04 November 2014

Using Snagit to add source citations to document images

Productivity tools. We all need them, especially when we do tasks repetitively. Some tools make mundane genealogy tasks a little easier, and more fun.

My focus recently has been on tools that can be used by professional genealogists to make repetitive tasks more efficient.

As I prepare for my upcoming test with ICAPGen (click to learn more), I have to practice meeting their reporting standards, which includes source citations on the front of every document image. There is good reason to have a source citation on the front, as I have learned over the years by experience.

I am creating a lot more reports than usual as I prepare for accreditation. Now I need a way to make it quicker and more fun to add citations to the front of images.

You can add text to images with Microsoft Paint or any number of other free image editors. They are often not suited well to this task though. I like to have a way to go back and correct the text if I made a mistake.

I have found two programs which make that easier. Adobe Acrobat (if you want to save your images as pdf files) and Snagit (for everything else).

Check out this screencast that shows how I use Snagit for adding source citations:
Snagit for Genealogists - Intro (click the link)
Adobe Acrobat 
  • Edit citations easily any time you open the PDF (because they open in Acrobat if you have that software)
  • Slow and bulky compared to Snagit
  • More expensive
  • Snagit is a faster and more streamlined software
  • It is easier to save the images you want because you can clip them from anything you can see on your screen.
  • Snagit doubles as a good tool to make snippets of portions of documents to insert directly into genealogical reports
  • In Snagit you will have to export the image again after any citation edit you make because the text editing will have to be done in Snagit.  A different copy of the image is saved in Snagit and that is the copy you will edit, and re-export.

What do you think? Do you have any favorite programs to add source citations to the front of an image? What about other productivity tools that you use as a professional genealogist?

25 September 2014

Announcing my Website: MichaelWMcCormick.com

Sometimes I feel like my posts on this blog have a sporadic quality about them. I am not sure if that will change very much or not, but I do want to tell you that I moved back into the world of having my own website recently.

My new website is MichaelWMcCormick.com

It is a place people can go to learn about my involvement in family history and genealogy. It has a professional and educational emphasis. For those closest to me, you already know that professional and educational genealogy is what fills most of my life, besides doing my own genealogy and helping other people with genealogy of course.

Anyway, I really do love genealogy because it has helped me love my ancestors, bond with my living family members, and have perspective that goes beyond myself. I think it will do the same for anyone who gets involved, so I like to educate other people too.

The website is an effort to show my professional side and my qualifications. I intend to have work samples and resources listed. There are very few of those so far.

I have a new blog over there where I am considering talking more about my journey as a professional. Perhaps that will give me an excuse to be even more casual on this blog?

I'm thinking of writing about some of my experiences with genealogy education and ICAPGen accreditation.

Either way, it has been long enough since I posted last and I wanted to let you know about the new site. I hope someone enjoys visiting it. If you do, please leave a comment.

17 August 2014

Recording your research: Calendar, Log or Journal?

Any experienced genealogist knows that you should record research that you've done, whether you found anything or not. A list of steps taken and reasons for those steps will help you prevent doing the same research in a few years once you've forgotten what you've done before. It will also provide documentation, so that anyone else could pick up where you left off. The sound reasoning you might include in such a written record will also help substantiate your conclusions, and help them withstand peer review.

This article is not about the purpose of a written research record. It is not a discussion of how to create one either. This article focuses on what to call such a record.

Highly respected professional genealogists and organizations use various words to describe this type of research record. The most common titles include: Research Calendar, Research Log, and Research Journal.

There is also a form you can create called a Research Planner, but that functions as a detailed to-do list. It is similar to a calendar/log/journal in the instance that each must include the source citation and objective (before or after research is completed).

Research Calendar is a preferred term for the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). 
Research Log is a preferred term among average genealogists in the U.S., and the term is often used in teaching classes at genealogical conference, or in other educational settings.
Research Journal is the preferred term of ancestryProGenealogists, the official genealogy research firm of Ancestry.com.

Most genealogists suggest creating your own table or spreadsheet to record your genealogical searches. During this process you may want to decide what to call it.

First, consider the actual definitions of the various words. It seems practical to choose a word that fits the style of your particular design (the fields you choose to include in your table or spreadsheet). Before you do this, it will help to have a significant genealogical research background, and a list of items you feel are essential to your written record of research. I suggest putting that together before you read on.

Okay, now think about that list as you proceed.


"1 :  a system for fixing the beginning, length, and divisions of the civil year and arranging days and longer divisions of time (as weeks and months) in a definite order — see month table
2 :  a tabular register of days according to a system usually covering one year and referring the days of each month to the days of the week
3 :  an orderly list: as
a :  a list of cases to be tried in court
b :  a list of bills or other items reported out of committee for consideration by a legislative assembly
c :  a list or schedule of planned events or activities giving dates and details
4 British :  a university catalog" 
Merriam-Webster, Inc., Dictionary, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calendar : accessed 17 August 2014). 

"1 :  a usually bulky piece or length of a cut or fallen tree; especially :  a length of a tree trunk ready for sawing and over six feet (1.8 meters) long
2 :  an apparatus for measuring the rate of a ship's motion through the water that consists of a block fastened to a line and run out from a reel
3 a :  the record of the rate of a ship's speed or of her daily progress; also :  the full nautical record of a ship's voyage
   b :  the full record of a flight by an aircraft
4 :  a record of performance, events, or day-to-day activities"
Merriam-Webster, Inc., Dictionary, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/log : accessed 17 August 2014).

"1 a :  a record of current transactions; especially :  a book of original entry in double-entry bookkeeping
   b :  an account of day-to-day events
   c :  a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use
   d :  a record of transactions kept by a deliberative or legislative body
   e :  log 3
   f :  log 4
2 a :  a daily newspaper
   b :  a periodical dealing especially with matters of current interest
3 :  the part of a rotating shaft, axle, roll, or spindle that turns in a bearing"
Merriam-Webster, Inc., Dictionary, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/journal : accessed 17 August 2014).

Okay, now stop and think about which best fits for your purposes. What term best describes the fields and format of your table or spreadsheet? You could even make your record of research in a free-form word document, a database, or cloud program like ResearchTies. There are pros and cons to each. For example, a free-form word document may not be deemed acceptable by genealogist peers who are accustomed to tables and spreadsheets. It does, however, allow more flexibility than a table with pre-set headers.

You may have a different format for your genealogy clients than yourself, and you might have a different format for your ICAPGen application (because they require certain data) or other submissions to specific organizations. The important thing is that you choose the most efficient and effective format and fields for each type, as well as ensuring that your forms are clear to the reader.

Have you decided? Okay, maybe later I'll tell you what I did.

20 June 2014

FamilySearch handouts: Historical Collections Wiki Project

This is the seventh in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content.

This flyer was at RootsTech 2014 as I recall. It is a little unique because it talks about a lesser known volunteer opportunity. FamilySearch uses volunteers to do a lot of the work of keeping such a big organization going. They do so much to make records available for us to research.

This FamilySearch Historical Records division has a project on the FamilySearch Wiki where they create and maintain pages about every online collection that FamilySearch has. These pages are where you go if you ever click the Learn More link for a collection you are searching on FamilySearch. Some of these pages are wonderfully helpful because of the volunteers. Every collection has quirks and needs special research techniques.

What do you think?

Click the image to view.

FamilySearch handouts (LDS): Change a Life--Change Your Life

This is the sixth in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content. This pamphlet makes some references to doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including a spiritual emphasis on knowing one's ancestors.

This pamphlet is similar to the fifth pamphlet in my short series of posts. It seems geared toward the LDS Family History Department. I still found it encouraging to see the quality of the materials and the overarching goal.

 Click an image to view.

FamilySearch handouts (LDS): Family History Progress Update

This is the fifth in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content. This pamphlet makes some references to doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including a spiritual emphasis on knowing one's ancestors.

I found this pamphlet on a table at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is very LDS in nature, focusing on motivating the church's Family History Department to take a new approach to helping church members have family history experiences. I'm glad to see such good quality work going into reaching out to more people to help them with their family history. 

 Click an image to view.

FamilySearch handouts (LDS): Family History for Youth

This is the fourth in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content. This pamphlet makes some references to doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including a spiritual emphasis on knowing one's ancestors.

 FamilySearch has been emphasizing family history for youth for the past few years, and some months ago I came across this pamphlet about that.

How do you feel about these efforts to include the youth in family history? I wish that Indexing was around when I was much younger, and I think I might not have wasted as much time playing video games if I understood that there was something a billion times better that I could do at home.

 Click an image to view.

FamilySearch handouts: Partner Services

This is the third in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content.

This is a flyer I picked up at RootsTech 2014 that highlights FamilySearch partner services. It is good to see their collaboration efforts growing. I am a believer when it comes to collaboration among people or major organizations to reach better outcomes for everyone.

Click the image to view.

FamilySearch handouts: A Solutions Story from Kodak Alaris

This is the second in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content.

"A Solutions Story from Kodak Alaris" is a flyer about a new high-speed photograph scanner available for use at most large FamilySearch Centers and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. I used this scanner myself, and I am very impressed with the ability it has to delicately scan stacks of photos at high speeds... very impressed.

A scanning project that could take all day can not be done in a few minutes. A project that would take days, weeks, or months, may be finished in one day now. Bring your pictures to one of the FamilySearch centers that has one of these and save your priceless photos before a natural disaster destroys the only copy in existence.

What do you think?

 Click an image to view.

FamilySearch handouts: Let's Put the World's Historic Records Online...

This is the first in a short series of posts that will highlight some of FamilySearch's pamphlets, flyers, and handouts.

Disclaimer: I do not have any legal affiliation with FamilySearch, and believe it is okay to publish these because the flyers are available to the public at no cost. I am simply bringing them to the attention of my blog readership, for their interesting content.

Let's Put the World's Historic Records Online... is a pamphlet I picked up at RootsTech 2014. This shows some remarkable predictions about how soon we might get the world's records online.

Although some say the theme of RootsTech 2014 was obituaries, sharing, or technology, I think the theme was really "collaboration, the key to success." What do you think?

Click images to view.

26 May 2014

Remembering the right to Immigrate this Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, remember that American soldiers died so that ALL people could enjoy the right to live as families, to contribute to the world around them, and so that people do not have to hide from oppressive government. Unfortunately, many Americans think that Memorial Day is a day that we celebrate how much better US Citizens are than everyone else, and how important it is that we don't let anyone else into our country. (A little harsh I know, but see my explanation below).

Here is a story about an undocumented man who was just deported this month, leaving behind a U.S. Citizen spouse who suffers an uncertain future. Use this link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-other-side-of-deportation-an-american-struggles-to-prepare-for-life-without-husband/2014/05/24/12de381e-e1ab-11e3-8dcc-d6b7fede081a_story.html

My wife and I were only apart for 16 months, because the U.S. government would not allow her to re-enter the country after our first trip to see her family together. We were allowed to file a case with USCIS and I kept working in the US, and visiting her about every six months. It was hard, especially for her. I tried to keep my mind on my to-do list like Zunaid (deported in the above article), thinking just as he said "we will be okay." I visited my members of congress, consulted with lawyers, sought support among local church members, friends, and family. My wife is a lawful permanent resident now, but many of our friends are not so blessed.

Our friend Madina had her husband deported for a minimum of 10 years. Their appeal was denied because of a minor immigration technicality that was introduced in 1996. This 1996 law states that non-criminal violations of immigration policy such as staying over on a visa will no longer be forgiven for those married to a U.S. citizen. The best people, the most community service minded, the most faithful and loving, can now be deported for things as simple as a traffic stop, if they have an immigration policy infraction from anytime in their life. Most people feel sympathetic once they know someone who went through this, but some of my so-called "friends" still comment that it is the fault of the U.S. citizen. They say we could move to our spouse's country. They say, it was our fault to marry the person to begin with. They say we get what was coming to us. Are you ready for what is coming to you? (Not a threat, just something to ponder--whether we are really better or more important/forgivable than anyone else around us.)

Many of us--who suffer from immigration policy--in this position feel that most of our politicians are no better than the Internet trolls who post comments to say that it is the fault of the family. They say we get what was coming to us. They say that if we love our spouses, we would leave behind our sick, dying, or disabled family members; we would leave behind our careers which we spent several years to get specialized in; we would go into countries where we can't speak the language; we would go into countries where our spouses left because they did not want to live there or it was dangerous; we would go there if we really love them. They say it is our fault for getting married in the first place. They say law is God and law comes first.

Some of our friends make considerate comments about how horrible the current laws are. Most of our friends don't have anything to say at all. Some few friends insist on posting bigoted comments like the ones posted on the article linked to above. And other friends still do not post anything nasty to us directly, but I notice the posts in my news feed that talk about how "illegals" are stealing our jobs and should all be sent home or some other anti-reform posts which masquerade as American pride or conservatism. Those posts do not target my family specifically, but those posts do imply an attitude of holier-than-thou and a lack of well-reasoned compassion.

Sometimes when we have been lobbying for years and we have no common-sense bills being moved past committee, sometimes we think that our politicians are just as clueless as the chat room trolls. And it is easy to believe it. They have a lot of other issues on their minds. The world is full of evil. There are murders that suggest a need for gun control. There is drug violence and a lowering of IQ that suggests a need for drug debate. There are issues about education, work, marriage rights. There are issues in these very politicians families. Perhaps they have a rebellious child, perhaps they have a dying mother. There are organ harvesting schemes, and rumors of nuclear attack, and political game playing, and the list never ends. I am not surprised that US citizen mixed status families are really not getting their due of attention, but as one who was apart from his wife for 16 months, I wish it was different.

Updated: Accreditation vs. Certification for Genealogists, an opinion piece

Accreditation vs. Certification for Genealogists
Michael W. McCormick, BS
Disclaimer: This article may contain some inaccuracies, and definitely contains unofficial opinion of the author; Even that opinion is subject to change and additional information. Corrections from ICAPGen or BCG board members are both appreciated and welcome. For official information about ICAPGen or BCG please visit their respective websites. (http://www.icapgen.org/ and http://www.bcgcertification.org/)

Updated: 5/26/2014 12:40 MT Corrections are inserted in brackets [example] and will be marked with the author's initials, as well as coloring for emphasis.
ICAPGen board member Kelly Summers' (KS) comments are blue.
The author's additions are MM and marked purple.

            The credentialing process for the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) is a three-part approach. First, you submit a four-generation research report. Second, you take a two-part written exam. Third, you have an oral review with two or three current AG professionals. Upon completion, you will be called an Accredited Genealogist (AG). The Board for Certification of Genealogist (BCG) requires only a seven-part portfolio. Upon completion, you will be called a Certified Genealogist (CG). BCG’s credentialing process will be selectively discussed below within the context of the ICAPGen process, and my own opinions will be given.
The Four-Generation Report
            The four-generation report is in cookie-cutter style. By that, I mean that you must fit into ICAPGen testing requirements, which seem somewhat restrictive to me as a professional genealogist. The project must be hand selected for all four generations of your family to live in your area of interest. The youngest of the four generations must focus on a person who was born before 1900. In addition, you are not allowed to do a compiled narrative report, but must present a pedigree, family group records, and a traditional research report as separate parts. The ICAPGen project also requires that you use both original and compiled sources, while the BCG process emphasizes the preference for original records. [This is not a requirement. We prefer original sources and in some countries it is only original sources. However, you will need to know any compiled resources that will lead you to original sources.-KS] [I apologize for exaggerating and I appreciate the clarification. It is the lack of explanation for this phrase that tripped me up. I would like to see methodology explained along with the list of requirements more like BCG's Genealogy Standards manual provides. The statement on the ICAPGen website is as follows: "The project should encompass both compiled and original records." Italics added for emphasis. (ICAPGen, "The Application and Four-Generation Project," online accessed 26 May 2014.) Although the website does not say must, it says should, and I believe that word "should" should be further clarified by including Kelly's statement on the official website: "We prefer original sources." Perhaps a link should be inserted to a webpage where the importance of original vs. compiled is explained, and where ICAPGen should explicitly state that compiled sources are not mandatory. In addition, might I suggest that instead of saying that the applicant should use compiled and original, you might say that the applicant "may" use compiled sources along with original sources.-MM] I side with BCG here, although I see ICAPGen’s desire is most likely to ensure that the researcher is familiar with both types. Some of these points will be discussed further.
            The project must be hand selected for all four generations to live in your area of interest. This is required because when you test with ICAPGen you test for a specific geographical area. For example, I chose to test for the Mid-Atlantic United States because I have significant experience in that region, and I have ancestral lines that fit the requirements for the credential. This forces you to learn records for a certain area and use those in your project. At the same time, this makes the project less real-world because you must handpick a line that has probably already been researched in order to ensure that all four generations do live in your area of interest. It is okay for the purposes of this credential that this line may have already been researched, but for the BCG credential, you will be required to do a fresh client report for a line, which you are not related to. There is a big difference between proving an already established line, as required in the ICAPGen project, vs. researching a fresh line according to a client objective. [Agreed, if an applicant chooses to research an established line, the experts will closely examine anything that this person has contributed to the original research. Using an established line does not demonstrate the applicant’s depth and breadth of knowledge in any area. I would suggest that this is not a good choice for a project. The idea is to show your abilities. However, these items will be tested in depth in the exam, regardless of the project submitted.-KS] [Fair enough. It is just the nature of the project requiring something that you could not possibly know until research is undertaken by someone--where four generations lived. You can't know that unless they have already been researched. Of course, the applicant can research as many names as needed until they find one that fits.-MM] The BCG version allows that you may not meet the objective, but that you must show sound research methodology, show that you looked in the right places, and that you created a professional final product. The BCG portfolio does not need to be focused on any region that you choose, and you do not earn the CG credential for any particular region.
            For the ICAPGen project, the youngest of the four generations must focus on a person born before 1900. This requirement is different from the BCG process as well. In the BCG process, for the kinship-determination portion of your portfolio, you are allowed to begin with anyone except yourself or your siblings. You may include living persons only if their permission is expressly granted and included in the portfolio. As a forensic genealogist and professional heir searcher, I do much work after 1900. This part of the BCG process feels more real-world to me.  
            For ICAPGen, you are not allowed to do a compiled narrative report, but must present a pedigree, family group records, and a traditional research report as separate parts. I feel that this is restrictive and more LDS-centric. As the founder of the accreditation process, the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints influenced the ICAPGen process. [You are correct that a pedigree, FGRs and a traditional report is expected by ICAPGen. These are the real world expectations of paying clients throughout the world, not just Utah. The experience of our Accredited Genealogists® who research for both US and International clients have confirmed these expectations. ICAPGen is focused on professional genealogists doing client work, for a restricted about of time and defined amount of money. Organizing research findings in a manner that can be quickly reviewed and added to, is crucial. Very rarely does a professional get the chance to complete a whole research project in one research segment. Thus, most of our work is “work in progress”. Sometimes a client will ask for a biography, a narrative or a compiled lineage. However, these are not produced until after the research for that information has been completed and the client will receive both the traditional client reports and the requested narrative, etc.-KS] [I have both completed small projects for clients, and received research from other genealogists that did not include Pedigree or FGR forms. Obviously we are not talking about individual look-ups here, but even when a family group or two is researched, I have often seen reports that have a bullet point list naming the children directly in the report. One of the best genealogists I have hired personally actually provides his reports in compiled pedigree format. My own opinion was that I liked that better than a report and FGRs/Pedigree seperately. I am not an AG yet and I cannot speak for the experience of most AGs as a whole, but I have personally been on both the professional and client end of other forms of reports, and it has brought great satisfaction.-MM] ICAPGen became independent in in 2000. I see pedigree charts and family group records as forms created for the LDS or for genealogy software purposes. I also prefer to be able to choose my report format because I appreciate the convenience of the BCG process in being able to merge a report and the genealogy content together. This creates a compiled narrative format such as a genealogy, lineage, or pedigree. There are about three reports required for the BCG portfolio, and the client report is most applicable to the forgoing discussion.
The Written Exam
            The written exam is somewhat restrictive too. At this time, the only testing locations available are the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the DAR Library in Washington, D.C., and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. [This is not true. Just this quarter we had exams administered in Canada, Idaho and Cedar City. As a person passes Level 1, we address accommodations for administering the Level 2 exam. We have administered the exam in multiple countries so far and look to administering these exams in more countries and in multiple languages. Our next language is Spanish. Other information you may be interested in knowing. ICAPGen recognizes that a person with a genealogy credential has demonstrated a high level of genealogical research ability. ICAPGen offers to genealogists with either credential the opportunity to apply for a second credential with reduced (half the required hours) experience hours.-KS] [I misinterpreted the following statement from the official ICAPGen website: "If you cannot travel to Salt Lake City, Utah to take the exam, you may indicate on your application that you wish to take the exam in another facility. Alternate facilities at this time include the DAR Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana." (ICAPGen, "The Written Exam & Oral Review," online accessed 26 May 2014.) It says "include," but it does not say, "these are the only places." I just thought that was implied by the word "include." I think this is just one of several examples where the ICAPGen website needs updating. Some of the mentoring courses and the website are out of date, and throw off potential applicants like myself.] This is required because tests are written according to what research resources are available at each particular repository. You cannot expect someone to find X record during a timed test, unless you know that they are in a repository where that record is readily available. This is another reason why I have begun to lean more toward to BCG’s credential as being a more “real-world” process for credentialing. A potential down-side of BCG’s credential is that there is no timed test, and a timed test is a controlled environment where one of a professional genealogist’s most important skills can be tested: the ability to turn out professional work in the time agreed upon with the client. Even the knowledge recall portion of the ICAPGen exam is an important consideration when evaluating the difference between the two credentials. The BCG credential is entirely without a test. You simply submit a seven part
My Decision
            After studying the two processes more in-depth, I feel that the BCG process’ flexibility is more real-world, ad that causes me to lean toward them as the more reputable credential. I personally prefer their flexibility, and emphasis on methodology. At the same time, I see real value in the regional focus, timed exam, and oral review that ICAGen offers. Therefore, my personal choice may be to complete both processes. I am working on the AG credential first because that is a goal I set two years ago. I am LDS myself, and I am now living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Therefore, an LDS-centric or Utah-centric feeling credential is not a down-side for me. While I live here, I would like to take the test at the Family History Library. In addition, I am aware from peers that both credentials are highly sought in the workplace, and among a high-tier of clients. My short-term goals include submitting my ICAPGen report by the end of June, and completing Salt Lake Community College’s Preparing for Your United States Credential course this summer. My long-term goals include testing with ICAPGen in August or November at the latest, and completing my AG credential by the end of 2014.

18 April 2014

Now Online: Pennsylvania State Death Certificates, 1906-1924

April 17, 2014--Pennsylvania State 1906-1924 death certificates are now online. This marks the first of multiple releases through the next year. Eventually, all deaths before the 50 year privacy window (1964) will be online, with an additional year anticipated to become available every year afterward.

 Search the collection (click here).

Free access is available to PA residents, and to everyone who visits select libraries or a Family History Center. https://familysearch.org/locations/

Learn more about free access for PA residents (click here).

Follow PaHR-Access for updates.

07 April 2014

Illegal Immigration and Love | Lady Liberty, Siren of the Underworld

Paraphrasing one of my friends: "We've been stuck down here for over eleven years! Eleven years wasted on this border because my husband crossed to be with us - is like getting handed a life sentence for an 'act of love'"

I recently registered to vote in Utah, but I could not bring myself to register as a republican as I have done every other time. I agree with many important platform points of the Utah Republican Party, but their immigration statement sickens me.

"We oppose illegal immigration and all forms of ...legal status, for illegal immigrants. We support suspending automatic U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal immigrant parents... We oppose any temporary or 'guest' worker program that would offer an automatic path to citizenship. We believe that current laws against employing illegal immigrants should be vigorously enforced, particularly to stem the now too common crime of identity theft in obtaining employment." (read full platform)

Of course we all wish there was no illegal activity in the world, but the republican platform entirely misses the point that this illegal activity is largely a necessary act of love. There is no good legal option for countless families. America is lying through her teeth when she says "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." (The New Colossus, Lady Liberty) Her statues say it, her body language says it, but if you believe it for just a minute and actually step over the line and reach for her merciful hand she calls you an illegal, hunts you down, tears you from your young children, and exiles you to a nation you have not seen for decades. This is our lady liberty, lady of the underworld.

Why can't more republicans shake off their chains and wake up to admit what Jeb Bush says in simple terms? The illegal crossing of an immigrant is almost always an act of love that directly harms no-one. It is lady liberty who rears her evil head to punish those who dare believe her lies.

21 March 2014

Current FamilySearch digitization projects: How to find them

FamilySearch is the largest genealogy non-profit, and is always adding new content to their flagship website FamilySearch.org. As any other genealogist and avid user of FamilySearch's digital record collections, I am always curious when the records I need will go online.

For full-time genealogy researchers, knowing what is coming online within the year may result in saving untold funds and time. If I am desperate to find ancestors in X, and I pay a genealogist to search X's records by hand, I could be out of several hundreds of dollars. If X's records will be digitized within 1-3 years I may decide to spend my several hundred on records farther out in the queue of digitization (or records that are not in the queue at all).

Unfortunately for all of us enthusiastic genealogists, we have to learn patience. FamilySearch's official policy on listing their current projects is as follows:

"FamilySearch does not provide information on current or future projects. The first public notice of FamilySearch's newly acquired records appears in the Family History Library Catalog."

I wonder if things might be changing at FamilySearch and all around us though. I wonder if we are moving toward an era of greater project transparency. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch will no longer be competing for digitization contracts with the same archive. Their recent partnership was discussed in detail at RootsTech and several online news sources. Last month at RootsTech, one of the leaders of FamilySearch mentioned a project that is still under discussion with the government of India. I was a little surprised to hear this announcement before a contract was even final, considering FamilySearch's general policy. Perhaps FamilySearch has little reason to withhold the information, but there is no efficient system to list current project to the public at this time.

There are a few ways I have learned to gather information about current digitization projects.
  1. Attend FamilySearch presentations
    RootsTech, Family History Library classes, or local family history fairs often have speakers who are FamilySearch employees. Last month at RootsTech there were several current projects announced. Some of these were later mentioned in a FamilySearch Blog post.
  2. Network with FamilySearch employees and missionaries (on and offline)
    FamilySearch employees are fairly closed lipped online due to company policy, but will sometimes share more in person. They are enthusiastic genealogists too! I have found one recently who is tweeting sometimes about current projects.

    Attending events like RootsTech is a great way to jump start your networking. You can sometimes get specific employees email addresses and begin to have discussions with them about what is going on inside FamilySearch. Being helpful and providing useful feedback is a good way to approach this.

    FamilySearch missionaries can often be found in your own congregations or areas. If you are involved with your local Family History Center, societies, and genealogical repositories, you may just end up running into some of these digitization teams.
  3. Follow the news and blogs
    Using a search engine to search for terms such as "FamilySearch digitization" (without quotes) will reveal some online newspaper articles about FamilySearch missionaries and what they are digitizing. You can use keywords like those to create alerts on Google News so that you will be emailed when a new story goes online.

    Subscribing to genealogy blogs will help you to be among the first to know. The following blogs are some that often discuss FamilySearch news:
    1. FamilySearch Blog
    2. Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
    3. Ancestry Insider
    4. Genealogy's Star
    5. Larry Cragun Family and Genealogy Blog
    6. Renee's Genealogy Blog
    7. Enduring Legacy Genealogy (you are here)
 Check back for a possible follow-up article about known current projects.

How to obtain Pennsylvania state vital records

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was one of the main ports of entry into our nation. Many families in the United States have some ancestors who are connected to Pennsylvania, even if they moved out soon after immigrating. This is why the availability of vital records in eastern states like Pennsylvania is important to the genealogy of the nation.

The process of obtaining Pennsylvania state vital records is changing. Vital records are the records of birth and death that are recorded at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Chances are that you have your own birth certificate, and perhaps a death certificate of a recently deaceased close relative. These records list date and location of the recorded event, parents names, and several other useful facts of genealogical interest. Imagine if you could have these certificates for all your Pennsylvania ancestors. You may unlock relationships, find out where an ancestor was buried, the causes of death (for family health history), or simply fill in those missing dates on your pedigree. Soon you will be able to do all this more easily.

State vital records (births and deaths) for Pennsylvania begin in 1906. Until recently, the only way to search these records was to ask the staff of the Pennsylvania Department of Health to search the records for you. In early 2012, the state legislature passed a law directing that all deaths filed 50 years ago, and births filed 105 years ago, are now open to the public. For those public years, the health department quickly posted images of the typed indexes online. The first benefit was that you could now search the index yourself. That was an immediate genealogical benefit. For example, you could look for spelling variants, or look for everyone with the last name you are interested in.

Starting this year (2014), Ancestry.com will put digital images and a searchable index of these records online. The first batch of records is anticipated to come next month (April). These records may include deaths from 1906 through 1924. Details of when specific batches of these records will be released online is subject to change, but they will be coming online soon.

When these records come online they will start to appear in the "Hints" of Ancestry.com member trees, and will also be searchable with various data entry fields like current collections on the Ancestry.com website. This will allow you to find vital records in seconds that you may not have even known existed before. If any of your relatives died in Pennsylvania between 1906 and 1963, this collection is for you. It also will include births from 1906 through 1908, although those may not be uploaded for almost another year. The deaths records will be release in batches first.

If you do not have an Ancestry.com account, please do not despair. There will be several free options to access the Pennsylvania records. You may use the database at the archives, at a Family History Center, or select libraries. You may also have free access from home if you are a Pennsylvania resident. You can already access other Pennsylvania collections for free. Get started today to set up your free account at http://phmc.info/ancestrypa.

If you can't wait, check out the typed indices today at the public records page of the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

06 February 2014

RootsTech 2014: My Thursday thoughts

This article includes the following topics:
  • My experience in the expo hall with my wife 
  • Are some worn out and bitter?
  • Moving toward preserving the world's records
  • FamilySearch is aware of features we need, be patient
  • Ancestry.com and FamilySearch, together forever
  • RootsTech's major theme: We can't do it alone
Creating and preserving our memories as a couple at RootsTech

Today my wife attended RootsTech for the first time, with a free expo hall pass. I highly recommend that for anyone who can afford to come to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a special experience for me to share some of this time with my wife, at my favorite annual genealogy event.

There were classes in every time-slot that interested me, but I took some time away during one of the class sessions to enjoy the hall with my wife. She had been walking around the hall for awhile already, doing random activities, and she even won a free membership to MyHeritage.

When I was there, I took her to the FamilySearch family story recording booth where we took a ten minute video of ourselves talking for ten minutes about our time so far as a couple. I've already watched it and I can say we look great together. Creating and recording memories for posterity is an interesting new dynamic of our family history journey.

We also used the phone call interview computers provided in the FamilySearch Discovery Center section. My wife was able to call some of her relatives in Mexico, and I spoke to some of mine in the United States. They instantly e-mailed those conversations to us upon the end of each call. I've listened to part of one I had with my mom's mother, and am glad I was brave enough to try it.

Are some of us becoming worn down and resentful?

I'm not as excited to share news as I was in previous years. There are a few reasons I think. Perhaps it feels less new and exciting, now that I have been for a couple of previous years. Perhaps I am too accustomed to ground-breaking advances in the field. Perhaps I am mentally preoccupied with my own responsibilities, and how much work I will have to catch up on when these blissful days end.

Many of the things that are coming to the genealogy space in the future are really not that new of an idea for me, or I have already been hearing about the developments for so long that further news is not exciting. I feel myself moving toward a more practical viewpoint. I am interested more in news that will help me in my volunteer or work roles immediately, instead of 1-2 years from now--when promised features may come. Don't get me wrong. I recognize that meaningful features have recently been released and more are coming all the time. I'm simply less excited to talk and hypothesize about the future. Sometimes things in development never make it past beta, or are totally different by then.

That being said, there was a lot of exciting news so far at RootsTech. Ryan Heaton and Ron Tanner gave talks about GEDCOMX and Family Tree respectively. I mention these two together, because they both had an unfortunate resentful tone. GEDCOMX and FHISO were questioned a lot last year about their value or true openness. Much of Ryan's entire presentation seemed to be anticipating similar lines of questioning, and it felt defensive. Ron presented in a similar style, especially at certain points. Even his body language and expression was less moving than in previous years. It felt like they had been worn down by having so much critical feedback in the past and were trying to defend their products. Don't get me wrong, these were the only 2 presentations where I noticed this kind of resentful tone, out of all the presentations so far. It is just unfortunate.

Good news

Note: Various speakers or employees mentioned the news items below, but some may be incomplete. These items are not meant as official announcements and deals may not be final.

Several things were said that show FamilySearch is moving forward in preserving the world's records.
  • They have an agreement with the Shanghai Library to share all of their Chinese records collections both ways. Each one will give access to the other, to their collections. 
  • Through the partnership of Ancestry.com and FamilySearch, Ancestry.com will be able to put more of the Mexico census records online (the 1930 Mexico census is the only one currently online). FamilySearch will grant Ancestry.com access to the Mexico collections currently on their site. [I specifically asked an employee about this because it would help us a lot in researching my wife's family.]
  • Vital/church records are currently in process of acquisition for Venezuela and Guatemala. Guatemala is providing many of their own camera teams, while FamilySearch is offering their volunteers to index, and website to host the records. 
  • FamilySearch has multiple partnerships that will allow them to publish many more obituaries online in the future.
  • FamilySearch recently met with five of the largest Native American tribes in the United States to discuss ways to help them set up family history programs or centers. The response was positive. No timeframe has been announced. 
  • FamilySearch has made major progress with agreements in India to preserve records just recently
  • FamilySearch gets more offers to allow them to digitize records than they could possibly meet right now. The planned increase from 267 to 500 camera crews will help, but collections will still be prioritized. FS can't do it all. They have limited resources. UK and Germany are in high demand right now, and places like South America, Africa, and Italy are also high on the list.
Several things show that FamilySearch is aware of the features that users want and need.
  • Some of the conflicts with dealing with living people on FamilySearch Family Tree or Memories may start to be resolved around May.
  • In over a year and a half, we should begin to see ways to share groups of living people through granting permission with Family Tree.
  • Index corrections may become possible some time in 2015.
  • Due to tighter partnerships with genealogy companies, syncing Ancestry.com trees, Findmypast trees, and MyHeritage trees to FamilySearch Family Tree may become available later this year (or partially).
  • FamilySearch is accepting sign-ups for beta testers on the new indexing system, and the new Family Tree/Memories mobile apps
  • In Q2 2014 we should see the ability to merge new persons from a source, into our FamilySearch Family Tree
  • The FamilySearch Memories app will allow users to record audio and upload it to their FamilySearch accounts. This will be in beta along with the Family Tree viewer app, anticipated in March.
  • Video support is on the roadmap, but far to little has been done to suggest a timeline. 
More details about the Ancestry.com and FamilySearch agreement

Members of FamilySearch's sponsor donate funds to the work of FamilySearch. Part of the deal with Ancestry.com requires that these LDS members have free access to at least portions of Ancestry.com. We should see the initial integration along these lines in or after second quarter 2014. I'm being intentionally vague, as this is the kind of thing that is easy to spread rumors about. It is best to wait and see how it plays out.

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch no longer will compete in trying to get contracts to digitize collections. This was the case before, and this new policy will save resources and effort, so that more can be accomplished.


GEDCOMX is currently in use among any/all of FamilySearch partners who are exchanging data with their services, whether they know it or not. They welcome developers to create conversion tools, make recommendations, and partner with them.

FamilySearch CEO, Dennis Brimhall said that sometimes he promises too much. He paraphrased what his staff would probably tell him: "How did you dare say that? We're not going to do that." Perhaps one of those things was when he mentioned a text-to-tree feature that would be developed. Brimhall mentioned this in a small unconferencing session at RootsTech 2013, and this year he mentioned it more prominently. Developers clarified that they are only in the research phase of this product. The intent is to open up the family tree to use from those without a regular Internet connection. Many in less developed countries have text-ready cell phones, but no computer or Internet.

One of the major themes this year is that we cannot do it on our own. There is too much work to do in the field of genealogy, and we need all the biggest players as well as all the individuals to have a synergistic result (example: 2+2=5). We need more business partners, we need more developers, we need more indexers, we need more new people to become interested in Genealogy etc. Each of these points was covered well in the conference so far.

04 January 2014

Thoughts on genetic genealogy and health history

For the past couple months, I've had an increased interest in my family's health history.

I ordered a few death certificates to verify causes of death for grandparents or great grandparents. I've got one more to order before I'll have them for all my great grandparents. I've known their close genealogy for awhile, so wasn't motivated to order theses more recent certificates as genealogical sources. I finally paid out the $24 fees for a few certificates from Maryland (they're too recent to get from the state archives).

I even started to think about the potential benefits of testing with 23andMe for a report on my health history. Unfortunately, that was just about the time that the FDA ordered them to stop offering tests that were marketed as medical information. To comply with the order, their DNA tests no longer report on medical matters. See an 23andMe announcement about the change (click).

That is why I was interested when I read Roberta Estes' post about Promethease. (click)

Turns out there is a free version (available here).

I ran my file. I'm running a few of my immediate relatives raw autosomal data through it too. Many of the so called "good" or "bad" just balance each other out, but it is interesting. It met my needs and satisfied my curiosity without costing me any cash.

Random inspiration, when contemplating ancestral research

It is always remarkable to me, the moments of serendipity, when I'm pondering my family history. Through a mix of hard work and these events, over time I have come to know that I'm getting research help from the other side.

One simple instance of this happened today. Taken alone, it may not even seem noteworthy to the genealogical novice, but I knew it was a communication from the divine.

As I was sitting at my computer, wondering what genealogy lead or genealogy site to click on next, and while not following anything about the Schilling family, I had a very small thought that I should go to ProQuest and search the Baltimore Sun. I dismissed it for a moment as my own wishful thinking, but it seemed different than my own thinking so I then went to the page. I had the thought to type a certain string of words, and the name Schilling. There I found two articles that I do not recall ever seeing before about my great great grandparents Thomas and Margaret Schilling.

They were simple news articles. In one, Thomas told a pier diver that she must ask permission before jumping (he was a watchman at the pier). In the other, Margaret was named as the President of a local Women's Club. No big new genealogy finds, just a small glimpse into the lives of some of my most elusive ancestors.

I was happy that I followed the impression and felt peaceful about having found the articles.

Extract from one article:

The genealogy websites I subscribe to: wrapping up the list

See the first post in this series:
The genealogy websites I subscribe to: Ancestry.com's new World Explorer Plus Membership

I also carry current subscriptions to the following sites:

GenealogyBank.com, until 03/03/2014 (renews annually)
This site has proven valuable to what I do on a consistent basis, and will likely stay in my subscriptions for a long time. I wish the major historical Newspaper websites would buy each other up, so I could get everything I need in one place. This newspaper-specific site has proven the most useful though, for a wide range of localities. Other major newspaper sites include NewspaperArchive.com, Newspapers.com (part of World Explorer Plus), and ProQuest. If I needed to cut back, I would drop Newspapers.com first. I hope that carrying a subscription will help fund them to acquire more papers.

MyHeritage.com, data and site, until 03/1-2/2014
To be honest, I subscribed to this and never put enough time into it to even try getting my money's worth out of it. I do genealogy about every day, but just haven't had a compelling reason to use this website yet because there are not any services or collections that I need for my research. If I was a beginner, I'd seriously consider dropping the other subscriptions and going with just this one though.

Formerly, I've also subscribed to NewspaperArchive, Findmypast.com, and several people finder websites (I still subscribe to one of those, but you can pick any you like).

Actually, I hope you don't use my list to make up your mind about what to subscribe to. This has not been meant as a review, just a list of my subscriptions.

Sometimes I subscribe because there are records I need to search, and once-in-awhile I subscribe just to support the website and test it out for a year or two. I also do pay-per-view on RootsIreland.ie and ScotlandsPeople.com as well as other sites. A couple of the societies I belong to also have online content I can access as a paying member such as the Ulster Historical Foundation and the Maryland Genealogical Society. 

The websites I use the most are FamilySearch.org (free) and Ancestry.com. You can access Ancestry.com for free at Family History Centers and many libraries. The majority of my research for personal and business purposes is actually offline though. I do a lot of in-person paper and microfilm research, as well as requesting other genealogists to search records on site in far away locations. For the first few years of my research efforts, Ancestry.com helped me a ton to piece together my recent ancestry. It was well worth it, and I still need them enough to keep the subscription. These days though, all the census records and many others are free on FamilySearch.org and available under other conditions on many more websites.

The genealogy websites I subscribe to: Ancestry.com's new World Explorer Plus Membership

This morning I woke up early on a beautiful snowed-in Saturday in Chicago and remembered a post by my genealogy blogger friend Dick Eastman. Get well soon Dick.

You can read his post here: A New "World Explorer Plus Membership" on Ancestry.com?
This new deal, includes access to everything on Ancestry.com "World Explorer" and full-access to two of their other paid websites: Fold3.com and Newspapers.com.

I was a little hesitant to "upgrade" because I already had subscriptions to all 3 websites. It sure would be nice to save a little cash and a little trouble by combining the 3 bills into 1, I thought. The problem is that all my subscriptions would end at different times. My Fold 3 was up for renewal in February, but the others not until September and November. I decided to call them anyway and see what I could do.

They were so helpful! Turns out that they issue a "refund" for the remaining time on my "World Explorer" membership and then put any remaining days with the other two subscriptions on hold. Example from an email they sent me after I made the change:

"Hi Michael_McCormick,
Thank you for your purchase of an Ancestry.com World Explorer Plus Membership. Included in your recent purchase is continued access to your existing Fold3 All-Access Membership.
The remaining time of 28 days on your initial Fold3 Membership will be stored as a credit and will automatically be applied to your Fold3 Membership should you choose not to renew your Ancestry.com World Explorer Plus Membership in the future."
The price for the full year World Explorer Plus is a hefty $389, but when you use them as much as I do it is quite nice to consolidate them into one billing cycle. It is also more affordable to me than the typical person because it is partly a business expense.

They don't include Archives.com in this subscription, presumably because they want to market that website as a low-cost option that is not part of the expert bundle.

Well, perhaps I will turn this into a series of at least one more.