FamilySearch Pictures and Sources: Using the Facelift

Changes in FamilySearch’s user interface spawned new research efforts when sources transfer easily from software to social ware (FamilySearch) for accuracy and depth in ancestral research.

Little inspired me to try FamilySearch for research and posting outside of their LDS-specific uses in ages. As such, I did not keep up with changes until the last two months. Initially, the information I really wanted to review was on, After becoming spoiled by’s instant abilities, I waited while FamilySearch brought their collections “up to code” with the monolith.

For any researcher, the sources are what turns cute family stories into real family history. Pictures (now ubiquitous and essential to Internet life) are easily uploaded and connected to ancestors. Instead of image-less names, dates, and places, uploaded pictures and stories make lives of the dead.

Any information taken out of context is easily misinterpreted, or misrepresented. Although reaching back to the past does not guarantee “accuracy in reporting,” meat on the bones (stories, pictures, and the daily stuff that is often relegated of being no importance to the person at the time) is important in sparking interest for the instant Internet and media-based generation, often a hundred or more years ahead of what someone once thought of as “boring.”

Outside of and including historical professorships, history is bigger and bigger business. Applied and marketable history is not a bad thing and teaches faster than monographs. While considered the standard for “serious” research, unless there is a connection to a direct past event, why read the monograph?

Adding applicable, accessible, and non-copyright restrictive photos and basic source materials gives a reason to review a historic monograph. Consider family history or genealogy as “front lines” history when trying to teach the subject.


Observations on Faith

I am definitely Christian, and I go to two Catholic schools. I like studying in a very quiet and picturesque reading room that was the old library at one of my schools. The reading room adjoins a chapel.

Considering my undergrad institution: while it may look more utilitarian in the rooms, all of them are used as chapels and Sunday School rooms and similar on Sundays and for other Church activities and meetings during the week in addition to regular classes during the week, without regular classes held on Sundays. Growing up, I was used to my religion and I learned history enough to see divisions and splits in other religions and just to watch what happened in the developments of other churches over time. Call it the “change over time” principle espoused by traditional historians.

I know that there are some people who are active in their beliefs, and others who don’t care at all. Since I am open to hearing anyone’s beliefs, I seem to know a lot of people who are atheists talking to me on a regular basis. I am respectful, but it is wearing as they try to convert me to their viewpoint without exception. My generation is not known for their religious conviction, but for turning away from religion in many cases. Sitting in my study room, there is an open mass happening nearby. The inter-faith room is also close by, inhabited regularly by students of Muslim background. My guess is that some of the other people studying in my reading room have that background, from looking around.

I was caught off-guard yet pleased when I found out last week that a friend was not attending class due to a Jewish high holy day. Honestly, that’s cool. My current colleagues in my department at my other school are also really open when it comes to being cool with religion, and although no one else has said anything, my religion became known and they’re nice and accommodating.

Today, I wonder about Catholicism. Doesn’t hurt that an attractive male walked into the mass. Although dressed in normal campus clothes, he tapped into the basin of holy water and knelt down to cross himself before entering the chapel. He’s the youngest person I saw walk in there and he seems to know all of the outward actions of the mass. Appears to be a “good Catholic” which is what I’m guessing they call people who are orthodox. I’m not sure, though.

People being orthodox in their religious faiths is something that I admire. Usually, they’re nicer and more open than people who are trying to get me to think otherwise, despite mass media interpretations of everyone of faith being dogmatic disciplinarians without senses of humor who are more likely to kill you than consider you as a person.

It’s not cool to be religious, but I find it useful and helpful for my life. Not as a crutch, ever, but as something that helps me be myself. I do believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost. My beliefs are not the same as the kid sitting in that chapel on some of the finer points of practice, but I admire and respect a kid who at least attempts showing up to church. Few people do so. It’s not entertainment, but it is cause for celebration. I may never know his name or anything about him other than that he exists and that he went to mass on a Wednesday, but I am glad that he showed up today.

Best to all from


Gratitude Journal:Death and Dying

The happiest person I know is dying. The friend mentioned in the previous post: she was one of my mother’s three best friends, and she has stage 4 breast cancer.  I learned what that meant earlier in the week. Stage 4 means that you know your death cause, but I didn’t know how long she’d known. Three years. During this time, she had a roommate who did not respect others enough to let them into her life more. But had I realized this earlier, I’m not sure what I would or could do.

When I read how long she had over email today (she could die any day, and there’s no telling how long it will be; sicknesses will get to her, but she will die from organ failure as the cancer runs its course and terminates things.) it took me so much aback that I did not know how to reply. I marked it as “Mark as Unread” and walked back to the El station to take the trip to the bus to get me to dinner and then home. Normally, Friday nights I volunteer at my temple. Without a car for the past while due to an accident, I haven’t been there as much lately. Should have the car back tomorrow.

Rode the escalator to the El platform after a stressful day of editing a movie to finish a class from Spring semester, then read the email enough to absorb what it meant and I started to cry. I put my phone away and kept crying as the El showed up and took me to the bus that was a half hour late, or more so. Pigeons overhead in the rafters, I felt annoyed that they were there, despite the efforts of the city to stick miniature steel spikes in the most likely places. Many people gave up and started walking of their own accord. I finally rode the bus.

This lady is talented, has three kids, one married, one barely graduated from college, and one who is the son of a second marriage and not yet in middle school. Her husband died shortly after the child was born, and she never re-married. She is lucky that she has family, that there is a pretty supportive Church network (ward), and that she has close friends. I’m lucky that I know her at all. She moved to my Church network when I was maybe 12? She saw my family through a heap of life, and she has been essentially surrogate Mom as there are no older women in the family who are like my Mom left. All of the direct-line ancestral biological female relatives are dead. The ones who are alive do not see me as Mom did, save her, and this friend is only related to me back in the 1600’s from a different marriage of some old guy that was either Dutch or in New England. For that ancestor, one wife died and then he married another and their relatives went every which way. I have other female biological or marriage-related relatives, but only see them rarely and then I am in guest roles.

Mom’s friend rarely complains, and she gives me reality checks when everyone around me either acts like I’m great or awful, or can’t give me solid advice to save their lives. My friends are extremely good people, but she never tells me anything for her gain or with personal bias involved. I’m not that good all the time and want to be. She also inspires me to do better. She knows at least six languages, and is always learning. I love that about her.

My birthday is soon, and in my selfish self-pity I thought about the timing. I found out that an extremely good friend was dying after a very long day and then I looked back across the bus stop filled with birds and their droppings and feathers to where people came off the El. Thought about how each of them had their own story, and how God is their Father, too, and wondering how in the world He kept track of us all. I couldn’t do what He does, that’s for sure. (Not without serious, massive help at the minimum.)

Anyway, I am tired, have much on my plate, but despite things beyond my control, I made it through the day and I should make it through tomorrow. Just have to finish these last items, and then school starts immediately thereafter. A little scared, and if there is a sudden death, then I’ll need an airplane flight. Otherwise, must keep going. Living at this point in time means that there isn’t that much time to process. Have to keep going no matter how dreadful or how joyous life gets. I wish that there was more joyous. All that I can do is to try to be good to people, comfort, and be kind.

More thoughts on New Apps?-NUCMC Mobile

Since I plan to learn how to program apps for historical repositories to make the genealogical world an easier place to navigate for friends, relatives, and the rest of the world, I want to work on getting more thoughts down on paper. I make notes everywhere. Can’t stop writing if I wanted to, but they do not always make it here. Must write this down before it leaves my thought processes.

So, NUCMC exists. It’s this massive union catalog of manuscripts done by the Library of Congress.

  •       For anyone not heavily invested in libraries, a union catalog is how a bunch of libraries together (supposedly) try to save money by using one major catalog and adding entries as needed. Since supposedly no government entity has money anymore (and most libraries are the forgotten beneficiaries of Borders closure, hence making a lot of people try to return to libraries that lost funding and programs in the never-ending stream of budget cuts that come out when people lose interest in culture) then the union catalog supposedly helps people find their information faster. Once I had a teacher who was extremely upset about converting a library to a union catalog. I need to hear positive opinions about them before I can give a more-accurate conclusive judgement. So, consider the above paragraph biased due to that experience.

NUCMC is a manuscripts version of OCLC’s WorldCat. In the end, it’s all about finding the right piece of information as quickly as possible. I was wondering when it comes to NUCMC, is there an app for that? I know that is a trade marked catch-phrase from Apple, but really- IS there an app for that? I am investing my time and energy in learning more about how to make existing technology work easier. If something exists and it’s not incredibly easy to use and does not function on a level where it only takes a few taps, then it’s outdated already. Not as if everyone has the time or power to use such technology on a grand scale. That is not the point here. Accessibility, while a hot topic in any archive or library, along with a basic design, (advanced design principles) that clarify and streamline are the essentials to an effective group’s work.

History matters to the people who live it and somehow either loved it or hated it. And it also matters to the people who don’t know about it for themselves, meaning “Was this family story for real?” That is where the repositories come in. The places that physically host or hold the information must be open virtually, 24/7, while the staff go to bed, live, eat, take care of children’s runny noses, and have lives. They don’t have to operate staffed all the time, although this would be a little ideal for the world employment situation. Someone complains about money issues and then everyone curls up in virtual fetal positions or raise their hands and say no.

I can see when war is the only option to divest tyrants, and military actions tend make really great, detailed records, but it’s like no one has the ability to tell me where all of the money went. Congress has not passed a real budget in 3/4 years of the current presidency and runs on these strange executive orders. I’m sorry. I don’t elect kings. I elect a president and I can get them out. America feels more like a police state now than it did ten years ago. I am not a fan of the illusion of security over the reality of corruption in every level of government and spying on your own people because you are afraid of losing your power. That smacks of fear and lack of confidence in a huge degree. I mean, when you are done being president, you continue with your security detail, you have a huge paycheck, and if the spouse wants to, she can run for president, too. I mean, it seems incredibly silly to worry so hard over the power struggle. And no, it’s not a case of scarcity of resources. It’s a struggle against innovation to clean things up versus keeping costs low. Other countries figured out how to get away with much less oil consumption back in the 1970’s during the first oil crisis by using sugar and other plant-based fuels that Americans seem completely unaware of. No, it does not cost more to convert over. It costs lobbyists and politicians their dependence on the fuel profits from corn shares that literally change how all food grows in the US. I may not know a ton on this topic, but I do see inter-connected webs throughout. It’s a pain in the rear.

Back to the libraries and archives, there is need for NUCMC to be accessible by app if it is not already. When thinking about how historians actually work, it’s not just IN libraries and archives. We need as much portability as any other traveler. Most of my research time is on a day off from other things, or maybe on Saturdays. I research on the way to other places instead of that place being the only thing on the list. It’s the only way that I do not feel guilty for taking the time out to make my work happen. I have yet to be able to do a work trip specifically geared for simply research unless I plan it way in advance. I know of other professionals who actually do plan for research trips and spend their time in the libraries and archives akin to gold.

Due to the expenses involved, online record repositories like Ancestry are incredibly popular, and if I am correct, just passed the one billion mark for profits for good reason. Some of the basic records should be free, and it would be the ideal in the best of world for the whole thing to be, but that is not going to happen either in the current economy or any other. A market economy will not allow it. However, instead it comes down to enough people basically buying into the program to lessen the charge for everyone else.

A lot of apps are free or else people do not try them. I want to do things that are free and somehow make ends meet and get paid for it. I am too much of an idealist in that regard. Not sure how in the world it will work out, but I love the idea of flooding the earth with the ability to find what is necessary to get the research done. I am a romantic in this ideal, and I understand it. Going into academia unfortunately will not pay for it, but I also love teaching. Why is it that everything that I get a kick out of does not pay bills?

*sighs from the GenealogyDr*

Is It a Line or a Blur?: Controversy and the Art of History in Blog Posts

In musing upon how much to include in a blog post, I recently read an article from Mantra about what to and what not to include in conversations and on blogs. While most of the advice is helpful, I also remember reading from Dan Cohen’s book, Digital History, about how Public Historians are not into controversies that traditional historians are. I agree fully with Dan Cohen. I like presenting the information, and I’m not normally into making things rock, splash, or otherwise changing things unless they need changing. Half the time, I do not think that it is my call about whether things need changing because I am a student.

I have to admit, though, that whenever I told a professor at the AHA meeting that I was a student, they never treated me badly. Most of them actually wanted my opinions on things until I admitted that I probably knew a lot less about a given subject than they did. There was a particular Chinese historian who was simply fabulous who actually asked me why I had not gone directly into a doctoral program. When I told her my course of career and study, she commended my abilities to see the economy for the way it is and for attempting employ-ability in keeping my options as open as I could. apparently she is a retired teacher, and I would love to talk with her more.

Since starting graduate school, I have never felt so small and simultaneously had people who actually took my opinions seriously before. I am a serious person by nature, but that is due to the opposition that I normally face from literally every side for years. Gives a person strong muscles in the tenacity department. That said, I do not like being a controversial person but it seems the only way for distinction here. That is not a good enough reason for me to become that way. I like the ways of the nostalgia associated with gentility. I do not hurt others, and wish the same in kind. Peace is my goal, but I seek not for riches and honors of men but simply being good with God. Talking about religion openly on a blog seems something that is expressly controversial. Politics? Not so much into it, but I do not want representatives that treat people badly and I am sick with the inter-laced corruption divesting the people of any rights while other groups add to the band wagon. Conspiracy theorists argue such things for years as:

Icecream Shop Picture of Media Conglomerates

Ice Cream Shop Picture of Media Conglomerates

Icecream Parlor Picture

Rising Journalism Mediocrity Swamp










I will not take a stand on either issue here. But I do know I want to learn more,  gaining my own opinions on things, and dig down to the truthful heart of a matter. There are biases ranging everywhere driven by frequently septic purposes. I wish to remove the nasty, crude-oil layer of filtration and find out what really is happening. Maybe I am more like traditional historians than I think. That said, I want to facilitate and allow the people to crunch their own numbers and to do their own history. I see history as being an “everyman’s game” and not held by an elite class of people educated for the one purpose of educating more people in their way. I want history to matter to an individual specifically. That is the point of teaching it. Making a difference in someone’s life paradigms is what it is all about. Here’s to controversial soap box posts.

The GenealogyDr–More genealogical posts coming up.

Flickr Makes Cemetery Research Easier

I will admit to a bias against Flickr until recently. Considering Yahoo a part of the old Internet regime of the middle 1990’s, I fought joining or using it and never cared that much about anything to do with it. I joined Pinterest, another photo-sharing site, before joining Flickr.  As usual in my media biases dealing with Internet applications of late (meaning Twitter), I was wrong. Dead wrong, literally.

My recent research brings me to looking into a cemetery dealing with the Eastland Disaster.

eastland disaster picture

Eastland Disaster picture from 1915

Most of the people interned from this disaster are at Bohemian National Cemetery off Foster near Jefferson Park. Although I pass by the cemetery semi-regularly, I have no relatives from the Midwest that I know about and thus have absolutely no idea why this cemetery draws me in. I can think of theories on the topic, but until I physically get there and try to make sense of it, I’m not postulating here yet.

Besides this interest, I happen to love cemeteries. I’m not a goth, and I have no funky-odd intentions towards cemeteries. I’m a librarian by current training. All that I’d ever want to do with them is to write information, make sure that it was accessible to everybody, make sure that the gravestones didn’t sink so far that they aren’t read-able (difference between readability and legibility) and leave the dead alone. Pretty harmless stuff dealing with organization of information and sharing it. That, and cemetery artwork is just plain cool. For my intentions, there is nothing bad about it.

I get to Flickr due to a school assignment. Fine, I’ll do it. Previous to this, I read articles on how others used Flickr in annotating historical pictures. While this was an intriguing read, the catalog was in French. Sorry, I don’t read French. I can speak/read  Spanish, and very basic Russian, Japanese, Korean, and some Portuguese pronunciation, and can read Latin and basic Hungarian-Latinized script. I’m learning German while writing this in English, but French… not there yet. So while interesting and sounding like a great idea, I did not want to look up the project even though I had heard of it and the Library of Congress’s Commons is very well-known and reputed.

With this background in mind, I got on Flickr being an overly late adopter. The first group that I see on the home page is Graves and Tombstones. Now we’re talking. A few searches later, and presto: Eastland Disaster victims and Bohemian National Cemetery pictures arrive with beauty and sadness. A few flashes of Dr. Who’s Weeping Angels also went through my mind while looking at the pictures. Who are these people? What were their lives like? Prior to this, I already looked up the Disaster and found books on the subject, the Society which deals with this, and that there will be a Broadway-style play coming out on the disaster in June. It is a Chicago Disaster, like the Iroquois Theater fire, which led to changes in safety laws for the better. That said, it is hard to make beauty from disaster, but that is the best way of celebrating the deceased. And now to find out why that cemetery pulls on me. Mysteries continue.

Defining Professionalism in History and Genealogy

A friend recently pointed me to a 2007 blog post by Gavin Robinson, “Gentleman Amateurs.” The post reports about the history profession and receiving serious treatment as a historian in the present market. The analysis concludes that there are plenty of differences between the amateur and the professional, but that in the end it comes down to training (read: theory). Although I am an advocate of the individual learning as much as anyone is able or capable, I agree that training (read: theory or education) make differences in final products.

I am of the professional camp in my exact field (genealogy/family history) but I am not against people making in-roads into the field or learning as much as they can, even becoming professionals in their own right. I am extremely against people hanging out a shingle and saying that they are genealogists for hire when they have only completed four generations of ancestral research and feel confident using basic online sources. My father says that being a professional means that “you get paid to do something.” In that case, nearly anyone is a professional at whatever it is that they do, and the vast majority of people are professionals without any credentials or needing them.

This is not the case in professional genealogy, and I think it is also not the case in professional history. I am not sure that I am comfortable expecting everyone in the historical field to gain doctoral degrees. There are not enough teaching positions, period. My emphasis if pursuing such a degree is not on a tenure track position. I see no reason to abstain from looking for, or accepting such a position, but my focus is on changing the daily lives of people through the public history sphere particularly through online scholarship and emerging media applications.

My research background personally goes back to 1996, and professionally started in 1997 albeit as an assistant to a professional at that time. That said, I am not fluidly current on all aspects of the profession, but I see myself as a person who renews my training methods when I immerse in the topic for a few days. I do not work on family history every day, but for the spurts, starts, and stops that happen, I follow proper methodological practices. That is because I have prior training. I never stop learning, and family history and genealogical studies are the main topics for my life now.

Instead of only focusing on only genealogical studies for my education, however, I decided on a more-broad perspective involving the topic and currently work with Public History and Library Information Science. The more I work in those fields,  I see affinities for excelling at anything to do with computers, databases, and graphic user interfaces. There is a middle ground in the field where I can learn basic programming and develop something that may work and improve the field, even if I am not an expert programmer.

Personal impressions are that the academic history and academic library fields both see genealogical studies as the charlatans of their professions and not worthy of their respect. I have received this type of treatment when mentioning my field to associates my entire life (until recently) and find it demeaning. It is a treatment borne best with patience and a comprehension that professional and personal biases run deeply and the best form of transparency is education or seeing the efforts of those so educated. Proving myself wherever I go is now a normal, albeit tiring, thought process.

The professional biases are valid when taking into consideration hyper-enthusiastic but ill or untrained genealogical researchers who lack professionalism and take anything found at face value without a critical eye for source details or other necessary precautions for passing peer reviews. Bridling the passions associated with the detective bug of genealogical research is a hallmark of being professional. It means searching with patience, but this does not require slow processes. I am not a certified genealogical researcher or have ICAPGEN or BCG certification, but have a Bachelor’s degree in the topic from an accredited university and value the certifications of others.

A previous experience with an untrained although paid “professional” during an internship in 2006 left me with more understanding about why training is important. The person in question had background in museum studies and thought that doing genealogical research would be “easy” and a natural transfer from her previous work. It is within similar spheres in the historical field profession, but it is not the same thing and her lack of experience, training, and otherwise respect for the genealogical field left her without jobs due to being fired from her clients for shoddy work. This is not to say that other museum professionals cannot do proper genealogical research, or that the museum profession is lacking. Those generalizations are not remotely implied. This illustrates that her lack of training and professionalism in trying to understand a field that was completely new to her damned her in the eyes of her clients and dropped her from cases on a regular basis.

I was only around this person for less than an hour trying to assist in a library setting and knew more about the topic as an interning undergraduate student than she did as a professional. I gave her the best customer service and assistance that I could in my internship capacity working for the library. Leaving the library that day I left with the appalled realization that there really were people out there that tried to pass themselves off as professionals when they knew nothing about what they were doing. My professors said that was a reality, but the concrete example of abstract theory occurred only when I witnessed it first-hand.

Why does anyone think that being a professional in this field is any different from being a trained and respected professional (more than simply getting paid for it) in any other field? History traditionally pays less than other fields where there is not in-depth math or science background. Pay scale also has nothing to do with inherent qualities of professionalism. A student friend of mine working at Subway made literally perfect sandwiches on a regular basis. It took him time to do it, and in his unusual talent, people waited for their honestly perfect sandwiches because they saw a true artist at work. We paid the same amount as for any other Subway worker, and we waited longer, but the man was a genius and his work excelled anything seen before or since in fast food.

Not to say that I normally want to wait a long time for a sandwich, but it is a rare person (maybe, say, a real professional?) who makes sure that their work is of best quality. Someone who lives a life of best quality, and does their best to treat others around them with the same panache and proper dignity is worthy of repute.