Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Genealogy Cures the Common Cold and 43 Other Diseases

Note: After contacting my unnamed sources in the desert outside of Mesa, Arizona, I was able to obtain this top secret report from the American Advanced Genealogical Study Institute reporting a recent study about the effects of doing genealogy for 14 hours a day, seven days a week for 15 years. Please be aware that I am not responsible for this reports contents. Any use of this report's contents is strictly the responsibility of the individual. I must also report that my source has since disappeared into the Superstition Wilderness Area looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine.



22 October 2017. The AAGSI has today concluded a study that it has been secretly conducting for the past 15 years on the effects of doing genealogy for 14 hours a day, seven days a week. The study was concluded when the study subject succumbed to the 45th disease in the study. However, the promising conclusions of the study were verified just before the study subject expired. Yes, the study strongly supports the findings that the study subject, a white male approximately 70 years old, had actually been cured of 44 previously incurable diseases.

Before this study can be released to the public, it is necessary to substantiate the findings by doing another 15-year study using a group of grade school children. But because it will take approximately thirty years to train the children in genealogical research, the actual results of the follow-up study will not be available for approximately 45 years. Meanwhile, the AAGSI is secretly recruiting older test subjects who are already able to do research 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Participants will only be charged $1000 a month to participate in the study.

Subsequent Note: Unfortunately, it was almost 100 degrees outside when I met the informant out in the desert and by the time I was able to return to my air-conditioned car, I lost the rest of the report. All I was able to retrieve was this partial list of diseases from which the study subject was cured:

STUDY SUBJECT DISEASE CURES (in alphabetical order)

bladder in the throat
bone shave
crop sickness
eel thing
green fever
hectical complaint

This is where the document ends.

Your Local Library as a Genealogical Resource
If you take the time to look at your local library's website, you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that the library has a number of genealogically related services. This screenshot is a somewhat random page from a county in Florida. Granted, the resources are somewhat limited, but you should note that the main subject is a heritage collection of local photos. Here is a further screenshot of the collection page:*&by=KW&sort=PD&limit=TOM=dmc&query=&page=0&searchid=1
The genealogical resources that are available in local libraries often include local histories, photos, newspapers, and even journals, diaries, family bibles and other items of more than local interest. In addition, the librarians can be a source of valuable local information. I write about this topic from time to time because it is important that as we do research across the world to remember to check with the local libraries. By the way, I phone call does not constitute a visit. Sometimes phone calls will provide some information, but usually, a visit and taking the time to look at what is available will result in far more information.

Finding a local library is as simple as doing a search for a place and adding a search term such as the word "library." While you are searching for the local library, how about searching for a historical or genealogical society:
Here is the Alachua County Museum page.
Now you have three places to visit in this same county. Be sure to check on operating hours and services before attempting a visit.

Also, don't forget the county websites. Many of them have leads to further information about the county's history.

While you are doing research in the county, make time to visit and research in the court records and talk to local newspapers and mortuaries about their archives and records.

Targeted Advertising: Is it really targeted?

So-called targeted advertising is now part of our online world thanks to Google and all those who think that it is an effective way to reach consumers. Even genealogists are affected when we start seeing ads for genealogically related products initiated by our searches for data on different websites.

There are a lot of doomsayers and hand-wringers who predict the end of the world as we know it caused by Google trying to sell us products, but does targeted advertising really accomplish what they think it does?

Many years ago, my wife and I started the tradition of opening our mail next to a garbage can. Most of the obvious junk mail goes directly into the garbage without even being opened. When the unsolicited or junk mail is opened, we generally do this in order to shred the contents that might contain information we do not wish disseminated. In addition, we have junk filters on our computers that filter out almost all the spam. But what about display ads?

The idea behind targeted advertising is that as you do searches online, the information about you and your searches is used to match you up to products you would be interested in purchasing. Actually, this is not a new idea at all. Advertising companies have been targeting mailings for a long time. The reason the issue has become a concern is mainly based on the fact that Google and other search engines can gather so much more detailed information about us as users of their search services. This data is seen as a "threat" to our "privacy" and the unauthorized use of our personal information for profit.

The reality falls way short of the imagined effect of this targeted advertising. Here are some examples of why I find this to be the case:

1. Suppose I buy a replacement part for something that needs repair. I use the part to make the repair. Immediately, I start to get a series of online ads for the same part or related parts. I do not need the part again and I may never need the part again. The ads are mere noise and I am not induced in any way to buy the same part again that I only needed one time. This "one-time" issue goes for other items that I only purchase once a year or so. If I buy a new car, I am not likely to buy another new car for a long time so immediate ads for cars are simply noise and have no interest for me at all.

2. Again, let's suppose I search for a general topic such as "genealogy." On Google, my results will have one or more paid advertisements for genealogy-related websites. Here is an example.

If I happened to click on one or more of these paid advertisements, Google would directly or indirectly make a very small amount of money. But if I had actually wanted to find any one of these four websites, I would have searched for the website directly. Google has no real way of determining my motivation for searching for a general term. In this case, I used the search term as an example in this blog (Note: if you are in to self-referential statements, this blog post is fast becoming one).

3. So-called targeted advertising is entirely subject driven. If I search for clothes, I get clothes ads and so forth. But my searches do not always fall into the category of an interest in purchasing products. Targeted advertising makes an invalid assumption that I am a constant and single-minded consumer when nearly all my decision to purchase items falls into categories that are not addressed by advertising. For example, I periodically need to maintain my cars including oil changes, tires, windshield wipers, etc. When I search for these items online, I have a specific item or service in mind. Suggestions of other products are merely noise. This is particularly evident when the ads are trying to sell me products I already use or purchase. The products I really need or want seldom, if ever, appear in the targeted advertising.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Here is a targeted ad from one of our commonly used genealogy websites:

Once I sign in to, my screen changes into a series of "targeted" ads for different features or products. Obviously, FamilySearch is not trying to get me to buy something, but they are trying to motivate me as a "consumer" of their services. Yes, I am presently a "Temple and Family History Consultant" but the repeated ad does not take into account that I have already extensively "learned about my calling." Likewise, I am abundantly aware of Record Hints (i.e. the blue icon list on the right side of the page). In fact, all I really want to do is use the catalog or go to the Family Tree, this constant reminder of the services is nothing more or less than noise.

FamilySearch is certainly not alone in this practice of targeted advertising. Here is another example.

Here again is a list of "Product and Services," most of which are merely redundant listings of the items in the menu bar. This list does not take into account that I already have purchased a DNA test from and has "Learn about AncestryDNA" at the top of the list. In short, their targeted list includes nothing I am interested in when I go to to do research or update my family tree. I know I can "customize" my Ancestry startup page, but I hardly notice this page as I continue to use the program. I am certain that there is a whole legion of Ancestry employees who agonize over what to put on this list and how to present it. Their entire effort is simply lost on me.

What seems to be lost on most, if not all, of these online advertisers is that we ignore them. When the level of advertising reaches a certain point we also stop using their services. One common question I get from those who use is what are they supposed to do with the stuff that appears on their personalized startup page and my response is always to just ignore it unless there is something they are really interested in doing right at the moment. Yes, there are websites and services I will not use, simply because they saturate their online environment with advertising. Here is an example.

There is nothing that will make me use I do not want and will not look at the stuff on this website.

Friday, October 20, 2017

MyHeritage on Good Morning Britain

Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid Discover Their DNA Origins | Good Morning Britain

Aaron Godfrey - VP of Marketing for appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain. MyHeritage also recently appeared on Russell Brand's popular radio show which you can watch here.

Here is the United States, MyHeritage has not had a high-level media presence, especially when compared to another of the huge online genealogy companies. But recently, I have been seeing some video ads on so I am guessing that the company is finally making a move into a higher level of marketing visibility here in the U.S. as well as in Great Britain. 

The Catholic Heritage Archive from Findmypast is making a huge effort to build what will become the largest online archive of Catholic Church Records from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The archive will ultimately have approximately 100 million online, digitized records. 

Quoting from the website's description of the collection:
An introduction to the collection 
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Despite popular belief that it has few adherents in Britain and the US, it has always been a significant component (up to 25%) of the population. It has some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records ever created, however they have never been easy to use. Until now.

Findmypast has launched a ground breaking initiative to digitize these historic records of the Catholic Church. Millions of Irish records are already online, and they're being joined by the sacramental registers of England, Scotland and the US. Our first three Archdioceses alone (Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore) contain 30 million records, and that is just a part of this collection.

The sorts of records you are likely to find include:
  • Baptisms
  • Marriages
  • Deaths & Burials
  • Census and more 
We are commencing this project with the Registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the USA and the Archdioceses of Birmingham and Westminster in England. The Philadelphia records start back in 1757, while those for Westminster and Birmingham in 1657. 
Most of these records have never been accessible before by the public - either offline or online. We have developed a close collaboration with the Catholic Church to bring these millions of centuries-old records and images to your fingertips for the first time ever.
These records have already begun to appear online and will ultimately provide an insight into records that have not previously been available. 

My Last Conference (for a while)
As I write this post, I am in Mesa, Arizona to attend and present at the Mesa FamilySearch Library's Annual Family History Conference. My wife and I will both be participating in this conference and during one hour of the conference, we will both be teaching at the same time. We enjoy coming down to Mesa from our relatively new home in Provo, Utah to attend the conference and renew old friendships. In years past, I have taught every hour of the conference, but this year, I will have a couple of breaks in between classes to answer questions and talk to my friends.

In a larger sense, this particular conference marks a turning point in our participation in the genealogical community. This will be the last scheduled conference we will attend before leaving to go on a full-time, one year, mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will be serving as record preservation specialists in the Washington, D.C. North Mission. We are presently assigned to work at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland.

We are looking forward to this opportunity to do some of the "real" work of genealogy, the preservation of records.

Many of my friends and associates have asked about my continued participation in the international genealogical community particularly whether or not I will keep writing my blogs. Right now, that is an unanswered question. We will have to wait and see the extent of our involvement and responsibilities during the coming year. But, I will still keep writing and probably taking photographs. Whether that includes the time to post those online: we will have to wait and see. But I doubt that we will be attending any conferences during the coming year although we may get the opportunity to teach some classes and do some other presentations.

We plan to be back after a year.

The Continuing History of RootsMagic
For many years now, has been a mainstay of the genealogy software market. Last year, was the official 39th Anniversary of the company that ultimately developed the product we have today. In a series of continuing blog posts, Bruce Buzbee, the developer of the program, relates the history of the ultimate development of the product. 

As Bruce notes, it is appropriate for a company that specializes in genealogy to have a recorded history. What I think is even more important is the fact that the history of many of the major genealogy programs and companies is extremely difficult to find if such histories exist at all. Wikipedia is about the only really available source for the history of companies such as and I speculate that many of these companies are so focused on "proprietary" and internal information that they do not want to publicize their own history. 

I hope Bruce does continue his company's history and I would also hope that such a history becomes an example and at the same time an incentive to other companies to compile and tell their own stories. My own software roots go back to the very first programs developed for the Apple II computers back in the 1980s so for me, this is not only the history of genealogy software companies, but it is in part, my own history.