Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rootsweb mailing lists

For some time now I have not seen any new messages on Rootsweb Mailing Lists.

There are more than 30000 genealogy mailing lists hosted by the Rootsweb servers, which have been managed by and I've been using them for more than 20 years to communicate with and keep in touch with genealogists around the world, and suddenly they seem to have stopped working.

Some of the mailing lists have been gated into other forums, such as Usenet newsgroups and Googlegroups, so they have been fairly widely available, but suddenly they seem to have stopped working.

There's been no announcement on the Rootsweb Home Page, and no response from the Helpdesk.

Does anyone know what's going on?

For what it's worth the general African list is still working, but it's not hosted by Rootsweb but by YahooGroups. If you would like to subscribe, just send e-mail to:

with the word "subscribe" (without the quotes) in the subject line and the body of the message.

It's a continent-wide list,  so it doesn't have the specialised focus on a particular province of a particular country, but you can use it for queries and comments about genealogy in any country in Africa.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Oliver Growden and crime fiction

I was updating my GROWDEN and GROWDON family history files, trying to tie up some (well, rather a lot, actually) loose ends, when I came across this bibliography of crime fiction with the following entry Crime Fiction IV - Allen J. Hubin:

GROWDEN, OLIVER H(ENRY WARDROP). 1866-1923. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand; died in Melbourne, Australia.
I found that rather intriguing.

If I have understood the purpose of the web site, it means that he was an author of crime fiction, something I did not know.

What I do know is that his death was somewhat mysterious, and might itself have formed part of the plot of a murder mystery.

A Google search brought up the information that he was the author of Matthew Redmayne: a New Zealand romance, and it seems that there are some copies on sale at Amazon. It was apparently first published in 1892, and, perhaps not surprisingly for the time, justified British imperialism and the land wars in New Zealand.

According to GoodReads the book has recently been reprinted, but nobody seems to have read or reviewed it there.

According to newspaper reports his body was found in the Yarra River, at Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, on 15 April 1923, and was eventually identified as belonging to him, and the inquest reached a verdict of suicide, though it said he was not of unsound mind.

His wife was Annie Theresa Growden, and she died in 1949. When he went to Australia he lost touch with his New Zealand family, and they did know what had happened to him. It seems that he and his wife had no children.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Yes, You CAN Download Your Tree From – Here’s How – Family History Daily

I don't have a tree on, but I've found that a lot of people who do don't know how to download their data, so some may find this useful.

Yes, You CAN Download Your Tree From – Here’s How – Family History Daily:
Can you download your family tree from The answer is yes. We see this question quite a bit so we thought we’d quickly show you how you can easily download a GEDCOM from Ancestry that you can use as a backup, or to import in to virtually any family tree program or family history tree website.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Instant Messaging for genealogy?

I recently got a message from someone (no names, no pack drill) extolling the use of Instant Messaging for genealogical research.

It seems that some people think that Instant Messaging is the best thing since sliced bread. I hate sliced bread, except when I have to make a snack in a hotel room far from home late at night. That happens to me about once every 17 years.

Anyway, here is what they said, and my response. I'd be interested in knowing what other people think about this kind of thing.

> Would you be interested in using a real time mobile/cell phone instant
> messaging tool to help your family history research and contributions to
> Xxxx.


> Messaging is like email but a lot simpler, quicker and is in real time,
> so you could be texting or sending pictures to a Xxxx member on a
> different continent and on different time zones.

One of the great advantages of e-mail is that it is NOT in real time. I
can send someone a message and it won't interrupt whatever they are doing
(often at a very inconvenient time).

Instant messaging is great for messages of the "I'll be late for lunch"
variety, but those have lost their value by late afternoon, and I hope my
genealogy research is less ephemeral than that.

For anything other than ephemeral stuff like that, I find instant messaging
clumsy, inconvenient, and very hard to use.

Have you ever tried copying an instant message from your phone to a
computer? You get it on the phone, type the first word, and then the phone
switches off. In trying to switch it on again you press the wrong thing
and find you are adding the person who sent it to your contacts or
something else you don't want to do. You have to undo that (which often turns out to be even more difficult and time-consuming), and then find the message again, and start typing with one hand, and our other hand poised over the phone to press something the moment th screen dims, and hope that you don't set off another unwanted chain of events. Getting genealogy messages  on a cell phone is time-consuming, annoying and horrible.

> It is best used for free via a wi-fi connection otherwise mobile/cell
> service provider could apply data roaming charges.
> My preference is to use Facebook Messenger. There are other tools but I
> think Facebook Messenger would be our best option because group sizes
> are limited to 250 users and you may also benefit from using Facebook
> itself for communicating with close family and friends. If more than 250
> Red1st members accept this invitation I will set up multiple groups of
> 250 users.

When people send me genealogy messages on Facebook messenger, I ask them
to contact me by e-mail, which is simpler, easier to use and manage, and a
lot more convenient.

> If you wish to be take part in one of these groups please ensure you are
> registered with Facebook Messenger (find the mobile/cell app on Google
> Play) then reply to this email requesting to join a group and I will fix
> you up.

I've just learned how to turn off Facebook notifications on my cell phone,
to my great relief. I only look at Facebook on my cell phone when I'm away
from home or if there is a power failure.

Among other things, note how e-mail (as copied above) allows you to reply to a message point by point, and gives you a record of what the other person has said. Instant messaging doesn't let you do this, which can lead to ambiguity and misunderstandings, and often means that you have to type long-winded explanations of which point you are replying to. 

If I am communicating with someone about genealogy research, then the means of communication are, in order of preference:
  1. Face-to-face
  2. E-mail
  3. Snail mail
  4. Voice phone call
  5. Instant messaging 
Ideally, e-mail should be used to prepare for and follow-up a face-to-face meeting. Snail mail can also be used for this purpose, but is more expensive and less convenient. In this situation, Instant Messaging can be useful for things like "I'm in a traffic jam and will be late for our meeting", but for little else.

Obviously a face-to-face meeting is not possible for people living on different continents who are unable to travel, but then the best method is e-mail alone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do you have any genealogy documents hiding in your home?

This article is a timely reminder of what can happen if you have unfiled genealogical documents lying around at home.

Do you have any genealogy documents hiding in your home? - Organize Your Family History:

In an extreme example of the perils of letting household filing pile up, I found my grandfather’s birth record over the weekend.

Over the last few years, I’d put some effort into figuring where he was born. It was mysterious to me because the census records said he was born in Oregon, yet his residence was always Washington. My father, his son, had no recollection of any family history in Oregon. Two years ago, I blogged about it when I discovered a birth announcement in a Portland paper. At that time I said I had written away to the state archives for a copy of the birth certificate. Alas, I received a letter from the Oregon Health Authority saying that no birth record was found.

The problem is, even when you have rediscovered such long-lost documents, how do you file them so you can find them again?

My solution, for the last 25 years, has been to use the Research Data Filer (RDF), but, since it is that old, it really needs an update, or at least another program that will perform the same function.

It's a question I've been asking for years, but I'm not sure we are any closer to the answer. At one point I wondered if Clooz might be the answer, but it seems so much more complex. One of the advantages of RDF was that it did one job, and it did it well and simply. Clooz seems much too complex.

Are there any programmers out there who would be willing to reverse engineer RDF, and produce something that would work as well, or better, and also import data from the old version?


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Review: BillionGraves Plus - GeneaBloggersGeneaBloggers

BillionGraves is one of the better ways of recording gravestones in cemeteries, and here's a review of the Plus version that is about to be released.

Review: BillionGraves Plus - GeneaBloggersGeneaBloggers:

The folks at BillionGraves have given me a behind-the-scenes look at BillionGraves Plus and after putting it through several tests with my own search criteria, I can say that going premium is definitely worth the price!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

DNA Tests Prove Retired Postman Has Over 1,300 Illegimitate Children Infamous Tribune

"The father was the milkman" is a somewhat clichéd old joke, but perhaps there is more truth to it than many people realise.DNA Tests Prove Retired Postman Has Over 1,300 Illegimitate Children Infamous Tribune:
Private investigator Sid Roy never could have imagined a simple gig would end up in a 15-year quest for the truth. “It all started in 2001 when two different men that had nothing to do with each other hired me to find their biological father. I was astounded after further investigation to realize they both originated from the same person. That is when the mystery started unraveling and it became a personal mission of mine, whenever I had some free time, I’d try and track down other testimonies. Eventually, DNA testing became really cheap and easy to use and helped me gather a lot of information in the latest years,” he acknowledges.

... unless, of course, this story is itself one of those clichéd old jokes. All it actually says is that two people had the same father, and it says nothing about how the father was discovered, or how DNA testing was done on the other alleged children.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Our Free Weekend starts this Friday! - Findmypast - Genealogy, Ancestry, History blog from Findmypast

Our Free Weekend starts this Friday! - Findmypast - Genealogy, Ancestry, History blog from Findmypast: We're delighted to announce that from noon this Friday 22nd until noon on Monday 25th, our world records* will be available for anyone to view, completely free of charge. You'll be able to explore… Millions of records you won't find anywhere else, including fascinating World War 2 Prisoner of War records, millions of England & Wales Crime records and the incredible British in India collection

DNA study reveals that the English are 'one-third' Anglo-Saxon -

DNA study reveals that the English are 'one-third' Anglo-Saxon -
Historians have long debated how extensive was the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, which took place between the mid-fifth and early-seventh centuries. It was during this period that several Germanic peoples arrived and colonized parts of the England, but it was unknown how large this migration was and whether or not they mixed with the native population.

An opportunity to resolve these issues emerged with the discovery and excavation of three sites near Cambridge - five samples from Hinxton, four from Oakington and one from Linton. The Linton sample and two Hinxton samples are from the late Iron Age (~100 BCE), the four samples from Oakington from the early Anglo-Saxon period (fifth to sixth century), and three Hinxton samples from the middle Anglo-Saxon period (seventh to ninth century). The two Iron Age samples from Hinxton were male, while all other samples were female.

Friday, December 18, 2015

What happened to BillionGraves?

Four months ago I lost my cell phone when trying to take a photo of a gravestone for BillionGraves.

This month my cell phone contract came up for renewal, and when looking for a replacement phone one of my important criteria was a camera of 5 megapixels or better, so that I could use it for the BillionGraves app that I had on my old phone.

The cheapest phone that met those criteria was the Vodafone Smart Grand, so I opted for that, and once I had got it charged up and running I set off (virtually, of course, by pressing the screen icon) for the Google Play Store to download the BillionGraves app.

The only problem was, the app wasn't there.

The icon for the Play Store is on the screen, and there are other apps that can be downloaded (like Evernote), but of BillionGraves there was no sign.

So what has happened?

The BillionGraves web site still seems to be there, but the BillionGraves app has vanished from the Google Play Store.

Has BillionGraves had a fall-out with Google, that they are no longer distributing the app through the Google Play Store so that it has to be sideloaded? Or should I have got a more expensive phone? Or is there something wrong with Vodacom's phones that they don't connect correctly to the Google Play Store?

I'm sure there are lots of other genealogists who have found the BillionGraves site and the related app useful, so can anyone tell me what has happened? Is it still working for you?


The good news is that the BillionGraves app is still available. 

The bad news is that if you bought an Android phone in South Africa, which came with pre-installed apps, it will not take you to the real Google Play Store, but only to a very-much censored South African version, which has a much smaller selection of apps.

Here is a workaround:

Go to the Play Store, select the category Communications, and scroll down till you find the Firefox browser. Ignore all the distracting junk it displays about signing in and registering and all the rest. 

Just enter the URL

That should take you to the real Google play store, and not the lame South African one, and there you will find BillionGraves and a lot of other apps that have been withheld from South African Android users. 

It seems that some (many? all?) Android phones sold in South Africda come with the Google Chrome web browser pre-installed as a Wed browser, and the browser is pre-programmed to take you only to the toy Play Store, and not to the real one. Firefox is an independent browser, and is not pre-programmed like that, and will take you where you want to go.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Research - Somerset Remembers

Here's something for Somerset researchers -- Somerset records relating to the First World War are now on line.

See here:

Research - Somerset Remembers

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

5 Photos You Should Take at the Cemetery - Amy Johnson Crow

Here's some good advice for photos you should take at a cemetery. I've often forgotten to do this, and regretted it later.

5 Photos You Should Take at the Cemetery - Amy Johnson Crow:
It’s sad — and rather frustrating — to go to a cemetery, take some photos, and realize when you get home that those photos don’t really help you. (It’s especially frustrating when you’re not able to get back to take more photos.) To help ease the frustration, here are 5 cemetery photos that you should get in the habit of taking every time:
And there's one thing I would add to that useful article: if you have a smartphone, take a photo of the full gravestone with it and send it to BillionGraves.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

New Genealogy Software to Save Thousands of Man Hours

For years we've had a lot o0f genealogy programs that do the same thing, and for the most part they do the same things as eacjh other. When someone writes a new program, it turns out to do the same things as the old ones did. But here, at last, may be something different.

New Genealogy Software to Save Thousands of Man HoursGeneaBloggers:
Ged-I (which stands for GEDCOM Interpreter) is an innovative genealogy software that automates the extraction of ancestral information from genealogical texts. It takes a process that currently takes months, even years, and condenses it into a matter of hours. Nothing like this currently exists. Ged-I is the first of its kind. Ged-I is still in the development phase. Logique LLC, the creators of Ged-I, is running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo starting October 23, 2015, to accelerate development and get the product out to the people who need it. You can find more info here:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Plugging genealogy's 30-year gap - BBC News

Good news for UK genealogists: Plugging genealogy's 30-year gap - BBC News:
The findings of a one-off survey of the public from 1939 are about to be released, allowing genealogists to fill a 30-year gap in census records. What will it reveal of a country just beginning to fight a war? The war with Germany had just started and officials had little time to lose in preparing for the fighting and privations to come. So on 29 September 1939, just 26 days after hostilities had been declared, a survey nicknamed the UK's only "instant census" took place. The findings enabled the issuing of identity cards and ration cards. The register applied to all civilians.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

How to Work With Dates Before 1900 in Excel

Many people people use spreadsheet programs for simple database tasks in their genealogical research.

One of the difficulties with this, however, is that genealogists frequently need to record dates before 1900, and many spreadsheet programs can't handle them.

If you are using Microsoft Excel, however, there are some workarounds.

How to Work With Dates Before 1900 in Excel:

If you work with dates prior to the year 1900, Excel's standard date-handling system will be no help. However, there are several ways around this problem. Excel stores recent dates as a date serial number, which allows us to sort those dates and perform date arithmetic. Unfortunately, Excel's serial number begins on January 1, 1900; and negative serial numbers aren't recognized.