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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#RootsTech 2018 Now Open for Registration

 #RootsTech 2018 is now open for registration. This year's theme is Connect. Belong. The conference will be held February 28 through March 3, 2018 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. Quoting from the website:
RootsTech is excited to add a theme to the annual conference: Connect. Belong. We love this concept as it encompasses what family history adds to our lives. We understand that the journey of connecting and belonging is different for everyone, and while each of our experiences and journeys is unique, family history connects us in many different ways and helps us feel a sense of belonging. 
It’s our goal at RootsTech to advance your personal journey. Come see what’s new at the conference this year, make connections, and discover where you belong.
 Of course, I will be an Ambassador again this year.

Look for genealogy resources in your local library

If you are just a casual user of your local public library, you may not be aware of your library's online, digital reference collections. Your library's offerings may vary considerably depending on local funding. For example, The Maricopa County Library District has an extensive online reference section. Here is a screenshot:

Of course, you will need a library card to access the collections.  Many of these collections can be accessed from your own home. One of the most extensive collections of genealogical research material in the collection is the Gale Genealogy Connect collection.

Here is a description from the website:
Gale Genealogy Connect features a wide range of comprehensive references and is powered by authoritative information from – the parent company of Genealogical Publishing and Clearfield Company, leading publishers of works on genealogy and family history. These unique references – available for the first time in a fully searchable format – cover such topics as genealogy best practices; research methods and sources; immigration; royal and noble ancestry; and much more.
The Maricopa County Library District has both the Gale Genealogy Connect collection but also the collection shown above. is one of the major suppliers of such online reference information. They have a rather impressive free online collection that rivals the FamilySearch Family History Center Portal.

Your library may also have many local and state historical records of interest in your genealogical research. If you happen to live in a small town like I do here in Provo, Utah, your local library's offerings might be very limited.

Fortunately, many larger libraries offer memberships, i.e. library cards, to nonresidents for the payment of a fee. You might check out your county library or a library in a nearby large city. As I have mentioned before, large university libraries also have online collections. However, few of these collections are available by remote access.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Women, Property, Inheritance and Genealogy -- Part One: Some background

Elizabeth Tanner Will 1763
I could write a book or a series of books about any one of the topics in the title of this post. Wait a minute! I have written (or helped write) a series of books about genealogy (search for my name on, but that still leaves women, property, and inheritance. We do have a book about probate. See the following entry:

Eakle, Arlene H., and James L. Tanner. 2015. The ins and outs of probate for genealogists research guide. Morgan, UT: Family History Expos.

There is also a book used as a textbook at Brigham Young University entitled as follows:

Salmon, Marylynn. 1992. Women and the law of property in early America. Chapel Hill [u.a.]: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

At the end of this post, I will provide a list of additional books on these subjects. But now it is time to write more specifically about women, property, and inheritance.

The first word that comes to mind when talking about the history of laws in America is diversity. Unfortunately, this term has come to have two radically different definitions: differences in the laws from one city, county or state to another and the employment of different racial, gender and ethnic individuals by law firms. The diversity I am writing about is the difference in laws between different jurisdictions. In fact, every one of the original U.S. Colonies had their own and substantially different laws concerning women, property rights, and inheritance. These differences have been carried over into substantial differences in the laws throughout the 50 states and 3,142 counties or county equivalents. 

To get some idea about the scope of jurisdictional diversity in the United States here is a short analysis of the counties and county equivalents in the United States today from Wikipedia:  List of United States counties and county equivalents.
Instead of counties, Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes which are functionally similar to counties. Alaska is divided into 19 organized boroughs and a single Unorganized Borough. The United States Census Bureau has divided the Unorganized Borough of Alaska into 10 census areas for federal census and planning purposes. The 38 cities in the state of Virginia are independent cities, which are not considered part of a particular county, and the states of Maryland, Missouri, and Nevada each have one independent city which is not considered part of a particular county. The Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget consider the 64 parishes, 19 organized boroughs, 10 census areas, 41 independent cities, and the District of Columbia, though not the Unorganized Borough, to be equivalent to counties for statistical purposes.
By USA Counties.svg: U.S. Census Bureauderivative work: Abe.suleiman (talk) - USA Counties.svg, Public Domain,

Unknowingly, genealogists tend to think of the past as an extension of the present rather than the other way around. I am also guessing that most genealogists view the past with more uniformity than actual historical reality would suggest. This is particularly true about women's rights, property rights and the customs, processes, procedures, laws, and regulations affecting inheritance. Genealogists, like most of the population, also tend to view subjects such as women's rights in the light of recent developments and attitudes. They also tend to view the changes that have occurred most recently as "progress" and additionally filter all writing or discussion on the subject through a heavy-handed censoring mechanism based on vague concepts of "political correctness." Subsequently, there is a danger in writing about a combination of the subjects that anything I write will be controversial.

Never being one to shy away from controversy, I am determined to launch off into a discussion of the interrelationship of these three subjects.

The issue of diversity jurisdiction was addressed in the United States Constitution, Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1:
The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
This provision of the United States Constitution was amended by the 11th Amendment:
Amendment XI
The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.
I mention this because genealogical research extends back in time before the formation of the United States and any application of the United States Constitution.  At the time of the formation of the United States, the framers of the U.S. Constitution were concerned about the diversity of laws between the various colonies. The United States Supreme Court was set up as the ultimate arbiter between the states. From a genealogical standpoint, it is important to understand both the extent and pervasiveness of the diversity that existed between the colonies with regards to the laws pertaining to women, property, and inheritance.

This is also an important principle that needs to be understood by any historical researcher including genealogists. For example, I began this post with a screenshot of a will executed by one of my ancestors in Rhode Island in 1763. Here is a quote from an article entitled, "Married Women's Property Laws" from the Law Library of Congress website:
During the nineteenth century, states began enacting common law principles affecting the property rights of married women. Married women's property acts differ in language, and their dates of passage span many years. One of the first was enacted by Connecticut in 1809, allowing women to write wills. The majority of states passed similar statutes in the 1850s.29 Passed in 1848, New York's Married Women's Property Act was used by other states as a model: 
AN ACT for the effectual protection of the property of married women.
Passed April 7, 1848.
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly do enact as follows:
Sec. 1. The real and personal property of any female who may hereafter marry, and which she shall own at the time of marriage, and the rents issues and profits thereof shall not be subject to the disposal of her husband, nor be liable for his debts, and shall continue her sole and separate property, as if she were a single female.
Sec. 2 The real and personal property, and the rents issues and profits thereof of any female now married shall not be subject to the disposal of her husband; but shall be her sole and separate property as if she were a single female except so far as the same may be liable for the debts of her husband heretofore contracted.
Sec. 3. It shall be lawful for any married female to receive, by gift, grant devise or bequest, from any person other than her husband and hold to her sole and separate use, as if she were a single female, real and personal property, and the rents, issues and profits thereof, and the same shall not be subject to the disposal of her husband, nor be liable for his debts.
Sec. 4. All contracts made between persons in contemplation of marriage shall remain in full force after such marriage takes place.30
I have left in the footnote references. Note, I have a copy of the will executed by my female ancestor in 1763. This quote from the Library of Congress seems to indicate that Connecticut was the first state or one of the first states to enact laws allowing women to execute wills in 1809. I think we have to be careful as genealogists to sift out historical reality from present-day political correctness. By the way, the statement made by this article from the Library of Congress is the commonly accepted position with regards to early women's rights in America. It is also the reason why I begin this discussion by referring to the issue of jurisdictional diversity.

Stay tuned for future installments.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Expand Your Searches with the Olive Tree Genealogy

Since 1996, Canadian, Lorine McGinnis Schulze has been online on the Olive Tree Genealogy website publishing a huge portal to free Ships' Passenger lists, Naturalization Records, Palatine Genealogy, Canadian Genealogy, American Genealogy, Native American Genealogy, Huguenots, Mennonites, Almshouse Records, Orphan Records, church records, military muster rolls, census records, land records and more. The Olive Tree Genealogy has a 3-step Genealogy Finder. Quoting from Lorine's website:
  • First the free transcribed genealogy records - there are over 1,900 now. Look for your family ancestors in free genealogy records marked with the Olive Tree Genealogy logo.
  • Second the Genealogy tutorials and help files - Genealogy Help on finding your ancestors in census records, land records, ships passenger lists, birth, marriage and death records, and more.
  • Third the Genealogy Resource Guides. Genealogy How-to-Guides help you easily find your ancestors as you search ships passenger lists, Huguenots, Native Americans, Canadian Immigration, Palatines and more.
Lorine is also one of the major genealogical bloggers in the world with her Olive Tree Genealogy Blog:
As people become more involved in genealogical research and begin to realize the huge resources online, it is almost inevitable that they come across the bright spots on the internet such as the Olive Tree Genealogy website. She also has an Olive Tree Genealogy YouTube Channel and has written a number of books. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What about missing marriage records?

In a recent post, I discussed some of the law in the United States concerning common-law marriage. After receiving a comment to the post, I realized that there were some major unanswered questions about the impact of common-law marriages on genealogical research. The main issue here is the effect of a marriage on property ownership.Common-law marriages fall into the category of undocumented marriages and could be considered to be quasi-legal. Here is a statement regarding the property rights of women before 1839.
Under the common law legal doctrine known as coverture, a married woman in Great Britain's North American colonies and later in the United States had hardly any legal existence apart from her husband. Her rights and obligations were subsumed under his. She could not own property, enter into contracts, or earn a salary. See Wikipedia:Married Women's Property Acts in the United States."
In other words, when a woman got married all of her property belonged to her husband. There were some exceptions. Common law provided that a woman owned a "dower" interest in the property of her husband's estate upon his death. A woman could relinquish her dower interest in real property by executing a disclaimer deed. Failure to execute the disclaimer date resulted in the wife's dower interest being preserved and enforceable upon the death of her husband. For example, if the husband sold a piece of real estate during coverture (the existence of the marriage) without the wife's consent, then the wife could enforce her dower interest in the property after her husband's death.

Here is a quote from the Stewart Title Agency in Massachusetts about Dower release. I would suggest that upon reading this explanation you would begin to understand why lawyers, courts, and judges all exist.
The release of "all other interests therein," as appearing in the clause relating to dower and homestead is to be read within the context in which it appears, and it has been held that the language refers only to marital rights and does not extend to convey any other interests in the land, including the fee title. Anttila v. A. E. Lyon Co., 222 Mass. 126, 109 N.E. 950 (1915). 
Although such a deed will not pass the title of the spouse who joins in the conveyance for such a limited purpose, if the parties held title as tenants by the entirety, and the spouse who so joins dies before the granting spouse, the title under the deed will be good, inasmuch as the conveyance by the grantor would not have severed the tenancy by the entirety and the death of the other spouse will allow title to flow through that grantor. It is important to remember, however, that in order for this "cure" to work, it must be established that the spouse who joined and the granting spouse were still married to each other when the spouse who had joined in the conveyance died. If the parties had been divorced, the title (or at least a half interest therein) would remain defective, because the divorce would have "severed" the tenancy, transforming it into a tenancy in common, and thereby destroying the survivorship feature. And, the order of death is crucial, because even if the parties remained married, the death by the granting spouse before the death of the joining spouse would, where the parties had held title as tenants by the entirety, cause the entire title to find its way into the hands of the joining spouse, thereby totally destroying the chain of title of the grantee claiming under the granting spouse.
Now, it is time to go back to common-law marriage. In essence, none of these property rights exist unless there is a valid marriage. So, assuming that two individuals lived together, how does a genealogist determine that there was a marriage? By the way, the quote above from the title agency does not even address the issue of the validity of the marriage.

The idea of the common-law marriage is to provide a method by which individuals who live together as husband and wife for an extended period of time and have "issue" or children obtain property rights. On the other hand, the restrictions on common-law marriages were designed to prevent people from claiming property rights improperly.

Modern law has modified marital property interests considerably. Beginning in the early 1800s, states began to pass women's property rights laws that modified the claims that a wife had on her husband's property particularly upon the death of the husband. During the same time period, laws concerning the acceptance of common-law marriage also evolved. Many states abolished the recognition of common-law marriage entirely. Whether or not a marriage exists turns out to be amazingly complex.

From a genealogical standpoint, absence of a marriage record does not indicate that the couple was not married. We have to assume that any couple shown to have lived together as husband and wife and particularly those that had children were married absent specific records negating the marriage. There is really no other option. However, a record showing, for example, that the wife signed a disclaimer deed indicates clearly that the couple were married. Other indication of marriage, i.e. coverture, can be found in probate files.

It looks like to me that I am going to have to continue discussing this issue. I don't think I'll make it into a series, however.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Common Law Marriage and Genealogy

A common-law marriage is one recognized in some jurisdictions without a license or ceremony. Here is one definition from Black's Law Dictionary as quoted on the website:
What is common law marriage? 
One not solemnized in the ordinary way, but created by an agreement to marry, followed by cohabitation; a consummated agreement to marry, between a man and a woman, per verba de praesenti, followed by cohabitation. Taylor v. Taylor, 10 Colo. App. 303, 50 Pac. 1049; Cuneo v. De Cuneo, 24 Tex. Civ. App. 436, 59 S. W. 284; Morrill v. Palmer, 68 Vt. 1, 33 Atl. 829. 33 L. R. A. 411
The Latin phrase, marriage per verba de praesenti refers to an agreement for a marriage by means of words of present assent.

Many genealogists spend an inordinate amount of time searching for a marriage record when no such record exists. The simple reason for this is that the relationship was a common-law marriage.The entire concept of a common-law marriage has a long and very complex history in the United States. In addition, the application of the term, common-law marriage, is subject to misuse and misconception. Here is a rather good summary of the issues involved from Wikipedia:
The term "common-law marriage" is often used incorrectly to describe various types of couple relationships, such as cohabitation (whether or not registered), or other legally formalized relations. Although these interpersonal relationships are often called "common-law marriage" they differ from true common-law marriage, in that they are not legally recognized as "marriages", but are a parallel interpersonal status, known in most jurisdictions as "domestic partnership", "registered partnership", "conjugal union", "civil union", etc. In Canada, for instance, while couples in "marriage-like relationships" may have many of the rights and responsibilities of a marriage (laws vary by province), couples in such partnerships are not legally considered married, although they may be legally defined as "unmarried spouses" and for many purposes (such as taxes, financial claims, etc.) they are treated as if they were married.[2][3] In recent years, the term common-law marriage has gained increased use as a generic term for all unmarried couples – however, this term has a narrow legal meaning. First of all, one can only talk of "common-law marriage" if such marriage was formed in a jurisdiction which actually applies the common law. A 2008 poll in the UK showed that 51% of respondents incorrectly believed that cohabitants had the same rights as married couples.[4] 
Non-marital relationship contracts are not necessarily recognized from one jurisdiction to another, and neither are de facto couples, whereas common-law marriages, being a legal marriage, are valid marriages worldwide (if the parties complied with the requirements to form a valid marriage while living in a jurisdiction that allows this form of marriage to be contracted).
Presently, the following states recognize common-law marriages as listed on
  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
  • Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
  • Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
  • Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98. Oklahoma’s laws and court decisions may be in conflict about whether common law marriages formed in that state after 11/1/98 will be recognized.)
  • Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
The practical effect of a common-law marriage is that there is no official record of the marriage. More recently, the legal status of common-law marriages has been complicated by recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions. It is also not uncommon in the United States historically that people would hold themselves out to be married without any formal marriage ceremony recognized by either the state or the church.

Here's an example of the legal requirements for the recognition of the common-law marriage in the state of Utah from the Utah Courts website:
Many people want to get a "common law marriage." Utah does not have common law marriage; instead, you may petition the court to recognize your relationship as a marriage even though you never had a marriage ceremony. If the court approves, the partners will be considered to have been married ever since the following conditions have been met. The parties should be prepared to present evidence that the marriage arises out of an agreement between partners who:
  • are of legal age and capable of giving consent;
  • are legally capable of entering a solemnized marriage; (For example, there are no reasons, such as a close family relationship, preventing the parties from legally marrying.)
  • have lived together;
  • treat each other as though they are married; and
  • present themselves to the public so that other people believe they are married.
The petition to have a relationship recognized as a marriage must be filed during the relationship or within one year after the relationship ends (one or both partners have died or the partners have separated). Either partner may file the petition or both partners may file the petition together. A third party, such as next of kin, may file the petition.
When doing genealogical research it is entirely possible to find records indicating that a couple lived together and had children but no records indicating the marriage ever to place. Historically, it would be very difficult to determine the frequency of these "common-law" marriages.

By the way, all of the states in the United States recognize common-law marriages validly contracted in another state under the laws of comity.

The concept of common-law marriages raises an issue for genealogists who become fixated on a particular date or event and an ancestor's life. For example, if a U.S. Census record shows that a couple is living together with children there is an implication that they were "married" but the absence of a record showing a marriage does not necessarily negate the fact that they were married. Of course, there is an ongoing need to document the event center ancestor's lives but there is also the reality that any given record may not exist.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Native American Tribal Enrollment and DNA Testing -- Part Two

Over my lifetime, I have often heard the term "blood relative" used to differentiate between a relative who was part of my ancestral line and one that "married" into the family. The technical term for this is "consanguinity" which is defined as the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that aspect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person. The idea that relationships were transmitted through the blood dates back into antiquity. Obviously, scientific advancements in DNA testing demonstrate that the relationships between individuals even in the same family are much more complicated than a simple "blood" relationship.

In the series, I am using the example of Native American tribal enrollment to explore the practical uses of DNA testing to establish relationships and a culturally and politically charged environment. In this context, genealogical research, DNA testing, and desires to preserve a cultural heritage can either work together or create irretrievable conflicts. Although I am focusing on Native American tribal enrollment for this example, the discussion applies to the greater issues involved in general genealogical DNA testing.

Let me start with a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose that I take a DNA test supplied by one of the major genealogical DNA testing companies. Let's further suppose that the DNA test shows that I have a certain percentage of Native American ancestry and that I am surprised with the results of the test. For whatever reason, I do not have a family tree associated with the DNA test. In this, I am far from unique. For example, recent news reports indicate that has sold approximately 5 million DNA test packages. However, their latest reports also show that their paid membership is only about 2.6 million. Arguably, there are about 2.4 It's million or so people out there with DNA tests who do not have family trees on See's Company Overview.

Continuing with my hypothetical situation, let's suppose that the report from my DNA test indicating that I have Native American ancestry motivates me to begin some genealogical research. How far back in time would that research have to go to establish the identity of the Native American connection?

My hypothetical connection to a Native American ancestor could date back hundreds of years and depending on the availability of the records, I may never establish a paper connection with a Native American ancestor. Even if I assume that I already had an extensive family tree on the DNA testing program's website, making a connection to a specific ethnic group such as a Native American ancestor would be extremely difficult. The other hand, it could be as simple as finding out that my grandparents were Native Americans.

As I look at the results of my own DNA tests and compare the results to what is already known from my own family tree, I presently see no way to extend the research to account for reports that I have Italian and West Asian ethnicity.

 This is not an abstract topic. It is part of an ongoing discussion in the Native American community about the role of DNA testing in establishing tribal enrollment. Quoting from an article entitled "Tribal Enrollment and Genetic Testing" from the National Congress of American Indians, American Indian and Alaska Native Genetics Resource Center:
When the NCAI Policy Research Center began developing this resource guide, tribal leaders asked many questions such as, “What is genetic testing? What are good sources of information about genetic testing? What kinds of DNA testing can we use for tribal enrollment? How do we respond to individuals claiming tribal membership based on DNA tests?” This paper was developed to provide tribal leaders with more information on genetic testing related to tribal enrollment. Tribes are sovereign nations and so will decide their own views on genetic testing. This paper provides information to assist in those decisions.
This article outlines some of the challenges of bringing genealogical DNA testing into the real world. The following comment from the same article further illustrates the challenges of assuming that DNA testing will solve ancestral relationships in a general way.
DNA testing has become an umbrella term that refers to many different kinds of genetic testing that provides information about an individual’s genes. Genetic information, or DNA, is found in nearly every cell in the human body. DNA testing technology is constantly changing, and so are the efforts to engage tribes in testing on an individual and group basis. One type of DNA testing called DNA fingerprinting can be used to help document close biological relationships, such as those between parents and children, as well as among other close family members. Other kinds of testing for genetic ancestry use markers to see how similar an individual is to a broader population or group, based on probabilities drawn from databases of research on populations and group genetic characteristics. However, no DNA testing can “prove” an individual is American Indian and/or Alaska Native, or has ancestry from a specific tribe. Genetic testing can provide evidence for the biological relationship between two individuals (e.g., paternity testing), but there are no unique genes for individual tribes or American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) ancestry in general. While research scientists have found that some genetic markers are found mostly only in AI/ANs, these markers are neither unique to AI/ANs nor predictive of AI/AN identity. This section will discuss various types of DNA testing as well as considerations for tribal leaders and members when engaging with testing companies.
This article also is linked to a further discussion entitled "Considerations in Using Genetic Testing for Tribal Enrollment."

What is certain is that the situation I outlined above in my hypothetical would not be helpful or useful in determining the type of information necessary to develop a tribal relationship.

 Stay tuned for the next installment.

To see the previous installment of this series click below.

Introducing MyHeritage DNA Match Review
092017&utm_content=english&utm_term=DNAreviewmatch continues to improve and innovate with its DNA testing and reporting. Their recent blog post entitled, "Introducing the DNA Match Review Page" explains the new additions in detail. My own DNA test results now have 171 DNA matches. In my own case, unfortunately, very few of the close matches have family trees on the website, so the analysis of their relationships are quite limited. In those few instances where there is a family tree, it is helpful to see the Smart Matches, shared ancestral surnames, shared DNA matches, shared ethnicities and a pedigree chart. Here is an example of a shared pedigree:

Since we are dealing with living people, it is important to respect their privacy when appropriate.

Go Ahead Tours, Collaborate to Launch a New Tour Portfolio
It certainly looks like is getting into the tour business. Of course, "visit the homeland" tours have been popular for a very long time. If you do a Google search for homeland tours you will see hundreds of companies and sponsoring institutions around the world offering such tours. Here is one example:
During the past few years, genealogy cruises have also been popular with some of the promoters incorporating "classes" with professional genealogists as an attraction. My own "homeland" tour would take me to Eastern Arizona, which I suppose is not on many of the tour companies' adgendas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Findmypast adds new CEO

It appears that both and have appointed new CEOs at about the same time. The new CEO of is Tamsin Todd. She replaces Jay Verkler who was acting as interim CEO. Jay will now be taking over as Chairman of the Board at Tamsin Todd's posting indicates that she has been acting as CEO for about a month.

CEO of, Tim Sullivan, Steps Down

The CEO of, Tim Sullivan, has stepped down. According to a press release dated September 12, 2017. his resignation is effective October 1 and Howard Hochhauser, the company's Truth Financial Officer since 2009 and Chief Operating Officer since 2012, will assume the role of interim CEO. The company will begin the search for a permanent replacement. Quoting from the press release:
Since Sullivan joined Ancestry as CEO in 2005, the company has taken family history and consumer genomics mainstream. Today, Ancestry is a powerful and trusted brand that inspires a curiosity for self-discovery. Over his tenure, Ancestry revenues have grown from $140 million to more than $1 billion projected for the full year 2017, and more than five million people have taken the AncestryDNA test, making it the most popular consumer genomics product in the world. Over these years, the company also expanded internationally, established and grew a San Francisco office to complement its Utah headquarters, and today employs almost 1600 people.
On the same date, announced that it had postponed its previously announced initial public offering. Ancestry's 5 million DNA customers far outnumber its 2.6 million paying subscribers. With 20 billion online family history records, Ancestry still claims to have the world's largest online collections.

Apple, iPhone and Genealogy

Apple's announcements of new products have become a worldwide news event. They are also an example of picky infighting among the large technology companies. For example, the Apple Special Event on September 12, 2017, could only be viewed by using either the Safari browser or the Microsoft Edge browser. All other browsers were blocked including Chrome and Firefox. I believe that this carries Apple's smug superiority a little too far. This is true even for me a dyed-in-the-wool Apple aficionado.

That said, I am always fascinated by the vast improvements in the technology that seems to leap ahead every time there is a major announcement by one of the large technology companies. In this case, the iPhone X is a prime example.

This new iPhone has an A11 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture. Quoting from a article entitled, "Inside Apple's new A11 Bionic Processor:"
The A11 Bionic - yes, that's its real name - is a 64-bit, 6-core processor (two performance cores, and four high-efficiency cores) that Apple claims is the "most powerful and smartest chip ever in a smartphone." 
It features 4.3 billion transistors and its two performance cores are 25 percent faster than the A10 chip, and the four high-efficiency cores are 70 percent faster the A10. It also features Apples second-generation performance controller that is 70 percent faster for handling multithread workloads than the current controller.
Translating that into English, it means that the new iPhone X is likely a much more powerful computer than the one you are using on your desktop today, not to mention your laptop. 

What does this mean for genealogists? One obvious answer is that your computer and smartphone just got another major step out-of-date. The new iPhone 8 and the iPhone X are also coming out with an upgraded iOS version. This means that older devices may be on their way out through an inability to upgrade either with this iOS upgrade or one to come. But older devices will certainly not be able to take advantage of many of the new features.

Genealogists are really at the tail end of these kinds of technological advances. But some of us do use smartphones and will benefit from the changes in technology. Some things, like the improvements in the smartphones' camera quality, have an immediate impact on some of our activities, but other most of the other developments will only have a future trickle down effect. For more information about the iPhone X see

Native American Tribal Enrollment and DNA Testing -- Part One

Quoting from the US Department of the Interior website:
Tribal enrollment requirements preserve the unique character and traditions of each tribe. The tribes establish membership criteria based on shared customs, traditions, language and tribal blood.
For genealogists, the term "tribal blood" opens up a whole collection of related topics. Regularly, I received questions from individuals pursuing a traditional family connection to a Native American ancestor. This is one of those "tip of the iceberg" issues. While I was working at the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library, we had frequent requests for help with Native American research with the objective of the researchers to obtain enrollment in a particular tribe. The United States government recognizes 566 American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes.

Here I need to write a bit about the terms "Indian," "American Indian," and "Native American." The issue of which of these terms, if any, is politically correct is an ongoing and unsettled issue. Many websites, even those maintained by the tribes, use all three terms interchangeably, even though there are those who are not Native Americans who believe that it is more politically correct to use the term "Native American." From my own standpoint, my ancestors have been in America since 1620 and I am not sure how long we would have to be here to qualify as Native Americans. All three terms imply some sort of racial or ethnic uniformity among the tribes, which does not, in reality, exist. The terms also only seem to apply to those people living in the United States; Indians who live in Latin American countries are subject to their own cultural and ethnic classifications and our artificially imposed national boundaries do not reflect any real cultural or ethnic differences.

As I mentioned above, membership in a tribe has been traditionally based on blood quantum laws. One convenient explanation of blood quantum laws can be found in a Wikipedia article entitled "Blood quantum laws." Here is a quote:
Blood quantum laws or Indian blood laws are those enacted in the United States and the former colonies to define qualification by ancestry as Native American, sometimes in relation to tribal membership. These laws were developed by Euro-Americans and thus did necessarily not reflect how Native Americans had traditionally identified themselves or members of their in-group, and thus ignored the Native American practices of absorbing other peoples by adoption, beginning with other Native Americans, and extending to children and young adults of European and African ancestry. Blood quantum laws also ignored tribal cultural continuity after tribes had absorbed such adoptees and multiracial children.
Here is a further explanation from the same article:
A person's blood quantum (aka BQ) is defined as the percentage of their ancestors, out of their total ancestors, who are documented as full-blood Native Americans. For instance, a person who has one parent who is a full-blood Native American, and one who has no Native ancestry, has a blood quantum of 1/2. Since re-establishing self-government and asserting sovereignty, some tribes may use blood quantum as part of their requirements for membership or enrollment, often in combination with other criteria. For instance, the Omaha Nation requires a blood quantum of 1/4 Native American and descent from a registered ancestor for enrollment.
Now, from a genealogical perspective, you can see why people might be interested in making a genealogical connection to an American Indian ancestor. These connections became more interesting as the tribes began to create income from casinos and related commercial activities.

Originally, the blood quantum laws were exclusionary rather than inclusionary. The laws were designed to deny those with Native American "blood" from becoming citizens or participating in elections. Native Americans were not granted voting rights or citizenship until June 2, 1924, but some states still barred Native Americans from voting until 1957.

Despite the qualifications and definitions imposed by the U.S. government, the tribes began their own processes of qualifying membership. In fact, this process is ongoing and recent developments in some tribes have resulted in excluding members who were previously recognized. Here is a further statement from the Wikipedia article about the history of the blood quantum laws.
Many Native American tribes did not use blood quantum law until the government introduced the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Some tribes, such as the Navajo Nation, did not adopt the type of written constitution suggested in that law until the 1950s. given intermarriage among tribes, particularly those that are closely related and have settled near each other, critics object to the federal requirement that individuals identify as belonging to only one tribe when defining blood quantum. They believe this reduces individual's valid membership in more than one tribe, as well as costing some persons qualification as Native American, because of having ancestry from more than one tribe, but not 1/4 or more from one tribe. Overall, the numbers of registered members of many Native American tribes have been reduced because of federal laws. 
"The U.S. census decennial enumerations indicate a Native American population growth for the United States that has been nearly continuous since 1900 (except for an influenza epidemic in 1918 that caused serious losses), to 1.42 million by 1980 and to over 1.9 million by 1990." In the 2000 census, there were 2.5 million American Indians. Since 1960, people may self-identify their ancestry on the US Census. Indian activism and a rising interest in Native American history appear to have resulted in more individuals identifying as having Native American ancestry on the census.
The recent popularity of DNA testing for genealogical purposes has opened up an entirely new discussion among those who are concerned about their ancestral ethnicity or racial composition. The entire subject is fraught with political and social overtones. The whole concept of "race" is beginning to be questioned. As noted by the Wikipedia article, "No federally recognized tribe enrolls members solely based on DNA testing, as it generally cannot distinguish among tribes.[18] " In addition, the article states: 
Many researchers have published articles that caution that genetic ancestry DNA testing has limitations and should not be depended on by individuals to answer all their questions about heritage.[19][20]
The issues raised as a consequence of tribal membership limitations ultimately have far reaching impact on the overall results presented by the various artificial designations imposed by the DNA testing companies. For example, my own DNA tests have assigned me a certain percentage of "English" ancestry. Is being English a tribe or a race? What does it mean to be English? Historically, the British Islands have been overrun by several different ethnic groups from across Europe and elsewhere. The question of defining what it means to be English is not trivial. See "What does it mean to be English?" the Queen Mary University of London. Do we define being English by DNA, politics, ethnicity, or merely because some or all of our ancestors were born within a certain politically defined area?

Again referring to my own DNA testing results, I am said to be a certain percentage Italian and Baltic. However, extensive genealogical research going back as far as reliable records exist do not indicate any ancestors from either area. So do I get to join the Italian tribe? Can I claim to be Italian? These are real questions, not sarcastic ones.

Many of the "DNA matches" I am receiving from the test results are based on less than 2% shared DNA. What does this mean? Could someone establish a Native American connection with those results?

During the next few posts in this series, I will continue to explore these and many other questions that should be asked and answered in conjunction with the popularization of DNA testing as it applies to Native Americans and the rest of us who do not claim to be members of an identifiable group.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Blog for The Family History Guide
The Family History Guide has become the "go to" place for support and training on and now, with the addition of tracks for,, and, it has expanded its support base to the other major online genealogy database/family tree programs. Most recently, The Family History Guide added a section supporting family-oriented genealogy activities. All of these new developments are now announced and explained in the newly added blog.
Over the years as technology has become more complex, one of the glaring challenges has been the lack of technical support available. In one case, a whole series of books was developed based on the concept of the "missing manual" for various programs and devices. See "the missing manual." The Family History Guide is truly the manual that has been missing for each of the websites now featured. In addition, it adds a whole new aspect to training and teaching about genealogy in general.

Another consequence of the technological explosion is the overwhelming amount of information that is now available. We can easily drown in an ocean of information. The Family History Guide takes one small part of that ocean of information, the part relevant to genealogical research, and makes it manageable and useful.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Thoughts on is a free/subscription web-based application that is described as "an online service that quickly and easily makes your writing better and makes you sound like a pro, or at least helps you avoid looking like a fool.” See quote from Forbes. I signed up for the free version some time ago and it has been running on my Chrome browser for some time now. I guess since I write so much, that this app is now pretty much related to my genealogical efforts. I have had a long standing rule not to do "reviews" of programs but after considerable thought and lot of frustration, I decided to make an exception for So, this post could be construed as a product review. 

For me, the most obvious effect of having the program on my browser is that it automatically flags misspelled words and "incorrect" comma placement. It also occasionally finds "wrong" word usage. The program works in the background so once it is added as a browser app, you do not have to turn the program on or off. It does have some limits and will not work with text documents outside of typing in online programs. At this level, it is helpful in the sense that my wife does not make as many corrections to my posts as she did in the past. Some of the frustration also begins at this level, since I do make a lot of typos and comma mistakes and it is always coming up with interruptions to my train of thought. I have several times thought about dumping the program, but I realize its utility and keep it functioning. 

Now, to the heart of the issue: the program does not recognize a large percentage of my perfectly good sentence constructions. In short, its level of English grammar is very limited. I would guess that I ignore almost as many suggested "corrections" as I use. This most likely comes from my expansive definition as to what is and what is not grammatical in the English language. More simply put, my narrative style is not considered grammatically acceptable by the program. It is impossible for me to give an example because I do not think the same way the program is designed to correct. The program seems to have a very limited corpus of English usage. If you used every suggested correction, you would sound like you were writing a Freshman English paper. 

Considering what I see online, I would suggest that many online contributors need the program. On the other hand, I would strongly suggest that using any "grammar" type program will inevitably end up being frustrating if you have been writing for some time. By the way, the program could probably use a shot from and Genealogy

Perhaps you didn't know what the United States government has an official website that talks about genealogy. For the United States government, genealogy falls between "Family Legal Issues" and "Lawyers and Legal Advice." is described as follows: is an interagency product administered by USAGov (formerly the Federal Citizen Information Center), a division of the U.S. General Services Administration's Technology Transformation Service. It got its start when Internet entrepreneur Eric Brewer, whose early research was funded by the Department of Defense, offered to donate a powerful search engine to government. That gift helped accelerate the government's earlier work to create a government-wide portal. 
In June 2000, President Clinton announced the gift from the Federal Search Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Brewer, and instructed that an official U.S. web portal be launched within 90 days. went online on September 22, 2000 under the name The GSA and 22 federal agencies funded the initiative in 2001 and 2002. was legislatively mandated through Section 204 of the E-Government Act of 2002. Since 2002, has received an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress. In January 2007, officially changed its name to
One interesting link on the website is to a guide to tracing your Native American heritage from the U.S.  Department of the Interior.

This particular publication brings up an interesting question concerning enrollment in a Native American tribe in the United States. This particular issue is being discussed in conjunction with the insurgence of DNA testing for genealogical purposes. I thought this a good topic and will be writing about it in the future.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Additions to The Family History Guide

Several major additions to The Family History Guide have been posted in the last week. You can go to the What's New section in the "More" tab at the top of the page to see all the new additions and changes.

Here is a screenshot of the newly added features list:

You can see the major addition above in the first screenshot; the new Families Section. Here is the list of the new features added in August and so far in September 2017:
  • Added a new Family Activities section in the Misc. menu. Now you can find fun and educational family history activities for Family, Singles, Youth, and Children, all in one convenient place. See to get started.
  • Updated the top menus on each page, replacing the Projects menu with individual Partner menus: FS=FamilySearch, AN=Ancestry, MH=MyHeritag, and FMP=Findmypast. Now you can find Projects for any Partner directly from its menu, without having to switch contexts at the bottom of the menus.
  • Updated many of the Partner pages for Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast. New Goals and Choices were added or filled in. Work is ongoing towards the end of the Beta period, on Nov. 15.
  • Added links to YouTube videos on the following topics: Adoption (U.S. Research); African-American Research; Court Records (U.S.); City Directories (U.S.); Descendancy Research (LDS); Divorce Records (U.S.); DNA Testing; Emigration & Immigration (U.S. and England); Genealogy Societies (Project 6); Jewish Research; Land Records (U.S.); Military Records (U.S.); Obituaries (U.S.); Probate Records (U.S.); Revolutionary War Records (U.S.); Social Security Death Index (U.S.); World War I and II Records (U.S.)
  • Added Partner pages for Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast. These include Projects, Goals, and Choices, similar to the approach used for the FamilySearch content.
  • Added Learning Paths to the Home Page and revised the Projects menu to provide easy access to the Partner pages.
  • Updated the Topics page to include categories for Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast.
  • Created a "Favorites" section on the Home Page, featuring "About the FHG" and "For Beginners".
  • Reorganized the Intro menu for easier navigation.
  • Set up a Beta program lasting until Nov. 15 for the Partner Pages and added them to the Content Review form.
The amount of information and help for genealogists being added to the website is extraordinary. Click here to visit The Family History Guide.

In addition, The Family History Guide is now being supported by a new blog entitled "Using the Family History Guide."

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The End of FamilySearch Microfilm Rentals

With the one week extension, to 7 September 2017, this day becomes the last day to order microfilm through the rental program. For genealogy, this is a milestone event. But for the vast majority of family historians and genealogists, it will pass unnoticed. I have been continuing my ad hoc polls about microfilm usage and I find that very few of the people who volunteer or visit the BYU Family History Library have used microfilm for research during the past year.

There are a number of articles and blog posts on the subject of the discontinuance of the microfilm shipments. You might want to read a few if you are interested.
Here is a summary of the current situation as of the 7th of September 2017 from FamilySearch:
  • Patrons can still order microfilms online until Thursday, September 7, 2017.
  • After film ordering ends, if customers need access to a particular film yet to be digitized, they can express interest to have it added to the priority digitization list by contacting FamilySearch Support (Toll Free: 1-866-406-1830).
  • All of the microfilm rented by patrons in the past 5 years have now been digitized by FamilySearch—over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images).
  • The remaining microfilms are being digitally scanned at a rate of 1,000 films per day and are projected to be complete by 2020.
  • New digital images are available as they are scanned in the Catalog.
  • Films currently on loan in family history centers and affiliate libraries are automatically granted extended loan status.
  • Affiliate libraries now have access to nearly all of the restricted image collections as family history centers.
  • Visitors to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City will still be able to order needed microfilms to use during their research visits.
I am on my way to the BYU Family History Library to view a microfilm that is only available for viewing in a Family History Center or Affiliated Library. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ancestry Reduces Features on RootsWeb has been a fixture of genealogical research since the earliest days of online access. I simply cannot remember a time when I was not using RootsWeb and its vast interconnected web of user contributed genealogical data. Here's a description of RootsWeb from the wiki:
RootsWeb is like a forest that has grown up without much pruning or thinning. It has been and continues to be created by a worldwide community of online and mostly amateur genealogists. It contains huge and tiny databases (including more than 465 million names in family trees), libraries, articles, how-to tips, personal websites (more than 30,000 independently authored websites containing about 9 million pages), archives, and all sorts of surprising treasures and tools tucked into its nooks and crannies. RootsWeb also provides numerous vehicles for the free exchange of information pertaining to family research—such as 30,000 mailing lists—and it sponsors many of the largest volunteer genealogy projects on the Web. Many genealogical and historical societies call RootsWeb home, as do various family associations, special-interest groups, and projects you might never have heard about. Most of the different areas of RootsWeb are built and maintained by dedicated volunteers who are avid, friendly genealogists often willing to go out of their way to help you.
I recently spotted the following announcement at the top of the RootsWeb startup page:
We will be discontinuing the Guestbook and Calendar features on Friday Oct 13, 2017. RootsWeb users who use Guestbooks or Calendars on their Freepages, WWW, Virts, or Homepages web sites should remove Guestbook and Calendar references from those pages.
I certainly hope that this does not presage an erosion and possible discontinuance of the RootsWeb community. RootsWeb is probably not a significant revenue source for and may go on the chopping block along with's previous discontinuance of Family Tree Maker.  This would be a significant loss to the genealogical community.

Discover Your Family Story with is one of many large online digital newspaper subscription websites. It is maintained by NewsBank, Inc., a major supplier of research tools to libraries in colleges and universities, government libraries, community college libraries, public libraries, K-12 school libraries, and content publishers. To help you understand the website, has a YouTube Channel. Here are two of the videos that explain the website:

Every Obituary Tells a Story. Dig In. Discover Your Family Story Today.

How to Search Video Tutorial currently charges $5.83 a month with an annual subscription billed with one payment of $69.95 for a monthly charge of $19.95. There is a 30 day trial subscription for $9.95.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When I looked, every microfilm had been digitized

For many years now, I have been making lists of the microfilm rolls I need for my research from the Catalog. Once the list got long enough, I made a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and spent some time, actually days, looking at microfilm. Recently, I have been ploughing my way through microfilm at the BYU Family History Library in Provo, Utah. I have been consistently ordering microfilm from Salt Lake to have the rolls available at BYU.

The recent announcement by FamilySearch that microfilm rentals would be the discontinued put me into high gear in ordering microfilm. When FamilySearch extended the ordering period for an extra week, I reviewed my list to see if there was anything missing. I also randomly began looking at some of the microfilm I needed in the catalog. To my surprise, I found that the microfilm I had ordered was now digitized. I started looking at the rest of the microfilm on my list and quickly discovered that all of it had been digitized except for one roll. Yes, all of it had been digitized.

I would suggest that if you are waiting for a microfilm shipment that you check the catalog on to see whether or not the microfilm you ordered has already been digitized. You might be surprised like I was that the microfilm has already been digitized.

RootsTech 2018: Connect. Belong.

#RootsTech 2018

Even though here in the West it seems like Summer is still in force, it is time to start thinking about RootsTech 2018.There is a change in the time and date for the conference to begin. Here is the announcement:
RootsTech to Begin on Wednesday 
We’re thrilled to announce that RootsTech 2018 will officially begin a day earlier than our prior conferences, on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Join us for class sessions beginning on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. MST. Classes will also be offered at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. 
Following these class sessions, the General Session will begin at 4:30 p.m., featuring popular speaker Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International.
In the past years, RootsTech has been held on Thursday through Saturday. This change extends the conference for an additional day. There is also a change in the previously titled Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown. Here is that announcement:
Innovation Showcase 
At RootsTech, we believe that the future of family history lies in technology and innovation. The 2018 conference will see the evolution of the Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown, which will become the all-new Innovation Showcase. The Showcase will highlight leading technologies and products within the genealogy industry from around the world. The Showcase will be featured in the session following Rockwood’s general session address. 
“The Showcase will feature the best new technology in the industry that we can find from around the globe,” said Steve Rockwood. “It’s a great opportunity for us to give a number of companies; from small startups to large organizations; the opportunity to present their ideas on stage for a chance to be heralded as one of the ‘Best Family History Innovations in 2018’ as awarded by RootsTech.” 
Beginning in the fall of 2017, RootsTech will launch a worldwide search for the best industry technology and innovation to be showcased on the main stage and to thousands of online viewers. Winners will receive recognition from in-person and virtual attendees, the media, and the genealogical industry. 
Please be advised that the Innovator Summit will no longer be a pass option; instead, the RootsTech pass will now include Wednesday sessions. Innovator Showdown is transitioning to the Innovation Showcase as described above.
It sounds like the previous Innovator Summit with its cash prizes has been discontinued. Another new feature added is the Expo Hall Preview Night. Here is the announcement:
Following Wednesday’s General Session and Innovation Showcase, the Expo Hall will be open from 6-8 p.m. MST. Take advantage of this uninterrupted time on the show floor perusing booths, visiting with exhibitors, and getting your hands on the latest family history technology.
This essentially means that the exhibitors will be up and running a day early. I suggest that with these changes you will need to make some adjustments to your schedule if you are planning to attend.

Another change. Check-in will begin on Tuesday. There is that announcement:
Come early to avoid long lines! Check-in will now open on Tuesday, February 27th at noon. Remember, you should always plan on arriving at least 90 minutes prior to the first event you hope to attend. This time will allow for parking (which is always longer than you think), receiving your badge, and finding a seat 30 minutes before the event/session begins.
You just might want to look at the website to keep up with all the changes. Here is another change:
Don’t Forget your Badge 
In order to provide more data and information to RootsTech organizers, each classroom will have a scanner that will scan your badge upon entry. The scanner will blink green if your pass type allows entry into the particular class or scan red if your pass does not allow entry into the particular class. As always, seats in each session are first come, first served.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Genealogy from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Yes, the Department of Homeland Security and its subagency, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is in the business of providing genealogy services. They even have a brochure explaining what they do.
Before you get too interested, however, you need to keep reading to find out that the searches only go back to 1906 when the Federal Government took over all immigration and naturalization proceedings.  Nevertheless, there are millions of Americans who have ancestors in this time frame.

Here is a description of the information required for a search:
The USCIS Genealogy program can only fulfill record requests that include a valid file number, such as a naturalization certificate number. Most researchers will receive the necessary file numbers from their USCIS Genealogy Program index search results. However, researchers who have located file numbers independently may use them to make a record copy request. 
If your ancestor was born less than 100 years ago you will also need to provide proof of his/her death. 
If you do not have a file number, or you are unsure whether or not USCIS maintains a file for your ancestor, please submit an index search request.
There is a fee for the service depending on the record format: $20 for an Index Search, and either $20 or $35 for a Record Copy Request.

We have recorded five videos at the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library with instructions about finding your immigrant ancestors, all posted on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.  Here is the most recent video:

Understanding Immigration for Genealogists - James Tanner