Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Watch out for specials that aren't special

Like many people around the country, I have been looking at some of the "Black Friday" specials. First of all, there were very, very few things on sale that I really needed or wanted. Second, even those things I might have been interested in were being advertised at prices that I could find any other day of the year. In addition, I found that the really low prices were for either inferior products or products that were well out-of-date. The special discount was often off of an unrealistic "regular price" that was well above the actual sales price for the product even without the discount.

For example, the ads for special sales in our area are full of large screen monitors at or under $200. But if you examine these monitors or TVs closely, you will find that they have none of the new features incorporated in the slightly more expensive models. Of course, it is always possible that something you have been shopping for goes on sale at a reduced price, but the longer you have been looking for that product, the likely it is that the product is at the end of its life cycle.

This life cycle issue is a serious one. With computers, for example, Intel has just recently released its 6th generation chips. But only a very few of the currently sold computers have yet to incorporate the new chip set. This means that whatever the discount price of a "new" computer, it is not "new" in the sense that it has the updated chips. On any electronic purchase, it is important to be well aware of the technical specifications of the product being sold at a "discount."

One very helpful solution to these common problems is to search for the same product at different locations online.

Buying In to the Revolution -- Part Two -- Returning to the Great Divide

Here is the previous installment of  this series:

There are a huge combination of technological advances that had to accumulate before genealogy began to be affected in a revolutionary way. You could consider the development of microfilm as one of the first harbinger of the technological revolution, but it was only until a huge document acquisition and distribution structure was created by FamilySearch and its predecessors, that the benefits of this technological advance could have an impact on the entire genealogical community. But you can hardly equate the availability of rental microfilm with the technological changes that have occurred in the last 50 years.

We visited an historical museum out in the west desert of Utah recently. Back in 1858, under the false belief that the Mormons in Utah were rebelling against the laws of the United States, President James Buchanan sent one third of the troops in the entire U.S. Army to put down the rebellion. When the troops finally arrived in Utah, they discovered that there was no such rebellion, but they established a camp. Here is a quote from the Camp Floyd State Park Museum.
Believing Mormons were rebelling against the laws of the United States, President James Buchanan dispatched 3,500 troops, nearly one-third of the entire U.S. Army, to suppress the rumored rebellion in the Utah Territory. No rebellion or war ever took place in Utah. The army stayed to monitor the Mormons, explore the western frontier, and provide safety for immigrants moving west to California, Oregon, and Washington. 
Camp Floyd, named in honor of Secretary of War John Floyd, was built by the army with the help of local citizens. The Army pumped nearly $200,000 into the local economy to build Camp Floyd. Camp followers soon increased the population of Camp Floyd and Fairfield to 7,000, making it the third largest city in the Utah territory. At their height, Camp Floyd was the largest military installation in the United States.
Camp Floyd only existed for a very short time, the U.S. Army was recalled to the East with the start of the Civil War. I found the Museum interesting because of the artifacts from the mid-1800s. What was even more interesting to me was the fact that many, if not most, of the common everyday objects in the Museum were familiar to me from my childhood in Eastern Arizona. I knew all about cream separators, irons heated on a wood stove, butter churns and other household objects that were still in use when I was a child nearly a hundred years after the Utah War.

The technological changes I have seen in my own lifetime are extensive and dramatic. I certainly remember when both radios and TVs were considered new innovations. But when I began my first incursions into the world of genealogical research, genealogy was still well settled in the 1800s or earlier. I was still seeing handwritten family group records. It was still necessary for me to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah to see the millions of family group records that had been accumulated for over 100 years. If I wanted to view any of the rolls of microfilm, I had to be in Salt Lake City to do so.

From my present perspective, the swirling technological advances I was seeing with the advent of the electronic revolution or the information revolution or whatever, had barely touched the hallowed halls of genealogical research. Now, thirty or so years further on down the revolutionary trail, we are finally seeing the very first vestiges of impact of the those same technological changes on genealogy. Rather than tout how much technology has changed genealogical research, let me point out that most of what we do in genealogy is exactly the same as it was thirty, forty, fifty or even a hundred years ago.

The Great Divide I refer to in my title to this post is not between any sub-section of the genealogical community and another. It is not between the technological haves and have nots, it is between genealogy as a pursuit and the rest of the advancing technological world. It is only now, in the past four or five years that any of the technological advances have really had the potential of impacting genealogy in a basic way. We are still mainly in the butter churn and cream separator level of genealogy while the rest of the world has moved on.

We are not so much focused on genealogy as information processing as we are focused on genealogy as a topic. We are, for the most part, simply electronically reproducing the same forms, the same limited information and the same methodology that has been in place for the past 150 years or so. We are copying what has been done in the past rather than applying the new technology in new ways. Those who are pushing for change are being marginalized in the same way that all technological innovations have been received over the centuries. Rather than being embraced, change is viewed as a threat.

Even for those who characterize themselves as early adopters, genealogy has only now begun the transformation from a study to a manipulation of information with an ever changing and evolving electronic technology.

Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about. Rather than capitalize on the technological advances in the exchange of information, until very recently, it was not possible to completely move information from one genealogical database to another. The existing technology, GEDCOM and other methods, was and are extremely limited.

 If I write a document using my computer in my own office with images, charts, etc. I can transmit that entire document, with all the formatting etc. to almost any device in the world with no loss of information. However, if I make an entry in my local genealogical database program for an individual ancestor and include source citations, notes, copies of documents etc. There is no way to move all of that information intact to any one else unless they are using exactly the same program I am using on the same device. In almost all cases, if I want to share that information, I am limited to sending one field at a time. Even the most extensive file transfers are fraught with limitations on enclosed media. When I have an extensively documented file in any one genealogy program, I am essentially locked into that program just as I would have been had the same information been on paper. There is not PDF file equivalent for genealogy.

The electronic revolution is about moving information from one venue to another. In this, genealogy has yet to be born; it isn't even into the infancy stage.

Well, now I hope you know the direction of this series of posts. What I intend to do, is show where the positive areas of information transfer exist and where they are still only dreams. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Buying In to the Revolution -- Part One -- Setting the Stage

In 1975, I passed the Arizona State Bar Exam and was sworn in as a new attorney. I was to be an active attorney, on and off, for the next 39 years. Two years later in 1977, my brother got a personal computer. It was a TRS-80. We spent some time working on simple programs. Because of my previous experience with the main frame computer at the University of Utah, I saw the potential of this inexpensive and very limited device.

Our one greatest challenge in operating a law office was the paper work involved. We usually had to make copies of everything we sent out and were using copious amounts of carbon paper. Most of our typewriters were IBM Selectrics. They had a dual ribbon system with a roll of "white out" that allowed for far easier correction than using an eraser or re-typing the entire document. Photocopying machines were huge and very expensive, so we charged for all the copies we made. As attorneys, we relied heavily on our staff to "produce the documents."

By 1982, I was aware of the strides being made in office automation. Some of the larger law firms had complex word processing machines. We heard such names as Vydec, Xerox and Star Information Systems. But the attorneys I worked with were still using the same method of correction using IBM Selectric Typewriters. I began to see that word processing could be done on a computer, but it took another few years before that could happen. When I purchased my first Macintosh computers, I was already in the business of selling Apple computers and other brands. I began using the Macintosh in my office to produce legal documents. The advantage (and disadvantages) were obvious.

Now, we fast forward to the 1990s. By this time, I was fully involved in computers. I did 100% of my word processing on computers. In fact, rather than dictate documents to my assistants, I had taken over the process of creating the documents directly. From there, they would proof read them and make all the copies and send them out. We had stopped charging for copies.

I could go on, but I need to point out that when I left the practice of law in 2014, there were and are still attorneys who did not know how to operate their computers and did not compose documents themselves on the computers.

How does this apply to genealogy? I use the example of word processing as one of the most common computer applications. Of course, by the 1990s, I was also involved in a graphic design business and we were using the most advanced equipment we could purchase to produce posters, banners, and all sorts of documents from hardcover books to advertising flyers. By the time I quit my law practice, the Arizona courts were requiring all pleadings to be filed electronically. I am now creating my documents using voice recognition and other technologies. I am now considering whether using an iPad Pro is going to work for me instead of a laptop.

I am known as an "early adopter," that is, a person who accepts and adopts technology as soon as it becomes available.

Now we come to the great divide. Here we have an ever accelerating and evolving technology that is touching every aspect of our lives and there are segments of our population who are not at all involved and in fact, actively resist that technology. There are a multitude of reasons for this division. Some can be attributed to economic disparity, others are age related. Whatever the reason for the division, it is real and forms a barrier between those who accept the technology and those who either fail to use it or oppose it.

Genealogy is one of the very late adopters of the new technology. This is partially caused by the opposition of the record repositories. Genealogists do not control the rate of technological change adopted by the various entities that control documents. We are basically information consumers. We need information to find our ancestors and other relatives. Much of that information is still locked up in paper copies. Despite the advances in technology allow digital access to billions of documents, the conversion of paper or its paper equivalent, microfilm, to digitized copies is slow and opposed by many entities. A prime example is the U.S. National Archives. The National Archives very likely accumulates paper much faster than it is digitizing it and only a vanishingly small number of its documents are available outside of paper copies.

But focusing on a very personal level, genealogy is finally moving into the technological revolution. However, I still work in a library with 300,000 plus rolls of microfilm that are not digitized. I also have to travel and view some documents on paper, such as books and other records. But more importantly, I still find that the majority of the people I work with day after day, do not recognize the changes that have occurred in the methodology of genealogy. Just as many attorneys were and still are resistant to the changes from paper to electronics such as my father who still wrote everything out by hand until he died, there are many genealogists who resist the technological changes.

I could go on and on with examples of the difficulty genealogists have with technology, but my point here is that the changes are inevitable. We will either embrace them or be run over by them, but genealogy has now begun to participate in the technological revolution. You can either get on the train or be left standing in the station, but you will not change the fact that the train is leaving with or without you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pilgrims, the Mayflower and such

Just in case you want to find out a little more about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and all that stuff that happened back in the 1600s, I decided to put together a list of some resources. Of course, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has an entire library dedicated to the Pilgrims (i.e. the term commonly used to wrongly identify the passengers) but we all need to get started somewhere. I might also mention that this was one of few libraries I have visited where I was asked to leave, but that is another story. I might also mention that my initial search turned up over 1,700 books on the subject so I have limited this list considerably. My guess is that at least some of these books are not going to be very helpful since a lot of them are fictionalized accounts.

Addison, A. C. The Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims, and Its Place in the Life of to-Day,. Boston: L.C. Page, 1911.
Apel, Melanie Ann. The Pilgrims. San Diego: Kidhaven Press, 2003.
Armentrout, David, and Patricia Armentrout. The Mayflower Compact. Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Pub., 2004.
Barth, Edna, Ursula Arndt, Carol Basen, and Seabury Press. Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols. New York: Seabury Press, 1975.
Beale, David O. The Mayflower Pilgrims: Roots of Puritan, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist Heritage. Greenville, S.C.; Belfast, Northern Ireland: Ambassador-Emerald International, 2000.
Brooks, Philip. The Mayflower Compact. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2005.
Bunker, Nick. Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World : A New History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
Caffrey, Kate. The Mayflower. New York: Stein and Day, 1974.
Carpenter, Edmund J. The Mayflower Pilgrims,. New York; Cincinnati: Abingdon Press, 1918.
Carter, E. J. The Mayflower Compact. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003.
Colloms, Brenda. The Mayflower Pilgrims. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977.
Conner, Peter, Alan Mumby, Alan Murphy, Barry Coleman, David Collings, PA Communications (Firm), and Janson Media (Firm). The Mayflower Pilgrims. [United States]: Janson Media, 2003.
Crosher, G. R. The Mayflower Pilgrims. London: Chatto & Windus, 1966.
Davis, Kenneth C, and S. D Schindler. Don’t Know Much about the Pilgrims. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
Dillon, Francis. The Pilgrims. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.
Donovan, Frank R, and Hedda Johnson. The Mayflower Compact,. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1968.
Fradin, Dennis B. The Mayflower Compact. New York: Benchmark, 2007.
General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and William Alexander McAuslan. Mayflower Index,. [Boston: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1932.
Gill, Crispin. Mayflower Remembered: A History of the Plymouth Pilgrims. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1970.
Greenwood, Mark, and Frané Lessac. The Mayflower, 2014.
Hays, Wilma Pitchford, Roger Duvoisin, and Inc Coward-McCann. Christmas on the Mayflower. New York: Coward-McCann Inc., 1956.
Heaton, Vernon. The Mayflower. New York: Mayflower Books, 1980.
Hopkins, Anthony, Donald Pleasence, Richard Crenna, Jenny Agutter, Michael Beck, David Dukes, Trish Van Devere, Inc Syzygy Productions, and HBO Video (Firm). Mayflower the Pilgrims’ Adventure. New York: HBO Home Video, 1999.
Howells, Anne Molloy, and Richard Cuffari. The Years before the Mayflower: The Pilgrims in Holland. New York: Hastings House, 1972.
Jackson, Dave, Neta Jackson, and Julian Jackson. The Mayflower Secret. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1998.
Jones, Nathan Henry. The Ancestors of My Daughters: Comprising Three Mayflower Pilgrims, One Colonial Governor, over Forty Colonial, Fourteen Revolutionary, and Three War of 1812 Ancestors. Poultney, Vt.: N.H. Jones, 1914.
Kallio, Jamie. The Mayflower Compact, 2013.
Kellogg, Lucy Mary, Edna W Townsend, Robert S Wakefield, and General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Mayflower Families through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620. Plymouth, MA: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975.
Kesteven, G. R. The Mayflower Pilgrims. London: Chatto & Windus, 1966.
Kimball, Sarah Louise. The Mayflower Pilgrims. [Place of publication not identified], 1923.
King, Jonathan. The Mayflower Miracle: The Pilgrims’ Own Story of the Founding of America. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1987.
Lasky, Kathryn, and John Manders. Two Bad Pilgrims. New York: Viking, 2009.
Leynse, James P. Preceding the Mayflower: The Pilgrims in England and in the Netherlands. New York: Fountainhead Publishers, 1972.
Limbaugh, Rush H. Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans, 2013.
Lindsay, David. Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger among the Pilgrims. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Making Haste from Babylon [the Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History]. Westminster, Md.: Books on Tape, 2010.
Marshall, Cyril Leek. The Mayflower Destiny. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1975.
Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. “The Mayflower Descendant: A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History.” The Mayflower Descendant : A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History., 1899.
Mathews, Basil. The Argonauts of Faith; the Adventures of the “Mayflower” Pilgrims,. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920.
Mayflower a Story of Courage, Community, and War. Prince Frederick, Md.: Recorded Books, 2006.
Mayflower Compact. Hoboken, N.J.: BiblioBytes.
Mayflower Compact. Washington, DC: Great Neck Pub., 2009.
McGovern, Ann, and Anna DiVito. --If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991.
McGovern, Ann, and Elroy Freem. The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving. New York: Scholastic, 1993.
Noble, Frederick Alphonso. The Pilgrims,. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1907.
Osborne, Mary Pope, Natalie Pope Boyce, Sal Murdocca, and Mary Pope Osborne. Pilgrims: A Nonfiction Companion to Thanksgiving on Thursday. New York: Random House, 2005.
Owens, L. L. Pilgrims, 2014.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking, 2006.
Philbrick, Nathaniel, and Nathaniel Philbrick. The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.
Plimoth Plantation, Inc, Peter Arenstam, John Kemp, Catherine O’Neill Grace, Sisse Brimberg, and Cotton Coulson. Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2003.
Poolos, Jamie. The Mayflower: A Primary Source History of the Pilgrims’ Journey to the New World. New York: Rosen Central Primary Sources, 2004.
Pratt, Walter Merriam. The Mayflower Society House, Being the Story of the Edward Winslow House, the Mayflower Society [and] the Pilgrims. Cambridge, Mass.: Priv. Print., University Press, 1950.
Rajczak, Kristen. The Mayflower Compact, 2014.
Raum, Elizabeth. The Mayflower Compact. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2013.
Reece, Colleen L. The Mayflower Adventure. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub., 1997.
Richards, Norman, and Darrell D Wiskur. The Story of the Mayflower Compact. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1967.
Roser, Susan E. Mayflower Increasings. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1995.
Roy, Ron, and John Steven Gurney. Mayflower Treasure Hunt. New York: Random House, 2007.
San Souci, Robert D, N. C Wyeth, Malcolm Varon, Kathy Warinner, and Chronicle Books (Firm). N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1991.
Schulz, Charles M, Evert Brown, Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez, Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, United Media Productions, and United Feature Syndicate. The Mayflower Voyagers. [Hollywood, Calif.]: Paramount, 1994.
Sizer, Kate Thompson. Mayflower Pilgrims. London: Charles H. Kelly, 1898.
Stein, R. Conrad. The Pilgrims. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1995.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. The Mayflower, Or, Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrims. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1843.
Van Leeuwen, Jean, and Thomas B Allen. Across the Wide Dark Sea: The Mayflower Journey. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995.
Webb, Robert N, and Charles J Andres. We Were There with the Mayflower Pilgrims. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1956.
Weygant, Charles H. Biographical Notes and Genealogical Tables Giving Line of Descent of Jonathan J. Rogers and Other Descendants of Ezra Earll and Mary Sabin from the Mayflower Pilgrims Francis Cooke and Richard Warren. Newburgh, N.Y.: Newburgh Journal Print, 1905.
Whitehurst, Susan. The Mayflower. New York: PowerKids Press, 2002.
———. The Pilgrims before the Mayflower. New York: PowerKids Press, 2002.
Wolfinger, Lisa, Rocky Collins, Edward Herrmann, Paul Drinan, Erin Raftery, Sam Redford, Chris K Layman, et al. Desperate Crossing the Untold Story of the Mayflower. [New York]: A & E Home Video : Distributed by New Video, 2007.
Yero, Judith Lloyd, and National Geographic Society (U.S.). The Mayflower Compact. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

StoryPress offline?

I just checked out a tip about the website and found that it is offline. I don't know if this is temporary or not. I will continue to check to see if I can ascertain its status.

DNA Test to Challenge Legitimacy of the English Throne

An anonymous tip from a comment lead me to an article in the U.K. Daily Mail for 26 November 2015. The title reads as follows:

Who's the real aristocrat? Queen demands DNA to be tested in court to settle dispute over 330-year-old baronet title (...but could ruling mean a Utah Mormon is our king?)
  • Britain's most senior judges will decide if DNA evidence can settle the row
  • The dispute is over a distinguished lineage dating back to the 13th century
  • Analysis revealed the last baronet came from a different bloodline to family
  • Two rival family branches have spent thousands of pounds on legal battle 
Read more:

Since I have no information as to the validity of the article or the claims, I will let the article speak for itself. 

Can Technology Save Genealogy or will it destroy it?

The title to this post is meant to be understood on a number of different levels. Considering all the world's serious problems, genealogical concerns could be considered to be "small potatoes" compared to the important issues of the day. Perhaps we should start viewing genealogy in the larger context of the preservation of our cultural heritage. During the past hundred years or so, we have seen massive efforts in the form of "cultural revolutions" that were aimed at transforming our world societies in a major way. On a huge scale, millions of people have been killed in the name of cultural cleansing. On a much smaller scale, localized ethnic and cultural groups have been effectively destroyed and absorbed into the dominant milieu. Preservation of our cultural and family history is fundamentally more than a casual pastime or hobby.

Most of those who live in the United States today have bought into the dominant "American Culture" with capital letters. One significant symptom of this adoption is the way that "Black Friday" celebrations have supplanted the traditional celebration of a treasured national holiday. For many in our country today, Thanksgiving is all about football and or shopping. It is no longer a day for quiet family gatherings and contemplation of our collective blessings. In most stores, for example, any tribute to Thanksgiving has long been overwhelmed with pre-Christmas decorations and sales.

In my last post entitled, "Can we "Twitter" family history," I touched briefly on the issue of preservation issue. But the issue of preservation is much greater than just a concern over the possibility of somehow capturing all of mindless blather of Facebook, it is a concern over the loss of basic values of family and home. Genealogy, by its very nature, looks backwards in time.

Back near the end of the U.S. Civil War on 10 November 1864, just before General William T. Sherman began his March to the Sea, leaving Atlanta in ruins, President Abraham Lincoln gave a short address to a group who had come to serenade the White House. He said, in part:
Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
Today, we are fighting a cultural battle instead of one consuming our entire nation in a shooting war. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution that is so much greater and far reaching than anything we have faced as a nation and by extension, faced as a world population, that threatens the very foundations of our diversity and culture. Genealogy ties us to the past, but that past is rapidly being supplanted by the immediacy of the present. The issues raised by a technology that can transform our interactions on a personal basis go far beyond simple issues of the preservation of present personal communications, they go to the heart of cultural values that are being reduced in substance to a tweet.

When I was a lot younger than I am today, one national concern was the impact of television on the rising generation. Well, I can say that impact of television is mild compared to impact of of smartphones connected to the Internet. On the one hand, genealogical research is reaping the benefits of the tidal wave of online resources but at the same time, the very basis of our interest in our ancestors is threatened by a society that puts little value on tradition and culture and more on the immediacy of instant messaging.

As we live through another holiday season, let's think of our own cultural and ancestral heritage. Let's take time to share that heritage with our families.