Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Huge Genealogy Mistake We All Need to Stop Making Now

The Huge Genealogy Mistake We All Need to Stop Making Now | Family History Daily:
As genealogy grows as a hobby, and information becomes easier and easier to find and share, one particular mistake has become a huge problem online – copying and sharing other people’s research. The reasons NOT to do this are numerous, and yet so many people continue the practice that longtime researchers can’t help wondering why? Perhaps it is because the reasons why not to are not as obvious as they seem — especially to those who are just starting out. So here is a breakdown of some of the top reasons you should avoid this practice at all costs, even though it can seem like the easiest route to a full family tree.
This article is definitely worth reading, and the problem is especially serious on sites like, where such copying is easy and actively encouraged. I've seen ten trees on that reproduce the same error, because they all copied it from each other. Three trees had the correct version, but because they are outnumbered by the false version, the error is more likely to spread than the correct version. How do I know? I found these trees on Mundia ('s discontinued free version) and because they were inconsistent, I wanted to find which was the correct version. That meant going back to the sources, and checking census returns for both households to see which children belonged to which family. The problem was that in two censuses the wife was away from home visiting other members of her family, so some researchers assumed that a woman of the same name in a different family was her. And those researchers' work got copied more than the work of those who found the correct family. In the past, one of the pieces of advice given to genealogist was to check first whether someone else had not already done it. Many people found that they had done a lot of painstaking research only to be told "Oh Uncle Jack worked all that out years ago". So by all means find out if someone has already done it. But in such cases, at least someone knows where Uncle Jack fits into the family (and even then, you should still check his work). The problem nowadays is that many peiople simply copy the work of complete strangers, and don't even attempt to make contact with them to find out how they know.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Google's New Free App Could Revolutionize How We Preserve Family Photos and Records | Family History Daily

Google's New Free App Could Revolutionize How We Preserve Family Photos and Records | Family History Daily:
Google has announced a new app today that brings the ease of scanning and preserving old family photos and records to a whole new level. And Anil Sabharwal, vice president of Google Photos, was inspired to create the free app by his own family’s past. According to CNET “His grandparents, who were Hindus living in what had just become the Muslim state of Pakistan, faced soldiers at the door who ordered them to gather what belongings they could carry to cross the Indian border. Leaving behind jewelry and other valuables, Sabharwal’s grandparents made sure to grab photos.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Hard To Read Gravestones

Hard To Read Gravestones |:
An alternative to traditional wax or crayon type rubbings is that of aluminum foil & a damp sponge. Place foil on marker, dull side up so the sun doesn’t reflect back into your eyes Using the damp sponge press gently so as to not tear the foil around the carving or writing areas and instantly you have a 3-D impression of the marker that you can keep or ball it up and put it into your recycling bin. Also try reading the foil impression under different lighting situations. Sometimes it works better if the foil is placed on a tabletop under artificial light when trying to read it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

50 Free Genealogy Sites to Search Today

50 Free Genealogy Sites to Search Today:
Looking for a list of free genealogy sites to search? Here are 50 no-cost family history resources where you will find birth, marriage and death records, obituaries, cemetery listings, newspaper articles, biographies, research tips and so much more. We had a lot of fun compiling this list of excellent websites. Remember, most free genealogy sites have been made available by the hard work and dedication of many volunteers! Don’t forget to thank them and give back when you can. Enjoy the search!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Was Darwinism Banned from Nazi Germany? - Evolution News & Views

Was Darwinism Banned from Nazi Germany? - Evolution News & Views: universities embraced Darwinism before the Nazis came to power, but the Nazi regime continued to appoint Darwinists to biology and anthropology professorships. Karl Astel, whom the Nazis appointed professor of human genetics and later promoted to rector (equivalent of president) of the University of Jena, was an avid Darwinist. He was also an SS officer who wanted to turn the University of Jena into a fully Nazified university. In order to accomplish this goal, he received Himmler's help in recruiting the biologist and SS officer Gerhard Heberer as a professor of human evolution at the University of Jena. Nazis appointed many other Darwinian biologists and anthropologists to professorships, too.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Revealed: The most common surnames in Britain and Ireland – and where they come from

Revealed: The most common surnames in Britain and Ireland – and where they come from:
A new comprehensive 'dictionary of names' revealing the origins of more than 45,000 of the most popular in Britain and Ireland has been published. The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland features the most common surnames and details about their origins. Smith, Jones, Williams, Brown and Taylor are among the most common names, while names including Farah, Twelvetrees and Li are amongst the 8,000 family names explained for the first time.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Millions of Free Records on FamilySearch Can Not Be Found via Search: Here's How to Access Them | Family History Daily

Millions of Free Records on FamilySearch Can Not Be Found via Search: Here's How to Access Them | Family History Daily:
It’s an often overlooked fact that a vast amount of FamilySearch’s collections can not be found via the search on their site. Millions of free family history records are waiting to be discovered but have not yet been indexed and are, therefore, somewhat hard to find. These records are invaluable tools for genealogists and cover a wide range of locales and time periods so we thought we’d offer a quick rundown on how to access them.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

How to Collect Oral History in Your Genealogy Research

How to Collect Oral History in Your Genealogy Research: As genealogists we are remiss if we do not gather our family’s oral history when we can. Oral history will give you facts about your family that cannot be found in formal records. For example, oral history told the story of why a great grandfather did not appear in the 1920 census. The casual researcher would have assumed he died when he was very much alive and working on a road crew in a neighboring state. This was how he, a farmer, earned extra money in the off-season of farming.

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.