The NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy Society
A Summary of Events and Topics of Interest to Online Genealogists
Vol. 12 No. 2--April 1, 2007
compiled by Luther Olson
NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy [NEOCAG] serves Eastern Cuyahoga,
Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Portage & Summit Counties.
Regular meetings 2nd Saturday of each month
St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church
435 S.O.M. Road, Mayfield Village, OH.
> News and Views
> Keeping A 2nd PC As A Fallback Option
> What’s The “Best” Backup?
> Everton’s Genealogical Helper To Be Available Online as WorldVitalRecords.com
> Process Changes for WorldConnect Databases
> Excellent Answers Can Be Received On Rootsweb—The Bulletin Board Still Lives
> Red Flags Raised About Concerns Over Vista's Legal Terms And Conditions
> $2 Million Sloan Foundation Grant To Help Digitize Thousands of Books at Library of Congress
> A New Computer Revolution is Rising Around Us
> News and Views
I want to especially thank the members of the NEOCAG council who have been taking on many of the tasks required to keep our organization running smoothly. Cynthia Turk, our immediate past President, has been especially helpful in her efforts to keep me on track, focused on my duties, and in taking over the microphone at our meetings when I am at a loss for words. (Those of you that know me will agree that is a rare occurrence.)
In addition, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to add my comments to this edition of the QUARTERLY.
I would like to let everyone know that NEOCAG has purchased a new display projector for use in beaming our programs onto the large screen in the meeting hall. I got a chance to see it in action at the March meeting and it is much brighter and has better resolution than the projectors we have been using.
On a more personal note, I have retired from my position at the Cleveland Clinic as of January 31, 2007 and I was sure that after that date I would find myself much better able to handle the responsibilities of President of NEOCAG. However, I was presented with an opportunity to continue doing the kind of work that I have been doing for many years, but this time through a consulting firm. I accepted a permanent employment with First Consulting Group and have been placed into a full time administrative position with a different healthcare organization. Thus, I have even less time for non-work activities than I had before.
Don’t misunderstand--I have no intention of giving up my elected role as President of NEOCAG. In fact, I hope to better manage my time and allow myself to properly prepare for both the monthly NEOCAG council meetings and the monthly general meetings.
During my tenure I really want to focus on all of the genealogical happenings in the Greater Cleveland area. There are so many events coming up in the months ahead that I can’t possibly list them all. One of my main goals is to promote a greater synergy between the genealogical societies, ethnic heritage societies, and Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation member garden societies. To that end, I have been attending monthly meetings of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation. At the meeting this month, I had the honor to meet retired 8th District Court of Appeals Judge Diane Karpinski, who told me about the upcoming Polish Constitution Day Celebration.
There will be an Ethnic Symposium on Saturday, April 28, 2007 at the Alliance of Poles Hall, 6968 Broadway Avenue. Presenters will include Dr. John Grabowski—Polish Emigration to Cleveland; Judge Raymond Pianka—Genealogy and DNA Testing; and Mr. Clyde Simpson—Copernicus Crater. More information is available from the Polish American Congress, Ohio Division at 216.883.3131.
The East Cuyahoga County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society is presenting a special program on Saturday, May 5, 2007. The day will include four separate programs by Jana Sloan Broglin, CG. For more information, contact Stacie Murry at 216-851-7768.
On June 6, 2007 NEOCAG will be co-sponsoring an appearance by Stephen P. Morse. Mr. Morse is the creator of the 1 Step Webpages. This web site at http://stevemorse.org/ delivers on the promise to make searching for our relatives online much easier and more fruitful than it would otherwise be. Information on this program can be obtained by going to http://clevelandjgs.org/calendar.htm and looking for the June 6, 2007 entry.
The annual Ohio Genealogical Society conference is in Columbus, Ohio from April 12 – 14, 2007. Information on this wonderful program can be had at http://www.ogs.org/2007conf.php.
The Ohio District Roundtable calendar at http://www.rootsweb.com/~ohcdrt/ will identify many other exciting and worthwhile programs that you should consider.
If you belong to an ethnic heritage society and would like to expose its members to genealogy or to the workings of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation, please tell them about my interest in bring our groups together in meaningful ways. One way will be to come to your ethnic community’s cultural garden along MLK Jr. Drive on May 20, 2007. This is the day of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. The runners will be coming through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and Rockefeller Park between 8:00AM and noon on May 20th.
It would be wonderful if you and other members of your heritage society could come down to gardens and stand with other members of your ethnic community to cheer on the marathon runners as they compete. The Rite Aid Marathon committee has offered a cash donation to whichever cultural garden has the best turnout for the marathon. What better way to have your heritage society make a donation to the maintenance of their ethnic cultural garden than simply to show up for the marathon and help your garden to win the prize. I can be reached by phone at 216-453-0780 or by e-mail at Jerry@Kliot.net.
In closing, I would like for you to know how proud I am to be serving as your President and to encourage each of you to do a few things to help NEOCAG grow. One way would be to attend our monthly council meetings and become more involved in what we do and how we do it. Our meetings are listed on the NEOCAG calendar page at http://neocag.net/calendar.htm.
Another way would be to spread the word about our group and our meetings. Let your family, friends, and acquaintances know that they are always welcome to attend our meetings. There is something to be learned each and every month. Bring some pastry treat to our monthly meeting. We don’t ask people to sign up in advance, but if you have an opportunity to bring a cake, cookies, or other snack that can be shared during our meeting, it will help to keep bellies from rumbling during the meeting.
Offer to serve on one of our many committees—we can always use help with hospitality, programming, publicity, facilities, membership, and several others. If everyone takes on a little bit of additional responsibility, then no one person will have to shoulder the load alone. We have an exciting future as an organization, and we can all make a contribution.
Jerry Kliot, President
Dear member and friends,
The articles in this issue of the QUARTERLY contain numerous comments from readers who are responding to the author. In many cases you may well find these responses more interesting and informative than the actual article. We are finding more and more of these “blogs” following things we read and I feel it is great that we can hear many authoritative comments and questions from others who are obviously knowledgeable in both computers and genealogy.
Since this appears to be the way our material is heading, we can probably expect to see more of these comments in the future. In past issues I have inserted a few with little comment—and have had little comment in return. I would appreciate hearing of any strong feelings, pro or con, on the subject. …..LO
> Keeping A 2nd PC As A Fallback Option
After a bad experience, reader Lee Bolman is thinking about having a spare, standby PC available: "When my 8-month-old, still-in-warranty desktop crashed because of a bad power supply, I was reasonably well-protected — all the data was backed up, and most data and applications were on my laptop. But, there's stuff I don't want on the laptop in case it ever falls into the wrong hands. So I was cut off, for example, from my financial software.
"My PC vendor wanted me to ship the whole system in for a warranty repair, which meant I'd get it back in a week or two. I paid for the repair locally and got it done in 48 hours. What would it take, I wondered, to have a home fallover system that would be ready to jump into the breach if my primary machine failed?
"A little time with Google suggests that this is the issue of fallover and 'high availability.' But it's not clear that there's a reasonably straightforward way for a home-office setup to have a backup machine ready to go. Any ideas?"
Ideas? You bet! First, note that you can store sensitive data on your laptop with very little risk. Just encrypt the sensitive files and folders and you'll make them immune to just about anything short of a government-level supercomputer, if that!
In any case, no matter how you encrypt the files, if you synch the laptop data with your main PC every night, then the absolute worst-case scenario would cost you just one day's data. A much simpler method is to use just about any PC — even a cast-off older model no longer capable of full-time use will do. Leave it off most of the time. It doesn't even have to be in the same room or building as the main PC.
If the main PC dies, but its hard drive is intact and operable, you can remove the drive and install it in the spare PC. If the drive isn't operable, and if you're using some form of disk imaging or whole-disk backup on your main PC, you can restore the disk image or backup onto the hard drive of the fallback PC. (For more information on these backup techniques, see my Langa.com article on Fast, Easy Backups.)
Either way — disk swap or disk image/backup transplant — Windows will complain mightily when it boots up on the backup PC, because it will see different hardware than before. It will immediately ask for and search for the drivers it needs to support the spare PC. Windows will default to generic drivers if the correct model-specific drivers aren't available. (It will also demand re-activation within a short time.)
Moving a hard drive may not result in a perfect duplicate of the old system. But Windows, to its credit, will usually get itself up and running on a spare PC — at least enough for you to be able to access your important data while the main PC is being fixed.
Windows Secrets Newsletter • Issue 93 • 2007-01-25
Copyright © 1997-2005 Fred Langa/ Langa Consulting LLC. All worldwide rights reserved.
> What’s The “Best” Backup?
In the next few pages, I’ll give you a ton of backup ideas and many specific details. Some you can use as-is, but--more likely--you’ll want to take and modify these ideas and techniques to suit your own unique purposes and setup.
Further, what’s “best” for you may not be what’s “best” for me, and vice versa. Different people, different circumstances, different operating systems, etc all need somewhat different solutions. As a result (and this is important), this article is NOT intended to provide you with a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter solution that will work for everyone, all the time. When it comes to backups, there’s simply no such thing.
You see, “the best backup”--- in fact, the only backup worth anything at all--- is one that you’ll *use*. A backup system that doesn’t fit your style of working, or that takes too long, or is too expensive, or gives you any reason to avoid using it, is next to worthless.
For more on the rationale of why I do things the way I do, see the above-referenced links, especially <http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2001/2001-12-03.htm#1>, which explains what the main types of backups are, and what I believe each is good for. But your needs--- and solutions--- may be different, and that’s fine. Any backup--- any backup at all--- is better than no backup. As long as you’re using *something* and you’re happy with it, fine: You’re already better off than most PC users!
So read the following, and then decide whether all, or some or none of it will work for you; and if the answer is “none” then do a web search to find a solution that *will* work for you. There are literally dozens--- maybe hundreds--- of backup alternatives out there: All you need to do is find *one* that works for you. The only really bad backup is one that’s never made. <g>
PREP WORK: MINIMIZE UNNECESSARY JUNK
A full backup involves moving (actually, copying) everything on your PC to another storage medium or device. Why waste time and storage processing junk files you don’t need?
For example, by default, both the Recycle Bin and Internet Explorer's Cache want to consume ridiculous amounts of your hard drive space, and these files --- almost always junk--- will get caught up in any full backup you do. So, to reduce the amount of junk in your backups, curb the appetites of these space-hogs: Right click on the Recycle Bin, select Properties, and decide how much space you want the Recycle Bin to consume either for all drives in your system or on a per-drive basis. (I adjust the slider way to the left.)
Similarly, open Internet Explorer, and select Tools/Internet Options. Under Temporary Internet Files, click the Settings button and select a reasonable size for this cache area. Generally speaking, if you have a fast connection, 5 Mbytes to 10 Mbytes is adequate; 25 Mbytes or so is usually enough with a slower dial-up connection.
You also may wish to consider uninstalling software you never use, and that you’re sure you’ll never need again. And, if you have lots of old files you don’t want to discard, but also rarely use, consider compressing them into a Zip file. (Newer versions of Windows, like XP, can compress old files automatically.) If you’re using an uncompressed backup format, having old files in Zip format will save you time and space; and even if you’re using a compressed backup format, Zipping collections of old files will reduce the number of separate files your backup has to track and process.
After doing the above, and before every backup, empty the Recycle Bin, flush Internet Explorer’s cache, and use “CleanMgr” (Windows’ built-in cleanup tool: Start/Run/CleanMgr ; see also this and this ) to reduce the remaining junk files on your system. You may wish to use other tools, too, such as third-party cleanup utilities like CleanSweep or the Clean9x.bat files
ORGANIZE YOUR HARD DRIVE
Imagine you went to your local library, and instead of finding all the books on the shelves, you found them in a giant pile in the middle of the main room. The book you want might well be there; it might even be properly entered into the card catalog. But finding it would involve extra work that could have been avoided if the books were organized.
Now consider: I get a lot of mail from people who say something like “I have a 60GB [or 40GB or 20GB or whatever] hard drive, and it’s full of files. How on earth can I back that up?” This is exactly the same problem as the library with all the books on the floor, just in a different guise. In that unorganized library, while it’s possible to find the books you want, it’s needlessly hard to do so. Likewise, in an unorganized hard drive with tens or dozens of megabytes of files and folders all dumped into (say) the C: drive or partition, it’s very hard to manage the files and to make reasonable backup sets. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
--Now think of your hard drive: You probably have some files and folders that are valuable, but that essentially never change. For example, if you have a collection of old legal records, or MP3 files, or old software, or photo albums and the like; these files may need only to be backed up once, and then never touched again.
--You probably have another set of files--- some system and application files, for example--- that change, but infrequently. If a file doesn’t change much, it doesn’t need to be backed up very often. In fact, it only needs to be backed up after it’s changed, and then can be left alone until it changes again.
--Another class of files changes from time to time, but irregularly: Think, for example, of something like tax files, which go into high flux at tax times, and then may otherwise lie dormant for long periods.
--Still other files--- email, daily reports, schedule information, etc--- may change every day, or multiple times a day.
All those file types have differing backup needs.
--And then there are some files that don’t need to be backed up at all: For example, you may have some files you just don’t care much about--- if you were to lose them, it wouldn’t matter much. This may be because they’re easily replaced with a fresh download or reload, or because of low intrinsic value.
If all these many different kinds of files and folders, with their varying needs for backup, are all tossed together onto (say) your C: drive, you’re like that library with all the books in a pile. Yes, you can do backups, but it will be an unpleasant and needlessly difficult task.
Windows Secrets Newsletter • Issue 93 • 2007-01-25
Copyright © 1997-2005 Fred Langa/ Langa Consulting LLC. All worldwide rights reserved.
> Everton’s Genealogical Helper To Be Available Online as WorldVitalRecords.com
For the first time ever, all of Everton’s Genealogical Helper issues, more than 10,000 pages, went online January 31st at WorldVitalRecords.com.
“Since 1947, long before the Web, Web 2.0, and community websites, Everton’s Genealogical Helper magazine has been connecting family history researchers and printing their research results, offering an invaluable aid to millions of other researchers,” said Walter Fuller, President and Publisher, Everton Publishers.
The Genealogical Helper emphasizes content, continuing education, and research resources, for both professional genealogists and amateur family history researchers. Leland Meitzler, one of the founders of the genealogy industry, was recently named the managing editor of this magazine.
“This information, along with a wealth of highly informative articles, lists, book reviews, etc., has made the Helper the ‘bible’ of the industry for 60 years. We at Everton are extremely pleased that this data, in its entirety, will now be available through WorldVitalRecords.com,” Fuller said.
WorldVitalRecords.com is currently using optical character recognition (OCR) to index the Genealogical Helper issues from the past 60 years (1947-2007).
“The Genealogical Helper represents the modern era of genealogy research. We are pleased to include this valuable reference tool at WorldVitalRecords.com. So much of what we know today as genealogy research techniques have been introduced and defined in the Genealogical Helper, and there is a lot of great information on each page,” said David Lifferth, President, WorldVitalRecords.com.
In the past, Everton has only indexed the last ten years of the Genealogical Helper. Subscribers will soon have the opportunity to access more than 200 issues. Each issue contains up to 200 pages.
“This is a huge data set. The images are clear and readable and the OCR will be very accurate and usable to our readers. Instead of searching through thousands of pages to find a question your relative asked, you can perform a simple search and find the information you need in a matter of seconds,” said John Ivie, Senior Programmer, WorldVitalRecords.com.
The Everton Genealogical Helper collection will be housed in the Reference section at WorldVitalRecords.com.
“Over a half a century of data, inquiries, book reviews, articles on family history and genealogy, as well as personal insight to research in the field, make this data set an invaluable collection for our subscribers,” said Yvette Arts, Director, Content Acquisition, WorldVitalRecords.com.
This announcement was written by WorldVitalRecords.com: and posted by Dick Eastman on January 25, 2007
SPECIAL OFFER: Enroll today and get the Ancestral Quest 12 family tree software (a $30 value) for free with your 1 or 2 year membership. Hurry there are a limited quantity available. Also be sure to check out our other membership plans (as low as $29.95) and our other family history products.
This is an interesting looking site—and available at an affordable price.
AQ 12 is the new version just out a few weeks. It has links to Ancestry.com, and though not a member, in a short time I have downloaded TONS of free information including parents, spouse, children, birth, marriage, death, and residence. LO
This is an excellent discussion on personal privacy! We can thank all the people who posted comments. Privacy is an important issue that unfortunately appears to be getting more and more complicated. The comment format seems to be an excellent way to get various points of view from people who are actually facing this problem—and want to do the correct thing. I know there are a number of members of our group who have faced this issue, and who have discovered that those involved may become angry and emotional. This is certainly not to our benefit, or to those who come after us. LO
> Process Changes for WorldConnect Databases
The Generations Network (formerly known as MyFamily.com and before that as Ancestry.com) has made a change in its rules for submitting data to the WorldConnect Databases. The changes were made in response to user feedback and will streamline the procedures for correcting or updating information. This is especially important when dealing with data published about living people.
In short, WorldConnect changed its database update/submission page to eliminate the "forced" cutoff date of 1930 for submissions that previously stripped away demographic and name information.
Now the submitter may choose either to use a cutoff date or to have no censorship by WorldConnect. Of course, the submitter also must state that he or she has permission from each living person mentioned to publish their data online.
RootsWeb, also owned by The Generations Network, will not censor research compiled from public domain information. Public domain information includes basic facts such as names, dates, and places. Only the submitter of the information can make such changes.
Every family tree in the WorldConnect Project shows who submitted the file. You will find this information near the top of the page in your browser, along with the number of records in the file and information on when the file was updated. If you have questions about the source of their information or are trying to work out a discrepancy between your file and theirs, you need to contact the submitter, not The Generations Network.
If the submitter cannot be reached, there is a process that allows for the removal of your name from the database.
A new FAQ ("frequently asked questions") has been posted for the WorldConnect databases. You may wish to read it at: http://helpdesk.rootsweb.com/FAQ/wcresults4.html
My thanks to Tony Rockefeller for telling me about these changes.
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, January 28, 2007
"Public domain information includes basic facts such as names, dates, and places. Only the submitter of the information can make such changes."
All names, dates, and places are NOT public domain. Thankfully, most states still protect birth and marriage certificates for living people. There are many other records and pieces of information that contain names, dates, and places that would not be public domain. Hopefully this will factor in to Rootsweb's appeal process. Individual submitters are not always available or cooperative about removing information about living people. As genealogists, let's respect the privacy of the living.
Posted by: Infinite Ancestors | January 28, 2007
I agree with Infinite Ancestors that not all descriptive information is in public domain. This is a really serious issue to me. I don't think "no date cutoff" should be an option. There are too many people who have no idea WHY they shouldn't publish information on living people.
I believe the traditional cutoff is based on the last available census that has been released, i.e., 1930. As people live longer, using roughly a 70-80 year cutoff is not adequate to protect the privacy of living people. I would rather it be 100 years, and I would really like to see these companies enforce it.
I spent over 6 months getting Ancestry.com to remove living information about my father and my aunt. Customer support claimed that they didn't "own" the GEDCOM databases, and therefore, can't alter them; that is the current position in the FAQ linked above. I contacted Ancestry.com AFTER I had contacted all of the submitters multiple times. Some never responded, some had bad email addresses, some didn't know how to make modifications, and some were uncooperative. I finally called Ancestry.com's parent company and spoke to the PR/Marketing people, saying I was going to start posting on forums about how they permitted information to be published on living people. Amazingly, the living information was then removed by Ancestry.com (not the submitters).
Ancestry tried to argue that since my father and aunt were listed in the 1930 census, their information was in the "public domain." So, what they were telling me was that once your name appears in a census, NONE of your information is private, even if you are still alive.
Good luck getting information removed. See this page:
http://helpdesk.rootsweb.com/FAQ/wcresults4.html, and this one:
World Connect is basically dumping the responsibility on the person who is trying to have information removed, and not on the person who submitted it. And, it doesn't sound like World Connect is going to help you much.
Posted by: soccermom | January 28, 2007
Marriage certificates are an open record everywhere. The certificate gives the names of the bride and groom, the marriage date, and the officiator's name. The license application is restricted in most localities. The license application gives information like parents' names, birth dates, SS#s, current address, and occupation.
Birth certificates are restricted not because they give the date of birth, but because certified copies of the certificates can be used to fake your identity. Dates of birth are published everywhere, like church bulletins and community newspapers. If you vote, your voter registration information is a public record, showing either your age or your date of birth. Your age is published in many public databases, especially if you have a credit card.
The problem with the whole privacy debate is not about whether the information is private, which it is not for the most part. The problem is that in the past, we all knew the other people who knew our personal information. Today, anyone in the world can get our personal information without us knowing it. That's what makes people anxious.
Just think back on your past. How many people ever went to one of your birthday parties and met your parent? Right there, they know the day of your birth, and can guess your birth year or just ask, and they know your father's name and your mother's married name, and your family's address.
The "right to privacy", if it really exists, is not a "right to be invisible." If you want to do something in the public eye, like getting married or buying a house or voting, you have to accept that those things require you to make some personal information public to the world.
If our banking system was more sophisticated and we didn't use our birth date, mother's maiden name, and SS# as security codes, then the public availability of that information would not cause the problems that it does today.
Posted by: Paul K. Graham | January 28, 2007 at 12:08 PM
What has always troubled me about the sharing of information of people who are living isn't that their public information can be found by one means or another, but that by looking at the summary of their information, a judgment can be made upon their character.
An example is a female relative of mine, who had a child out of wedlock, then married a man (not the father of her first child) and had another child with him. They subsequently divorced, and then she had two more children by two different companions. She later married yet another man and divorced him shortly after. By her own admission, she has told me that she had a lot of growing up to do, and she did it the hard way. It is out of respect and love for this person and her children that I have not included their personal information on my online database at WorldConnect.
It would simply be disrespectful to her, her children, and her former spouses and companions to offer that information to the world. Yes, someone could obtain her marriage records, and fortunately, the birth state of her children have privacy laws in place regarding birth records. It's not that she has something to hide, or even to be ashamed of, but my relationship with her is much more important than placing her information online in the name of "truth" or "public information."
Another example is of a close relative of mine that was given up for open adoption. I would never jeopardize the wonderful relationship her adoptive family has with us, the biological family, by disclosing her personal information to the world.
Remember the three questions about repeating something you've heard? They can also be applied to information about our living family members' personal information: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? I can also add, would placing this information online jeopardize the relationship I have with this person? And if it's someone I don't know, what business do I have putting their information online? Would I want someone else to do the same to me or my close family members?
Posted by: Miriam Robbins Midkiff | January 28, 2007 at 12:42 PM
---> I agree with Infinite Ancestors that not all descriptive information is in public domain.
I think we are mixing and matching two separate things here. "Public domain" is a legal term and hasn't changed in a century or so. Ask any first-year law student. "Commonly accepted practice" seems to be changing constantly.
Date of birth, place of birth, parents' names, date and place of marriage, spouse's name, property transfer documents, tax valuations and other "personal data" has always been public domain and remains so today. What has changed is the willingness of public bodies to publish that information. Whether they publish the information or not, it still remains in the public domain.
Publishing or not publishing birth information or other personal information does little to protect identity theft. I was sharply reminded of this a couple of years ago when my daughter needed to obtain a replacement birth certificate. Her original had been lost. Since we were on vacation back in the small town where she was born, she and I together stopped at the local town clerk's office and asked for a certified copy of her birth record.
The clerk asked for her name and date of birth, then checked the local record book. The clerk then turned to a typewriter, inserted a blank form, and filled it out with all the details, stamped it, and then handed it to my daughter after the fee was paid.
This was for a CERTIFIED birth certificate. At no time was my daughter ever asked for identification. She could have been any young woman of approximately the same age. Any young lady could have obtained the CERTIFIED birth certificate and then used it to apply for a drivers license, a passport, or a credit card.
In fact, while privacy advocates may decry that such a practice leads to identity theft, the fact is that the above was very legal and proper. A certified birth certificate simply states that a birth occurred on a certain date and that the listed man and woman are the parents. It makes no claim that the person holding the certificate today is the same person who was born on that date and time.
In other words, the certified birth certificate is public domain information, available to anyone who asks for it and pays the fee. It is proof only of a past event, not of anything that is relevant today. Anyone can and should be able to obtain that.
If any government agency or credit agency accepts a birth certificate as "proof of identity," that agency or company has made a grievous error. Let's fix the real problem, not the fictitious problems of public domain data. Require real proof of identity, not a fact from public records.
Next, I used to refuse to do business with any bank that is stupid enough to use a mother's maiden name as "security info." There's no security there at all, as any apprentice security expert can tell you. Any bank or credit card company that uses such ridiculous "security methods" needs to receive a wake-up message now!
A few years ago I refused to complete a credit card application when I was asked for my mother's maiden name. I suggest you do the same or else use a bit of subterfuge that I enjoy:
Some months later I filled out an application for a checking account and again was asked for my mother's maiden name. I replied "Fudpucker." The clerk raised an eyebrow but never questioned my answer. She wrote "Fudpucker" in the form.
The banks and credit card agencies do not care if you give them the correct maiden name or not, they only want something that you can remember when they ask. Trust me, I can remember Fudpucker.
Never, ever use public domain information "for security purposes." That's stupid and is a clear sign that the bank or credit card company has no clue about security.
Posted by: Dick Eastman | January 28, 2007
In my county (and this is comparable to what I've found in many counties), you must be 18 to get a copy of your own birth certificate, or your parents can get a copy assuming they are the parents listed on the certificate. Otherwise, the county will only issue "genealogical" copies if they occurred over 75 years ago. I have not yet been able to get a copy of my mother's birth certificate from another county, even though she is deceased, until 75 years have passed. But I respect that protection. Death records can be obtained if you are a relative or a person who can prove a financial interest. Again, if records are over 75 years old, they are openly available. Marriage certificates are public, but the applications are protected. That's not to say that some of the information on these documents can't be found elsewhere, but should it really be made too easy to find out everything about you? About your young children? I've been trying for years to get one genealogist to remove information about my minor children from his web site.
Procedures may be lax in some locales, but that is not an excuse to discount the value of the protective laws in place.
The Internet makes it too easy to find information about living people. Our laws and "commonly accepted practice" have not kept up with the technology. There used to be some measure of privacy afforded by obscurity. Identity theft and fraud are only two of many reasons to respect the privacy of living individuals. As others pointed out, it is the increasing pervasiveness, commercialization, and lack of control of our personal information that many find objectionable. And this information is increasingly being used by others to make decisions about us that can affect employment, credit, reputation, insurability, etc. An excellent resource on these issues is the book, The Digital Person, by Daniel J. Solve:
In the days of our ancestors, unless you were a prominent public figure, you would personally know most of the people who knew your intimate details.
I've never understood why some genealogists insist on publishing information on living people, without their knowledge and consent, particularly when there is little or no connection between the two people. I'm an avid genealogist and technologist myself, but we must remember that for most of us genealogy is a hobby, the rest of it is real life.
Posted by: Patricia Moore | January 28, 2007
"Marriage certificates are public, but the applications are protected. That's not to say that some of the information on these documents can't be found elsewhere"
Very true. Until the big privacy push bought on by the problem of computerized database security in the last 25 years, millions of documents were released into the public domain without the slightest thought to redacting things like SSNs. For all the efforts made today to protect that information, it's already out there for millions of people in several different formats and it's too late for that information to be recalled and "sanitized" for privacy reasons.
Posted by: Infinite Ancestors | January 28, 2007
The definitive statements of what is common practice, and what is legal imperative seem to relate to US law and US practice. The stated legal position of what is in the public domain in the US, does not reflect the Australian reality. The time periods expressed for release of birth, death and marriage information to the public domain is longer in Australia
Posted by: Jason Presley | January 28, 2007
> Excellent Answers Can Be Received On Rootsweb—The Bulletin Board Still Lives
When I read the following comments I was immediately made aware once again of the fact that the best replies frequently were applicable to research in most any country, and could be of help to many of us, regardless of our background. Though most of my ancestors are from Norway, I have seldom had to do much searching to find the info I needed.
I believe it would be correct to say that the answers that are the hardest to find, are often from the simplest of questions, and after reading the responses below, I’m sure you will agree. We can imagine the young man, new to genealogy, was bowled over by the many excellent responses he received—enough to keep him busy for months to come. LO
From: "Alexandre Gravem" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Gravem Norwegian Family
Hello all, I am new to this list and this is my first post. My name is Alexandre Gravem and AFAIK my family is originally from Norway.
I live in Brazil and there was no immigration from Norway to here. And none of my oldest alive relatives remember nothing about our immigrant ancestor. I want to know if anyone in the list know something about my family or about norwegians migrating to Brazil in the 1800's.
Thanks in advance,
From: Hugh Watkins <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Gravem Norwegian Family
sailors meet a local girl and leave their ship, and I know of some Danes who went to San Paulo after 1945 because of the war. start by using Brazilian records tracking you family backwards until you find naturalization papers for example and ship's manifest of arrivals.
"German immigration to Brazil started in 1824 -- just after Brazil won independence from Portugal"
Hamburger Passagierlisten, 1850-1934 << this could be an indirect route
<http://content.ancestry.com/iexec/?htx=List&dbid=1068> only the years 1890-1913 have been indexed so far.
so not much help but that is the approach
From: kumodoke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Gravem Norwegian Family
Are you looking for a Norwegian family with the name Gravem? In which year? And what are the names of the persons you are looking for?
When emigrating people took often the name of the place as a surname, where they lived before emigrating. They might not have used this as a surname name in Norway, esp. not around 1800 is was usual to use patronyms (=the Christian name of the father) as a kind of surname.
Look for how you could do investigations in Norway at this site: <http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~norway/>
Gravem is a farm/place in Norway in the 1801 census in the county Buskerud in the place Sandsvær and in the county More og Romsdal at the place Sundal. In the 1865 census there is only one farm/[lace gravem in Sunddal, More og Romsdal. In the 1900 census only one farm gravem in Sundalen, More og Romsdal
So it might have been the case that they came somehow from there before moving
From: Dave Hinz <DaveHinz@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Gravem Norwegian Family
On 16 Mar 2007 11:32:38 -0700, Alexandre Gravem <email@example.com> wrote:
> Hello all, I am new to this list and this is my first post. My name is Alexandre Gravem and AFAIK my family is originally from Norway.
Hi - I do see Gravem as a Norwegian name when I look at familysearch.org. searching for that as a last name. Take a look there if you haven't already, looks like some good info. Most likely, it is a farm name. I don't know what you know already so pardon me if this is old to you but, typically Norwegian naming up to the mid/late 1800s used this form: First name Patronym Placename--literally, what's your name, who is your daddy, and where are you from.
Let's look for Gravem then as a location: Using an online version of Oluf Rygh's "Norwegian farm names", at:
<http://www.dokpro.uio.no/rygh_ng/rygh_form.html> ...it lists exactly one farm with Gravem in the name. (enter gravem in
the "farm name" and hit search to see the hit).
Next, if it were me, I'd go to the 1801 and 1865 census and find Gravem in the parish of Romfo, in the municipality of Sundalen, in the fylke (roughly, "county" or "state") of Romsdal. Start here: <http://digitalarkivet.uib.no/index-eng.htm>. Click on "1801" and "search"
Enter "gravem" into the "fast search" box and here's a bunch of folks
living on that farm in 1801. Repeat for 1865, with luck you'll see names which are familiar to you. If you can give more info, I can spend
more time on this.
PS Once we know who came over, we can look in the emigration lists if they exist to see when and where they left from and for.
From: Stein R <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Gravem Norwegian Family
Umm - the two statements ("my family is originally from Norway" and "there was no immigration from Norway to here") would seem to be in conflict with each other :-)
No, there was no _mass_ emigration from Norway to South America. But individual Norwegians winded up in a lot of unexpected places, possibly due to the fact that in the 1800s shipping became a major industry in Norway.
As a couple of people have pointed out: the farm name Gravem existed in at least two places - Sandsvær (near the inland city of Kongsberg, WNW of Oslo) in Buskerud province and in Sundal (South valley, spelled alternatively Sundal, Sunddal and Sundalen) in Møre and Romsdal province on the NW coast of southern Norway.
Gravem still exists as a surname in Norway. According to statistics Norway's name web page (http://www.ssb.no/navn) there is 237 persons with Gravem as last name as of now.
(The fields and buttons are: top radio buttons are "female" and "male", fields are "First name" and "Family name/surname", the grey button is "search". Result says how many has that name).
Phonebook online (http://www.telefonkatalogen.no) lists 262 hits on Gravem, 136 of which are on the west coast, of which 115 is in Møre and Romsdal province, of which the majority (79) are in Sunndal municipality - for some reason I haven't bothered going through them all :-) Result set at http://www.gulesider.no/tk/search.c?q=Gravem
A map search on Gravem at the yellow pages lists several farm in Sundal parish, south of the city of Sunndaløra, where route 70 makes a 90 degree turn from going south to going east. Map search: <http://kart.gulesider.no/kart/map.c> Enter name (Gravem) in white field on top, click on "Sok" (Search)
Results set looks like this:
Adresse og/eller stedsnavn
Gravem (Grend), Sunndal kommune
Larsstu Gravem (Bruk (gard) (hovedbygn.)), Sunndal kommune
Negard Gravem (Bruk (gard) (hovedbygn.)), Sunndal kommune
Oppigard Gravem (Bruk (gard) (hovedbygn.)), Sunndal kommune
Utistu Gravem (Bruk (gard) (hovedbygn.)), Sunndal kommune
("grend" means "village"/"cluster of houses", "bruk" or "gard" means "farm", "hovedbygn." means "living house (of farm)")
"Negard Gravem" means "lower Gravem farm"
"Oppigard Gravem" means "upper Gravem farm"
"Larsstu Gravem" means "Tenant farmer Lars' rented part of Gravem"
"Utistu Gravem" means "Tenant farmer's rented part on the outskirts of Gravem"
So yes - it seems likely that the farm name Gravem comes from that little cluster of farms around that curve on route 70, south of Sunndaløra on the NW coast of southern Norway.
A google search (http://www.google.com) on Gravem finds some odds and ends too. Among them some posts by you in various other newsgroups, one of the artists in the Norwegian band "Kåre and the Cave Men" is a Gravem, there is a skater named Øyvind Gravem, an artist name Rhoda Achieng Gravem, a Gravem comp sci student studying at the university of Oslo, a couple of American Gravems (possibly descendants of the same family), a couple of university lecturers and so on and so forth.
> And none of my oldest alive relatives remember nothing about our immigrant ancestor. I want to know if anyone in the list know
> something about my family or about norwegians migrating to Brazil in the 1800's.
Always start on the end where people live now and work backwards from there. Make a note of all names your oldest living relatives do know. Check achieves and/or registers in Brazil to try to find the name of your Norwegian ancestor in Brazil. When you have the name (and when he arrived in Brazil), you can jump to Norway and see if you can find him (and his ancestors) there.
It is likely that if your ancestor ended up in Brazil early in the 1800s, he probably came there as ships crew (possibly just jumping ship
in port :-), and might be hard to find in the official immigrant records--assuming that there are official immigrant records from the 1800s
preserved and available over there.
I checked the emigrant registers online here in Norway (Norwegian records online at <http://www.digitalarkivet.no>. Quite a few Gravems who emigrated post 1880 through the port of Kristiansund (which would have been the natural choice when coming from Sundal valley). But they all list their destination as the USA.
Anyways - good luck on your search. Start in Brazil, work your way back, and maybe you can establish a link.
Stein in Norway
GEN-NORDIC Digest, Vol 2, Issue 47
> Red Flags Raised About Concerns Over Vista's Legal Terms And Conditions
Vista, the latest version of Microsoft's Windows operating system, recently made its long awaited consumer debut. The first major upgrade in five years, Vista incorporates a new, sleek look and features a wide array of new functionality, such as better search tools and stronger security. The early reviews have tended to damn the upgrade with faint praise, however, characterizing it as the best, most secure version of Windows, yet one that contains few, if any, revolutionary features.
While those reviews have focused chiefly on Vista's new functionality, for the past few months the legal and technical communities have dug into Vista's "fine print." Those communities have raised red flags about Vista's legal terms and conditions as well as the technical limitations that have been incorporated into the software at the insistence of the motion picture industry.
The net effect of these concerns may constitute the real Vista revolution as they point to an unprecedented loss of consumer control over their own personal computers. In the name of shielding consumers from computer viruses and protecting copyright owners from potential infringement, Vista seemingly wrestles control of the "user experience" from the user.
Vista's legal fine print includes extensive provisions granting Microsoft the right to regularly check the legitimacy of the software and holds the prospect of deleting certain programs without the user's knowledge. During the installation process, users "activate" Vista by associating it with a particular computer or device and transmitting certain hardware information directly to Microsoft. Even after installation, the legal agreement grants Microsoft the right to revalidate the software or to require users to reactivate it should they make changes to their computer components. In addition, it sets significant limits on the ability to copy or transfer the software, prohibiting anything more than a single backup copy and setting strict limits on transferring the software to different devices or users.
Vista also incorporates Windows Defender, an anti-virus program that actively scans computers for "spyware, adware, and other potentially unwanted software." The agreement does not define any of these terms, leaving it to Microsoft to determine what constitutes unwanted software. Once operational, the agreement warns that Windows Defender will, by default, automatically remove software rated "high" or "severe," even though that may result in other software ceasing to work or mistakenly result in the removal of software that is not unwanted.
For greater certainty, the terms and conditions remove any doubt about who is in control by providing that "this agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights." For those users frustrated by the software's limitations, Microsoft cautions that "you may not work around any technical limitations in the software." Those technical limitations have proven to be even more controversial than the legal ones.
Last December, Peter Guttman, a computer scientist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand released a paper called "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection." The paper pieced together the technical fine print behind Vista, unraveling numerous limitations in the new software seemingly installed at the direct request of Hollywood interests. Guttman focused primarily on the restrictions associated with the ability to play back high-definition content from the next-generation DVDs such as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD (referred to as "premium content"). He noted that Vista intentionally degrades the picture quality of premium content when played on most computer monitors.
Guttman's research suggests that consumers will pay more for less with poorer picture quality yet higher costs since Microsoft needed to obtain licenses from third parties in order to access the technology that protects premium content (those license fees were presumably incorporated into Vista's price). Moreover, he calculated that the technological controls would require considerable consumption of computing power with the system conducting 30 checks each second to ensure that there are no attacks on the security of the premium content.
Microsoft responded to Guttman's paper earlier this month, maintaining that content owners demanded the premium content restrictions. According to Microsoft, "if the policies [associated with the premium content] required protections that Windows Vista couldn't support, then the content would not be able to play at all on Windows Vista PCs." While that may be true, left unsaid is Microsoft's ability to demand a better deal on behalf of its enormous user base or the prospect that users could opt-out of the technical controls.
When Microsoft introduced Windows 95 more than a decade ago, it adopted the Rolling Stones "Start Me Up" as its theme song. As millions of consumers contemplate the company's latest upgrade, the legal and technological restrictions may leave them singing "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
Toronto Star, Jan 29, 2007, article by Michael Geist
Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at email@example.com or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.
> $2 Million Sloan Foundation Grant To Help Digitize Thousands of Books at Library of Congress
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded the Library of Congress a $2 million grant for a program to digitize thousands of public-domain works, with a major focus on at-risk "brittle books" and U.S. history volumes.
The project, "Digitizing American Imprints at the Library of Congress," will include not only the scanning of volumes, but also the development of suitable page-turner display technology, capability to scan and display foldouts, and a pilot program to capture high-level metadata, such as table of contents, chapters/sections and index. Past digitization projects have shied away from brittle books because of the condition of the materials, but "Digitizing American Imprints" intends to serve as a demonstration project of best practices for the handling and scanning of such vulnerable works.
"‘Digitizing American Imprints’ will make a major contribution to the collective body of knowledge that is accessible worldwide, further democratizing the information that is a key to functional societies and economies," Dr. Billington said. "It is inspiring to think that one of these books, many of which are in physical jeopardy, might spark the creativity of a future scholar or ordinary citizen who otherwise might not have had access to this wealth of human understanding."
Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services, and coordinator of the project, said: "The Library has been a leader in digitization of special collection materials, and this grant from the Sloan Foundation allows us to digitize, preserve and make available additional brittle materials from our general collections."
"We are delighted to partner with the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, in this historic digitization effort," said Doron Weber, program director at the Sloan Foundation. "A significant number of books from the Library’s great collection will now be available to anyone in the world in an open, non-exclusive and non-profit setting, thus bringing the ideal of a universal digital library closer to reality."
The Library of Congress’ proposal includes digitization of works in the following categories included in the "Brittle books" from across the Library’s General Collection.
U.S. genealogy and regimental histories. The former includes many useful county, state and regional histories, while the latter includes histories, memoirs, diaries and other collections from the Civil War period.
Six collections of Rare Books including the Benjamin Franklin Collection, selections from the Katherine Golden Bitting and the Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collections of Gastronomy, a selection of first editions from the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division, selections from the Confederate States of America Collection, the Henry Harrisse Collection of Columbiana, and selections from the Jean Hersholt Collection of Hans Christian Andersen.
Works of photography focusing on the technical aspects of photography and the artistic publications and biographies of photographers.
Digitizing American Imprints will utilize the "Scribe" scanning technology of the Open Content Alliance. Scanning is expected to begin within a few months after an initial startup period to establish logistics, staffing and resources.
"Partnerships are crucial to help the Library of Congress realize our mission of acquiring and making accessible a universal repository of information in order to further human understanding and achievement," Dr. Billington said. "We’re grateful to the Sloan Foundation and all of our partners across a broad spectrum who share these goals and values."
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology and the quality of American life. Sloan’s program in Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge, directed by Doron Weber, aims to increase access to recorded human knowledge by encouraging digitization of material in the public domain, assuring public archiving, preservation and open access of this material and fostering its availability to people everywhere. The program has also supported the Internet Archive, the Open Content Alliance – which includes over 50 of the nation’s biggest libraries and research institutions – the New Orleans Public Library and On Demand Books.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 134 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. As the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, the Library is a symbol of democracy and the principles on which America was founded. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation, both on-site in its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning Web site at www.loc.gov.
News from the Library of Congress--January 31 2007
Library of Congress contacts: Matt Raymond (202) 707-2905; Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456
Sloan Foundation contact: Doron Weber (212) 649-1652
Perhaps some of you have already read Eastman’s newsletter article on this subject less than a week ago. While it was never quite clear whether the info was from a BYU news release about the conference, or his own reporting on the new online work being presented, the thrust of the statements were that this was the first online sharing collaboration. This in turn caused some responders to point out (rather strongly) that this wasn’t true, and that there had been online developments for some time by various companies.
It appears that because of these replies Eastman is careful to avoid the word “first” and goes out of his way to mention other software companies that may have (at least to some extent) been making efforts in the past.
Having said that, the point appears to have been well made, and his excellent report here on the convention should be carefully read by all. Personal Ancestral File (PAF) has already “been declared a dead product by the producers…and the fact that it is being replaced by the web-based New FamilySearch,” is certainly an interesting development.
Kudos to Dick for one of his best-ever articles…..LO
> A New Computer Revolution is Rising Around Us
WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.
I recently attended the 10th Annual Computerized Family History & Genealogy Conference held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. This annual conference focuses heavily on the use of technology within genealogy. After listening to presentations and talking with presenters and attendees for several days, I walked away with one phrase echoing in my mind: "web-based."
We are in the midst of a computer revolution, both in genealogy and in almost all other uses of personal computers. For the past 25 years or so, home computers have exploded in use. During that time, almost all programs we have used were obtained on disk or possibly by download, then installed and executed directly on each computer, usually without connection to any other computer system. This has worked well although each home computer operated as an "island," isolated from other computers in the neighborhood and around the world.
In the world of genealogy, we have had a wide variety of programs to choose from. Each of us built our own databases on our own hard drives. Indeed, each database was an island unto itself. Maybe 10,000 people recorded their lines of descent from one common Colonial-period ancestor, but each of those 10,000 duplicated the efforts of the other 9,999 genealogists. Each of us recorded whatever we believed was accurate, often without comparison to other researchers' efforts. I sometimes think we collectively had 9,999 errors.
We also beat our heads against "stone walls." Perhaps 9,999 genealogists were frustrated by the same research question: "Who were the parents of this particular person?" What 9,999 of us did not know is that the 10,000th person had solved the puzzle. Yet we rarely had easy access to others' research efforts. We also suffered from user errors and hardware failures. More than one genealogist has seen months or years of hard work suddenly evaporate when their hard drive failed or a critical file was deleted or became corrupted.
The emergence of the Internet and especially what is called "Web 2.0" is changing all that. Today's low-cost connectivity anywhere and everywhere allows for easy online collaboration and sharing among users. The computer world is now immersed in social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies.
NOTE: For a definition of Web 2.0, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_2.0. For a definition of wikis, see http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2007/03/create_your_own.html. For a definition of folksonomies, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomy.
All of this was quite visible at the recent Computerized Family History & Genealogy Conference. First of all, the convention hall had free Wi-Fi wireless networking available for everyone. Many attendees were carrying and using Wi-Fi equipped laptop computers. It was interesting to watch during presentations as many people in the audience had their laptops open and in use. Many were taking notes of the lecturers' presentations. Some were checking their e-mail. One senior official of the LDS Church's Family History Department sat in the back of a lecture hall while he simultaneously listened to presentations and went online to index vital records for the Church's Internet Indexing project.
During the conference, presentation after presentation showed many new ways in which genealogists can collaborate together using various forms of online services. We listened to such presentations as Utilizing the Power of the Internet and Search Engines, the New FamilySearch (an online collaborative database in which millions of people are expected to participate in building one database of ancestors), FamilySearch Indexing, Linux and Genealogy, The Chicago Genealogy Map Project, and many more. Over and over, presenters uttered the words, "online" and "web-based."
It appears to me that the "islands" of genealogy data on individual hard drives are merging into a smaller number of very large online databases, accessible simultaneously to thousands of genealogists. Most of these new databases even include source citations as to where the original information was found. In the near future, or even today, we can connect our computers to the Internet and research our family trees and even record our efforts. Through this online sharing, the work that each of us produces can benefit other genealogists. Likewise, the work that the others accomplish can easily help each of us.
The best part of all, in my mind, is that central databases are typically backed up at least daily, if not more often. Local backups are stored on-site, and duplicate copies usually are stored off-site for even more protection. Crashed hard drives, accidentally deleted files, and other such problems can still be inconvenient, but they are never disastrous in the online world. In most cases, a systems engineer grabs the latest backup copy and restores the lost information. As a result, all data is available to all with only minor interruptions.
To be sure, online collaborative databases aren't exactly new. Genealogy databases have been online for 15 or 20 years. However, most were isolated; they were "read-only." We could read the data on FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest Online, and other online databases. However, we couldn't easily upload our own data or make corrections to the many errors we found. Most of these online services claimed they accepted corrections, but the process often required months or years, if it ever happened at all. The databases have remained inside isolated computer rooms, and the ability to add new information or to correct erroneous information has been jealously guarded by the database owners.
Seven years ago, OneGreatFamily.com introduced a revolutionary new service: a single online database containing data contributed by users. Subscribers to OneGreatFamily.com could download a bit of software into their Windows computers and use it in a manner that was somewhat similar to other genealogy programs of the time with one major exception: the data was stored in an online database instead of in individual "islands" on users' own hard drives. Any new data added to the centralized database was instantly visible and useable by others.
Like many pioneers, OneGreatFamily.com was ahead of its time. While revolutionary, it apparently did not become an overnight success. The service was expensive, limited to Windows computers, and ran rather slowly in the year 2000. Broadband connections were rare seven years ago as most people used 56K dial-up modems. Accessing large databases via dial-up is somewhat similar to draining a lake through a straw; it is theoretically possible to do so, but not very practical.
The explosion of hardware speeds and the widespread use of broadband Internet connections have since solved the speed problems; the typical Pentium computers sold today can use OneGreatFamily.com quickly when connected via broadband. Indeed, broadband costs have dropped dramatically in the past seven years. Some of us even use mobile (wireless) broadband connections while riding the commuter train, all at costs roughly comparable to the fixed, wired broadband of seven years ago. The connection costs for all are still dropping. DSL broadband connections are now available in most areas for less than $20 a month, a price that is about the same as what many of us paid for dial-up access only seven years ago. Even so, OneGreatFamily.com remains as a smaller player in the online genealogy world.
In the past seven years, other online services have appeared that offer online collaboration. Some of these still use individual databases in users' hard drives and then copy the data to centralized databases that are available to others. Other databases accept data from users, but the data has to be "approved" in some manner by the database owners before new data becomes visible to others. Indeed, it has seemed like database owners were "afraid" of their users; it has been difficult to add data to many of the online genealogy databases. I suspect that many database owners had a fear of erroneous data being added.
New online services have helped quell those fears. Commercial and non-profit services alike have shown that users can be trusted to add data. While errors will always exist, a properly-designed collaborative database allows for a "peer review" of all data and encourages others to quickly correct the mistakes. This results in online databases that contain even fewer errors than the jealously-guarded databases of only a few years ago.
Wikipedia is an excellent non-genealogy example, although there are others. This non-profit encyclopedia has grown through contributions from tens of thousands of enthusiastic users. The end result is a free, online service that has ten or twenty times the information of any commercial competitor, usually with a lower error rate. To be sure, errors are sometimes made when new data is added to Wikipedia. However, more and more users review and correct the information, the accuracy increases over a period of time. The end result is a very accurate offering.
NOTE: For some eye-opening information about the accuracy of Wikipedia versus Encyclopedia Britannica, read the article at: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,69844,00.html.
We are now at the threshold of similar offerings in genealogy. Past databases, such as the International Genealogy Index, Ancestral File, and World Family Tree, are either fading into obscurity or are being modernized to include new data input capabilities not available before. Other products are now appearing, including FamilySearch Indexing, New FamilySearch, WeRelate.org, PhpGedView, The Next Generation, PedigreeSoft, Retrospect GDS, Family Pursuit, and similar online products. These are either available now or will be available within a few months. Many of these allow thousands of genealogists to help each other by contributing data to centralized databases.
Some of these services offer huge disk farms with petabytes of available storage space. (A petabyte is 1,000 terabytes, the same as one million gigabytes.) Other products, such as The Next Generation and PedigreeSoft, are aimed at the individual researcher or at groups or societies, especially family name societies. Online, web-based collaborative databases appear to be the wave of the future.
What about today's existing genealogy programs that record data on the "islands" of individual hard drives? Well, I wouldn't be too concerned. Most of these genealogy programs are developed and supported by very intelligent people. They will add whatever capabilities their users ask for.
Personal Ancestral File has already been declared "a dead product" by the producers. In fact, it isn't dying so much as it is being replaced by the web-based New FamilySearch, an online collaborative service. The producers of New FamilySearch at the Mormon Church are encouraging software producers to write web-based interfaces that will exchange data with this new database. In this case, a new bird is already arising from the ashes of the phoenix.
Producers of The Master Genealogist, RootsMagic, Legacy, Reunion, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker, GRAMPS, etc. have not yet made any announcements, nor do I expect any of them to make announcements anytime soon. However, I suspect all of them are watching this new revolution closely and will add new capabilities to utilize online collaborative databases as soon as market pressures dictate. I am betting that all the major players will survive and will offer even better products than in the past. Most will probably allow for dual databases: both local databases on users' individual hard drives as well as remote collaborative databases. Users will have a choice of using either local or remote databases or (optionally) both at the same time. Data from one database could be copied to the other, if the user elects to do so. All of this will remain under the individual user's direct control.
When used with collaborative databases, any of these programs will allow you to find research already done, to add your own research efforts to the group collaborations, and to either correct or append information to erroneous data already stored in the collaborative database.
It is interesting to note that the New FamilySearch will eventually include an API (application programming interface). When available, this API will allow programmers of The Master Genealogist, RootsMagic, Legacy, Reunion, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker, GRAMPS, and other genealogy products to add functionality that lets their users directly access data on the New FamilySearch through those programs. I suspect that other online databases will have to develop similar APIs in order to survive and grow.
I believe that The Master Genealogist, RootsMagic, Legacy, Reunion, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker, GRAMPS, and other genealogy products of the future will also use the power of your own computer to produce reports, wall charts, pedigree charts, web pages, multimedia scrapbooks, maps, and other capabilities not offered by online databases.
Many of these programs will also allow for creation of "mashups," the combining of two or more online services in a manner never envisioned by the creators of the online services. For instance, a future genealogy program could extract geographic data from an online genealogy collaborative database and then plot family migrations using Google Maps. The geographic information could be further supplemented with data extracted from the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names. Dates could be compared to online newspapers to see what political and cultural events may have influenced your ancestors' decisions to move to new lands.
These same programs running in individuals' computers will make it easy to move new data to and from the collaborative databases, including scanned pictures, maps, and more. The centralized databases may hold the raw data, but the various genealogy programs of the future will allow you to get the information out of your computer and into a format that can easily be read and shared with others.
In short, the powerful genealogy programs of today will evolve to become "gateways" to genealogy and other data stored in any of several locations, including local data on your own hard drive. The individual genealogy programs of tomorrow will allow the user to sort, filter, analyze, and report information in ways that we have not yet imagined.
How do you get ready for this future revolution? I have a surprise for you: it is not a future revolution at all. It is happening now; the battles are already being fought around you. I'd suggest that you read this newsletter as well as other online and off-line genealogy publications as time goes by. You will be reading the word "web-based" over and over.
I'd also suggest that you should participate in one or more of these new services. If the service you use works well, give your feedback to the service providers. If it works poorly, also give your feedback to that service's providers. Some of these new services will succeed and grow. Others will whither and die. That's the normal selection process in genealogy software and services, as well as in almost everything else in life. Only the strongest survive and grow. You can be a part of the natural selection process.
I believe this is a very exciting time to be a computer-using genealogist!
Posted by Dick Eastman
Some of the software vendors that you mention have a "Collaboration" feature, notably Ancestral Quest. Which allows for "some" functionality toward this web-based concept. You mentioned another company on 14 March 2007 [Family Pursuit] who was going to do this kinda of thing, and I contacted them with no reply.
One-Great Family refunded my money to me because my database was too large, and their system could not accommodate an upload. When I sent them the database they said they had internal problems that would not allow it to load.
This idea is one whose time has come, but the logistics of handling millions or trillions of records is going to slow the process considerably. WorldConnect currently has the only working system I have seen that allows a database of over 264,000 records to be easily updated, indexed, and worked using Postem notes to relay corrections or additions to data there.
Then we have the problem of hoarding genealogist who have in many cases spent long hours, and much money to get to be that 10,000th person you mention. Who jealously hoard their conclusions and refuse to share with the struggling 9,999. I have often spoken to the issue of "recreating the wheel" that hampers growth and the free exchange of information. Those who have, should share, so that the entire concept of "Family" can be moved forward.
Too many societies, and groups need to stop being the "islands" that exclude the rest of the human family and allow for the free flow of information and ideas. However, I am a firm believer in the march of time. No matter how hard you cling to something, ideas manage to "leak" out and what was once a dead-end for others can suddenly bloom into creative, and organized discovery.
There is a lot of misinformation in the genealogy world. That will not go away until we all work together. I cannot tell you how many times a day I get requests for more information or even offered large amounts of information which is poorly documented. When first I started out, I did not know the meaning of "sources". I was a kid at the time. But now corrections to data, conflicts should be documented so that research can move forward. We are all part of a Greater Family and working together we should be able to bridge many of the issues that divide us as a people and as a Family.
Posted by: Terry Smith | March 25, 2007
I think the collaborative efforts are great and the all computerized genealogy is super; BUT who is going to police all the input errors.
I just pulled up a family on Ancestry which worked its way back to the mid 1700's and then the next generation was the mid 1800's and repeated the same family. Awful.
Posted by: Alvie L. Davidson CG | March 25, 2007
---> BUT who is going to police all the input errors.
YOU are. Well, you and a few thousand other genealogists.
The biggest advantage of the collaborative databases (in my mind) is that they are COLLABORATIVE. A properly designed collaborative database allows one person to post data, be it accurate or inaccurate. Then others can either change the information or append comments to it, questioning its accuracy and pointing out better source citations and/or better sources of information. Over time, the collaborative databases become "groomed" more and more, ever increasing in accuracy.
Old-fashioned databases allowed for inaccurate information to be posted and then remain there more or less forever. The newer collaborative databases may not yet be perfect but they are a lot better than those old-fashioned non-collaborative databases. At least inaccurate information can now be updated/deleted/replaced/improved.
My guess is that not all the first collaborative databases will be perfect. They will suffer from various deficiencies. However, as time goes by, the "survival of the fittest" will prevail. The mediocre products will eventually fade away as the better products become more and more popular.
I suspect that ALL of them will be better than the databases we have used in the past that do not easily allow for corrections.
- Dick Eastman
Our Family organization has used The Next Generation software beginning about two years ago to create a collaborative data base (fed by the data of about ten of our most active researchers) and has been the means of gathering not only the basic genealogy, but of histories and photos of the ancestors, also their gravestones and a few other memorabilia (in digitized format).
The result is ecstasy on the part of many members of the family. To illustrate, there were six hundred willing to come to a first ever reunion last summer, from Canada, Florida, mid-west, west and southwest United States. This phenomenon is real, wanted and much appreciated.
We hope that there will be a way to interface "seamlessly" to the super databases, ie Family Search at the LDS Church for one example, as the input to those will be magnitudes larger than we now receive, but will be extremely valuable, especially as properly documented.
Posted by: Alonzo Cook | March 25, 2007
What protection can/will the online databases provide against potential identity theft of personal identifiable data?
Posted by: George Schreckengost | March 25, 2007
Identity theft isn't much of an issue for people born 100 or more years ago.
All the online databases that I have seen have the option to hide information about living people. That seems to solve the problems.
- Dick Eastman
Hi, My 78 year old mind is a buzz with all the new applications . I have FTM16 which meets my requirement but was shocked to find my worldconnect family history on one world tree and Ancestry .com are charging people to view my information which I supplied free of charge .From a result point of view the more comprehensive a website becomes, it will make family history easier to compile but research will now cost .
Posted by: Laurie Thompson | March 26, 2007
Laurie Thompson brings up an interesting point in this new publishing dynamic. As we are increasingly encouraged to give away our research findings to proprietary companies like Ancestry, so too do we need to be aware of what these companies will do with the information.
If you wish to make your finings truly part of the public domain, ask yourself if the place you are publishing to will make your hard found data available to everyone without fee or subscription or are they only collecting the data to re-publish it to those who can afford entry into related private holdings?
I do not believe in hoarding research findings, but I do believe there is a right way and a wrong way to publish on the Internet. I hope that in addition to the phrase "web-based" genealogists will become familiar with and learn the value of "open source" versus "proprietary" publishing.
Blogs such as this one are increasingly easy for private individuals to create through open source companies such as WordPress.com. Wiki's also seem to hold great promise for open source sharing of data. But beware of companies offering an easy way to publish and then hoarding the information themselves. With thousands of members, they may not exactly be private islands, but I can't help thinking they look like huge gated communities.
Posted by: John Charlton | March 26, 2007
As someone who is fairly new to this research I find this extremely exciting. I have been brickwalled on finding my family history but can find LOTS on my husband's family. Maybe some doors will open for me. Thank you.
Posted by: Lois Chapin | March 26, 2007
I would love to have access to more ACCURATE information on my lines, as would we all. What I recoil at is the thought of someone, like a dim cousin, correcting my careful research with their poorly-documented material. On the other hand, if we don't get our version out there, the poorly-researched material may be there first, thus spreading errors among the community.
Posted by: Margaret | March 26, 2007
Posted by: Dick Eastman | March 25, 2007
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