Friday, October 28, 2005

PBS programs

From what I saw of the PBS program Cemetery Special, I thought it was OK. My opinion is somewhat skewed, though, because I really, really enjoyed two previous Rick Sebak programs that PBS aired, A Hot Dog Program and The Ice Cream Show, and I may have built the cemetery program up too much in advance. The program is being re-broadcast again this weekend, so I'll have to remember to tape it and watch the entire hour.

On a related note, I found the first two parts of Destination America mildly interesting. I missed parts three and four, but they are also being shown again this weekend.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

German maps

My favorite online site for German maps,, has upgraded their site with a Google Maps-like scrolling feature. Very nice.

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RootsWeb Mailing List RSS

If anyone else is thinking about switching from mailing list subscriptions to the RSS feeds, forget it. At least for now. RootsWeb says the feeds are an experiment. I got this response after contacting the Help Desk.

I wrote them because I was finding that some list admins didn't know that RSS feeds had been created, some have no clue about RSS, and some are reluctant to add users to the accept list. While the first two reasons are understandable — RSS is still fairly new — I do not get the reluctance of some admins to add users to their accept list. All it does is create more work for them. As far as I'm concerned, they can remain in the dark about RSS. The existence of the feeds doesn't have anything to do with them or the list.

If RootsWeb scraps the RSS feeds, for whatever reason, I'll have to redo my subscriptions. Fun! I'm now wishing they hadn't made the feeds public.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Melle to New Melle

Visitors from Melle, Germany, came to the area this week for the dedication of a statue in their sister city of New Melle. The Post has two online articles , so I won't repeat the details.

Among the visitors were Wolfgang Dreuse and his wife. Wolfgang has been compiling information for a book about emigrants from Buer (near Melle) and his website is a valuable tool for researchers with family from the area since the church records are not available from the FHL. I was glad to briefly meet Wolfgang on Saturday.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Top Ten Genealogy Myths

The Genealogue: Top Ten Genealogy Myths.


Blog Change

Maybe. I'm getting fed up with Blogspot not performing well and have started to look at Wordpress.


Do they have these anywhere in America? Never heard of one.


The point of Google Print

Official Google Blog: The point of Google Print.


A Genealogy Intro

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter: A Genealogy Intro.


The Internet is EVIL! (updated)

There's something about people complaining about flawed research on the Internet that bugs me. Every time I read the latest mailing list, newsletter or blog post, I want to reply.

First, let's be clear that I wholeheartedly agree with those that point out the often underwhelming inclusion of citations with online family research. I've complained (mostly privately, until now) that a lack of documentation drives me nuts — if I can find the source of information about my ancestors, eventually I'll get around to getting my own photocopies. But I understand why most people chose not to list sources.

I'm about to send out a modified register report that, straight out of AQ, is 146 pages long — 45 pages of which are citations. There's still plenty to research for this surname, at least in my mind, but this is why I only list a handful of contacts on the website; there are too many citations derived from documents to manage. If anyone asks, I can easily check where the info came from, assuming I'm caught up on data entry and filing. And it's all there to see in the reports I send out privately.

This is different, though, than not knowing the source at all. Even if the source turns out to be inaccurate or comes secondhand, at least know where you found it.

What bugs me about other comments is what I perceive to be a different issue: How the Internet allows bad info to be found easily or spread quickly. I don't understand this line of thought. To me, the Internet makes it easy to share information and find new resources, and any identifiable pitfalls of online research seem to present themselves elsewhere. The Internet itself is not to blame. Poor research can be found in books, family newsletters, articles, vertical files, paid research (Anjou, anyone?) or unpublished private collections, not to mention the mistakes found in vital records and other assorted documents. It's people that are the problem. If anything, the Internet makes it easier to spot the flawed research and it's only going to get easier as more materials are digitized or at least indexed.

It's easy to complain about online family tree or GEDCOM backup sites, but that material would exist whether there was an Internet or not. You wouldn't be able to find it as easily, but the info is waiting for you in a library or with a new cousin. If anything, people should be praising the Internet for its ability to easily collect data, make comparisons and find new leads. (Aren't you baffled at how so many submissions to WorldConnect or FamilySearch can be so different for some individuals?)

Then there are those in the 'real world' that think "if it's online, it can't be trusted." Such thoughts are ridiculous. Wherever information comes from, it needs to be verified. I should question the work of a professional researcher or society, what is found on a state-issued death certificate, or in an obituary. Conversely, others should question my research. If I'm wrong about something, so be it. It's not the end of the world. I'd much rather be the person who can produce quality research while accepting that mistakes are made and corrections are part of the process, than the stubborn one who won't budge on the smallest detail.

The point that should be driven home is that we should stress good research and fact checking habits. It may be an extreme thought, but from personal experience I believe that everyone should take one class before beginning family research: How to Record Sources and Citations. Not learning that up front will cost you valuable time and perhaps add to your costs. And if everyone kept better records of their sources, judging the accuracy of online genealogical data wouldn't be such an issue.

Update (11/11): The news about family history books being scanned and put online came out a while back, but this sort of thing usually takes some time to make its way through mailing lists. In the last few days there have been several "I saw this on another list" kind of messages; the equivalent of forwarding email to dozens of people or sort of how I lazily post links here without writing anything else.

Granted, what I'm annoyed by at the moment is so far just a single message — I'm not going to scour all of RootsWeb's archives looking for supporting evidence to justify my pet peeve — but this is exactly what I wrote about before. To criticize a project over a couple of inferior (in someone's opinion) works and to then take a shot at the Internet...I simply do not understand this thought process.

This bad data or research, especially if it's over ten years old, is going to be found somewhere in the real world. Start complaining about that and lay off of the Internet for a while. It's working just fine for me and many others. Even bad data (different than fake info) can lead to something new and exciting, and groups (e.g., BYU, FHL, ProQuest, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) that want to make it easier to find new leads for free are OK with me.

If some are disappointed that the Internet is not providing them with entirely accurate info or ready-made genealogies, then kindly tell me where in the real world you are getting that type of assistance because I need to become a member or visit their office ASAP.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sunday, October 16, 2005


A couple of days ago Dick Eastman wrote about HTML genealogy charts and linked to a free template. I liked the idea and have decided to add pedigree charts to the site when I post the next update. I'll be using a chart I made myself, though.

I would have added charts long ago, but I wanted to use PDFs and RootsWeb doesn't allow that file type.


Just What I Need...If I Were More Efficient

Since I don't have a laptop, I typically take scrap paper to the library. I'll sometimes use a notebook or legal pad, but since the paper is going to be recycled after data entry, I find using misprints and extras just as useful for scribbling my notes. (Junk mail and flyers work just as well, as long as there's a decent amount of usable surface area, typically the unused backside of a sheet of paper.)

Now I see that there's electronic reusable paper. This stuff looks really cool, but I can't help thinking of an Etch A Sketch. Random thought: Can you imagine taking the time to write notes on an Etch A Sketch, or hoping it doesn't get shaken and erase your genealogical find before getting home?

So, it looks like all I need is some electronic paper and an electronically charged pencil. Or do I? With so many sheets of normal paper stacked up waiting for data entry, maybe that wouldn't be such a good idea simply because of the cost. Sorry, trees, I'm not sure I could make the switch.

What is intriguing, though, is this text:

"An electronic reusable paper display could be very thin and flexible. A collection of these displays could be bound into an electronic book. With the appropriate electronics stored in the spine of the book, pages could be updated at will to display different content."

Is that application perfect for a genealogy book, or what?


Destination America

KETC, the PBS station in St. Louis, will be airing a four-part series titled Destination America beginning next Wednesday. Each segment is one hour. Parts one and two will air Wednesday, October 19th, and parts three and four will follow a week later on the 26th.

Part 1 — The Golden Door
Wednesday, October 19, 9:00pm
"A four-part exploration of immigration follows migrants as they seek what narrator Blair Brown calls 'the shimmering promise of America' for the same reasons their ancestors did. In Part 1 it's economic opportunity."

Part 2 — The Art of Departure
Wednesday, October 19, 10:00pm
"'The Art of Departure' follows a Taiwanese-born dancer and artists who fled the Soviet Union as they visit their homelands, and recalls conductor Arturo Toscanini's struggle against Italian Fascism in the 1920s and '30s."

Part 3 — The Earth Is the Lord's
Wednesday, October 26, 9:00pm
"'The Earth Is the Lord's,' explores religious freedom from the points of view of Mennonites, Tibetan Buddhists and Hasidic Jews."

Part 4 — Breaking Free: A Women's Journey
Wednesday, October 26, 10:00pm
"'Breaking Free: A Woman's Journey' explores reasons why women have sought refuge and opportunity in the U.S. Included: a Guatemalan fleeing domestic abuse who has requested asylum."

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St. Louis Public Library

The St. Louis Public Library has redesigned their website. While it looks very attractive, I wish they would once and for all fix their navigation issues. I always had trouble finding my way around their old website and now some of the old pages are not listed in the menu. Well, I'll give them a break on this since it looks like some pages have yet to be updated.

I'm also not fond of the script that gives the impression of an IFRAME. Such a script has its place, but to use it on every single page is overkill and does not add to the ease of use.

This library has a large history section and the second-best microfilm collection in the area. Now that they're getting a slick-looking site, maybe they'll beef up the content, too. (See County Library.)

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RSS for RootsWeb Mailing Lists

So far, so good on moving to RSS and Bloglines to keep track of RootsWeb mailing lists. As previously mentioned, though, I thought a problem might arise if I needed to post a comment or question to a list which I was no longer subscribed to. (Unsubscribing from the lists was necessary so that I wouldn't receive emails of the same messages I was getting with the RSS feeds.)

Drew Smith of The Genealogy Guys podcast saw my blog entry and left a comment. He later emailed and explained about the "accept list" that each list admin controls. Bingo! This is the solution.

I still have several list admins to contact to have my email address cleared for future messages, but my first test of the accept list will be tomorrow. Thanks again, Drew!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Monday, October 10, 2005

MO Deaths

It turns out that the Missouri State Archives' project to electronically index and digitize death certificates won't be online for a bit longer, but the progress being made is still remarkable.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Results from Bockhorst

Despite the disappointing appearance of film 473561 (baptism and deaths, 1820-1865), a quick review of the records shows that I may end up with more details than expected. I now have slightly higher expectations for the records I did not have time to glance at. The Bockhorst records are still proving to be some of the more difficult I've dealt with, for a number of reasons, but in the end the GEINER and WIEDEY notes should be respectable.

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Film Review: Bockhorst Lutheran Church Records

This reel of film is easily the worst of the latest batch and perhaps the poorest quality FHL film to date. Slight blurriness and the overall darkness of the film is probably going to cause printing difficulties. The film is not impossible to read, so I should at least be able to come away with transcriptions of what is needed.

Title: Kirchenbuch, Evangelische Kirche Bockhorst
Film number: 473561
Film quality: 4/10

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Results from Borgholzhausen

I had identified three death records of ancestors on film 473590 (deaths 1852-1921) as my goal for this reel of film. Proceeding quicker than anticipated, I scanned nearly the whole reel Saturday morning and found all three; Anna Maria (KOCH) SCHACHT died in 1853, Marie Elsabein (WIEDEY) KOCH died in 1885 and Johann Heinrich KOCH died in 1900.

The 1885 death of Marie Elsabein KOCH and 1900 death of her husband Johann Heinrich stand out to me, particularly the latter event. That I know of, these are the two latest deaths of ancestors that remained in Germany. I didn't give it much thought before, but we know have one ancestor that lived in Germany into the last century. The newness of such a discovery is both interesting and...I don't know. I can't think of how to express it. It's just "new." I guess it's the same kind of feeling after finding a new ancestral location or an unexpected detail. By that time, Johann Heinrich KOCH's son, William, had been in America for over 30 years.

(After now looking over AQ, the deaths of Emil LANKAU's parents may turn out to be later. Those church records are likely going to be unavailable from the FHL, though.)

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Film Review: Borgholzhausen Lutheran Church Records

I'll have to update this entry next week after printing copies, but judging by the appearance of the film it looks like this particular reel will make nice copies. The film is very easy to read, though there are some minor issues with ink blending due to the thickness of pen strokes on small notations.

Update: Copies from this film turned out very nice.

Title: Kirchenbuch, Evangelische Kirche Borgholzhausen
Film number: 473590
Film quality: 9/10

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Results from Halberstadt

As suspected, the latest order of Sankt Martini Church records did show that the two ARNECKE women that married Karl LANKAU had the same father, so they are at least half-sisters. The name of their mother(s) is a little up in the air at the moment, but because the same surname (OEHME) was listed, it may be an issue with how she was referred to from record to record. The Sankt Martini records are extremely consistent, though, so it may be that David ARNECKE married two OEHME sisters.

The Church records also show that widower David ARNECKE married widow Maria Anna van BORNBERGER (née FRANKE) in 1842. The marriage record states that his parents were Johann Heinrich Wilhelm ARNECKE and Justine RASEHORN of Cattenstedt (southwest of Halberstadt). There is no FHL film for Cattenstedt.

I found the baptism record of who I believe to be the elusive Karl/Carl/Charles LANKAU that immigrated with Emil in 1881; the Karl LANKAU that apparently immigrated at New York, settled in St. Louis, then moved back east to New Jersey. Emil and Karl were in fact half-brothers. The surprise was that Karl's mother was not one of the ARNECKE sisters, but rather a Maria Dorothea BIELERT. So, Emil's father Karl had at least three wives and nine children.

I doubt any additional Halberstadt church records are going to help with the LANKAU family. I'm not sure how to efficiently proceed with finding the family in Magdeburg, even though I am quite curious about that migration. Identifying the correct church in Halberstadt so quickly was a bit of luck.

Johann Christoph OEHME, resident of Kühlinger Straße no. 682, Halberstadt, died in 1850 at the age of 82. I have not translated the notations yet, but I believe this man will end up being the father of Johanna Sophie Justine (OEHME) ARNECKE, Emil LANKAU's maternal grandmother. The key detail is the address (Kühlinger Straße no. 682), which was referenced in several ARNECKE and LANKAU records.

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Film Review: Halberstadt Evangelical Church Records

The latest batch of FHL film finally arrived. As usual, I went to the library ASAP to take a look. I don't know why I do this, but every time new film comes in I always seem to treat that first session as a scouting mission without printing copies, regardless of what I find.

Anyway, this particular film, as well as the previous reel I had ordered, is about as good as it gets. The Sankt Martini Evangelical Church records are legible and make nice printouts (based on my experience with the first reel). The handwriting really stands out; anyone could read at least 80% of the records, if not more. There are some notations in German script, but these are relatively easy to make out, especially with a little help.

The only downside is that the films are based on duplicate copies of the original church records. This is the only film available from the FHL, so they will have to do. But one might worry that details were perhaps lost or confused during the transcription. Despite this minor concern, which may be unfounded, the quality and legibility of the film makes these records, at least these two particular reels, winners.

Title: Kirchenbuchduplikat, Evangelische Kirche Sankt Martini (Halberstadt)
Film number: 1552292, 1552293
Film quality: 10/10

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

New details about FHL project

About a month ago came the announcement that the FHL was to begin digitizing their film collection. This morning The Genealogue has posted a link to a PDF entitled A Sneak Peak at the Near Future, which provides more details about this project.

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Backyard Genealogy

Female First: gardening with Kids - Stepping Stones (via The Genealogue).

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Future of Evolution

MSNBC: Before and After Humans.

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Genealogy podcast

The Genealogy Guys Podcast is so far my favorite genealogy podcast. The last two shows featured segments you shouldn't miss: an interview with Megan Smolenyak about DNA testing and a discussion about Revolutionary War pension files.

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Ancestry Library Edition

I'm not sure exactly when it happened here, but Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) has replaced AncestryPlus (AP) as an in-library database. It must have been in the last few weeks. ALE's layout is similar to AP, but I found the usability to be slightly more difficult. Not difficult as in hard to use, but rather that ALE seemed to take longer to get to the data because of the way results were returned. If I searched for a marriage in St. Louis using AP, I knew that the results were only going to show St. Louis and Missouri marriages. With ALE, I get a list of hits that apparently ignores the location and shows me every sub-database that the names show up in. That's great if I had no clue where I was looking, but I do and don't think I should have to scroll through page after page of database hits until finding the relevant ones. This used to work in the past, why doesn't it now?

ALE has another problem that needs to be fixed: the way results are ranked. Actually, this issue goes back to the commercial version of Ancestry and it's former limited counterpart, AP. In many cases I just do not understand how those results are being ranked. It makes no sense to have to go to a second or third page of results to find entries more relevant to my search than some of the preceeding entries.

This search flaw is also obvious in the "My Ancestry" service that Ancestry offers. After entering several names, dates and locations, Ancestry is supposed to periodically send search results by email. Some of the search results are accurate. However, there are also results that clearly ignore the parameters of my search. These emails are now almost comical. I have not unsubscribed, though. I suppose I'm like everyone else that is willing to put up with the nonsense, hoping one day something new and useful might show up. At least it's free.

There is good news, though. Ancestry Library Edition includes Ancestry's Immigration Collection. I may not have raved about this online before, but I love this database. Anything that makes it unneccessary to guess how a surname was spelled in "Germans to America" or at is a winner in my book. AncestryPlus offered some of Immigration Collection, but ALE now has the New York arrivals with scans of the passenger lists. Fantastic.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Mailing Lists

Hoping to find information about an elusive ancestor on a mailing list is a nice dream, especially if the list covers topics such as a vast geographical area or a common surname. But even if you don't learn anything new about your family, the lists are still helpful for picking up tips about where to find records, etc.

I don't want to miss any new tips, but it's time to start cutting back by unsubscribing from some of the dozens of RootsWeb lists I read. For starters, I'm done with the Prussia-Roots and Bavaria lists. These choices are easy. Prussia-Roots, in particular, has had problems in the past, mostly caused by one person and the list admin's failure to deal with them. (I don't know exactly what could be done, though.) Recently both lists have been spammed with messages about a free service offered by one person. To some it seems that this offer is a gateway, or ad, to future services. I tend to agree, considering that a business URL is always mentioned in the posts. I also consider this thread spam because it has nothing to do with the list as a whole and is being repeated on the Bavaria list.

There is, by the way, a list which would be entirely appropriate for such "discussions," and perhaps this free offer (though RootsWeb does or did have a policy about promoting services).

Last winter I believe these two lists also were home to the barrage of postings about German traditions, recipes, etc. I did see some interesting messages, but there are other lists for such topics (1, 2; I recall a third but can't find the link) and few tried to make their posts relevant to the topic at hand.

I guess the RSS feeds offered by RootsWeb will be a better way to handle this situation. I'm tired of having so many useless emails and the bickering that follows.

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