Archive for June, 2011

IGHR 2011 Registration, Orientation, and ProGen Study Group meetup

Several hundred genealogists have once again descended upon Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, for the annual Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research.

Sunday, 12 June 2011, was registration and orientation day. It was also, for many of us, a day to meet up with friends that we only know online, or that we have not seen since last summer. This includes those of us who are either currently members or alumni of the 18-month ProGen Study Groups. I myself am a recent alumnus, completing the ProGen 5 course several months ago.

After the orientation, the ProGen members, alumni, coordinators, and mentors gathered in Beeson Hall, the building just next to the Cafeteria. There were about 46 of us here this year, spread over thirteen ProGen groups!

Class begin tomorrow.

ProGen Study Groups, IGHR 2011

photo courtesy of Angela McGhie

Events at IGHR – 12 through 17 June 2011

The Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR), held annually at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, will begin this Sunday, 12 June. While the courses available at this Institute are definitely top-notch, there are other events being held throughout the week. The other events include at least two “meetups” for genealogy groups and lectures Monday through Wednesday evenings after dinner.

Take a look at the following calendar to immerse yourself even deeper into the world of genealogical learning and networking that only a week-long Institute can provide!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

ProGen Study Group Meetup, immediately following orientation (approx. 7:00pm), Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

Monday, 13 June 2011

GeneaBloggers Meetup, during dinner, 4:00-6:00 p.m., Cafeteria, University Center

“Google for Genealogists: Put the Power of Google Earth to Work for You,” presented by Pam Sayre and Rick Sayre, 6:00-7:45 p.m., Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

“Certification: Procedures, Questions, and Answers,” presented by Thomas Jones and Elissa Powell, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“Writing a Narrative Family History: Essential Considerations and Sample Works,” presented by John Colletta, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

“What Do I Do With All this Stuff? Mission: Organization,” presented by Ann Staley, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“Genealogical Wikis: A Personal and Customizable Research Tool,” presented by Paul Milner, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Thursday, 16 June 2011 — Banquet

“What? It’s Not in Salt Lake City?” presented by David E. Rencher, 6:30 p.m., Cafeteria, University Center

Throughout the week, Heritage Books will be selling many of the best genealogy books from both its own catalog and other publishers, in the University Center. Be sure to visit their bookstore and see what you can find!

Book Review: Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program

The Internet has changed since 2001:

  • In 2001, there were approximately 143 million Internet users in the United States. This accounted for about 50% of the total population at that time. Last year, this number was almost 240 million, about 77% of the nation’s population.[1]
  • In January 2001, America Online and Time Warner completed their corporate merger. By September 2001, AOL had surpassed 31 million members using its services, over 20% of all U. S. Internet users at that time.[2] As of 31 March 2011, AOL reported just 3.6 million U. S. subscribers, further reporting a 24% decline in subscription revenue for the three months ending on that date.[3]
  • On 4 September 2001, Lawrence Page was issued U. S. Patent 6,285,999 for a “Method for node ranking in a linked database”–the search technology behind[4] Google debuted in 1998, but did not become a publicly-traded company until 2004. It has since become the most popular Internet search engine by far.
  • Back in 2001, social networking in the way that we now use it simply did not exist. Friendster, the first site of its kind, debuted in 2002. MySpace was launched in 2003. Facebook opened in 2004. And Twitter first appeared in 2006.

In other words, the Internet has changed dramatically between 2001 and 2011. The words do not even capture the magnitude of the Internet’s transformation.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program, by Karen Clifford, AG, recently updated and republished by Genealogical Publishing Company, was first published in 2001. Even the author seems to realize the futility of merely updating a book about the Internet published ten years ago, for she writes in her Acknowledgments, “If this wasn’t a season of economic instability, I would start over from scratch, but too many people are waiting for this update.” The book’s back cover describes the new edition’s updates:

The new updated edition contains references to current URLs and databases, discusses new genealogy software options, describes the latest procedures at FamilySearch, and includes a revision of the census chapter to reflect the release of the 1930 census.

Unfortunately, because she did not start over from scratch on the Internet sections, what we are left with is a book that does not deliver what it promises. It simply does not provide any instruction on the current state of online genealogy research.

Ms. Clifford does deliver a very good overview of genealogical research techniques. As an Accredited Genealogist and well-respected professional genealogist in Salt Lake City, Ms. Clifford effectively discusses the “Research Cycle,” how to fill out pedigree charts and family group records, citing sources, filing systems, using maps, resolving conflicts in evidence, etc. Each of the book’s sixteen chapters have a practical “Assignment,” so that readers can apply what they have learned.

Though quite thorough in these areas, the books is sorely lacking in its technological chapters. Chapter 3, “Becoming Acquainted with Your Genealogy Program,” for example, barely discusses computer programs at all, but does include “How Computer and Typewriter Keyboards are Alike” and “How the Computer Keyboard is Different.” Is this needed in 2011?

The book first addresses the Internet in some detail in Chapter 10, “Resources of the Family History Library.” This chapter describes using the Family History Library Catalog and other features of, including features of New FamilySearch. Chapter 11 discusses”Major Databases of the Family History Library,”  such as the old IGI and Ancestral File databases. Sadly, the book does not describe any of the online resources other than FamilySearch in any detail, including such subscription sites as,, or, nor such free genealogy sites as Find-A-Grave and U. S. Genweb. It does contain lists of links at the end of each chapter, but this is the extent of it.

For beginning genealogists, this book offers solid instruction into research techniques, providing a firm foundation that can later develop and evolve into superior research skills. Unfortunately, its coverage of the Internet and computer programs is sadly lacking any helpful substance. In my opinion, the book’s title should have simply not mentioned the Internet or computers at all.

  • Clifford, Karen, A.G. The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program. Updated edition. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2011.


[1] Miniwatts Marketing Group, “United States of America Internet Usage and Broadband Usage Report,” Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics ( : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

[2] America Online, “Historical Dates for America Online, Inc.,” AOL Time Warner ( : 17 Dec 2001), archived website, via Internet Archive, Wayback Machine ( : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

[3] U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Form 10-Q: Quarterly Report… for the quarterly period ended March 31, 2011; filed by AOL, Inc., on 4 May 2011, pg. 10; digital images, “The Next-Generation EDGAR System,” U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission ( : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

[4] Lawrence Page, “Method for node ranking in a linked database,” U. S. Patent 6,285,999 (2001); digital images, Google Patents ( : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

Call to Action: Pennsylvania Historical Record Access

Today, 5 June 2011, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, a professional genealogist in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania, posted the following message on several forums, including several genealogy mailing lists and social media sites:

I just received the following this morning:

“Vital Records Bill SB-361 is scheduled for an important vote in State Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee on Wednesday June 8th, 2011 at 10am in Room 461 of the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg (I only just found out about it). More can be found on this at the June 1, 2011 entry on our website under The Latest News:

This bill just makes birth certificates over 100 years old and death certificates over 50 years old open records. It doesn’t force them to be online, but making them open records is required before anything at all can be done. It is basically the same bill that passed this committee unanimously last year in the previous session. However, we cannot assume it will do so again. Your help is needed to make sure it passes again. Please visit, call, or at the very least email any or all of the committee members and ask them to vote in favor of this bill. If your state senator is on the committee so much the better. Be sure to let him or her know you are a constituent.

Please let your membership know about this. Thank you for your help.

Tim Gruber


If anyone can lend their support, please feel free to do so. The website Tim mentions is of the organization whose sole purpose is to get the PA Vital records opened up for easier access. It has information on why we need to do this, and who to contact.

Pennsylvania is one of only a few (less than ten) states that have refused to open their vital records to researchers, regardless of the age of the record. The state began their current vital registration program, for births and deaths, in 1906. All of these records, including those for people who died in 1906, are not considered public records by the state. This means that (1) there is no publicly available index to births or deaths within the state, from 1906 to the present; (2) researchers have absolutely no access to search any birth or death records, from 1906 to the present; and (3) researchers must provide detailed information on the deceased, including a specific familial relationship, in order to obtain a death certificate. And of course there are other implications for genealogists, as well.

Compare this policy with some of Pennsylvania’s neighbors. In the state of Maryland, birth certificates become publicly available after 100 years, and death certificates become publicly available after 10 years. Birth indexes are available for viewing on microfilm at the Maryland State Archives even for the period during which the certificate is restricted (for births less than 100 years old). Death indexes are available online from 1875 through 1972 for Baltimore City, and from 1898 through 1968 for the rest of the state. In the District of Columbia, the seat of our federal government, birth certificates are restricted for 100 years, and death certificates are restricted for 50 years.

The open-access advocacy group quoted above only requests open access to death certificates older than 50 years as a start, the same as has been available in the District of Columbia (not to mention most other states) for many years.

For more information please visit the website for the People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access). This website discusses the issues in great depth, and includes a list of “Ways You Can Help,” sample letters, and other useful information.

If you live or have research interests in Pennsylvania, please get involved. As mentioned, there is a hearing scheduled for this Wednesday, 8 June 2011, in Harrisburg. Please contact the members of the State Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee immediately. We must make our voices heard, so that this bill will pass.

This is the Face of Genealogy

For the inspiration for this post, read “The Face of Genealogy” at Thomas MacEntee’s Geneabloggers blog.

This is my great-great-grandmother, Mary Francis (Connell/O’Connell) Reittinger, shortly after immigrating to Newburyport, Massachusetts from County Galway, Ireland.

This is the Face of Genealogy.

Source citations in your online writing

The funny thing about WordPress (the platform that hosts this blog) is that it will try to find other related blog postings, and link to them at the end of each new post. On one of my recent blog entries concerning source citations, WordPress recommended the post “The new citation,” originally published on 29 March 2010 in the (non-genealogy) blog Brave New World. This blog is written by Tania Sheko, the “Learning Enhancement Coordinator and  teacher librarian at Whitefriars College in Melbourne, Australia.”

In “The new citation,” Tania recommends using hyperlinks to sources rather than footnote or endnote citations. In her words,

The hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

She concludes,

What I like best about hyperlinked citation is that it leads me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. It’s an exciting way to learn – not didactic, not limiting, but opening up options for independent learning.

Shouldn’t we start to teach students this new way of reading and writing?

This is an extremely interesting concept for writing online, especially in blogs. You will notice that many bloggers already do this exact thing, when writing their blog posts. In this post, for example, I include hyperlinks to both “The new citation” and to the home page of Brave New World.

But is this really a citation?

In some ways, yes, and in some ways no, from the perspective of a genealogist.

For the purposes of connecting to an original online source, a hyperlink is efficient, and should be used wherever possible. As Tania calls it, hyperlinked online writing is certainly a “new way of writing.”

On the other hand, it neglects to take into consideration the mutable nature of the Internet. Simply put, websites change. Pages and the resources held on them move and sometimes disappear. When this happens, will you be left without a citation?

If you are citing an online record source–whether it is an image copy, an abstract, a transcription, a family tree, or an article–you still need to provide a full source citation. As discussed in the post “Source Citations: Getting It ‘Right,’ part two,” a proper citation for Tania’s blog post, as part of a bibliography or “Sources Used” list, would be

Sheko, Tania. “The new citation.” Brave New World. Posted 29 March 2010. : 2011.

This citation provides the name of the author, the title of the article, and the publication (blog) name. In addition to this, it would be proper to note the date of the post (just in case she decided to post another article with the same title). And then of course the URL (the publication location) and the date on which the article was accessed. This second date reveals a recent date on which the particular item was located on the cited webpage. As mentioned in my earlier post, if the page moves or disappears in the future, it may be possible to access the item using the Wayback Machine or a similar utility.

All this being said, I do also agree with Tania’s point. The capability to embed a hyperlink to the source directly in the text is there, so why not use it? My recommendation would be to use both methods. Hyperlink within the text itself, but also include a source list (or numbered endnotes) with the full citations. This solution would allow the independent research described in Tania’s blog, but also meet the standards for citations expected by genealogists.

I would like to hear the thoughts of others on this topic.


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