad..., and WalkingArizona at just over 5.3 million views. That is a lot of reading. I am grateful for literacy in America and around the world. Who would have ever guessed that years ago when all this started I would have the stamina to keep writing? I can only wonder what might have been different in my life if I had started writing before my dotage?

Thanks to all the friends I have made over the years. Thanks to my family and especially my wife who has put up with writing at all times of the day and night. To answer the perennial question: I do sleep. I just sleep at odd hours sometimes and I listen to Bluegrass and Folk music most of the time mixed in with Bach.

Oh, by the way, there are now about 9,215 posts online. So a quick search on Google should bring up about 15,000 to 20,000 articles, posts, webinars, interviews, etc.

P.S. Genealogy is not a competition sport but photography sometimes is.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Photo Discoveries on

This email from points out the new Photo Discoveries feature of the website. The Photo Discoveries are included in Instant Discoveries link on the menu bar.

If you click on a Photo Discovery option, you will get a selection of 10 photos to add to individuals in your family tree or ignore.

I can either leave all the items checked or select only the ones I want to keep and then click on the Add Photos to your tree button in the upper right-hand corner. The photos are then automatically added to each of the people tagged in the original photos.

Now, when I navigate to one of the people in my family tree, I see the new photo attached.

It is really as easy as that. Now, I see that I have 8 records that could be added to this individual.