Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Put not your trust in the Internet to keep your data safe

Over the last decade I've noticed a change in the way people speak of genealogy software. In the past we assumed that the software was on our computer, as was the data, and people would be warned of the need to keep backups off site in case of fire, theft or other disasters.

Now more and more people seem to assume that your data will only be on a remote site, and will not be on your computer at all. They assume that in order to "start a family tree" you need to subscribe to some or other company like Ancestry.com. It seems not to occur to many people that it is even possible to "start a family tree" using your own software on your own computer.

So now the danger is reversed. In the past you were advised to "keep a backup in the Cloud, just to be on the safe side." But how safe is that? How safe is your data in the cloud?

The recent closure of YahooGroups shows that it is not at all safe. See this article: The Old Internet Died And We Watched And Did Nothing:
Most likely, you have some photos that are lost somewhere, some old posts to a message board or something you wrote on a friend’s wall, some bits of yourself that you put out there on the internet during the previous decade that is simply gone forever.
The internet of the 2010s will be defined by social media’s role in the 2016 election, the rise of extremism, and the fallout from privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica. But there’s another, more minor theme to the decade: the gradual dismantling and dissolution of an older internet culture.
This purge comes in two forms: sites or services shutting down or transforming their business models. Despite the constant flurries of social startups (Vine! Snapchat! TikTok! Ello! Meerkat! Peach! Path! Yo!), when the dust was blown off the chisel, the 2010s revealed that the content you made — your photos, your writing, your texts, emails, and DMs — is almost exclusively in the hands of the biggest tech companies: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, or Apple.
The rest? Who knows? I hate to tell you, but there’s a good chance it’s gone forever.
Though that article does not mention any specific genealogy sites, the principle is the same. And there were numerous family history groups on YahooGroups where people shared their family history data and their research, and advised each other on sources and resources. And now it's going, going, gone.

So if you want to "start a family tree", don't ask which is the best web site to do so. You don't need to subscribe to a web site to start a family tree! Ask rather "Which is the best family tree software for my computer and operating system?"

At the time of writing my recommendation for genealogy programs is Rootsmagic, or Legacy.

By all means back up your data in "the Cloud", but keep your primary data on your computer at home, where you can control it.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Mega-List of Paying Markets for Horror, Dark Fiction and Poetry

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Mega-List of Paying Markets for Horror, Dark Fiction and Poetry:
Much like other genres of speculative fiction, horror enjoys a loyal, and possibly fixated, fan base. Horror isn't all blood and gore. The subgenres include everything from the mildly unsettling (like Twilight Zone), to splatterpunk (which is exactly what you think it is). Some of the genres accepted by horror magazines include: humorous horror, holiday horror, psychological horror, science fiction horror, slasher horror, supernatural horror, gothic horror, erotic horror, teen horror and, of course, anything with zombies, werewolves, vampires, or other malevolent creatures. Many of the magazines on this list also accept dark fiction, dark fantasy, and other genre crossovers that evoke a sinister mood. Read the submission guidelines, and make sure to follow them carefully before submitting.

Monday, December 02, 2019

The roots of Westville's historic tree | Highway Mail

The roots of Westville's historic tree | Highway Mail:
FROM the earliest years, the infant colony of Natal depended on transport for its development. One of the first, and most important route, was the road from Durban into the interior. Part of this old wagon route, known as the Old Main Road, still survives. The portion in Westville is today Jan Hofmeyr Road and that in Pinetown Josiah Gumede Road. Sections can also be found in the Upper Highway area as it wends its way towards Pietermaritzburg. Before the opening of the railway line to Pietermaritzburg in 1880 – it only reached the ‘Natal’ border in 1891 and goods were delivered by wagons drawn by oxen.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Most Common Last Name in Every Country - NetCredit

An interesting web site showing the most common surnames in every country in the world The Most Common Last Name in Every Country - NetCredit:
In Africa, most surnames are connected to geographic origin, occupation, lineage or personal characteristics. One surname-type unique to the continent is the praise-name, which expresses character traits or other admirable attributes.[6] Ilunga, for example, is of Bantu origin. It roughly translates to “a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.”[7] It is the most common surname in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


GEDCOM version 5.5.5 is the first new version of GEDCOM in twenty years. GEDCOM 5.5.1 was introduced on 2 October 1999. Today, exactly twenty years later, GEDCOM 5.5.5 is available from gedcom.org; the GEDCOM site is back.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Yahoo is shutting down its Groups website and deleting all content

I just saw this announcement today which, if true, will mean that hundreds, if not thousands of genealogy mailing lists will be cut off with very little notice. Yahoo is shutting down its Groups website and deleting all content:
Yahoo (owned by Engadget's parent company Verizon) is phasing out one its longest-standing features. The internet pioneer is closing the Yahoo Groups website in a two-phase process that will effectively see it disappear. You'll lose the ability to post new content on October 21st, and Yahoo will delete all "previously posted" material on December 14th. Users can still connect to their groups through email, but the site will effectively be vacant. All groups will be made private and require an administrator's approval. If you're at all interested in preserving your history on the site, you'll want to download your data either directly from posts or through Yahoo's Privacy Dashboard.
It should be borne in mind that Tahoo! got into the mailing list business when it took over something called E-Grous, which ran public mail servers. If they were concerned about their customers they would give them enough notice and time to possibly arrange for alternative mail servers. As Yahoo! took over E-groups, so other servers could possibly take over some of the lists hosted by Yahoo!. But if they close it down with such short notice I will certainly be removing my Yahoo! Id, and will have nothing more to do with any of their services in future.

Irish genealogy resources made available for free online

Irish genealogy resources made available for free online:
Irish birth and marriage certificates from as far back as 1864 are now available for free online, while death certificates between 1878 and 1968 are also accessible. A plethora of Irish genealogy records has been made available online thanks to a joint initiative from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Friday, October 04, 2019

You Need to Make a 'When I Die' File—Before It's Too Late | Time

We sometimes wish our ancestors had left more information for us, but how much are we leaving for our descendants? Here are some ideas for what to include in a "When I die" file. You Need to Make a 'When I Die' File—Before It's Too Late | Time:
What Molly and Ira found instead took them by surprise: Inside, their mother had carefully organized all of her papers, including the account numbers, pending transactions, and a bundle of other documents they’d need to settle her affairs and distribute her belongings. It was as though their mother had baked them one last batch of kugel from beyond and left it waiting there for them to arrive. “This was not a Buddhist master’s awareness of death,” Ira Byock says. “It was a Jewish mother’s love for her children.” What Ruth had compiled was what we call a “When I Die” file, and it may be the single most important thing you do before you depart. It may sound morbid, but creating a findable file, binder, cloud-based drive, or even shoebox where you store estate documents and meaningful personal effects will save your loved ones incalculable time, money, and suffering. Plus, there’s a lot of imagination you can bring to bear that will give your When I Die file a deeper purpose than a list of account numbers. One woman told us she wants to leave her eulogy for husband in the file, so she can pay homage to him even if she goes first.
And including a couple of printed family group sheets wouldn't go amiss either -- those dates and places needed for forms etc.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Most Dangerous Cities in the World - WorldAtlas.com

The Most Dangerous Cities in the World - WorldAtlas.com:
Three cities in South Africa also make it to the list of the world's most dangerous cities: Cape Town (62.25), Durban (38.12), and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) (37.53). South Africa, which occupies the southernmost part of the massive African continent, has often garnered publicity for its high crime rates, including murder rates. Factors such as high unemployment rates and systemic racism have been blamed for the violent trends in South African cities.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Professional Historians, Personal Histories: A Roundtable on Objectivity, Subjectivity and Family History – Active History

Professional Historians, Personal Histories: A Roundtable on Objectivity, Subjectivity and Family History – Active History:
Any tension in professional historians pursuing research related to family arises from the longstanding expectation in the discipline that historians should be objective and distant from the subjects they study. This distance has often been described in temporal terms, with sideways glances if one proposes to undertake historical research deemed too recent. The craft of history thrives on distance, cherishing the decades and centuries between historian and subject. The idea is that distance enables scholars to better comprehend the historical record, the contingencies that led to particular events and phenomenon, and to assess their full implications. The celebration of distance means that there is considerable concern when historians propose to undertake more intimate research, research that is literally closer to home. As Benjamin Bryce acknowledges in his essay, “Our discipline clings to a belief in a certain degree of objectivity, and historians shy away from flagging our subjectivity more than other scholars.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Methodology: Forms - Genealogy Wise

Methodology Part 2: Forms - Genealogy Wise:
There were two suggested forms that really jumped out to me. They are things that 1) I already do and 2) I think that serious researchers should really do too. Hopefully you will see why by the end of this post.

First is the Daily Journal. I can hear some of you making noises about that one already. Trust me, I am not a journal writer per se but keeping a research journal is very important. This is more a running list of things you do on a daily basis with your research. Who did you call? What did you search? What were you results? Did you get an email and what did it say? Those types of things. The one place that you can keep track of all the hills, plateaus, rivers, and cliffs while using your genealogy compass.

Second, is a Repository Chart of research centers and websites that you use. Having a handy computer file, or binder with this form on the outside and all the brochures on the inside, is a great item to have on your genealogy bookcase. You can see where you have been, get clues for places you need to search, have the information for those repositories at your fingertips, and will not need to worry about forgetting what you can find where or wasting time with fruitless searches.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Novel writing and genealogy | Notes from underground

Something I wrote in one of my other blogs. It's only indirectly connected with genealogy, but suggests using genealogy software to keep track of characters in a novel. Novel writing and genealogy | Notes from underground:
One could think of several links, but now I’m thinking of using genealogy software to keep track of the characters in the novel you are writing. For about 40 years now genealogists have been using computer software to keep track of their family history. Genealogy is quite a popular pastime, and computers are a good way of keeping track of your relatives, and there are lots of programs available for doing so.
I wonder how many people have done this.

Friday, August 09, 2019

How Ancestry.com’s Find A Grave Encourages Bad Actors and Bad Data

A rather nasty article about Find-a-Grave, though some of its cautions do need to be taken seriously. How Ancestry.com’s Find A Grave Encourages Bad Actors and Bad Data:
Find A Grave, as I would soon learn, is a website that documents the final resting place of millions of people all over the world. With 180 million entries, it is the largest gravesite collection on the internet. Owned by genealogy giant Ancestry.com, Find A Grave differs in one major way from the company’s other sites: it seems to be composed entirely of user-generated material. Though the site has become a popular resource among genealogists and family historians, Ancestry claims no legal responsibility for the accuracy of Find A Grave’s information. Instead, much of the content creation and moderation work is left to a sprawling community of volunteers. It’s a Wikipedia of the dead, albeit with far fewer rules.
Find-a-Grave has been around for a long time. It originally seemed to be mainly for celeb graves until genealogists found out about it and started using it, so much so that Ancestry.com took it over, and changed the user interface without improving it, and just making it more difficult to use.

It does need some caution. If there is a photo of a gravestone, then the inscription says what it says, which may or may not be accurate. There is additional information, not on the stone, added by other people, which tries to link people with those buried in nearby graves. This too may or may not be accurate. And the person who is commemorated on the stone may not have been buried there at all, but ibn another cemetery, another town, another continent.

In spite of some problems, however, Find-a-Grave remains useful to genealogists and performs a public service by preserving the memory of people who might otherwise have been forgotten.

But the writer of the article seems determined to make it somehow sound sinister, and so adds gratuitous comments like that of parents complaining about people taking photos of their daughter's gravestone in a way that implies that it is as bad to do that as it would have been to take porn pictures of her while she was still alive. Why erect a public tombstone in memory of someone if you don't want other people to see or remember it? That attitude is far, far weirder than the people who record cemetery inscriptions, which the author of the article is trying to portray as somehow strange and sinister.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


All over Africa and its Island countries in every port city there are populations of African-Creole people who are a multi-ethnic mix with the major part of their ancestral heritage and culture being African. But as a result of the slave trade and maritime traffic on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines they also have in their genealogical and genetic ancestral-cultural heritage a mix of African, Indian, Arab, Southeast Asian, and Chinese and European roots. Under British colonial administration from 1911 people with this ancestry who have over 150 tributaries to their ancestral heritage were forcibly assimilated into one ‘race-silo’ labelled COLOURED and de-Africanised by colonial decree.
It should be borne in mind, however, that while all people described in this article as "Camissa" were labelled "Coloured", not all people labelled "Coloured" fit the Camissa description of the article, and that could lead to some confusion.

Confusion is also caused by the use of terms like "the Coloured community", as if labelling automatically creates community. It is also important to be aware of the distinction between genetic and cultural heritage. For example, "Camissa" does not appear to include people like the descendants of John Dunn, who are of Anglo-Zulu heritage, and though classified as "Coloured" during the apartheid era, would have had a different cultural heritage from the Camissa of the Cape.

 Also, a child born in Johannesburg 2001 of a Nigerian father and a Ukrainian mother might be classified as "Coloured" even in the post-apartheid era, but could not be said to belong to a Coloured "community", either culturally or genetically, and from a genealogical point of view, searching for "Camissa" ancestry for such a person could quickly lead to a dead end.

One of my wife's ancestors was a slave known as Francina van de Kaap, so she would probably fit the  Camissa description, but we haven't a clue about Francina's ancestry. "Van de Kaap" just means that she was born there, but her ancestors could have come from almost anywhere. Perhaps DNA testing could give a clue, but that is very expensive. Francina has many descendants alive today, most of whom are classified as "white", and wouldn't think of themselves as Camissa.

So from a genealogical point of view the Camissa description is a two-edged sword; it could help to clarify some things, but could also lead to more confusion.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pinterest for Authors: A Beginner's Guide | Jane Friedman

Pinterest for Authors: A Beginner's Guide | Jane Friedman:
Un-Social Network. Unlike other platforms that are all about connecting, Pinterest is not super social. This means you can be more businesslike about your time there. On Twitter or Facebook, if you aren’t engaging, you might turn people off. On Pinterest, no one cares if you comment or interact. It utilizes an algorithm like Facebook, so if you decide to pin twenty things in ten minutes, it won’t clutter up your followers’ home feed. You can get in, do some pinning, and get out. For those of us overwhelmed by conversations and connections, Pinterest is a refreshing platform. You can spend hours (or minutes) looking at pretty things and not have to talk to another human. It is an introvert’s dream: a social platform where you don’t have to be social to be successful. This also means that it’s really easy to get started with Pinterest as compared to other platforms. The downside: If you want to form collaborative relationships, this is not the best place to do it. Good thing we have 200 other platforms for that!

What does it mean to be genetically Jewish? | The Guardian

What does it mean to be genetically Jewish? | Life and style | The Guardian:
DNA tests have been used in Israel to verify a person’s Jewishness. This brings a bigger question: what does it mean to be genetically Jewish? And can you prove religious identity scientifically?

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

New Irish historical birth, marriage and death registers available online for public to access

New historical birth, marriage and death registers available online for public to access:
These records hold the births for 1917 and 1918, marriages from 1864 to 1869, 1942 and 1943 and deaths for 1967 and 1968. The release is part of an initiative by both departments to provide online access to historical records and registers compiled by the Civil Registration Service. The records – which were prepared by the Civil Registration Service and uploaded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – can be accessed on the website www.irishgenealogy.ie.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

270 Canadian obituary links

For those researching Canadian genealogy, here are some links to online obitiaries and obituary indexes. Blog - The Ancestor Hunt: During May, 2019 I have been updating the links to online obituary and obituary index collections that are available to search for free. There are a total of 270 online database links that I have found for Canada. Of these, 87 have been added since the previous update. So not only can we search old newspapers for these gems, we sometimes can get transcriptions and clippings and also get directed to the location of the obituaries from obituary indexes.

Fortify Your Family Tree: 4 Quick Family Tree Clean-up Tasks

Fortify Your Family Tree:
4 Quick Family Tree Clean-up Tasks
: Here are 4 things you can do to make your family tree better and more professional. Think of this list as a mental break. These tasks don't take a ton of thought, and you can tackle them when you're: frustrated by a brick wall in your family research bored because there's nothing good on TV trying to avoid doing your chores unable to decide which of your dozens of branches you want to work on. The article has suggestions for adding estimated birth dates and death dates, how to deal with missing surnames and places.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Goodbye research log -- hello Zotero

After reading this and other articles on the uses of Zotero, I downloaded it and I'm now trying it out.

Goodbye research log -- hello Zotero — The Golden Egg Genealogist:
Zotero, a robust and free bibliographic and note-taking software package, gives me everything I ever needed from a research log and so much more. Here’s what I love about Zotero as my new notebook:

  • It can serve as the storage location for all my notes, with links to all my PDF scans (because photocopies and file boxes are yesterday’s trauma).
  • It allows me to organize this information in multiple ways simultaneously — by ancestor, by status of completion, by library, by whatever, without duplicating anything.
  • It guides me in creating a bibliographic source, and I only do it once.
  • It allows me to search across a large database in an instant.
  • It provides access to everything, anywhere I have the Internet.
  • It backs itself up.

And for those who want to see their research in date order, it keeps track of the day I created the reference and the day I last modified it. And if it really matters to me to know the exact date I extracted a piece of information, and the above two dates don’t satisfy me, I can type it in the note. (Though I have never needed to know that.)

Zotero seems to do quite a lot of things. It does one thing that Evernote used to do, but no longer does -- it syncs data on two computers (or more) though a remote server at zotero.org.[1] You can download a free copy from Zotero.org and try it out yourself.

Its main use, however, seems to be managing bibliographies, which is a more specialised task than note-taking programs like Evernote or OneNote. I actually found askSam more useful, even though it doesn't sync, because it allows both structured and unstructured data in the same file.  To sync I just use a flash drive and a batch file to copy data from one computer to the other. For more on those programs see Genealogy notes and news: Using Evernote, OneNote and askSam for genealogy.

I've barely scratched the surface of Zotero, but if you are doing any kind of research that requires a bibliography and bibliographical citations, have a look at it. It's free, so you lose nothing if it doesn't work for you.

One of the things that impressed me about Zotero is the ease with which you can populate your bibliography. For one thing, you can type in the ISBN of a book, and it will find the rest of the information. It will also grab bibliographical information from sites like Amazon.com, though it doesn't seem to work too well with GoodReads -- it gets some of the information, but not all, and records it as a web page rather than as a book.
Notes and references
[1] Evernote may still sync for all I know, but it doesn't seem to work anymore for my desktop computer, which runs Windows XP, which, as all sorts of messages keep telling me, "is no longer supported". Now I know computer businesses need to make mopney and need to pay their staff and planned obsolescence is a tried and tested way of getting repeat business. But I'm a pensioner, and I can't afford to buy a new computer every couple of years, and a new operating system to go with it. So I just have to make do with what I have and hope that it lasts for the rest of my life. That's one reason that I don't use Ancestry.com -- not only can't I afford the subscription, but my browser is no longer supported, and if I want to update it I'm told my operating system is no longer supported.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Genealogical Searches for fiction Writers with Juliette Godot

Sometimes genealogical research appears in the plots of nocels, and reading The Fourth Protocol, a spy story by Frederick Forsyth actually helped us to find World War I & 2 records for many members of our families. ThrillWriting: Does Your Character Need to Access Her Past? Genealogical Searches for Writers with Juliette Godot:
Using a genealogical search as part of a plotline has always been a fascinating topic to me. Recently I met Juliette Godot on Twitter and asked if she'd mind letting me pick her thoughts a bit on the subject.
And my own novel The Year of the Dragon | Khanya has some genealogical research woven into the plot.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Organizing your family history research with Zotero - Organize Your Family History

Organizing your family history research with Zotero - Organize Your Family History:
Zotero is great for genealogy for all of these reasons and more:

  • It is free, with the stability and support of a university backing it up.
  • Even if you are syncing to the Zotero cloud, you can do that for years on free storage, before you have to buy some. And when you do buy storage, it’s inexpensive and unlimited.
  • It provides the structure missing from tools like OneNote and EverNote, but brings substantial flexibility, along with the structure.
  • It can add most catalogued online source citations to your Zotero library with one click.
    It can organize and provide one-click access to the thousands of documents, spreadsheets, photographs, and other files you have saved to your hard drive. In essence, it can draw all those files together into a uniform, organized system.
  • Zotero becomes your door to all you have collected.
    It allows you to create a record once but to file it in as many folders as you want without taking up significant extra space. You make a change once, and it changes in every folder.
  • You can find things rapidly, even if you only have vague memories of having long ago found a document that might be of use in solving a new genealogical problem.
    It will sync to the cloud, allowing you to access your work at Zotero.org, wherever you have Wifi access.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Exciting Changes Coming to GeneaBloggers | GeneaBloggers TRIBE

Exciting Changes Coming to GeneaBloggers | GeneaBloggers TRIBE:
Our vision for the organization is to extend our platform of support. Much like a genealogical society, we will offer a premium, “contributing” membership category, which will come with a slate of benefits such as training webinars, product discounts, and other opportunities offered by our partner vendors. A free, basic membership category will still be offered, and all current members will be “grandfathered in” at this level.
Be sure to #watchthisspace (this blog) and Sign-up for our email list if you haven’t already. More details will be coming later this month.