Saturday, November 11, 2017

GEDMatch - Lesson 1 - An Introduction

After attending the Central Florida Family History Conference last week I figured it was time that I spent a little more time on GEDMatch working on my DNA hits. I know many people are turned off by GEDMatch's basic appearance. They don't have flashy photos and graphics like Ancestry. Some of their results are confusing. It's not always obvious on how to use the various tools and what information they are providing. All they do is present the data. And many of us really don't understand what that data means. So, I decided to write up a couple posts on using GEDMatch. Hopefully these tips will help you in discovering your roots.

Since this is the first lesson we will start with the very basics and then work our way up. First of all, why should you use GEDMatch?

Well, my main reason is that GEDMatch allows people who have had their DNA tested by various companies to come together and compare information. For example, if you had your DNA tested at Ancestry, FTDNA, MyHeritage, 23 and Me, WeGene, or several other companies, you can all upload your DNA here and compare across those data sets. GEDMatch provides detailed instructions for uploading your DNA data from each company. So, all you have to do is follow the step-by-step process.

My second reason for using GEDMatch is the variety of tools that you can't find on the other sites. These tools allow you to discover more about your ancestry and DNA matches.

This first post is only an introduction to GEDMatch and focuses on the first things you should do. I will try to discuss the more advanced tools and other features in future posts.

So, let's get started. First of all when you go to GEDMatch you will see their very basic login screen.

GEDMatch.com login screen

New user will have to register for an account. This is basically the same as many other sites - select a username and password, provide your contact information, etc.

Once you are logged in you will see news at the top of the screen letting you know of any new updates and below that you will see two columns of actions you can select from.

The first box on the left column is your profile.

The second box is Learn More. This is your area to access tutorials that will help you use GEDMatch's features and understand how genetic research helps you discover your ancestors. For example, under the DNA for Dummies link there are links to articles by CeCe Moore, Blaine Bettinger and Kelly Wheaton.

GEDMatch Tutorials

Below the tutorial is your list of DNA Resources. These are the DNA files you have uploaded. As you can see from my list, you can add as many files as you want. Each file identifies the original source (A=Ancestry, M=23 & Me, T=FTDNA, H=MyHeritage, etc.) and the person the DNA came from along with their alias.

GEDMatch DNA Resource List

I have uploaded DNA results for myself and from each of my parental lines as well as my wife and her lines. Having representation from each parent's line allows you to triangulate the results later.

Below your DNA Resources is your GEDCOM Resources box. This box lists the GEDCOM files you have uploaded. In this case, there is one for me and one for my wife.

GEDMatch GEDCOM Resources

You should upload your GEDCOMS and link your DNA results to the individuals so that they can be found more easily by others who match your DNA results.

In the second column we have the major tools that GEDMatch uses in their analysis.

The first box in this column are the features to upload your DNA and GEDCOM files. The upload process for each is fairly simple if you follow the step-by-step instructions provided in their tutorials.

GEDMatch File Uploads Tools

Following that, you will find the list of tools that GEDMatch uses.

GEDMatch Tools

The first tool you should use is the "One-to-many matches". This tool compares your DNA results to all of the other DNA files that have been uploaded. Due to the large number of files in GEDMatch, this comparison may take may take some time at first. Once you have some kits to compare you can begin to use the other tools such as the "One-to-one compare" which gives you high resolution comparison results, showing down to the individual centiMorgan matches. You also can compare the various GEDCOM files that have been uploaded to see if any of them match your ancestors.

If you start to get serious about your DNA research you can upgrade to the paid tools in the Tier 1 Utilities. One thing I like about their Tier 1 Utilities is that they only charge you for a month at a time. If these tools interest you, it is a one time payment of $10 for a months access. At the end of the month your access is removed and you can renew it at anytime later when you want to access those tools again.

GEDMatch's Tier 1 Utilities (Paid Subscription)

The last section is the Genesis Beta box. This box lets you learn more about what the GEDMatch team is working on.

GEDMatch Genesis Beta

The purpose of this blog post was to provide a very basic over view of what GEDMatch has to offer. I will try to provide some detailed posts in the future about the utility of the various tools and how you can improve your DNA research results.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Central Florida Family History Conference - 2017 - Afternoon Sessions

And now for the rest of the story.....What I did during my Summer Vacation.....Not really. Here is a description of the lectures I attended during the afternoon session of the Central Florida Family History Conference. By the way, they did have a good lunch catered from Panera's.

Debra Fleming presented Google for the 20th Century. I always like to attend the classes on using Google to search for your family history just in case they have something new that I can use. Debra talked about the search strategies and how to use the different search engines on Google. Most people already know how to use Google to do their regular searches on the internet. But those of us who have been using Google for some time really take advantage of the different search engines Google has. For example, Google Books is a great way to search for historical books which are out of copyright, published prior to 1923. These books are viewable online and can be searched and downloaded into your library. Newer books that are still in copyright can be seen in snips and may not be as useful. I use Google Books to search for county histories and regional books quite often. Another interesting search engine on Google is their Patents Search. Did any of your ancestors invent something? You may not know this part of their life but you can search for it here. I was able to discover a patent for the thermal insulating sleeve for the Alaska pipeline that was invented by a cousin of mine. Another search engine on Google is Google Scholar. I use Google Scholar all the time at work to look up scientific reports. But you can also look up documents written about your ancestors or where your ancestor was mentioned. I was able to discover an interesting story about a great uncle in a veterinary journal. It's a bit disgusting to talk about but I'll just mention it had something to do with a carnivorous cow and pig intestines and leave it at that. Google Maps is another one of my favorites. I like to look up the old addresses and see what the area looks like today. For example I have been able to show people the old apartments their ancestors lived in. Also, I was able to explore the neighborhood in Amsterdam where my great-great grandfather lived. Many of these areas, especially those in Europe, still look like they did a hundred years ago. The Google News Archive is also a great search engine. At one time Google was going to digitize the newspaper collections of the world and then in 2011 they stopped. However, all the digitized newspapers they had completed are still available and searchable. Some of these newspapers are not housed anywhere else and are an invaluable source for genealogy research. Have you tried Google Images?  You may be able to find images of your ancestors if they have been posted online or you can find historical images of their hometowns or important events that add to your stories. One thing I like about Google Images is the way you can specify the search parameters. For example, if you get too many results in your search and you only want to see pictures of people who could be your ancestors you can go to the Tools button and select "black and white" to get old pictures and then click on "face" to see only pictures of people. Using this technique, I was able to find this picture of my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Bornhorst who immigrated from Germany to Ohio.
 
Debra also discussed using Google Translate and Google Calendar to aid in your research. Google Translate is useful in figuring out what documents written in a foreign language say or in translating foreign websites. Debra uses Google Calendar to track important dates for her ancestors such as births, deaths and marriages. She also highly recommended joining G+ as a social media platform for genealogists. I agree that G+ has a better "environment" than Facebook and is less confrontational in nature but it is hard to convert over to a different platform, even for someone like me who was an early adopter of G+.

The second afternoon session I attended was one by Margo Fariss Brewer who discussed Local Support Groups for Free. This discussion focused on using libraries, universities and other collections in your research. She explained strategies to make your research visits more rewarding. One tip she mentioned was avoiding exam times or times when students would be using the libraries. By avoiding these times you have a better chance of getting assistance from the library staff. She also recommended calling a few days in advance to make sure the collections you want to view are available. In some cases they may be housed offsite or in closed collections and need to be brought in for use. Always go online and research the library you will be visiting. Check their hours, availability of the collections, are there any restrictions on what you can bring in (phone, computer, camera, scanner, notebook, etc.), location of parking and local places to eat. Also, you should ask the librarians if they have any special collections or suggestions for the topic you are researching. Don't waste their time going on about your research stories, get right to the questions and be sure to thank them for their assistance.

The final session was Jeff Haines' discussion on GEDMatch: A Goldmine of Genetic Analysis Tools. This was one of my favorites of the day due to the amount of new information he provided. I have been using GEDMatch for a while now but don't use it everyday. I probably use it once every 2 - 3 months just to check on new matches. Jeff provided a lot of information in his 1-hour slot and I may have to write a full blog on GEDMatch in the near future once I try out his tips. GEDMatch has a good selection of free tools that can provide most of what everyone uses. However, there are some pay services that cost $10/month. The good thing is you only purchase one month at a time and they don't continue to bill you after the end of the month. One thing that has happened recently is that GEDMatch has partnered with WikiTree. This allows the trees on WikeTree to be used in the GEDMatch matching. GEDMatch has an expanded set of ethnic admixture models that you can use. Each model uses a different set of genetic data and provides a different set of values for your ethnicity. This is similar to comparing Ancestry to MyHeritage or FTDNA results, they will be different because each one uses a different model. The One-to-Many analysis compares your DNA to all the DNA sets within the database and lists all of your matches. One thing I like about GEDMatch matches is that it tells you right up front what proportion of DNA match you have so you can see who is most closely related to you. Once you get this full list, you can go to the One-to-One match and see a graphical display of which sections of chromosomes are matched. You can move that information over to third party programs or even into Excel to do more detailed analysis and compare various matching people through triangulation. A really cool tool Jeff demonstrated was Chromosome Painting. This compares two sets of chromosomes and provides a color coded ethnicity map of your chromosomes and shows which areas were inherited from each parent. You can find the comparison tool under the Admixture analysis and then select "Paint differences between 2 kits". One last thing he recommended was to try Genome Mate Pro to help analyse your genetic data from GEDMatch. This tool helps you manage the information you get during your DNA research.

Well, it was a long day and there were some great talks. I hope to make this conference a regular on my schedule in the future. I hope the information I provided in my blog helps others learn a little more about these topics.

Central Florida Family History Conference - 2017 - Morning Session

Well, I finally did it. I managed to fit the Central Florida Family History Conference into my schedule and went this year. It was their 21st annual conference, but the first time I have attended. In the past, I was teaching at the University on Saturdays and couldn't just tell the students they had the day off. Now that we have moved and I am no longer teaching, it felt like a good time to go. So, I decided to provide some info for all my Family History Consultants and followers on what I learned at this conference.

The Keynote speaker was Crista Cowan - "The Barefoot Genealogist". For those who don't follow her, she works for Ancestry and produces educational videos for the Ancestry YouTube Channel. Her Keynote talk was about Ancestry and some of it's resources. She discussed her history with the company including her days as a representative travelling between the US and London trying to get contracts for records, her time in the indexing program, and now her time in the DNA and education arenas where she helps do research for several of the genealogy television shows. Currently, Ancestry has over 22 billion records and is adding about 2 million records each day. Most of the indexing is contracted out but some is completed by indexing projects. The biggest aid in adding new records to Ancestry is the advancement of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which allows computers to index typed pages such as newspapers and directories. These OCR records are being added at an ever increasing rate as the accuracy of the technology has advanced. She also discussed the ProGenealogists program at Ancestry.  This is a small group of about 100 professional genealogists who can be contracted to help you break down your brick walls.

Jim Greene, from FamilySearch, was the first talk that I attended. His presentation was on What's New and What's Coming with FamilySearch. I always try to attend these types of talks so I can get ready for where FamilySearch is going in the next year or two. So, for the What's New part, Jim talked about the record collections that were added in 2016. The rate of use of FamilySearch continues to increase and during 2016 the users were adding 2.7 million new individuals each month. The largest connected tree has over a billion names and then there are many smaller bushes, as he calls them. These smaller bushes are those trees which haven't yet connected to the larger tree. Users are attaching 8 million sources each month. I'm sure I am a big part of those sources being attached because that is basically all that I do now. I just run up and down my tree making sure as many sources are connected as possible and adding new people based on those sources. The total number of individuals that are connected to trees on FamilySearch is now over 1.14 billion with 733 million sources attached. Another thing that happened was the decommissioning of new.familysearch.org (nFS). If you have been using FamilySearch for many years you probably remember this transitional program that eventually was replaced by the current FamilySearch interface. There were several issues with nFS that needed to be worked out in development, such as Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS) who could not be merged due to capacity issues. For those techies out there, the transition from nFS, which was an Oracle system, to the current FamilySearch, a Casandra system, is a major leap in computing power. Another thing that was added is the "View My Relationship" function. I use this all the time to make sure I haven't strolled too far off my family tree (which I do way too often). I just wish they had the relationship spelled out so you know if you were working on a 3rd cousin 4 times removed instead of having to figure it out from the tree they show you. Don't get me wrong, I really like the tree that pops up, I just want the relationship added at the bottom, or somewhere. Another advancement is FamilySearch Lite. FamilySearch Lite is built for low bandwidth access. This is great for areas where broadband doesn't exist or for those with limited data plans on their phones. For example, the opening screen once you log in to FamilySearch is normally about 3 MB in size. With FamilySearch Lite, that same page is about 30 K. That is a huge difference. Jim also talked about the Relatives Around Me function on the FamilySearch App. This function shows you everyone within a 50 foot radius of you who has the app activated and then shows you how you are related (if you are). There were a few people in the audience with the app so we all turned it on to see what we found. The person behind me found that he was related to 3 of them. Of course, I was related to no one, as usual.

So, what is coming for FamilySearch in 2018? They are working on improving the Private portion of FamilySearch. The private area is a secure database, not connected to the public portion, where all the data on living people are housed. Currently, you can only attach one source to a living person. That will change so you can fully source and add memories to living people. This allows you to tell their story while they are still living. Once they die, they are transferred to the public data set with all their sources and memories attached. Also, you will be able to share private data with those you invite, such as family members, so they can work on the living lines together. This will allow for Group Messaging, Shared Memories, Shared To-Do List, and a Group Activity Feed, so you can coordinate your research with family members. All this private information will remain protected on the secure server to protect people's privacy. Another advancement will be the notifications if someone changes information you added. With these notifications you will know when any information that you have contributed has been changed. This is different than the Watch List that lets you know if anything on a person you are watching is changed, whether you contributed it or not.

The last speaker I attended during the morning session was Crista Cowan. Her presentation was titled Using Your Ancestry DNA Results to Make New Family Discoveries. I have been using Ancestry DNA for a couple years now and figured I might be able to learn something from the professional on this. Her introduction on Ancestry DNA started with sorting the data by the most recent so you can track who has been added since the last time you were online. You can find this at the top of the DNA Match page under the title text where it says "Sort by: Relationship/Date". She also mentioned how to add notes to the information (look for the small piece of paper icon on the person's individual page). These were great hints on how to keep track of what is in your DNA Matches. Also, clicking on the small dark circle with the i in it after the person's relationship provides you the DNA match information. That information can be translated by using some of the DANA relationship tables online, such as the ones on Blaine Bettinger's blog. Your list of DNA Matches is sorted by the size of the matching DNA, the number of matched centiMorgans. So, those at the top of each relationship section are your highest matches and those toward the bottom are less closely related. Crista mentioned that she has a good collection of YouTube videos on the AncestryDNA channel. Another great tip she provided was the Shared Matches screen which shows the matches that are connected to you and the person you are looking at. This can help you determine if the matches are on your maternal or paternal line if you have additional close family DNA results. For example, I have both my parents tested and my wife has her mother tested. If any of our parents show up as shared matches we know the side of the family they are connected to.

Well, I don't want to overwhelm everyone so I will stop here and continue with the afternoon session in my next post. Hope you enjoy this post and have learned something.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Lost & Found - Family Photos at the Flea Market

Hello everyone and Happy Equinox - OK, equinox is actually tomorrow but does it really matter that I am a day early? I took the day off work today to get a few things done around the house and to make my reservations for RootsTech 2018. RootsTech is the largest genealogy conference as far as I know. If you haven't gone, make sure you add it to your bucket list.

I was running around on Facebook while trying to figure out what I was going to do and then I ran across Elizabeth O'Neal's post about the Genealogy Blog Party theme of the month - Lost & Found. See the post at her My Descendant's Ancestors blog site. So, I decided to write about he Lost photos that I have Found in the hopes that those who have Lost them will see the story and ask me for them back.

I often visit flea markets and antique shows to find vendors who specialize in old photos. These vendors have box after box of old photos they have found but their intent is to make money on them, not necessarily to return them to their families. I often wonder how the photos came into their possession - Were they sold at yard sales by ancestors who no longer wanted them? Were they orphaned by a family member who died and had no one to pass them on to? Were they part of an assorted box of stuff found at an estate sale? The answer to those questions is different for each photo. Many of the photos have no identifying information on them but frequently I can find some with information that allows me to begin searching for matches and potential families. This blog post will list some of the photos I have rescued and what I have learned about each one. I have also tried to link each one to a person on FamilySearch.org and have provided the PID# in their description so they can be found easily. The caption on each photo is the text that was written on its back.

Great Grandmother Kellogg (mother of Ann Marie Kellog m. Hiram Paulding, USA)

Based on the information on the back of this photo and matching it to information on FamilySearch.org, I believe Great Grandmother Kellog's name was Mary Ann Tuthill (FamilySearch PID #LH3M-K4H). Mary Ann was born around 1782 in New Canaan, Connecticut. Her husband was Jonathan Warren Kellogg. Her daughter Ann Marie Kellogg was born 11 July 1807 in Flatbush, New York and died 7 January 1894 in Long Island, New York. Ann's husband, Hiram Paulding was born 11 December 1797 in Cortland, New York and died 20 October 1878 in Huntington, Long Island, New York. I really love this photo, not only because of the age but also because it shows what appears to be a very strong matriarch of the family.


It isn't often that you find complete extended families in a flea market collection. But the following group of photos is an extraordinary find consisting of 9 photos in total. This family consists of Moots, Munns, and a Boughton.

Abbie Boughton - sister of Mary Elizabeth Boughton Munn (Greatgrandmother). Died of TB.
This picture of Abbie Boughton had a great amount of information that helped me identify her. First of all, her sister is listed as Mary Elizabeth Boughton and Mary's husband is a Munn. I was able to find Mary Elizabeth Boughton Munn on FamilySearch (PID #LRK7-F4V) along with her husband, James L Munn, and three children. However, Abbie was not listed on FamilySearch.

James Munn - Dick
This photo is James Munn, the son of Mary Elizabeth Boughton and James Munn, Sr. James can be found on FamilySearch (PID #LRK7-LQP) with his family. James was born about 1865. How do I know this was James Munn, Jr. and not the father? Well, I am not 100 percent sure that it is, but I can make a guess based on the next photo.

Helen Munn

Helen Munn, (FamilySearch PID #LZ6R-T8Q), is the daughter of  Mary Elizabeth Boughton and James Munn, Sr. and the sister of James Munn, Jr. These family connections are proved by the various census records for the family. Since the pictures of James and Helen are from the same photo studio, and they appear to be similar in age, I assumed the photo of James was of the son and not the father. James and Helen also had a sister, Felicia Carrie Mun but I don't have any pictures of her. Interestingly though, I do have pictures of Felicia's husband, Melvin Moot, and their son, Carl Moot.

Melvin Moot - about 18
Melvin Moot - age 20 some








These two pictures of Melvin Moot (FamilySearch PID #KH7D-LBW) are taken in two different studios in New York. Melvin was born 22 December 1864 in Richmondville, New York and died 22 June 1945 in Richmondville. Melvin and Felicia had a son, Carl Melvin Moot.

Carl Moot
Carl Moot


Carl Moot (FamilySearch PID #LJKJ-QCQ) was born 18 February 1888 in Richmondville, New York and died in August 1967. Carl had some friends named Newlin Beard, Bill Paul and Roscoe Paul, as evidenced by the next picture.

Carl Moot, Newlin Beard, Bill Paul, Roscoe Paul

Another family member in this collection was Melvin Moot's brother, Orin Moot (FamilySearch PID #K466-9JB). Orin was born around 1862 and died 22 August 1942 in Albany, New York.

Orin Moot

It is rare to find this large of a family collection in mixed boxes of loose photos. For the descendants of these people this would be a great find, if they could be reunited. If you know any of these families, please have them contact me so they can be reunited with them.

As a genealogist, I find the game of Lost & Found to be a fun and challenging past time. Reuniting people with the images of their long lost relatives brings them happiness and gives me a feeling of success. The research is challenging but rewarding. I have many more photos that still need reuniting with their families and I will continue to hunt for more each opportunity that I get. These lost treasures need to find their families.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

FamilySearch Indexing - Zoning Pilot Project

Ok, I know what you are thinking - Why can't he write on a regular basis like all the other bloggers? The answer is - I don't know. I love to write but I seem to only be able to do it when I get inspired, and then sometimes when I am inspired I don't have the time to focus. So, a few weeks ago I was waiting for my wife in a parking lot, listening to NPR. The program that was on was from The Millennial Podcast titled Nothing to Lose. That show talked about how the host began her podcast and the challenges she faced trying to find her inspiration. It inspired me to think about writing again (that was over a month ago). I had some great ideas but then just never was able to allocate the time to seriously sit down and write. I thought about writing down my ideas, I had many, but that just passed by without being pursued. So, this week when I had a few free hours, I sat down and started a new pilot indexing project for FamilySearch called Zoning. This was a fun project where volunteers view newspaper pages and block out stories with marriage, birth and death information. In the first day I completed over 670 zones in newspapers from Raleigh, North Carolina. I decided that this would be a good story to provide since this such a new project.

So, let's discuss a bit about indexing to start with. Anyone can volunteer to index the records that have already been digitized. To learn more about indexing visit the FamilySearch Indexing webpage. The indexing projects are moving ahead and more records are being made searchable each month. With the success of the indexing program and the addition of more digitized images online there has been a decrease in the need for microfilms to be sent out. Additionally, the cost of copying microfilms has increased substantially over the years. Many of you have probably read that the Family History Library will stop sending out microfilm records at the end of this week (September 7, 2017). The reason they are ending the microfilm rental process is that many of the films are now available online and they believe almost all of them should be available over the next three years, around 2020. Just to point out the major accomplishments achieved already in digitizing microfilm records, think about the following:

  • Almost all of the microfilms rented by patrons in the past 5 years have now been digitized.
  • Over 1.5 million microfilms (1.5 billion images) are now available online.
  • Microfilms are being digitized at the rate of 1,000 rolls per day.
  • Images that have not been indexed are available in the FamilySearch Catalog.

So, why is Zoning important? Zoning serves as the first step in indexing newspaper records. The zoners highlight the regions of each newspaper page that contain marriage, birth and death information that will be useful in our family history research. There are sets of key words that the zoners look for such as adoption, birthday, anniversary, divorce, engagement, estate, obituary, probate, etc.

If you are interested in signing up for the Zoning pilot project click here. Once your request has been approved and you are signed up you can begin zoning.

FamilySearch Zoning Pilot Project - initial view
Each batch consists of five newspaper pages that may or may not contain important information. As you read the page, looking for the key words, you begin to note which articles are subject to zoning. Currently the only events that are being zoned are those that contain birth, marriage or death information. 

Page after it has been Zoned for marriage information

The page above has several articles pertaining to marriage events such as engagements, anniversaries, announcements and marriages. Marriage information is highlighted in orange and the areas in blue are stories that are stitched together over several columns.

Page after it has been Zoned for death information

The page above has several articles pertaining to deaths. These stories are highlighted in green. Also, if you look at the side bar there is a page with a large red X on it. That indicates that there are no stories with birth, marriage, or death information. The large black circles indicate that those pages have been zoned.

Once you have zoned all the pages you can submit them and go on to zone more batches. This project is important for future indexing in that it provides the articles which will be added to the newspaper records.

I know some people have been having trouble indexing records, either because of the difficulty reading them or because of other reasons. This Zoning pilot project is an easy way for those who are having trouble contributing to the Indexing project to provide new records to the FamilySearch records.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

RootsTech 2017 - Day 4

Day 4 has finally come. This is the last day of RootsTech 2017 and the first morning that I actually slept until my alarm went off at 5:45 am. My day will end at 6:00 am tomorrow morning when I arrive at the Orlando Airport.

Our opening session today was hosted by Ancestry DNA. Ancestry DNA announced the launch of their new Genetic Communities scheduled for March/April this year. The Genetic Communities is basically a high resolution population cluster analysis indicating the most probable locations linked to your DNA results. They currently have 1,000 communities to compare your DNA but only 300 will be available at the initial launch. These communities are smaller geographic regions where there is a high concentration of specific genetic interconnectivity. This technology is ground breaking and was recently published in the journal Nature. With this resolution of data Ancestry can show migration routes and provide historical context to help build your stories. The results also show which of your DNA match cousins also belong to your genetic communities, allowing you to see how these cousins could be related if they don't already have trees on Ancestry to match to.

CeCe Moore, the Genetic Genealogist, talked about her research and how memories may be carried through generations via DNA. There have been several studies that indicate this may actually occur. She told about several of her projects where she reunited families that were separated at birth or found people who had forgotten who they were. The value of DNA in genealogical research is proving to be one of the most important discoveries of our time.

The winners of the Innovator Showdown were announced this morning. They were:

  • Kindex - People's Choice Award - $25,000 in cash and in kind credits
  • Double Match Triangulator - 3rd Place - $26,000 in cash and in kind credits
  • Qroma Tag - 2nd Place - $44,000 in cash and in kind credits
  • OldNews USA - 1st Place - $95,000 in cash and in kind credits

I also attended the Ancestry sponsored lunch. Ancestry has set a priority of making more records available and making their search process as fast as possible. In the old days it took an average of 1 hour and 20 minutes to find a person in the 1870 US census on microfilm. It now takes 22 seconds to perform the same task on Ancestry. Just in the last year, their page access time has improved by 44%, resulting in a 2x increase in page loading speed. Additionally, they are working on a predictive search algorithm, focusing the results based on your recent activities.

Ancestry has over 19 billion online records and added 2.3 billion new records last year alone with the largest increases being the addition of US Vital Records, Church of England Parishes, Ireland Catholic Parish Registers, German Lutheran Church Registers, and German Directories. Their US Marriage library now totals more than 300 million records, three times larger than FindMyPast's collection of US marriage records. Ancestry plans on adding another 120 million German records in the next 3 months resulting in a total of 640 million German records. They are also expanding their Dutch and Swedish record collections. And, one more collection, the US WW I Troop Transport collection will be available in April of 2017. This collection includes the crew and passenger lists for the troop transport ships during WW I. The partnership between Ancestry and FamilySearch provides a record library larger than all the other FamilySearch partners combined.

What else is Ancestry planning for 2017? Newspapers.com is adding 8 to 10 million pages each month and currently have more than 240 million pages online. They will launch the We Remember personal memorial pages later this year. These memorial pages can be created for your deceased ancestors, providing one point of entry to tell their stories. AncestryDNA now has over 3 million users, a 2 million user increase over this time a year ago. The increased number of DNA kits in their system is providing many more results for those using the system.

The closing ceremony featured Noteworthy and Vocal Point, two groups from BYU. Additionally, they announced the winners from the cake contest, judged by The Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro. There were 60 cakes entered in the competition and the winner was awarded nearly $12,000 in high end kitchen appliances.

It has been a wonderful conference and I look forward to next year. FamilySearch announced that the RootsTech 2018 conference will be February 28 - March 3. It's time to start saving up for your trip.

RootsTech 2017 - Day 3

RootsTech has been great so far and today was no different (except the weather turned rainy and cold).

The General Session this morning started with Ben Bennet from FindMyPast talking about their new collections. In 2016, FindMyPast released the beginning of the US Marriage Record Collection. Their goal is to provide more than 100  million marriage records with over 450 million indexed names. That would be the largest collection of US marriage records for any site available today. Currently, they have over 70 million records available for search and expect the remainder to be released in the next couple months. Additionally, FindMyPast has acquired Twile. Twile is a tool that allows you to visualize your family history timeline. Twile recently came out with a family infographic using your data from FamilySearch.

My Family Infographic from Twile

What else does FindMyPast have in store for 2017? During the FindMyPast lunch they announced one of the most important releases in 2017 will be their partnership with the Catholic Church for the release of the Catholic Heritage Archive. The Catholic records for Ireland (7.6 million records) were released first with Scotland and the UK following soon. The US Catholic records will be released by archdiocese. The first US archdiocese, Philadelphia was released today. Several others, including Baltimore, New York, and Cincinnati will be released later this year. I am looking forward to the Cincinnati release since it will hopefully have many of my Ohio ancestors.

LeVar Burton, Geordi LeForge from Star Trek TNG, gave a very emotional talk to open the conference today. He emphasized the importance of having good role models as we grow up. He talked about his mother and how she, as a single mother raising children, worked to better herself by being the first person in her family to get a college degree and by working several jobs to make sure they had what they needed to succeed. LeVar also discussed his role in Roots and how the mini-series changed the way we see ourselves. At the end of his presentation, FamilySearch presented him with his family history and talked about some of the significant finds they discovered. LeVar was deeply touched by the stories they presented and there wasn't a dry eye in the convention center.

I also attended a question and answer session with the senior executives from FamilySearch where we learned about the direction FamilySearch is headed. I asked them if they were considering being able to include DNA results in their system. They said that was something they were investigating. Another thing that they mentioned was that they were taking a conservative approach to privacy issues and that their stance on this was beyond what the other companies had as policies. Some records are not being released because of the potential for privacy issues and they are looking at ways to handle living people in the system, to make it more useful without exposing private information to the world. Their customer support continues to be one of the best in the world with over 2,000 support missionaries handling over 1 million requests during 2016.

FamilySearch is concentrating on increasing their records availability. They are prioritizing their content acquisition to include high risk and vitally important records but have the ability to loan out smaller capture kits to groups so they can digitize their own collections. FamilySearch is focusing on developing partnerships to assist them in records acquisitions and are looking at some nontraditional partners to help develop some areas like their recipe collection. So, how quickly are the records being digitized? Well, about 50% of the vault records are now complete. They expect the remaining records to be complete in only a couple years and as new digitizing technology becomes available they will be able to increase the speed at which they release records. They are working on better OCR and AI technology so that computers will be able to index more records. Using these improved technologies they were able to index 26 million obituaries last year without the need for indexers. This allows the indexers to focus on more difficult records. Additionally, they are working on new partnerships with newspapers to include their collections.

The FamilySearch user base is expanding from the predominantly English speaking regions to more Latin American users but the hinting is still focused on English records. They also have seen a 40% increase in the use by youth, including Primary age children (under 12 years old).

All of these advancements will provide new resources for us to research our family histories and learn more about each and every one of our ancestors.

And, to finish off the day, MyHeritage had their After Party. This is a great opportunity for us to network and discuss various things. And just in case you thought genealogists were boring old ladies, that would be wrong. One of the most popular activities at the party was the karaoke stage. The music ranged from 80's rock to rap. Everyone had a great time.

They announced the dates for RootsTech 2018 as February 28 - March 3. That is a little later than usual and will probably require some other local conferences to rearrange their schedules but I don't plan on missing it.

One more day of RootsTech 2017 left and then I can head home and get some sleep.