Monday, February 28, 2011

FamilySearch begins public beta of "Family Trees"

For several years, Ol' Myrt here has recommended that researchers clean up their genealogy databases because it won't be long before FamilySearch will give access to what for years was called "new" FamilySearch, not to be confused with the newly revised website design that we've all been working on since the turn of the new year.

Now comes word from Ancestry Insider that finally, the first hope of public access to the "Family Tree" part of FamilySearch, that here-to-fore only members of the LDS Church have been able to access. AI writes:

"In February 2011, we’ve invited a limited number of public users to begin testing public access to the new FamilySearch [Family Tree] website,” disclosed FamilySearch. “These valued testers will help us make sure the system can handle the increased load.” Don’t bother begging; FamilySearch has already selected the testers." See Ancestry Insiders' NFS Public Release Begins posted this morning.

What's the big deal? 

Well, it will be hard to ignore the elephant in the room when FamilySearch's Family Trees goes live. It will become arguably the largest compiled genealogy database in the world.

This doesn't mean that this database doesn't have it's problems.
My access was limited, since our "temple district" was the last in the world to receive access, owing to the fact that our region of the LDS Church does a lot of temple work. So I cannot report about the progress coders have made with Family Trees.

I can report that there are many problems when combining multiple databases from a variety of sources including the IGI (International Genealogical Index), the AF (Ancestral File), the PRF (Pedigree Resource File), the TIB (Temple Index Bureau) and LDS Church membership records.

In discussions during FamilySearch Bloggers Day in person in October, and via webinar in November, end-user bloggers expressed dismay that the more reliable "extracted" entries were not easily sorted out from "patron" entries in the IGI data. One method for sorting in a previous incarnation of the IGI was to work through the data using Batch IDs, now missing from the new FamilySearch Family Trees.

Why are Batch ID's important? Extracted entries were done by 2 volunteers who indexed original parish records from microfilm, and a third volunteer and/or a computer, (depending on the year), and the work was submitted in batches. So a batch would typically be an entire parish, making it much easier for end-user researchers to find all instances of a surname in the batch, and more readily see index entries that might trace a family through several generations back in time.

Being able to distinguish those 2-3 person evaluated index entries from "patron" entries to the IGI is invaluable to researchers. Problems arise most frequently from patron entries, fraught with errors ro frequently that I personally distrust them completely. (OK, I might look there for clues in a rare attempt at straddling a brick wall.)

Any compiled database from multiple source will have challenges, and the FamilySearch Family Trees is no exception. These are the kinds of errors I see for just one branch on my family tree.
  • Duplicate individuals because of even slight differences in the spelling of names, meant that my great-grandmother's profile in FamilySearch Family Trees has 28 children instead of the 11 we know about.
  • Multiple dates for a single event. You can spot the ones that were calculated from a census record. But in other instances, there are clear typos like 1986 instead of 1886. (Why didn't people run a "possible records problem" report in their genealogy management program before contributing data to the IGI, AF, PRF, and the TI?
  • Incorrect merging of individuals. This happens through indiscriminate use of merging (in one's own genealogy management program) or combining (on FamilySearch's Family Trees) when there are several in close proximity on the family tree with the same given name and surname. Some things just cannot be rushed.
  • Incorrectly associating a document with someone on a family. This is just faulty research and faulty data entry. My Uncle Jack is alive and well. Yet someone had him listed as "female" and deceased. Well, early on, when one could "dispute" rather than "discuss" I objected to the "female" so it was changed to "male" and pointed out that while the Social Security Death Index does have an entry for someone by the same name, about the same age, and a nearby locality, my Uncle Jack is not dead. He just snowbirds to Arizona for half the year.
Last time I checked FamilySearch Family Trees does not allow the incorporation of documents into an ancestor's provile, as we see with trees. If that had been available when I was working through my Uncle Jack's problematic profile, it would have been easier to prove my point. It would also be easier to evaluate several researcher's contribution to Family Trees if you could view the documents collected by one researcher over another.

FamilySearch Family Trees will not replace individual databases for genealogists. It is merely another collaboration tool. For members of the LDS Church, it can ensure we aren't duplicating temple work on a common ancestor.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. As competent genealogists, we must be aware of FamilySearch Family Trees, but take it with a grain of salt. We must also caution the newbies that join our rank not to take too seriously any compiled genealogy on the internet or in a book on the shelf at the library.

All compiled research must be evaluated in the context of cited sources and a reasonbly exhaustive review of surviving record groups for the time and place where the ancestor once lived.

For Further Reading

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Lifehacker: Gmail glitch means we must back up

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was posted by our friends at the Lifehacker blog.

Gmail Glitch Seemingly Wipes Everything from 150,000 Accounts (So Back Yours Up Already) [Backup] - Lifehacker
by Kevin Purdy on Feb 28, 2011 5:02 AM

About 150,000 Gmail users, or 0.08 percent of the webmail service, logged in over the weekend to see everything gone—email, chat logs, contacts, and attachments. Google's working to restore the accounts, but in the meantime, take it as another vivid reminder of the value of local backups. 

For more information about Gmail backing up strategies, see the original blog post.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Blogging for Beginners webinar WEDNESDAY

Hope to see many of you at the More Blogging for Beginners with DearMYRTLE webinar. This one marks a new era in my webinar presentations. You'll notice some of the nice "PowerPoint" slides, but much of this  webinar is a live demo. Thanks to the folks at Legacy Family Tree for hosting this webinar.

"Back by popular demand, DearMYRTLE continues her discussion about free software at to get your message out to the world. This session's topics include adding gadgets such as links to other websites, add book suggestions from, removing the Blogger search bar and inserting a Google Search box to make it easier for your readers to find previous postings. Get ready for this webinar by reviewing Myrt's first webinar, Blogging for Beginners until 2 March 2011."

The MORE Blogging for Beginners will be held Wednesday, 2 March 2011. 
Wednesday, March 2, 2011.
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT

There is no cost for this webinar.

To see the calendar about upcoming genealogy webinars, visit the new centralized calendar at GeneaWebinars. There are SIX webinars scheduled this coming week, and 18 during the month of March. Genealogy webinars have become a mainstream method for long long-distance learning.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Scanfest is Sunday 27th

Looks like Mr. Myrt and I will be driving home through ice and snow between St. George and Salt Lake City and will miss the Scanfest scheduled for tomorrow, 27 February 2011. (darn!) Here's part of the reminder notice from our hostess-with-the-mostess, Miriam Robbins Midkiff:
The February 2011 Scanfest will take place here at AnceStories this coming Sunday, February 27th, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Pacific Standard Time.

What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family document and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin.

To get started, you need to know the basics about scanning:

1. Don't use commercial glass cleaners (i.e. Windex) or paper towels to clean your scanner's glass plate. Use a soft, clean cloth, preferably microfiber. If you must use a liquid, use water sprayed directly onto the cloth  and make sure to let the plate dry thoroughly before placing photos or documents on it.
For more information visit . Miriam has six other suggestions for obtaining optimum scanning results. She also explains how to log in to the Scanfest chat room to talk in real time with others who are waiting for their scanners to complete that next pass.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Webinar, Webinar: Everyone's talking webinars

Introducing GeneaWebinars

We keep hearing about genealogy webinars held here, there and everywhere on the Internet.   Thankfully,  GeneaWebinars provides a single place to find out about upcoming events. Imagine, one calendar, and links to information on each webinar presentation in a single, centralized spot on the web!

  • Researchers who want to attend genealogy webinars (online live seminars).
  • Societies and companies hosting genealogy webinars.
  • Individual presenters advertising  their upcoming genealogy webinars.


Researchers add the blog to their blog reader (perhaps Google Reader) to receive the latest announcements about upcoming webinars. Researchers may also join the GeneaWebinars Google Calendar to receive updates, and reminders as they are set by each organizer. Researchers switching between computers simply visit for the latest genealogy webinar information.

Webinar organizers and individual presenters can avoid booking an event at the same time another genealogy webinar is scheduled by posting each virtual meeting on the GeneaWebinar's Google Calendar. Webinar organizers and individual presenters may request access to the calendar and the blog, by simply sending a request.

Ol' Myrt here has done her part by setting up, the blog and the calendar with the webinars coming up during the next two months. Now I can step back as each webinar organizer maintains his part of the calendar, and posts info on the blog about upcoming events. 

There is so much to learn. Isn't it great that commuting won't be an issue with these genealogy webinars? It is amazing what the Internet can do for us.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy. 


What's a DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinar© ?

What's a DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinar© ? Real-time demos, very few PowerPoint screens. Small groups – no more than 100 attendees. Sound interesting?
  • After registering participants receive a confirmation email containing information about logging in to the webinar. Only the first 100 who click to enter are accepted.
  • Then 1 week, 1 day and 1 hour before the scheduled webinar, you'll receive a reminder email.
  • To join (log in to) the webinar, attendees click on the link in their confirmation or reminder emails.
  • Attendees' high-speed internet access will quickly download the Citrix GoToMeeting software interface for the DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinar©. Each webinar has a unique ID.
  • There is no cost to attend the webinar. 
  • Handouts may be available for a nominal fee from my account, but due to the live nature of the demo, they are not usually planned.
  • Archived versions of a DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinar© may be available in a new members' only portion of Details to follow.
  • Occasionally, an archived version of a DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinar© may be available for open viewing at
  • System Requirements
    PC-based attendees
    Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

    Macintosh®-based attendees
    Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer
Ol' Myrt plans to host a DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinar© twice a month, until she leaves for Samford in June.

DearMYRTLE’s Blog Tweaking Workshop Webinar© Myrt will tweak one of her own blogs live, and then work through other challenges and solve problems for up to three bloggers, while other attendees watch the process. The selected bloggers will have applied in advance for Myrt’s assistance, and will be able to interact with an open mic during his or her portion of the workshop webinar. Click here to offer your blog as a subject for this workshop.

15 March 2011
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT
Register for this webinar now:
Space limited to the first 100 who click to attend on the 15th.

DearMYRTLE’s Twitter/TweetDeck Workshop Webinar©
Confused by Twitter, but want to know more? This live demo takes you through setting up a Twitter account, and setting up your Twitter page and learning about hashtags. Switch gears and explore the advantages of TweetDeck for easily managing your Twitter feeds.

30 March 2011
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT

Register for this webinar now:
Space limited to the first 100 who click to attend on the 30th. 

DearMYRTLE’s Labeling Digital Photos Workshop Webinar©
Using PaintShop Pro, Myrt demonstrates now to add a bottom border and text to label ancestral photos and documents, and save the files with meta data describing the date, location and subject of the image. Starting with you, there will be no more unidentified photos on your family tree.
16 April 2011
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT
Register for this webinar now:
Space limited to the first 100 who click to attend on the 16th. 

DearMYRTLE’s Trees Workshop Webinar©
Live demo of why Myrt thinks beginning researchers with US roots benefit from uploading their GEDCOM file to Ancestry Trees. Includes an overview of GEDCOM file creation using RootsMagic and a discussion about privacy levels offered by Emphasis on attaching scanned images of original documents to each ancestor, but includes information about networking with other researchers. This is a great deal more effective than message boards.
27 April 2011
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT
Space limited to the first 100 who click to attend on the 27th.

DearMYRTLE’s Facebook Workshop Webinar©
Facebook has replaced Google as the busiest site on the web. Analysts say blogging is dead, in favor of Twitter and Facebook, at least for the younger set. Want to connect with family and friends using Facebook, but concerned about security issues? Myrt walks through Facebook settings, demonstrates FB groups and FB pages, wall postings, adding links, uploading photos, chat, instant messages and private messages.
18 May 2011
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT
Register for this webinar now:
Space limited to the first 100 who click to attend on the 18th. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WDYTYA Season 2 Episode 4 Kim Cattrall

Although we're neatly ensconced in our hotel room in anticipation of the St. George Family History Expo this weekend, we won't miss Friday night's Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 Episode 4 featuring Golden Globe winner Kim Cattrall as she climbs her family tree. (Great run-on sentence, huh?) Kim is hoping to solve the mystery of her grandfather's disappearance 70 years ago.

Visit for a preview.
Many of us have skeletons in our genealogical closets, and so it will be interesting to see how Kim handles the stress and her reactions as the story unfolds. Undoubtedly, Facebook will be alive with viewer comments. For other live interaction visit:

Use the hashtag #WDYTYA
Betty White uses Twitter. Entire national goverments have been overthrown using Twitter.
Better find out what Twitter is all about. If you are new to Twitter, here's help.
(Ol' Myrt here uses TweetDeck to manage multiple columns of "tweets" (posting). Once you've set up your Twitter account, then download TweetDeck, and log in with your Twitter user name and password. You'll thank me later.)

Afrigeneas Genealogy Chat Room
Here hostesses Angela, Selma and Valencia will open the doors in the "~WDYTYA" chat room for typed discussions during the show beginning with the Eastern US time zone NBC broadcast. These gals have been rocking genealogy chats since the old AOL Genealogy Forum days, and they really know their stuff! I"ll definitely be there!

Listen to internet radio with Geneabloggers on Blog Talk Radio GeneaBloggers Radio – WDYTYA? Season 2 Episode 4: Kim Cattrall

Thomas Macentee has recovered his voice, and is back in the saddle again hosting this week's GeneaBloggers Radio show. Turn up those computer speakers, or better yet, use your headset. Call-in participants may use Skype or phone. Our Golden Boy of Radio, writes "Join us for another episode of GeneaBloggers Radio on Friday, February 25, 2011 starting at 10pm EST, 9pm CST, 8pm MST and 7pm PST! This week we'll be discussing the Kim Cattrall episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC. You can call in and share your thoughts with the rest of the genealogy community or you can participate in our online chat! In addition to WDYTYA, we'll be discussing the role of technology  in the genealogy industry, the recent explosion of genealogy webinars and what it means for genealogy education, and much, much more. And this week we'll have special door prizes to give away! Stay tuned! GeneaBloggers Radio is about the most fun you can have with your genealogy on a Friday night!"  
To find that chat "room" when listening to Thomas at , just scroll down the page, and you'll see the room list, and typed commentary as it happens. Feel free to jump in with your thoughts! Wild horses couldn't keep me away.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

St. George Family History Expos here we come!

Mr. Myrt and I will travel to St. George tomorrow to participate in the 7th annual Family History Expo. The event will be held at the Dixie Center 25-26 February 2011. Check out for more details. Here's Ol' Myrt's schedule:

Friday, February 25, 2011

  • 7:00 am Registration Begins
  • 8:00 am Opening Keynote Address in Ballroom AB Where Ol' Dogs Learn New Tricks: The Power and Drama of Original Records with Glenn Rawson
  • 10am Sunbrook AB How Ancestry’s Trees Can Jumpstart Your Research (live demo) with DearMYRTLE
  • 12pm - 3pm DearMYRTLE will be in the "Blog House" in the exhibit hall, to assist attendees with setting up their own blogs
  • 6:00 pm Exhibit Hall Closes for the Day

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ballroom C Blogging for Beginners with DearMYRTLE

Ballroom C More Blogging for Beginners with DearMYRTLE

1pm- 3:30pm DearMYRTLE will be in the "Blog House" in the exhibit hall, to assist attendees with setting up their own blogs

I look forward to seeing many of you in St. George. Also, I hear Salt Lake is going to get walloped by a major stalled snowstorm Friday and Saturday, so it's time these aching bones headed south for a warmer clime.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Preparing for MORE Blogging for Beginners Webinar?

At Ol' Myrt's request, our friends at Legacy Family tree have opened up the archived version of DearMYRTLE's Blogging for Beginning Webinar, for your review this week. This is a great way to prepare for the MORE Blogging for Beginners Webinar scheduled for next Wednesday.

1. Go to This page has sections for the:
  • "next" webinar
  • "future" webinars 
  • "archived" webinars listed in date order, usually only available free for 30 days or for purchase in CD format
2. Scroll down to the 20 Oct 2010 Blogging for Beginners Webinar with DearMYRTLE, and click to view the webinar now until 2 March 2011. This will prepare you for next Wednesday's webinar.

This session's topics include adding gadgets such as links to other websites,  inserting book suggestions from, removing the search bar and inserting a Google Search box to make it easier for your readers to find previous postings. We'll also experiment with tweaking the look of your blog using the Template Designer and providing a "Print Friendly" option for your followers.

The webinar will be held live on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT

Here's how to attend the live webinar:
  1. Register at It's free!
  2. You'll receive a confirmation email containing a link to the webinar.
  3. You'll receive a reminder during the week prior to the webinar.
  4. Listen via headset (USB headsets work best), your computer speakers or by phone.
  5. Click on the webinar link (found in confirmation and reminder emails) a few minutes prior to the start of the webinar. Arrive early as the room size is limited to the first 1,000 arrivals that day.
  6. You may type in the 'questions' portion of the GoToWebinar interface.
  7. If you wish to verbally ask a question, the webinar host may "open your mic". Alternately, questions posed in the chat screen will be answered during the webinar or in a follow-up blog posting at DearMYRTLE's Genealogy Blog.
For audio assistance, visit the GoToWebinar site.

THANKS to our friends at Legacy Family Tree for providing these helpful how-to webinars. Online genealogy education opportunities have indeed become main stream through such initiatives.
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

A Plethora of GEDCOM revisionists - YES!

For good genealogists, it's all about the sources.

Both FamilySearch and AppleTree are going to think in terms of large databases,
because that fits their business model. They are apparently dealing with merging issues rather than research issues. Any large database website will think along those lines.

End-users like Ol' Myrt here will think evidence, because we are called upon to share our genealogy databases with newly discovered cousins. The first thing those other researchers ask for is copies of our source documentation, sometimes called proof documents. We've learned not to trust assertions about an ancestor's life without sources. So a database that comes to us without pointers to those sources (better yet, actual digital images) is just another bunch of what my real Grandma Myrtle called "hooey." At the very least, source citations should come to us in notes for each ancestor. See DearMYRTLE's previous posting Committed to seamless genealogy file sharing that includes a brief summary of problems encountered by researchers with GEDCOM file imports.

GREAT genealogy programmers who actually DO genealogy research get it. Such multi-functional people are a rare breed. They understand that numbers don't count, but depth of content does.

My DearREADERS may recall I've been active with BetterGEDCOM, a grassroots effort to come up with a GEDCOM alternative that reflects changes in research and technology that have occurred since the last GEDCOM update some 14 years ago.

Also on the horizon is, a top-down hierarchy attempting to solve the same problem. The people are also the AppleTree people, so their bias concerning large databases will be hard to overcome.

Since the RootsTech 2011 Conference, things have been buzzing now that FamilySearch is apparently weighing in with a GEDCOM improvement yet to be described officially.  BetterGEDCOM has invited Tom Creighton and Gordon Clarke to our usual Monday developer meeting specifically to elaborate on the so-called "SoRD" initiative. 

At the very least, we should be pleased that genealogy programmers are talking about the GEDCOM file problem that has vexed researchers for over a decade. We've got to be careful those programmers don't forget to solve the "sharing sources" problem, and that they don't permit things like "auto-merging" of seemingly duplicate individuals. 

We've all got examples of families where there are two children with the same given name, born within something like two years of each other. It's easy to understand if the first one died, but the two individuals look really problematic if they end up both living to adulthood. One database website's "duplicate" can be another researcher's step-child or unofficially adopted child, etc.

Nothing will replace human judgment in compiling our lineages. I'd like to see programmers and geneticists clone a combination of Thomas Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills. Then we might find a perfect combination of an inferential genealogist who understands the importance of source citations. Merge that with a multi-platform software program, and you might have something. 

But you'd still be missing Craig Scott's US military records expertise, or Claire Bettag's understanding of US government docs. For local flavor, you'd need to throw in Mark Lowe if you have Tennessee roots. Venturing out in one's research, the scientists would have to clone foreign research experts like Audrey Collins for understanding British records research. If you have eastern European roots, you'd need to add Stephen Morse's understanding of language and computers to help you find that elusive ancestor regardless of spelling challenges. And then there are folks like Pam and Rick Sayre who really get that Google Earth technology has a place in our genealogy research. 

With these candidates for cloning, we have only begun to scratch the surface in providing a multi-talented single resource for genealogy research.

Our quest to discover "Who are the parents?" has enough challenges without software issues adding to the mix. I am thankful there is now a plethora of GEDCOM revisionists out there. Getting them all into the same room for about two weeks might just cause them to come up with a really great method for us end-users who just want to share our compiled genealogy with tour cousins without losing data.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

FGS: Sandra H. Luebking Memorial

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was just received from our friends at the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Please address all inquiries to that organization.

22 February 2011
FGS Announces Sandra H. Luebking Memorial
Now Accepting Contributions to the War of 1812 Digitization Project

22 February 2011 – Austin, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announces the establishment of the Sandra H. Luebking Memorial as a way of remembering the work and achievements of an influential leader in the genealogy community, the late Sandra Hargreaves Luebking.

With Sandra’s passing on 17 February 2011, we lost a teacher, a mentor, a colleague and a dear friend who made numerous contributions to the field of genealogy and family history.

Those who wish to remember Sandra and to help improve access to genealogy research records can now contribute to the Sandra H. Luebking Memorial to help make War of 1812 pension files available to researchers. As an active member of the FGS family and as Editor of FORUM from 1990 to 2010, Sandra was a huge supporter of the Preserve the Pensions project ( This project was one of her personal choices as a memorial should anyone choose to honor her after her passing.

The Preserve the Pensions project is a national fund-raising initiative to raise $3.7 million to digitize of the War of 1812 pension files. The digitization process will enable online access by historians and family researchers to the memories and biographies of those who fought to protect our nation’s independence.

The pension records for the War of 1812 consist of more than 7.2 million documents in 180,000 files. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) receives more than three thousand requests per year for War of 1812 pensions, placing them among the most requested sets of records. Digitizing these valuable records will preserve the originals by removing them from continued heavy use. It will also make the images of the records much more widely available. NARA reports these important historical records already have been conserved and readied for digitization, so scanning could start as soon as funds are received. With the cost for digitizing and saving a single page from a pension file being fifty cents, supporters will see progress from the earliest days of the fund-raising initiative.

To make a contribution as a memorial to Sandra H. Luebking, visit the Preserve the Pensions donation page . The names of donors will appear in FORUM and a notice will be sent to Sandra's family.

About the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)
The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) was founded in 1976 and represents the members of hundreds of genealogical societies. FGS links the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow through resources available online, FGS Forum magazine (filled with articles pertaining to society management and genealogical news), and Society Strategy Series papers, covering topics about effectively operating a genealogical society. FGS also links the genealogical community through its annual conference -- four days of excellent lectures, including one full day devoted to society management topics. To learn more visit

Monday, February 21, 2011

Charleston, SC: NGS 2011 Conference registration

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was just received from our friends at the National Genealogical Society. Please address all inquiries to

The NGS 2011 Family History Conference will be held 11–14 May 2011 at the Charleston Area Convention Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive, North Charleston, SC 29418. More than seventy-five nationally recognized speakers will provide over 180 lectures on a wide variety of topics including research in South Carolina and the surrounding states, migration patterns, religious records, research methodology, and problem solving. The conference program will also include lectures about researching various ethnic groups including Germans, Cherokee, African Americans, Irish, and Scots-Irish. Participants who register for the conference by 11 March 2011 will save thirty-five dollars on an early bird full-conference registration.
General sessions at the conference will include an update on the “Transformation of the National Archives and Records Administration” by David S. Ferriero, the tenth archivist of the United States; author Buzzy Jackson, PhD, will provide her perspective on “Shaking the Family Tree: A Writer’s Perspective on Turning Research Into Writing;” and South Carolina Senator Glenn F. McConnell will talk about “The Hunley: Where Science and History Come Together to Tell Time.”
Space is still available for several conference social events sponsored by the South Carolina Genealogical Society including a wine and cheese reception and tour of the Charleston Museum, a harbor dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Carolina, and a southern barbeque dinner at the Charleston Rifle Club. Also available are a choice of three luncheons each day sponsored by various genealogical organizations, which include an entertaining speaker. The featured speaker at the National Genealogical Society banquet on Friday evening will be Stephen B. Bacon, Major USAF (retired), whose presentation “Separating Fact from Myth: A Look at the US Civil War from Both Sides,” will include examples of uniforms, armaments, flags, and other memorabilia from the war.
Special Saturday workshops include an all day beginner's workshop, "Genealogy 101: Getting Started with Family History," and a "Kids' Kamp" for children and young adults ages eight through sixteen.
A detailed conference registration brochure can be viewed and printed at Space is limited to the social events and workshops, so register early.
An exhibit area with more than one hundred exhibitors will be open and free to the public Wednesday through Saturday and will offer the latest in genealogical software, online research providers, and DNA testing services.
Founded in 1903, the National Genealogical Society is dedicated to genealogy education, high research standards, and the preservation of genealogical records.  The Arlington, VA-based nonprofit is the premier national society for everyone, from the beginner to the most advanced family historian, seeking excellence in publications, educational offerings, research guidance, and opportunities to interact with other genealogists.  Please visit the NGS Pressroom for further information.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Link to Blog Disclosure Statement

If you visit my blog site, you'll notice a new "Disclosures" tab listing Ol' Myrt's policies about email queries, content of this blog, advertising, verifying a vendor's claims, and compensation I sometimes (if ever) receive in exchange for writing the DearMYRTLE blog.

To learn more about blogger disclosure issues, Ol’ Myrt recommends Thomas MacEntee’s Why You Need a Blogging Disclosure Statement . I also followed Thomas' advice and used an on-screen policy generator at
No one is getting sued here. I just need to bring my blog up-to-snuff where industry standards are concerned.
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Committed to seamless genealogy file sharing

RootsTech 2011 provided a great deal of answers, but opened up many more questions. Sharing genealogy data is a top concern for Ol' Myrt, and it looks like FamilySearch is considering updating its generic genealogy file system currently known as GEDCOM.
BetterGEDCOM (a grassroots effort) and OpenGen (a top-down developer model with a genealogy database website component) are two entities also in the conversation about improving file sharing. For a listing of GEDCOM Alternatives see the comprehensive list by Tamura Jones.

Hopefully, conversations will continue when it comes to the concept of sharing genealogy database files between researchers, much like this model:

End-user to end-user
Where Researcher A exports a GEDCOM file from his genealogy management program and then directly shares that file with Researcher B via flash drive, CD or some other means. Researcher B opens his genealogy management program and then imports the GEDCOM file.

At  RootsTech, FamilySearch mentioned SoRD as a method of file sharing, but if Ol' Myrt's understanding is correct, that will involve a third party, much like this model:
End-User to website to End-User
Where Researcher A uploads his GEDCOM file to a genealogy website, where Researcher B  downloads from website and imports the GEDCOM file.

Call me crazy, but Ol' Myrt here doesn't like the idea of a website being part of the equation unless it is a disinterested third party like Dropbox, where two researchers agree to share a folder (instead of snail mailing a flash drive) with a generic file that can read by either researcher's genealogy management program seamlessly.

Allowing big-guy genealogy websites like or even to broker data file transfers between individual researchers can prove problematic on at least these levels:
  • How can the end-user determine his data isn't altered perhaps by masks and filters by the website?
  • How can the end user determine his data isn't linked and/or merged by the website to other user-contributed databases?
  • How can the end user ensure that his data isn't retained by the website, when he chooses to take down the file? One might want to do this and upload a more up-to-date file, or completely remove the file with no further interaction with the website.

Generic genealogy database files are currently called GEDCOM files. In his posting File Sharing? GEDCOM or what? James Tanner explains "It seems like whomever you need to share information with never seems to have the same program you use. There was a time when Personal Ancestral File (PAF) was pervasive. But with the de-emphasis on the program, there are dozens of different options. Your first door of opportunity in sharing files is to see what formats are supported by your own program."

Unfortunately each genealogy program out there has decided to pick and choose which GEDCOM file parameters it will to embrace. The less-than-marvelous results have been described by genealogy bloggers. It's particularly disheartening that of Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic only the later can seamlessly export and import it's own GEDCOM file without data loss. See:

While The LDS Church owns the "GEDCOM" name, it hasn't supported the GEDCOM file during the last 14 years. See BetterGEDCOM Wikispaces' History of GEDCOM. According to other RootsTech attendees, FamilySearch says it's GEDCOM revision will begin with the GenTech data model. BetterGEDCOM developers have considered this and a variety of other data models on the BetterGEDCOM Wiki, including:

And the trick is?
Convincing genealogy software producers to adhere to a single "new" file sharing format will be problematic, particularly since they don't currently agree by using all existing GEDCOM specifications. IF they would work this out together, there would be no need for reforms such being explored by BetterGEDCOM. IF end users bring pressure to bear once a good GEDCOM alternative has been developed, THEN perhaps software producers will adopt the plan.


Some folks are pleased FamilySearch is weighing in on improving file sharing, thinking that high-profile organization will galvanize support from software producers. Others question FamilySearch commitment based on its history of dropping PAF and ignoring GEDCOM for 14 years. (I don't think FS dropped PAF per se, but rather decided to focus on things they do best like digitizing records.) My commitment is to support the development of seamless end-user to end-user file sharing capability, without requiring a genealogy website to be part of the equation.


Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

TONIGHT'S the night

All of us in the US are gearing up for another episode of NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? This time the show features Rosie O'Donnell. Here in the Mountain time zone, I'll be watching on KSL Channel 5 from Salt Lake City starting at 7pm. That translates to 8pm Eastern and 7pm Central.You can catch the preview here.

DURING THE BROADCASTOl' Myrt will visit the Afrigeneas chat room to see what folks there are saying about the show. I'll also watch Twitter, where folks will use the hashtag #WDYTYA to share thoughts about Rosie's ancestral quest. But I will mostly be taking notes during the TV show because...


Another episode of GeneaBloggers Radio will be broadcast this evening, Friday, February 18, 2011 starting at 10pm-Midnight EST, 9-11pm CST, 8-10pm MST,7-9pm PST and GMT -6.  Direct from Ol' Myrt's home office, I'll be subbing for Thomas who cannot be in two places at once. The two hour show will feature a discussion of the WDYTYA episode with Rosie O’Donnell, a recap of the recent RootsTech conference, and more! For details on how you can listen and even use the chat room, click here. Bonus: I picked up two door prizes at RootsTech to share with my DearLISTENERS.

Here's how
Thanks to Thomas MacEntee for posting these directions for tuning in to the Geneabloggers Radio show:

To tune in live, here is what you’ll need to do:
  1. Visit the GeneaBloggers page at Blog Talk Radio.
  2. Click on the Upcoming Episode entitled “Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 Episode 3: Rosie O’Donnell
  3. Then you can sign up for updates and reminders.
  4. At 10pm EST, 9pm CST, 8pm MST, 7pm PST and GMT -6, on February 18, 2011, listen in at the Blog Talk Radio website.
  5. If you want to dial in and share your thoughts and comments, the dial-in number is (213) 286-6709.
Also dont’ forget BlogTalk provides a chat page where you can chat (via your keyboard) with many other genealogists! Just scroll down the page once you get there. It took me about 45 minutes to discover this cool feature myself. Thomas tells us he will be listening in from Springfield, Illinois, and if his voice has recovered enough, he may even call in during the show.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

What is a federation?

Watching Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek TV series, we learned that the 23rd century galactic "United Federation of Planets" was formed to protect the common interests of its members. Dealing with unknown, hostile aliens and errant Klingons were the chief responsibilities of "The Federation."

So what is the Federation of Genealogical Societies?

Ol' Myrt here suggests the largely US-based organization FGS was likewise formed to protect the common interests of its members. Those interests include society management issues, and technology training to improve society meetings. Perhaps the "Federation's" most important calling is to coordinate efforts to resolve issues of  records access and preservation.

Records access issues are best understood by local genealogy societies, but they lack the experience and resources to muster an effective response. Turning to a strong "Federation" can bring broad public support through a well-oiled communication process. This currently works well on a national level on joint preservation projects with the National Archives and Records Administration. Localized issues aren't handled as frequently if postings to the RPAC page are any indication. April 2010 is the date of the last posting, but certainly records access issues persist. Are FGS, NGS and IAJGS volunteer resources stretched too thin? Should the "Federation" refocus efforts in this area?

A look at the FGS Mission Statement
FGS clearly states its goals at, shown below with my comments in red.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies links the genealogical community by:
  • serving the needs of its member societies (Rethinking strategies for building membership come to mind here.)
  • providing products and services needed by member societies (How about initially providing GoToWebinar-type accounts to rejuvenate participation at the individual society level?)
  • marshaling the resources of its member organizations (Especially helpful with records access issues!)

Additional text on the page seems to muddy the water. (I do not expect FGS to be all things to all people.)

FGS was founded in 1976 and represents the members of hundreds of genealogical societies. (Perhaps FGS should first seek to represent it's member organizations, not those societies' individual members?)
FGS links the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow. To do this, FGS publishes [the] FORUM magazine, filled with articles pertaining to society management and genealogical news. FGS also publishes an extensive series of Society Strategy Papers, covering topics about effectively operating a genealogical society. (Concentrate on articles about society management, how to grow societies in a digital world, and leave genealogy news to other organizations, as The FORUM isn't published daily or weekly.)
FGS also links the genealogical community through its annual conference -- four days of excellent lectures, including one full day devoted to society management topics. (How about just one day devoted to society management topics, and hold the conference in conjunction with NGS?)

Who joins FGS?
Local genealogy societies, not individuals, pay to join FGS based on the numbers of members within that local society. Theoretically, this is perhaps to place the financial burden proportionately, i.e., larger societies pay more than smaller societies to receive the same benefit. Back in the 1980s I remember individuals belonging to a FGS member society received a personal copy of The FORUM, a practice that has been discontinued perhaps due to financial constraints.

FGS Annual Membership Fees:
Number of Members Price
0-50 $35.00
51-99 $45.00
100-199 $55.00
200-299 $65.00
300-399 $75.00
400-499 $85.00
500-999 $95.00
1000 or more $115.00
Associate Organizations $35.00

It is Ol' Myrt's impression that 80% of the marvelous and dedicated volunteer effort at FGS concerns the annual conference. Though my husband is on the FGS Board, I am not privy to financial specifics. I can only assume that the conference consumes the majority of the FGS budget.

Is producing an annual 4-day genealogy conference the best use of FGS volunteer and financial resources?

What if FGS and NGS join forces to produce a single annual conference at locations that vary from year to year as they are currently doing separately?
  • Instead of meeting Wed-Sat, why not meet Mon-Sat?
  • The FGS Society management track could be held Monday.
  • Tuesday could feature APG Professional Management and Librarians Day tracks and a full day of the vendor hall.
  • Wed-Sat proceed with usual and customary genealogy how-to tracks.
  • Add virtual presentations.
  • The conference would have twice the top level volunteers and experience.
  • Attendance wouldn't be split between two venues in May and September.
  • NGS would be free to educate individuals about genealogy research methodology.
  • FGS would be free to train societies about society management.
  • FGS could increase its participation on the Records Preservation and Access Committee
  • Cut down on NGS office registration activities by having all registration take place online, where participants print their own name tags and syllabus materials. Check-in would require a barcode reader before a participant receives a name tag holder, final conference program, goodie bag, etc.
  • Save money on conference brochures with only 1 conference to print.
  • Save money on conference venue with only 1 conference to hold.
  • NGS and FGS split responsibility for the conference, and split proceeds after meeting obligations to the local society conference committee.
As contracts are probably signed and deposits made for NGS and FGS conference venues through the next three years, it would take some time to implement this suggestion.

What century is this?
With technology changing at warp-five speed, RootsTech is is an essential component of the genealogy conference mix. It's time for FGS and NGS to join forces and "boldly go where no man has gone before." They can call it FGS/NGS: The Next Generation.

Genealogists have been living on the "20th century genealogy conference planet" too long, and it's time for us to say "Beam me up, Scotty." Perhaps even Dr. McCoy would concur.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Memoriam: Sandra Hargreaves Luebking

Noted Genealogist and Former FGS FORUM Editor Passes

Genealogy could not have lost a dearer friend today than by the death of Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. 

17 February 2011 – Austin, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is deeply saddened to announce the passing of Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, noted genealogist and one of the genealogy community’s best leaders who died on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at Lemont, Illinois, surrounded by her family. Funeral arrangements are still pending at this time.

A nationally known author, editor, instructor, lecturer, and researcher, Sandra was the editor of the FGS FORUM for over 22 years. Known for her radiant smile and helpful ways, almost everyone who was a member of or worked with a genealogical society, or attended a conference knew Sandra. In nearly three decades as a professional genealogist, she presented over one thousand lectures.

Beginning in 1979, Sandra taught annually at Samford University's Institute of Genealogy and Historical  Research (IGHR) and twice accompanied their British Research tour. From 1990 to 2007 she was Course I Coordinator for IGHR. From 1994 until its close in  2005, Sandra was Intermediate Studies Coordinator for the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America (at the University of Illinois, sponsored by the Illinois State Genealogical Society). 

With Loretto Dennis Szucs, Sandra co-edited three award-winning books, including two editions of The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy; and The Archives: A Guide to the National Archives Field Branches. Sandra also wrote two chapters for Professional Genealogy (Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor) titled “Genealogical Education” and “Fee Setting.”

Helping thousands of people to find their Chicago/Cook County roots, Sandra conducted research projects for the Smithsonian Institute, numerous publishers and attorneys, and an international clientele from Australia, England, Finland, Germany and Sweden. She was a past trustee for the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and a volunteer research assistant at the National Archives - Great Lakes Region.

Sandra’s honors included the Professional Achievement Award from the APG (2008); the Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern Humanitarian Award from FGS (2008); lecturer for the Richard Slatten Lecture Series by the Friends of the Virginia State Archives (2003) and, lecturer for the Willard Heiss Memorial Lecture at the 79th Annual Indiana History Conference (Indiana Historical Society) (1999). She was a Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association (1996) and was named Outstanding IGHR Alumni by Samford University in 1995.

NGS and FGS: Rethink your policies in light of RootsTech

In the interest of full disclosure, my husband serves on the FGS Board, but the opinions expressed herein are strictly Myrt's own. 

Competition for national conference attendance is getting stiffer, particularly with the prevailing world-wide economic challenges of some years duration. In yesterday's blog posting RootsTech 2011: Report to management, Ol' Myrt here suggested that NGS and FGS combine their annual conferences and hold them in the late summer. Already there have been some "interesting" email from people favoring both sides of the suggestion.

Our flush days of easy-to-administer disposable income are a thing of the past. Picking and choosing which genealogy conferences to attend is getting trickier for the average attendee.

The National Genealogical Society and Federation of Genealogical Societies could host their annual conferences jointly, to avoid duplication of effort, duplication of content material and wear-and-tear on attendees budgets. This would leave RootsTech as the other annual national genealogy conference for us to attend. This would personally save me about $1,200 annually.

It's an appealing option to travel where one's ancestors once lived either before or after attending a genealogy conference. But showcasing local talent and featuring a few nationally-recognized presenters is easily accomplished by major regional conferences such as Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree, the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the conferences provided by Family History Expos that currently extend to California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas and Georgia. Additionally strong state organizations typically host annual conference such as the Ohio Genealogical Society, the Illinois State Genealogical Society, the Iowa Genealogical Society and the Virginia Genealogical Society. (Please forgive Ol' Myrt if I haven't mentioned your regional society. I am referring to those where  my ancestors once lived for this blog entry.)

Genealogy institutes are clearly different from genealogy conferences where one is permitted to take a quick 60 minute class. Instead, participation in week-long, intensive, mentor-driven studies at the National Institute of Genealogical Research, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and the Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research are for more experienced researchers.

Both NGS and FGS host partial-week conferences annually, at changing venues throughout the US. With the exception of an APG Professional Management track, the Librarians track, and a society management track,  the class content and the exhibit hall are largely a carbon copy of the others conference. To compete for attendees participation is counter productive and a lose-lose for all concerned.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.