Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SOURCES: Research logs are not proof arguments


Over the past few days, Suzi has been working hard on developing her research log, but there is a difference between a research log and the final proof argument.

Research Log - lists everything you've done to find info about an ancestor. You'll perhaps start with an ancestor interview and a compiled genealogy, then move on to abstracts or indexes of original records. If you are wise you'll then locate the original records on paper, film or fiche. A few documents may be available in scanned image format on the web. Some records may only be available in derivative form such as the published Pennsylvania Archives, where many of the original documents cited from the colonial period no longer exist. If the research log is kept in digital format it may be created in chronological order but can also be sorted by name, date, record type, etc.

Proof Argument - is the conclusion you write after a reasonably exhaustive search of extant records for the localities where your ancestor lived. We learned in the online Inferential Genealogy Course with Tom Jones, CG that sometimes we have to look at records over a 150 year period to find information providing evidence of kinship or identity.

Composing a proof argument is the process of inferential genealogy where you piece together documents to make kinship determinations, particularly where no single document has the information you require.

YES, write it out, just like you are explaining things to Ol' Myrt here.

You will be surprised at what your writing uncovers about the "completeness" of your research plan.

Even if you only place the proof argument in notes for the ancestor or family, it must be clearly written to demonstrate careful consideration of all sources of information in the kinship determination. See: BCG's Genealogical Proof Standard.

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

SOURCES: Did you view it personally


Keep in mind, if your cousin cites a source you haven't viewed personally, you can only cite your cousin's report about the source, not the original source. You are telling your reader that you trust your cousin's analysis of the documents in question. You cannot claim that analysis as your own.

Think of it this way:
Your cousin cites an ancestor's will and probate record that you don't have a copies of at point A in your research. Initially, you can only cite your cousin's statement about the will and probate record, reminding yourself to look for at the court of jurisdiction with book, page numbers and file numbers as reported by your cousin. Your cousin's work is a derivative (abstract, extract or transcript) of the original. We do list your cousin's work on the research log since this is the source of the information you have at this point.

At point B when you have obtained copies of the records in question, you can transcribe the documents and accurately extract pertinent information, citing the image copies of the original court records on your research log. Be sure to analyze the document, listing what questions it answers and what new questions are brought to light.

Point C is where you would analyze and compare the  information in the will and probate packet within the  context of a broader record group search to evaluate the evidence and resolve conflicts that may arise.

When you believe you have completed a reasonably exhaustive search, you can move on to point D, creating the "proof argument". More on that tomorrow.


SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part I

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part II

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part III

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

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part III


Now let's view all this from a different angle.


Sometimes multiple copies of information that come to our attention are a matter of the author amending his previous publication due to additional research breakthroughs.
found in Snippet view at Google Books. I am careful to mention they should consult the edition published in 1969 not the 1958 version. Worldcat lists the earlier version Christopher Gist of Maryland and some of his descendants, 1679-1957 also compiled by Jean Muir Dorsey and Maxwell Jay Dorsey and published in Chicago at the J. S. Swift Company.
Careful review of both editions of the book will highlight changes in kinship determinations and constitute a small segment of a broadening search for info about Gist, Cromwell and Howard family lines.

Sometimes multiple copies of information that come to our attention about an ancestor are a matter of copying and expanding the info based on new technology. Check out this 21 Oct 2011 posting on the Meridian Magazine website Capturing a Life: Remembering Mom by Carol Kostakos Petranek.

Carol describes creating a memory book Our Story for her parent's 50th wedding anniversary in 1996. Carol says "In 2009, I took her to the Oral History Room at the Washington DC Family History Center and recorded her reminisces about childhood and other favorite topics." Since her mother's passing in October 2011, Carol is now scanning more photos and compiling an updated version of Our Story to honor her parents using online storage and publishing resources not available for the earlier publication. In this case, there are three versions of the information from the same source, Carol's mom. Each publication requires its own citation on Carol's research log.

When composing the "proof argument" or conclusion about our ancestor's life and kin, we must carefully consider the provider of the information in the historical documents we've collected.

Isn't this fun?

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part II

Yesterday's blog post included suggestions for Suzi when citing multiple locations of published or manuscript info about an ancestor. One example she mentioned duplicated information initially provided by a cousin. Now, Ol' Myrt here would like us to consider...

Beginning researchers may not realize the provider of information in multiple  records may be the same person. For instance, isn't it logical that the person providing the family info on a death certificate is the same person who handles funeral home details and orders the tombstone?

We don't want the accumulation of data provided by one witness published in many places to weigh too heavily, compared to other sources of information about the ancestor.

Mr. Myrt reminds me "Who is the source of the source?"
Alma Oades Player born 1862-1929 SLC, Utah
Family photo in author's possession.

Let's look at the information provided on a death certificate and the tombstone for my great-grandfather Alma Oades Player who was born in 1862 in Salt Lake City. He died there in 1929 and was interred at the Salt Lake City Cemetery up in the Aves, as the locals call that neck of the woods.  Alma was preceded in death by his wife Mary Elizabeth (Wright) Player in 1903.
Note Acel Richardson is listed as informant on Alma's death certificate. He is Alma's son-in-law. I knew Acel having visited with him and Nora in their home several times. Acel was a take-charge man. Did he also provide the information for the tombstone? I tend to think so for these reasons:

In conservative Utah, men tended to take the lead in the 1800 and 1900s. When Alma died in 1929, women in the US had enjoyed the right to vote for only nine years. Alma's sons Warner (from California) and Shirl (from Washington) had to travel great distances via train for the funeral and were not on hand to make the funeral and burial arrangements. Daughters of Alma included Bertha, who died young in 1897, Lucile, Eth, Mable and Nora. Acel Richardson was Nora's husband. They lived on the west side in Salt Lake City, very close to Alma's home.
Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics
    Death certificates (Series 81448)  Entry 12487--PLAYER, ALMA ODDS - 1929

Who provided the information for the tombstone? I'd have to look at sexton and gravestone company records to come to an accurate conclusion, but it is logical at this point to think the informant was Alma's son-in-law Acel Richardson.
Original photo taken by author.
I've limited this discussion to just two of the items collected on Alma Oades Player. Information from additional record groups over the lifetime of this man must be gathered to gain a better picture of who he was and how he interacted with other members of the Player family.

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part I
SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part III
SOURCES: Did you view it personally

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part I

From: Sue McCormick
Maybe I should post this at the Second Life Facebook page, since it is a follow-up on last night's Evidence Explained discussion. 

Background: 3-1/2 years ago (when I was VERY green) a distant cousin sent me a decendancy report with lots of citations and notes. He sent it as a way of helping me learn what I should do. At that time I just used it to explore how to do in Reunion what he had done in Family Tree Maker. I saved the entire email correspondence and went on to the next thing.

Since working with the Greenwood book, Researchers Guide to American Genealogy, I have been creating the logs I should have done then. A death listing which was on "" when Mike compiled this report is NOW on "". I am building my source citation now. I am not sure if this reference to the material supplied by Mike should include the location where he found the information or not. If so, do I also cite the new location? Or does all this that I'm outlining here go into the Search Log?

The basic question is: which approach will give the best information to someone wishing to follow my research?
I am making a screen capture of the website and saving it to my files. I always do that since the web tends to evaporate.

Explaining the journey we take in our ancestral quest is very important, and your research log is a great way to keep track of things. Yes, cite every instance of information you find about your ancestor whether email, online, or off line.

Compiling an accurate research log permits folks to see what sources you considered when compiling info about each ancestor. In comments on your research log, note the source of death info on IndianaGenWeb site appears to be same as provided to you via email years earlier. 

If the information on now on IndianaGenWeb's site  is merely a new web address for the same page, then list both, and the approximate dates you consulted each site. This has happened to a lot of USGenWeb sites that formerly had their own sub-domains at RootsWeb, but chose not to have their work incorporated into properties after Ancestry purchased RootsWeb.

I do have a follow-up blog post with some additional ideas for dealing with "who provided the info". 

SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part II
SOURCES: Who provided the info - Part III
SOURCES: Did you view it personally
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FamilySearch announces new CEO Dennis C. Brimhall

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was received from Please address all inquiries to

SALT LAKE CITY— FamilySearch International announced today a change in its chief executive officer. Effective January 2, 2012, Dennis C. Brimhall will succeed Jay L. Verkler as CEO of FamilySearch.  Mr. Verkler will continue in a consulting capacity for a few months to ensure a smooth transition.

It is the business culture and practice of FamilySearch, as an organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to regularly rotate its senior leaders. This pattern assures the forward momentum of its core programs.

Over the past decade under Mr. Verkler’s leadership, FamilySearch has shifted its vast stores of genealogical records and resources to a digital, worldwide, internet-based focus.  FamilySearch has developed partnerships with many genealogy and technology industry organizations, helping form a broad and deep industry community including companies, societies, and archives.

FamilySearch has helped make the world’s historic records easier to access online, publishing over 2.4 billion names in historic records at, including 870 collections from over 50 countries indexed by over 250,000 volunteers. During this period, FamilySearch has also created an unprecedented, free global service organization that engages over 70,000 volunteers who provide needed local and online support to research patrons and the genealogical community.  FamilySearch has pioneered genealogical search, record linkage, imaging, crowd-sourcing, and digital preservation technologies.

“It has been a career highlight for me to work in such a significant and meaningful effort,” said Jay L. Verkler regarding his time at FamilySearch’s helm. “I have had the privilege to work with countless great individuals, organizations, and companies, all striving to provide the best of user experiences.”

Mr. Brimhall comes to FamilySearch with a deep background in management.  He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He recently served for 17 years as president and CEO of the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver from 1988 until 2005.  Since then Mr. Brimhall has held positions of increasing responsibility in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I am very excited to help lead the work of FamilySearch, to continue the great things that have been done and move forward in new directions as appropriate,” said Brimhall.  “FamilySearch provides services to millions of people worldwide. We really need to understand our customers’ needs and satisfy them. Our focus will be to ensure that FamilySearch’s customer experiences are really first rate.”

FamilySearch looks forward to further strengthening its commitment to the global genealogical community, to publishing and digitizing the world’s records, and encouraging all people to discover, preserve, and share their family histories. 

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer–driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessor organizations have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Slowly but surely

Well, how did you do on your assignment to set up Google Reader while Ol' Myrt here was out on medical leave? Some have written to exclaim they wished I had pushed them into this sooner, for it streamlines one's inbox and places all those posts at an easy-to-access website.


Mirian Pierre-Louis' blog post My Genealogy Software Upheaval posted at Marian's Roots and Rambles prompted many comments worth your review.

A man I met at the Atlanta Family History Expo this past weekend raved about the My Canvas books he created for three members of his family. Though two of the books had issues with faulty binding three months later, was quick to replace all three. He said he liked the variety of layout templates and noted the difference between a printout of the book pages and the final product was simply stunning. WTG Ancestry!

Ol' Myrt purchased FamilyTree Maker 2012 strictly for the "sync" capability. It doesn't work reliably. I initially synced to my Ancestry Member Tree, but the second time I went to view it in Family Tree Maker, I couldn't open the file. I uninstalled, and reinstalled, but it won't let me work with that tree whatsoever. No wonder the Family Tree Maker 2012 beta test message board has been  removed. Talking with attendees at the Atlanta Family History Expo Nov 11th & 12th and at the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania's conference Nov 5th, all but one had similar experiences. My advice - wait for a FTM 2012 update or AncestorSync, whichever comes first.

If you are interested in attending an online genealogy class, be sure to see what those from throughout the genealogy community are offering. Visit the universal GeneaWebinars calendar and blog.

You can bet now that Myrt is slowly but surely feeling better, I'll get back to doing regular DearMYRTLE Workshop Webinars.

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

OpenGen appears inactive

From: Chris Whitten
Regarding yesterday's DearMYRTLE BetterGEDCOM Statement, do you have any opinions on that you'd be willing to share?

A quick visit to the website this morning indicates the site was last updated in Feb 2011, and that the last planned meeting was March 2011. BetterGEDCOM and OpenGen had similar listings of "members" which is quite different from active participants.

OpenGen was a "BetterGEDCOM-like" group with similar intentions, except that it was managed by a web developer, Scott Mueller of AppleTree. It made sense that Scott should attempt to involve the community to develop a standard GEDCOM alternative, since accepting GEDCOM files can be problematic for his website.

Unfortunately OpenGen promised periodic meetings but there was little attendance. The group used BaseCamp for their development, so the project wasn't transparent enough to suit my tastes, i.e. it couldn't be independently reviewed without joining the project.

If was from OpenGen's problems that I realized a GEDCOM alternative had to be arrived at from a so-called "non-partisan" point of view to be accepted by all vendors.

In addition to the volume of discussions on the BetterGEDCOM wiki and a few quality postings on our blog, BetterGEDCOM participants including folks from the US, Germany, the Netherlands and occasionally Finland, met regularly once or twice most weeks during this past year. Unfortunately, BetterGEDCOM just couldn't come to a consensus of opinion and put a product out there that could be readily assimilated by software and web developers.

If FamilySearch returns with a GEDCOM-X alternative, they will have skeptics who are concerned that the product won't be supported, as the current GEDCOM has suffered through 15 years of no updates by FamilySearch's parent organization. To their credit, FamilySearch now has an extensive Developers Network, and due to the sheer size it's influence in the international genealogical community, FamilySearch may push forth with a GEDCOM-like alternative.

What concerns me is that I don't want a genealogy website brokering file sharing with my cousin. I just don't know what info will be aggregated or incorrectly interpreted by that website, particularly if my cousin creates custom fields not matching the "skin" of data fields the website permits.

A new vendor on the scene, AncestorSync, has come up with a viable data transfer utility that will be a breakthrough in the industry once it is released. The test runs I've viewed are incredible. But the service won't be setting data standards -- and it may no longer be necessary.
Don't get me wrong -- I still believe in genealogy data standards on the front side (read that "user input"). That is a matter of educating researchers to comply with recommendations in the Genealogical Proof Standard AND getting those researchers to use the data fields for the purpose intended by the developers of their software programs of choice.
If a service like AncestorSync can transfer data between programs by understanding definitions of tags as defined by each genealogy software program, AND do that transferring to multiple formats simultaneously, then, heck, Ol' Myrt here doesn't mind paying that service $19 per year for the technology.

So Chris, I sure do hope this answers your questions.

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

BetterGEDCOM statement

Today Ol' Myrt attended the BetterGEDCOM Developers Meeting to deliver the following statement:

Today I meet with you to announce I am stepping aside as moderator of the BetterGEDCOM Project to concentrate on other genealogy pursuits.  My goal today is to provide for a smooth transition and to applaud the phenomenal efforts of BetterGEDCOM participants. Here I have met talented people who have contributed worthwhile thought and a tremendous amount of time at BetterGEDCOM.

I have chosen to appoint Andy Hatchett as interim admin for BetterGEDCOM to give time for any remaining participants to reorganize as they wish. I will work with Andy tomorrow to provide for the transfer of BetterGEDCOM web properties.

Four of us set out to establish BetterGEDCOM on Nov 10th last year with the stated goal to develop an internationally-accepted standard for genealogy data archiving and transfer, and until January we were on a fact-finding mission to see who was up for the project. The subsequent organization of page moderators, development of a requirements catalog and a time line for creating a product and the institution of a sub-group project at SourceTemplates also provided ample space for bitter dispute among certain participants.

The concept of asking a volunteer organization to develop updated and forward-thinking standards for genealogy data storage and transfer was a noble one, perhaps doomed from the start. Creation of a standard and encouraging implementation by software and web developers just isn’t happening. Vendors must concentrate on meeting current customer needs.

At the very least, the BetterGEDCOM Project served to spotlight the issues with outdated genealogy file transfer protocols and lit a fire under several developers to ensure the data family historians collect about each ancestor isn’t lost as we share data with other researchers.

I wish BetterGEDCOM success as an influence in the industry, and feel fortunate to have become better acquainted with many of the members through our association this past year.

Respectfully submitted,

Pat Richley-Erickson,

Saturday, November 12, 2011

RIP Bridgette Schneider of RAOGK

Just received the sad news of Bridgett Schneider's passing. I agree with Lauren and other posters on Facebook that as founder of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, Bridgett helped thousands of people with their family history research. Our loss is heaven's gain.

Prayers go out to her family.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Notable military research sites and one awesome book

With Veterans Day here in the US and Remembrance Day elsewhere in the world, it seems the genealogy websites are stepping up to the plate to share their collections with us on a free basis.

Fold3 - Provides free access now through the 20th reminds us: "Armistice Day also known as Remembrance Day is on November 11 and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allied Forces and Germany for the cessation of hostilities on the western Front which took place at eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918."
In honor of Veterans Day, discover the stories of brave family members who served in conflicts ranging from the American Revolution through WWII at Be sure to download the military records guide.

You might also consider this WWII Memorial book by my friend Duane A. Lempke. I've written about his  book in the past.
I cannot wait until Memorial Day to tell you about TRIBUTE, a thoughtful photo journey through the National WWII Memorial by Duane A. Lempke, because I am quite sure you'll want to obtain a copy in advance to share with your loved ones.
Pictured above is Duane with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of the 9th Congressional District, Ohio. She endorsed TRIBUTE last year. The reason for the meeting was to see the final results of a TRIBUTE print now.
Newbie DearREADERS should know that Duane is retired military, and is now a professional photographer. His award-winning book about the World War II Memorial in Washington DC first caught Ol Myrt's eye this past winter.
This photo was taken by professional photographer Duane Lempke. Ol' Myrt and Mr. Myrt are standing just above the inscription for D-Day. 

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

GeneReunited: New Military Records in honor of Remembrance Day

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was received from our friends at Genes Reunited. Please address all inquiries to that website. 

To coincide with Remembrance Day, UK family history site Genes Reunited have added to their growing number of military records.
From today people interested in tracing their ancestors with military backgrounds can visit  The new release includes The National Roll of the Great War 1914 -1918 which has brief biographies of soldiers who survived the Great War and also information on those who supported the War, such as nurses and civilians, who rarely feature in other WW1 Records.
The complete list of the new military records added to is below.
1861 Worldwide Army Index
Paddington Rifles 1860-1912
Royal Fusiliers Collection 1863-1905
Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933
Army Roll of Honour 1939-1945
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
Distinguished Conduct Medals
National Roll of the Great War
Royal Marine Medal Roll
The 1861 Worldwide Army Index includes soldiers who served across the World in Queen Victoria’s empire states.   The index is also useful for members to identify men missing from the 1861 census.
The newly added military records are available online at and can be viewed on a pay per view basis or Platinum members can choose to add on one or more of the record sets to their package at a low cost.
Rhoda Breakell, Head of Genes Reunited comments: "We are proud to be adding to our growing number of military records on Genes Reunited especially on such an important and symbolic day".

US Veterans: Thank-you for your service

Thank-you Veterans, including my dear husband. My father Glen S. Player served in the Army Medical Corps during WWII while his brother Jack Player served in the Navy at Gadalcanal. Thank-you also to my brother-in-law Steve for serving in the Gulf and to Grampa Kent who served many years ago. My nephews Brad and Chris served most recently.

Because of the sacrifice of our servicemen and women, we enjoy freedom in this great country.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Flag photo courtesy of
Flanders Field poem by John McCrae