New on my bookshelf, June 2014

I have purchased quite a few books in the past six months, from a number of sources. Not all of them are new, but they are new to my library. Here are a few that are noteworthy:

Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition. Nashville, Tenn.:, 2014. This is without question the most significant new book that any genealogist can purchase this year. For almost fifteen years, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Ancestry Publishing, 2000) has literally been the defining measure of quality genealogical research. This new edition offers substantial reorganization and revision of the standards of our field, clarifying and consolidating them to improve understanding. Recommended for the bookshelf of every genealogist. Kindle edition also now available.

Buggy, Joseph. Finding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2014. This book provides detailed practical information on researching the Irish in New York City, including strategies for researching the Irish, lesser-known New York City records, detailed information on New York City Catholic churches, etc. A necessary addition to the bookshelf of anyone researching Irish families or New York City families, and especially those researching Irish families in New York.

McCartney, Martha W. Jamestown People to 1800: Landowners, Public Officials, Minorities, and Native Leaders. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012. In over 400 pages, this volume presents encyclopedic biographies of every individual appearing in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Jamestown records. Some entries contain a single sentence; others cover multiple columns. Each entry provides abbreviated citations to all records sources used.

Schreiner-Yantis, Netti, and Florene Speakman Love. The Personal Property Tax Lists for the Year 1787 for Gloucester County, Virginia. Springfield, Va.: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987. These small booklets are available for most Virginia counties. I purchased this one for a large client project currently in progress. The real strength of these editions is that the tax lists are presented both in their original alphabetical order and in chronological order by the date of assessment. This second version of the list provides insight into who was assessed the same day, and therefore likely lived near each other.

Little, Barbara Vines. Inheritance in Colonial Virginia. 2nd edition. Richmond, Va.: Virginia Genealogical Society, 2014. In its 30 pages, this booklet provides necessary information on its subject. Includes extracts from the colonial laws, diagrams of intestate descents, brief case studies, definitions of terms from Black’s Law Dictionary, etc. [I purchased this at the VGS booth at the 2014 National Genealogical Society annual conference, but cannot find it on Amazon or on the VGS website.]

Gobble, MaryAnne. Chicago Manual Of Style Guidelines (Quick Study). [Boca Raton, Fla.]: BarCharts, 2012. All writers should have the Chicago Manual of Style within reach. Possibly also Turabian’s A Manual for Writers. This QuickStudy guide—six laminated pages—condenses many of the most important rules of CMS for easy access. Included are sections on “Preparing a Manuscript” (Document Layout; Illustrations, Tables & Charts), “Copyright & Fair Use,” “Style & Usage” (Bias-Free Language; Tactics for Achieving Gender Neutrality; Punctuation; Capitalization; Abbreviations & Acronyms; Quotations), “Tricky Words,” and—every genealogist’s favorite subject—“Documentation” (Citing Sources).

Beidler, James M. The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe. Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2014. I haven’t read this one yet, but it looks like a good overview of German research. A cursory flip through the books shows that it contains a lot of online resources which may become dated, but also has a lot of discussion and images of original records.

Henderson, Michael Nolden, with Anita Rochelle. Got Proof!: My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation. Suwanee, Ga.: The Write Image, 2013. I purchased this book directly from the author when I met him at a recent speaking engagement in Atlanta. This book is a memoir of the author’s research into his own family history in Louisiana. I had been reading Mr. Henderson’s blog for a few years, as he dove into the difficulties of researching Louisiana Creole families of color in Spanish and French colonial Louisiana. This book offers more of this, culminating with Mr. Henderson’sacceptance into the Sons of the American Revolution and ultimate election to the presidency of the Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society SAR.

Archives de France. Les archives notariales: Manuel pratique et juridique. Paris: La Documentation Française, 2013. There is a serious dearth of books on French genealogy. Wanting (and needing) to learn more about the subject, I was forced to come up with a unique solution. Visit — the French version of There, I found a lot of books on genealogy, written in French for French audiences. This particular book, the first of what will likely be many additions to my library, covers notarial archives (which is where you will find most French land records). When purchasing foreign research books, it is helpful if you can read the language.

A case for the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine

For many genealogical writers, the “top of the food chain” is to be published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

Other journals carry the same weight in the genealogy world: The Genealogist (published by the American Society of Genealogists) and The American Genealogist (founded by Donald Lines Jacobus, published independently) among them. Most genealogists include the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record in the same category.

Then there is the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine.

The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine was first published in January 1895 as Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, Volume I, No. 1. This early date of publication makes PGM the third longest-running genealogical journal in continuous publication, after the Register (1847) and the Record (1870).[1]

This first issue contained the following message to members of the Society, from the Committee on Publication—L. Taylor Dickson, P. S. P. Conner, and Thomas Allen Glenn:

The Board of Directors of the Society has long thought it desirable to place before you some part of the valuable papers from time to time received, and which, if bound up in the regular manuscript volumes of our collections, might not be so available or interesting as if published. Lack of sufficient funds for such a purpose has prevented printing until the present month, when the following pages are issued at a trifling cost, and will, if approved, be continued periodically.[2]

The second issue under the same Committee on Publication was released in July 1896; the delay was certainly due to the continued “[l]ack of sufficient funds.” It contained forty-five pages of abstracts of seventeenth-century Philadelphia wills, followed by lists of the Society’s officers and members, and the Third and Fourth Annual Reports.[3]

The last issue of the Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania was released in the Spring of 1947. That last issue is a milestone for several reasons.

Firstly, in a “Statement of Policy Concerning Future Publications,” the Committee on Publications submitted nine recommendations, among them that the title of the journal be changed to Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and that “lists of tombstone inscriptions, pastoral lists of baptisms, marriages, and burials, and similar data be allotted a much smaller space in future numbers of the Magazine than has been accorded them in the past.”[4]

Secondly, the newly-appointed editor, John Goodwin Herndon, described the new mission of the journal on “The Editor’s Page”:

Readers will notice in the current number two departures from previous practices. . . . The second change which our readers will have noticed is the inclusion herein of certain family studies. . . . We hope that all readers who have interesting and carefully prepared articles ready for publication, which relate to Pennsylvanians or their families, will submit them to the editor, so that out of a rich stock of genealogical manuscripts, a fine choice may be made for inclusion in our new Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine.[5]

It is worth noting that Mr. Herndon was elected to the American Society of Genealogists in 1945.[6] It is also worth noting that one of those first two “family studies” was “The Stauffer–Stouffer (Stover) Family of Pennsylvania,” written by Meredith B. Colket, Jr., M.A., F.A.S.G.[7] On his “Editor’s Page,” Mr. Herndon recited Mr. Colket’s qualifications:

Mr. Colket is the associate editor of The American Genealogist, secretary and Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, governor of the Mayflower Society in the District of Columbia, member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Order of Founders and Patriots of America, and on the staff of the National Archives, Washington, D. C.[8]

Mr. Colket was also elected the National Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Hall of Fame in 1992, the seventh overall inductee.[9]

Thirdly (and finally), this last issue under the Publications title published an address to the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania at its Fifty-fifth Annual Meeting, held on 3 March 1947. This address—entitled “The American Society of Genealogists”—was delivered by John Goodwin Herndon, Ph.D., F.A.S.G.[10] The many significant passages in this published address included:

  • “The American Society of Genealogists was formed in 1940. From then until now its president has been Dr. Arthur Adams, of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, known to many in this room. Originally there were twelve Fellows. In 1942, the number was increased to 36. The following year the number was constitutionally fixed at 50. All nominations and elections necessary to complete the membership were filled by the summer of 1944. . . . On 30 March 1946 the Society was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. As stated in its charter, its purposes include ‘the association of genealogists for their pleasure and benefit; the encouragement of genealogical research and the publications of the results; and in general the securing for genealogy recognition as a serious scientific subject of research in the historical and the social fields of learning.'” [page 164]
  • “The two most important committees thus far appointed are those on Publications and on Standards in the Genealogical Profession. . . . The responsibility of the latter is to recommend the steps which it believes should be taken to insure to the employing public a guarantee of the capacity and integrity of a certified genealogist.” [page 166]
  • “I said a few minutes ago that the second part of the Society’s program bears upon the establishment of standards in the genealogical profession. The time has come, I am sure most of you believe, when official or other protection should be extended to the practicing genealogist in the same way as standards are set by the American Bar Association for lawyer’s [sic], the American Medical Association for physicians and surgeons, and so on for other professional men and women. Thus we have certifying boards for accountants, architects, engineers, nurses. . . . Such steps were not taken in order to deny freedom of choice of occupation to individuals but to protect the public from misrepresentation and various corrupt practices.” [pages 167–168]

Here in 1947, we see the first stirrings of the creation of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, which would not be established until 1964.[11] Mr. Herndon even used the term “certified genealogist”!

The next issue, that of October 1948, was the first published under the name Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, Volume XVI. That issue contained research articles from Robert M. Torrence, Howard T. Dimick, John Goodwin Herndon, F.A.S.G., and Meredith B. Colket Jr., F.A.S.G.[12]

Volume XVII in 1949 further upheld the new ideals. The June issue included articles by Lewis D. Cook (elected to the American Society of Genealogists in 1949), Milton Rubincam (a founding trustee of both ASG and BCG, elected to the Genealogy Hall of Fame in 2003), and William J. Hoffman, F.A.S.G. The December issue included articles from George V. Massey II (elected to the American Society of Genealogists in 1950); and Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr., F.A.S.G. (elected to the Genealogy Hall of Fame in 2007), and Lewis D. Cook, F.A.S.G.[13]

The following Volume XVIII (1950–1951) included articles by John G. Herndon, F.A.S.G. and Walter L. Sheppard, Jr., and Lewis D. Cook, in the December 1950 issue; and Rosalie F. Bailey, F.A.S.G. (elected to the Genealogy Hall of Fame in 2010), in the September 1951 issue.[14]

Volume XVIII (1950–1951) was co-edited by John Goodwin Herndon and Lewis D. Cook, both Fellows of the American Society of Genealogists. They continued this relationship through Volume XIX, issue 3 (September 1954), when Lewis D. Cook became the sole editor.

With Volume XXIV (1965–1966) the editorship of the Magazine was taken up by Mrs. Hannah Benner Roach, elected to the American Society of Genealogists in 1961 and the Genealogy Hall of Fame in 2002. She served in this role until 1972.

Other members of the Publications Committee during this era included John Insley Coddington, F. A.S.G.,  and Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr. Mr. Coddington was also a former editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and was elected to the Genealogy Hall of Fame in 1997.[15]

Most recently, in 2001, Patricia Law Hatcher, F.A.S.G. (elected to A.S.G. in 2000), served as editor of the Magazine. She was joined by co-editor Aaron Goodwin in 2011, who became the sole (and current) editor the following year when Ms. Hatcher retired.

With such a long and illustrious history of publishing quality genealogical research, I must ask: shouldn’t the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine be included among the “top tier” of genealogy journals?

For more information on the Magazine, see also Aaron Goodwin, “The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine Now Online,” online reprint, Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania ( : accessed  19 April 2013); originally published in American Ancestors, Spring 2011, 18–22.


Note: Digital images of all issues of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine (and the preceding Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania) cited below have been viewed in the Members-Only section of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania website ( : accessed 19 Apr 2013).

[1] New England Historic Genealogical Society, “The New England Historical & Genealogical Register,” American Ancestors ( : accessed 19 Apr 2013). “The Record Online,” New York Genealogical and Biographical Society ( : accessed 19 Apr 2013).

[2] Committee on Publication, “To the Members of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania,” Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania 1 (1895): 5.

[3] Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania 1 (1896), no. 2.

[4] “Statement of Policy Concerning Future Publications,” Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania 15 (Spring 1947): 277.

[5] John Goodwin Herndon (uncredited), “The Editor’s Page,” Publications 15: 278.

[6] “Roll of All Fellows,” The American Society of Genealogists ( : accessed 19 Apr 2013).

[7] Meredith B. Colket, Jr., M.A., F.A.S.G., “The Stauffer–Stouffer (Stover) Family of Pennsylvania,” Publications 15: 216–258.

[8] Herndon, “The Editor’s Page,” Publications 15: 278.

[9] “NGS Genealogy Hall of Fame Members,” National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 19 Apr 2013).

[10] John Goodwin Herndon, Ph.D., F.A.S.G, “The American Society of Genealogists,” Publications 15: 161–169.

[11] Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, “BCG History,” Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : accessed 19 Apr 2013); originally published in OnBoard, Volume 7, Number 1, January 2001.

[12] Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 16 (1948).

[13] Cook, “Commodore Thomas Truxton, U.S.N., and His Descendants,” Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 17 (June 1949): 3–32. Rubincam, “The Lure and Value of Genealogy,” PGM 17: 33–44. Hoffman, “Jan Willemsz Boekenoogen: An Early Settler of Germantown,” PGM 17: 45–55. Massey, “The Simpsons of Paxtang and Sunbury, Pennsylvania,” PGM 17 (December 1949): 59–68. Sheppard & Cook, “Harris of Cumberland County, New Jersey,” PGM 17: 79–109.

[14] Herndon, “Wiltbanck–Wiltbank Family of Sussex County, Delaware, and Philadelphia,” PGM 18 (December 1950): 3–72. Sheppard & Cook, “Harris of Cumberland County, New Jersey: Supplementary Notes,” PGM 18: 81–83. Bailey, “The Foos Family of Pennsylvania and Ohio,” PGM 18 (September 1951): 87–114; and “Griffith Families of Eastern Pennsylvania Using the Name Joseph,” PGM 18: 115–117.

[15] “NGS Genealogy Hall of Fame Members,” National Genealogical Society.

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “A case for the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine,”Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 20 April 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

… but we do need Evidence Explained.

[Please read “Why we don’t always need source citation templates …” before reading this post.]

Elizabeth Shown Mills’s 1997 book Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997) contains about 84 total pages of text, not including the Acknowledgment, Introduction, Bibliography, Appendixes, and Index. Of these 84 pages, 25 are contained in the chapter “Fundamentals of citation,” 19 are contained in the chapter “Fundamentals of analysis,” and 40 are contained in the section of “Citation Formats,” which contains templates for over 100 genealogical sources.

The first edition of Evidence Explained (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007) contains 804 pages, not including the introduction and indexes. Of these 804 pages, 26 pages are contained in the first chapter, “Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis,” and 52 pages are contained in the second chapter, “Fundamentals of Citation.” The remaining chapters are individually identified by broad resource types.

It is important to note that each chapter does indeed contain “QuickCheck Models” (citation templates) but there is no section of this book that is explicitly called “Citation Formats,” or anything of the like. It is also important to note that this book is named Evidence Explained, not Citations Explained.

When this book was first released in 2007, I lugged the 800-plus book on the train every day for a month and read it cover-to-cover, much as I did years before with Evidence! It never occurred to me at the time that other genealogists might consider this book a mere collection of citation templates. I have since become aware that this is exactly how many view the book.

To prove that it is not a mere guide to citations or a collection of templates, let’s look at a sample chapter. I chose Chapter 8, “Local & State Records: Courts & Governance,” at random.

  • The chapter runs from page 371 through page 418.
  • Pages 373-382: QuickCheck Models (10 pages).
  • Pages 383-385: Basic Issues. This section contains such important information about records analysis as the following passage: “Many of the ‘original’ court records you consult at the city and county level are record copies (see 1.27) rather than true originals. Historically, attorneys presented the court with documents critical to the case at hand—contracts, depositions, petitions, etc. Courts then maintained these loose documents in bundles, envelopes, jackets, or packets. Certain items of particular significance from a legal standpoint would be copied into record books, although the original packets would usually be preserved, at least for a certain number of years.” [8.5, page 385] Note that this is just one short example, and that it does not at all concern citation. These three pages contain only five short example citations, demonstrating other issues being discussed.
  • Pages 385-390: Citation Issues. This section discusses specific notes about citing these records. There are several examples in this section, again used to demonstrate the issues being discussed. These notes are insightful, not only for the specific examples being discussed, but for other record groups as well. Take this gem, for example: “Many counties and some cities are no longer functioning jurisdictions or else they have changed their names. Even so, the basic citation pattern remains the same. You would likely add a brief comment to your First Reference Note to explain the situation.” [8.12, page 388]
  • Pages 390-409: City & County Records. This section contains detailed descriptions and summaries of several record groups, as well as citation examples. It includes background information and basic formats for bound volumes, loose case files, and off-site archival records. The record groups discussed include bastardy cases (presentments), bonds [“Historically, bonds have been posted in a variety of matters. In addition to the better-known administration, guardian, and marriage bonds, bonds also guaranteed appearance in court, peaceful conduct toward others, payment of legal obligations, fulfillment of duty as a public officer, financial support for slaves being freed, and much more.” (8.22, page 396)], coroner’s inquests, county commissioners’ records, election certificates and returns, indigent records, insanity hearings, etc. This section provides not only an education in how to cite various city and county records, with examples that demonstrate variations, but also an education in many lesser-known and lesser-used record groups. It also contains other important tips, like, “The ‘source of the source’ cited by databases such as this one could refer to the original numbering scheme of the court that created the record or it could refer to a new number assigned by the archive that created the database.” This is an important distinction to make when analyzing records not only when citing them.
  • Pages 409-418: Colony & State Records. This section contains information about state archival inventories/finding aids, as well as general agencies and record groups: colony-wide courts, state or provincial appellate cases, governors’ papers, legislative petitions, and state pension files. Among the information that does not consist of citation templates, one will find the following passage: “When a case is appealed from a local court to a district, state, provincial, or federal court, the file generated at the local level is transmitted to the higher court, where it is assigned a new docket number or case number. The case name may also be reversed. For example, a case might originate locally as John Brown v. Sam Smith. If the case was decided in favor of Brown, then Smith appealed, the name of the new case before the appellate court would be Sam Smith v. John Brown. Your citation to the appellate case should carry the label and the case number used in the appellate court, not the label and number of the original case at the local level.” (8.39, pages 413-414)

While the 45 pages in this chapter do contain quite a few citation examples, they include only 10 pages of citation templates. Taken individually, there are 223 citation examples in this chapter. However, this quantity counts each individual citation separately, where the same record may be provided in source list entry, first reference note, and short reference note examples, and counted as three separate citations. The actual number of individual record examples cited within the chapter is less than 100.

The citation examples demonstrate variations in how any individual source might have to be cited. But neither the examples nor the templates will cover every single source that one will encounter. There will be major variations even within one record group, depending on whether you are accessing the record at the courthouse or an archives, a microfilmed or digital image copy, an original file or a record copy; depending on how the archives has organized their record groups; depending on whether the record refers to an earlier case or a separate file; and many other factors. While Evidence Explained does indeed address all of these factors, they are not always noted within the section devoted to the record group that you are looking for specifically.

The bulk of Evidence Explained, in fact, does not consist solely of a discussion of citation issues, as the above brief exploration shows. It certainly contains far more than simply citation templates. Those who have not read anything more than the first two chapters, and the citation models and examples, are missing out on the true value of this book.

And of course, as my previous commenter noted, and there are many out there who seem to agree with him, “I can assure you, I will never read it.” If the book were an 800-pound collection of source citation templates, I would agree with you. There would be nothing to read.

In my opinion, Evidence Explained is a much greater work concerned as much with principles of evidence analysis as with source citation. These two aspects of research cannot be separated, though this is a lesson that many still have yet to learn.

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “… but we do need Evidence Explained.,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 23 Sep 2011 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

When the weather is bad…

I was evacuated from the Maryland State Archives during a 5.8 earthquake on Tuesday. I had to go back to the Archives on Thursday to pick up my belongings from the locker, and then return home to tornado warnings. As I write this from my home in Delaware, I am waiting for the worst of Hurricane Irene to arrive and praying for it to move past quickly.

Some week.

Thinking about the past, I wonder what extreme weather may have affected my ancestors’ lives. The website GenDisasters: Events That Touched Our Ancestors’ Lives collects and compiles weather and accident-related events of the past.

Back in August 1884, an earthquake was felt from Baltimore up to Maine. Certainly my ancestors in the counties surrounding Albany, New York, felt it. According to the newspaper report transcribed on the GenDisasters site,

Last Sunday afternoon there was an earthquake shock in this country, which was felt as far south as Washington and as far north a Maine, and in the intervening territory.  In Baltimore the sensation was as a wavy tremor.  It was not near as pronounced as elsewhere, but was sufficient, in a number of cases, to arouse people form their afternoon naps, crack plaster, slam doors and toss furniture about.  From other parts of Maryland there are reports of similar character.  No one was hurt but the shock occasioned considerable excitement. … [1]

More recently, in September 1944, there was another hurricane wreaked havoc up and down the Atlantic coast. Among the news reported on GenDisasters:

Winds up to ninety miles an hour battering the Atlantic Coast last night as a severe hurricane sped toward New England forced many seaside residents to flee for safety, dashed a 250-foot freighter upon the shore and caused widespread damage.

The ninety-mile-an-hour reading was recorded at the Coast Guard station at Manasquan, N. J., about eight miles south of the resort city of Asbury Park. Winds as high as 83 miles an hour were recorded earlier on the Virginia coast.

Water five to six feet deep, all from rain, blocked highways in the vicinity of Hicksville, a Long Island community in an area hard hit by the famous hurricane of 1938. …

The Homestead restaurant on the Ocean Grove, N. J. boardwalk near Asbury Park, was washed into the sea. The restaurant had a capacity of 300 persons, but was believed to have been unoccupied when it was destroyed.

A pier was reported washed out at Asbury Park, but details were unavailable.

Many residents of Fire Island, off Long Island’s south shore fled their homes Wednesday. Four large Long Island airplane plants halted operations last night. …

Gov. LEVERETT SALTONSTALL of Massachusetts broadcast an appeal to shore dwellers to leave their homes for safer places and Rhode Island state police issued a similar warning.

Two vessels described as coal barges ran aground at Rehoboth Beach, Del., and were being battered by a severe gale. Whether crews were aboard was undetermined.

Power and telephone lines were downed in some areas.

In Atlantic City, N. J., the weather bureau reported wind velocity of 65 miles an hour. A report stated Atlantic City’s famous Steel Pier was split in half by mountainous waves, the Heinz Pier had been washed away and parts of the million dollar pier have been destroyed.[2]

The reports sound familiar on both accounts to what I have been listening to over the last five days.

The GenDisasters website can be browsed by disaster, by state, or by year. Within in each state, you can browse by disaster, to find, for example, an earthquake in Maryland or a hurricane in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, you cannot browse each state by town or county–which would be an easier way to locate information relevant to a particular area–or browse each state by year. When browsing the results also do not appear in any chronological order by disaster, so you often have to move through dozens of pages of disasters in no particular order.

There is a Google search box that can be used to search for specific place names or surnames. This can ease the search process significantly.

GenDisasters is a unique site. No other single site offers this sort of information for locations around the United States. The only other way to locate this information (and not a bad idea for thorough researchers) is to manually search through historic newspaper collections. Using GenDisasters, this process can be significantly shortened.


[1] Jenni Lanham, “East Coast Earthquake, Aug 1884,” on GenDisasters: Events That Touched Our Ancestors’ Lives, posted 27 Dec 2009 ( : accessed 27 Aug 2011).

[2] Stu Beitler, “East Coast, VA, DE, NJ, NY, MA, RI, CT  Hurricane,  Sept 1944,” on GenDisasters: Events That Touched Our Ancestors’ Lives, posted 31 Jul 2008 ( : accessed 27 Aug 2011).

Follow Friday: David Airey, graphic designer

It is Follow Friday! This is a blogging meme in which authors recommend other blogs, websites, repositories, or anything else. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will spotlight different resources for professional and aspiring professional genealogists each week: not only genealogy-related, but also others of interest.

This week I would like to spotlight the blog of David Airey, graphic designer. I have enjoyed this blog for a few years now.

David Airey is a graphic designer, and the author of the book, Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities. His blog reflects his interest in design in all its forms, but also the intersection of design and business branding.

In his blog, David often shares interesting designs — not only logos, but also product packaging and the work of other graphic designers and artists. David’s philosophy can be summed up in a Gerard Huerta quote from a recent blog entry: “When you are stuck, walk away from the computer and draw. It will teach you how to see.” [SOURCE: David Airey, “On Creative Block,” David Airey blog, posted 28 July 2011 ( : accessed 4 Aug 2011).]

This artistic sensibility informs David’s blog. His posts, complete with photos, are often among the most beautiful that I have read in any genre.

In other words, if you are at all interested in design or branding yourself as a professional or a corporate entity (no matter how large or small), I would recommend that you follow David Airey, graphic designer.

The top 5 books on my bookshelf

Once again, I am taking a “page” out of Marian Pierre-Louis’s blog Marian’s Roots and Rambles; this time it is a different post, and I am not the first. Please take a look at Marian’s post, “The Top 5 Books on My Bookshelf,” and the post “My Top 5 Genealogy Research Books,” from Greta’s Genealogy Blog. These two posts–and hopefully others to come from other bloggers–provide recommendations for their 5 favorite genealogy books.

Here are my five, in ascending order:

5. Marsha Hoffman Rising, CG, The Family Tree Problem Solver: Proven Methods for Scaling the Inevitable Brick Wall (Cincinnati, OH : Family Tree Books, 2005): This book is the only standard methodological text that I consider absolutely necessary for every genealogical researcher. Ms. Rising goes through many different methods. There is also a newer book by the same author, entitled The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried and True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors, published in 2011. I have not read this book yet, and do not know whether this is the same text or entirely new material. If it is new material, then I would once again have to recommend it.

4. The Board for the Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah : Ancestry Pub., 2000): The BCG standards require a high degree of thoroughness and accuracy in your research, but isn’t this what we all strive for? After all, who wouldn’t hate to discover that after years of research, you had been tracing someone else’s family? Many of the standards also deal with the work products of genealogical research, such as compiled genealogies and research reports.

3. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, editor, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001):

2. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd Edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009):

I admit it–I cheated a little bit. There are really 6 books on my list, because I could not decide which of the next two books was more important. So first place is a tie between these two books.

If you have read these books, you will understand. If not, you must read them. Though I had years of research experience before I ever read them, these two books changed the way that I look at evidence and genealogical research in general. I am proud to say that I have now met both of these authors personally.

1. Christine Rose, CG, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, Third Edition (San Jose, Calif. : CR Publications, 2009): This is an updated third edition of the book, but I originally discovered the second edition several years ago. The small book uses examples to show how important it is to (1) conduct a search for all pertinent records related to your genealogical problem, (2) fully and accurately cite your sources, (3) analyze and correlate all relevant information, (4) reconcile all contradictory information, and (5) form a logical written conclusion based on the evidence.

1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997): This book was the precursor to Evidence Explained (see above), written ten years previously. It discusses how researchers should evaluate their sources. It also contains the first citation models for commonly-used record types, though most of them have been adjusted in at least minor ways in EE. Both of these concepts were expanded in EE, but I actually prefer the discussion on evidence in this book.

You will notice one difference between my list and several of the others: I do not name any location-specific or record-specific books. These are important, and I would recommend that every researcher have them, but the best books in this category will vary from location to location. I have many in my library, mostly concerning Maryland, but also several related to Virginia, New York, Delaware, South Dakota, and other states. Your library’s needs in this area are up to you and what you research.

But the research skills that you will need are foundational. Research guides and finding aids will help you in a specific area, but your basic research skills will be the same whether you research in New Hampshire, Florida, Washington (state), or New Mexico, or even Saskatchewan, Galway, Istanbul, or Zimbabwe. For more on this, read my post “Shouldn’t we all be ‘Primary Care Genealogists’?

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “The top 5 books on my bookshelf,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 8 Jul 2011 ( : accessed [access date]).

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).

Website review:

Occasionally I will use the site StumbleUpon to become aware of new websites. I will review these sites periodically on this blog.

Today’s site is defines its mission:

I have endeavoured to add sites that either have online genealogy records through which you can search for your ancestors or sites that provide helpful information to aid in your research.

The site claims to contain

4,500 pages of more than 50,000 Free Genealogy Links; for US, UK, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Europe, Canada, Australia & New Zealand.

The site is organized under various geographic categories. Under “US Genealogy Links,” there are further categories for “African American,” “Cemeteries,” “Censuses,” “Military,” “Ship Lists,” “Marriages,” and “Societies.” There are also additional categories under this main category, for each state. The links for the general US category follow the state links.

The general US links include links to commonly known sites such as the USGenWeb Archives,,  Cyndi’s List – USA, and the National Archives and Records Administration. Also included are some lesser known genealogy sites such as American Local History Network, the United States Digital Map Library (a USGenWeb Archives Project), and Southern New England Irish. However, several links appear more than once in this list, including the USGenWeb Archives. The list also includes numerous links to other pages on the GenealogyLinks site, and I counted at least one dead link (to NARA’s old AAD record site) and several affiliate links (to GenealogyBank and Ancestry).

The state link pages do not far much better. Included on the site for Maryland, explored as a sample, are specific categories for each county. The general statewide links are as troublesome as those for the general US category. In addition to the numerous links to other pages on the site, there are quite a few duplicate links, such as several to various USGenWeb pages. The links for Maryland under the American History and Genealogy Project and under the American Local History Project actually point to the same destination, as the statewide Maryland site is affiliated with both projects.

On the other hand, the site does include a few useful links to Maryland genealogy sites, including the Archives of Maryland Online and the Society of the Ark and the Dove. Other lesser-known Maryland genealogy sites also appear in the list of links: Handley’s Eastern Shore Maryland Genealogy Project, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and Mid-Maryland Roots. The site also contains links to multiple record transcriptions on various USGenWeb pages, as well as New River Roots, and Genealogy Trails.

 My overall assessment is that this site is largely unnecessary. This site does not appear to offer anywhere near the number of resources contained within the much earlier Cyndi’s List website.’s mission statement claims to focus on sites that feature records that can be searched. However, these are, at least in the case of Maryland, to the most common sites, such as those provided by the Maryland State Archives, or to similar page “systems” of record transcriptions, like USGenWeb.

However, I have only reviewed the site links for Maryland research, specifically due to my own personal experience with researching in that state. I would be extremely interested in hearing the assessment of those with experience in other states, as to how thorough the other lists of links are, by country, state, county, or category. Please feel free to reply with your assessment either here in the comments, or in your own blog post, and provide a link here.