Genealogy Basics

Genealogy’s Often-Misspelled Words

You might want to save this article someplace. I have no idea why, but many of the words used in researching your family tree are difficult to spell. I constantly see spelling errors in messages posted on various genealogy web sites. When someone misspells a word, it feels like they are shouting, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Here are a few words to memorize:

Genealogy – No, it is not spelled “geneology” nor is it spelled in the manner I often see: “geneaology.” That last word looks to me as if someone thought, “Just throw all the letters in there and hope that something sticks.” For some reason, many newspaper reporters and their editors do not know how to spell this word. Don’t they have spell checkers?

Turn Your Phone into a Document Scanner for Free

Rick Broida, author of the Cheapskate Blog, has an article today that will interest many genealogists. He describes using software that will turn your “smartphone” into the equivalent of a desktop scanner. It works well for digitizing one side of one piece of paper at a time. It isn’t so convenient when digitizing both sides of multi-page documents although that can still be accomplished by using additional software to merge the pages together after scanning.

Actually, I have been doing exactly what Rick describes for years and have had very good experiences with using my cell phone as a substitute scanner. I use it in genealogy libraries, archives, or for digitizing receipts, eyeglass prescriptions, business cards, and most anything else that is worth saving. I agree with Rick’s experiences.

Most Common Last Names in the US

For centuries, immigrants have come to the U.S. to escape war, oppression, and poverty, or to pursue employment opportunities and success. Most Americans can trace their roots to immigrant ancestors. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed census data to find the 50 most common last names in the U.S.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Bookmark this Site: SMALLPDF.com

Do you need to use PDF files occasionally? Perhaps you have a one-time need to convert a PNG, BMP, TIFF, GIF or JPG file to PDF format for free. Another need might be to convert an Excel spreadsheet to PDF. Then again, you might need to convert a PDF file to Microsoft Word’s .DOC format. Still other needs might include merging two PDF files together or perhaps splitting one PDF file into two or more separate files. All of these things and more can be done free of charge at http://www.smallpdf.com.

Based in Switzerland, SmallPDF serves millions of users per month. Unlike many other PDF products, SmallPDF is easy to use. You probably won’t need SmallPDF often but, when you do, it can be a lifesaver. I have used the web site’s services multiple times and find it is one of the handier online tools available today.

We’re ALL Related to Royalty (If You Go Back Far Enough)

King Edward III

Everyone with European ancestry is descended from Kings and Queens. Dr Adam Rutherford, a leading geneticist, said this is not remarkable at all. If you research your European ancestry far enough, you undoubtedly will find a number of royal ancestors in your family tree.

Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival, sponsored by the Daily Mail, he said that ‘literally’ everyone in Europe had a direct lineage to Charlemagne, while there was a ‘significant’ chance most people in Britain are a descendant of Edward III.

You can read the details in an article by Jim Norton in the DailyMail web site at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4641632/Leading-geneticist-says-related-royalty.html.

NOTE: If you have ancestors from Asia, you might be aware of claims that millions of living Asian and a lot of Eastern Europeans as well are descended from Genghis Kahn. In the Muslim world, tens of millions of people are descended from Muhammad.

FamilySearch to Discontinue its Microfilm Distribution Services

This announcement shouldn’t surprise any genealogists. The end of microfilm has been predicted for years. Microfilm and microfiche has become harder and harder to purchase. Most of the manufacturers have stopped producing microfilm and microfiche so the companies and non-profits that release information on film have been forced to abandon the media.

Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide. In addition, many records that FamilySearch has not yet published can be found online on partner or free archive websites. FamilySearch plans to finish microfilm digitization by 2020.

The following is an extract from the announcement from FamilySearch:

On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. (The last day to order microfilm will be on August 31, 2017.)

The change is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology.

Family History Research for Ancestors from India by Smita Biswas -” भारतीय मूल के लोगों के लिए परिवार के इतिहासका रिकॉर्डिंग”

I am delighted to introduce guest author Smita Biswas. She is a Team Leader at the West Auckland (New Zealand) Research Centre where she specializes in Indian genealogy. She is an expert in family history research in India as well as an accomplished lecturer and author.

NOTE: Some of the images in this article were reduced in size in order to fit in this newsletter’s format. To view a full-sized image, click on the small image within the article.

Here is Smita’s article:

Photo donated by Sheth Family, Lalbhai Bhogilal Lallubhai Sheth family photo, 1932, Shahibag, Ahmedabad, India

The culture of India has been shaped not only by its long history, unique geography and diverse demography but also by its ancient heritages. Regarded by some historians as the oldest living civilization of Earth, the Indian tradition dates back to 8,000 BC and has a continuous recorded history for over 2,500 years. But due to the influence of Western culture and migration of Indians to foreign shores, the rich culture, values, and family history of India are disappearing.

There is a lack of awareness in the migrant Indian community in New Zealand about the importance of documenting their family history. Most Indian family history has been traditionally maintained only within families and has been often passed down from generation to generation, with children hearing the stories from their “elders” from early childhood.

My Comments about Black Sheep Ancestors

I have always been interested in the less than perfect people in my family tree. These folks often may be found in various court records that have been preserved. At the RootsTech2017 conference, I was asked about such ancestors and my comments were videotaped by the RootsTech crew. You can view the video on Twitter at https://t.co/KdFInLZkqh.

Videotapes Are Becoming Unwatchable

How many videotapes do you own? Are any of them videos made at family reunions or videos of your children or grandchildren as they grew? Would you like to preserve them for a few more years? If so, you need to take action NOW!

Research suggests that videotapes aren’t going to live beyond 15 to 20 years. Some call this the “magnetic media crisis.” The problem is that many people don’t realize their tapes are degrading.

How Private is Your Genealogy Information?

A newsletter reader asked a question that I think many people are asking. I replied to him in email but thought I would also share may answer here in the newsletter in case others have the same question.

My correspondent wrote:

I am relatively new to genealogy technology. Are there tips you can provide to ensure the security of personal information? Would building a family tree in software only [in] my computer be more secure than syncing it to a webpage (like MyHeritage)? Is it a good idea to not include details (name, date and place of birth) for all living relatives and maybe back a generation or two? Thanks.

My reply:

No. In fact, quite the opposite.

Read Me! A Self-Correcting Tool for Reading Pre-Modern Handwriting

According to an article in the Echoes from the Vault web site:

“Palaeography skills develop with greater exposure and even experts will tell you that their ability to decipher a particular hand improves with acquaintance.”

The article then continues:

Backup TAO

The novice asked the backup master which files he should backup.

The master said: “Even as a shepherd watches over all the sheep in his flock, and the lioness watches over all her cubs, so must you backup every file in your care, no matter how lowly. For even the smallest file can take days to recreate.”

The novice said: “I will save my working files, but not my system and application files, as they can be always be reinstalled from their distribution disks.”

The master made no reply.

The next day, the novice’s disk crashed. Three days later, the novice was still reinstalling software.

The above is the introduction to The TAO of Backup by Ross Williams. There is more at http://www.taobackup.com. I suggest you read all of it. Someday you will be glad you did.

 

Incomplete Birth Certificates Create a Bureaucratic Morass in Many Places

I had to smile a bit today when reading an article in the Boston Globe about the “problem” of incomplete birth records. It seems the city of Boston has many birth records from years ago where the baby’s name is simply recorded as “baby girl” or “baby boy.” The reporter wrote, “A generation ago — when more families had six or more children — babies without official first names were surprisingly common. Overwhelmed new parents would leave the hospital without completing birth certificate paperwork.”

You can read more in the article by Andrew Ryan in the Boston Globe at: http://bit.ly/2pedZ7w. The same article tells how to amend a record and add a first name by providing documentation.

Actually, the “problem” is not unique to Boston nor to any particular area of the United States. An experienced genealogist probably can tell you of numerous similar examples. I have seen it many times, especially in the case of my mother and her siblings.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

And You Thought You Had Problems Researching the Ancestry of Your Last Name?

In the United States, the most popular family surname is Smith. As per the 2010 census, about 0.8 percent of Americans have it. In Vietnam, the most popular surname name is Nguyen. The estimate for how many people answer to it? Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the country’s population.

You think tracing the Smith family is difficult? Try tracing the Nguyen family!

An article by Dan Nosowitz in the Atlas Obscura web site states:

“Nguyen doesn’t indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese. Someone with the [surname of] Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.”

What to do with Your Genealogy Collection When You Downsize or Die

Many of us have collected all sorts of genealogy information. Not only do we have our personal data, most of us also have collected books, magazines, photographs, and more. Someday, somebody will have to dispose of all that material. Perhaps your heirs will make that decision soon after you die. If it was me, I would prefer to make those decisions myself long before my demise.

Another reason for planning to get rid of materials is a word that I fear. This word sends shivers up and down my spine:

DOWNSIZING

Again, I prefer to make decisions about downsizing while I am still able to do so. I don’t want to wait until someone else makes the decision for me.

It’s a Grave Misunderstanding

I have written frequently about the preservation of tombstones. Apparently, one person did not “get the word.” A rather old article in the Los Angeles Times describes how one well-intentioned person has caused potential long-term damage to many Civil War tombstones. He thought he was helping preserve the tombstones but his efforts had the opposite effect. Not only did he not realize the damage he was causing, he even received commendations from cemetery officials, Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana), the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

For three years, Gene-o Platt cleaned tombstones, removing fungus and lichen. He then brushed several layers of white-pigmented sealer onto the Georgia marble tombstones. Using drills and grinding tools, he also enhanced worn lettering and then painted them gold. He invested thousands of hours and dollars in the project, hoping his example would be copied nationwide.

What Mr. Platt did not realize is that the sealer will cause the marble to deteriorate from the inside out because moisture in the rock can’t escape. In addition, black lithochrome paint should be used for lettering, not gold.

Presidential Ancestry

With Presidents’ Day in the U.S. next Monday, this is a good time to look at the ancestry of the U.S. presidents. After all, if your ancestors have been in the U.S. for 100 years or more, there is a strong possibility that your ancestry intersects with at least one of the U.S. presidents. The same can be said for many others of Canadian, British, Scottish, or Irish ancestry, as well as a few from the European continent.

presidents

You can find many sources of information about U.S. presidential genealogy. Probably the most scholarly resource is Gary Boyd Roberts’ book, Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States.

The Web is full of information about U.S. presidential ancestry, but with varying degrees of accuracy. Here is a list of some of those pages:

The Genealogy Library Inside Your Computer: How to Increase Your Personal Genealogy Library without Additional Bookshelves

old_books_and_new_ebooksThousands of genealogy books are available to you right now. You can search for them and, if you find some that look interesting, you can be reading them within minutes. There is no waiting for the post office to deliver them. Best of all is the price: most of them are available free of charge!

NOTE: a few of the ebooks are only available on CD-ROM which obviously does involve a postal delay and normally costs some money..

As you may have guessed, these are out-of-copyright books printed prior to 1923 plus a handful of later books. Luckily, there were a lot of genealogy books published in those days. After all, the records weren’t as old back then!

In addition, I will list sources for many newer genealogy books that are for sale at modest prices.

Perhaps to Best Place to Start Your Search for Online Genealogy eBooks