Friday, September 30, 2011

Trade Offs - Do We Really Have to Choose?

I took the family finder test in June and to date have about 150 matches. I have made contact with several of my matches so far. Much of the process involves going through my family tree and looking for the surnames that they send me. Sometimes they send me a link to their online family tree on Although my family tree is published on it is not updated because I do the updating on my desktop application. I prefer to use the desktop application because it is faster than the trees and it is easier to manage my sources which I am very particular about.

My tree is private, but when I do make a connection to a known cousin, I share my tree with them and I assign them as a “guest” which gives them the right to view the tree and to save items from my tree directly to their tree. I have also found it very convenient to view my matches’ trees and to copy their lines directly into my tree. Unfortunately, because I still maintain my most up to date information on my desktop, I then also have to copy information from their trees into my desktop application as well.

The discontinuity between my online tree and my desktop tree hasn’t really been an issue until now - since I’ve taken the DNA test - and I’ve had to rely more heavily on my genealogy database / family tree. This has really made me start thinking on how I can make the process of collaborating and determining kinship with my matches more streamlined.

Last month I read Randy Seaver’s blog posts about his beta user experience with Family Tree Maker 2012 which has the new “Tree Sync” feature between the desktop application and the online tree. I have to admit, this feature is very appealing to me. However, I do have my reservations.

1. You have to either start a NEW online tree or start a new FTM tree. You cannot merge one into the other. Clarification: You have to choose one tree to work with: either an existing tree that is in your Family Tree Maker Software that you want to upload to a NEW online family tree; Or an existing online family tree that you want to download as a NEW family tree into your Family Tree Maker software. Thanks to Russ for pointing this out in the comments below.

2. Sources created in online tree stay in a free-form like or general format. Sources created using the Evidence! Explained templates in FTM 2012 will show up in the online tree, but cannot be edited in the online tree. The only sources that can be edited in the online tree are the ones created as free-form. (From Randy Seaver’s Notes Post)

This 2nd point is a biggie for me. If I cannot access my desktop application, then I will access the online version. And half of my tree editing is done via the source citation process. My long term goal is to become a professional genealogist and in order to achieve that I have to practice writing correct source citations every chance I get, including while I’m using my genealogy software. It doesn’t seem like I can do that with this software or online version of trees and this is a limiting factor for me.

So what is the trade off? 

I switched from FTM to Rootsmagic a couple of years ago. My number one reason was RootsMagic On-The-Go. Simply said I can take it anywhere with me on my flash drive. I don’t have to have the program installed on any machine to access my files. I actually have it installed in dropbox and I can open it anywhere. I love this feature. And the file is so much smaller than FTM which means it opens up on a dime. (And no, I don’t have any media attached to my file).

I also switched to Rootsmagic because I thought the sourcing features would work better and I liked the reports. However, I am on the fence about these two things and could be happy with either FTM or RM in this regards.

So again, I ask, what is the tradeoff? It’s not that I want to be able to access my tree anywhere I go. If that were the case, I would just use an application on my android. I want to be able to fully use my application, including writing proper source citations.

What do you think? What is more important to you?  

My Most Important Encounter with Indirect Evidence

I recently read a couple of blogs in which the authors illustrated their first encounters with indirect evidence. In his post, My First Encounter with Indirect Evidence, Michael Hait talked about a Deed-in-Partition that a researcher told him about in which his ancestor was found selling a piece of land along with another person who was presumed to be his brother. Claudia C. Breland also discussed her experience with indirect evidence in her post, In Which I First Encounter Indirect Evidence. I would like to contribute my own experience with indirect evidence, albeit I’m sure it’s not my first experience, although I would say it was probably my most important one.

I have been looking for the parents of my ancestor, Elijah Godwin for years. He was born in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1801. He entered 200 acres of land in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1822, married Nancy Lewis in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1826, and was enumerated in Putnam County, Indiana in 1830.

Two likely candidates for parents of Elijah Godwin were Dred Godwin and Nathan Godwin who lived in Randolph County, North Carolina from 1800 - 1828 and who also removed to Clay County, Indiana in 1830 (Clay neighbors Putnam County).

Nathan Godwin disappeared after the 1830 census in Clay County, Indiana. Dred Godwin died and his children appeared selling off each of their 1/7th parts of his land in 1852 in Putnam County, Indiana. (See my previous posts on Determining the heirs of Netheldred Godwin via Land Records). I learned that 3 of Elijah Godwin’s children were born in Illinois between 1830 and 1833, so I started looking for Godwins in Illinois and I learned that Nathan had actually died in 1833 in Perry County, Illinois and his widow Sarah was living there in 1840.  

A nice researcher pulled the estate records of Nathan Godwin for me and made copies and sent them to me. In the estate records I learned that Elijah Godwin had purchased several items from Nathan’s estate and that he had signed an affidavit saying that Nathan Godwin had died September 17, 1833 in Perry County, Illinois! 

Although no relationship was indicated in this sworn affidavit, I believe Elijah Godwin to have been the son of Nathan Godwin. There is a lot more information and indirect evidence to support this statement which I have not included in this post for brevity; However this is the only piece of evidence that actually links these two men besides them simply living in the same county at the same time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

FGS - Haphazard posts from this week's classes

It is Saturday, September 10th, 2011 and we are on our last day of the FGS conference. I am able to write because it is 8:30 in the morning and I am taking a break from classes because I did not find anything I wanted to attend. Nothing bothers me more than sitting through a boring class. I had one of those yesterday. It was just awful. All it takes is one of those to really burn you. Actually, I woke up on the 2nd day sick as a dog with a cold. Guess I haven’t been taking enough vitamins. So I’m struggling to keep up with my classes. This is why I haven’t been blogging much. Or taking many pictures of the events I’ve attended.

Yesterday (Friday), we shared a table at breakfast with Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings and his wife Linda. Our hotel (The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Hotel) is undergoing some renovations (still) and was not ready to sustain a huge influx of conference goers and then a busload of bikers that came in the night after. So they asked us to consolidate our tables and being social genealogists that we are, we agreed to let complete strangers share tables with us. Of course, in our case, Randy and his wife were not complete strangers.

Randy asked what about the conference had surprised us most but I didn’t really have an answer. Although this was my first FGS conference, it was my 2nd National conference – I had just attended my first National conference, NGS, in May, so there were a lot of similarities between the two. I did think there were a lot more advanced genealogists at this conference.

We didn’t get any sight-seeing done on Friday because it was raining. I got in a full day of classes though, starting with Joshua Taylor’s talk on Digital Preservation. He talked librarian speak which was very cool and I was surprised he didn’t lose the audience at “metadata – data about data.” I was able to follow along just fine because I am, after all, a fellow librarian. We met a fellow gen society manager from PA in this class as well. It was nice to put a face to a name.

My next class was about Researching your Pioneer Ancestors by James Hansen from the Wisconsin Historical Society. He talked about the Land Records and the Case Files that you can get from the National Archives in addition to the Land Patents that are online. He also reiterated my belief that you would always look at the original records. Lastly, he said you should remember to search records in the lands in between migrations.

Well I’m off to my next class, so I will close for now and write more later. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

FGS - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Visit

There are many things to do while attending genealogy conferences. We decided to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum during our first day of the conference. We thought they were doing one of their private viewings of the library today, but that is not until tomorrow. But we viewed the museum today anyways. We got a discount because we are conference attendees.

Cameras were allowed in the main gallery, but prohibited in the smaller galleries off to the sides of the main gallery. This is due to copyright issues. The kind folks who were commissioned to recreate the museum scenes have copyrighted their exhibits and everything in them, therefore, in order to prevent any issues to arise around copyright having to do with photography, they have simply prohibited it altogether.

We took our photos with the family in the main gallery, some in front of Lincoln's boy hood home in Indiana (just over the Kentucky line) and a photo of the white house.

Ginger and Liz from My Tapley Tree

Kim from Le Maison Duchamp

Ginger in front of Lincoln's boyhood home

Ginger and Linda from Documenting the Details

Ginger and Linda from Documenting the Details

The White House
P. S. My 5th great-grandfather Calvin West was friends with Abe Lincoln when they were little boys.

Abraham Lincoln's Tomb

Yesterday we visited Abraham Lincoln's Tomb which was just a short drive from the conference. The structure is located in an actual cemetery, although I did not see the name of the cemetery posted anywhere. This is the sign that was posted at the entrance of the cemetery. This granite and marble sign reads "Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site."

 This is the view of the structure and obelisk surrounding Lincoln's "tomb" in the back of the cemetery.

With some close ups of the statues adorning the top of the structure
Mr Lincoln himself greets us as we walk inside. 

Here is the tomb. Lincoln's body is buried 10 feet beneath this structure made of Arkansas marble. Behind me Lincoln's wife Mary Todd and 3 of their 4 sons are buried in crypts (in the wall).

A Plaque describing the flags.

FGS - Focus on Societies - Day 1

The first day of the conference was a success and fun was had by all. I attended David Rencher’s opening session about how to keep societies from extinction. He pointed out the following:

In order to understand why societies go out of existence, we must first understand why they exist in the first place.

Historically speaking, Rencher reminded us, genealogical societies were formed around a bunch of genealogy people who got together to talk about genealogy; these meetings often centered around potlucks.  People got together because they enjoyed the social experience. This has become much more difficult to maintain with the advent of the internet which increased access to records and material to people who no longer had to leave their homes.

In order to sustain a society, one has to evaluate the costs involved of each service provided and then identify ways in which to reduce those costs in order to reach a goal of a $0 membership. Remember why and how they got together in the first place? Additionally, the society’s mission statement must keep up with the changing landscape, including the technological changes.

The whole day was dedicated to the Focus on Societies sessions.  I attended two morning sessions, then we took a break to visit the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library, and then I attended one more society meeting before ending the day.

The two morning sessions I attended were about copyright issues and internet collaborative tools you can use for outreach and education.  Most of the copyright information wasn’t new to me. However, I wish there was a webinar about it that I could play for my members and newsletter and journal editors so they will be informed, especially about sharing information with each other, whether it be a cool blog post you read about a new software tool or some genealogy you read out of a book that you would like to incorporate into your own family tree. A good point was made that as a society board member or editor, by following the copyright rules, we are providing good examples to our members/readers. It has been difficult for me to teach my newsletter editors the importance of obtaining permission and/or attributing the work to someone else. 

The final session I attended with Paula Stuart Warren was about creating a Society Handbook or Operating Manual of sorts. This is what I am trying to build in my genealogy society right now. I have requested that each committee submit a document about what they do, how they do it, and/or what they would like to see done or any improvements they would like to see implemented, especially if there were more volunteers. This session was good because we broke into groups and outlined what we would do if we held a particular board or committee position.

We didn’t attend the Old Fashioned Prairie Social because the description said it only had desserts and we were short one ticket. So we walked a block down to the Italian place to have dinner instead. Back in the hotel room by 7:30 to write this blog post and relax. I am hoping to get some photos of the museum uploaded as well and a blog post written about that. Tomorrow we are attending a breakfast panel hosted by Jonathan Good from with Dear Myrtle and Josh Taylor. They will be speaking about how to engage the younger generation in genealogy by using various digital tools. Check out their website today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Family Search Bloggers Reception at FGS

We finally made it to Springfield IL for the FGS genealogy conference which starts tomorrow. 

Tonight I attended the Bloggers Reception put on by Family Search that was held on the 29th floor of the Hilton hotel in downtown Springfield, Illinois. This offers an opportunity for the bloggers to get together and meet each other in person and interact with the members of the Family Search team.  It is also a way in which Family Search can disseminate information about what they have been working on to fellow geneabloggers who can then share with their readers.

Some of the announcements on current Family Search projects:

1)      As many of you know, the 1940 census report images will be released on on April 2nd, 2012.  Family Search has joined a consortium to index it and make it free “in perpetuity.” They hope to engage the public and local genealogical societies for their help in bringing this project to fruition prior to the April 2nd release date.
2)      David Rencher announced that Family Search did a 4 generation pedigree of the Abraham Lincoln family, framed it and presented it to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum this week. Prints of the pedigree will be made available for sale in the museum store.
3)      More news on the Civil War Records being released by Family Search can be found on their website at Information about places, regiments, and events can be found on their wiki along with current indexing projects that need your help! One thing that caught my eye was an indexing project of union soldiers’ headstones!
4)      If you are an indexing volunteer or would like to learn more about their volunteering opportunities, stop by the Family Search booth during their Volunteer Appreciation Reception on Thursday night from 6 to 8 pm.
5)      Be sure to check out the white paper on “Preserving Your Family History Digitally” which has been recently updated and discusses the advantages and challenges of preserving your family history records digitally.
6)      We also saw slides of the learning center webpages which have been redesigned and offer over 200 free learning courses for you to choose from.

Two huge announcements released this week include the transition of digital scanning from the field to on-site digital publishing and the replacement of the BYU archive of family history books which goes into beta this week in the Family History labs.

Field Express:
You may have noticed a lot of records being made available “by image only” prior to being indexed by volunteers. This is made possible by over 165 field cameras placed throughout the world which are responsible for capturing digital images and uploading online from the field.  This is much faster, providing a “digital pipeline” directly to the genealogists who used to have to wait years before content was captured, indexed, and delivered to the public. To date, turnaround time is approximately 4 weeks from capture to delivery; the goal is 2 weeks turnaround time.

The BYU Family History Archive will be replaced by the new Family Search Family History Books which can be found in the FamilySearch Labs. Check it out!

They also announced next year's RootsTech2012 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 2-4, 2012. All FGS conference attendees receive a discounted $99.00 conference registration fee good for yourself and anyone else you would like to register while here at FGS. This is a $30 discount off of the early bird registration fee of $129 and almost half off the $189 full registration fee. 

Tomorrow is the Focus on Societies Day of the conference. I hope to gain insight into how to manage a genealogy society, provide education and outreach to our members, secure funding and setup fundraising events, and organize volunteers.