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

Saturday, February 24, 2018

From Whence and to Thither -- Understanding Migration Patterns: Part Ten

When you are involved in learning about your historical family, as opposed to researching more recent relatives, you will inevitably come to a time when each of your family lines traces back to a geographical movement. The United States is a nation of immigrants and there have been vast movements across the world that have brought our ancestors to this country. All of us can trace our ancestors back to some "ancestral home" where that particular family line originated.

One of the ultimate challenges of genealogical research is tracing any particular family line backward in time as we discover these movements. The concept of "migration patterns" helps to flesh out the bare bones of your research efforts so that the families can be recognized and identified. Some of us living in America can trace our ancestry here on the American continent back hundreds of years. A few of us can find records dating back into the 1500s if our ancestors spoke Spanish. Even very few Native Americans can trace their ancestry here in America back further than the 1800s. My earliest American ancestors date back into the 1600s and I have to admit that doing the research into these families is extremely challenging, primarily because of the immense amount of inaccurate information and pedigrees that have proliferated over the years.

As your research takes you back in time, you will inevitably encounter more and more difficulty in finding records of your family. With exception of French or Spanish ancestry, your efforts in pushing back into early history will either end up with an immigrant living somewhere on the east or west coast or appearing, as if by magic, somewhere in the interior. These dead ends or brick walls are difficult to accept. When confronted with these common situations, the remedy is expanding your research to the surrounding community. The end-of-line ancestor, if still in America, had to get here somehow and it is only through extensive historical research, including a focus on migration patterns, that will start to give clues about where the person came from.

When you reach an impasse, it is time to broaden your research. Begin by verifying all of your existing information. Make sure names, dates, and places match and are supported by the historical records. You do not want to start searching in the wrong place. If necessary, come forward in time to the more recent generations before doing your research. Make sure of what you know.

For early American settlers, always check the dates of the establishment of the town or village and the dates of the establishment of the counties. This is usually done quite simply by doing a Google search for the name of the town or county. If your ancestor was an early resident of either the county or the town, then you should always look for local history information. Look for a local museum or historical society and contact them about early settlements.

While researching back in time, do not forget to check newspapers, court records including probate records, land and property records, school, and church records. All these, plus many other kinds of records may be the key to finding where your ancestors were coming from when the settled down.

Once the United States began to grow, the paths that settlers took when moving west continued to proliferate. Finding these pathways involves reading both national histories and local histories. Always look to the major industry in any given area. If your ancestor was a minor, he probably moved to a mining area. If the family were all farmers, then look for farm country. Remember big migrations and events such as the Gold Rush, the American Civil War, and other such events. Your ancestors may have been affected by these events.

After all is said and done, keep looking.

You can see the earlier posts in this series here:

Jonathan's Story: The Family History Guide Video
The Family History Guide has uploaded a very touching and inspiring video for its booth presentations at #RootsTech 2018. I have been watching and helping all of my friends at The Family History Guide almost since its inception. As I travel across the country and especially as I now serve in the Washington D.C. North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I continually find opportunities to introduce people to The Family History Guide.

The Family History Guide's participation in RootsTech 2018 will move the website into the forefront of the genealogical community. There aren't a lot of fundamental changes in the genealogical community, but having a structured and sequenced tool for learning about and teaching genealogy is a major development. If you attend RootsTech 2018, take time to visit The Family History Guide booth and learn more about this fabulous website.

Friday, February 23, 2018

From Whence and to Thither -- Understanding Migration Patterns: Part Nine

Coming from the west, especially if you have lived in the Rocky Mountain states, you will not be much impressed with the "mountains" in the east. but historically, the interior mountains along the eastern part of North America were an imposing and difficult barrier to westward expansion. As I previously mentioned, the first settlers to cross the Appalachian Mountains were entirely unknown until early in the 1700s. Because of this vast 1,300 mile long mountain range, early settlements moved north and south rather than west.

In 1746, a group of Virginia investors formed The Ohio Company, based on land speculation to promote the sale of lands in what is now the State of Ohio. However, a major deterrent to western colonization was the threat imposed by Native Americans and later by the French. The conflict, usually referred to as the French and Indian War, was part of the Seven Years War between Great Britain and France. The war came about, in major part, because of the conflict between the British land speculators and the French traders. The War lasted from 1756 to 1763. Before and during this long war, travel into the interior was dangerous. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on The Ohio Company:
In 1749, the British Crown granted the company 500,000 acres in the Ohio Valley between the Kanawha River and the Monongahela. The grant was in two parts: the first 200,000 acres were promised, and the following 300,000 acres were to be granted if the Ohio Company successfully settled one hundred families within seven years. Furthermore, the Ohio Company was required to construct a fort and provide a garrison to protect the settlement at their own expense. But the land grant was rent and tax free for ten years to facilitate settlement.
Looking to the north, settlement in the area of Canada was facilitated by the Great Lakes and their connection to the Atlantic Ocean along the St. Lawrence River. Likewise, the area west of the Appalachians was open by means of the Mississipi River system. The French settled Quebec in 1608 and New Orleans in 1718 and it is always helpful to remember these dates and the date of the Louisiana Purchase which did not occur until 1803 when the French had been in America for almost 200 years.

Another date to remember for migration is the traditional date of the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1776. Those people who remained loyal to the British cause were called Tories, but this name was not very accurate because the Tory Party in Great Britain had been in existence since around 1678. The name was applied by the revolutionaries to the anyone who was loyal to the British Crown. By the end of the War, it is estimated that up to 70,000 of these Tories or Loyalists fled from the young United States to Great Britain or Canada. Additionally, southern Loyalists moved to Florida and some moved out into the Caribbean British possessions.

For more information see the following list of books:

Brøderbund. “Genealogical Records: Loyalists in the American Revolution.” Brøderbund, 1999.

Brown, Wallace. The Good Americans: The Loyalists in the American Revolution. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1969.

Callahan, North. Royal Raiders: The Tories of the American Revolution. Indianapolis [u.a.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963.

Halsey, Francis W. The Old New York Frontier: Its Wars with Indians and Tories, Its Missionary Schools, Pioneers, and Land Titles, 1614-1800. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901.

Martin, Thomas S. True Whigs and Honest Tories: A Green Interpretation of the Coming of the American Revolution. 2, 2,. San Francisco: Internat. Scholars Publ., 1997.

Myers, Theodorus Bailey. The Tories, Or, Loyalists in America Being Slight Historical Tracings, from the Footprints of Sir John Johnson and His Contemporaries in the Revolution. Albany [N.Y.: Press of J. Munsell’s Sons, 1981.

Phelps, Richard H. A History of Newgate of Connecticut, at Simsbury, Now East Granby: Its Insurrections and Massacres, the Imprisonment of the Tories in the Revolution, and the Working of Its Mines : Also, Some Account of the State Prison, at Wethersfield. Salem, N.H.: Ayer Co., 1984.

You might also want to check out The Online Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies website.

After the Revolutionary War, immigration increased steadily and the pressure to move off of the coastal area and out into the wilderness. But the mountains still impeded settlement. As the area of the mountains was explored, passes or gaps through the Appalachian Mountains were discovered. Chief of these passages was the Cumberland Gap and the trail through the gap known as the Wilderness Road. The Cumberland Gap was utilized by another land speculation company called the Transylvania Company and in about 1774, the Company hired Daniel Boone to blaze a trail through the Cumberland Gap into what was called Kentucky. See Wilderness Road. Two other lesser known gaps were the Kane Gap and Moccasin Gap. There is now a Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

By focusing genealogical research on the movements of early American ancestors, a researcher can begin to correlate their movements with historic routes. It is also important to take into account the various land promotional or speculative organizations that were formed to sell land in the west.

You can see the earlier posts in this series here:

#RootsTech 2018 Survival Guide
Having attended every annual #RootsTech Conference since its beginning in 2011, I am sure I have a different perspective and expectations than those attending for the first time. My very first suggestion is to make sure you have good, comfortable walking shoes. I also suggest carrying some kind of easily managed bag or pack for things you might need during the day and for gathering the handouts and such from the Exhibitors. I would also urge all who attend to visit the Exhibits. You may not realize it, but much of the instruction that goes on at #RootsTech takes place in the Exhibit Hall.

Some of these suggestions and many others dealing with registration and check-in are in the above-linked Survival Guide.

A couple of other suggestions include the fact that there are comfortable sitting areas in the Exhibit Hall and the food vendors are quite good. Expect line. Wear warm clothes that can be layered to accommodate a range of possible temperatures. It is a good idea to have the bag or pack to store your coat and other extra clothing.

Salt Lake City is sometimes very cold and windy. Don't count on good weather. As I have pointed out in the past, Salt Lake City blocks are very long and there are eight blocks to a mile. The Salt Palace, where RootsTech is being held is roughly two blocks long and two blocks wide at the north end. Do the math.

Take the time to talk to those around you. You might make a few friends and get to know some fantastic genealogists. I am sorry I will not be there, but I am having too good a time serving as a Senior Missionary in the Maryland State Archives to feel too sorry about missing RootsTech this go around.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

How to Read and Understand a Product Review

Most of us are familiar with the five-star product review feature made into an institution by and other websites. Produce reviews have become a staple of almost any online purchase, so much so, that we sometimes look at the reviews before buying an item off the shelf in a store. It is also common to compare the price of an item in a store with the price online. I went shopping with one of my grownup children the other day in a brick and mortar store and every item he was interested in was instantly compared to the price online.

When reading a product review, even as genealogists, there are some important things to remember. Here are some of my thoughts as a consumer, a genealogist and an attorney with many years of experience. The suggestions are in no particular order.

Suggestion #1:
Making a decision to purchase a product, whether it be a genealogy program or online service, or some other product, should be made independent of either reviews or recommendations. In other words, you should decide what you need and what you purchase. For example, let's suppose you attend a class and the instructor recommends a particular program or service unless that service or program is entirely free, you should make up your own mind whether you will ever use the product of service. I have looked at and purchased hundreds of programs over the years. I mostly use the same kinds of programs all of the time. Right now, I probably have about a hundred programs on my computer. I use less than ten percent of them 95% of the time. I have a few programs that are useful when I need them and worth having for that reason alone, but I would guess that over the years, of all the programs I have purchased and installed, I have never really used. Some programs have a "free" version and using the free version might be enough to make a decision as to whether or not to purchase the full program.

Suggestion #2:
Always look for a product review. I have pretty much become review dependent. I don't look for reviews on day-to-day purchases, but anything out of the ordinary groceries and such, I look for a review. You can usually find a review by doing a Google search for the product plus the word "review," But once you find a review, you need to think about my next suggestions.

Suggestion #3:
This is probably the most difficult step in the purchase process: finding an independent reviewer who isn't employed by or related to the product's seller. I always discount reviews on a product website. For example, if I am going to buy a computer program, I do not give any weight to the reviews about how wonderful the program is that are prominently featured on the product website.  Some "review" websites are really only thinly veiled promotional websites. This includes most "top ten" of anything websites. As you probably know, there are a lot of websites (formerly magazines) that make money selling their reviews. The fact that a review costs money does not automatically disqualify it as a reliable review, but a paid review is not necessarily reliable.

Suggestion #4:
There will almost always be a few bad reviews. There is always the situation that everyone seems to love the product but one person gives it a one-star review. I usually discount a few bad reviews unless what they are saying makes a lot of sense. Here is an example from for a popular genealogy program.

Here is an example of a negative review.
This program is not at all intuitive to use and I keep making multiple entries without knowing it. I had read lots of reviews before buying it (not just the ones here), and I'm really disappointed. The way the program operates seems ancient. I'm not at all happy that I spent what I did on it.
This is not a helpful review. Apparently, the person did not want to learn how to use the program after purchasing it. The review is not specific about the "multiple entries" and seems based on some preconceived notion about how the program should operate, i.e. "ancient."

This type of discussion could go on and on. There always seems to be someone who is unhappy with any product or service. In the case of the program above, I happen to have used the product for years and understand some of the frustrations but would disagree with almost every one of the bad reviews.

Suggestion #5:
Always look at the number of total reviews and the proportions of positive vs. negative reviews. If a product only has one review, it is possible that the person reviewing product was somehow related to the product's developer. If there are a substantial number of reviews for a product or service, you are more likely to get a feel for the relative benefit and value of the product. Here is another example of a genealogically related product.

With this many reviews, you should be taking the negative reviews seriously. But remember, if there was only one review, you would not know what category it fell into.

Suggestion #6:
Look at the competing product's reviews. This may not be as easily done as it is to suggest. In the genealogical community, there may not be a competing product.

Suggestion #7:
Look for alternatives. This doesn't mean that you look for competing products, this means you look for different solutions. For example, maybe you have concerns about using an online program for your genealogy. Maybe you should look at desktop-based programs. In other words, there are often alternatives to one type of program or service.

Suggestion #8:
Do the math. Be careful to avoid any add-on costs. For example, a program may be "free" but only for a limited version. How likely are you to want the upgrade? This is especially true of programs presented in a class or at a conference. The presenters are likely to demo the complete, i.e. paid for, version of the program and not the free version.

Suggestion #9:
Write a review yourself when you find a good or bad deal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1000 Programs on GenSoftReviews
Almost everyone who has an internet connection recognizes the "star system" of ranking programs and other merchandise. has been doing this for years with reviews generated by actual users of various genealogy programs. What is amazing is that the number of such programs has grown over the years and has now surpassed 1000.

This means that there have been over 1000 different genealogy programs developed. I must admit that I have not kept up with all of them. Time and old age take their toll. Actually, I am way too busy to try all the programs like I used to do. But with some notable exceptions, such as the strange case of programs that are highly rated but no longer supported or available from their developers, the rankings are quite accurate. Low ranked programs have some serious issues. Higher ranked programs have a lot fewer issues. Many programs have a dedicated fan base and some of these fan bases are like the people who are still looking for Elvis. They apparently expect really old programs to continue living long after they are officially dead. is more than another website. It is a real window into the history of genealogy software and the attitudes and opinions of thousands of genealogists around the world. If I were rating genealogy websites, I would give five stars and a place in the Genealogy Website Hall of Fame.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Genealogy and the Courts Continued: Copyright Chaos

This post isn't really series, but from time to time, I address any legal changes that may affect the genealogical community. Sometimes a random court decision about a case that seems to have no relevance to genealogical research or anything else becomes a deal changing blockbuster. The latest controversy involves a case from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The case citation is as follows:

Justin Goldman v. Breitbart News Network, LLC, Heavy, Inc., Time, Inc.,Yahoo, Inc., Vox Media, Inc., Gannett Company, Inc., Herald Media, Inc., Boston Globe Media Partners, Inc., and New England Sports Network, Inc., Case 1:17-cv-03144-KBF, S. District of New York, 2018.

Here is the court's own summary of the facts which includes a footnote.
On July 2, 2016, plaintiff Justin Goldman snapped a photograph of Tom Brady (the “Photo”), Danny Ainge, and others on the street in East Hampton. (ECF No. 149, Goldman Declaration (“Goldman Decl.”) ¶ 2.) Shortly thereafter, he uploaded the photograph to his Snapchat Story.1 (Id. ¶ 5.) The Photo then went “viral,” traveling through several levels of social media platforms—and finally onto Twitter, where it was uploaded by several users, including Cassidy Hubbarth (@cassidyhubbarth), Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning), Rob H (@rch111), and Travis Singleton (@SneakerReporter). (Id. ¶ 6–10; ECF No. 120, Defendants’ Statement of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 (“Defs.’ 56.1 Statement”) ¶ 28.) These uploads onto Twitter are referred to as “Tweets.”

1 Snapchat is a social media platform where users share photographs and messages; a Snapchat story is a series of photos a user posts—each photo is available for twenty-four hours only.

Defendants in this case are online news outlets and blogs who published articles featuring the Photo. Each of defendants’ websites prominently featured the Photo by “embedding” the Tweet into articles they wrote over the course of the next forty-eight hours; the articles were all focused on the issue of whether the Boston Celtics would successfully recruit basketball player Kevin Durant, and if Tom Brady would help to seal the deal.

It is undisputed that plaintiff holds the copyright to the Photo.
The key to understanding this controversy is that the photo was undeniably subject to a claim of copyright and then used by commercially oriented websites without a license or even the courtesy of attribution.

The court goes on to examine the process of "embedding" a photo in an HTML document. To make this part of the case as simple as possible, the photo at the beginning of this post is "embedded." All that means is that it is used in the context of this post and copied here by reference to another copy of the same photograph. By the way, the photo above is in the Public Domain and not subject to copyright claims.

Apparently, the defense raised was that no actual "photo" was copied and that the "original" was never used. This is a pretty lame defense from my perspective. I would probably have claimed that the "viral" photo had passed into the public domain by virtue of the fact that the "author," here the photographer failed to take steps to protect his copyright from use by millions of people. He could have watermarked his photo with a claim of ownership, for example.

This case has implications for anyone who copies a copyrighted photo because, at least in this early phase of the litigation, the court did not discuss the issue of abandonment.

The discussion by the Judge is a good summary of the status of U.S. Copyright law as it relates to technology such as the internet. However, many of the statements quoted by the Court demonstrate the lack of sophistication of the various judges who are quoted.

It should also be noted that this lawsuit is far from over. The order referenced above is only a decision on part of the case and the final decision or judgment of the court is still a long way off. After the decision is made, the parties could always appeal to the Court of Appeals and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court.

If this case is finally decided on the basis of the reasoning set forth by the Court, it will become a landmark decision and a very good reminder to all of us to be extremely careful when copying and using content from the internet.