16 February 2013

More FamilySearch website prototypes (with screenshots)

 A couple weeks ago I posted about the FamilySearch website design in the works. It is still in very early stages and changes often. The final product that a user sees may be very different, but I've kept screenshots for those interested in the development of the new look.

All of these redesigns are a parts of projects to make the site more user friendly, attract new users, and I've noticed they are more friendly to mobile devices. While this is interesting, it may be a long time before we see any of this--if we do see it released.

I first became aware of this kind of look during the Kinfolio beta and designing of early last year:

FamilySearch Photos (LDS beta) uses roughly the same kind of look (which is also the same look that is being tested for a new home page design):

Here are some screenshots of the new home page design as they have evolved over the last two weeks. I have seen 3 new designs in this time.

 The next design:

Here is the latest version:


12 February 2013

Virginia Vital Records images and index online by June 1, 2015

The following announcement was made by the People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access Facebook page (which I write for as a volunteer records access advocate):

We inquired with the Virginia Genealogical Society about the digitization of Virginia vital records. Soon afterwards, this update was posted on their website and we were sent a link:

The 2012 Virginia General Assembly legislation (SB 660) reduced the closed period for marriage and death records from 50 to 25 years; and marriage and death records created prior to 1987 are now available to the public through orders placed with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The legislation also gave VDH a goal of entering into a contract with a genealogical indexing company (to index open and closed vital records, and to link open records to underlying images) by June 1, 2013, and to have an index online on the VDH and Library of Virginia websites by June 1, 2015.

VDH has been negotiating an indexing contract or contracts with Ancestry and FamilySearch, and it is expected to announce a contract before the June 1, 2013 target date. It is anticipated that Ancestry/ FamilySearch may start to index and film records in batches, perhaps starting with the oldest first (e.g., 1853-1896), and once a batch has been scanned and indexed, the original records in question will be turned over to the Library of Virginia. When a contract is announced, tentative timetables and initial batches may be announced, though these will undoubtedly still be subject to change as the original records are organized and processed.
http://www.vgs.org/component/content/article/43-section-newsflash/86-virginia-vital-records-update

My Family History Center gets Internet upgrade, yours can too

I've been checking every week for about a month to see if our new cable Internet was installed in the Family History Center. On Sunday, it was up and working. I clocked it several times at 15-25 mbps, a huge improvement from the DSL we were using. As I understand it, the center director and others were requesting an upgrade for over a year. I was lucky to have only moved into the area four months before the upgrade. The out of date software and hardware of the computers still makes them at least twice as slow as using my laptop WiFi right next to them. That is a different problem though.

Many Family History Centers have Internet problems and FamilySearch has recognized this in a blog post to center directors. Directors are instructed to test their speed and if it is below 2 mbps, to go ahead and request an upgrade. If you have this problem in your center, you might print the blog post and a report from a speed test you run, and turn it into the appropriate people with your request for an upgrade.

I hope this helps someone.

My center:
Wilmette Illinois Family History Center ( website | FamilySearch Wiki page )

10 February 2013

FamilySearch dCamX videos, image pipeline, and being involved in records donations

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the process of donating collections to FamilySearch. I donated a collection and have been quite curious about what happens behind the scenes. I've also been talking with FamilySearch employees about the possibility of helping them image new collections. The whole process is rather internal, and I do not know nearly as much about it as I'd like to. This and more has motivated me to write posts about the topic.

The process is more complex than I first would have assumed. My limited understanding comes from several sources.

In August 2007, Ancestry Insider posted a four part blog series on "The [FamilySearch] Digital Pipeline." That post has a picture that shows what looks like a 10-phase pipeline. When I was discussing the donation I made with a FamilySearch employee in January, he mentioned the "12 step process pipeline." Exactly how the process is different today than in 2007, I wish I knew.

In February 2011, the Ancestry Insider blog featured the "FamilySearch Technology Booth," a post about the new dCamX technology.

The same post brings up the idea of donating to FamilySearch: "If you’re in the Salt Lake area, bring your family history photographs and documents down and FamilySearch will scan the documents for you. Your document images will be stored on the Internet and you will receive an e-mail with a link to them."

I have no idea how this was managed and I've never heard of anyone actually having FamilySearch host their family photos until the recent addition of the FamilySearch Photos beta. In my opinion, this is an example of one of the many times that FamilySearch has a good concept for a long time before a practical system is put in place to make it easy for the average patron to get involved. I am guessing very few photos were donated to FamilySearch until this new beta in the past month.

The Archives page at FamilySearch.org gives a brief description of dCamX:
"2012 dCamX image capture technology and Digital Reading Room (DRR) solutions introduced, opening a new era of digital capture and sharing. These technologies are now being provided to archives around the world, allowing them to capture and share their own records with their users."

It looks like the digital pipeline is becoming a little less private, as FamilySearch seeks to get others more directly involved. 

At the end of January, FamilySearch quietly posted several dCamX training videos on YouTube under a new channel: http://www.youtube.com/familysearchdcam Before that, the training videos were only available on a page that required authorized sign-in.

In the past month, a FamilySearch employee has told me a little about a pilot to allow individuals to use the software and a prosumer Canon camera to gather collections. This appears to be limited to a select few. The majority of all camera teams are official records preservation missionaries or employees of FamilySearch. If I have the privilege of being involved, I will likely post again about this beta.

If you post with your questions or thoughts, I will be able to consider them in my discussions with FamilySearch--and maybe get an answer.

09 February 2013

FamilySearch Developer Center gets new look

The "FamilySearch Developer Network for Software Programmers"
(https://devnet.familysearch.org/)
has been replaced by the "FamilySearch Developer Center"
(https://familysearch.org/developers/)

The new design is a little more inviting and a little less busy in my opinion. Even without any app building experience, the new layout feels inviting. I am almost convinced to make an app. Now, if only I knew what I was doing. No programming expertise here, but I will gladly listen when presented with such a welcoming view.

Old

Notice

New


Does FamilySearch want my collections? Learn how to donate!

FamilySearch is world renowned for their efforts in preserving and sharing genealogically relevant records. Do you have a collection that you would like to have preserved or shared? Do you know of a collection that you want to see put online?

Last month I mentioned my experience in donating a collection and promised to talk about the process in a future post. I am honored that they accepted my collection and made it available online.

It took several emails, calls, bumps, and bruises from start to finish. It was evident that the process was self-explanatory neither to donors nor to some of the staff I contacted. My unfortunate experience took more than a year from beginning to end. Had I known how to donate correctly, it would have been handled in 3 months or less.

FamilySearch has been diligently working to improve the experience and is still doing so. This will likely become a series of posts about donating and the things I learn along the way. I am still conversing with FamilySearch about the experience and their efforts in improving it for others. I'm also talking with them about opportunities to be involved as a volunteer in records acquisitions. It is a very interesting conversation.

The most complete instructions I can find online must be searched for on the Help tab at FamilySearch.org. These instructions have been updated since I found them in August 2011. I still think they are less than clear about who to contact for which need, but hopefully that will be improved soon. If you ask your specific questions as comments I will do my best to respond.

The remainder of this post (until the ending notes) is a quote from:
"How patrons can donate or loan records, books, or personal genealogy to the Family History Library"
Document ID: 101707

Many valuable records have been added to the Family History Library through the generosity of patron donations. We will need information about the records you want to have digitized so we can determine if they meet our criteria.  With permission from the author, the material will be digitized and posted online at our website FamilySearch.org. At this site researchers will be able to view the material free of charge. Donations may be sent to the following address:
FamilySearch
Family History Library
Donations
35 North West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-1103
USA

or e-mailed to  bookdonations@familysearch.org
Please include the following information.

– Information about the book or records (title, author, content, etc.)

– Patron information (name, phone, e-mail address)

Note:  Donations may also be delivered to the Family History Library donation desk, located in the main floor lobby.


For a complete list of items and guidelines for donating to FamilySearch, please see “Gifts, Donations, and Loans to FamilySearch,” [link inserted into this blog post] attached and posted on FamilySearch.org.

To locate these guidelines, go to http://www.familysearch.org.
Select FamilySearch Centers, then Family History Library, then Gifts and Donations, and then Donations to the Family History Library.

A summary of the items FamilySearch will accept is listed below.

FamilySearch will accept only materials that:
  • Are readable, organized, and accessible to help researchers identify individuals and relationships by name, date, and place.
  • Add new information to FamilySearch’s collection (duplicate materials are not accepted).
  • Fit in available shelf space.
  • Do not violate current privacy and copyright laws.
FamilySearch accepts the following materials:
  • Autobiographies and biographies containing genealogical material.
  • Family histories with genealogical information.
  • Indexes to records.
  • Local histories (limited).
  • Well organized collections of genealogical and research materials (if preapproved by Library Rights).
FamilySearch accepts the following materials only if submitted with a Permission to Duplicate form signed by the copyright owner or legal custodian of the original documents:
  • Census records.
  • Directories (limited).
  • Genealogical periodicals.
  • Newspaper extracts (such as obituaries).
  • Commercially available computer software.
  • Original records, such as cemetery records, church records and histories, court records, land records, military records, naturalization records, passenger lists, probate records, and vital records.
Note: Requests for filming of records at libraries, societies, etc. should be directed to libraryrights@familysearch.org [This e-mail address is for large collections at their original repository. Small collections should be mailed as above, after contacting Support and reaching an agreement.]

[Things you'll need:
Permission Request Form
Gifts, Donations, and Loans to FamilySearch
I recommend printing both and understanding them clearly before even contacting support.]

My ending notes:
Even though I had much of this data, I went down the wrong path. I emailed Library Rights and they told me that I needed to email someone else and so on the chain went for the first five and a half months until I finally was connected with the right people. For example, at one point they thought they'd gotten me to the right people when they got me to talk to book donations, but mine was a historical records donation--a different division. Good luck! If you will stick on them it will all work out. Maybe you wont even have any of the trouble I did.

PS. I feel inclined to explain that this wasn't so much the fault of any one individual or the FamilySearch brand. This is a real issue that really needs to be worked at. One of the employees in FamilySearch strategic collections has been conversing with me about it extensively and has been very helpful. He has since taken my ideas on several matters and invited me to meet with him at RootsTech. He is taking the problem of my donation experience very seriously and instead of getting upset at FamilySearch, I am helping to provide appropriate feedback in the correct channels. The end. :) ...

06 February 2013

My Dunkes ancestry - breaking down the bricks

In this post, I outline the records (with transcripts) and analyze the data for the immigrant Dunkes family of Frank Dunkes and Maria Anna Wipf in 1800s Baltimore, Maryland. This may be of some interest to those learning about analyzing records, but is more for those who might be related.

This is one of the families that I hope to find ancestors for this year, although I am currently dependent upon the German repositories of the records to respond to my requests.

Margaret Dunkes - Baptism 1853
[left page] 64 | 28 Febr. | 1 March | P. Hiturander? | Margaritha | Franciscus Dunker | Nürnberg in Bavaria
[right page] Anna Müphelt | Memmelsdorf in Bavaria | Margaretha Sering? | legitimate

Frank Michael Dunkes - Baptism 1855
[left page] 112 | 8 April | P. Wissel | Franziscus Michaelis | Franziscus Dunkes | Wallersdorf, Bavaria |
[right page] Anna | Memmelsdorf, Bavaria | 5? April | Michaelis Sandner? |

Frank Dunkes - Baptism 1857
[left page] 43 | Aug. 23 | P. Jos. Muller | Franciscus | Franz Dunkes | Wallersdorf () Bava/ |
[right page] M. Anna nee Wipf | Memmelsdorf (Bamberg I) Bav. | Aug. 22 | Michael Landner |

Michael Dunkes - Church Marriage 1877
[left page groom] 67 | 15 Jan. | P. Eberhardt | 3 | Michael Dunkers | 22 | Franciscus Dunkers + Maria Schlot* |
[right page groom] Baltimore Md. | ? | [blank] | Bregitta Walbelich | [blank] | [blank] |

Franz Dunkes - Church Interment 1881
[left page] 18 | died Jun 29 bur. Jul. 1 | Franz Dunkes | Wallersdorf, Bav. | 71 an. 19d [born 10 June 1810]
[right page] [disease] | Omni Sacramenta | St. Alphonsus Cemet. | E 78

Frank Dunkes - Death Certificate 1881
most of the certificate is illegible on the microfilm
Place of Burial: St. Alphonsus Cem.
Date of Burial: July 1st 81
Undertaker: M. [Michael] Franz
Place of Business: 280 Canton
Note: Sometimes undertaker/funeral home records reveal additional insights.
The undertaker can be found on the city directory as a furniture dealer.
"The casket industry originated in the United States in the 1800s. The city funeral director, known as the undertaker, usually operated a furniture store in addition to selling caskets."
http://blog.southerngraves.net/2007/11/undertakers-coffins-furniture.html

"Mary" Dunkes - Death Certificate 1885
Date of Death: Feb 14th 1885
Full Name of Deceased: Mary Dunkes
Age: 63 Years, 2 Months, 10 Days [born 4 December 1821]
Widow
Occupation: Housekeeper
Birthplace: Foreign
Duration of Residence in the City of Baltimore: 35 years [immigrated 1850]
Place of Burial: St. Alphonsus
Date of Burial: Feb. 17th
Undertaker: [Leonhardt Kurz] ?
Place of Business: S. Bond St.
Note: Leonhardt Kurz appears as an undertaker at 277 s Bond in the Baltimore directory for 1884.

Maria Dunkes - Church Interment 1885
[left page] 11 | 14 Febr. | 17 Febr. | Maria Dunkes | Bamberg Beiern | 63y |
[right page] tremar | Omni Sacr. [all sacraments] R. P. Hilger | St. Alph. | Lot N. 73 ? E |

Frank Dunkes - Reinterment 1926
from St. Alphonsus to Most Holy Redeemer
3 reinterments
names listed as Frank, Anna, and Frank
dates and ages appear to be wrong, but they were moved

Questions:
What is Maria Anna Müphelt Wipf Schlot* Dunkes correct name?
Data by year
1853 child's baptism: "Anna Müphelt"
1855 child's baptism: "Anna"
1857 child's baptism: "M. Anna nee Wipf"
1860 US Census: "Maria"
1870 US Census: "Mary"
1877 child's marriage: "Maria Schlot*"
1880 US Census: "Mary"
1885 death cert.: "Mary"
1885 interment: "Maria"
1926 reinterment: "Anna"
Checking occurances of each surname on Google
Memmelsdorf Müphelt: none
Memmelsdorf Wipf: several
Memmelsdorf Schlot*: yes for Schlot, but that means chimney in German
I think that perhaps Maria Anna is actually Maria Anna Wipf.
In that record, "nee" indicates a maiden name.
If she was married before we can understand at least one of the other surnames.
Hypothesize that both Frank and Maria Anna were both married before.
George, who was born in about 1845 in Bavaria, could have been from a previous marriage for Frank
There was an 8 year gap between George and Margaret (who was born in Baltimore)
When a man is more than 10 years older than his wife, it is a plausible sign of a previous marriage
Maria Anna had her first known child with Frank in 1853: she was 32, old enough for a prior marriage
Frank and Maria Anna were from towns 100 km (1.5 hour drive apart)
They (because of this distance) probably didn't meet until Baltimore

All records except her interment give Memmelsdorf as her place of origin.
Bamberg is the larger area near Memmelsdorf
What is Frank Dunkes place of origin?
All records give Wallersdorf, Bavaria except Margaret's baptism which gives Nürnberg.
Nürnberg is the larger city near Wallersdorf

Transcript: Frederick Bewig's Last Will and Testament, 1873 Baltimore

Citation:
"Maryland, Register of Wills Books, 1629-1983," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-16197-12739-59?cc=1803986&wc=M9MV-NBT:n35113722 : accessed 08 Jan 2013), Baltimore City > Will books Jan 1873-Dec 1873 Liber J.H.B no 39 > image 303 of 620.
View Frederick in FamilySearch Family Tree for relationships and details.

Frederick Bewig's
Last Will and Testament

In the name of God Amen I Frederick Bewig of Baltimore
City in the State of Maryland being of sound and disposing mind
memory and understanding considering the certainty of death and the
uncertainty of the time thereof and being desirous to settle my worldly affairs, and thereby be the
better prepared to leave this world when it please God to call me hence, do therefore make and pub-
lish this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following, that is to say
First and Principally I commit my soul into the hands of Almighty God, and my
body to the earth, to be decently buried at the discretion of my Executrix hereinafter named
after my debts and funeral charges are paid.
I give devise and bequeath unto my beloved wife Henrietta Bewig the use and income of
all my Estate for and during her natural life, and at her decease,
I give devise and bequeath unto my children namely Maria Dorothea Wohlber wife of
John Wohlber, Johanna Wilhelmina Knoble wife of Werner Knoble, Sophia Fredericka Rench
wife of Nicholas Rench Johanna Henrietta Schaub wife of John Schaub, Henry Bewig and
Augusta Fredericka Parsinger wife of John Parsinger their heirs executors administrators and
assigns all the residue and remainder of my Estate real personal and mixed wherever
situate or being without reservation or exception share and share alike, and Lastly I do
hereby constitute and appoint Henrietta Bewig to be the sole Executrix of this my last Will and
Testament hereby revoking all former Wills by me made and declaring this to be my only one.
            In Testimony Whereof I the said Frederick Bewig have hereunto
subscribed my name and affixed my seal this Eighteenth day of February in the year of
Our Lord One Thousand eight hundred and Seventy three
Test: Henry Cashmyer Frederick (his X mark) Bewig (seal)
Signed sealed published and declared by Frederick Bewig the Testator to be his last Will and
Testament in the presence of us who in his presence at his request and in the presence of each
other have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses
            Henry Cashmyer No 137 Bank Street
            Heinrich Will Port Street
            John Bürger No 22 Port Street
Baltimore City SS. On the 4th day of June 1873 came Henrietta Bewig and made oath on
the Holy Evangely of Almighty God that she doth not know of any Will or Codicil of Fredericka
Bewig late of said City deceased other than the above Instrument of writing and that she received
---page break---
the same from the testator and has held possession thereof since the execution of the same
That the testator departed this life on the 12th day of April 1873.
                              Sworn to before the Subscriber
             J. Harman Broun Register of Wills for Baltimore City
Baltimore City SS. On the 4th day of June 1873, came Henry Cashmyer, Heinrich Will
and John Bürger the three subscribing witnesses to the aforegoing last Will and Testament
of Frederick Bewig late of said City deceased and made oath on the Holy Evangely of Almighty
God that they did see the Testator sign to be his last Will and Testament, that at the time of his so doing
he was, to the best of their apprehension of sound and disposing mind memory and under-
standing: and that they subscribed their names as witnesses to this Will in his presence,
at his request, and in the presence of each other.
                              Sworn to before the Subscriber
             J Harman Brown Register of wIlls for Baltimore City
             In Baltimore City Orphans Court:
                                             The Court after having carefully examined the above last
Will and Testament of Frederick Bewig late of Baltimore City deceased and also the evidence
adduced as to its validity Orders and Decrees this 4th day of June 1873, that the same be admitted
in this Court as the true and genuine last Will and Testament of the said Frederick Bewig
deceased.
        (signed) Bolivar D. Daniels
                      Geo. Wm. Bishop
                      G. W. Lindsay

Transcript: Catherine Hecker's Will, 1904 Baltimore

Catherine Hecker, Last Will and Testament -  [page] 254
Baltimore City, Maryland
Will books 1904 Liber S.R.M.-B.E.S no 93
View Catherine Lückel Hecker in the FamilySearch Family Tree for relationships and details.


I, Catherine Hecker, a widow of the City of Baltimore, State of Mary
land being of sound and disposing mind, memory and under-
standing, make and declare this to be my last will and testa-
ment.
After the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses, I
give, bequeath and devise my estate as follows:
I give bequeath and devise absolutely to Augusta Kammke and
John Bewig adult children of my deceased daughter Catherine
Bewig, each one sixth of my estate, real and personal, of every kind and
wheresoever situated.
I give bequeath and devise to my brother Adam Greeneisen and
my nephew Frederick A. Greeneisen, and the survivor of them
and his successor in the trust one sixth of all of my estate, real
and personal of every kind and wheresoever situated in trust to
collect the rents, issues and the profits of the same and use the
net income, rents and profits of said one sixth part of my es-
tate for the maintenance and support of Charles Bewig, son of
my deceased daughter Catherine Bewig, until he shall have
become twenty one years old when this trust as to him shall
cease and he shall receive the said one sixth part of my estate.
I give, bequeath and devise also to my brother Adam Greeneisen
and his son Frederick A. Greeneisen, and the survivor of them
and his successors in the trust all the rest residue and re-
mainder of my estate real and personal, of every kind and
wheresoever situated (said rest residue and remainder),
being one half of my estate), in trust to collect the rents, issues
and profits of the same, and to use the net income, rents and
profits of the same for the benefit, maintenance and support
of Henry Bewig, Junior and Matilda Bewig children of
my deceased daughter, Catherine Bewig until Matilda
Bewig shall have become twenty one years old when this
[page] 255
trust as to them shall cease, and they shall receive share and share
alike said rest, residue and remainder (consisting of one half of my
estate). I constitute and appoint my brother Adam Greeneisen
and his son Frederick A. Greeneisen, herein before named as trus-
tees, to be the Executors of this my last will and testament, hereby re-
voking all others will and codicils by me heretofore made and
it is my desire that they be excused from giving bond.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto, subscribed my name
and affix my seal this second day of July in the year eighteen
hundred and ninety six.
                Catherine (her mark) Hecker (seal)
Signed, sealed, published and declared by the above named testatrix
at and for her last will and testament, in the presence of us, who,
at her request, and in her presence and the presence of each others,
have hereunto, subscribed our names as witnesses.
                Oscar Koenig (seal)
                Harry F. Hooper (seal)
Baltimore City, S.S. On the 14th day of May 1904 came Adam
Greeneisen and made Oath in due form of law, that he does
not know any Will or Codicil of Catherine Hecker late of said
City, deceased other than the above instrument of writing, and
that he received the same from Testatrix and held it to this
time, and that Testatrix departed this life on the 3rd day of
May 1904.
Sworn to in open Court
    Test. Bart E. Smith
        Register of Wills for Baltimore City
Baltimore City, S.S. On the 14th day of May 1904 came Harry
F. Hooper one of the subscribing witnesses the the aforegoing
last Will and Testament of Catherine Hecker, late of said
City, deceased, and made Oath in due form of law, that
he did see the Testatrix sign and seal this Will; that he
heard her publish, pronounce and declare the same to be her
last Will and Testament; that at the time of her so doing
she was to the best of his apprehension of sound and disposing
mind, memory and understanding; and that he together
with Oscar Koenig the other subscribing witness thereto
subscribed their names as witnesses to this Will in her
presence at her request); and in the presence of each other
[page] 265
Sworn to in open Court
        Test. Bart E. Smith
            Register of Wills for Baltimore City
Baltimore City, S.S. On the 14th day of May 1904 came Harry F.
Hooper and made Oath in due form of law, that he is farmil-
iar with the handwriting of Oscar Koenig one of the attesting
witnesses to the last Will and Testament of Catherine Hecker
late of said City, deceased, and he verily believes that the signa-
ture of the said Oscar Koenig as is written is the true and genuine
signature of said Oscar Koenig who is now out of the state.
Sworn to in open Court
    Test. Bert E. Smith
        Register of Wills for Baltimore City
In the Orphans' Court of Baltimore City:
                            The Court, after hav-
ing carefully examined the above last Will and Testament
of Catherine Hecker late of Baltimore City, deceased, and also
the evidence adduced as to its validity, Orders and Decrees,
this 14th day of May 1904 that the same be admitted in this
Court as the true and genuine last Will and Testament
of the said Catherine Hecker deceased.
                Myer J. Block
                Wm J. O'Brien
                Harry C?aither

FamilySearch Support: Most common problems, and an employee's analysis

Although this post was made on GetSatisfaction FamilySearch Feedback to a group of people fortunate to have found the relevant thread, I believe this data can be useful for anyone who has had rough times with FamilySearch Support--or wants to avoid the tough times. In general, FamilySearch Support does an amazing job to solve all of the genealogical community's many, many support needs.

If we as users, Family History Consultants, and others, take the time to understand what the top 5 support problems are, we will not need to contact support so often. We will be able to better help our friends and family when they run into the same problems.

It is encouraging to know that FamilySearch staff go to so much effort to be aware of user feedback and problems--and that they prioritize their efforts to improve the user experience. I have my fair share of complaints when I run into a bug or poor user interface, but I must speak well about what FamilySearch is doing in the background with all their hard work.

Here are the top 5 support problems from the past week:
(The remainder of this post is a direct copy of a publicly accessible post @
https://getsatisfaction.com/familysearchinsidetrack/topics/better_access_to_upper_echelon_support_personnel_in_familysearch_support )

1. Correcting information, Incorrect Relationships, and Data Problems: 1,322 cases, 20.0% of nFS/FT cases, 11.7% of all cases (3 weeks on this report at number 1; previously at #2 for 1 week)
The bulk of these issues deal with some piece of data being incorrect or missing. Some of the cases are handled by teaching the patron how to correct the problem. The bulk are sent to data quality to be corrected, because for the patron cannot correct the problem themselves. I reviewed 100 cases and here the top issues under that heading
a) 35% - Incorrect relationships (OFT-46870, OFT-55276) – This is really dependent on the users to fix the problems in the system.
b) 14% - Dead to living (and individual is showing as decease when they are actually living and this has to be corrected in the system) (DATA-587, DATA-887, OFT-11783, DATA-833) – This is a result of data not being brought over correctly into Family Tree. Engineering has done some work on this problem and the number of cases is starting to drop.
c) 9% - Wrong gender (TEM-3085, DATA-1293, OFT-55124)– This is really dependent on the users to fix the problems in the system.
d) 8% - Separate incorrectly combined records (DATA-2013, OFT-54334) – this falls under Issue #3
As I have thought about what engineering can do with these problems, the only thing I can suggest is to do mass repairs on the data where there are known problems and they can be fixed. As far as handling by Tier III and Tier II we have to continue teaching the patron when they can solve the issues so they can solve future problems on their own and working with Data Quality to get the other problems fixed.
2. Registration/Login, Registration/Login, Registration, and Login: 1,300 cases, 19.7% of nFS/FT cases, 11.5% of all cases (3 weeks on this report at number 2; previously 1 week at #1)
I broke this data out 3 months ago so it may be a little dated. I have someone breaking it out again and should have better data in a week or so. I thought this would be helpful for now.
a) 25% - Forgot username/password – The main thing that can be done to fix it is to simplify the self-recovery options. ICS has devised a new way of recovering information which should help with this issue. Support can do a better job of teaching the patrons the self –help recovery process. LDS Account Admin style access also helps missionaries better handle these issues.
b) 14% - Unable to sign in (IDENT-2158, IDENT-2129, IDENT-2128) – This has been in the past a result of the patron trying to sign into FT without first signing into nFS. It can also be server problems or problems with the account. Occasionally, it is the result of the wrong username or password. Again, simplifying the site will most likely help with this problem. We need to work to make sure the improvements made on the ICS side of registration and login are translated and readily available on the FamilySearch side.
c) 14% - Email not working – This is usually a problem of the patron unable to activate their account or unable to receive the self help emails. Engineering’s efforts is LDS Account 5.2 should help as there will be more methods of recovering information and for LDS accounts with a membership number and email activation will no longer be needed.
The bulk of the problems in a) and c) are handled in the GSC so there are not jira tickets applicable to them.
I am really interested to see how the implementation of LDS Account 5.2 changes our traffic volumes. Hopefully, with that implementation we will see a reduction in volume. We will keep monitoring this so we can see how requests from our patrons change.
3. Merge/Unmerge/Recreate, Combine (Match or Merge), and Separate: 406 cases, 6.2% of nFS/FT cases, 3.6% of all cases (10 weeks on this report at number 3)
I examined 50 cases under these headings they really come down to a core problem with some outlying issues.
a) 68% of the cases I examined revolve around the problem if being unable to merge or separate records. (OFT-55852, OFT-55829, OFT-55654, OFT-55700) – One of the big problems is the system has not given a proper undo function in Family Tree when the records were merge in new FamilySearch. There are still problems with large records and combining records with membership records. Part of the issue is a lot of individuals are need to be taught how to combine and separate, especially because we Family Tree is a new system for them. Engineering could help with this problem by providing better tools to work with IOUS records. Fixing the problem with nFS separated records showing a method of separating the records in Family Tree.
b) 6 % - Unable to find duplicates (OFT-54974, OFT-55051)– the ability to find duplicate records has been improving, but there are still things that can be done to improve this problem.
c) 6% - Looping pedigrees (DATA-569, OFT-28347) – It would be helpful to have better tools for handling these problems. A method to do bulk separates would be helpful. This problem has gotten much better also and most of our efforts need to be focused on the problems with merging and unmerging.
4. Policy/Procedure and Policy/Procedure: 379 cases, 5.7% of nFS/FT cases, 3.4% of all cases (10 weeks on this report at number 4)
a) 18% - Policy Questions
b) 14% - Release ordinances
c) 10% - Correct Information
d) 8% - Print a Family Group Sheet
e) 6% - Privacy Issues
We do not have any specific suggestions for this group at this time.
5. Using Family Tree: 282 cases, 4.3% of nFS/FT cases, 2.5% of all cases (10 weeks on this report at number 5)

05 February 2013

These are issues that effect our families, our history, and us

In a recent post on the FamilySearch Blog I read the words: "Hooray for immigrants!" This was an encouraging note for volunteers and potential volunteers of a FamilySearch Indexing project to type the names of roughly 500 million immigrants. Besides the fact that all Americans have an immigrant ancestor, how does this apply to my life today?

My wife and I are in two different countries due to compliance with current immigration law. She is in Mexico preparing for her immigrant visa interview with the US Consulate there. We have been apart for four months that have felt like an eternity and do not know when we will be reunited.

In this situation, I began to ponder: How does this all fit together? As genealogists, do we need to be involved in modern day issues? A powerful, motivational answer for that question can only come from each of us as individuals.

Is a genealogist a politician? Is a genealogist a lobbyist? Is a genealogist a dreamer, a lover, a faithful idealist? Is a genealogist a member of a family today, here and now? In my not so humble words: Of course! Of course, we must be involved. We must open our eyes and see our individual lives and families within the context of an eternal family chain. As genealogists, we should be able to see this eternal perspective more clearly than most. We are not confined to dark corners and dusty books. We are not constrained to the technology which facilitates our search for data.

We must "arise and shine forth." We are the salt of the earth, each of us. Everyone who has a desire to serve is called to the work. Let us more often put aside our individualistic natures. Let us more often live in the present. Let us share what we have. We can share our beloved genealogy. We can write our legislators in support of open records legislation. Can we not take the beckoning call to do more, to be more? We have the power to change the world.

We are changing the world. We are enlightening our friends and family with a glimpse of eternal perspective, a feeling of belonging within a larger family, a feeling of belonging within the human family. This understanding hopefully leads us to greater love for all humankind, and a deeper desire to live today--in our families, in our communities, in our work, and in all ways--to be all that we can be. Let us always be involved.

Amanuensis Monday: Family matters in the estate of James and Mary Lou McCormick

SERIES NOTE: Amanuensis Monday is a genealogy blogging prompt used by many in the blogging community. The word, according to Google, means: "A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts."
My sister, her husband, and I are going through old family letters together. This is a wonderful sharing experience between our family. We hope anyone who is interested will benefit from our work and that there will be many more letters to come.

These letters are from a dialog about the settlement of the James Caldwell McCormick and Mary Louisa Haines McCormick farm in Burlington, New Jersey.

The letters were kept by my great grandfather Clifford Caldwell McCormick Senior, and include communication with his brothers about the matter. They are a good example of the typical family ups and downs, including some anger about the settlement, likely due to a lack of open communication.

                                                         Columbus M.d
                                                         4-10-46.
Dear Cliff:
    Well I guess I am finally over the sale, but was I
tired. I have been half sick ever sinse. Mostly cold.
The sale amounted to $1837. gross. It was after 8 oclock
when we finished. It was so late that Jim, Tein(?) + I all
went up to Merle’s for supper and then we were so
tired that no one was hungry. I think every one should
have a sale every 2 years so that there wouldn’t be so much
junk accumulate. The next one I have, I think I will
have a fire instead.
    Settlement has not yet been made on the Farm.
The man buying it has to get his money from another
who getting a G.I. Loan. And “Uncle Sam” sure takes
his time.
    The old photographs and other things, including
Ches’ (?) arrow heads I have taken care for you.
    I have not been in the House for over a week
now.

            Be seeing you
                    Char.

Letter includes:
Mentions: Jim (probably son James Caldwell McCormick)
(click to see relationships, photos etc. in FamilySearch Family Tree)

[another letter below] 

P.S.                                          208 Lore Ave.
He owes me                            Hillcrest.
$125.00 and I                          Wilmington 253.
have the cancelled                   Deleware.
checks.                                     Nov. 25, 1946

Dear Cliff:
    I agree with you. We should send a note
to Char requesting him to reimburse us for
the money we advanced towards mother’s
hospital expenses, and have been on the
verge of doing so a number of times.
    Month’s ago, I wrote myself some thoughts on
the whole matter and have been carrying them
around with me ever since. They are somewhat
as follows:
    The three of us were supposed to be paying
an equal share towards the hospital expense.
Whether they were equal doesn’t matter. The
fact is he wasn’t repaid for what he paid in
and we were not.
    That I should like to see a photographic
copy of both the wills so I could see the
signatures of mother and witnesses.  We would
also learn something about the erasure that
is mentioned on the typewritten copy of the
second will.
    That the will was rewritten after the sale
of the household goods and farm implements
to cover his actions and pre-empt any
attempt on our part to ask for an accounting.
[page break]
2
 Which was some small phraseology
inserted by his lawyer.
    That I think Char, as executor, should be
asked to produce the Elgin watch. Maybe the
hospital thought it wise to keep it in case
there was an unpaid balance. Who knows?
    About the will again – I think if we are
not permitted to see the originals (or photostats)
of the two wills, we could assume that there are
none and apply for letters of administration, but
I’m afraid its much too late for this action.  
    Denbo, the shyster, if he so desired, could
easily make us copies of “a will” without
there really being a signed original.
    You know mother was in no condition
to comprehend what was in the will (the 2d)
if she did read it and sign it. If she
questioned any part of it, Char would have
advised her that it had to be that way and
she would have trustingly believed him.
    Char always claimed he assumed fathers debts.
As far as I know we were never informed how
much these debts were. But we could have been
let in on the secret. Although I for one would
not have offered to help pay them, for as I see it,
they were incurred for him and perhaps in part
by him, as he was the one using the farm. At
one time Char said he was paying off the debts.
I think this was while working as guard.  Maybe
the debts were a couple of hundred maybe several
[page break]
3
thousand. But I would say that not
much of it was paid off by the toil of his
hands, as you know there was a tractor,
trucks, autos, and many, many farm imple-
ments that were not offered at the sale as
they were disposed of long before.
    At any rate he’ll end up far better off than
I am. By the way the farm settlement must
have been made by now. Do you know?
    I just had a new heater installed the
middle of October. It is a gas-fired boiler
and does a good job. Hope the fuel bills wont
be too high when the cold weather comes.
Cost me $515.00 installed. Had to cash a lot
of bonds to pay for it, but the cleanliness and
convenience are wonderful.
    Back to the other again. It all adds up to
this:   I have not enough bonds or bank
balance to take any kind of legal action.
Which would also mean many trips to Burlington
and Mt. Holly and time off from work and it
might take a long, long time.
    But I am still mad and shall not visit
them in Columbus nor invite them here.
If they come while I am at home, they’ll have
to settle up before they’re admitted. I’ll not even
send them a Christmas greeting. But I’ll tell you, I hope,
he has a merry Christmas with “that woman” I know
I couldn’t have. See how mad I am?
        Yours Ches
                (over)
[page break]

Maybe this is a P.S.
Understand I’d like to do something too.
But I don’t believe we can recover
enough from the estate to pay us to
take legal action.
    As to the money we advanced,
maybe we can recover that, which would
be a help. Of course he isn’t entitled to it.
We paid for his divorce, so to speak.
Yes I was 52 on the 23d. Spent
most of the day cleaning and painting
the car.
Got a letter from Aunt Annie. She is in
Philadelphia for the winter. She wrote that
Jimmir Nieb(?) has closed his roadside stand
for the winter and that he and Char are
going into cement block business. Its not
clear to us whether its Char Sr. or Jr.
            Ches.

Letter includes:
Aunt Annie, there is an Aunt named Anna on both the McCormick and Haines side.
(click to see relationships, photos etc. in FamilySearch Family Tree)

03 February 2013

My 2013 Genealogy Resolutions and Goals

Well hello everybody! I have put off setting these goals and given them some thought over the past month. I've had to let my experience from last year sink in and re-evaluate based on my different life situation this year.

Here it goes:

Personal Tree Research
Find 10 or more end-of-line extensions
  • Already found this year
  1. Frederick Bewig's parents
  2. Henrietta Ehler's parents
  3. Several extensions of the Schneider line in Heuchelheim
  • Working on
  1. Frank Dunkes - waiting for reply email 2 Feb 2013, church
  2. Maria Anna Wipf - waiting for reply email 2 Feb 2013, church
  3. Thomas Schilling and Margaret Hahn - waiting for reply email 2 Feb 2013, Lutheran archives
  4. Marie D. Schimpf - waiting for reply email 2 Feb 2013, church
  5. more Bewigs - waiting for reply email 1 Feb 2013, state archives
  6. more Ehlers - waiting for reply email 1 Feb 2013, state archives
  7. feeling to extend McCormick and Whitehurst lines. No proof sources as of yet.
Personal Tree Organization and Sharing
  1. Learn Spanish
  2. Transcribe or help share 200 pages (family letters, documents etc.)
  3. Share photos and other media on FamilySearch Family Tree
Career and Education
  1. Attend RootsTech
  2. Teach a family history Sunday School
  3. Help provide feedback and stay involved in social media
  4. Continue as usual with work

01 February 2013

Another possible new home page design for FamilySearch

If you are familiar with the FamilySearch Photos beta you will notice this home page has the same look. What do you think? Does a home page like this strike you as better than the current landing page in any ways?

Sometimes I just Google or type random urls to see if there is anything unannounced, but online.
February 1 - I typed FamilySearch.org/Home and saw the following page: (update below)




February 7 - the "Engage Volunteer" think-tank team at FamilySearch appears to be in charge of this design. The heading in my browser reads "Engage" when I visit the page, and the link in the top right says "Volunteer."
Slightly improved design:

FamilySearch Photos just went live on Family Tree!

FamilySearch Photos just went live on Family Tree!



It is much sooner and much better than I expected this soon. Try it out, and let me know what you think.