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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestors -- Part Two

Given the time period and place that the American Revolutionary War took place, of course, you would need to have some potential ancestors that lived in places and times enabling them to participate in the war effort. Over the years that I have been helping people with this type of research, it seems that a significant number of people start with choosing an acknowledged participant in the war such as a signer of the Declaration of Independance, and then try to prove a relationship. This is almost never successful. The most effective way to proceed is to simply do carefully documented and effectively evaluated genealogical research until you have at least one or more solid candidates who may have participated in the war effort.

Logically, you need to find an ancestral candidate who was between the ages of 16 and 40 sometime during the Revolutionary War period from 1775 to approximately 1783. It is possible that someone older or slightly younger could have participated, but this is good rule-of-thumb starting point. You need to remember that the average life expectancy for a male in 1776 was only about 35 or 36 years. See So you need to keep this in mind while searching.

Once you have a candidate ancestor, you need to start doing some extensive research into his life history. I use the word "his" advisedly because very, very few women actively participated in the war. Although with the rather expansive definition of the qualifications for participation, it is possible to find a female participant.

The main trap to avoid is the "same name - same person" mistake that is entirely too common in superficial genealogical research. This can happen when researching military records because some records contain only the name of the participant with little external information that would assist in determining if the person named is the target ancestor or not. There is a tendency to immediately adopt someone with the same surname as your ancestor without spending the requisite effort to make the necessary historical connection.

When you get to this point in your genealogical research, you are also ready to start doing some serious and very specific historical background research. As you begin, I would suggest reading a good general history of the Revolutionary War so you have an understanding of what happened. Now, you might decide to skip over the history part of the research, but what is the use of doing all the genealogical research and then ignoring the story and history behind your ancestor's participation in the war effort? The more history you know, the more likely you are to find a connection between your ancestor and the war.

Here are several good history books about the Revolutionary War.

Conway, Stephen. A Short History of the American Revolutionary War. London; New York: I.B.Tauris, 2013.

Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, Richard Alan Ryerson, James R Arnold, and Roberta Wiener. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

Marston, Daniel, and Daniel Marston. The American Revolutionary War. New York: Rosen Pub., 2011.

Poulakidas, Georgene. The American Revolutionary War. New York: PowerKids Press/Primary Source, 2006.

Stefoff, Rebecca. The Revolutionary War. New York: Benchmark Books, 2001.

Stewart, Gail B. The Revolutionary War. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1991.

Thompson, John M. The Revolutionary War. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2004.

Todd, Anne M. The Revolutionary War. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Books, 2001.

There are hundreds of additional books on the same subject.

The next step is to focus on the time and place of your ancestor's possible participation in the war. Remember, there was a significant portion of the population that opposed the war. These people were called Tories and some of them left the country by returning to England or escaping into Canada. Some Tories ended up being casualties of the war.  If you find that your ancestor was a Tory, you can assume that his or her participation in the war was not on the side of the colonists. In doing historical research, you need to discard your preconceived notions of what happened, especially if your opinion is based on some "traditional" family story. It is always possible that an ancestor's rank in the army jumped a few levels in retelling the story down through the generations.

The key here is to geographically locate events in your ancestor's life. This is a constant theme when doing genealogical research. Records are tied to the location where the events occurred and this is equally as true for birth, death and marriage records as it is for military and other records. Once you have some basic records, you may begin the process of discovering any connection your ancestor may have had to the Revolutionary War in America.

Stay tuned.

Here is the previous post on this topic.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Travel Days to Genealogy Conferences

After a considerable hiatus, we are off to travel the United States to present at a genealogy conference. When we moved to Provo, Utah, it apparently took some time to get settled in, but lately, we have been receiving regular invitations to present and help at conferences around Utah and in other parts of the country. When I say "we," since my wife has started to teach a lot of classes and present online classes on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel, she is being asked to teach also.

This next week or so, we will be traveling to Florida to present at the North Florida Genealogy Conference, March 4, 2017 at 461 Blanding Blvd, Orange Park, FL 32073.

We will also be visiting some of our children and grandchildren who live in the area. You can expect some disruption in my posts during our travel days.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My DNA: I did a webinar to explain my DNA test and other things

Rather than just write about the DNA test I recently took, I decided to do a webinar on the subject for the BYU Family History Library.

Can a DNA Test Help You Find Your Ancestors or Relatives? - Part 1 - James Tanner

There are actually two parts to this webinar because of a technical glitch, but the second part is quite short. I still had a cold from getting sick after RootsTech 2017 so you might also hear an occasional cough. Sorry. But I thought was a good idea to keep commenting on this very interesting subject.

Remember to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel so you can get notified of any new videos.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Genealogy as a Business

Here are a few news headlines:
Back in 2012, I even wrote a blog post entitled, "Big Genealogy is Big Business." Although, I should be fair and quote myself from that post:
Considering the recent acquisitions and alliances among the various large genealogy companies and entities, it is clear that big genealogy is big business. Although the amounts of money involved may not be overly significant in the greater business community, it is certain that the economic stakes will continue to increase as these larger companies maneuver to gain market share and influence. [emphasis added].
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the present standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. See The United States Census Bureau, Business and Industry, North American Industry CClassification System. There are probably less than a dozen very large and valuable genealogy companies in the world but the truth is that genealogy businesses do not show up in any business reports as a category. Genealogy as a category is incorporated into several different categories including software publishers, data processing, and other information services. Although some of the news accounts cited above refer to a "genealogy industry," there is really no such category.

If you look at the news stories about RootsTech for the past two years, in 2016 the news reports set the attendance at "more than 25,000 attendees" and this year, 2017, the attendance is being reported as about half that at 13,000 attendees. See "RootsTech 2016 draws family history enthusiasts from all over" and "RootsTech 2017 Was a Huge Hit; Expands the perception of family history." What is interesting is that the online attendance for 2017 was estimated at over 100,000.

What has changed since my blog post in 2012? Actually, from a business standpoint, some of the biggest genealogy oriented companies have gotten larger and there have been a few startups. The biggest change has been the addition of genealogical DNA testing as an adjunct to the larger company's profit centers. For example, there were 12 semi-finalists for the RootsTech 2016 Innovator Showdown and 10 semi-finalists for the RootsTech 2017 Innovator Showdown. There was one company that competed at this level in both years,, the People's Choice winner in 2017. Of the companies from 2016, some were and still are established genealogy companies, but as it the case with all small businesses, some of them did not last until 2017.

Genealogy as a pursuit is alive and well and always will be, but genealogy as a business is a very small niche market and only a few large players and some very aggressive smaller businesses are going to survive long term. Can you start a small genealogy business and make money? Well, yes, but running a small business is business not genealogy and as I have found out after running small businesses for over thirty years, you have to make a choice between your passion and what actually sells in the marketplace.

Perhaps we need to be thankful that some people want to make a living from genealogy and leave it at that. How about focusing on improving the entire genealogical experience rather than promoting it as a dynamic expanding business opportunity? Just some of my thoughts on a cloudy and snowy day.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestors -- Part One

In the United States, much of the original activity in genealogical research began as a result of interest in lineage societies. Lineage societies owe their origin to this desire to commemorate or honor a particular ancestral heritage or event. There are thousands of such organizations throughout the world and some date back into antiquity. The attraction of these societies is based on social exclusivity through the establishment of a common social bond. Most of these organizations require some sort of genealogical proof of relationship to an ancestor whose participation in the event confers membership on his or her descendants.

In my own personal experience, there has always been a background of my relatives' participation in various lineage societies. Two of the most prominent of these organizations in the United States are the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). Here are some links to lists of other such organizations.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish such organizations from family organizations and genealogical societies in general. Rather than focus exclusively on the particular requirements for joining such organizations, I decided to write about the process of establishing an ancestral link to a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and use as an example some of the requirements for membership established by the DAR. 

The first step in establishing a connection is to define the event. In this case, the American Revolution has been defined by the DAR as that period of time between the Battle of Lexington, Massachusetts on 19 April 1775 and the withdrawal of the British Troops from New York on 26 November 1783. Participation in the War effort has been extensively defined by the DAR in the following list:
  • Signers of the Declaration of Independence
  • Military Service, such as participation in one of the following: Army and Navy of the Continental Establishment, State Navy, State and Local Militia, Privateers, Military or Naval Service performed by French nationals in the American theater of war
  • Civil Service, under the authority of Provisional or new State Governments: State Officials, County and Town Officials (Town Clerk, Selectman, Juror, Town Treasurer, Judge, Sheriff, Constable, Jailer, Surveyor of Highways, Justice of the Peace, etc.)
  • Patriotic Service, which includes: Members of the Continental Congress, State Conventions, and Assemblies, Membership in committees made necessary by the War, including service on committees which furthered the cause of the Colonies from April 1774, such as Committees of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety, committees to care for soldier's families, etc., Signer of Oath of Fidelity and Support, Oath of Allegiance, etc., Members of the Boston Tea Party, Defenders of Forts and Frontiers, and Signers of petitions addressed to and recognizing the authority of the Provisional and new State Governments, Doctors, nurses, and others rendering aid to the wounded (other than their immediate families), Ministers who gave patriotic sermons and encouraged patriotic activity, Furnishing a substitute for military service, Prisoners of war or refugees from occupying forces, Prisoners on the British ship Old Jersey or other prison ships, Service in the Spanish Troops under Galvez or the Louisiana Militia after 24 December 1776, Service performed by French nationals within the colonies or in Europe in support of the American cause, Those who rendered material aid, in Spanish America, by supplying cattle for Galvez's forces after 24 December 1776, Those who applied in Virginia for Certificates of Rights to land for settlement and those who were entitled to and were granted preemption rights, Those who took the Oath of Fidelity to the Commonwealth of Virginia from October 1779 to 26 November 1783, Those who rendered material aid such as furnishing supplies with or without remuneration, lending money to the Colonies, munitions makers, gunsmiths, etc.
In some cases, interest in establishing a relationship to an individual who falls into one of these rather broad categories and originates with a family tradition. Unfortunately, such a motivation often leads to frustration because the neophyte genealogical researcher begins his or her research by attempting to "prove" the traditional family relationship when the supposed connection is sometimes based on nothing more than a common surname. 

All genealogical research should be carefully and thoughtfully documented with as many source documents as can be found by working back in time from the most reliable known information. Sometimes, this involves documenting one's own immediate family and then carefully researching each succeeding generation. 

Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Genealogy as a social phenomenon

My recent attendance at the very large genealogy conference called RootsTech 2017 gave me pause to reflect on the interesting social consequences of such a gathering. As was expected and as it is commonly perceived, genealogy attracts a decidedly older segment of the population. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Administration on Aging concerning the population of the United States:
The older population—persons 65 years or older—numbered 46.2 million in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 14.5% of the U.S. population, about one in every seven Americans. By 2060, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2014. People 65+ represented 14.5% of the population in the year 2014 but are expected to grow to be 21.7% of the population by 2040.
If we look at this statistic alone, there should be a significant growth potential for an interest in genealogy. Perhaps focusing on youth is a bad marketing decision for those who are investing in the future of genealogy? The assumption that is being made when the genealogical community focuses on youth is that the older genealogist will need to be replaced by younger ones, but the statistical reality is that the pool of potential oldsters is rapidly increasing and there is no expected shortage of old folks to go to huge genealogy conferences and spend their retirement years doing genealogy and spending money on genealogical products. Additionally, the present situation where the "older" population of the United States is relatively electronically unsophisticated will be solved by the simple fact that the aging population will have grown up with computers.

From my own perspective, if I were starting a genealogy-related business today, I would concentrate on making my programs attractive to the mature user. The dichotomy here is that the developers and programmers today are younger and have a socially induced blind spot when it comes to relating to the older population. Here are some more statistics from the Administration on Aging:
  • The population age 65 and over numbered 46.2 million in 2014, an increase 10 million or 28% since 2004.
  • Between 2004 and 2014 the population age 60 and over increased 32.5% from 48.9 million to 64.8 million.
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades—increased by 17.8% between 2004 and 2014.
  • About one in every seven, or 14.5%, of the population, is an older American.
  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.3 years (20.5 years for females and 18 years for males).
  • There were 72,197 persons aged 100 or more in 2014 (0.2% of the total 65+ population).
  • Older women outnumber older men at 25.9 million older women to 20.4 million older men.
You just might want to think this through if you are running a genealogy business. I recall at RootsTech 2017 the long lines of people purchasing DNA testing kits at a reduced price from Maybe the huge demand for these "less expensive" kits also says something about the population. It did not appear to me that the lines were unrepresentative of the bulk of those attending the conference. 

On Saturday at the Conference, it was "Family Discovery Day." The mixture of the crowd tilted slightly towards younger families with children. However, my observations on the Exhibit Floor were unchanged. The people who were talking to and buying from the vendors were the old folks. The youth really had no reference point to take any interested in what the vendors were selling. 

Aren't the genealogically oriented companies ignoring reality? We should be focusing on the 20-year-old+ segment of the population who are going to be the old people of the future. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Genealogy and the use of the word Legacy

Certain words get overused and thereby lose the meaning. In the genealogical community, the word "legacy" is used in a variety of ways to both name software products and to describe other software products. Mind you, I am not picking on any particular product or service. I am commenting on the way that certain words are adopted by communities and used in a variety of particular ways that dramatically change the original meaning or meanings of the words. Because of my background in linguistics, I am always interested when I see the meaning of a word evolving rapidly.

The word "legacy" comes from the late Middle English denoting the function or office of a deputy, especially a papal legate. A papal legate or Apostolic legate (from the Ancient Roman title legatus) is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic Faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters. See Wikipedia: papal legate.

A woodcut showing Henry II of England greeting the pope's legate
Modern usage of the term has evolved into an entirely different meaning. The most common meaning is as a noun used to describe an amount of money or property left to someone in a will. See The word has been generalized to mean something left or handed down by a predecessor. Interestingly, none of the current genealogical uses of the word come close to any of these three meanings.

Quoting from one product advertisement, "We believe that a Legacy is made from the moments that matter most." The idea is that our personal records are somehow being transformed into a "legacy" to our heirs. Loosely speaking, I guess the third definition of something left or handed down from a predecessor has now been particularized into a "product" that is being sold. This concept is becoming so broad that it now encompasses a DNA test. Perhaps, in one sense our DNA is a legacy but how does that generalize to a DNA test being a legacy? The idea of a will was to provide a way to allow a person some control over the recipients of the legacy. We certainly do not have any choice in the way our DNA is or is not preserved by our descendants.

Most of the "legacy" denoted products are involved in some aspect of digitization. The idea that has become attached to this digitization is preservation as in "preserve your legacy." In this use of the word, it has assumed a degree of autonomy that was not implied in the context of a will and the subsequent probate of an estate. The idea of a legacy in a will was to give the interest in the property to another person, not preserve any particular other interest of the deceased. There were ways to exert control over the use or disposal of the property subsequent to the death of the testator, but the idea of preserving one's information (i.e. life story) was not a primary concern.

Perhaps the idea that "information" is now a form of property that can be owned and inherited is a byproduct of our information age and the transformation of the narrow, legal term into a broad, all inclusive transmittal of information was inevitable.

The GPO and Genealogy

The United States Government is a prolific publisher. Here is a short description of their operations from the website.
The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) is the Federal Government’s official, digital, secure resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the U.S. Government. The GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the Federal Government, including U.S. passports for the Department of State as well as the official publications of Congress, the White House, and other Federal agencies in digital and print formats. GPO provides for permanent public access to Federal Government information at no charge through our govinfo (, partnerships with approximately 1,150 libraries nationwide participating in the Federal Depository Library Program, and our secure online bookstore.
Originally, the bulk of the information available from the GPO was published in paper form and deposited in the various Federal Depository Libraries. It may never have occurred to you, even if you are very familiar with the large libraries, that all these government documents may be a source for genealogical information. You may also be unaware that the Federal Government operates a Genealogy Program. Here is the description from the following:

§103.38 Genealogy Program. (Added effective 8/13/08; 73 FR 28026
(a) Purpose . The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program designed to provide genealogical and historical records and reference services to genealogists, historians, and others seeking documents maintained within the historical record systems.

(b) Scope and limitations . Sections 103.38 through 103.41 comprise the regulations of the Genealogy Program. These regulations apply only to searches for and retrieval of records from the file series described as historical records in 8 CFR 103.39 . These regulations set forth the procedures by which individuals may request searches for historical records and, if responsive records are located, obtain copies of those records.
The Historical Records that are most requested are listed in Section 103.39:
§103.39 Historical Records.

Historical Records are files, forms, and documents now located within the following records series:
(a) Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956 . Copies of records relating to all U.S. naturalizations in Federal, State, county, or municipal courts, overseas military naturalizations, replacement of old law naturalization certificates, and the issuance of Certificates of Citizenship in derivative, repatriation, and resumption cases. The majority of C-Files exist only on microfilm. Standard C-Files generally contain at least one application form (Declaration of Intention and/or Petition for Naturalization, or other application) and a duplicate certifi cate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship. Many files contain additional documents, including correspondence, affidavits, or other records. Only C-Files dating from 1929 onward include photographs.
(b) Microfilmed Alien Registration Forms, from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944 . Microfilmed copies of 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944. The two-page form called for the following information: Name; name at arrival; other names used; street address; post-office address; date of birth; place of birth; citizenship; sex; marital status; race; height; weight; hair and eye color; date, place, vessel, and class of admission of last arrival in United S tates; date of first arrival in United States; number of years in United States; usual occupation; present occupation; name, address, and business of present employer; membership in clubs, organizations, or societies; dates and nature of military or naval service; whether citizenship papers filed, and if so date, place, and court for declaration or petition; number of relatives living in the United States; arrest record, including date, place, and disposition of each arrest; whether or not affiliated with a foreign government; signature; and fingerprint.
(c) Visa Files, from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944 . Original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924. Visa forms contain all information normally found on a ship passenger list of the period, as well as the immigrant's places of residence for 5 years prior to emigration, names of both the immigrant's parents, and other data. In most cases, birth records or affidavits are attached to the visa, and in some cases, marriage, military, or police records may also be attached to the visa.
(d) Registry Files, from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944 . Original records documenting the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found. Most files also include documents supporting the immigrant's claims regarding arrival and residence (e.g., proofs of residence, receipts, and employment records).
(e) Alien-Files numbered below 8 million (A8000000), and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951 . Individual alien case files (A-files) became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated after April 1, 1944. The United States issued A-numbers ranging up to approximately 6 million to aliens and immigrants who were within or entered the United States between 1940 and 1945. The United States entered the 6 million and 7 million series of A-numbers between circa 1944 and May 1, 1951. Any documents dated after May 1, 1951, though found in an A-File numbered below 8 million, will re main subject to FOIA/PA restrictions.
As is the case with many of the Government's websites, you have to be especially persistent to work your way through all the verbiage. Here are the instructions for ordering historical documents.
§103.40 Genealogical Research Requests.

(a) Nature of requests . Genealogy requests are requests for searches and/or copies of historical records relating to a deceased person, usually for genealogy and family history research purposes.
(b) Manner of requesting genealogical searches and records . Requests must be submitted on Form G-1041, Genealogy Index Search Request, or Form G-1041A, Genealogy Records Request, and mailed to the address listed on the form. Beginning on August 13, 2008, USCIS will accept requests electronically through its Web site at . A separate request on Form G-1041 must be submitted for each individual searched, and that form will call for the name, aliases, and all alternate spellings relating to the one individual immigrant. Form G-1041A may be submitted to request one or more separate records relating to separate individuals.
(c) Information required to perform index search . As required on Form G-1041, all requests for index searches to identify records of individual immigrants must include the immigrant's full name (including variant spellings of the name and/or aliases, if any), date of birth, and place of birth. The date of birth must be at least as specific as a year, and the place of birth must be at least as specific as a country (preferably the country name as it existed at the time of the immigrant's immigration or naturalization). Additional information about the imm igrant's date of arrival in the United States, residence at time of naturalization, name of spouse, and names of children may be required to ensure a successful search.
(d) Information required to retrieve records . As required on Form G-1041A, requests for copies of historical records or files must identify the record by number or other specific data used by the Genealogy Program Office to retrieve the record. C-Files must be identified by a naturalization certificate number. Forms AR-2 and A-Files numbered below 8 million must be identified by Alien Registration Number. Visa Files must be identified by the Visa File Number. Registry Files must be identified by the Registry File Number (for example, R-12345).
(e) Information required for release of records . Subjects will be presumed deceased if their birth dates are more than 100 years prior to the date of the request. In other cases, the subject is presumed to be living until the requestor establishes to the satisfaction of the Genealogy Program Office that the subject is deceased. As required on
Form G-1041A, primary or secondary documentary evidence of the subject's death will be required (including but not limited to death records, published obituaries or eulogies, published death notices, church or bible records, photographs of gravestones, and/or copies of official documents relating to payment of death benefits). All documentary evidence must be attached to Form G-1041A or submitted in accordance with instructions provided on Form G-1041A.
(f) Processing of index search requests . This service is designed for customers who are unsure whether USCIS has any record of their ancestor, or who suspect a record exists but cannot identify that record by number. Each request for index search services will generate a search of the indices to determine the existence of responsive historical records. If no record is found, USCIS will notify the customer accordingly. If records are found, USCIS will provide the customer with the search results, including the type of record found and the file nu mber or other information identifying the record. The customer can use this information to request a copy of the record(s).
(g) Processing of record copy requests . This service is designed for customers who can identify a specific record or file to be retrieved, copied, reviewed, and released. Customers may identify one or more files in a single request. However, separate fees will apply to each file requested. Upon receipt of requests identifying specific records by number or other identifying information, USCIS will retrieve, review, duplicate, and then mail the record(s) to the requester. It is possible that USCIS will find a record that contains data that is not releasable to the customer. An example would be names and birth dates of persons who might be living. The FOIA/PA only permits release of this type of information when the affected individual submits a release authorization to USCIS. Therefore, the Genealogy Program Office will contact and inform the customer of this requirement. The customer will have the opportunity to submit the release authorization. The customer can also agree to the transfer of the document request to the FOIA/PA program for treatmen t as a FOIA/PA request as described in 6 CFR Part 5. Document retrieval charges will apply in all cases where documents are retrieved.

§ 6. Section 103.41 is added to read as follows:
§103.41 Genealogy request fees.

(a) Genealogy search fee . See 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1).
(b) Genealogy records fees . See 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1).
(c) Manner of submission . When a request is submitted online, credit card payments are required. These payments will be processed through the Treasury Department's Pay.Gov financial management system. Cashier's checks or money orders in the exact amount must be submitted for requests submitted with Form G-1041 or Form G-1041A in accordance with 8 CFR 103.7(a)(1). Personal Checks will not be accepted.
If all that doesn't discourage you, then you may be rewarded with some valuable information. You may also wish to browse the website for additional gems of information.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Genealogy in the Court Room: State of Hawai'i v. Kuhia

This particular lawsuit involves a problem that I encounter regularly but in this case the issues have been carried to an extreme. Genealogists occasionally get "carried away" in pursuing an unobtainable objective. These objectives sometimes involve "proving" lineage to a specific ancestor in order to inherit property, join a lineage society or obtain affiliation or membership in a Native American reservation. Here is a summary of this case from the court ruling entitled as, State of Hawai'i, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Glenn Kealoha Kuhia, Defendant-Appellant.
Kuhia began actively pursing his Hawaiian genealogy after he learned about a quiet title action permitting the heirs of Mahu to claim an interest in land on Maui. In order to prove his right to intervene in that action, Kuhia embarked on a diligent search to document and prove his Hawaiian roots. Based on his research, Kuhia believed that he was not only an heir of Mahu, but also an heir of Queen Lili`uokalani. For reasons that are not clear, Kuhia's search for his genealogy also led him to believe that his father, whose death in 1960 had been classified as a suicide, had in fact been murdered. 
Kuhia's efforts to prove his Hawaiian genealogy and to assert his rights as a Native Hawaiian brought him into contact with State agencies established to assist Native Hawaiians, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs 593*593 (OHA) and the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). It was Kuhia's confrontations with persons employed by or working under contract for these agencies that led to the charges in this case.
At the present time, we have a similar, but less dramatic, situation in our own family lines where erstwhile researchers become convinced of the accuracy of their conclusions despite a complete lack of documentary support. No amount of reasoning or request for further documentation avails in convincing the researchers that their conclusions are unsupported and inaccurate. It seems easy to dismiss these false and unverified claims as the product of some mental aberration, but unfortunately, other uninformed researchers often side with the claimant due to the persistence of the researcher in asserting the false claims.

In this particular case, the claimant, Kuhia, was both violent and threatening.
On February 2, 1999, Kuhia went to OHA's offices. Kuhia became very angry after reading Kippen's letter, and threw the letter back at Kippen. Kuhia demanded that Kippen return original genealogical documents that Kuhia claimed to have given to OHA staff on previous occasions. Kippen knew it was OHA's policy to make a copy of any original document submitted and to return the original. He also checked with OHA staff members, who all stated that any original documents submitted by Kuhia had been copied and returned to him.

Kuhia was "very upset" and "very angry" when Kippen did not satisfy Kuhia's demand for the original documents. Kuhia yelled, swore, and directed racial epithets at an OHA staff member. Kippen walked away because he could not satisfy Kuhia's demand, and Kuhia called the police. The officers arrived and tried to convince Kuhia that the dispute over the records was a civil matter. However, when Kuhia refused to leave without the records, the police arrested Kuhia for trespassing. After the February 2, 1999 incident, OHA obtained a restraining order against Kuhia.[3]
In many of the similar situations I have encountered during my years of helping patrons in Mesa and Provo, the researcher/claimant alters the presentation of their claim in response to its rejection. The same researcher will attempt to convince someone else in the library that they are correct by presenting the "facts" in a way to attempt to overcome the rejection. In some instances, these people became generally known by all of the support staff and the researchers would watch until he or she spotted a "new" staff member to make the arguments again. Although, I have not had my life threatened, I have had patrons become indignant and angry with me because I did not immediately accept their unsupported conclusions.

The rest of the Kuhia case involves a long discussion of various legal issues regarding the appeal. However, the maintenance of false or unsupported genealogical claims is a real and continuing issue. In fact, as I have recently pointed out, almost every family line that I presently show in the Family Tree ends up with unsupported and fictitious ancestors.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Legacy of Refugees

Names (left to right). First row: Ove Oveson, George Jarvis, Ann Prior Jarvis, Sidney Tanner. Second row: Mayflower pilgrims Richard Warren, Francis Cooke, John Cooke; Rebecca Hill Pettit, Edwin Pettit, Archibald Newell Hill and son Samuel. Third row: Isabella Hood Hill, Samuel Shepherd and wife Charity, Adeline Springthorpe Thomas.

There is still a swirling controversy about refugees in the United States. My daughter, Amy, wrote a recent blog post on the subject for her blog, The Ancestor Files in a very short article entitled appropriately, "Refugees." As Amy points out, our ancestral family is fairly well populated with "refugees" according to any possible definition of the term. The most common definition is "a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster." Many of my own ancestors were forced to leave the United States of American and flee into the wilderness of Mexico. Ironically, through the military efforts of that same United States, they were then involuntarily annexed back into the United States.

As a result of their efforts to maintain their beliefs in the face continued religious persecution both officially and unofficially from the government of the United States, eventually, the United States government sent the largest contingency of armed troops in the then history of the United States to invade my ancestors' homes and confiscate their church-owned, religious property. Some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were then further forced to abandon the United States and once again, flee into Mexico. Because of the invasion of Utah by Federal troops, my Great-Great-grandfather's family was forced to flee from their farms in San Bernardino, California and re-settle in Beaver, Utah.

Of course, the suffering my own ancestors suffered at the hands of soldiers and officials of the United States included actual physical injury. My Great-great-great-grandfather while unarmed, was attacked by militia and severely hit in the head causing a major injury. Here is one account of the injury.
The mob had come up to Father Tanner in his wagon and Captain O'Dell had pointed his gun at him and pulled the trigger twice but it refused to go off. This enraged him, and with a fearful oath, he took hold of the muzzle and struck Elder Tanner over the head with the breech of the gun. This blow would probably have killed him had it not been for his heavy felt hat, the double thickness of which saved his life, but he had a large, ugly gash on his head which bled profusely. "His skull was laid bare to the width of a man's hand" above the temple, and "from the bleeding of his wounds he was besmeared from head to foot," and "the blood ran into his boots" according to various accounts (this incident was mentioned in several affidavits which the Saints wrote up of the wrongs which they had suffered in Missouri, and submitted to government officials. They emphasized Father Tanner's age, that he was an unarmed farmer simply returning home from the mill, and that he was hit over the head for no reason at all). "He was taken prisoner and held for two or three days, during which he wore his bloody clothes and refused (or was not allowed) to wash the blood from himself. He was allowed to keep his team and wagon, and the mob allowed him to go temporarily, on his word of honor, to take the body of a Brother Carey, who had been brutally killed by the mob, to his family."
If you had this family tradition, how sympathetic would you be towards those oppose assisting refugee or even forbidding them assistance and entry into the United States? My refugee ancestors were not just driven from the United States, they also came to America to escape persecution in England, Scotland, Wales and starvation in Ireland.

4 Million Views for Genealogy's Star

Every so often I pass another milestone. Sometime in the next 24 hours or so, this blog will pass 4 million views. This will put the total for all three blogs; Genealogy's Star, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad..., and WalkingArizona at just over 5.3 million views. That is a lot of reading. I am grateful for literacy in America and around the world. Who would have ever guessed that years ago when all this started I would have the stamina to keep writing? I can only wonder what might have been different in my life if I had started writing before my dotage?

Thanks to all the friends I have made over the years. Thanks to my family and especially my wife who has put up with writing at all times of the day and night. To answer the perennial question: I do sleep. I just sleep at odd hours sometimes and I listen to Bluegrass and Folk music most of the time mixed in with Bach.

Oh, by the way, there are now about 9,215 posts online. So a quick search on Google should bring up about 15,000 to 20,000 articles, posts, webinars, interviews, etc.

P.S. Genealogy is not a competition sport but photography sometimes is.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Photo Discoveries on

This email from points out the new Photo Discoveries feature of the website. The Photo Discoveries are included in Instant Discoveries link on the menu bar.

If you click on a Photo Discovery option, you will get a selection of 10 photos to add to individuals in your family tree or ignore.

I can either leave all the items checked or select only the ones I want to keep and then click on the Add Photos to your tree button in the upper right-hand corner. The photos are then automatically added to each of the people tagged in the original photos.

Now, when I navigate to one of the people in my family tree, I see the new photo attached.

It is really as easy as that. Now, I see that I have 8 records that could be added to this individual.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Discovering Important Church Records at the Family History Library and the BYU Family History Library -- Part Three

The BYU Family History Library as a Resource for Church Records

Church records can be some of the most elusive records sought after by genealogists, so the importance of understanding the organization and record keeping practices of your ancestors' particular denomination should not be minimized. Even if you make the effort to understand when and where the church records may have been kept, you may still face restrictions on obtaining access, especially if you do not happen to share the same religious orientation of your ancestors. For example, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) often face opposition from religious record repositories based on a general misunderstanding of their beliefs concerning doing church ordinances for the deceased. See Temples.

Many important church records, however, have been preserved on microfilm, in books and manuscripts in major, genealogical record repositories where access is not limited by the researcher's religious affiliation or lack of affiliation. I have previously discussed how to find these records in the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, by using the Catalog.

As I have also written previously, Utah is home to the second largest genealogical record collection in the world, located in the Harold B. Lee Library's Family History Library (Lee Library) on the campus of the LDS Church sponsored, Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. Here is a screenshot of the web page for the BYU Family History Library.

The genealogical resources of the BYU Family History Library are not segregated from the rest of the collections in the vast Harold B. Lee Library, so access to the Library is governed by the University's overall academic schedule. As with any record repository, it is important to ascertain the availability of the collections including days and hours of operation and any restrictions on access. Consistent with other academic institutions in the United States, BYU operates on a semester basis and all of the school's libraries may be closed between semesters, during school vacations and to observe national and state holidays. The BYU Family History Library is not operated by FamilySearch as is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. It is part of the University and directed by University professors and their staff. There are a large number of LDS Church missionaries and volunteers, just as is the Library in Salt Lake City. But these missionaries and volunteers each have their own shift and schedule and if you need assistance in a particular area, such as research in church records, it is a good idea to contact the Library in advance of your planned visit as it the case with a visit to any other similar repository.

The Harold B. Lee Library (including the Family History Library) has a unified, online catalog. It is a non-circulating library except for university staff and students. This means that materials cannot be removed from the Library. However, the BYU Family History Library has extensive and very sophisticated copy and scanning equipment for free use by the public.

Some of the genealogically important books, microfilm and documents are concentrated in that portion of the Library identified as the "Family History Library," but the bulk of the genealogically important items are cataloged and scattered around the other Library collections and access to all the materials can occasion some rather extensive walking. Here is a screenshot of Level 2 (below ground level) where the BYU Family History Library is located.

The section containing the BYU Family History Library is called "Religion/Family History." Unfortunately, the maps do not give you an idea of the scale of the Library with its 98 miles of shelves.

Here is a screenshot of the initial search page of the Library catalog.

You begin your search by typing in your search terms in the blank field provided. There is an online Research Guide to assist you searching the Library.

The professional staff of the Library are very knowledgeable and helpful as are the volunteers and missionaries in the BYU Family History Library.

One of the most valuable resources is the extensive online web portal with hundreds of resources that are not duplicated at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. These resources are only available to patrons when using a Library computer while physically in the Library. Here is a screenshot of part of the list of websites available.

Searching in the BYU Family History Library Catalog

Finding specific information in a huge library such as the BYU Lee Library is a skill that is acquired through practice. Each library has its own unique advantages and limitations, but in every case, the basic skills needed are the same. Here are a few books on this subject.

Mann, Thomas. The Oxford Guide to Library Research. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Quillen, W. Daniel. Mastering Family, Library & Church Records. Cold Spring Harbor, NY; New York: Cold Spring Press ; Distributed by Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2012.
Swanborn, P. G. Research Methods: The Basics. The Hague: Boom Onderwijs, 2009.
Upson, Matt, C. Michael Hall, and Kevin Cannon. Information Now: A Graphic Guide to Student Research, 2015.

The basic Lee Library search can be expanded with a dropdown menu.

Here is an example of a search on "church records."

You can see that just this search resulted in 113,396 results. Obviously, you need to know some specific details about your ancestors to help narrow your searches. For example, some of my own ancestors lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s and were Presbyterians. Here is an example of a more focused search.

Even with these specific search terms, there are still over 500 results of items in the Library. In the example of my own ancestors, my Great-great-great-grandfather was buried in the Fourth Presbyterian Church Burial Ground in downtown Philadelphia. Another search for the "Fourth Presbyterian Church Philadelphia" has 1,131 results.

It may seem overwhelming to find that there are so many results, but the important part of library research is to continue looking and always assume that what you are looking for is there somewhere. In addition, once you have identified a book or other record that is "in the ballpark," that is somewhat related to your research objective, then it is time to get up and "walk the shelves." This means that you go to the area of the Library where the item or items are located and physically search through all of the books in that section of the Library for pertinent material. This may seem excessive, but it is the only way to be moderately sure that you have located everything in the Library. This technique is applicable to any repository or library anywhere that gives patrons access to the shelves.

The key to success in finding items in any Library and especially on as large as the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, is to keep looking and ask for help.

See the previous posts in this series.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Discovering Important Church Records at the Family History Library and the BYU Family History Library -- Part Two

The key to discovering church records in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is the online Catalog.

This is a screenshot of the menu bar on showing the dropdown menu with a link to the catalog and the following is a screenshot of the catalog page.

One important fact about the FamilySearch Catalog is that it incorporates items from a number of other locations around the world, including the Brigham Young University Family History Library. If you click on the link to "Search these family history centers" you will see the list. You can select a location for a specific search in that location. This list is quite extensive. 

Selecting an item from the list acts as a filter and shows only those items from the location selected. The BYU Family History Center is listed, but experience shows that the huge Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library Catalog which includes the BYU Family History Library is not entirely included in the Catalog, so searching the BYU Library catalog is still needed.

Searching in the Catalog is best accomplished by first searching for places. Genealogically valuable records are usually created at or near the place where an event in an ancestor's life occurs by someone who is either interested in the event or has a duty to record the event. Of course, after the record is created, it may have been moved and stored or preserved in a different location, but searches should always begin in the places where events occurred.

This rule about places also includes all of the jurisdictions where records may have been recorded. Records are created on a national (or even international) level such as national census records or in any record keeping jurisdiction down to the local and personal level. Church records are normally maintained at various levels also. Most church records originate at the local church or parish level, but, depending on the denomination, churches can also maintain centralized records.

For example, Catholic Church records of births (christenings or baptisms), confirmations, marriages, deaths, and burials are all kept at the local or parish level. Parishes are presided over by a Priest and may include one or more churches (cathedrals). Catholic parishes are organized into larger units called diocese which are presided over by a Bishop. Periodically, the Bishop or his representative reviews the parish registers and makes a copy of the records. These records are called Bishop's Transcripts. The parish records are usually maintained in the local church, but the Bishop's Transcripts are kept by the diocese.

Some of the Protestant churches, such as the Lutheran Church, follow the Catholic example of record keeping. But many denominations have a less structured record keeping practice. In the United States, many Protestant denominations are loosely organized with the individual congregations being semi-autonomous. In these cases, finding the records can be a major challenge.

The Catalog is organized to reflect the different levels of jurisdictions where the records may have been created, maintained and stored. So any search in the Catalog should begin either at the most general level, i.e. national or the most specific or local level. But all levels should be searched. Here is an example of a search for church records in Massachusetts.

First, begin your search by entering United States even if the events in your ancestor's life occurred betore there was a United States of America.

When you click the search button, you will get a list of the categories of all the records in the catalog that belong to this level of jurisdiction.

You will have to scroll down to see the whole list including the church records.

Depending on your particular needs, some of these records may be useful. The numbers in parenthesis indicate the number of records in each category. Remember, that as you drill down into the catalog, the records are not duplicated. If you fail to search at all levels in a given country, you may miss finding valuable records. At the top of the search list you can see a reference to "Places within the United States." Clicking on this link shows a list of all of the states in the United States.

If you select Massachusetts, then you get the list of categories of records available for that state.

Here is the section about church records.

Here is an example of the records listed in the "Church records (24)" category.

You will also see a link at the top of this entire list to "Places within United States, Massachusetts."

You can continue your search for additional records at the county and local level. Here is a screenshot of some of the records from Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

But remember that you can also search for places within Middlesex County.

Here is a screenshot of the list of records for Lowell, Massachusetts.

These examples point out the need to research the exact locations of events in an ancestor's life as well as identifying the ancestor's religious denomination. Otherwise, you will face the almost impossible task of searching every record that is available for the time period in which the events occurred.

Finally, if you select a record to view, you will see this type of entry.

This screen gives information about the particular record and its availability. In this case, the record is only available in microfilm format from the Family History Library. Microfilm can still be ordered online and delivered to a Family History Center near the person requesting the microfilm. But note that microfilm is quickly becoming an outdated technology and at some point, all of these records will be available online in digitized format. Here is an example of a digitized record.

Here is a further example of how the record appears.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

See the previous post in this series.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My DNA: What have we learned so far?

Some time ago, I ordered a DNA Test from In the middle of the RootsTech 2017 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, I received the results. I wrote a blog post about the rough results in a blog post entitled, "My DNA TEST RESULTS are in." The rough results are as follows:
  • British and Irish 87.0%
  • Scandinavian 9.3%
  • Ashkenazi Jewish 2.5%
  • South Asia 1.2%
I have now sent these results out to my children and gotten some initial responses. To understand a little about our family, you need to know that we have 5 Ph.ds, and the rest of my children and their spouses are all capable. professional level researchers. Several of them are also deeply involved in genealogical research. 

There is absolutely no controversy about the British and Irish or Scandinavian. Most of my family lines trace back to England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Some go back into the 1600s in America. There are two Scandinavian lines in Demark. All of this is well documented. This leaves the small percentages of Ashkenazi Jewish and South Asia.

The Ashkenazi Jewish line is also easily resolved. I have a Great-great-grandfather named, Charles Godfrey DeFriez who changed his surname to Jarvis when he came to America. DeFriez is a Jewish name and some of the ancestors in this line have the following given names:
  • Marcus Mordecai Jacob
  • Serche Eizik
  • Machteld Machieltje Jacob
Now, I had been waiting to do some research on this family line due to the lack of positive information that they were Jewish, now I can begin to document this line. By the way, none of my children disagree that this our Jewish line. One of the interesting observations sent to me by one of my daughters is the following:
There are two major subgroups of Judaism: Ashkenazi and Sephardic. Generally speaking, the Ashkenazi are from Germany and Eastern Europe and speak Yiddish and Hebrew, while the Sephardic Jews are from further south and speak Ladino and Hebrew. A bit of googling finds a number of features associated with Ashkenazi heritage: high IQ, essential tremor, and hearing loss and deafness. Fortunately, the severe genetic diseases associated with Ashkenazi heritage were not passed down in the family, including Tay-Sachs.
I managed to inherit all of the above features (except, perhaps, the high IQ). 

The South Asia connection is more problematic and has engendered a considerable amount of discussion. There are a number of possibilities:
  • One of our English or Dutch ancestors married an Indian woman during the time when England or the Netherlands were in India. This would seem to be hard to determine and not very likely.
  • Given the percentage, it appears that one of our family lines may be Romani (Roma). We have one line that has this as a distinct possibility. 
The important thing to remember here is that without the extensive genealogical research we have already done (i.e. paper research), these connections would be an absolute mystery. 

If we make any progress in solving these issues, I will write more on the subject.