Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do you have GILBERT, OSWALD or POTTER in Your Family Tree?

If so, and if you hadn't already subscribed to these family newsletters back in the 1980's, you will want to read the Gilbert Gallery, Oswald Outlines and Potter Profiles issues for free at Genealogy Today.

Donna Potter Phillips produced these newsletters, and asked me to digitize and host the issues on my web site so that genealogists could access them. It took some time, allowing for the original paper copies to travel cross-country, get scanned and then posted online, but all three publications are now completed and available for download.

These newsletters are filled with interesting articles, subscriber queries, photographs and loads of information about the families -- Donna refers to this as the "good stuff."

If you have materials produced in the pre-Internet age, and would like to share them with online genealogists, I'd be glad to digitize and host them for you at no charge. Contact me for instructions as to where to ship the materials.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Biographical Timelines, a Useful Tool for Genealogists

I've used timelines for my own personal research for many years. They're a great way to summarize the facts from the documents you've collected, and they help to highlight areas that you've missed. So, I was thinking they might be a good way of highlighting some of the resources gathered and published by Genealogy Today.

There are a lot of different types of documents and transcriptions on my web site, and this new area will be a way of stitching together the pieces for individuals. In addition, lots of new information is being added just for the biographical timelines.

The first step in the process was gathering up all of the ancestors for whom dates of birth and death were known (or at least death and age). Some of these were rolled out to the site with just birth/death years, while I go back at review/capture additional information. While over 100 citations are being added to the timelines almost every day, it will take some time before the content is consistently more substantial across the pages.

Visitors are welcome to contribute documents (links to online transcription or database records, scanned images and/or photocopies) to the project. Sorry, but the timelines in this project will all be substantiated with citable references, so you may not send in an email with facts you may "know" and request that a person be added.

Stop by and take a look. If you don't see any of your ancestors today, take a look tomorrow... you never know who'll show up unannounced!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Exciting Genealogy Discovery: The Alice S. Champlin Files

Several months ago, at a regional book and paper show, one of my "regular" dealers showed me a small accordian file organizer, which was touted as "family history notes" -- not something I can resist. After a little price negotiation, the files came home with me.

The organizer is comprised of two dozen individual envelopes, most filled with clippings and correspondence. While at first glance, it would appear to be someones personal research, a closer inspection yielded the discovery that this was work of a turn-of-the-century professional genealogist!

The researcher was Mrs. Alice S. Champlin of Westbrook, Connecticut (wife of Charles C. Champlin), and over the next few months, I will be carefully digitizing and recording all of the components of this collection.

I did a little poking around online, and she's listed in the "Connecticut Deaths and Burials, 1772–1934." Index at FamilySearch. It appears she past away on February 2nd, 1913. In the 1910 U.S. Census, she and Charles were living at 13 East Main Street in Westbrook. Alice lists profession as "none," so its unclear if she was ever paid for her research efforts.

Expect to see blog posts about these files as I progress through analyzing and recording the information contained within those envelopes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Branches and Twigs, Not the Family Tree Type

Talk about a crazy week... on October 29th (last Saturday), my part of the World was hit with a freak snow storm that cause more damage than Hurricane Irene. I've spent the last week (except for a few hours on Wed & Thur) without electricity.

This is the reason why many of the updates to Genealogy Today have been delayed, including The Genealogy News. Thankfully, power was restored yesterday around 5:00pm, and high-speed Internet followed shortly thereafter.

Kudos to my recently acquired Motorola Droid3, which kept me connected to the outside world while I sat patiently in the dark each evening. I even managed to perform a variety of administrative web site tasks using the phone -- none of which I ever imagined would be possible when I decided to upgrade my phone. And for the two days we had partial power, I was even able to use the phone as a mobile hotspot and accessed the Internet via the 3G connection. Pretty nifty feature.

Hopefully, life will get back to normal, and the regular flow of unique genealogical information to Genealogy Today will resume (likely tomorrow). Thank you for being patient, especially those of you who made purchases or requested lookups.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

For those Genealogists who just Cannot Wait

If you've ever transcribed a document, you know it's a slow process, and the larger the resource, the longer it takes. The Genealogy Today collection contains thousands of books and documents, many of which haven't even "met" the scanner yet. And as time passes, these items could be helping genealogists, if they were available. So, starting this week, we're providing access to resources that are not completely transcribed, and some that haven't even been started.

Sounds crazy, huh? It seems to make sense; publish the fact that these resources are in the collection and give genealogists a way to request information from them. You will still need to have an active subscription to our database service, and when we fulfill a lookup request, the resulting information will be added to the database, so it will be available for all subscribers.

Here are some of the initial "partial" items released:
And here's the first one that hasn't even been started:
On each of these pages, there will be a link "request an individual LOOKUP from this resource" that allows subscribers to prod the transcriber into skipping ahead and capturing any relevant names that match their research interests.

You will also now be able to make lookup requests in the larger books that are being indexed.

Over the next few weeks, dozens of additional resources will be made available in the subscription data section of the Genealogy Today web site. Depending on the volume of lookups, expect to get a response within two to three business days.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Los Angeles Voter Posters (1944-1950), Yes, Working on Labor Day

I know, it's Labor Day here in the U.S.A. and we're supposed to take the day off and enjoy not working. But, that's not always an option when you run your own business. What I could do, however, is chose what I wanted to work on this afternoon.

A few weeks ago, I was digging through some boxes won at an auction (but never inspected), and found four posters from Los Angeles that appear to have been hung at the voting location for this particular precinct (1342-A, which looks like it became 1443).

The posters list the eligible voters, their residence and political party affiliation. The first poster (from 1944) also states their occupation. They were too large to scan, thus I had to use the camera. Plus, the print is quite small, so it called for the macro lens.

In total, there were 1,400 names listed. But, as you can imagine, many repeat from one poster to the other. These were added to the Genealogy Today Subscription Data service, which allows anyone to search the name indexes.
Working today, and publishing some unique records, is my way of celebrating the economic and social contributions of our ancestors.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Middletown Conn. Burial Permits (1906-1910) Posted

Earlier this week I posted images of fiftteen burial permits from the Office of Registrar of Vital Statistics, Middletown, Conn. between 1906 and 1910. Several of these documents are for children.

Each document, which is a small piece of paper (approximately 3 byt 5 inches), offers the cemetery name, age, place of birth, place of death, date and cause of death and the attending physician. These are handwritten documents, thus are subject to interpretation.


These items were posted into the Death Notices, Obituaries and Wills collection, which is part of the Genealogy Today Subscription Data service.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Panama Mail Steamship Company Records Posted

Last week I mentioned that four tri-fold postcard souvenir passenger lists were posted for the Panama Mail Steamship Company (a.k.a. Pacific Mail Steamship Co.). And today, four more were uploaded:
My search for additional Panama/Pacific Mail lists will continue!

ALSO sneaking into this batch of records uploaded: images for 66 In Remembrance Cards (1880-1933), 3 U.S. passports (von Lowensprung 1964, Fleischman's 1949) and 1 marriage announcement (Lindman/Anderson 1886).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Next in Line... Ancestral Passport, Please

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had been sorting through my pile of very small documents, and found my collection of passports. Well, sixteen U. S. passports are now online and searchable, and the others (mostly German) will join them in a few weeks.

I realize this small of a collection has little chance of reaching any genealogists that are related to the individuals, but at least its a chance, and these otherwise might have ended up in the trash.

My favorite passport in this first batch is the 1957 passport for Rev. Emanual Sirigos (I have three for him), in which the photo is of him and his wife. What a find this would be for any of their living relatives.

Here are the other surnames: Albritton, Barnes, Dibble, Harrington, Hinrichs, Lee, Meeson, and Shanen, and all of them can be searched here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hey Genealogists, don't you just LOVE those Composite Photos with Names?

One of the best discoveries a genealogist can make is finding a clearly identified photograph of an ancestor, and composite photos are a great resource. Schools, fraternal groups and even clubs had them taken for their organizations, and whenever I see one for sale, I just cannot resist buying it.

The one shown along side this blog post was from Titonka High School in Titonka, Iowa. I googled the town and apparently the population was 584 at the 2000 census. Two others are from Plevna, Kansas, which according to the the 2010 census, has a population of 98.

Here are some of the other composite photos I've posted online:
Additional photos are in the pipeline, and should be online in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Genealogy in Tri-Fold Postcards from Panama Mail Steamship Company

I love discovering names in unique documents, and I've seen plenty of souvenir passenger lists, but none like these from the Panama Mail Steamship Company. They're tri-fold postcards that I suppose a passenger would mail to family or friends (?).  Souvenir passenger lists are not a substitute for the actual ship manifest, but they are a pretty good indicator that the ancestor did travel on the ship; or at least they purchased a ticket.

These postcards list the passenger names along with their destination, some of which include Mazatlan, San Jose de Guatemala, Acajutla, Havana and New York. On the cards I've seen less than half of the passengers make the full cross-coastal trip. The names/titles of the officers are also listed.

This shipping company was formerly called the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, established 1848. The 1922 postcard listed below uses this name, the others have the Panama name, but formatting and marketing text on backside is exactly the same. "Operating the steamers Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Santa Ana, between San Francisco, Los Angeles Harbor, New York through the Panama Canal."

Here are the four cards that I recently purchased:
Additional Panama Mail S. S. Co. cards in the pipeline and will be posted online shortly!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (July 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for July 2011.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Climbing a Small Genealogical Mountain

Crate of Ephemera
Most days of my week are spent digitizing original documents as part of the Subscription Data service at Genealogy Today. Every once in a while, I take a break from the normal routine and got digging through the boxes of unsorted materials that occupy one corner of the offsite storage facility that I lease. And today was one of those days.

These boxes are from estate sales and/or auctions, and are filled with all sorts of stuff. Most of it ends up being recyled, but there are quite a few genealogical gems (why else would I buy them right?). Today's mining expedition yielded 21 marriage certificates/announcements, a dozen or so passports, numerous death certificates, some coroner's inquests, burial permits and a variety of other nifty documents.

As I'm writing this post, my scanner is hard at work, processing the marriage documents. Earlier this week I prepped a stack of sixteen other marriage items; the combined set should go online this Sunday, and you'll be able to search through them here. Many of the miscellaneous items will trickle out to the free Family History Wiki later this week. The death items should go online the following week, and will be searchable here.

I guess this make me a genealogical "paper pusher," which is a good thing for those researchers who will end up making a "find" in these newly discovered items. For those of you whose interest has been piqued by the prospect of finding a marriage document, here are the years/surnames for the grooms:

1855/Hewson, 1867/Hughes, 1877/Maris, 1881/Blum, 1883/George, 1886/Moutzer, 1887/Jackson, 1887/Rogers, 1887/West, 1888/Atwood, 1888/Schaefer, 1891/Clopper, 1891/White, 1892/Robinson, 1892/Webster, 1894/Reese, 1895/Scotchmer, 1899/Berger, 1902/Ward, 1903/Prutton, 1905/Mackley, 1906/Hulseberg, 1909/Leppley, 1912/Moulton, 1916/Fredrickson, 1922/Borgstrom, 1922/Merritt, 1930/Runne, 1934/Hull, 1935/Stedman, 1940/Lowry, 1943/Bowers, 1946/Vetashiek, 1948/Horan, 1950/Fleury, 1954/Kuhl, 1964/Keller.

As many of these are handwritten, the names posted are subject to change when the documents go through the transcription process and review.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (June 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for June 2011.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (May 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for May 2011.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Indexing Larger Books for Genealogists

Among the thousands of small documents in my collection, are several dozen larger volumes, that I'll probably never have the resources to fully digitize and transcribe. I have, however, begun providing access to the names included in these books.

Many of these books include biographical sketches, which is what attracted me to purchase them in the first place. Some of the books include a name index, others do not. Most of the ones which had an index have already been posted on the site.

Anyone can search theses free indexes, but only Genealogy Today Subscription Data subscribers may request the individual sketches be posted online. This approach makes these resources available to genealogists, without the need for full digitization. You may also find some of the books in public domain repositories like Google Books and the Internet Archive.*

As for books without an index, like Who's Who in America 1899 - 1900, I am in the process of manually indexing them, and posting incremental information on a weekly basis. While the books are being indexed in alphabetical order (as they are printed), I will be accepting requests to "skip ahead."

Here's a list of other books currently being indexed:
The indexes for these larger books can be located in the Subscription Data area, and are highlighted with a "Free Index" designation next to the title. They are NOT included in the site-wide Surname search at this time. More larger books will be added in the future.

*Why index a book that's already online for free? Having a fielded, first/last name index and search, is much more efficient and accurate than the full-text searches Google Books provides, and the Internet Archive doesn't (easily) offer searches.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (April 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for April 2011.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (March 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for March 2011.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Genealogy Bloggers - Amateurs or Professionals?

Blogging has had a tremendous impact on the way that people can share information online, and this is even more evident in the genealogy arena. Thomas MacEntee (the Geneablogger headmaster) has initiated a week-long blogging track on the subject of professional genealogical endeavors. Having pursued a career in genealogy since 1999, this is a topic that I'm very interested (and somewhat experienced) in.

The first topic in this series is "Genealogy Blogging -- For Fun or Profit?" It's an excellent starting point, since blogging is the primary platform for non-technical genealogists to publish information online. Before tackling the "fun or profit" aspect though, I'd like to address the notion of a "genealogy blog."

From my perspective, this is quite a broad label that applies to a wide variety of blogs. The most common types of genealogy-related blogs that I've encountered are what I would call "information", "research" and "family-focused" blogs. And, of course, there are hybrids which combine elements from these categorizations.

Genealogy Information Blogs provide "news" and updates relating to genealogical events, products and services. They may reissue press releases concerning new data resources, post announcements for upcoming speaking engagements or conferences, and/or review newly published books. These types of blogs are well-suited for generating revenue as the materials being discussed are typically fee-based.

Genealogy Research Blogs focus more on the skills needed to explore different types of records, and/or share experiences involved in tracking down resources. Quite often, these types of blogs are published by professional researchers and used to promote their own services.

Family-Focused Genealogy Blogs are the most commonplace category of genealogy blogs. In the past (circa 2000-2004), genealogists were propagating family-specific information via free hosting platforms (e.g. GeoCities, AOL Home Pages). As blogging became the more widely accepting method for online publishing, the generic hosting services began to die out. In the genealogy arena, however, hosting services continue to exist for the purpose of publishing family trees online. This blog category is the least likely to be profitable as the information being shared is only of interest to a small audience.

Getting back on the fun or profit question, Thomas makes some general comments pertaining specifically to advertisements and affiliate links, but I don't think the answer is that easy. The answer is (or should be) less of an individual preference (to a degree), and more based on the value being offered.

Anyone who devotes significant amounts of time in their blogging efforts and produces meaningful and helpful posts that promote quality research and support the industry should be considered a professional and have the guilt-free opportunity to benefit financially.

On the flip-side of that remark, folks who slap together content from other sites (sometimes unethically), with the intent of generating traffic that can be driven to advertisements and/or affiliate links detract from the industry and isn't something that should be encouraged.

Whether your decide to share your knowledge and experience freely in a blog, or attempt to be compensated for your efforts, success (i.e. revenue) will only follow if your posts are of interest to readers. Having met Thomas on several occasions and heard him speak at conferences, I know that the blog series he launched this week is not an attempt to promote getting-rich-quick-by-blogging schemes.

I fully agree with Thomas's points that any advertisements included in/around genealogy blog posts should be topical and relevant to the reader, and any relationships the blog owner has to the companies being mentioned need to be clearly disclosed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made it very clear that bloggers are also expected to comply with the guidelines they published on December 1st, 2009.

Don't be afraid to monetize your blogging efforts. There will be some readers who may complain, but most accept (and even appreciate) carefully selected/placed advertisements. A while back, I gave a presentation to a local society about my Live Roots project, and was surprised by applause when I mentioned that the search engine also uses the criteria you enter to select the most relevant advertisement available. After the talk, I asked a few of the attendees why they clapped, and the response was they actually like seeing ads that are tailored to them.

At the end of the day, blogging is just another technology for publishing information. It's no different than someone visiting your local genealogy society to give a talk, or writing a book that gets printed and sold in stores. Just because, in general, it's a free-access paradigm doesn't mean the readers shouldn't (or won't) support the genealogists behind the blogs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Business Card Collection Expanded to Include Advertisements

Many of the documents included in our Subscription Data area include advertisements for local businesses, and these are now being added to the free Vintage Business Cards & Advertisements collection.

If you've had success in locating ancestors in census records, you may have delighted in learning their occupation. Business cards and advertisements can provide even more information about their career, including the name of employer and title of the position they held.

Today over twenty advertisements were uploaded from two Fort Wayne, Indiana documents. Additional images will be added on an ongoing basis. Update notices will be included in The Genealogy News.

[Pictured is an advertisement for the Chalfant-Cutshall Undertaking Company]

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (February 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for February 2011.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Say Cheese: Wisconsin Collection Cataloged into Live Roots

Today, I added the University of Wisconsin's "State of Wisconsin Collection," to the Live Roots catalog. This collection of over 800 items includes published material as well as archival materials, digitized from a variety of formats including books, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, maps and other resources.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (January 2011)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for January 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

RootsTech 2011: Was it a Smashing Success?

While everyone who attended came with their own expectations, and success can easily be measured as to whether RootsTech met or exceeded them, overall success should be measured in two ways -- how long the buzz lasts and what tangible projects/services launch (and/or are significantly enhanced) as a result.

First, RootsTech has clearly created a buzz in the genealogy industry. On Sunday, I googled "rootstech" and there were 29,600 hits. This morning, I repeated the search and there were 35,400 hits. Right now (3:00 PM EST), there are 37,700 hits. And the amount of chatter on Facebook and Twitter is also remarkable. For RootsTech to be considered a "success", this needs to last for more than a week or so. Most genealogy conference attendees return to their homes with a heightened enthusiasm for researching their family history, but (often) upon returning to reality, life resumes interrupting their genealogy and the buzz fades.

Second, throughout the sessions, and in all corners of the Salt Palace convention center, discussions (some planned, many spontaneous) took place where genealogists and technologists shared ideas and brainstormed on how to resolve problems. A good measure of the impact RootsTech has had on the genealogy industry will be the number of ideas that are implemented and released within the next twelve months. This may include new products/services, enhancements to existing ones and/or partnerships that create synergies that benefit genealogists.

Here are some of the ideas and the resulting enhancements planned for Genealogy Today (in no particular order):

1. "Weekly Buzz" feature for The Genealogy News. Between now and RootsTech 2012, we'll feature one of the top 50 genealogy web sites with a short review each week. Inspired by Kory Meyerink's session.

2. Re-evaluate/Simplify database search forms. Inspired by Ian Tester's session "Future Directions in the Search for Family History."

3. Provide Audio Versions of articles. Inspired by Anne Roach's session "Letting Technology Work for You," where it was mentioned that the current versions of text-2-speech software applications can actually perform text-2-mp3 files!

4. Integration of OneGreatFamily API into Live Roots. The Live Roots search engine also powers the surname & resource searches at Genealogy Today. Inspired by conversation with Rob Armstrong.

5. Integration of API into Live Roots. Inspired by conversation with Christopher and Debora Gill.

6. Expand Free Data Archive at Genealogy Today. Hosting of small collections was consolidated and redesigned in 2010 (check out free genealogy data). Inspired by conversation with Brewster Kahle (The Internet Archive).

7. Implement use of RDF tags throughout Genealogy Today. Inspired by Christopher Starr's session "Semantic Web Meets the Family Social Graph."

8. Minify all Javascript files, and conduct performance review. Inspired by Aaron Barker's session "Creating Faster Websites."

9.  Explore outsourcing document imaging. Inspired by conversation with ReadyMicro Inc.

10. Add QR Codes to business cards & exhibit booth materials. Inspired by conversation with Thomas MacEntee.

11. Evaluate potential sources for addition to The Genealogy News. Inspired by multiple conversations and suggestions.

12. Develop a training course for the Subscription Data area of Genealogy Today. Inspired by conversation with Louise St Denis (The National Institute for Genealogical Studies).

In addition, I've compiled an internal list of objectives to improve how Genealogy Today is marketed, both online and to libraries & societies.

I'd like to challenge everyone who attended RootsTech 2011 to make a list of the ideas generated by your attendance at the conference and/or whenever you release a new feature/product/service in the next twelve months, be sure to mention that it resulted from a conversation(s) held at the show.

It would be interesting if someone at FamilySearch was charged with the task of tracking every new blog (as announced by Thomas MacEntee on Geneabloggers) to see if the blog creator had attended RootsTech 2011. The result would be a very tangible indicator of RootsTech's influence on the blogging sector.

And, finally, an easy measure of the success of RootsTech will be the attendance at the 2012 conference (scheduled for February 2-4 in Salt Lake City). Will you be there?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

RootsTech 2011: Breaking the Mold & Exceeding Expectations

Day Three (final day) of the RootsTech conference broke the typical genealogy conference mold. At most national conferences, crowds on the last day tend to dwindle, and the exhibit hall often begins shutting down an hour or more before the scheduled time. Not so for RootsTech, crowds on Saturday were comparable to the prior days, and after the Closing Session (which wrapped up around 3:40 PM), many folks were disappointed that the exhibit hall had closed at 3:00 PM.

One of the most interesting sessions on Saturday was the two-part Genealogical Data Standards discussion hosted by the Ancestry Insider. This was an actual working-session, brainstorming the need for standards for saving and sharing genealogical information. This session brought genealogists and technologists/developers into the same room where, along with a white board, they collaborated on this very important topic. I bumped into a genealogy acquaintance (technical end-user) at the airport who had attended this session and he felt that RootsTech (in particular this session) really exceeded his expectations of the conference.

Several people also made very positive comments to me about the open panel discussion held on Friday, "How Do We Define a Person?" moderated by Phil Windley. Again, this audience was a combination of bloggers, developers and technical end-users. It's really wonderful that RootsTech was able to reach beyond what a typical conference offers and facilitate dialogs between these groups.

It wasn't until the last day of RootsTech that I realized two of the session rooms were setup as labs where attendees were receiving some hands-on training. In fact, when I bumped into Barbara Renick, she shared with me that her two 2-hour labs (she taught along with Gena Philibert Ortega) on Microsoft Powerpoint were both packed. The reason I discovered these two lab rooms was that I attempted to attend a session on Saturday, but was turned away (as were several others). I'm sure we'll see additional (or larger) labs at RootsTech 2012.

Another exciting feature of RootsTech were the daily keynotes, and Saturday's opening session was a definite "must see" for anyone attending. As a plus, the opening sessions were free to anyone (conference registration not required), and some were even streamed online for anyone who couldn't attend to watch. So, after two days of being saturated with ideas and forecasts of the future, Brewster Kahle (Founder, The Internet Archive) takes the stage and blows everyone away with the remarkable progress his project has achieved towards the goal of mounting all books, music, video and software online in this permanent repository. I was particularly moved when Mr. Kahle explained how this project was putting books in the hands of people in countries that otherwise would never have the opportunity to read.

When first learning about RootsTech several months ago, I wasn't sure that it would be much different than other national conferences. On the surface, with an exhibit hall and a bunch of sessions, it would seem to have been just another conference, but Anne Roach (conference chair, FamilySearch) and the many folks involved in planning the conference, really turned RootsTech into something unique and special. Bravo!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

RootsTech 2011: The Future of Genealogy Looks Bright

Day Two of the RootsTech conference was equally packed with informative sessions, catering to both the technologists and genealogists in attendance. In the past, FamilySearch has hosted annual developers' conferences, but as isolated events. Bringing these two groups together not only encourages the sharing of information between programmer and end-user, but it should highlight for genealogists that there are a significant number of technologies and technological initiatives that will make online research more productive, while allowing more collaboration and communication.

One of the aspects I am enjoying about the RootsTech sessions is that they offer both guidance (for now) and vision (for later). Kory Meyerink from ProGenealogists/ gave a session on Effective Database Search Tactics (today), while Ian Tester from BrightSolid/ reviewed some of the shortcomings of present day genealogy search tools and a more appropriate mindset developers should be using while the next generation tools are built in his session called Future Directions in the Search for Family History.

Likewise, this dual approach to a genealogy conference offers both groups (genealogists and technologists) an opportunity to learn about the challenges they are each facing. At the past developers' conferences, all of the sessions were focused (as you would expect) on developer issues, and most genealogy conferences cater to the needs of the genealogist. RootsTech lets the two catch of glimpse of the present day struggles and what the future might hold.

Being able to sit in a session such as Anne Roach's Letting Technology Work for You, not only gave me an excellent update on recent improvements in both text-to-speach and voice recognition technology, but based on the audience (primarily genealogists) reactions and questions, helps me validate the value of implementing some of these tools as part of my own existing and future projects. Simple things that will involve minimal costs, might make some of the content I publish regularly more accessible for some genealogists.

As the conference is quickly unfolding, the vibe created by the RootsTech opening session is clearly being carried throughout the session rooms and exhibit hall. Genealogists and technologists are learning about existing solutions and future technology, but more importantly, the two groups are learning about the challenges and successes each other face.

I'm excited not only to see what topics and issues Day Three will address, but how quickly we will be able to see some of the initiatives discussed here at RootsTech implemented after we all head back to our homes. If you weren't sure what RootsTech was going to offer and decided not to attend, take another look at the web site, and consider joining us in 2012 (RootsTech is scheduled for February 2-4, 2012 here in Salt Lake City).

Friday, February 11, 2011

RootsTech 2011: It's A Small World After All

The RootsTech conference kicked off yesterday with a solid splash, provided by two keynote speakers; Shane Robison from Hewlett Packard, followed by Jay Verkler from FamilySearch. Mr. Robison offered an exciting glimpse of a future filled with communication and collaboration, and Mr. Verkler provided some genealogical perspective to compliment this anticipated technical explosion. And while both presentations were excellent, I kept feeling something was missing from the equation.

The technologist in me followed along totally in sync with a fully-connected future, information on demand, wherever and whenever. The marketing part of my brain, often the voice of reason when I contemplate launching new projects, was sending out some "hey, slow down cowboy" signals, but I couldn't figure out why. And finally, the genealogist in me wasn't quite sure either. It all sounds great, more handheld devices with greater capabilities, and endless backend server capacity in the cloud, but will the research process itself ever change significantly (and, better yet, do we even want it to).

If the audience had had an opportunity to ask questions after the opening session, I would have liked to know if the crystal ball offered any projection as to the growth of the pool of genealogists. Do we expect the demographic to expand at rates anywhere near the technology explosion Mr. Robison revealled? Does the continuing evolution of technology make genealogical research more appealing to the next generation? As our current demographic embraces this technology, which a percentage surely will, will they look at their multi-function phone and see it as the gateway to genealogical discoveries?

Both speakers shared great insights from their past experiences (at former non-genealogy companies) of how leaps in technology, combined with the ever-shrinking barriers between programmer and end-user, culminated in solving very difficult problems. I'm left wondering, however, how much of the challenge involved in research do genealogists really want to go away.

Perhaps at future RootsTech conferences (for those interested, RootsTech 2012 is already scheduled: February 2-4, 2012 in Salt Lake City), we should conduct some polls of the attendees and find out what really keeps them so passionately engaged in this hobby; is simply knowing about our past ancestors that drives us, or is it that we were the ones to discover them? How many of us would have the same level of interest in family history if future technological wizardry made our "complete" pedigrees accessible at the click of a button? If there was a ski lift on Mt. Everest, would getting to the top still be such a big deal?

Well, I'm ready for Day Two of RootsTech 2011, and am excited to be a part of this conference which will certainly accomplish something unique for the industry by bringing together developer and genealogists, and encouraging them to work together to improve the research process.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (December 2010)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for December 2010.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Genealogy Resolution: Improved Access to Resources

Depending on the size of an individual document, the time from acquisition to being posted online can vary greatly. Some items arrive and are posted the following week. Others take months, or longer, to complete the journey.

In 2011, we have resolved to make the resources that get scanned and transcribed into the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection accessible earlier in the process. As the first step towards achieving this resolution, effective today, premium members (i.e. paid subscribers) now have access to two new features in a section labeled "Premium Member Services" on their Team Roots start page.

The first feature, PRE-Release Items, allows members to search individual documents as soon as they are indexed. While our goal is to upload completed items every Sunday, periodically that's not feasible, so some items may be queued for several weeks. Members will now be able to search these documents BEFORE they are uploaded into the database and cataloged into Live Roots.

The second new feature, Scanned Item Queue, lets members browse the collection of items that are in the "pipeline" but have not yet been indexed. We will be adding two options on the document pages to allow members to request lookups from an item, and/or let us know they are very interested in an item (i.e. we should accelerate getting it indexed).

In an upcoming update to the Live Roots catalog (Resource search on Genealogy Today), the items in both of these categories will be included; reducing the need to browse the lists separately. While the items will be added to the Live Roots catalog, only premium members will be able to preview search and/or request lookups.

Additional premium member services are under development.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finding the Original Document in a Library

In an effort to make it easier for genealogists to track down a copy of the documents used by Genealogy Today in our databases, links to will be included throughout the site.

As new resources are cataloged, we will attempt to locate an OCLC number and, if found, a link will added to the resource pages in both our Free Genealogy Data and Subscription Data areas. Look for "Find a copy of this resource in a library" links after the surname listings. Periodically, we will attempt to establish these links for resources that have already been transcribed.

For an example, visit the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club 1882 Members page.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Genealogy Year

It's Sunday, which means new data has been posted at Genealogy Today. Kicking off the 2011 genealogy year is a set of 205 World War II Ration Book images. This collection is free, and searchable from both and web sites.

Also, uploaded into the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection: six original documents; including three manuals from the First Presbyterian Church of Scranton, Pa. Over 3,000 names with some unusual surnames that I've never come across before!

We added over 180,000 names in 2010, along with over 4,000 images, and are hoping to publish even more in 2011... best wishes to all of our genealogy friends and supporters for a HAPPY, HEALTHY and GENEALOGICALLY SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR!