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

Friday, October 20, 2017

MyHeritage on Good Morning Britain


Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid Discover Their DNA Origins | Good Morning Britain

Aaron Godfrey - VP of Marketing for MyHeritage.com appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain. MyHeritage also recently appeared on Russell Brand's popular radio show which you can watch here.

Here is the United States, MyHeritage has not had a high-level media presence, especially when compared to another of the huge online genealogy companies. But recently, I have been seeing some MyHeritage.com video ads on YouTube.com so I am guessing that the company is finally making a move into a higher level of marketing visibility here in the U.S. as well as in Great Britain. 


The Catholic Heritage Archive from Findmypast

https://www.findmypast.com/catholicrecords?utm_source=fmp&utm_medium=email&utm_content=1039282-A-29-C&utm_campaign=news&utm_term=FMP-CAM-Newsletter-181017-US
Findmypast.com is making a huge effort to build what will become the largest online archive of Catholic Church Records from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The archive will ultimately have approximately 100 million online, digitized records. 

Quoting from the website's description of the collection:
An introduction to the collection 
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Despite popular belief that it has few adherents in Britain and the US, it has always been a significant component (up to 25%) of the population. It has some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records ever created, however they have never been easy to use. Until now.

Findmypast has launched a ground breaking initiative to digitize these historic records of the Catholic Church. Millions of Irish records are already online, and they're being joined by the sacramental registers of England, Scotland and the US. Our first three Archdioceses alone (Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore) contain 30 million records, and that is just a part of this collection.

The sorts of records you are likely to find include:
  • Baptisms
  • Marriages
  • Deaths & Burials
  • Census and more 
We are commencing this project with the Registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the USA and the Archdioceses of Birmingham and Westminster in England. The Philadelphia records start back in 1757, while those for Westminster and Birmingham in 1657. 
Most of these records have never been accessible before by the public - either offline or online. We have developed a close collaboration with the Catholic Church to bring these millions of centuries-old records and images to your fingertips for the first time ever.
These records have already begun to appear online and will ultimately provide an insight into records that have not previously been available. 

My Last Conference (for a while)

http://mesafsl.org/
As I write this post, I am in Mesa, Arizona to attend and present at the Mesa FamilySearch Library's Annual Family History Conference. My wife and I will both be participating in this conference and during one hour of the conference, we will both be teaching at the same time. We enjoy coming down to Mesa from our relatively new home in Provo, Utah to attend the conference and renew old friendships. In years past, I have taught every hour of the conference, but this year, I will have a couple of breaks in between classes to answer questions and talk to my friends.

In a larger sense, this particular conference marks a turning point in our participation in the genealogical community. This will be the last scheduled conference we will attend before leaving to go on a full-time, one year, mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will be serving as record preservation specialists in the Washington, D.C. North Mission. We are presently assigned to work at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland.

We are looking forward to this opportunity to do some of the "real" work of genealogy, the preservation of records.

Many of my friends and associates have asked about my continued participation in the international genealogical community particularly whether or not I will keep writing my blogs. Right now, that is an unanswered question. We will have to wait and see the extent of our involvement and responsibilities during the coming year. But, I will still keep writing and probably taking photographs. Whether that includes the time to post those online: we will have to wait and see. But I doubt that we will be attending any conferences during the coming year although we may get the opportunity to teach some classes and do some other presentations.

We plan to be back after a year.

The Continuing History of RootsMagic

http://blog.rootsmagic.com/?cat=41&mc_cid=df727a5e33&mc_eid=a3a521f6cb
For many years now, RootsMagic.com has been a mainstay of the genealogy software market. Last year, was the official 39th Anniversary of the company that ultimately developed the product we have today. In a series of continuing blog posts, Bruce Buzbee, the developer of the program, relates the history of the ultimate development of the product. 

As Bruce notes, it is appropriate for a company that specializes in genealogy to have a recorded history. What I think is even more important is the fact that the history of many of the major genealogy programs and companies is extremely difficult to find if such histories exist at all. Wikipedia is about the only really available source for the history of companies such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. I speculate that many of these companies are so focused on "proprietary" and internal information that they do not want to publicize their own history. 

I hope Bruce does continue his company's history and I would also hope that such a history becomes an example and at the same time an incentive to other companies to compile and tell their own stories. My own software roots go back to the very first programs developed for the Apple II computers back in the 1980s so for me, this is not only the history of genealogy software companies, but it is in part, my own history.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

AccessGenealogy -- An aggregator portal and search website

https://www.accessgenealogy.com/
AccessGenealogy.com is an aggregator website that acts as a portal to a sizable collection of genealogy-related links. It is owned and operated by Dennis N. Partridge, a long-time genealogy website developer. He owns and operates quite a number of other websites. See http://www.surnameguide.com/about.htm.

http://www.surnameguide.com/about.htm
These types of websites help you to understand the variety of records available online. In this regard, this website operates as a catalog of other websites you might want to search. Having a central location for finding these other websites by topic or geographic area was more of an advantage in the early years of the internet when search engines such as Google did not dominate every aspect of searching on the internet. However, even with a search engine such as Google, you still have to know something about the subject you are searching to find anything helpful. This website and other similar websites help you to learn how to find additional information by making you aware of the huge number of options that are available and presenting an organized offering of websites.

Aggregator websites are not usually as useful and legitimate as AccessGenealogy.com. Sometimes, they simply aggregate a limited list of other websites or copy information from other websites automatically for the purpose of getting hits on advertising. They are close cousins to the "vampire websites" that prey on people who mistype the address of a popular website. For example, don't try this" but if you type "Ancesty.com" instead of Ancestry.com, you will get a vampire website.

AccessGenealogy.com is a useful and well-presented website. It should not be judged by its annoying online cousins.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

501 (c) (3) Status Approval for The Family History Guide


The official FamilySearch training partner, The Family History Guide, has achieved IRS 501 (c) (3) status. This means that anyone donating money to support this fabulous, genealogical training and now, charitable resource, can get a corresponding deduction from their Federal income taxes.

By keeping the website free, the developers hope to fulfill their mission to get more people involved in family history by providing training and research guidance on a major scale with a free website. Up to this point, the website has been self-funded with all the support coming from the people who have developed and maintained the website so far.

The Family History Guide has been vetted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made available to over 5,000 Family History Centers throughout the world and on LDS.org. The Family History Guide already has users in over 150 countries and most recently released training paths for MyHeritage.com, Findmypast.com, and Ancestry.com, as well as maintaining its support for FamilySearch.org. This week they are rolling out a national pilot project to recruit, train and utilize Regional Training Specialists to serve in specific geographic regions throughout the United States (initially). These individuals will extend the reach and facilitate quality training and presentations for the website.

The actual entity that supports the website is The Family History Guide Association

http://thefhguide.com/association.html
There are links on the Association's website to an explanation about how to donate.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Revisiting Search Engines for Genealogy


Over the years, I have from time to time examined the relative search capabilities of the various search engines available to genealogists and the rest of the world for that matter. I have varied the methodology and search criteria and without fail have always come up with similar results. But since I had not done this for quite a while, I decided it was time to check and see if I might get any different results.

During that same time period, the dominance of Google Searches has increased dramatically. As I noted in a recent post, Google presently has about an 86% market share worldwide. Here is a graph showing that dominance.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/
One reason that this is an interesting statistic is that many of the computers sold come with preloaded software and give a preference to another search engine, most commonly, Microsoft's Bing. Apparently, users switch to Google. There are four search engines in the above graph. The fourth one is Baidu,  a Chinese search engine. However, if we look at the statistics for the United States, the differences are not quite so dramatic.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/269668/market-share-of-search-engines-in-the-united-states/
I think that if this particular study targeted genealogists, my impression is that the differences would be even less. I find a significant number of genealogists using search engines other than Google. Product selection is based on a huge number of criteria. Why people use a certain product is often based merely on the fact that it was the first product that they used. It is also a question as to why one product so dramatically dominates an entire market. This is the case with Google. From my perspective, I use Google almost exclusively because I get the most pertinent results from my searches. For example, already this morning while writing I have done around 70 searches.

I am fully aware that some people who use other search engines have specific reasons why they choose to do so. But I'm also aware that most people I deal with simply do not think about it. I'm also aware that many people would not know how to change their search engine even if they wanted to do so. By the way, you can find instructions about changing your search engine by doing a search. For example, searching for "change my search engine to Google" or some other search.

One problem with trying to show different search capabilities that developed during my past attempts was the fact that Google records all of the searches made and if I repeat a search I will get different results than if I make a search that has not been made previously. If you do a search repeatedly, Google will note the fact and provide results that are more targeted each time you do the search.

If you have difficulty finding the results of your searches, perhaps you need to learn different search techniques.

But I am going to do a search on the name of an ancestor that I commonly use as an example. Here are the results:

  • Google: 498 results in .5 seconds
  • Bing: 759,000 results with no time specified
  • Yahoo: 767,000 results with no time specified
  • AOL: 746,000 results with no time specified 
  • Ask: 9 results with time specified

In the past, the results showed a clear advantage in using Google for doing searches. But now, because of the targeted searches returned by Google, the differences are more in the quality of the items returned rather than sheer numbers. I think all of us could agree that having hundreds of thousands of results is really not very helpful. What I do suggest is that individuals review their ability to produce any results from searching online and get help if they feel frustrated in their ability to find meaningful results. I also suggest trying a variety of search engines to get a feel for their responses. You can do searches in various search engines by simply searching for the names and going to their individual websites. For example, if you search for "Bing.com" you can make a search using Bing.