Monday, November 21, 2011 buys and

So, by now the news has probably reached everyone that has acquired and This is a major announcement from some major players in the online genealogy world.  I was first introduced to some years back when they purchased I have been using as well as for many years now and have found both to be valuable research tools. Each of these sites have their own purpose. MyHeritage is a social network with a great collaborative tree, photo recognition and smart matching capability. WorldVitalRecords has a large collection of records, including newspapers, yearbook collections, links to Google Books, FindAGrave and many others from the FamilyLink collection. Another thing that I have liked about MyHeritage is the international membership. There are over 60 million users from around the world and the site is published in 38 languages. I have been able to link up with people in Germany, England, Australia and other places through common individuals in our family trees. MyHeritage has offices in Europe, Israel, Australia, and now after this purchase, Utah in the US.

So what does this mean in the realm of online genealogy research? That is a good question. I hope this means that they will allow linking of records to their family trees, much like currently does. I also hope that this will open up the international records to many more people so we can further our research overseas. Only time will tell, but I do see great things from this merger.

If you would like more information on this story, check out the following weblink:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mapping Your Ancestors

I hope everyone is doing well as we get closer to the major holiday season. I have been playing with a few websites and recently discovered a few new ways to use Google Earth and Google  Maps to enhance my understanding of my ancestors. These are wonderful tools that can help you find where your ancestors lived and see what those areas look like today.

The first site is probably one that you have used before. It is the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records site which can be found at There are two main parts of the website which I find very useful. The first is the Land Patent search site. A search on this site might result in finding a digital copy of the original land patent your ancestor was granted. This document provides the Section, Township and Range, as well as the specific parcel of land that was purchased. The second area of the website provides the Plat Image which consists of the original survey maps for the land. These old surveys can provide you an idea of the landmarks which were present at the time the land was originally surveyed.
The combination of these two documents provides you with some pretty interesting information. However, there is another site which lets you map these old parcels on a current map in Google Earth. Google Earth is a satellite mapping program which can be downloaded at Google Earth is a wonderful tool which allows you to look at current, as well as historic, aerial imagery. So, how do you take the information from the land patent and find the location on Google Earth? Well, that takes another website called Earth Point. This site does have a subscription service, however the information I will provide allows you to map locations for free. Earth Point can be found on the web at

Once there, you can enter the data from the land patent, such as state, township, range and section in the blanks on the Earth Point website. Make sure you have Google Earth running before you click the "Fly To On Google Earth" button. When you click the button Google Earth will pop up and you will see a pink box showing the section where the parcel was located. You can then figure out what part of the section was granted to your ancestor.

Pretty cool, right? So, maybe now you want to see what that early property might have looked like. Or maybe you have old photos of the house and you would like to post those to a mapping website, like Google Maps, so others can see what the area looked like back in history. There is a fairly new website called What Was There located at This site lets you upload your old photos and incorporate them into Google Maps and the Street View. Once you upload the photo to this site you can search the Street View for the proper location and angle to superimpose your photo on the existing property. You can fade in and out to see how well the two pictures match. One thing I would like to see added to this site is the ability to warp the pictures so they fit the current scene a little better. Other than that, this site is a wonderful tool to get a glimpse into the past.

Mapping adds another dimension to your research and brings it to life. Try these new websites and let me know what you think. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Updates for FamilySearch and Websites

Yeah, I know, you all must be asking "What has he been up to now and why does he take such long breaks between blogs?" I have been busy again, or still, and  I only seem to be able to write when I get that urge to tell you about something that I find very interesting. I'll let the other bloggers keep you up to date on all the other stuff.

So, here is what I find interesting lately - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is continuing to update and add to their genealogy related websites. First, let's discuss what is happening at I am sure many of you have been using the free records search that is up on the site. I just read that they now have 2.34 billion indexed names and an additional 312 million records imaged but not yet indexed (browse only) on the site from all over the world. Even though this seems like a lot of records, there are still many more records that have not yet been indexed or digitized. If you would like to help add more records to this collection you can volunteer at If the records you are looking for are not yet online you can now order them online and have the microfilm delivered to your local Family History Center (FHC). It is extremely easy to place these orders. First go to and look above the search area under the heading Discover Your Family History. Then click on Catalog to begin searching for the record that you need. Alternatively you can skip the first step and go directly to to begin your search. Make sure you check the record to see if it is already in digital format or if it is already in your local FHC collection before ordering. Once you find the film number go to to begin ordering the film. Payment options include credit card or PayPal. Then you just have to wait for it to be delivered to the FHC.

That is just one of the new things on Another is the linking of some (not all) indexed records to the trees. This is applicable for some records that were used for extractions. The general public won't see this on their search pages but for those member of the LDS church, look to the right of the indexed record for a PID number. When you click on the PID# you will be taken right to the record on nFS. Is this a sign of things to come? I don't know for sure but imagine what will happen if we are able to tie the indexed record directly to a record in nFS. I was previously testing a project from BYU where we were linking people mentioned in journals to the people in nFS. Just wait until we can do that with every record currently on microfilm.

The FamilySearch Wiki ( has now been integrated into the FamilySearch format. The wiki is there to help you learn where to search for various records and to give advice. It is being added to daily so even if you don't find what you are looking for today, check back often for updates. One of the updates I just ran across was the posting for FamilySearch Research Help Communities. These communities are located on Facebook, Skype and FamilySearch Forums. The Skype Groups let you chat with others researching the same areas ( There are many groups already formed, including Mexico, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Sweden, Wales, and Thailand, as well as many states in the US. Those same basic groups are also on Facebook ( Figure out which community is best for you an try it out.

Mormon general conference videos.png
There is also a new page at directed towards getting the youth involved in family history research. You can find the site at This site has a couple introductory videos related to using and These videos are include information on why members of the LDS church do family history and some of the programs that are available for members of the church. However, anyone who is interested in learning how to use the sites will find some information and may be inspired to continue their research.

Friday, July 8, 2011 Follow-Up

Hi everyone, hope you all had a great July 4th weekend. I just wanted to post a quick follow-up to my May 26th posting for

BillionGraves was originally released as an iPhone app. However they have recently released an app for the Android phones. You can find it in the Marketplace under Billion Graves Camera (Android app or iPhone app). I downloaded the Android app the day it was released and took it out for a short test drive. The app lets you take GPS marked pictures and upload them to the BillionGraves website. I will have to say that I am using an LG Ally phone. My experience may not be representative of all GPS enabled phones.

The app was very easy to use. In order to get the best photographs of the gravesites you need to make sure that there are no debris on the graves and that you are not causing a shadow. You also need to make sure your phone's GPS is turned on and working properly. A couple times as I was preparing to take a photo, the phone warned me that the GPS signal was weak. This usually happened while I was standing under a tree. I found this problem easy to resolve by moving the phone a little bit to improve the signal.

I especially like the ability to upload the images right after the pictures are taken. The app gives you the capability to auto upload and auto delete the images so they don't take up critical memory. I found that by the time I got home all the photos were on the website and ready for me to transcribe.

Does this mean I won't be using any more? Of course not. But I didn't have the photos since they were all deleted from the phone. So what did I do? I was able to open BillionGraves and FindAGrave in two windows and save the photos from BillionGraves to my computer and then upload them to FindAGrave in just a couple mouse clicks.

I think this app will revolutionize peoples' ability to index cemeteries. We are already planning on having a bunch of Boy Scouts index a nearby cemetery with their smart phones and tablets as an Eagle project.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and maybe you can test the app on your own.

Friday, May 27, 2011

As we move into this Memorial Day weekend we are reminded to look back on all those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today. Starting with our Revolutionary War soldiers and ending with those who are currently fighting in far away lands like Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to thank them all for what we have. Besides the backyard cookouts and parades, many people will be visiting the cemeteries of their veteran family members and contemplating their sacrifices. Many more of these cemeteries are being indexed online everyday. In my last blog I discussed and their work to geocode all the headstones of the cemeteries. Today I want to discuss the burial records found at is an affiliate web site with This website has several very interesting applications. First of all, since it is an affiliate of FamilySearch, it is able to use data that has been contributed to (nFS). The site is also able to use data from In order to use the functions on this website you must have a valid account or an account at I have not used so I will focus my discussion on the ability to link to nFS. There is an expectation that will be open to the public sometime around 2013.

What does TreeSeek do with the FamilySearch data?

First of all, it allows you to create a variety of genealogy charts, including 9 and 10 generation pedigrees, 9 generation fan chart, and name clouds. To begin with you can select an individual in your immediate family or enter the PID number of another person in your tree. Once you have your starting person you can then select the type of chart to produce. The charts come out as hyperlinked pdf files so you can click on individuals in the tree and open a window with nFS to see the family pedigree.

The site also has a World Cemetery Map. The World Cemetery Map allows you to select a country or state and zoom in on a Google Map to see the cemeteries in an area. I found the US info to be good but there is a limit to what is available for other countries and some countries aren't even included in the list. So what can you do once you have located a cemetery on the map? I selected Ohio as my region and found that there are 7343 cemeteries listed for the state. As I zoom in on Ohio the cemetery groupings start to separate out and eventually you will see individual cemeteries marked on the map. If you click on the cemetery marker you will see a pop-up bubble with the name of the cemetery and three hyperlinks. The links are for 1) FamilySearch Burials, 2) FamilySearch Research Wiki, and 3) FindAGrave.

The intent of the first link is to allow you to see everyone in nFS who is buried in that cemetery. However, I did notice a problem with that link. It seems that the burial information in nFS must match the standard place name used by TreeSeek. For example, I have relatives buried in Saint Augustines Cemetery, Minster, Auglaize, Ohio. I had entered them in nFS as being buried in St. Augustine Cemetery. That missing "s" and possibly the use of St. instead of Saint meant that no individuals came up with the search. So, I now have to go through my AncestralQuest file and do a universal change so all the references to St. Augustine Cemetery are in the standard format as Saint Augustines Cemetery, Jackson Township, Auglaize, Ohio. It isn't a real big deal but I will have to go and make sure that all those entries are now corrected when I sync my data to nFS in the future. Once I had a few of the entries corrected I was able to pull up a family buried in this cemetery. There are a couple interesting applications available once you have the individuals listed in the cemetery search. The first is that you can calculate the relationships between any individuals in the list. To do this, select one or two of the individuals and click on the "Find Close Relationships" button. I selected my grandfather and the site informed me of his spouse and parents being buried in the same cemetery. The second is the ability to change or add burial information to any individual in nFS from the site. To do this you just add their name and birth and death dates to the search, wait for the program to find the individual and then tell it to change or add the burial information. I would like the option to use the nFS PID for this search but the search works fine as it is and even listed some possible duplicates that I need to research later.

The second link, FamilySearch Research Wiki, will open up the FamilySearch Research Wiki site to the page that describes the cemetery you are interested in. I don't know how many cemeteries have been added to the Wiki so far, but none that I am using are there yet. Maybe this will inspire some people to begin adding more information to the Wiki site.

The last link on this page, opens up the FindAGrave page with a listing of all cemeteries of the same name. I had to search through eight listings but it was easy enough to find the cemetery I was interested in. Once you are at you can search through their burial records to see if there is anyone else of interest to you.

The last application that is found under the Tools section is a Relationship Calculator. You can enter the nFS PIDs for two individuals to see how they are related. This was pretty interesting when I tried it. I entered my father's grandfather and my mother's grandfather and ran the search. I expected the results to be that they were related through my parents marriage but I was surprised. It said they were 3rd cousins and they had the same g-g-g-grandmother! I never knew that.

So, what is my impression of this site? I was pleasantly surprised at the capabilities that were available. The reports produced by the site are limited but they are definitely useful. There are still some glitches such as some links don't work yet. Additionally, it relies on people inputting the standard format for the cemeteries in nFS. But with a little work this site will be an important addition to the nFS family of programs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hi everyone, it is summer again here in the deep South. Almost 100 degrees the last couple days so I decided to stay inside and get some work done. That includes trying out some new websites.

I ran across a cool new site on the discussion boards today. It is This site is meant to be an online searchable database of gravesites. You might be saying, ",, and half a dozen other sites already do that. What's the big deal with this site?" You would be right about the first part, but there is something new on this site. The site is based on an iPhone app (sorry, no Android app yet but they say they are working on it). This allows the individual pictures to have GPS data associated with them so they can be mapped in Google Maps. You are able to see right where the grave is located in relation to the hundreds or thousands of other markers in the cemetery.

Being a new site, they have only a couple thousand pictures loaded in so far and it looks like most of the cemeteries are in Utah. But at least that is a start. Once the photos have been loaded to the website, you or another transcriber are able to fill in the names and dates on a form that appears with the photo. This is really simple to do and anyone who registers can act as a transcriber. There are about 2500 graves that need transcribing at the time I am writing this blog. I was able to transcribe about 50 in an hour (but I only use 2 fingers to type - imagine what I could do if I could use all 10 fingers typing).

This site has great potential and goes that extra step beyond the other grave indexing databases. As more and more people use their iPhones and, in the future, their Androids to photograph cemeteries the number of cemeteries in the database will increase. However, I do hope that those who take the pictures will consider adding them to the other sites also.

As the weather starts to get nicer around the country I hope more of you will get out there with your iPhones and iPads and start adding more cemeteries to this and other websites. Have fun, get some exercise, and enjoy the time outdoors.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reaching Out

Wow, has it really been over a year since I had time to prepare a blog?! I have been telling myself that I need to get back to work on the blogs again, so here it is - the first one for 2011. May there be many more! Parts of this article deal with events associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so some terms may be unfamiliar to non-members. Don't let that bother you. The ideas can be used by anyone interested in introducing more people into the excitement of family history research.

I have been trying to reach out to folks over the last year. As the Stake High Counselor over Family History and Temple Work I have been trying to train members of the priesthood on their duties pertaining to family history. Additionally, I have been working on getting the public involved in their family history through my work as a Family History Consultant and directing the North Florida Regional Genealogy Conference. Some of these are easier than others.

First of all, it is often difficult to get priesthood leaders excited about family history. I am really not sure how to get the fire lit. I have been meeting with them and inviting them to visit the local Family History Center and work with their Ward Family History Consultants. This hasn't been as successful as I would want, but I will continue. Any ideas you may have are greatly appreciated.

Second, the Family History Center use has been picking up over the last year. Part of this is due to my work in reaching out to specific groups. I have been having periodic Genealogy Merit Badge events for the local Boy Scout troops. We have been bringing the Scouts and their parents into the FHC and helping them work on their merit badge requirements. Many of these young men have been excited about what they are finding and that excitement has rubbed off on some of their parents. The biggest tip I can give if you decide to hold a merit badge event is to require the boys to bring their parents. It is difficult to find ancestors for many of these boys since their grandparents may have been born in the 40's or 50's or possibly more recently and the typical records, such as censuses, aren't available yet. The parents should be able to provide information back to the great-grandparents so we can help them find various records more easily. Another idea we have implemented is bringing in the Young Women. This has been a joy and we now have some of them regularly visiting us to do research. One of the girls brought very little information with her to the FHC. She said it was all her dad could tell her. She was feeling very frustrated since the other girls around her were finding information and she was not able to find anything. One of our consultants asked if there was someone else in her family that might know some of the necessary information. She said her grandmother in Massachusetts would know it. Our problem is that we are in Florida and she did not know her grandmother's phone number. We did a quick search in the online phone book and found her number. We then called her grandmother on the cell phone. Her grandmother appreciated being able to help her fill out her family group sheets and pedigree charts. With this information we were able to find more information on the family. The important thing to remember with the youth is to make sure they have some early successes.

Our third idea was to have a family history conference. We had attended a few small local conferences and set up tables in the past. We had also had open houses on an almost annual basis for a little while, but we had never had an actual conference before. We started planning a year ago (about the same time I wrote my last blog). I like to plan big so the event quickly expanded into a regional conference with various sponsors, a number of vendors, and speakers from around the country. We had to find a conference facility large enough to accommodate what we expected to happen. We made a goal of 300-400 patrons and at least a dozen talks. We started to contact local speakers to see if they were interested in participating and gradually moved out to invite a few national speakers. By the time we were ready to have the conference we had nearly 30 talks or demonstrations scheduled for the day with 16 speakers. A week before the conference we had almost 300 registrations. The conference was held last Saturday, March 12, and we filled the conference facility. During registration we had another 70 walk-ins register, pushing our total attendees to approximately 370. We also had over a dozen vendors and genealogy societies with displays in the hallway. So who did we have speaking? I am happy to say that Darius Gray and Margaret Blaire Young from BYU were both there and did a wonderful job during their 5 talks on African American genealogy and writing family histories. Gaylon Findlay from Ancestral Quest was there. He gave three talks on using the AQ program. Denise Mortoff, from California, spoke on DNA and researching various types of records. Our local speakers, such as Ann Staley, Karen Rhodes, and Nephi Watt, also presented top caliber talks.

So, what is the result of all this work? Have we spread the genealogy bug a little further? Will it result in increased numbers of visitors in our FHC? I don't know the answer to these questions. However, the people I have talked to over the last year have been excited to begin their research and have been telling me stories about what they have found.

Here is the moral to the story - Unless you are willing to reach out, take risks, and go beyond your comfort zone, you will not be able to accomplish what is possible! Take the opportunity to speak to more people about your family history, let them see that it is more than just dead people, cemeteries, and stacks of records. Family History should be a living thing. These are our ancestors and they have given us much. Respect their lives and challenge others to learn more about their history.

Good luck and happy hunting!