Saturday, December 18, 2010

Distance Teaching in Genealogy

Experienced genealogists constantly receive requests for help to teach others how to do family history research.  Teaching is nothing new to them.  We all do it if we can.  The time spent helping others is just a way of paying it forward or paying it back.

Over the years, my audience has extended to reach around the world.  Extended cousins and friends don’t all live within a 50-mile radius of my home.

I’ve used a number of different software packages to aid in the teaching process across the distances.  Most of them have failed to provide a stable platform or have increased in price to the point of being retired.  After all, we typically aren’t being paid to teach and commercial packages can put a hole in our research budget.

Mikogo is my choice of desktop sharing now.  It is free, stable and always seems to work. Coupled with Skype or Google audio calls, teaching folks in faraway places is a snap.

A plugin version of Mikogo is available for Skype, but I don’t like it.  The desktop image is extremely low-res and is basically useless.  Instead, install the standalone version of Mikogo and your students will be delighted with the clarity and crisp response of the image on their screen.

If you don’t have two monitors on your computer or if you have low bandwidth, don’t launch a video call, just voice.  If you do, the bandwidth requirements of the video connection and the Mikogo broadcast will almost immediately swamp your connection.

To start, go to the Mikago site, download and install the application for your Microsoft or Apple operating system. There isn’t a version for Linux at this time.

Before you launch Mikogo, be sure to close all applications or pages that you don’t want others to see, otherwise they will see everything on your screen.

Upon launch, you will be asked what type of a connection you want.  Chose to share your screen.

When you start the session, the session information screen will launch.  Send it the URL and session ID to your students via e-mail.  The first time they use Mikogo, they will need to download a small executable file which is the screen viewer for Mikogo. 

At least one attendee must sign into the session within 15 minutes of its initial start or it will close.  Tell your students to go to the site at, fill in the session ID number and their name. Up to 25 participants can be in any meeting.

Minimize the session window on your machine and start your class. 

Click on the Mikogo icon on the bottom right of your screen to access the whiteboard, swap presenters, send files, etc.

You’ll want to practice with the tool before you teach your first class so you can master the tools and learn how to stage the programs and applications you’ll use in your classes.  Perhaps your spouse will enjoy listening to your practice sessions on another computer.

After the practice sessions, you’ll be ready to teach your first class; even when they are far away and the snow is up to your knees outside.  Your students will be impressed with the quality of the video in your presentation.  The rest is up to you.



Using Mikogo


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There’s One In Every Family – The Tinkerer

Every family has fellows who love to tinker with stuff.  If there is something in the home that they think they can improve, its sanctity is lost. 

With tools and pocketknife in hand, the pristine factory casing is cracked and its interior is inspected, scrambled and tweaked.  Tim Taylor on Home Improvement has nothing on these guys.

Of course, sometimes, we, (yes, I’m one of tinkerer’s too), actually do make a worthwhile improvement.   Case in point:  My great grandfather, David Lewis Drew, moved to Copperopolis, Calaveras County, California from Plymouth, Massachusetts during the Gold Rush.  Eventually he married and a family was started.


David Lewis Drew Family  David and Helen Drew Family

A house full of kids requires a LOT of water in everyday living.  Folks in Copperopolis either had wells that required a drop bucket or if they were lucky, had a windmill to pump the water out of the ground up to the surface.  Of course, that meant that you still had to haul a lot of water when needed or you had to have a cistern.  You still had to haul the water into your home by hand.   Work.  Lots of never-ending effort and work.

Tired of drudgery, David put his tinkering skills to use and built a greatly improved home water system. 

The family windmill was several hundred feet behind their home and about 40 feet upslope from the home elevation. 

Gravity is free, powerful and always on.  With this knowledge, David built the first and only gravity-fed, pressurized water system in town.

David Lewis Drew Home water supply

David Drew Water System

After constructing a tower outside of the kitchen, he topped it off with a large metal tank.  Next, a hard-won trench was dug through the extremely rocky soil from the tower to the windmill.  Piping, like that used in the surrounding copper mines, brought the water from the windmill to the tank.  

It sounds like a simple project until you try to build one yourself, especially in the 1800’s.  The gravity fall of the water produces a lot of pressure.  At about 8 1/2 pounds per gallon, a 1-inch column of water several hundred feet long, results in a great weight and pressure that must be contained. 

The David Drew water system was designed with a float valve in the tank to turn the water on and off when needed against the pressure of the water and associated windmill pumping pressure.  The height of the tank above the ground partially offset the incoming pressure thus reducing the requirements on the valve.  I don’t know where he obtained or if he made the valve, but it worked. 

Without the tank, the home would only have flowing water when the wind was blowing.  With it, the family always had pressurized water in their home thanks again to gravity.

David Lewis Drew Home Water Tower

David Drew Home Water Tank

Great grandma was the envy of all of the ladies in town.  Water for cooking, washing and cleaning with a simple twist of the wrist … right at her kitchen sink.

Sometimes, life is pretty good when you are married to a tinkerer.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Death Certificates and Other Research Tools

The resources available for family history researchers has never been greater with another 30+ million records added to the site in the past few months. Volunteer Indexers like you and I are constantly working to add indexed information and images to the FamilySearch site, so as grand as the number of records are now, wait a few months and the number will drastically increase again and again and again.

familysearchFamilySearch Indexing I hope you are one of the volunteer indexers who are bringing the wealth of the records in the granite vaults to light in the digital world.

Check out the records collections on the FamilySearch Beta site and see how many records you find on your own ancestral families.  Save this link and check back often.findagrave

Find-a-grave An amazing amount of ancestral data and records can be gleaned from the pages of Find-a-grave. Folks are linking the memorials of their ancestral families together on the site with a seemingly frantic pace. I constantly find information about our ancestral families and extended cousins on the site. Missing dates, spouses names and their families are the reward for spending a few minutes on the site.

Births Marriages Deaths Some of you may have ancestors or extended family that lived in Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have great sites that offer indexes to births and marriage as well as very easy to use document ordering pages. I’ve obtained marriage and death certificates from both countries and it couldn’t have been easier.

While on the subject of Death Certificates, be sure to check for family death certificates on the sites of many states that offer them online at no cost. Just copy the image and save it to your hard drive for printing and use in your genealogical sources.

Many folks aren’t familiar with the great Special Collections and Family History records available online from BYU-Idaho. I’m constantly surprised at the records that I find on the site.

Family History records make a great Christmas present for family members. Share the wealth of your work with them this year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Colonel William Anderson–Scotland to Virginia–Friend of George Washington

My 6th great grandfather, Colonel William Anderson, was not only a brave man, but also personified the descriptive word “Character”. 

Born in Scotland prior to 1700, William was an adherent of Prince James, son of James II.  After supporting the insurrection of 1715, he was forced to flee the country in disguise to Virginia.   He eventually settled on the North Branch of the Potomac River in what is now Hampshire Co., West Virginia in a beautiful valley known to this day as the "Anderson’s Bottom".

Anderson's Bottom - West Virginia
Family stories state that his family shipped him a small trunk full of gold after hearing that he had safely arrived in America.  He used some of that wealth to purchase multiple properties in Maryland and Virginia.   The stories state that the remaining gold was still buried on his property at Anderson’s Bottom at the time of his death at age 104 in 1797.

William married Rachel Mary Lauren, a Scottish born beauty in 1732 in Hampshire Co., Virginia.  The couple had four daughters and two sons, two of which, Catherine and Thomas are my direct ancestors.

Early in his adult life, George Washington was a surveyor who frequently stopped by the the Anderson home overnight for lodging, a meal and a visit with his old friends.  The friendship continued on through the years and the Anderson’s were called up to defend the area from Indian raids prior to the Revolutionary War and against British-backed Indian raids during the war and the subsequent years thereafter.  William Anderson Jr. was killed by Indians while still in his youth, a hard blow to the family who lived so deep in to Indiana territory.

Colonel William and his surviving son, Thomas, joined Braddock's forces at Cumberland and served during the western campaign.  Col. William, so it is stated, always wore Scots dress.

William Anderson was found as a Private listed in Captain William Preston's Company of Rangers from 8 Jun 1757 - 4 May 1759 as authorized by an Act of the House of Burgesses.

William was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church.  He owned in 1738, and prior thereto, several plantations in the Conegochiege manor, in Prince Georges's County, Maryland, one of which called Anderson's Delight, he sold to Dr. George Stewart of the city of Annapolis in 1739. 

Jim Burrows has posted an excellent research and documentation about the life and properties of William Anderson on his Anderson Papers site that I highly recommend to researchers and other Anderson descendants.

Additionally, another Anderson descendant, John Phillips, has written a historical fiction book about the life and times of William Anderson titled “Anderson’s Bottom

From the book: Life and Letters of Judge Thomas J. Anderson and Wife:

"William Anderson of Scotland, descended from a family of considerable prominence, born in the Highlands in 1693, implicated in the rising of 1715 in behalf of the Pretender, Prince James, son of James II, fled in disguise, after the cruel suppression of this incipient rebellion, through England to Virginia, where British loyalists of his views ever found a warm welcome."

Marion, Ohio, Oct. 26, 1886.
Mr. J. H. Anderson, Columbus, Ohio.

My Dear Nephew:--

I now undertake to give you some account of my ancestors. My Great-grandfather, William Anderson, was born in Scotland, in the year 1693 and died in Virginia in 1797. He was a friend of the Stuart dynasty, and joined the standard of Prince James, the Pretender, (as he was styled by some) son of James II, the deposed King of England.

After the rising in 1715, he fled into England where he tarried awhile, and then made his way in disguise, I am told, to Virginia, where he had relatives. He went up the Potomac river till he came to a beautiful and fertile valley, or bottom, on the North Branch, and here he decided to settle. It has ever since been called the Anderson Bottom, and was afterward included within the boundaries of Hampshire County, Virginia. That was then a wild region, inhabited mainly by Indians, but there were a few French, and probably a few British subjects west of William Anderson's new home.

He was strong and brave, and helped to protect the frontier settlements from murderous Indian foes. In "Braddock's defeat" (Braddock's engagement with the French and Indians near Fort Duquense) though beaten he fought bravely.

He was the father of four children, two boys and two girls. One of his sons, William, was killed by the Indians in the mountains near home. One of his daughters married Captain William Henshaw, of Berkley County, Virginia, whose plantation was near Bunker Hill, on Mill Creek.

I have forgotten the name of the husband of the other daughter, although I have often heard it. (In a subsequent letter he says her name was Sarah and that she married a Mr. Wilkins.)

As he, William Anderson, was 104 years old at the time of his death he was a little childish, but at 80 he was as strong and active as ever. He brought a large amount of gold from Scotland, or it was afterward sent to him, and he was known to possess a great deal when he died, but after his death it could never be found.”

(Source: Life and letters of Judge Thomas J. Anderson and wife, including a few letters from children and others : mostly written during the civil war; a history by James House Anderson.)

From the now defunct Silver Family Organization website:

"He (William) owned in 1738 and prior thereto several plantations in the Conegochiege Manor in Prince George's County, Maryland, one of which, called Anderson's Delight, he sold to Dr. George Stewart of the city of Annapolis in 1739.  It was soon after coming to the country that a rich and beautiful valley, far up the Potomac on the North Branch attracted his notice and on it he encamped and buit a hunting lodge.  This valley has ever since been known as the Anderson Bottom.  When Hampshire County, Virginia, was erected, it embraced the Anderson Bottom, which was only five miles from Fort Cumberland, constructed in 1754.  William Anderson died on the Anderson Bottom in Hampshire County, Virginia."

Hampshire County, West Virginia
Made 10 September 1786
Proved 9 April 1796
Hampshire County Wills; Box 1-200; #18

In the Name of God Amen.  I, William Anderson of Hampshire County and State of Virginia, farmer, being very weak in body but of perfect mind memory and understanding, and Mindful of my Mortality, do this Tenth day of September in the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven hundred and Eighty Six, Make and publish this my last Will and (?testament) in the (?manner) following.  First, I resign my Soul into the hands of Almighty God, hoping and believing a Remission of my Sins by the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ and my Body I commit to the Earth and desire to be decently and privately Buried at the discretion of my Executor and my Worldly Estate I give and devise as follows--
First, I give and bequeath to my Dear Beloved Wife all my Moveable or Personal Estate--Consisting of one Horse, Cows, Calves, and Hogs, to her and for her own proper use forever--also all my household Furniture to her forever, also I give and bequeath to her for and during her Natural Life, my now dwelling house, out houses and all there appurtenances (?therewith) belonging . One half of the Orchards and its profits, my Lower Meadow and one Field adjoining my Upper Meadow Containing Ten acres of Tillable Land to and for her own use during her Natural Life.
Next, I give and bequeath unto my five Daughters, Namely, Nancy, Rachel, Sarah, Catherine and Hannah, Each One Shilling Sterling.  And Lastly, I Constitute Ordain make and appoint My Only Son Thomas Anderson my Sole Executor of this my Last Will and Testament all and Singular my Lands, Messuages and Tenements by him to be possessed and any  (?--indecipherable lines) before to me (?--indecipherable)  --Revoke and Disannull all and every other  (?f----) and Bequests whatsoever by me in any Ways before bequeathed, Ratifying and Confirming this and no other to be my Last Will and Testament in Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal the day and Year before written---(?__illegible)
                          (signed by mark) William X Anderson

declared by the Testator and for his last Will and Testament, in the
presence of us, who, at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have Subscribed our Names
as Witnesses thereto--
Evan Gwynnes
Henry Hains
Arthur (?___) Ohara

Attached document was Recorded and Examined and
(Recorded in) Will Book 1-22; Page 26
     At a Court held for Hampshire County the 9th day of April 1796.
This the last Will and Testament of William Anderson deceased was proved by the Oath of Arthur OHarra one of the Witnesses thereto and on the (?Motion) of Thomas Anderson the Executor therein named certificate is granted him for obtaining aprobate thereof in due (?form) he having taken the Oath of (?___ Executor and together with Arthur O'Harra and John House his Securities entered into and Acknowledged a Bond in the penalty of three hundred pounds Conditioned as the Law directs And at a Court held for the said County the 11th day of June (?three  weeks) following the said Will was further proved by the Oath of Evan Gwynies another Witness thereto and is ordered to be Recorded

Support provided by William Anderson to the Revolutionary War per Publick Claims:
Wm. Anderson for provisions & forage for cattle drivers £1-5-7.
William Anderson 86# flour 8s-7.

This surname, meaning 'son of Andrew', is prolific, being common in Lowland areas as well as in the north-east. The reason why this name arises in so many different locations is due to Scotland's patronymic system and little can be shown to suggest descent from a common ancestor. Thirteenth-century records give the earliest instances of the name and by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, several burghs were represented in parliament by Andersons. The Furman-Workman MS of 1566 includes arms for Anderson of that ilk, implying that a notable Anderson was recorded as representer of the clan, but identification has never been established. In Privy Council records (James Y 2nd April 1526), one James Anderson of Sterheuch was made Carrick Pursuivant of Arms and in this position at the Court of the Lord Lyon, not to have borne and used arms is hard to reconcile. It has been suggested that he, and Anderson of that Ilk, were one and the same. This James is claimed as ancestor o the Anderson of North family in Strathbogle, yet the present senior line remains unknown. In more recent times their crest of an oak tree Proper with the motto 'Stand Sure', has been tacitly accepted by the Andersons as their clansman's crest badge. A Clan Anderson Society has been active for some years in North America and St Andrew's Day. 1993 saw the foundation of The Anderson Association in the United Kingdom.

Letter from Hiram H. Anderson to his nephew, James H. Anderson: "I do no know all the plantations my great-grandfather William Anderson owned, but I know he was vastly rich.  He was married twice.  His second wife, a Miss Barnett, wa a girl of seventeen, with whom he lived twenty-four years.  At the time of his second marriage he was 80 years old.  When he died he was 104, and his wife died the following year.  I believe he had no children by the second marriage."  "My great-great-grandfather William Anderson, acquired the Anderson Bottom plantation in Hampshire county Va., by patent from Thomas, Lord Fairfax.  Besides his Maryland real estate, William owned a number of other tracts.  William and his (first) wife Rachel, conveyed 100 acres of good land on new Creek, in Hampshire county, to John Baker, Nov. 9, 1772.  William and his (second) wife Margaret conved Sept. 17, 1787, to James Malloy, 327 acres of choice land, situate on Gibbons and Crooked runin in said county.  Thomas Anderson and Sarah his wife, conveyed Nov. 22, 1802, said 206 acres to Martin Shaffer.  Thomas Anderson conveyed April 16, 1802, by deed of gift, 93 acres of the Anderson Bottom to his son James.  Thomas Anderson conveyed Feb. 26, 1806, to Daniel Collins, all the Anderson Bottom land except said 93 acres.  James Anderson and Priscilla his wife, conveyed February 26, 1806, to Daniel Collins said 93 acres.  The deeds of conveyance and of said real estate, except of the Maryland property, are all of record in Romney, Hampshire county, W. Va.  William Anderson obtained the most of his Virginia real estate from Lord Fairfax."

(Source: Life and letters of Judge Thomas J. Anderson and wife, including a few letters from children and others : mostly written during the civil war; a history by James House Anderson.)

William Anderson of Scotland descended from a family of prominence, born in the Highlands in 1693, implicated in the rising of 1715 in the behalf of the pretender, Prince James, son of James II., fled in disguise, after the cruel suppression of this incipient rebellion, through England to Virginia where British loyalties of his views ever found a warm welcome; it was not long after his arrival in Virginia until he received remittances with which he bought real property in Maryland and Virginia. He owned in 1738 and prior thereto several plantations in the Conegochiege Manor in Prince George's county, Maryland, one of which, called Anderson's Delight, he sold to Dr. George Stewart of the city of Annapolis in 1739. It was soon after coming to the country that a rich and beautiful valley, far up the Potomac, on the North Branch, attracted his notice and on it he encamped and built a hunting lodge. This valley has ever since been known as the Anderson Bottom. When Hampshire county, Virginia, was erected, it embraced the Anderson Bottom, which was only five miles from Fort Cumberland, constructed in 1754. William Anderson died on the Anderson Bottom in Hampshire county, Virginia."

From Electric Scotland


The name Anderson meaning "son of Andrew" although widespread in Scotland is also found in Europe particularly in Scandinavia. In the Highlands the form MacAndrew is more commonly found and this family is thought to be connected with the Clan Anrias, a sept of Clan Ross who were also associated with the Clan Chattan federation from the beginning of the 15th century. In the Kinrara manuscript it is claimed that the MacAndrews came to Badenoch from Moidart about 1400. The first recording of this name appears on the Ragman Rolls of 1296 when David le fiz Andreu, Burgess of Peebles, and Duncan fiz Andreu of Dumfries were among those to swear allegiance to Edward I. One famous member of the family was John MacAndrew of Dalnahatnich - Iain Beg MacAindrea, Little John MacAndrew, a bowman of note and terror of all who fought against him; the family is, however, more renowned for its members' intellectual achievements. Aberdeen born Alexander Anderson was acclaimed as a brilliant mathematician in Europe when he published his  works on geometry and algebra in Paris between 1612 and 1619. His cousin David Anderson of Finshaugh also had a fine mathematical brain and was known locally as "Davie-do-a'-things"; his best known achievement was to devise a method of removing a large rock which had been blocking the entrance to Aberdeen harbour. The family talent was passed on to a grandson, James Gregory, the inventor of the Reflecting Telescope. A later generation included James Anderson (1739-1808 ); his article on monsoons, for the first edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" predicted, with remarkable accuracy, discoveries made by Captain Cook before he had returned from his expedition to announce them! Prominent Anderson families are Andersons of Dowhill, Wester Ardbreck in Banffshire and Candacraig in Strathdon. Arms were awarded in the 16th century to Anderson of that Ilk, but his family has not yet been identified as the leading family and as a result, the main house is considered to be that of Ardbreck.

ANDERSON or ANDREWSON simply means son of Andrew, and it must be understood that the prevalence of this surname throughout Scotland supposes that Andrew was early adopted as a popular Christian name - probably due to St. Andrew being our patron saint. Consequently, many families of quite differing origins now bear the name. Anderson is also a Lowland rendering of the old Gaelic personal name Gillaindreis (servant/devotee of (St) Andrew), and MacGillandreis is of like origin. The Clan Ross are sometimes called Clann Aindrea (the race of Andrew), and Gillanders, as a surname, is often equated with Ross, being a frequently found amongst the early Ross', whose descent was from Fearchar Mac-an-t-Sagairt, a Hereditary Abbot of Applecross. Early in the 15th century, another family, the Clan Andrish, natives of Moidart (not far from Applecross), reputedly founded by a Donald MacGillandrish, settled at Connage in Petty, and became embodied into the Confederation of Clan Chattan, under its Mackintosh Chief. In course of time their name was anglicized as MacAndrew. Though the Andersons are sometimes given as a sept of Clan Ross the idea that all are of Highland origin and share a common ancestry is quite absurd. NO clan connection should be assumed without additional evidence and such may be acquired through a compilation of one's personal ancestry. Many Andersons who trace an ancestry to Islay were once Macillandrais' who anglicised their name. In its present form the name is common in Aberdeenshire where we find the Andersons of Downhill, and of Candacraig in Strathdon, whereas, in Banffshire, the Andersons of Wester Ardbreck are long established. It should also be remembered that the name is also common outwith our shores, particularly in Scandinavia, and Andersons settled furth of Scotland should look to their ancestry before claiming Scottish descent, far less clan association.

Agnes (Anderson) Henshaw was a daughter of William Anderson, a Scotchman of good family, of property, and education.  In his native country he stood by the Stuarts, an in 1715 befriended and fought for Prince James.  Then he was forced to fly, and after wandering about England for some months, he continued to reach Virginia, where he found many people of his way of being relatives, and a permanent home.  Very soon after his arrival in Virginia, he became the owner of a farm that has ever since been known as the "Anderson Bottom".  It is on the North Branch of the Potomac in Hampshire County, that was afterward formed, embracing this place.  Fort Cumberland, five miles distance, was erected a good many years after Col. William Anderson's occupation of the bottom.

This region was then for the most part a howling wilderness, and savage Indians were the principal human inhabitants.  William Anderson was a soldier by nature, and brave, and in his efforts to protect the infant frontier settlements had many conflicts with the Indians.  He and his son Thomas joined Braddock's forces at Fort Cumberland, on their way to Fort Duquesne, near which they were destined to suffer a disastrous defeat.  Col. William Anderson was somewhat eccentric with all his noble qualities.  He always wore a Scotch style of dress; and when he died in 1797, at the age of 104, his heavy head of hair was perfectly black, his teeth sound and white and his eyesight as good as ever, so that he read without glasses.


Yorktown–British Surrender 225th Anniversary

Ink in the Worst Places – on Photos and Rice Paper

Scanning old photos always brings a cry of despair from my lips.  My mother and those before her, had a propensity to write on the face of photos.  I’m happy to have the names and places, but oh how I wish they would have written on the back of them in pencil rather than with the acid-rich ink they seemed to all use.

The images are permanently defaced.  Hours and hours of work with Photoshop helps in some cases, but in most situations, the old grainy small black and white or brown images were too small to allow a decent clean up on a digital copy.

I’ve entertained the offers of professionals, graphic arts students and others who profess an intimate relationship with Photoshop and other graphics programs, but alas, their results are little different than my own efforts.  In fact, none of them can or will spend the tens of hours that I do in the effort nor could I afford to pay them to do so to make the images ‘perfect’ again.

Years ago, I found the photo album of a cousin in a box tucked away at the back of the top shelf in a closet at a historical society in California.  I was absolutely delighted to find it.  The odds were beyond random chance.

Apparently, when my cousin died in the early 1900’s, her precious photos were given to her step children who had no interest in them.   The photos survived until the early 1980’s somehow, passing from one person to another, until they were rescued from the garbage by a sharp-eyed volunteer at the historical society who slammed on her brakes, jumped out of her vehicle in traffic and plucked the old album from the top of a garbage can.

Ashton Aldura Hammer Christine Ball Martha Brown Beth PetersonThe photos in the book included the old family home in Plymouth, Massachusetts, its rooms, contents and inhabitants.  No living member of the family had ever seen them or had been to the home.  The images were of my ancestral family and homestead!   Additionally, the images showed photos of old family homes in California and events in the lives of the family.  I didn’t recognize the faces of most of the folks in the images and wondered who they were …

Unfortunately, my cousin wrote the names on the rice paper pages of the album.  Eighty years later, the pages now contained fine paper-free engravings where the ink used to reside.   Sometimes the script outline was legible, sometimes it could be read when projecting a light source thorough it and studying the surviving image as it stuck black paper, but frequently, the holes surround the missing text looked like survivors of a young man’s work with a magnifying glass on a sunny day.

The photo identities were sorely missed, but the old photos were relatively intact and greatly appreciated.

Even with the old ink, smears, acid etching and crumbling layers, the photos are a precious, highly treasured part of our family history records. 

In our generation, let’s do a better job of passing quality images on to our descendants.  Don’t forget to embed the names and locations in you photos in the EXIF and Comments of our digital images.  Don’t write on hard copy images.  Store them in archival storage sleeves and boxes in a cool dark environment, and for your digital images, backup, backup and backup your files in numerous locations on archival quality disks in .TIFF or a subsequently newer universally accepted archival digital format.

For more information about preserving digital copies of your photos, read Gary Wright's excellent "Preserving Your Family History Records Digitally" white paper. 


Restoring an old photo with Photoshop
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FamilySearch and BYU Genealogy Resources

The past few weeks have marked a dramatic interest surge in the LDS Church’s FamilySearch resources and products. The folks at FamilySearch invited a group of genealogy bloggers to Salt Lake where they were given excellent presentations about the projects that are offered to the public free of charge.

While most people had heard of the records Indexing project, few of them were familiar with the user driven and written FamilySearch Wiki that contains literally tens of thousands of excellent articles to help genealogists be successful in their research quests. Even if you have visited the Wiki in the past, you will undoubtedly find new articles on it now that will help you find your ancestral families.

The bloggers came away from the presentations in awe at the size and scope of the projects underway at FamilySearch and have been blogging and posting notes about it on Twitter since that day.

FamilySearch_Beta_90One of the items learned is that the FamilySearch Pilot site is no longer being updated with new records. All of the records on it are now included along with all new updates on the Beta site. Many of us do not like the search field placement on the Beta site as well as it was designed on the Pilot site but the layout is being reviewed and will hopefully see some tweaks in the future. If you have comments about the new FamilySearch sites, don’t hesitate to click on the ‘Feedback’ links and pass on your thoughts. The folks at FamilySearch are listening to the user community like never before and are working hard to make FamilySearch the best genealogy portal on the web.

The design of the new FamilySearch site looks deceptively simple until you start clicking on links that take you to ever expanding lists of their online resources. Writing and talking about it doesn’t paint the picture of the depth and scope of the resources and offerings. You have to sit down and explore to actually understand how massive the resources are. Don’t worry if you become distracted by some interesting records, articles or training along the way. We all do it. Just bookmark the page you are on so you can start from there again later. Family history researchers who visit the site often feel like they’ve wandered in to a magic genealogy candy store.

There are excellent How To” online training courses on the FamilySearch site. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the video training lessons that will help in your quest.

byu_independent_study_90Additional excellent free training courses are available from BYU’s Independent Study site. I’ve viewed and / or have taken almost every course on these sites and highly recommend them. My wife wouldn’t let me build a bowling alley in our basement so I could ‘ace’ the Bowling course offered on the Independent Study site but other than that, I have a drawer full of ‘Successful Completion” certificates in my office to impress our grandchildren. (Humor is intended here.)

Between FamilySearch and the various family history related offerings at BYU, the LDS Church has made a Herculean effort to help us find our ancestors. Not every record we’ll need in that quest is online or available (yet), but it is being worked on by good folks from all over the world who are donating their time and efforts in the Indexing project of FamilySearch. While many records associated with the Indexing project are on the sites of other entities, those organizations are working with FamilySearch so the records are indexed and links to them are in place allowing researchers to find them after instigating a search on the FamilySearch site.

This truly is a ‘great time to be alive’. The only thing stopping us from being successful in much of our ancestral quest is ourselves – by not using the resources that are now available.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Premier Membership on FamilySearch

Not everyone is aware that there is a “Premier” membership level on FamilySearch.  Users with the Premier level membership can see all of the document images that are available on the site.  Those without it, can see many, many images but some are reserved due to licensing and other contractual agreements.

Readers of Science Fiction novels will recognize the initials “TANSTAAFL”.  They apply to FamilySearch as well.  

“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” 

A great deal of money and time is required to acquire, license, digitize and host family history records.  Someone has to invest up front and in the long term to bring the myriad of resources found on FamilySearch to us. 

The primary investor is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They along with their partners in the project and folks like you and I who spend time as volunteers indexing records for inclusion on FamilySearch and related sites, round out the group.

A quick search for “Premier” on the Help page of FamilySearch provided a link to the Premier Membership Document that explains the program and the details of how we can obtain a “Premier” membership level ourselves.


The cost is certainly right.  All we have to do is volunteer indexing.  Earning 900 points every quarter gives us premier membership level access.  That certainly makes sense.  Investing about a half-hour of our time a week indexing the records that we use to help in our own ancestral quest is not only a ‘light fee’ but a ‘right fee’.

Indexing is easy and rewarding work.  If you don’t already have login credentials for FamilySearch, you’ll need to create an account.  The credentials extend to the Indexing section of FamilySearch.  

Once you have an account, take 2-minutes to view the Test Drive of the Indexing tool and process.  The site notes that No Special Skills are Required and that is the truth.  Even the young folks in our family can easily run the indexing tool. 

As a family history researcher, you’ll be used to reading the majority of the birth, marriage, death, census, church and other documents that you’ll see as you index. 

The folks at FamilySearch and its partners already have and continue to Pay-It-Forward.  Now it’s our turn.  We all benefit from the Indexing, both now and in the future as Free Searchable Indexes are created that we can access in our PJ’s from home.  The related images online are frosting on the cake.

Scroll to the bottom of the Indexing page to see the lists of Current, Completed and Future projects.  You may also want to scroll through the historical records on the FamilySearch Beta site to get a flavor of how much indexing has already been completed and of the scope of this worldwide project.

Below is the Premier Membership document from FamilySearch that explains the program in detail.

I’m sure that we’ll see each other in the glow of our monitors as we spend a little time Indexing each week, doing the right thing for the right reason.

Document ID: 109840

Premier Membership Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

  • What is FamilySearch premier membership?

    • Premier membership gives you access to view information (images and indexes) in some record collections on that might otherwise be unavailable or that you might otherwise have to pay to view. While FamilySearch does not charge for viewing this information, sometimes the record owners do.

  • Why does FamilySearch require premier membership to view these images?

    • Since we do not own all of the collections we publish, and some record owners require compensation to maintain their collection, this method enables more collections to be available for research. FamilySearch invests in private archives by preserving records and making these collections searchable.
      FamilySearch and some of these archives have agreed by contract to allow access to those who make a significant contribution to this process. Without premier membership, you can usually search the indexes of these restricted collections; however, the images may not be freely available.
      There are currently (as of June 2010) no collections that should require premier membership to view images. If you see records that require premier membership, please report that through the Feedback link.

  • How do I become a premier member? Are the benefits available to everyone?

    • Yes, they are available to everyone through any of the following methods:
      • Index records and earn 900 points within a calendar quarter.
      • Belong to a sponsoring organization, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or another company or society that sponsors FamilySearch.
      • Additional methods of contributing to FamilySearch may also qualify you for premier membership in the future.

    • In the future, family history centers located around the world will receive access to these restricted collections as well.

  • Why do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive premier membership status?

    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest sponsoring organization of FamilySearch. Funded by the contributions of its members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invests in records and resources for family history research. Access to these resources is extended to the general community whenever possible.

  • What is the difference between being a “member” and being a “premier member?”

    • A member is anyone who has registered for a FamilySearch account. Some collections will require the researcher to at least be a member in order to view the information in the collection. A premier member is someone who has qualified based on the guidelines indicated above.

  • Are there ever collections that a premier member cannot view?
    • Indexes for most collections will be available to premier members; however, some archives require that you view the images on their Web sites, and at times they may charge to view those images.

Indexing Specific Questions:

  • When do I have to earn points to extend my membership?
    • You must earn 900 points during a calendar quarter. The first quarter of the year is January through March; the second quarter is April through June, and so on.
    • Once you earn 900 points, your premier status is immediately given for the rest of the current quarter and the next or following quarter. For example, if you index 900 points during July, you will earn premier membership that will last through December.
    • At the end of every quarter, the qualifying points are reset to zero, much like a cell phone plan that does not carry over minutes between months.

  • Why is my expiration date “Never”?
    • If the expiration date is “Never,” you are a member of a sponsoring organization that does not need to earn points for premier membership.

  • Why don’t the names indexed add up to what the points are?
    • Points are calculated from the number of names indexed, and they are given based on the difficulty of the record. Projects that are easier to index are generally worth fewer points, but at least one point is given for each name indexed.

  • How much do I have to index to earn 900 points?
    • Indexing for approximately a half hour every week would usually earn the qualifying 900 points in a calendar quarter.

  • Where do I find out how many points I currently have?
    • Sign in to the indexing Web site, and click My History on the left to see your statistics. It will inform you how many points you have and how many are required for you to attain premier membership; or if you are already qualified, it will tell you how many points you need to earn during this calendar quarter to retain your premier membership for the following quarter.


Calendar Quarter

Three (3) months of a year; the four quarters are defined as: January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December.


A group of similar records that is searchable on Record Search, such as England birth records, for example.

Restricted Collections

Collections in which either its index or images cannot be viewed without being a FamilySearch member or premier member.


Someone who has registered for a FamilySearch account.

Premier Member

Someone who has qualified to gain additional access to record collections due to indexing 900 points in a calendar quarter or being a member of a sponsoring organization.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shades of the Departed Genealogy Magazine

Like most folks, I tell others in my circle about “Great Buys”, “Feature Rich”, “High Value” items that I encounter in my daily life.  Word of Mouth continues to be the most effective selling tool in the world.

We don’t pass our praises out lightly because our reputation and veracity are inextricably entwined with the words and actions that emanate from our being.

Shades_of_the_departedWith that in mind, I highly recommend Shades Of The Departed digital magazine to any and all persons interested in family history and genealogy. 

I am not involved in the publication other than faithfully reading each issue but believe me, this is a “Great Buy”, “Feature Rich”, “High Value” publication. 

I would be seriously remiss in not passing on the knowledge of this gem to my family and friends.

To date, the publication is free.  Just go to the Shades site in Issuu and plan on spending an hour or two of enthralled reading and notetaking for each issue.

The Grand dame, originator, publisher, artist and heavy lifter is none other than the footNote Maven, a well-known author, speaker and genealogy expert who lives in the Pacific Northwest.  Joining her with monthly articles are the well-known genealogy and subject matter experts: Denise Levenick, writing under the nom de plume “Penelope Dreadful”, Vickie Everhart, George Geder, Denise Olson, Sheri Fenley, Caroline Pointer, Rebecca Fenning, Craig Mason, Heather Rojo and Donna Pointkouski.

Shades is a world-class publication, full of insightful, interesting and extremely informative articles that will help and instruct anyone interested in family history as well as being an excellent read for those poor souls who haven’t been bitten by the genealogy bug -- yet.

I’ve been involved in genealogy research for over fifty-five years and thought I knew a lot of ‘stuff’ only to have the truth ratified yet again after reading the first issue of Shades …. I don’t know much, but the writers in Shades are ready and able teachers, willing to teach even old dogs new tricks.

Family history fans … read Shades. 

There, by my count, I’ve said or implied that you should read Shades of the Departed three times.  

How does the saying go? ….   I tell you once, I tell you twice … I tell you three times…  Amen to you on that subject.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and read the issues of Shades.  You’ll love the content, masterful design and presentation.  If you haven’t moved into the world of digital magazine publishing before …  Welcome!  … You just crossed over.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

UFO Over Wellington Square – Nottingham

I frequently use the Street View in Google Maps to look at the property where my ancestors lived long ago.  Sometimes, I’m rewarded with a view of their house that has survived the centuries.  

Although the buildings and properties have experienced changes in the intervening time in cosmetics, construction and destruction, my digital excursion is worth the time.

I’m fairly sure that the home my 2nd great-granduncle, Edwin Vanini Smith died in at 7 Wellington Square in Nottingham, England still stands.  At least the building appears to be old enough to have been in existence before his death in 1901.  

During these digital, no passport required, journeys, I always take the time to digitally ‘walk’ through the neighborhood to get a sense of what it looks like now and may have resembled way back when.  

In many locations in England and other countries, where homes have been around for ‘a while’, are close together, near shopping areas or rail lines and, I can almost hear the sounds of the neighborhood, smell the bread being baked down at the bakery and see the neighbor lady hanging out her wash to dry.

Imagine my surprise today, when just a few steps down the street at 16 Wellington Square, I looked up and thought that a UFO had been captured by the Google filming vehicle. 

It’s shape reminded me of the curved wing of the space craft used by invaders from Mars in the old War of the Worlds movie.

A UFO over the home of my 2nd great-granduncle?  That would make a great family history story!

But alas, it wasn’t to be.   Sliding the view further up and down the street revealed the UFO to be a small gouge, bubble or ding in the plastic dome that covers the Google cameras.  

It is either that or the UFO is tiny and keeps pace with the camera vehicle and slides along the 2nd story walls of buildings when it isn’t in the sky.

So, the family history story that I hoped to tell our grandchildren went the way of most UFO stories.  Explainable.  Fun for a second.  A natural element caught in a photo from a viewpoint that accentuates the image of something different than the truth.

It would have been a great story though.  I hated to let it go.  I hope that there aren’t other ‘stories’ in my family history research that are just that, …. ‘stories’, not proven facts, that I’ve interpreted as fact from my ‘point of view’.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oral Interviews – Still Going Strong

The art of interviewing ancestors and family members has not died in America.  At least that is the indication from the flurry of requests for help and interview question lists that I’ve received this week.

The requests have come from students who attended my family history classes over the last several decades and have lost their notes.  Others came from folks I’ve never met but were referred to me.

There is nothing magic in the lists.  They are simple but help prime the thought processes as the prospective interviewer prepares for their interview sessions. 

The good news is that folks are still conducting family history interviews. 

Over the years, I’ve been repeated told that the promptings in class to “go interview your family” - “soon” has been excellent family history advice.

As often as not, the first person or two that comes to mind is a parent, aunt or uncle that is old, or at least old enough to have lived through a lot of family history and whose ‘expiration’ date may be on the horizon.

 The lucky interviewers acted on their prompting quickly and invariably learned far more about their family history than they had anticipated in their wildest dreams.  Additionally, they came home with both audio and video files of their family member telling family stories, explaining living conditions as well as shedding light on family secrets or at least on forgotten tales.  

Of course luck had nothing to do with it.  The interviewers made their luck by engaging.  Quickly.  Very quickly - after the prompt surfaced on their temporal lobe.

To a degree, they tell me that the interview almost acted like a triggers in the decease of the person that was interviewed.  Of course, the interview itself wasn’t the trigger.  It was the age or health of the family member and hence the reason they were probably on the top of the interview list. 

Those who act on the prompting were rewarded and came away with great stories that they delight in repeating to family and friends.  Those who think that they’ll interview their family just as soon as they can get ‘round to it’ almost always end up sad.  Time and disease stay true to their course and the family member moves to the deceased column on their genealogy chart.

Their stories, memorized lineage facts and voices are stilled.  Lost.  Gone. 

The law of ‘Round to it’ holds true to its physical image.  Round.  No edges.  Nothing protruding to lift the covers of time and expose the foundation, song, feel and flavor of family history.

Capture your past soon.  Don’t become a ‘round to it’ causality too.  


Sunday, September 19, 2010

After Everyone is Gone

The funeral of an uncle in a family of faith is both a sad and yet a happy affair.  With a strong belief in life continuing after exiting a mortal body, stepping through the veil it just one more event in our eternal progression.

We weep at the loss of contact, advise, laughter, touch, feel, smell and idiosyncrasies of our deceased loved one but not as a result of any thought that they are permanently lost.  After all, the end of mortality is actually a graduation day.  It is all part of the plan.  Part of the process.

Family and friends gather at the funeral memorial to offer condolences, statements of love and to honor his life and good works.

In our community, a member or two of the family usually speaks at the funeral along with a church leader in an hour long program  They offer memories and funny anecdotes from the life of the deceased, finishing with statements of faith and eternal plans of growth and life. 

Then the transport of the body to the cemetery and its burial moves forward.

We line our cars in a funeral procession, light our headlights and slowly drive in a half-mile-long train winding our way through the city behind a slow hearse and police escort. 

Well, normally …

I hear his voice in my head saying, “ Oh bother.  More uncomfortable suits and ties.  More flowers than any man could reasonably want or enjoy.  More ceremony to appease the living ….  Hey! (wink and chuckle) There are a lot of good looking women here.” 


I laugh at the thought.  His kids did make a lot of effort to remove some of formal stodginess out of the burial process.  Except for his wife and daughter, the limos and motored procession of mourners is left at the cemetery gate to find their way to the grave on foot.

His body arrives in style in a caisson transport.  The team pulling it could be better, but there aren’t many matched teams in use today, so you do the best you can. 

The caisson is pure class though.  White, beveled glass windows that sparkle, and here in the west, the top hat is replaced by a cowboy hat. 

I verbally salute him, “You did it!  This is cool!  The Caddy body hauler is still parked in the garage where it belongs waiting to carry the fairer sex, not a manly man.”


His casket is borne by sons and grandsons to its final resting place and carefully set in place.  The sons carefully escort their mother to her chair near the grave.  They remove their boutonnieres and place them on the casket saying one last goodbye, briefly laying their hand on its finished surface before moving back to their own families so the proceedings can continue.

Everyone gathers close.  The officiator nods to the Veteran detail and a 21-gun salute rings through the winter air.  The commander of the local Veteran group is assisted by another member in carefully folding the flag that has covered their compatriot’s casket.  They respectfully present it to the grieving widow.

The grave is dedicated by the officiator, who then thanks all for attending and finishes saying the family would like all to return to the church for a meal of funeral potatoes, ham, salad, green Jello with shredded carrots in it and red Kool-aid.


The family reunion slowly moves away to continue their conversations, well wishing and photo taking back at the church … but I stay … alone.  I walk over to the city crew who will lower the casket and vault lid into the ground and tell them that they are burying my uncle.  That I’ll stay and watch.  That I have a great interest in the level of respect they afford his remains.

They look at me like I’m a little nuts, but my demeanor does not brook disbelief or misunderstanding.

Twenty minutes later, the pile of dirt is gone.  It hasn’t even left a stain on the surrounding grass.  The chairs and astroturf are gone.  The noise of the backhoe has been silenced. 

I stand by the effusive display of flowers and speak to my uncle.   “Well, they got you here ok.  I loved the caisson and 21-gun salute.  Your grandkids enjoyed letting the flotilla of white balloons gain their freedom in the sky.  Sorry about the flowers, but they won’t be here too long.  Your body is safe and honorably buried.  I’ll stop by later to make sure your headstone is well placed.”


I’ve missed the meal back at the church.  That’s ok.  My duty was at the grave.  I’ll see the family another time. 

A short three-step-stroll takes me to the graves of my grandparents.  I nod and say “hello” … and … “I’ll be back in a second”.  Three more steps take me to the graves of my great grandparents.  I touch their stone and say “Hi” knowing that none of them are here listening.  They are all talking to my uncle, catching up on events. 

However, I grin knowing they’ll all glance my way and laugh … who can resist watching me do a cemetery soft shoe shuffle before I turn with final nod and wave as I start the hike back to my car..

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Quilt in the Corner Closet

It all started with me looking for blanket in the linen closet downstairs.  It was cool sitting down while working on my server in mid-January and I finally had to admit to myself that even tough old dad’s legs get cold at times.

Not immediately spotting a manly colored blanket, I began looking through the shelves for something with a hunting scene or even one of our now long-married sons old blankets with trucks on it from their youth. 

Lifting a foot or two of the stack of blankets exposed a decidedly old faded blue material to the light.  Ugh.  Old.  Ugly color.  Why did we have something like that in the closet? 

Curious, I uncovered more of the quilt thinking I’d ask my wife if it could be used for camping or covering the tomatoes during a frost.

And then from somewhere, way back in the dusty vaults of my memory, I remembered holding this slick material in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other.  

It was the blanket from my early life.  I’d forgotten that my mother had given it to my wife decades ago. 

Why did that knowledge change my opinion of the attractiveness and value of this old collection of vintage cloth? 

Memories.  Reference points.  Love.  All embodied in a child-sized blanket that probably qualifies for landmark status under historical laws in many communities.

My wife makes memories out of cloth today.  Her blankets aren’t plain.  They are beautiful.  When she makes them for our grandchildren, they are designed with each specific grandchild in mind.  They wouldn’t be ‘right’ for someone else.

Our daughters and daughters-in-law make quilts too.  Their skills are approaching those of my wife.  As time and age slow her down and make it more difficult to sit at a sewing machine or bent over quilting frames, the younger generation will overtake the productivity of grandma. 

She’ll be there keeping her hand in the mix.  You couldn’t keep her out.  Much of her time will be spent teaching her granddaughters the quilting and knitting skills she learned from her mother and grandmother, just like she did with her daughters.

Our granddaughters have already picked up the quilting bug.  The wall above her sewing machine is covered with mini-wall hanging quilts that they have made for grandma.  The wee lasses started early.  Some of the creations were completed when they were two.  Looking at the wall, one can see the progression of time representing the ages of the girls in the neatness of their stitch.

The offer of a Picasso to replace the scene on the wall would be summarily shunned.  The little wall hangings are treasure to grandma.  They have both real and intrinsic value in her world.

Grandma’s quilts will eventually be stored away in the homes of the mature women who once were young sewing crafters.  They’ll be taken out from time to time and shown to their daughters.  “See – grandma’s label is on the back.” “She made this for me when I turned eight or when I moved into my new bedroom or when I graduated from high school or when we got married.”

They’ll have value both real and intrinsic in the worlds of these ladies too.  The fabric of the day may look different but the gold offered still wouldn’t buy them. 

You can’t put a price on memories and reference points and love.

Seeds of Never-Seen Dreams from Kayann Short on Vimeo.

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