Sunday, December 14, 2014

Genographic Project Participants Help Refine Human Family Tree – Voices

Genographic Project Participants Help Refine Human Family Tree – Voices:
The Genographic Project recently released the most refined evolutionary tree of the human Y chromosome, which every male inherits directly from his father. The new Y tree was created in part through the help of the 300,000 male participants that have joined this one-of-a-kind project to trace their own ancestry and become citizen scientists. As more people participate in the Genographic Project, we are able to fill in branches and gaps on the entire human family tree, and gain new insights on our ancient past. We wanted to outline how this new tree affects our understanding of our shared ancestry, and what it means for current and future project participants.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SQLite Tools for RootsMagic

One of the things I'm always on the lookout for is things that save having to re-type stuff. Once I've entered my genealogy information on my computer, I don't want to have to re-type it, but would like to use it in various ways, some of which are beyond the capabilities of the program in which I originally entered it. That is why I keep my lineage-linked genealogy in 3-4 different programs, each of which has capabilities that the others lack, and transfer from one tyo the other by GEDCOM. But it seems that it is possible to do far more than that, and this site gives some ideas abour what is possible. I'd love to hear of other suites like that that can extend the capabilities of other genealogy programs. SQLite Tools for RootsMagic - home:
This wiki style site is intended to enhance our use of RootsMagic 4 and above with queries and reports not provided from within the program. RootsMagic 4, 5 and 6 use SQLite 3 as their database engine so the .rmgc database files each creates are readable using third party SQLite management and development tools. We explore collaboratively the RootsMagic 4 databases with some of these SQLite managers and develop SQL queries that attempt to answer questions that cannot be answered or are difficult to answer using the RM application.

RootsMagic SQL Queries:

  • How to Query RootsMagic
  • Problem Queries - Post your problem for discussion.
  • SQLite Managers - Choose from one of these tools to run your queries.
  • MS Access - Or connect to your database with Access and Excel for great looking reports.
  • Open Office - Use the same ODBC driver as described for MS Access to connect OpenOffice to a RM database.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Death of Dr Keith Tankard: researcher of German Settlers to Eastern Cape

South African genealogists and local historians will be sorry to learn of the death of Dr Keith Tankard, who has done much research into the German settlers in the Eastern Cape and East London Local history.
Dr Keith Tankard, historian with a wicked sense of humour, has passed away in East London today. Many of you have benefited from his enormous research into the History of East London and especially the German Settlers to the Eastern Cape (his webpage can be viewed here: I worked very closely with Dr T on his book “Broken Promises” and got to know him very well – even though we never met in person. He will be sorely missed. Condolences to his wife Rosann and son Graeme (posted in the South African Genealogy Group on Facebook by Nolene Lossau Sproat‎)
One does not know how long his web site will remain after his death, so if you are interested in the topics, it would be best to visit it sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Where have all the genealogists gone?

A couple of days ago I was reading a genealogy newsgroup, and someone asked where all the genealogists had gone and noted that

In the period 2000-2007 there was a very active community of enquiries on Rootsweb Mailing lists, both general ones like this and the County lists were particularly popular.

Now the number of messages a month is in some cases only 2% of what it was at its peak.  If there has been an increase in interest over the last 10 years, why has the interaction between genealogists apparently declined?

This morning I was going through the Genealogy blogs lists on BlogCatalog, and noticed how many of them had closed, or not been updated for several years. One group in particular struck me: the Association of Graveryard Rabbits. The site hasn't been updated since January 2009, and nor have most of the linked blogs. Does that mean all the graveyards have been sorted, or that people have just lost interest and are doing something else? 

The linked sites were quite interesting. and though they had not been updated recently, at least they had not been closed. Closing a blog or a web site is a horrible thing, because it breaks links, sometimes lots of them, and is very frustrating for web users. So thanks to the owners of those abandoned blogs for not closing them.

But where have all the genealogists gone? Was it just the hobby of one generation, and those who took it up have been unable to interest their children in it? Will all the material they have collected be tossed out when they die, or be left to moulder on a hard disk in an attic somewhere, to be tossed out by the great grandchildren, who have no idea how to recover data from such obsolete technology?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Cemetery recording

Yesterday we learned some relatives had been buried in a nearby cemetery, and though there was a picture of the gravestone on line at the eGGSA site, the inscription was faded and hard to read. The Silverton cemetery was close enough, so we went to have a look. The grave was of Karl Jacob Denneville and Gladys Adelheid Dennewill -- if you are interested in what we discovered about them, check our other blog here. But in this post we are describing how we went about recording them.

It seemed like a good opportunity to come to grips with the BillionGraves Android app.

In theory it is simple: take a photo of the gravestone inscription with a cellphone, upload it to the BillionGraves database and there it is, waiting for someone to look at it, with the GPS coordinates showing its exact location.

We'd tried it a couple of times before, when we'd been on holiday far from home, and seen a grave of some relative. But it somehow never seemed to work. But this was close to hom. I printed out the instructions, and carefully read the web site on the computer at home, so this time it would surely work. It didn't

The pictures wouldn't upload. I thought I'd delete them and try again. The application crashed. It also seemed locked on the wrong cemetery -- it showed Mamelodi cemetery, which was about 4 km away. There is a thing for adding another cemetery, but when you're actually in the cemetery, looking at a squitty little screen on a phone in bright sunlight, it's easy to miss that option.It has a thing for linking two or more photos of the same gravestone, but it is also hard to see what pressing the link has done, if anything.

So we took pictures on ordinary digital cameras as well -- no good for BillionGraves, because they don't have GPS positioning to inpoint the location of the grave.

We went home again, and then with our WiFi were able to upload the photos. And, after a lot of fruitless efforts, we finally managed to enter a new cemetery into the database.

With the photos taken on ordinary cameras we were able to record them on the Find-a-Grave site, where one has to do everythin g manually, but at least you can see whether it has worked and what is there.

So both sites are very useful. If BillionGraves is working as advertised with no glitches, then it's brilliant. You can zip down a row at a cemetery taking a photo every couple of seconds and upload them every 5 graves or so.

With Find-a-Grave you have to upload each picture individually, link it to the right cemetery, and type in the name of the person mentioned on the stone. Even at it's best, it's more work. But it's reliable.

BillionGraves is quick when it works well, but slow and frustrating when it doesn't. But it's a good idea and deserves support.

I have one recommendation to make. If you join BillionGraves, look first at the Transcription option. That lets you index people and transcribe epitaphs that other people have photographed. The value of that is that you can get a better idea of how the site worls, and become familiar with it. It could be that that will reduce fumbling and floundering when you get to a cemetery and you're not sure what is happening.

The trouble is that, like the recording of graves, when the transciption system works, it works well, but four times out of five I get the message "Oops... we just had an error on our side. Try again later"

Monday, September 29, 2014

Closing of Family Wiki on Wikispaces

For some years now we have had a family wiki on Wikispaces, but we were recently told that it would have to close. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, as it will result in numerous broken links, which we will try to fix when we discover them, but we don't have time to go looking for them.

This is the notice that we received from the owners of Wikispaces:

Today we announced on our blog that Wikispaces is no longer offering a free wiki option for non-education wikis. is currently not categorized as an education wiki and it is on our free plan. In order for it to remain active, it must be categorized as an education wiki or upgraded.
We are notifying you, as you are an organizer of this wiki.
If you no longer use this wiki, you may ignore this email.
Otherwise you may categorize this wiki as an education wiki, pay for this wiki, or export the contents of this wiki for use offline or on another service. To make your choice please visit the following link:
If you take no action this wiki will be deleted in no fewer than 30 days.
If you have any questions please let us know.
The Wikispaces Team
We have downloaded the contents of the site, as they suggested, in WikiText, PDF and HTML formats, just to save the work that had been done on it. Maybe one day we may look for a new host for it, but that is not a high priority, because having a family wiki didn't seem to work too well, and it achieved nothing that could not be done with our family history blog.

When we started it, we thought it might give an opportunity for collaborative family history, with a group of people contributing information, family stories and more. We hoped that others would be moved to start family wikis for their own families, in which shared family members could be linked.

But somehow this never worked out.

Though our family wiki seemed to get about 50-80 visitors a day, it was very rare indeed for any of them to contribute anything to it, or even leave a message to say that they had visited and found, or not found, what they were looking for. It seems that for most people, wikis are not a good way of collaborating, and most prefer things like blogs and mailing lists -- we've certainly had far more interaction on those that we ever had on the wiki.Some even like to use Facebook, though that seems to be altogether the wrong medium for such a purpose.

So we won't be looking for a new home for the wiki any time soon, but we'll keep the archives as a memento.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Can you use Pinterest for Genealogy?

I forget why I joined Pinterest -- probably because a friend or family member invited me to do so. I've used it very little, and have never really understood how it works or what it is supposed to do. So I welcomed this article, which is the clearest and most lucid explanation of how it is supposed to work that I have ever seen. Perhaps Pinterest could include it on their site for bewildered newcomers. If, like me, you joined Pinterest without really knowing what it was about, it's worth reading, whether you are into genealogy or not. Can you use Pinterest for Genealogy?:
The real use of Pinterest is that each image is associated with its website of origin. So if you are the type of person that remembers things visually, you can use the pins or individual images as reminders of the content of the original websites. It is also possible to do “research” on Pinterest on a given topic. If you search for a particular topic, the results will show all of the pins relating to that topic. Each of the images is really a link to the website where the image originated, so by clicking on the images you can effectively go directly to that website. In this way, Pinterest becomes just another way of organizing and finding content on the Internet.

If you need a place to store genealogically related websites you encounter on the Internet, you can pin an image from the site and then you will have a visual reminder of the site on your Pinterest board. This may ultimately be more useful for finding content, especially if you are a person who thinks visually. Also, if you run across a photo of family members on the Internet, you can pin the image and not only capture the image, but also a link to the website where you found the image.

From that I would conclude that Pinterest is a kind of visual blog, in the original sense of blog, as a web log, a place where you make a list of web sites you have visited and would like to have a record of so you can visit them again.

I have a blog that I use mainly for that original blogging purpose, Simple Links, and I find it quicker and easier to use than Pinterest.

I have several other blogs, which I use for different purposes rather than as simple web logs -- a couple for observations on the world around me, ideas I want to share and discuss with friends, and also genealogy and family history, where I write up some of our research and discoveries for other family members to read.

I have two family history blogs. There is this one, which, like the Simple Links one, does more or less fulfil the original purpose of a web log -- it is mainly links to web sites that I find interesting or useful for genealogical and historical research, like this article, for example. I publicise this blog a bit more than the Simple Links one because I think that some of the links that interest me may be of interest to other genealogists too.

The second blog, Hayes and Greene Family History, is mainly a sort of research log, recording things we have found and problems we have encountered in the course of our family history research. They are things we like to share with other people, because other family members may be interested in research findings, and others may be able to help with some of the queries. But none of these things seems to be served very well by Pinterest. If I want a log of web sites visited that I may want to visit again, I find my Simple Links blog works better. If it is specifically genealogy web sites I want to record, then I use this blog. But I find Pinterest rather confusing and more complicated to use. Other people's minds may work in that way, but mine doesn't seem to, so I look at Pinterest maybe about once in three months, if that.

If I want a visual record of a web page with some of its content, including pictures, with a link back to the original; site, I find Evernote much better. That still works even if the original web site has disappeared -- you can clip whole artlcles, or even pages, to Evernote.

But if you want to know what Pinterest is supposed to do, this article is pretty good.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Genetic map of Britain

A genetic mapping project at the University of Oxford has shown a surprising degree of clustering in different geographical regions of the UK.

Genetic map of Britain goes on display - University of Oxford:
On the genetic map of Britain, Cornish people clustered separately from those from Devon, while the Scottish and Irish tended to share the same DNA markers. Those in South Wales formed a group, while there were separate clusters in the Welsh borders and in Anglesey in North Wales. People in Orkney were different from everyone else. In England, the majority of the South, South-East and Midlands formed one large group. Cumbria, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders seemed to share a common past. And Lancashire and Yorkshire, despite their rivalry, seemed to be as one genetically.

In the project DNA samples were taken from 4000 people whose four grandparents all came from the same area. so this does not necessarily tell about the entire UK population, but rather about those whose ancestors tended to stay put where they were born.

It would be interesting to see if a sample was taken of people whose great grandparents, or great great grandparents had all come from the same area,  as the genetic variations would probably become clearer still, though it might be more difficult to find a sample as many people do not know the names of all their great grandparents, much less where they were born. I certainly didn't know the names of all mine until I started genealogical research 40 years ago.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lives of the First World War

This year is the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, and the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War (at least in Europe), and no doubt there will be several commemorations of the event.

My blogging friend Cherry Pie has drawn attention to an interesting project in this regard -- Cherie's Place: Lives of the First World War:
My post is about a project launched by the Imperial War Museum (IWM). It is a digital memorial to record the life of every person who served in uniform or worked on the home front during World War One. An ancestor of mine is listed on the site so I will be taking a small part in the project. I invite you to join me there.
She describes the project more fully here, and  as the blurb says:
Today (12 May 2014), Imperial War Museums (IWM) has launched Lives of the First World War and needs your help to tell the life stories of millions of people from across Britain and the Commonwealth who served in uniform and worked on the home front.

Over the course of the next five years, Lives of the First World War, delivered in partnership with DC Thomson Family History, will become the permanent digital memorial to over 8 million men and women. IWM is urging everyone to discover their First World War connections and remember and share these with the rest of the world online at

I don’t have any ancestors who served in the First World War — they seemed to be all the wrong age to do so, either too old or too young, but my wife has some, and we both have some collateral relatives who did so, great uncles, second cousins twice removed and so on. I recently wrote about one of them in our family history blog, Growden family in Lancashire | Hayes & Greene family history.

There is also a memorial to another one here. He was Captain Stanley Livingstone Hannan, who was killed at Cambrai, and has a memorial in Girvan Cemetery, but his father was jailed as a conscientious objector, so there are contrasting lives of the First World War even in the same family.

So this seems to be an interesting project for genealogists to participate in, and it will no doubt become a useful genealogical resource.

There's just one drawback.

When I try to register for the site, they send a Confirmation E-mail, which is wirtten in "lazy HTML", with no plain text alternative. And when I click on the "Confirm Registration" link, it crashes my e-mail program, every time, and sends off a report to Microsoft to report why the program had to close. I think the Imperial War Museum's programmers have been too clever by half. Lazy HTML (linking to pictures etc on a remote web site, instead of including them in the mail) is a spammer's trick, and my e-mail reader immediately flags such messages as "Junk and Suspicious Mail", and rightly so, since e-mail that crashes the reader is a form of malware. And it is all so unnecessary -- all it needs is a plain text URL to click on for confirmation and the job is done.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rootsweb southern African mailing lists still down

On 16 June 2014 there was a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on, which hosts the Rootsweb mailing lists.

These mailing lists are still down after a week, and there's been no information about when they will be working again.

This has affected some of the lists dealing with parts of Africa, especially the southern African ones.

Until they are working again, people who are feeling cut off are welcome to post things in the general African genealogy list, which is not hosted by Rootsweb and so is still working. After all, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are just as much part of Africa as Tunisia, Mauretania and Somalia.

African genealogy list

Group Email Addresses

Post message:

I've posted this to some of the people who I know have recently been active in the southern African Rootsweb lists.

When the Rootsweb lists are working again, of course you can go back to posting material of purely local interest in the specialist local lists, but I hope you will continue to post material of general African interest
in the African list.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mundia to close --

For some years now Mundia has been functioning as a kind of Ancestry Lite -- a place where you could upload your family tree and look at other people's family trees, including those on We discovered it about 3 years ago when we were doing research into the Ellwood family, and it had some usefulness in enabling us to get in touch with some Ellwood researchers, but it also had many flaws, some of which I have described here: Genealogy notes and news: Mundia -- yet another flawed family history site.

Now comes the news that are planning to close Mundia down in September, along with a few of their other services Genealogy Insider - to Retire Five Genealogy Services:
Mundia family trees also are on, where you can search them for free (you must subscribe in order to contact tree owners, which is the case with all of's member trees). Mundia tree owners can download their family trees in their native language before Sept. 5.

This tends to confirm what I thought when I first saw it -- that Mundia was a "honeypot" site, designed to persuade people to give their family history information to Ancestry, so that Ancestry could then sell it to others.

Well, their announcement that the site is to close also says that they will not sell it to others, but that it will still be available free, but you will not be able to contact any of the people who uploaded their family trees without paying. And there is nothing to stop Ancestry charging people, including you, to look at your tree later.

It is for this reason that I did not upload my family tree on Mundia. Their terms of service were quite clear:
For each item of content that you post, you grant to us and our affiliates a world-wide, royalty free, fully paid-up, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, transferable, and fully sublicensable (including to other Website users) license, without additional consideration to you or any third party, to: (i) reproduce, distribute, make available, transmit, communicate to the public, perform and display (publicly or otherwise), edit, modify, adapt, create derivative works from and otherwise use such content, in any format or media now known or later developed; (ii) exercise all trademark, publicity and other proprietary rights with regard to such content; (iii) use your name, photograph, portrait, picture, voice, likeness and biographical information as provided by you in connection with your content for the Service, in each case, in connection with your content. For example, after your registration or subscription has ended, we may continue to use and display any content that you previously posted, and other users may continue may access, change, edit, add to, subtract from or otherwise amend such content. If you do not want to grant us the rights set out in these Terms of Use, please do not post any content on the Website.
Much of that is fairly standard for social networking sites as well as genealogy ones. It is to obviate complaints from people, who, having posted their information publicly, then complain that their privacy has been violated. But in several respects it goes well beyond that, especially in this clause, "(ii) exercise all trademark, publicity and other proprietary rights with regard to such content".which gives them the right to stop you from publishing your family tree anywhere else.

One of the problems with Mundia is that it encourages people to add people from other family trees to thsir own, and makes irt very easy to do so without checking the accuracy or validity of the information. And a lot of people have in fact posted inaccurate information, so that faulty family trees on Mundia sometimes outnumber good ones. We've given an example of this here: Jane Ellwood and the perils of online family trees | Hayes & Greene family history, where about 90% of the trees on Mundia are wrong.

In the light of that, and other examples, perhaps it is a good thing that Mundia is to close. But the closure will not make the bad information go away. It will just make it more difficult for people to correct it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Some DNA ancestry services akin to 'genetic astrology'

DNA testing seems to have become quite popular in some genealogical circles, but according to this report the testing, and the results, tend to be overrated.

BBC News - Some DNA ancestry services akin to 'genetic astrology':
Scientists have described some services provided by companies tracing ancestry using DNA as akin to astrology. Some test findings tell people that they have links to groups such as Vikings, to particular migrations of people and sometimes to famous figures such as Napoleon or Cleopatra But researchers working with a campaign group say DNA tests cannot provide accurate information about ancestry.
The article is interesting, but seems to skirt around the point that most concerns me.

I'm not likely to take a DNA test, mainly because of the expense, and doubts about their accuracy. Not, in the sense that the article suggests, of claiming that you are related to Napoleon, but how does one know that the samples that are sent to them are not contaminated, or mixed up with other samples, or even tested for DNA at all?

There's nothing to stop someone who wants to make a quick buck from advertising a mail-order DNA testing service, tossing any sample sent in the bin, and sending out prefabricated reports, just as there is nothing to stop mail-order astrologers from doing the same thing. And that is the thing that most concerns me. It is not the reports they concoct on the testing, but the method and accuracy of the testing itself that bothers me.

Assuming that the DNS testing is accurate, then, if it were also affordable, I might be interested. I belive it can show whether you are or are not likely to be related to a particular person whose DNA has been accurately tested. Thus if a a cousin and I are supposed to be descended from the same ancestor in the unbroken male or female line, a DNA test could show if it was so or not. I'm not sure that it it could show that as clearly in the case of mixed sex descent -- if my cousin is descended from my great great grandfather's sister, or great great grandmother's brother, for example.

Thursday, June 19, 2014, Mundia, Find-a-Grave, DDoS attacks & closures

Over the last few days it has been difficult to get into some genealogy sites, including, Find-a-Grave, Mundia and others. Rumours and conflicting reports have abounded. One story was that there was a DDod (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on the servers. It's not clear why anyone should attack generalogy sites, but perhaps they did.

It also seems that reports that the attack had been neutralised are premature, since I've had no mail from any of the Rootsweb mailing lists since 16 June -- unless the mailing lists are one of the services that Ancestry is dropping, as described below.

Another story is that are planning to retire some of their services -- see here Genea-Musings: BIG News from - Announcing Retirement of Several Features and Websites: Retirement:

* Mundia trees have always been part of Ancestry and are available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish.

* Members can download the family trees they've created in Mundia in their native language before 5 September 2014.

* Mundia trees can be accessed for free on

That is rather sad. Mundia was a bit clunky, but it was a kind of "Ancestry-lite" for those who couldn't afford the full subscription to

The DDoS reports also seem to be true, as some Ancestry services, like the Rootsweb mailing lists, appear to be suffering from delays. And it had a weird spin-off for us this morning. We've started getting phone calls from people wanting the Castle Wine and Brandy Company.

Very odd, since if you go to the web site of the Castle Wine and Brandy Company, their phone number is clear, and it is not ours.

But if you search for it on Google, the top three search results are:

  1. [SOUTH-AFRICA] Castle Wine & Brandy Co. - Archiver › SOUTH-AFRICA2007-09
    From: "Steve Hayes" <> Subject: Re: [SOUTH-AFRICA] Castle Wine & Brandy Co. Date: Sun, 09 Sep 2007 18:06:44 +0200. In-Reply-To: ...
  2. [SOUTH-AFRICA] Castle Wine & Brandy Co. - Archiver › SOUTH-AFRICA2007-09
    From: "Rod Gebhardt" <> Subject: [SOUTH-AFRICA] Castle Wine & Brandy Co. Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2007 09:57:06 +0200. Good Morning to all, I am trying to find ...
  3. [SOUTH-AFRICA] Castle Wine & Brandy Co. - Archiver › SOUTH-AFRICA2007-09
    From: Andrew Rodger <> Subject: Re: [SOUTH-AFRICA] Castle Wine & Brandy Co. Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2007 23:12:45 +1000. References: ...
Those are messages written in a Rootsweb mailing list seven years ago?

And other search engines (eg Bing) are not much different.

So what seems to have happened is that the extra traffic generated by the DDoS attack has pushed the old Rootsweb messages up in the search engine rankings (did any of the SEO fundis predict this?)

The bad news is that Castle Wine and Brandy may lose some business, and I may get some nuisance phone calls. Also, that responses on Rootsweb lists may be slow as the servers try to cope with the bombardment.

The good news is that some old and long-forgotten genealogy queries may float to the top of Google and other searches, and so researchers might get some responses from people who might otherwise never have seen them.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Genea-Musings: Dear Randy: How Do I Cite a Church Record on an FHL Microfilm?

This blog post contains some detailed and helpful information about recording microfilmed sources. Genea-Musings: Dear Randy: How Do I Cite a Church Record on an FHL Microfilm?:
Genea-Musings reader Sandy asked this question in a recent email. She found a church record of a baptism on a Family History Library microfilm and wanted to know how a source citation might be crafted. I have some records like this, so I used the question as an opportunity to add some sources citations to my database. I used the RootsMagic 6 source template for "Church Records - FHL-GSU Microfilm" to craft this source citation.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

You are looking for ancestors, but is someone looking for you?

Is an old friend looking for you?

Are you looking for an old friend, or a long lost cousin?

Who? Me? Link Image

Go on, click on the link, or enter your name to find out if someone is looking for you.

Is someone looking for you? Who? Me? Type your last name and search!

This morning an old friend contacted me, one I had not seen for more than 50 years. We were at university together, and then he left and I never saw him again. He found one of my web pages, and so was able to get back in touch.

Some years ago a distant cousin phoned me from the UK. We had never met, but he had somehow found I was researching family history. Then we visited the UK and met him, but later he moved house and changed his e-mail address and I lost touch with him.

I tried search engiens, Facebook and other social networking sites,  but he seemed to have disappeared without a trace. I wondered if something terrible had happened to him, if his whole family had been wiped out in a car crash or something.

I tried to get in touch with him through Who? Me? but he never looked there to know that I was looking for him.

Eventually I typed his name into Copernic, a disk search utility, and it found him -- whether on my disk or on another site, I don't know, but now we are back in touch. But we could have been back in touch years ago if only he had looked at Who? Me?

There are other fellow genealogy researchers that I have lost touch with, and occasionally I discover some information that I think might interest them, but there is no way of telling them, because the e-mail address I have for them no longer works. I've entered some of them in Who? Me? but it won't help if they don't look.

The point of this post is that I think that Who? Me? is a useful resource for genealogists and others, but the more people who use it, be better it will work, so please try it. Go to the site, enter your name, and see if anyone is looking for you. Do this especially if you have recently moved or changed your e-mail address.

And then enter a couple of names of people you have lost touch with and would like to find. 

The basic service is free, but if you pay something you can get an enhanced service -- details are on the site.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Why do local newspapers never tell you where they are?

One of the things that is useful about the World Wide Web is that local newspapers often have web pages that have news items about families whose history one is researching. The problem is that there is often nothing on the web page to show where they are. Their print version may only circulate locally, so it would be unnecessary to give that information, but a web page can be seen by people anywhere in the world.

Take this one, for example: Community award for Dunsborough woman | Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.

That one is of interest to me because I am researching the Growden/Growdon family, and so wonder if the person concerned may be related to me. But where is it?

I can see from the domain name of the site that it is probably in Australia, and no doubt I could use a search engine look up Busselton or Dunsborough, but sometimes place names can be quite common, and you can find places with the same name in several different countries, or even different parts of the same country. There are at least two Richmonds and two Heidelbergs in South Africa, for example, and several in other countries too.

OK, a Google search tells me that Dunsborough is a coastal town in the South West of Western Australia, 254 kilometres south of Perth on the shores of Geographe Bay. But would it really cost that much effort for them to put "Western Australia" somewhere on the masthead of their web page?

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Sharing memories

Sharing memories is central to family history, and I suppose that is one of the reasons for keeping a family history blog. Here's a blog post that gives some good reasons for sharing memories, and shos that it doesn't have to be complicated: Your Memories: 5 More Reasons to Share - Treasure Chest of Memories:
You don’t have to write a life story. A memory can be a moment. You can journal your memories or write about individual episodes of your past. You can simply provide a narrative of your memories on a scrapbook page.
In addition to the reasons given in that article, I can think of a few more. One can share memories of good times, but one can also share memories of bad times. One of my memories is of a song, "Even the bad times were good", and that can be said of some of the memories I've recorded in a series of blog posts called Tales from Dystopia | Khanya -- about life in the apartheid era in South Africa. In the introduction I have some of the reasons for recording some of those memories, and I also tried to encourage others to record some of their memories of that period too.

Some share memories on Facebook, and indeed there are some pages and groups on Facebook that are deliberately designed for the sharing of memories. I recently joined one such group called We grew up in Orange Grove Johannesburg, and I am a member of another one called Who lived/s in MELMOTH?

But the trouble with Facebook groups is that they are ephemeral, and it is difficult to find things in them again. Also, you have to be a member of Facebook to see stuff there.

A better way of dealing with such things is to write a blog post about them, and then post a link to the blog post on the Facebook group. The Facebook group shares the memories immediately, but the blog post will last longer, and people will be ab le to find it with search engines and so on.

But even a blog post won't last forever -- if you have a self-hosted (paid) blog, then when you die, or lose interest, unless someone is sufficiently interested to go on paying for it, everything you posted there will disappear pretty quickly. Free blog sites (like this one, for instance) may last a bit longer. There are probably plenty of blogs hosted by Blogger (Blogspot) where the authors have died. One example was Hugh Watkins, a well-known genealogy blogger, whose last post rather poignantly tells that he was going to hospital, where he died. But Google, who own Blogspot, won't last forever either,  and blog hosting sites can die too, so it's best to keep a copy on your computer too.

You can even record other people's memories, in a sense, and stories they told. For example, my wife retired yesterday, and so I wrote a blog post about my memories of her career. That may be of interest to our children one day, even if to no one else.

I remember watching a TV series a few years ago, The Human Footprint, which, among other statistics, mentioned that the average person gets to know about 1750 other people in the course of their life. That inspired me start making a list of people I have known, and what I can remember about them -- friends, acquaintances, teachers, bosses, relatives, work colleagues and even enemies. Sometimes people e-mail me their memories too and I add those, and sometimes there are on-line or published obituaries.

One way I tried to collect family memories, which has been rather unsuccessful so far, is a family history wiki.  That is the ideal tool for such things, but one of my experiences of computer communications is that people are rarely willing to use the best tools for the job, and are more likely to choose inappropriate ones, like Facebook, for such purposes.

And there is also hard copy.

One of the sadder reasons for collecting memories is, for example, children whose parents have Aids, or some other terminal illness, and are likely to die of the disease. New drugs have helped to prolong the life of Aids patients, but the disease is still incurable, and one of the things people have done is to make "memory boxes", in which they collect stories, pictures etc from their and their  childrens lives, so that the children can have them when the parents are no longer there.

Memory boxes are not just for Aids patients either. I knew one family where they had tape recordings of the father telling stories to his children, and then he was killed in a car accident, and that recording became one of the most precious possessions of the children.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Devon ancestors: the right to remain silent

If you have ancestors in Devon, you might find this blog interesting:

The Right to Remain Silent -- Devon Quarter Sessions Records 1734-1804

The blog is closed now, and no more is being added to it, but I've bookmarked it here because it seems to contqain some fascinating stuff.