Saturday, March 17, 2018

Who Actually Owns the Family Tree You Have Online? | Family History Daily

This is an sll-too-common experience. I had a similar experience with MyHeritage. Who Actually Owns the Family Tree You Have Online? | Family History Daily:
Years ago, I chose to backup my GEDCOMs and related data with a fairly popular online service dedicated to that purpose. I let the service automatically save and upload my files as they were updated. It was very convenient and my account was 100% private, only for my use…or so I thought. One day I was doing some research online and came across my own tree. My private research online. I was shocked. I had not, at that time, publicly uploaded my tree to any online sharing site, yet there it was, with all of my personally collected records, notes and more. How had this happened? After doing some considerable digging I discovered that the backup service I was using was bought out by a large genealogy company and they had taken all of my files and published them online in their databases…and they were charging for the information. I was horrified. Not only had I put countless hours of research into private trees that were now available for anyone to access without my permission, but I knew much of the information I had in my trees was not 100% accurate.
As I said, I had a similar experience -- see here — another scam site? | Hayes & Greene family history.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

African genealogy and Rootsweb mailing lists

It seems that the Rootsweb genealogy mailing list servers are down
again. There are several mailing lists dealing with genealogy in
various parts of Africa that have been affected by this.

This is a reminder about the African genealogy and family history
discussion forum, which is not part of Rootsweb and so has not been
affected. It is a continent-wide list, for discussing genealogy and
family history in any part of the African continent. 

Visit the forum web page at:

for more information, and if you know anyone else who may be
interested, please invite them to do so as well.

Group Email Addresses

Main web page:
Post message:
List owner:

If you do not want to be a member of Yahoo! you can still subscribe to
the mailing list by sending e-mail to:

with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line and on the first line of
the message.

If you do have a Yahoo! Id you can go to the web page and edit your
membership, though the people at Yahoo! try to make if very hard for members to do so, as if you follow the link they will often take you to a different web page instead, so you may find it easier just to subscribe to the list.

Steve Hayes
Moderator of the African Genealogy Discussion Forum

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

First database of burial grounds in England and Wales to be created | Culture | The Guardian

First database of burial grounds in England and Wales to be created | Culture | The Guardian:
The first national database to record all the natural and manmade treasures of burial grounds, from the giant Victorian urban cemeteries to little country churchyards, is to be created with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you Read more The grant will be announced on Monday to help record and preserve rare plants and animals in danger of extinction across most of Britain, threatened by development and modern agriculture, but still flourishing among the gravestones in an estimated 20,000 burial grounds in England and Wales.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Zealand probate records on FamilySearch

Ambitious project to digitise hundreds of thousands of probate records complete after nine years |
In an unassuming room, tucked away in Archives New Zealand's Wellington office, volunteers from around the world have been methodically working their way through more than 4 million pieces of paper. For the past nine years, it's been a base for FamilySearch, an international genealogy organisation, working to archive shreds of New Zealand probate records, up till 1993, and make them available online for free. It's an ambitious project that has, this week, finally come to an end with volunteers Mike and Lois Woods of Page, Arizona, in charge of digitising the last of the records.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

FamilySearch just got harder to use

Recent changes to FamilySearch seem to have made it harder to use. These are two of the changes that make life more difficult for me, at least, in using FamilySearch for research, especially in census records.

  1. Previously, when searching for a particular person, it used to be possible to look at a record, and then go back to "Search Results" to look at another record in the set. Now, it seems that there is no way to do this, and one has to re-enter the search query each time.
  2. Previously it was possible to copy the record found in a search, and paste it to a document more or less as is. Now, if one does this, the document requires a lot of editing in order to be able to print it out and compare it with other records, because information that appears on one line on the screen now appears on several consecutive lines in the pasted document.
Or am I missing something? Is there still a way to do those two things that I just haven't noticed yet?

Has anyone noticed any other problems, or anything that has been improved?

Update 11 Jan 2018

After further "improvements" it has got worse.

Previously, after linking a record to the family tree, it was possible to go back to the same person in the family tree and continue from there. But now it takes you back to the "base person". And it stakes up to 10 clicks (+ waiting 30 seconds or more for the screen to reload each time) to get back to where you were to continue working. .

Saturday, December 02, 2017

How to Use OCR to Transcribe and Translate Genealogy Documents

How to Use OCR to Transcribe and Translate Genealogy Documents:
While there is never a replacement for careful hand transcriptions, the simpler solution for transcribing your genealogy records is to use modern OCR. OCR stands for optical character recognition and there are a variety of options available online, as apps, in printers and scanners and as downloadable programs. The first step in this process is to have your records available in a digital format – such as a PDF or image (JPG etc). You can scan paper documents to make them digital before applying OCR – or you can apply OCR while you are scanning. See the bottom of this article for a bit more information on this. The rest of this how-to assumes that you are dealing with digital records. We tested a variety of OCR solutions – including FineReader and Google Docs – and found that, for our purposes, a free online option called Online OCR actually produced the most accurate results. It is also very quick and easy to use.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Power Gene?

All US presidents bar one are directly descended from a medieval English king | Daily Mail Online:

What do Barack Obama, Thomas Jefferson, George W. Bush and the other past U.S. presidents have in common? Besides holding the coveted title of commander-in-chief, it appears that all of them but one are cousins. The remarkable discovery was made by 12-year-old BridgeAnne d’Avignon, of Salinas, California, who created a ground-breaking family tree that connected 42 of 43 U.S. presidents to one common, and rather unexpected, ancestor: King John of England.

Friday, November 10, 2017

How to Use the Free GRO Index for English Genealogy Research

A useful article on a useful resource How to Use the Free GRO Index for English Genealogy Research:

the General Register Office does offer direct access to their index for free, but there are some things you should be aware of before setting out to view it directly through their site. The most important thing to know is that, while the index of these records is free to use, you can only view only a portion of the index covering registered births from 1837-1915 and deaths from 1837-1957. Advertisement Unfortunately, this version of the index – which was released to the public late last year – doesn’t include any of the marriage records found in the complete index, and likely won’t anytime soon.
For the periods and records not covered, there is always FreeBMD. The article goes on to tell you how to set up an account with the GRO.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

New Find-a-Grave site is fashionably illegible

The last couple of times I have gone to the Find-a-Grave site I have been taken to the "new" site, and have quickly switched back to the old one, because the new one is much more difficult to use. I am sorry to see that the old one is to be retired soon, because, whatever its other faults, it is at least legible on screen.

It seems to be fashionable among web designers nowadays to make their pages as difficult to read as possible, and the new Find-a-Grave site is no exception to this, and is a particularly egregious example.

After battling to make out what was written on the new site, the moment I switched to the old one everything became clear. This is in spite of the fact that the old site uses a smaller font size than the new one. The difference in legibility is due to the better contrast between text and background on the old site, and also the greater thickness of the letters.

So if one is measuring the site by "user experience", I would rate the old site at 55% and the new one at 5%. The main user experience is frustration at trying to puzzle out what is written on the screen.

The new site may bring oohs and aahs from other 20-something web designers, because it follows all the fashionable trends. But spare a thought for the poor suckers who actually want to use the site. Many of us are over 60, and our eyesight is not what it was when we were 20.

PS My wife looked at the new site on her computer and found it easier to read than I did on my computer. Perhaps if you have one of those old-fashioned monitors with little knurled knobs that you can use for adjusting brightness and contrast you could fiddle with them until some of the presently illegible text might become readable, but my flat-screen Samsung monitor has automatic adjustment of brightness and contrast, so I'm stuck with it. And the fact remains that the old site is perfectly legible to me, and large parts of the new one are not legible, using exactly the same computer and monitor. So I can say unequivocally that the new site is designed to give a very bad user experience. I can't even make out the words on the screen wearing two pairs of glasses and holding a magnifying glass up to the screen.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Forgotten Federal Census of 1885 Can Be Found Online for Free | Family History Daily

Don't get your hopes up too much when reading the headline... The Forgotten Federal Census of 1885 Can Be Found Online for Free | Family History Daily:
In 1879 the U.S. government asked states to take a semi-decennial census in 1885 – in addition to the upcoming 1880 and 1890 censuses – with the promise that they would cover 50% of the costs of the undertaking.

The states of Nebraska, Florida and Colorado completed the request, along with the territories of New Mexico and Dakota. These census schedules include a wealth of information for those who may have had ancestors in those regions in 1885 and are one way to overcome the gap left by the 1890 census.
It only covers a small portion of the US.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Battle to Bring the New York State Death Index Online, and How to Find it Free

The Battle to Bring the New York State Death Index Online, and How to Find it Free:
Reclaim The Records, is a not-for-profit activist group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates. They identify important genealogical records sets that ought to be in the public domain but which are being wrongly restricted by government archives, libraries, and agencies. They file Freedom of Information and Open Data requests to get that public data released back to the public. And if the government doesn’t comply, they take them to court. Then they digitize everything they win and put it all online for free, without any paywalls or usage restrictions, so that it can never be locked up again. Learn more about their work or sign up for their newsletter.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The One Google Search Trick Every Genealogist Needs to Know Now

The One Google Search Trick Every Genealogist Needs to Know Now:
We’re talking about Advanced Search – and switching over to it will change the way you use Google forever. Many people are unaware that Google even provides an advanced search form, one that goes well beyond what the standard search box is designed for. This advanced search will allow you to use most of the tricks we mention in our Google search tricks for genealogy article, without having to remember the search operators.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Why children need to know their family history | Life and style | The Guardian

Why children need to know their family history | Life and style | The Guardian:
I came across research showing that children who have a strong “family narrative” enjoy better emotional health. Much of this work is from the late 90s, when psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, asked 48 families 20 questions about their family history. They found that the more the children knew, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. “Hearing these stories gave the children a sense of their history and a strong ‘intergenerational self’. Even if they were only nine, their identity stretched back 100 years, giving them connection, strength and resilience,” he said.

Friday, August 25, 2017

UN will focus on witchcraft-related violence for first time | The Wild Hunt

UN will focus on witchcraft-related violence for first time | The Wild Hunt:
Although the published reports do regularly populate the international news media, this human rights crisis has gotten very little attention on the international political scene. To date, most of the work has been done by private organizations, such as the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) and Under the Same Sun. Or it is being handled by local governments, such as in the creation and enforcement of anti-witchcraft accusation laws. Over the past ten years, an increasing number of countries have, in fact, instituted such laws, including Papua New Guinea, India, South Africa, Tanzania, and others. In 2018, Liberia will play host to a new U.N. human rights office that will reportedly help the country’s government better address, in part, the “accusations of witchcraft and ritualistic killings.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Natal marriages in FamilySearch

I've recently being following up some of the "hints" on FamilySearch for possible connections.

Among the records in the "hints" were "Natal Civil Marriages", and at first I rejoiced because they appeared to give an actual date of marriage, whereas I had only had a month and a year.

But on reflection it seems to me that these "marriage dates" are misleading. About 25 years ago I think I looked at some of these records in the Natal Archives and if I recall correctly they are not marriage registers but marriage notifications, and the date recorded is the date of the notification, not the date of the marriage.

This seemed to be confirmed for me when one couple were shown as having married on 8 Oct 1886, but their ante-nuptial contract was only signed on 22 October, which means they could only have got married after the latter date.

Update 24 August 2017

On checking the records concerned again, with a different link for which an image was available, it seems that it was indeed from the original register, so the date is correct. It appears that the couple concerned had a post-nuptial ante-nuptial contract -- they were married on 8 October 1891, and their ante-nuptial was dated 22 October.

The other misleading thing is that it was in fact a church marriage, and not a civil marriage.

So this record at least was indeed from the original registers, and not from the "marriage notifications" in the Natal Archives.