21 December 2011

Highlights - September to December 2011

Often various family history entities create their own indexes for important research collections. The 1940 Census is one of the largest and most significant collections to come forward. Through collaboration a better index can be created more quickly. It will then be shared between entities and users.
  • 15 December 2011 - Pennsylvania Senate Bill (SB) 361 signed into law - my post
This law, now known as Act 110 of 2011, makes state birth and death certificates public record after 105 and 50 years respectively. Prior to the passing of this law, these records could not be legally put online and were impractical to use for research.
Read more on Renee's Genealogy Blog. MyHeritage is one of the most visited genealogy websites in the world, but has no office in the family history capital of the world--until now. FamilyLink's Utah office comes under the umbrella of MyHeritage. This positions the company to remain a significant contributor along side Ancestry.com, BrightSolid, FamilySearch, NewsBank and Archives.com.
  • 17 November 2011 - BYU-Idaho offers Family History Associates - my post
This program will help students prepare for ICAPGen Accreditation.
  • 14 November 2011 - ICAPGen Announces New Levels Program - Read more at EOGN
  • 2 November 2011 - Virginia fights for positive genealogy legislation - Read more at EOGN
  • 25 October 2011 - FamilySearch Data Centers and Second Vault - Read more at The Ancestry Insider
  • 20 October 2011 - Michael W. McCormick creates a genealogy blog for BYU-Idaho
  • 2 October 2011 - Leader Calls Upon Church Youth to Research Ancestors - Read more at The Ancestry Insider 
  • 17 September 2011 - LDS Temple in Philadelphia will increase family history efforts in the area
To learn more about the temple groundbreaking visit ABC 6. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are famous for their enthusiasm for and contributions to family history. It is speculated that a Family History Center may be built with the new temple and many LDS members feel that the spirit brought by having a "House of the Lord" in the area will be a benefit to this meaningful family work.


19 December 2011

Amendt Genealogy Miracle

1 Nov 2011, while a BYU-Idaho student - This morning I had a genealogy miracle. I knew that I had a lot to do for the college courses I was taking in this my last semester, but I also knew that my ancestors wanted to be found. I felt impressed to go to the Family History Center on campus. About a week ago I ordered a microfilm of a German Kirchenbuch (Church Book/Register) for Heuchelheim, Germany on which I knew the Amendt* family would appear. When I got to the center I put the microfilm on the reader and began to look through the German script from the early 1800s. Even after taking a class in German genealogy research, reading the film was difficult. Miracles often come through the people around us and that morning, a family history missionary with a specialty in German research--Sister Hart--was helping run the center. She helped me find the baptism record of my 3rd-great grandfather Philipp Amend (known as John Philip Ament after his emigration). This kind sister missionary even served part of an earlier mission near the area where these ancestors of mine were from. Running low on time, and trying to be as appreciative as possible, I asked her if she might create a transcript and translation for me. I needed to go to class.

The sister missionary kindly helped me read the record and even did a partial transcription and translation which I picked up about a week later. She went above and beyond by finding--on FamilySearch.org--two of my 3rd-great grandfather's siblings whose names my family was missing. They died young and when John Philip emigrated, over time the family's memory of those children was lost. I spent some more time going through the microfilm on my own with the aid of the transcription Sister Hart provided. I copied the originals of those two siblings' baptisms and several more records--including marriages and deaths--on 2 or 3 visits over the next couple weeks.

Throughout the experience I called my parents to explain what I was finding. With the encouragement of my mother, when I got what I could from the years covered by that microfilm, I ordered the next film. My parents were coming to my graduation the weekend of the 16-17th of December and offered to help look through the records when they arrived. After ordering the film I got a notice that it was on backorder and was concerned that we might not get to look at it before I had to move out on the 17th. Friday the 16th my parents and I showed up at the family history center to ask if it came in. I had not received the customary e-mail notification because the data entry missionary had not been in recently. The missionaries who were there looked through the unprocessed films and found that which I had ordered. I showed my parents how to recognize the records and they went on to copy several more protestant church records for our Amendt ancestors.

The right person happened to be there at the right time to help me on November 1st, I found many original records and some previously missing family members, improved my German research skills through practice, and enjoyed some family time looking through the film which barely arrived in time for us to review before I moved out the next day. These small and simple things witness the hand of the Lord in helping us learn about our heritage and finding our connection to the eternal family.

NOTE: This post explains part of the events which helped me know which microfilm I needed to order. With so much on my plate, it took me a couple months before I decided to order the film.

*Amendt surname also spelled as Amend or Ament.

12 December 2011

Pennsylvania Opens Death Certificates to the Public

UPDATE: As of 15 December 2011 Governor Tom Corbett has signed SB 361. It is now known as PA Act 110 of 2011. This puts the effective date at 13 February 2012. (60 days to take effect)
See the government website for further information on this law.

On December 6th, 2011 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 361 which previously passed unanimously in the Senate. This bill will make all Pennsylvania Death Certificates from 1906 when they began filing until 1961 public record. The law requires the certificates to have been on file for 50 years before becoming public.

Prior to this law, death certificates never became public. With this new law these older certificates may be put online and used for genealogical research.

The law will be official on or before 16th February 2012. The bill has a 60 day period before it comes into effect, plus the 10 day period in which the governor may review it which ends this Sunday on the 18th. The governor will approve the bill by that date or it will become law by default. Because of the unanimous vote, there is no reason to fear a veto.

Stay posted for updates regarding when these records go online. It is expected to happen quickly on Ancestry.com. Three years from now the state archive website will also provide access.

17 November 2011

BYU-Idaho offers Family History Associates

Last week BYU-Idaho finalized the approval process for an Applied Associates degree in Family History.

This degree will be offered completely online. It is scheduled to be developed over the next couple years, with a couple courses being introduced each semester. The degree is designed to help students prepare for accreditation as a professional genealogist.

Please await the addition of this degree to the catalog.

09 November 2011

Research/Interpersonal Recommendations

"Our son Mike McCormick has helped our family immensely for generations to come and generations previous. I now feel more tied to these generations and have many many good stories of their lives to pass on and be connected to. All this, too, in  a good way that keeps me interested, in a special way, in life and living."
J. Michael McCormick, father - Gardners, PA - 2011

"Mike has a wealth of knowledge and is very talented in every aspect of genealogy. He has the ability to inspire people of every age to learn about and gain a love of family history. Through prayer, faith, and perseverance he has solved many great mysteries. Mike has a special relationship with God, a spiritual gift, that by the spirit he knows what should be done to find our ancestors."
Susan McCormick, mother - Gardners, PA - 2011

“Michael is doing an outstanding job researching my family's genealogy, he is a true professional who produces superior results.”
James Schilling, cousin - Dover, DE - 2010

"The genealogy work that you have done for our family has been fascinating, really and well worth the investment."
Renae, sister - Provo, UT - 2009

05 November 2011


"Fabulous, just fabulous! Michael, I could not be happier with the research you have provided. Being 2 states away, it was not possible for me to access public and church records in Pennsylvania. You have been a valuable and trustworthy resource that has made my research easier and faster."
Randy Davis, client - Richmond, VA - 2009

"It has been great working with Michael. I very much recommend him for your research needs!"
Hillary, client - El Paso, TX - 2009

Click here for more Research/Interpersonal Recommendations

"Mike McCormick has undeniably been a great asset to the BYU-Idaho Family History Center. As a volunteer he has developed a full Internet presence for the Family History Center that is another important tool to involve University students in family history research. He not only created a BYU-Idaho FHC Facebook page and a blog site but has updated our FamilySearch Research Wiki page and our Twitter account, tying these, along with our University FHC website and our library research guides all together into one cohesive Internet presence. While doing this he has been very patient and willing to spend the time necessary to teach us the mechanics and concepts of all parts of our Internet presence. We will miss him when he graduates."
Douglas and Aldene Poole, FHC Directors - BYU-Idaho - 2011

"Mike McCormick is the best genealogist and the most knowledgeable person I know. He can answer any question I might have about my genealogy problems either about research or how to use any research program. He is always willing to help others."
Mary L. Deibler, FHC Director - Gettysburg, PA - 2007

"I was privileged to have Michael McCormick as a student at Brigham Young University in my 'Writing Family History' class (History 433). He was an outstanding student and did an excellent job researching and writing a history of his family."
Nancy NeSmith, Professor - Brigham Young University - 2009

"I am happy to recommend Michael McCormick as a very proficient and dedicated genealogist, who goes the second mile in his research for clients, and also weaves in the historical and social contexts, to create a well-rounded product."
Gerald M. Haslam, PhD - Brigham Young University - 2008

"Michael and I took a genealogy class together at BYU. The class required a lot of team work and effort. Michael was a good team worker and provided a lot of valuable data to our group projects. I can recommend him for any genealogy-related job for which he is qualified."
Kimberly Fields, student peer - Provo, UT - 2008

Note: The year listed is for when the experience took place. In some cases, the recommendation was written later.

20 October 2011

FamilySearch Family Tree in Beta

Back in March I stumbled across a link to what looked like a beta of the new FamilySearch Family Tree and took some screen shots before the link disappeared.

Here is the post: http://enduringlegacygenealogy.blogspot.com/2011/03/familysearch-family-tree-leak.html

There are 2 other posts talking more about the same thing on my blog in March. At the time, I had no word from anyone officially what that was all about.

Yesterday, my fellow GeneaBlogger, James Tanner, posted about this beta: http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2011/10/beta-test-of-familyseachs-family-tree.html

Evidently, a document about this beta was released in April to a select few: https://help.familysearch.org/kb/guides/en/The_Case_for_Our_Tree_FamilySearch.pdf

There is a feedback page on FamilySearch.org for the beta:

As James Tanner mentioned in his blog post, FamilySearch likely does not give more information because this process is in the development stage. Betas for FamilySearch are known to sometimes last years as in the case of version 1 of new.familysearch.org which is now being moved to FamilySearch.org in the form of this beta.

16 September 2011

PaHR-Access Pennsylvania Genealogy Bill (Major Update)

After PaHR-Access' article of two days ago titled "Pennsylvania Dept of Health still fighting any change", Scott Sikorski's declaration today comes as a pleasant surprise. Sikorski is the Legislative Director of Senator Jake Corman who sits as Appropriations Committee chair. Sikorski stated that Senate Bill 361 will pass from the Appropriations Committee when the senate reconvenes on Monday, the 19th.

This action is expected to occur at about 12:30pm EST, but if there is a call for discussion the action may take place closer to 2:30pm, Sikorski said. Sikorski was helpful to answer all of my questions regarding the movement of this bill. While the Fiscal Note from the committee does not become public record until Monday, Sikorski was able to report that this bill would create "no adverse impact" on the finances of the state. Sikorski also reported that there is a standing agreement with Ancestry.com to digitize and index the death certificates at no cost to the state. While a date of availability has not been fixed, we may "anticipate a high priority" in the Ancestry.com process. The resulting records will be searchable at the Pennsylvania Archives Search Room as well as to Ancestry.com subscribers. In 3 years from the time the bill is passed the PHMC (Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission) website will make these same records available. This is the website which hosts the page for the Pennsylvania Archives. Being aware of FamilySearch International's intent to make these same record available I asked Sikorski about the potential availability at FamilySearch.org, and though he did not know the answer, he agreed to write a letter to find out.

While these are the aims of the bill as outlined by the Appropriations Committee as they prepare to pass it to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate, the success of the bill continues to hinge on all remaining steps in the legislative process. Thanks for all of your enthusiasm and help in making this step in the process possible.

29 August 2011

Is the Internet an Unreliable Repository?

Several times this month I have come across websites that were temporarily down. In at least three of those I was trying to learn more about genealogy. The GenealogyGuys.com, BillionGraves.com, and Baltimore County Public Library websites were all down for different reasons at different times. The last website mentioned is down at the time I'm writing this post due to power failure during hurricane Irene.

So is it time to give up on Internet research and go back to the caveman days of visiting these places in person? No. That will not work. These websites are compilations of data not easily accessible in any one physical place. As far as I know, the Genealogy Guys do not have their own public library of knowledge at any physical address which I can visit. BillionGraves is a compilation of the collection efforts of thousands of volunteers visiting cemeteries world-wide. The Baltimore County Public Library has a ProQuest portal which my library card gives me free access to. There I can get more digitized issues of the Baltimore Sun for free than I can anywhere else... okay there is an "easy" fix for that one. I could go to the Maryland Law Library in Annapolis to look at the microfilms of the paper. That is what I did before ProQuest. My point is that the Internet provides resources that not only make access easier, but provide access to data in ways that make the old way almost obsolete.

With the prevelence of researcher dependence upon the Internet along with a higher demand for records access, is it really acceptable for a website to go down for a few hours? I do not think it is. Granted, there may always be more disasters (natural or otherwise), but there are some good ways to at least alleviate the hosting problem. First, we must determine what the problem is. In the cases I am aware of the root problem was a power outage or a hosting service failure. In our day of cloud computing, with scalable hosting services, websites can maintain an online presence on servers in multiple locations. That way if one host has a server go down for any reason--including power outage--another server can pick up the slack. Then there is a question of cost effectiveness. Perhaps is should be the responsibility of cloud providers to offer back-up hosting at a price within reach of small businesses, two man teams, and public libraries. Maybe the Congress should make legislation requiring websites to have at least one back up server online which traffic would automatically be directed to in case of an outage. Some of these thoughts may seem a little extravagant, but after all we are in an age of convenience.

At least I can still go to the Facebook page for each website and ask if anyone else noticed the website failure. I did that in all three cases unless it was already explained on the Facebook page. That is a nice way to keep informed of the issues, assuming Facebook isn't down.

27 August 2011

Facebook Relative Finder Review

Relative Finder is a Facebook app that can be used by those with a new.FamilySearch.org account to find relationships to Facebook friends and famous people.

At first I was skeptical, but soon I found several Facebook friends who were generally 10th-13th cousins. It was fun to see my relationship to several friends. I never expected I was that closely related to them. I was thinking our common ancestor was closer to the time of Adam and Eve. It was similarly exciting to see relationships to Presidents and other famous people. Most of my cousins came from the same several common ancestors from one of my New England to England lines. Most of my mothers lines are German and we had no success there. That just means I need to do more research, or I need to find more friends with German lines from my ancestral towns.

My favorite part of Relative Finder is the ability to share your new-found family instantly over Facebook. As one developer noted, people prefer to interact on Facebook in this generation. Many people feel too busy to view a collaborative tree website, but will check Facebook regularly. I have already had several friends add this app since I started using it a couple days ago. While new.FamilySearch.org is in beta only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is FamilySearch's sponsor, and others who have been directly invited will have access to Relative Finder. Once the service opens to the general public, the most difficult thing will be to convince people who are not already interested to link their genealogy to a FamilySearch Account. As people see their friends post cool relationships, it will motivate them to do the same. I foresee this app contributing to thousands of new genealogy enthusiasts entering our community.

26 August 2011

Pennsylvania Senate Genealogy Bill Update

Mike Hengst, of Senator Ribbons' staff, sent me an update on SB 361 today. He explained why nothing has happened recently by reminding us that the Senate does not return to session until September 19th and the House not until September 26th. Mike Hengst has been working for this bill for the last decade and feels positive about the progress being made this session. He plans to meet with the executive director of the Senate Appropriations Committee next week "to make the case to list the bill soon after the Senate returns to session." Mike's attitude was positive with a parting call for action: "Just keep the letters going to the members of the Appropriations Committee – believe me it does help even if you haven’t been getting a response – folks are becoming aware of this issue here."

SB 361 is a bill that will change the way genealogy is done in Pennsylvania. Current vital records laws make genealogy research inconvenient through overly restrictive policy. For example, PA has no public vital records index.
Learn how you can help at the website for People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access - PaHR-Access.

23 August 2011

Most Powerful Earthquake in Virginia's History

About a half hour ago, in the middle of a beautiful Pennsylvania day I felt my house shake for several seconds. It was like nothing I felt here before so I was beginning to be worried. I even went outside to see if our rather large evergreens fell onto the house. Well, I think I will turn on the news. :)

22 August 2011

Why I Like Visiting Graves

One of my favorite things in genealogy is to visit the grave sites of my ancestors. There is a special sacredness about being at the final resting place of an ancestor, not to mention it is refreshing to do genealogy outside now and then. Finding these grave sites represents a recurring theme among the family history miracles I've experienced. I recall how several years ago, in 2005, my family visited the Mt. Carmel Cemetery on O'Donnell St. in Baltimore. My father, mother, and I, split up to find the location of George and Margaret Grauling's, my 3rd-great grandparents', grave. My mother was the first one to spot it and she hollered excitedly for us to come over to see it. I know that was one of the most meaningful cemetery finds for her. Finding a grave site for the first time is exciting. The search often includes fun "detective" work, but sometimes it just takes a relaxing stroll through the cemetery. Honoring our ancestors by visiting their graves has been a bonding experience for our family. Over the years, we have visited the graves of close to 50 direct ancestors as well as countless others. With the assistance of Find A Grave volunteers and others, our family has access to pictures of another 20 or so direct ancestors' graves.

After a half-decade of wondering what happened to the record of John A. Whipple's, my Civil War ancestor's burial, I located him at the Soldiers Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Previously I only had the record that referred to the Capitol Barracks as his place of burial. It is likely that I would not have found his stone even if I had gone to that cemetery sooner. It was possibly the newest stone there and looked like it was recently replaced. Sometimes we want to find an ancestor "now," when perhaps God has better timing in mind.

On that same trip my parents and I stopped at the Rock Creek Cemetery to find my great grandparents' grave--Clifford and Helen McCormick. We did not find them at that time because the cemetery office was closed, but I went back a couple months later after getting the section number by calling. What happened next is exemplary of other discovery experiences I've had. After parking on a cemetery road that bordered that section, I came out of my car and walked forward. The very first stone I came to was the stone of my great grandparents and the light from the sun seemed to shine down directly on that very spot during that beautiful pre-Spring day in March 2010. For several minutes I stood there and took in the calm of the day and felt thankful for my great grandparents.

A more recent experience with a first time visit of an ancestor's grave was my visit to the grave of  my 5th-great grandmother Barbara Doebel Paris. The Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore had no notation whether a headstone existed for Barbara, but I like to visit my ancestors' graves even if there is no marker. My parents visited the lot a few months ago and found the headstone of her husband Leander broken in two, and another stone face-down in the dirt next to his. After informing the cemetery and calling a few times to follow up, the cemetery had both stones laid face up. On August 2, 2011 my parents and I visited the grave together. There is something deeply meaningful about caring for the grave of an ancestor.

Finding my 5th Great-Grandfather

NOTE: This post has been formatted, edited, and updated, for easier reading on this blog from an earlier article.

As any genealogist knows, there are a few experiences that one always looks back on with amazement which push that person forward in their never-ending search. For me, one of these experiences was finding my 5th great-grandfather, John Whipple.

Cordelia Whipple
At a young age, I became curious about my genealogy.
I was excited to look at the genealogy chart my grandparents gave to my parents. It was written by hand with various circles, lines and marks connecting what seemed like a “treasure” map.

Cordelia Whipple
Soon I noticed the name Cordelia Whipple. This was my grandmother's grandmother and the line stopped there. “Why didn't we know more about her family?,” I wondered. Grandmother told me a few stories about the Whipple family, but it wasn't much. She never knew her grandmother.

Grandmother said that Cordelia had complications resulting from the birth of her second child, and Cordelia died soon after. This knowledge proved most useful in taking the next research step because it provided us with a death date.

The other two stories do not appear to be important, but they kept my curiosity alive. It was said that my Whipple family is related to William Whipple of the Declaration of Independence. Another rumor was that Cordelia's parents disowned her at her marriage to the poor German, Charles Ament. 

Until I had some real evidence, those stories drifted around in my mind as my only perception of Cordelia's ancestors. I could never find evidence for either of those claims [except this poem] and I felt a little short changed to know so little.

I was just getting into genealogy back then. Most of my first substantial research consisted of trips to the Maryland Hall of Records or to cemeteries in Baltimore, to find my mother's ancestors. This was one of my first major efforts to research my father's side.

The Search Begins
While I was preparing to end my freshman year at college, I questioned whether I should come home for an extended break or stay there. I felt like the decision was an important one and I prayed to know what to do. No immediate answer came, but I began to feel a spiritual impression that, if I went home, the next year would be a good year for family history. The story of the Whipple research is only one example of how my family was blessed in family history as a result of my choice to spend the next several months at home. I thank my parents for their support which made it possible.

In mid-2005, the Whipple family was on my mind. With my additional experience in genealogy research, I planned to go to New York and look at the death indexes.

I wrote about the trip in my journal: "My parents, brother. . .and I are in NY. . . Today we research family. 9am, when the Rochester Library opened we went in. My mom worked in the Local History/Genealogy room while dad looked at old microfilmed Rochester papers and I used the NY State Vital Records Index."
- 22 April 2005

I still remember looking at the microfiche and seeing "Delia W. Ament, February 21, 1892." I expected to see the name Cordelia and it was under the name Cordelia that I had always previously looked for her on census records. I knew I was on to something so I ordered the death certificate and waited.
Miraculous Timing
After a run of intense success, there is a time of perseverance when one simply must plug on with the work. This was the case for the next two weeks. On returning from the Washington, D.C. Temple, my parents and I found that the transcript of Cordelia Whipple's death register entry was in our mail box. I took it as a sign that putting God first brings blessings. I also believe that knowing more about our ancestors is part of God's plan. Small things witness God's hand in our lives and I can't help but be grateful.

John A. Whipple
The certificate revealed that Cordelia was born in Nelson, New York, and her father's name was, John Whipple. Armed with those facts, I was able to find “Delia Whipple” on the 1860 census in Fenner, New York--a small town nearby Nelson. For almost three months I went through several sources, corresponded with Whipple researchers and experienced even more miracles.

Soldiers Home National Cemetery, Washington D.C.
One of the sources I discovered was John A. Whipple's pension record. I ordered the record through the National Archives website after finding him on an online index. I always wanted to find a Civil War story in my family. Now I had one.

John died when Cordelia was only four years old and Cordelia was raised by her mother, Jane, and stepfather Francis Cary. Then when Cordelia died, eight days after her second child was born, much of her family history was not passed on.

From 3rd to 5th Great
In looking at the 1860 census, I saw Elisha Whipple  lived next to John and Jane. I realized that Elisha could be John A.'s father. One of the Whipple researchers I was e-mailing shared part of a local history about the Whipple family. It misnamed Elisha as John, but all the right people were there—Elisha's son John as well as his wife Lucy Dryer.

In the local history we read that Elisha's father was John also. They were a prominent family in a small town. There was a transcription on the Internet of John Whipple and Jerusha Inman's grave stones in Fenner. Because of that among other things, I was able to pinpoint them as my 5th great-grandparents. I will always be grateful to Dan Weiskotten who took the time to transcribe and map out every little cemetery in that area. [I just realized that he died during the months that I was doing this research.] Several of my ancestors were found due to his foresight. I never would have known that my 5th great-grandparent's stones were in the middle of a corn field.

John, Where are You?
In July 2005, my parents and I were near Fenner on the way home from a business trip. Not willing to pass up the opportunity, we decided to visit the grave of John and Jerusha. Even though Weiskotten's directions were detailed, we knew it would not be easy as we looked into the  field of corn before us. We spoke with a nice elderly lady who lived near the field. She sent us down the correct row with a warning much like, “Things are overgrown back there.” With faith my parents and I proceeded along the path next to the field. We walked all the way to the end, pausing in places and began to wonder out loud if we were going to find it at all. The entire row seemed to be covered in weeds. Contemplating the necessity of concluding our search, we walked part of the way back. Then we paused, determined to find John and Jerusha. I closed my eyes and said a prayer. When I opened my eyes, the top of the stones were visible right in front of us.

Additional Research Notes
At this time, little is known of the family and none of the compiled genealogies that include this John Whipple are able to provide good sources for his parentage. Many un-sourced online pedigrees claim his father as Nathaniel Whipple.

John Whipple came from Rhode Island1 previous to the 1810 census enumeration. On that census he lived near A. Inman, presumably a relative of his wife, Jerusha Inman.

1. 1850 United States Federal Census, microfilm or on-line database, National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001 , M432. 1,009 rolls of microfilm. Available also through the FHL and on-line databases like http://www.ancestry.com/

Spiritually in Tune - Blasius Grein

A couple of months ago I was in Idaho at the David O. McKay Library, in the middle of a semester at college, when I felt a distinct impression to go to FamilySearch.org and look for my 4th-great grandfather, Blasius Grein. What made the experience even more memorable was that I had not yet begun studying for the day. I was sitting there, reading the scriptures and listening to some christian choir music to prepare my mind. Though the feeling to look for Blasius was specific and out of the blue, I recognized the event as part of a pattern of revelation that I have received throughout my life.

Long story short, I looked for Blasius, and within a couple of days I had all his ancestors going two more generations back, with some lines going as many as five generations more than I previously had. There have been times in the past few years that I wondered how my research could ever be as miraculous and spiritually charged as it was in 2005. That year was amazing for my research. My concern that it never could be that good again has been continuously proven wrong. The miracles just keep coming.

21 August 2011

Waiting for a Genealogy Miracle...

Sometimes reading a book like The Family Tree Problem Solver: Proven methods... will give me new ideas to break through my brick walls. Sometimes the solutions will come to me while I am taking a genealogy class from an institution of higher learning. Sometimes it requires consulting with someone else who can give the problem their fresh perspective.

If you really want to solve a problem keep that family on your mind all the time. Ideas will come to you. Be willing to try new approaches and go the extra mile. It is okay to switch your focus to another line for awhile, but let your mind wonder back to your brick wall often.

There is a principle in family history work that is not generally taught, but to me it rings the most true. That principle is faith. Faith is believing in something that you can't see, but is still there. I can't see it, but sincerely feel I am going to solve all my "brick walls" someday. Faith takes action. I have to do everything within my power to find my ancestors. Faith takes patience. I have hired a professional, taken a college course on Irish genealogy, watched a few webinars, read a well known book on the subject, and done everything I learned plus some, without being able to go past my Irish 4th-great grandfather, Charles McCormick. Patience requires that I do not give up. It requires that I continue on a path of learning my whole life.

Balance is another important principle of genealogy research that seems to be more assumed than taught. I could drop all my other goals, move to Ireland and spend the rest of my life looking at all the historic records that exist. That is an unreasonable choice for me. Good genealogy research requires balance. After all, Charles McCormick is not the only ancestor who deserves my attention.

Keeping that in mind, I wholeheartedly believe in genealogy miracles. Last Monday, the 15th, one of those miracle happened. Actually, they happen all the time.

Six years ago I found the names of my 3rd-great grandfather, John Philip Ament's, parents. They were on a census record in New York. All I had to do is realize that John Philip went by Philip when he was younger. Some things seem like common sense in retrospect. If all my wisdom and research came at once I'd never be able to process it all. I'm so glad I've learned how to research over several years time. One of the census records gave me the information that the Ament family was from Hesse-Darmstadt, but I never had more than that. I took a few other lines back into Germany after taking a German genealogy course, but somehow I was still missing the key piece of information I needed on the Ament family at that time. On August 15, 2011, I found which town in Hessen, Germany that the Ament family came from. I also got one more generation back. It was actually on an Ancestry.com Member Tree with a citation of a FHL film number of the German church records from which the information came. From looking at additional compiled genealogies alone I was able to take one of the lines, from that point, back to 1525. I'll verify what I can as time allows. Simply having the town and a framework to go by is wonderful.

Here is where the miracle is more apparent. The week before, one of my elderly cousins asked if my research took the Aments back into Germany yet. At that time, I did not know the town. Good timing isn't it? These genealogy miracles just keep coming.

BillionGraves Review

BillionGraves consists of a website and smart phone app by AppTime, LLC.

Their goal is to get a billion graves (or more) put online.

The most successful venture in uploading headstone photos to date is Find A Grave with 66 million graves while BillionGraves only had about 50,000 graves two months past their launch.1

Find A Grave has been around for more than a decade. What makes BillionGraves think they can surpass 66 million? I don't know what makes each person think that, but I know why I think so. I've uploaded hundreds of grave images to Find A Grave so I am prepared to compare the services. I think BillionGraves has 2 keys to success.
  1. Smart Phones
  2. Crowd-sourcing transcriptions
What does a smart phone have to do with getting a billion graves?
  1. Increased Speed of Photography - With the Motorola Atrix 4G smart phone I was able to photograph images more quickly than I could with either my DSLR or my 14 megapixel Kodak. 
  2. The Phone's GPS Organizes Everything - It will put them in the correct cemetery and will GPS tag every photo's location exaclty. This feature is exciting for many reasons, such as keeping track of which headstones have been photographed already and helping descendents find the headstone should they want to visit in person. On Find A Grave you had to select which cemetery to upload your photos to after you took your camera home and transferred the photos to your computer.
  3. Instant Uploading - If you have a good data plan, upload images while you are taking more pictures. The phone does it for you, just set it up under the settings tab of the app. If your data plan is an issue you can simply wait until you get to WiFi, start the process, and the phone does the rest. You can even save more time by having your phone auto-delete images that have been uploaded.
How will crowd-sourcing help?

Crowd-sourcing means that anyone can help with transcription. All you have to do is go to BillionGraves.com and click Transcribe. The online transcribing form is easy to use. With Find A Grave you could transcribe them yourself or... oh, that is the only option. Personally, I am good at taking lots of pictures, but I can only transcribe a little at a time. This feature lets people help how they want to. You can even choose to only transcribe or to only photograph graves. It is kind of like a FamilySearch Indexing for graves.

Join today!
BillionGraves is in its infancy, but it is growing fast. This month all users who upload 1,000 or more grave images will receive a free BillionGraves t-shirt. I finished the challenge this morning. Hurry. There are only ten days left.

Which phones does BillionGraves work with? - iPhones and select Android phones
    1Gordon Clark of FamilySearch talks about the way services like BillionGraves will work with the FamilySearch Tree. He says BillionGraves has about 50,000 graves uploaded. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsVUWIaU2w4

    BillionGraves' Goal
    We hope to provide an expansive family history database for records and images from the world’s cemeteries—but it’s not something we can do alone. We need you to help us by collecting images from your local cemeteries and transcribing the information those headstone images provide.

    Help us make family history research more accessible to everyone. Take the BillionGraves.com iPhone/Android app with you when you go to the cemetery and contribute to the grave image database. Even if you don’t have the gadgets required to collect images for BillionGraves, you can still help build the database by transcribing the images so anyone, anywhere, can find ancestors’ graves with just a few clicks of the mouse.

    18 August 2011

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Promotes Family History

    Many genealogy enthusiasts are aware that the largest genealogy organization in the world--FamilySearch--is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Have you ever wondered why?

    I received a notice today about updates to the family history initiative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS]. More direction is being given to the younger generation of missionaries regarding family history and genealogy work. LDS missionaries as young as 19 are sent to locations determined by revelation through church leadership. Generally these young missionaries are known for their proselyting and service to the community. Those leaving on missions will now watch training videos which encourage them to talk about family history with those whom they share the gospel with. From 2005-2007 I served such a mission in Virginia and had the opportunity to participate in a pilot program called "The Gift of Family History." Family history enthusiasts within the LDS Church have long recognized the spiritual connections that family history helps to develop within individuals and families. Many individuals of other faiths likewise recognize a certain spirituality about family history research. Within the LDS Church I personally have learned to see the spirituality of family history from many different directions.

    Family history teaches us that we are children of God.
    When you start to get involved with family history, and progress backwards through the generations, your view of time changes. You begin to see that the 1800's, 1700's, 1600's... really weren't so many generations ago. You might think about how you know your parents or grandparents. They may have known their grandparents. Already from the memory of living people you may have jumped back into a world which you previously felt only existed in history books. While you are doing the hard work that it so often takes to prove your family line, you begin to feel a connection to your ancestors. When you serve people, you learn to love them. You've spent hours trying to find an ancestor so that they are not forgotten and somehow remembering them makes you feel as though your time on earth is more worthwhile. These feelings are not mistakes, they are not coincidences. God, our Father in Heaven, has set in motion a plan by which all his children can be remembered. In the Bible we read: "And he shall aturn the bheart of the cfathers to the dchildren, and the heart of the echildren to their fathers..." Malachi 4:6. Christianity is about love, Christianity is about service, Christianity is about family, Christianity is about eternity. Those who have gone on before us are just as real as we are.

    I know that I have felt the blessings of family history in my life. Heavenly Father wants us to know we are his children and a Christ-centered effort to document our relationships going back to the time of our ancient forebears is all about that. I believe when we get to the other side we will have opportunities to complete our family pedigree charts all the way back to our Father in Heaven, but in the mean time it is the current of spirituality in the work of family history that makes the sometimes difficult work worthwhile.

    Footnote.com becomes Fold3.com

    What a surprise earlier today!

    When I went to footnote.com, I saw that it has been given a face-lift and a new name. The new name, fold3, is meant to represent a greater emphasis and honor for those who served in the military.

    Many genealogy blogs have recently highlighted the War of 1812 pension project between FGS and footnote. It truly is exciting to see them taking on such large digitization projects!

    I was shocked to see the changes in design for fold3, but I feel like the new design does honor the military emphasis.

    Though I am pleased with the military emphasis in general, I feel it would be better as a temporary revamp of the site, or as a new dedicated section (a military tab).

    In my view, there are two priceless things about footnote.com--the unique image viewer and the amount of unique record groups. Any major player can upload new record groups, so the interface is really what set footnote apart the most.

    All image viewing sites which show readable images should implement the footnote viewer. The in-viewer navigation, search, and annotation are some of my favorite features.

    Some of my favorite record groups are the city directories. I love being able to search for any word on the page. Searching by address has helped me find connections to relatives I previously missed. Some people moved several times between census years.

    Comments on the footnote / fold3 blog indicate more disappointment than excitement.

    Many individuals have expressed online that footnote's making a change like this, without informing their subscribers beforehand, is bad business practice. At the same time, I think it is important to step back and try to distance yourself from the initial rush of emotional dissatisfaction. Anyone who really feels hurt can cancel, but such a decision may be shortsighted. The former footnote.com's record collections remain intact. It is true that users will no longer be able to look toward footnote to add more amazing records about non-military topics, but this is only a first step in major changes to come. Rather than being pessimistic and assuming all changes will be bad changes, think optimistically of where this could go. Ancestry.com may eventually adopt the browsing and image viewer interface of fold3. There is nothing to indicate this will occur, but if Ancestry did this, we would still be able to view new record collections in all their "footnote" glory--simply under a new name.

    To me it is worth the price to support their military digitization, if nothing else.

    15 August 2011

    Highlights - January to July 2011

    This is one of the most unique discoveries I've ever posted on my Enduring Legacy Genealogy blog. A new version of the FamilySearch Family Tree was on FamilySearch.org for a few days in March, but it could only be accessed from first going to the Wiki and tricking the sign-in function on the site. I took some screen shots before the tree was taken down and posted them here.
    Thomas MacEntee, of GeneaBloggers, uploaded a guest post to his blog which I wrote to solicit support for PaHR-Access' Pennsylvania genealogy legislation.
    Cheryl Cayemberg, of the "Have You Seen My Roots?" blog, highlights my efforts to inform others about genealogy legislation in Pennsylvania.

    Highlights - August 2011

    • 18 Aug 2011 - Footnote.com becomes Fold3 - my post
    • 16 Aug 2011 - Lingotek Enables FamilySearch Members to Translate Historical Documents - their press release
    • 14 Aug 2011 - The Genealogy Guys Podcast: Episode 224
      These podcasts are an hour chalk full of information. Towards the end of this podcast there is a Q&A in which the genealogy guys answer a question about obtaining the SS-5 (Social Security Application) of an ancestor. I've found this to be a great tool in genealogy research. The most interesting fact to me was the date by which all men had to file a SS-5. The SSDI is incomplete before 1962, but if you had a male ancestor living in the 1930's, he was required to file an SS-5 by December 31, 1937. To order a copy of an ancestor's SS-5 go to the FOIA SSA-711.
      This post summarizes changes coming to FamilySearch.org according to Robert Kehrer, senior product manager for FamilySearch. Each points discussed has come up in the genealogy blogging community before, but it is a nice summary reminder of a few things FamilySearch is working toward. Such posts are always encouraging. Because I have heard this all before I know these things take time. I'm not going to watch the clock too closely for when the new features are released, but I will be very happy with what is coming.
      There are several interviews available on this channel from RootsTech 2011 and a few from other conferences within the past few years. While each interview is "expert," the most memorable interview for me this week was "Family History and Mobile Strategies with Ty Hatch." This month I've been spending a lot of time exploring the new BillionGraves mobile app. This app uses crowd-sourcing to photograph and transcribe graves. A unique feature is the automatic geo-tagging. The BillionGraves apps were released in May and June this year. This interview with Ty Hatch, from 3 months earlier, discusses the genealogy mobile market and the need to use mobile technology such as geo-tagging.
      • 9 Aug 2011 - Enduring Legacy Genealogy introduces a new blogging topic: "Inspirational"
      Check out a line of posts highlighting inspirational and informative family stories from my very own family tree. I hope to post stories about my research as well as narratives about select ancestors in the future. These posts add a new flavor to my blog.
      My post The FamilySearch Tree's "Universal" Future was one of the posts highlighted by Randy Seaver.

      14 August 2011


      Enduring Legacy Genealogy Highlights include:
      (1) my favorite genealogy blog posts with a short review,
      (2) fun genealogy stuff I find online,
      (3) posts that highlight my genealogy blog, and
      (4) my most popular posts ever.

      Why a highlights page?
      Randy Seaver's weekly "Best of the Genea-Blogs" posts at Genea-Musings inspired me to start this section of my blog. In the past I have made an effort to "tweet" links to my favorite blog posts. Those tweets seem well received and I plan to keep that up. You can follow me @EnduringLegacy. At the same time, I find that it is hard to go back and find links to some of the posts that have impacted me the most over the years. Sometimes it is hard to remember why a certain post impacted me. Highlighting such posts here will give me some room for reflection. Besides blog posts, I may share anything I found interesting in the genealogy world. Often I find something fun to share that does not require an entire post of its own. The highlights are listed by date of review.

        Remember to Check FamilySearch... Again

        An inspirational post about research diligence and the constant expansion of FamilySearch's records collections.

        My 2nd-great grandfather, Thomas Schilling, was on my mind after church today. He is my only 2nd-great grandparent whose parents are unknown. That is still the case after more than a decade of searching. I decided to say a prayer and start looking online. My main goal is proving who his parents are or finding a picture of him, but I have learned to find joy in every record found for an elusive ancestor.

        After a few minutes of googling his name, I felt like I needed to go to FamilySearch.org and check for Maryland records that have been added since my last visit. I found a collection of Baltimore City probate records that had just been updated on 22 July 2011. I've been to the Maryland State Archives, where these records can be found, many times. The problem is that I always have so many records to look up when I'm there. I'm definitely thankful for the digitizing work of FamilySearch. Below I will include some screen shots from today's visit to FamilySearch.org.

        I started looking at the list of Baltimore City probate records and when I picked a probate book to look at I was told to sign in. Though FamilySearch has allowed signed-in users to see more records than guests for some time, this is the first time I noticed the phrase "Sign in to view this image." There was a point that if you didn't know the value of signing-in that you simply would think there was no image available. I'm glad those days are gone.

        Because this collection is not indexed by FamilySearch I had to go page by page, but it is okay. It was just like using the book index at the archive or courthouse. The only difference was that waiting for each page to load takes more patience than turning a page or cranking a microfilm. If you take note of the time on my task bar, you will see it took me quite some time. The good news is that, after feeling like giving up, I did find my ancestor Thomas Schilling.

         With that index data I was able to go back to the list of probate books that had been scanned and pick the one I want. I was supposed to be looking for page 315. I then typed 316 as the image number I wanted because I knew the first image had no page number on it. The second half of that page had my ancestor's Estate docket entry.

        This record hasn't answered my main question about Thomas, but it does lead me to a few other probate records such as his inventory. It is always interesting to see what goods an ancestor had and the value of each item. That is for another day.

        There are three things I got out of this experience.
        1. Follow your inner call
        2. Find joy in every record found and
        3. Remember to Check FamilySearch... Again

        09 August 2011

        Finding John Whipple

        Click here to load a 3 page inspirational PDF article giving my experiences researching my Whipple ancestry.

        22 August, Update:
        This article has been edited for better blog viewing and can be seen at this post:
        Finding My 5th-Great Grandfather

        07 August 2011


        Enduring Legacy Genealogy, LLC. is wholly owned and operated by
        Michael W. McCormick.

        The reviews herein are my intellectual property.

        Posts may contain data derived from relevant articles and include quotes from individuals. If such is the case it will be explained in each post respectively by notation and, where deemed useful, hyperlink.

        No compensation (neither money nor goods) has been received for expressing opinions on any product or service. Should that change in the future, specific disclosure will be provided here with mention in each post in which it applies.

        Geneabloggers: Why is there a disclosure?

        05 August 2011


        Brief History
        Enduring Legacy Genealogy began in 2007, offering professional research services. My goal was to help more people with their family history and gain experience. Both were a success. I specialized in "Internet genealogy and local research in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. (Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.)" In 2010 the mission of Enduring Legacy Genealogy was altered to better reflect my changing goals as a genealogist.  

        Enduring Legacy Genealogy's mission is to help others experience family history success. This will be accomplished by working with organizations, reaching out to individuals, participating in volunteer work, and staying well informed of related opportunities.

        Credentials and Experience
        • Researching since 1999
        • Volunteering since 2004
        • Professional since 2007
        • Association of Professional Genealogists Member
        Education Emphases
        • History - Bachelor of Science, BYU-Idaho (December 2011)
        • Genealogy - 29 credits, Brigham Young University (GPA 3.55)
        • Communications - Cluster, BYU-Idaho (GPA 3.6)
        • Phi Alpha Theta 
        • Extracurricular Volunteerism, BYU-Idaho: Student Ambassador, Get Connected (new student orientation), Student Representative Council, Pathway Mentor, and Student Support Recruitment Representative
        Volunteer Positions
        • Family History Consultant, LDS* (2004, 2008-current)
        • FindAGrave Contributor* (since 2005) 
        • Ancestry.com Contributor* (since 2005)
        • "Gift of Family History," Virginia Richmond Mission (2005-2007)
        • Assistant Stake Indexing Leader, LDS* (2008)
        • President of BYU Family History Society (2008)
        • Social Media Specialist, PaHR-Access* (since 2009)
        • Genealogy Blogger* (since 2009)
        • USGenWeb Archives Cemetery Photographer* (2009)
        • BillionGraves Contributor* (since 2011)
        • BYU-Idaho Family History Center Volunteer (2011)
        • BYU-Idaho Family History Center Web Presence Specialist* (2011)
        • FamilySearch Indexing Arbitrator* (2011) 
        * Many of the above asterisks may be clicked on for further information. 
        The title Assistant Stake Indexing Leader is more commonly called an Assistant Stake Indexing Director. 
          Click for Recommendations
          Includes recommendations by clients, professors, team members, and supervisors.

          Volunteer Work Archive

          My mission, in the realm of genealogy, is to help people get involved and have success. One of the most fun ways to do that is volunteer work. This page links to some of my work.

          For a list of volunteer opportunities I recommend check out this blog post:

          One of my favorite volunteer efforts is cemetery photography.
          Sometimes my family has helped me with taking the pictures.
          Here is a sample of our work:

          BillionGraves.com Cemeteries Photographed
          Idaville United Methodist Cemetery Idaville, Adams Co., PA
          Mt. Olivet Cemetery Latimore, Adams Co., PA
          Lower Bermudian Lutheran Cemetery* Latimore, Adams Co., PA
          Sunny Side Cemetery* York Springs, Adams Co., PA

          *Cemeteries listed were photographed completely except those marked with an asterisk. At least 100 graves were photographed for these marked cemeteries.

          Find A Grave Contributions
          My FindAGrave.com Contributor Profile

          Records Provided in Partnership with US GenWeb Archives
          Bott's (Wolf's St. Paul's Church) Cemetery West Manchester, York Co., PA
          Presbyterian Church Cemetery York Springs, Adams Co., PA
          Lutheran Church (Holy Trinity) Cemetery York Springs, Adams Co., PA
          Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery York Springs, Adams Co., PA
          Christ Lutheran Church Yard York,York Co., PA
          Episcopal (Old White) Cemetery Huntington, Adams Co., PA
          Rock Chapel Methodist Cemetery Huntington, Adams Co., PA
          Zion Lutheran (now owned by Christ Lutheran) Cemetery York, York Co., PA
          Bethlehem United Brethren Cemetery Butler Twp., Adams Co., PA
          Grace Bible Chapel (Old Trostle Meetinghouse) Huntington, Adams Co., PA

          Zoom.it Review Part 2: Microsoft I.C.E.

          One of the more time consuming aspects of uploading multi-scanned images can be putting them back together again. With the free software Microsoft I.C.E. (Image Composite Editor), all you have to do is drag and drop your scans. The picture below was 5 different scans from my desktop scanner.

          My grandfather, Clifford C. McCormick Jr., is the sharp young man 12 from right, third row up.
          Alice Deal Junior High Class of 1935

          After dragging and dropping the scans, Microsoft I.C.E. fit them together perfectly within a few short minutes. The only thing I had to do afterward was straighten the image and trim the boarders. I used other free software for that: Picasa and Microsoft Paint. Then, if it is over 15 MB after the final edits, I run my picture through FastStone Photo Resizer to get it down to the size accepted by most online image hosts. One warning, to edit large files in Microsoft Paint you may need 6GB RAM. It uses a lot for some reason.

          With this software you no longer need to wonder how to share your large image files. I look forward to seeing how you use it.

          04 August 2011

          Zoom.it - A New Way to See Your Ancestors

          Zoom.it is a free service that lets you view a photograph in a new way with deep zoom and instant load speeds. Ever since reading Mark Tucker's post about Zoom.it back in February I have been meaning to try it with some of my biggest photographs.

          My great grandfather, Henry H. Rowland, is the third person from the back left.
          "HARVARD CLASS OF 1906
          JUNE 13th 1956"

          How I did it:
          1. Uploaded Image to one of my Ancestry.com Member Trees
          2. Clicked the image to open it in a new window and copied the URL
          3. Pasted the URL at Zoom.it and waited for conversion
          4. Pasted the provided embed HTML in this blog post
          Before uploading I spent hours trying to get the best image possible. The images I chose to practice with were so large I had to scan them in multiple parts.

          What I learned:
          1. JPEGs for upload, save a TIFF version with your genealogy backups.
          2. Use GIMP for free to manually combine multiple scan images and/or edit your photos
          3. Stick to 15 MB or less for JPEGs
          4. 4 GB RAM needed for combining multiple scan photos
          5. Scan at 600 dpi (less is inferior and more is unwieldy)
          For the picture above I digitally cut the 3 scans with GIMP and alined them. Then, I smudged the lines a little to make them less obvious. In the future I hope to review an image composite editor such as Microsoft I.C.E. to see how it does with auto-stitching. At some point I may purchase a Flip-Pal scanner which scans large images in 4x6 sections and auto-stitches them with the provided software.

          If you have any large images you'd like to see online, please try Zoom.it for yourself. Then comment here and let me know what works for you. (e.g. image hosts, editing software, & techniques) You can even leave a link to your Zoom.it image.

          Thankful Thursday - Volunteer Opportunities

          Volunteerism is one of the most rewarding aspects of genealogy work and there are many ways for family history enthusiasts to give back. Show your gratitude for the genealogy miracles you've experienced by giving back today.

          Listed below are volunteer opportunities that are available to everyone. Many of these opportunities can be completed from anywhere with Internet access. In some volunteer categories, the opportunities are much too plentiful to list them all. In the social media category, I provide links to the FamilySearch websites.

          Volunteer in Your Community
          Indexing Newly Digitized Records
          Share Your Knowledge
          Legislation: Be Aware and Involved
          Which opportunities are your favorites? Are there any that I have not listed which you feel deserve attention?

          03 August 2011

          BillionGraves.com vs. FindAGrave.com and Other Headstone Databases

          BillionGraves.com, along with their geo-tagging smartphone app, is a promising start up.
          FindAGrave.com is a mature giant.
          Interment.net is a valiant pioneer.
          US GenWeb Archives Tombstone Project shows the strength of a passionate community.

          US GenWeb Archives Tombstone Project shows the strength of a passionate community.
          The project varies greatly from one state to the next and from one county to the next because each such jurisdiction is designed to be run by a different volunteer. Photographs are generally submitted to the volunteer in charge of that jurisdiction who uploads and transcribes them. This puts an undue burden on each area's volunteer. When smaller amounts of photographs were coming in this burden felt manageable. Since the Tombstone Project began in 1997, the number of people submitting tombstone photos to the internet has increased sharply. Submitting them to someone else to do the transcription and uploading is especially desirable if you happen to have photographed an entire cemetery. In 2009, I photographed ten cemeteries for the US GenWeb Archive. After the county volunteer processed those first ten cemeteries, and I realized the burden it placed on her, I looked elsewhere for my future cemetery photography efforts.

          Interment.net is a valiant pioneer.
          Also begun in 1997, Interment.net appears to be the first website run by a small group of individuals--2 people in this case--accepting tombstone data for open publishing online. Though the website claims initial popularity and is still available to this day, one major drawback of Interment.net is its failure to host headstone photographs. Nevertheless, because it is a separately generated and maintained database it may still be worth checking. While it was an important pioneer in its day, I choose not to invest my volunteer efforts into this database.

          FindAGrave.com is a mature giant.
          Since 2000, when today's Find A Grave website went online, the site has become home to over 65 million individual grave records. FindAGrave.com has many perks which helped lead to its position as the most well known online headstone host. Find A Grave's most notable unique feature is the ability to request a photograph of a specific grave marker. Since 2005 I have been a member of Find A Grave, but it was not until this year (2011) that I took it as a serious volunteer opportunity. In a matter of a few months I uploaded over 500 photos and added more than 300 individual records. I made sure there were records for all my direct ancestors whose place of burial I could determine, and I added many of the records from the ten cemeteries I photographed for US GenWeb Archive. On Find A Grave you can add records without photographs, you can add as many records or photographs as your heart desires without waiting for someone else to upload your work. You can link individuals in family relationships, organize individuals into files called "virtual cemeteries," request edits on records managed by other individuals, etc. You are in control.

          BillionGraves.com, along with their geo-tagging smartphone app, is a promising start up.
          There are two major things, in my estimation, that set BillionGraves apart from Find A Grave. First, pictures are geo-coded for you and, second, you can either photograph or transcribe (you don't have to do both). This cuts down the volunteer time required from those who want to help. BillionGraves.com relies heavily on crowd-sourcing. The cool thing is you can easily make a big difference in just a few minutes with almost no preparation. If you happen to be traveling and feel like taking a refreshing walk outside, pull out your smartphone, and within minutes you can upload several photos of headstones directly to the site. You don't have to file them into the correct cemetery unless you found a cemetery that hasn't been added to the database yet, in which case you can easily add the name. GPS tagging does the organizational work for you. Don't worry about transcription. You can always do that on a rainy day. I just came up for an upgrade on my cell phone plan and the single biggest reason I decided to get a smartphone was so that I can use the geo-tagging feature of BillionGraves.com's new Android app.

          FamilySearch Team Digitizes Somerset County Maryland Records

          NOTE: The quotes are an extract from the July 30, 2011 article "Mormon documents digitized: Original records to be moved to Annapolis," http://www.delmarvanow.com/article/20110730/LIFESTYLE/107300349. Unless otherwise noted all quotes come from Gary Miller, Somerset County Register of Wills for Maryland.

          The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons, sent a 2-person FamilySearch team to Somerset County, Maryland last year to digitize the records of the Register of Wills office. Some of the Register of Will office's documents were copied to Annapolis previously, but the copying was incomplete. The cost to digitize the records of their office was estimated to run into the tens of thousands. In about four months, last summer, the FamilySearch team digitized the holdings of the entire office from the earliest records in the 1600's to 1940. Currently the digitized work is being organized and indexed according to Miller. "The Mormon work should come back to me this time next summer," Miller said.

          Help index records for FamilySearch @ https://familysearch.org/volunteer/indexing

          Other than the usual digitizing and indexing FamilySearch provides at no cost Miller was impressed that "the group working in Salt Lake City is taking every document and linking it to relevant documents whenever they could. Some papers that seem to have been lost or misplaced from files or cases, or appear obscure, will be associated with a number that corresponds with a will."

          He was so impressed with the team's work that he recommended it to the rest of his state:

          "Hopefully, in due time, the Mormons will do every office in Maryland."

          As for the benefit to his office and those who come searching for data Miller said:

          "This is good for the public because the next step is to provide public access to every document that this office had (prior to 1940). The original documents were so fragile I wouldn't let the public handle them. Soon they will be able to see stuff they once couldn't have."

          "We are going to incorporate all of the images and index information they are sending us and put them [in] our system so you can sit down at the public computer here and pull up every document we have up to 1940."

          31 July 2011

          The FamilySearch Tree's "Universal" Future

          NOTE: FamilySearch attended this year's Open Source Convention (OSCON), held on July 25th-29th in Portland, Oregon. At this event Gordon Clark of FamilySearch was interviewed. The latter part of this post is a summary of that interview.

          Genealogically relevant data is being posted online at an intense rate. New technology expands crowd-sourcing techniques, smartphones allow instant uploads of records with GPS tags, advanced cameras can convert all types of media into digital format in less time than ever before, and "the cloud" provides flexible data storage options for all that new information. Throughout this technology boom several different companies and organizations have recognized the opportunity to provide better genealogy services.

          Genealogy techies like me no longer ask, "Will the records I need ever be within my reach?" Now we are more concerned with, "Do I have to spend hours looking at different websites? Why can't I see everything I want in one place?"

          For those not familiar with technology this question may seem deceptively simple. With several different companies and organizations involved it is unrealistic to believe there will ever be one website onto which all genealogy data will go. Such effort toward a genealogical monopoly is not only overwhelming administratively, but would harm the entrepreneurial creative spirit. It is also difficult to imagine the look of a website on which all the historically and genealogically relevant data about an individual could be put in one place. There is simply too much data.

          Many online family tree services allow images to be uploaded to the user's tree. For example, if I take a headstone picture and upload it on FindAGrave.com I can also upload it separately to my tree on Ancestry.com. Every time I upload a file to another website it is duplicating the file's web presence--in hopes to increase the odds it will be seen--but with the new concept being worked on at FamilySearch uploading on multiple sites becomes unnecessary. Using what is called a Person Identifier, any data about your ancestor can be linked to the Family Tree. During this year's OSCON, Gordon Clark of FamilySearch explained his company's vision regarding the FamilySearch Family Tree and the way it will become "universal."

          "You link to the data... A good way to look at that is when in geo-mapping the anchor is a longitude and latitude... we want to have a clear understanding of who this person is, where they are in time, and who their parents and who their children are. Then that person--our person ID which we hope will be universal someday--then all the richness of the material on the web which has been digitized can be linked to our person in our master tree."

          This vision of a universally linked tree allows FamilySearch to avoid duplication in technology development and use of resources. FamilySearch's position as the largest genealogy organization in the world came about through their focus on volunteerism, free data access, and efficiency. To an audience of software developers at OSCON, Clark said, "Web services is what we're all about... what we're all about is the building up of the data and the sharing of the data so there can be lots of innovative applications..."

          FamilySearch's data is built upon a platform so they have API's (Application Program Interface) for app developers to use which enable users to interact with FamilySearch data from within 3rd-party apps. Clark explained the purpose of FamilySearch API's:

          "...to generate more clients, more innovation--in how you access the data that we have."

          Suggested uses of the FamilySearch API included
          • Mobile applications that search FamilySearch
          • Applications that consider the audience, including:
          • culturally oriented applications
          • applications that consider age of user
          • applications that consider computer skill of user
          FamilySearch's vision of sharing data openly was being expressed at the BYU Family History Conference at the same time that OSCON was live in Portland. Ransom H. Love of FamilySearch spoke about the budget problems of archives and FamilySearch's efforts to help digitize and index records. Generally, when FamilySearch microfilms, digitizes, and indexes the records of an organization the only "payment" is a copy of the records to be held by FamilySearch. For legal reasons, some organizations may wish to retain full control over all copies of their data. With this in mind FamilySearch has recently begun undertaking select preservation efforts without requiring a copy of the records.

          With FamilySearch's long-term vision, flexibility, and encouragement of innovation family history lovers can expect many new tools and resources to advance their work.

          Family Village Review

          Family Village in alpha came out several months ago at which time the concept sparked my interest. In the more recent beta stages of this Facebook app I decided to give it a test run.

          Facebook and Facebook games have become popular as of late among a crowd not necessarily prone to interest in genealogy. There is a movement growing in the genealogical community to reach out and bring more people in by making apps that work better with these new audiences. These apps generally take advantage of mobile technology and/or social media. Family Village is a prime example. Lovers of FarmVille and other similar Facebook games will recognize a familiar feel. In this game the player controls a village by building new buildings, populating the village, and assigning jobs to the villagers. The twist is that villagers are the people in your family tree and while you play the game it automatically searches FamilyLink genealogy databases (such as WorldVitalRecords) for documents about those ancestors.

          I played the game for several hours and over a period of a couple weeks starting the last Saturday in May. By the end of my first day of playing several issues with the game were apparent, the most disappointing being the search function. Only once was something found that correctly identified an ancestor of mine. The search is limited to FamilyLink databases. After holding a subscription to WorldVitalRecords--one of their databases---for 2 years, I canceled my membership because it provided too few records relevant to my family history research. I have instead found websites like FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com to be worth the price--free in one case. If Family Village used the FamilySearch API in their app then all of the records on FamilySearch.org could be searched for free from within the Facebook game. That would add significant value and no additional cost to the developer. A manual search option or search filters could also improve the search experience. Many other improvements could be made to make the concept of Family Village a success. I continue to believe the concept of Family Village is a good one, but the time investment to play it is not worth the minimal genealogical return it provides in its current state. The company acknowledges Family Village is still in beta and has several improvements on the way.

          Family Village has a wonderful concept and deserves to be watched. My recommendation is to keep track of this app. There are several minor upgrades that are being put into place on a regular basis making it a better game. One major game-play upgrade occurred when I booted up the game while I was in my couple week testing phase for this review. I simply hope that when it comes out of beta FamilyLink and Funium will have addressed the issue with search.

          In the mean time if you are looking for fun new technologies that help advance the work of genealogy I suggest trying out the new headstone photography and transcription crowd-sourcing program, BillionGraves.com