Category Archives: FindMyPast

Search to Failure

Wilbraham Public Library Session III

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been providing guidance in family research, both on- and off-line. For quite a while, I’ve advocated particular strategies that I find effective. Last night I spontaneously described it as “search to failure.” It just rolled off my tongue. Here’s why I think it’s a good strategy and a good description.

Just a few years ago, most genealogical search engines offered dozens of fields to be filled in so that you could locate the records of your ancestors. Early in my own research, I felt it necessary to offer up as much information as possible. After all, the fields were there waiting to be filled, right? Just like a job application or a mortgage application, the questions were there for a reason. But what I soon learned…or maybe not to soon…was that less is more. And the websites seemed to finally agree with me. Today, you’re offered far fewer fields to fill which, in my opinion, is a good thing.Let me explain the strategy that I teach.

Linnie Otto Peace Robison (1880-1954)

First, Grandma may have said that her grandfather was born on such-and-such a date, always used the name “Thomas” (for example) and he always, as far as Grandma knew lived in a certain town. My response is this: Well, Grandma, we love you but we don’t necessarily believe you! New researchers will go to great lengths to use exactly that information without deviation. Contrary to the “job application” strategy, I demonstrate my “search to failure” strategy using the name “Smith.” That’s it, just “Smith.” And I never ask for an exact spelling. As a matter of fact, in Ancestry.com for example, I ask for “Sounds like,” “Similar,” and “Soundex” in order to get every possible permutation. That’s the only field I fill and I use “Smith” because I already know the dramatic results. Tonight, I got 146,696,564 results. That makes me happy. Why? Because I know I’m on the right track. Be patient, I’ll get the results down to a manageable number and in a very short amount of time.

Now, I’ll ask the audience to give me any first name. It doesn’t matter what they give me, but let’s say someone says “Michael.” My response is “Do you know if it’s really Michael? Or perhaps it’s Mike, or just M or what if Michael was his middle name because he didn’t like his first name. How can we be sure?” The answer, of course, is that we can’t be sure about anything at this stage. But let’s use Michael, making sure we also use “sounds like,” “similar,” and “initials.”

Now we’re down to “only” 4,102,786. That’s significant even at the volume of returns. It’s only about 3% of what our original search brought. I explain here, that “Michael” is a filter and the filter, in this example, worked. Or so we think at least! Now I add another filter and then another. In literally no time, our 146 million number can be reduced to 6 or 8 results. But I want to end up with NO results. “Search to failure.” Why? I want to make sure that I’m using the most efficient filters. That last filter that wiped out all my results is not the end of the search, it’s the first “failure” that will force me to eliminate that filter then go back and refine, refine, refine what I’ve done so far. The point is this: I’m starting out my fishing in a big pond. If my first search includes so many filters that my first at-bat gives me nothing, what have I gained. But if I start out with huge results then whittle them down with one filter at a time until there are no results, I can by-pass Grandma’s data (without telling her, of course!) and hopefully come up with enough results that through principle #1 of the GPS, a thoroughly exhaustive search, I can determine which of the results is the target ancestor.

My point is “search to failure,” then begin to massage the filters in order to “search to success.”

NERGC? What’s a NERGC?

Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past

“Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium produces a conference every other year. Each NERGC conference is held in a city somewhere in New England. Past conferences have been in Hartford, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and this year, Springfield, Massachusetts. The event will kick off on 26 April 2017 with a specialty day devoted to Librarians, Professionals, Genealogical Society Management and Technology. During the following three days, you’ll have a chance to hear and learn from 70 genealogists of every level and in every aspect of genealogy and genealogical research. NERGC organizers have devoted quite a bit of time and space to DNA, a “hot topic” in today’s genealogy world.

The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield is the venue. Hotel accommodations are available within a block. Other than presentations, this year’s conference includes several workshops, banquets and a “private” tour of the archives at the Museum of Springfield History.

Our opening speaker is Mary Tedesco, a co-host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show. Speaking several times during the conference are 3 featured speakers, Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner and a third, another co-host of Genealogy Road Show, Kenyatta D Berry.

NERGC is supported by 23 genealogical from societies around New England, all of whom will be represented at the event. Volunteers from each will be busy making sure your experience is optimal. Stop and visit each of them in the Exhibit Hall and perhaps you can meet with a society near where you live.

Also in the Exhibit Hall, you’ll see a wide variety of vendors of genealogy products: Books, CD’s, old maps, clothing, and other genealogy-oriented products. Scheduled are genealogy companies such as Ancestry.com, Evidentia Software, FindMyPast and Geni.com to name a few.NERGC is worth a look! If you can’t make Springfield this year, the 2019 conference is scheduled for a return trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Mocavo (a great resource) is moving to FindMyPast…soon!

Below is the body of an email I received today regarding my Mocavo account. I also have an account at FindMyPast. That part of the merger will be interesting! And the merger is taking place TODAY, 23 MARCH 2016!!

Mocavo is moving to Findmypast

We’re contacting you to let you know that the Mocavo website will be closing at midnight today (Wednesday 23rd March) and that your account will be moving over to Findmypast in the next few days. Plus, over the coming weeks, all of Mocavo’s records and much, much more will soon be available on Findmypast.

Find out more

 

What do I need to do?

Your Mocavo account details will automatically transfer to Findmypast, where we’ll give you a 30 day trial, completely free. You’ll receive further instructions on setting up your account in a follow-up email.

We have all sorts of help content to get you started here on our blog.

 

What’s great about Findmypast?

Findmypast is the perfect place to dig further back into your family’s history and here’s why.

  1.5 million UK BMD Records: The largest online collection of UK parish records anywhere
 
  100 Million US marriage Records: The only place you’ll find 360 years of marriage records that include more than 450 million names
 
  110 million Irish Parish Records: The largest collection of Irish records available anywhere online (over 300 million names)
 
  1939 register – 41 million records: The only place you can access this Wartime Domesday Book
 
  100 Million Travel Records: Trace your English, Irish and Australian ancestors in our migration records and passenger lists.
 
  3 Million England & Wales Crime Records: The largest online collection of UK crime & punishment records (1779-1936)
 
  13 Million British & Irish Newspapers: The largest online collection of searchable historic British and Irish newspapers
 
  65 Million World Military Records: The most comprehensive online Naval collection, Royal Air Force collection and British Army service records

 

What about my Mocavo family tree?

If you have a tree, we’ll be migrating it over to Findmypast and sending you a link for where you can access it shortly. But, if you can’t wait, you can always export your GEDCOM file now. Just read the instructions below to find out how.

  Click on the “Family Trees” tab at the top of the Mocavo homepage and select “My Trees” from the dropdown list.
 
  On the page called “Settings & Preferences“, click “Export” next to the tree(s) you wish to back up.
 
  Click the “EXPORT GEDCOM” button to download your tree. This will be emailed to you – keep it safe and we’ll be in touch with instructions on how to import it to FMP once your account has been migrated.

 

Export tree

 

 

 

 

  Get in touch

You can contact our customer service team with any questions by email at support@findmypast.com

From,
The Mocavo & Findmypast team

NERGC

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with gene...

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with genealogical information about King Eric the Pomeranian of Scandinavia, as released by image creator Ristesson; Place: Darłowo, Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re all talking about NERGC here in the North East.  NERGC?  So what’s NERGC?  It’s the acronym for the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium.  NERGC orchestrates a biennial conference at strategic cities here in New England.   Now it’s not RootsTech..nowhere near the size.  I believe RT had approximately 30,000 registrants this year, give or take 10,000.

No, NERGC is quite a bit smaller but of no less significance or importance to the genealogical community here.  Speakers, sponsored luncheons and dinners, workshops, society meetings, exhibitor hall with unopposed exhibit hours, speakers with national, regional and local recognition… NERGC has it all.

I can tick off a list of reasons why I took 4 days out my own very busy schedule to attend.

First, the opportunity to network with people who I know well, but only via social media: Facebook, Google Communities, Webinars, Google Hangouts on Air, the whole spectrum! I can tell you that it’s one thing to communicate virtually, but there’s nothing like looking across the table with a genealogy friend and sharing a meal or just a cup of coffee.  It’s what I would call a mini-conference.  There were mini-conferences going on all day, every day.

Second, I’d have to count the sessions that were held on all aspects of genealogy, family research and technology.  As a matter of fact, the entire first day was devoted to librarians, teachers and technology.  Not a bad place to be on Wednesday!  And I know that those who attended would agree.

Next, I’d count the individual specialty programs such as the “Ancestor Road Show.” This program is well attended and by reservation only!  A busy time for the NERGC volunteers,

And on the subject of volunteers, there are dozens of devoted genealogists at all levels of knowledge and experience in every field, volunteers who spend hours and hours in the planning and execution of each conference.

The Exhibition Hall was jam packed with representatives from many vendors and societies. The

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry ...

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

genealogy website  MyHeritage was represented as well as the American-French Genealogical Society, Heritage Books, Lisa Louise’s Genealogy Gems, the Gravestone Girls, New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, New England Historic Genealogical Society, citation software vendor Evidentia, and many, many more.

So now we all have to wait until April of 2017 for the next NERGC conference which will be held at the MassMutual Center

in Springfield, Mass.

See you there!

Heritage Quest – The New Version

English: Seal of the United States Census Bure...

English: Seal of the United States Census Bureau. The blazon is defined here as: On a shield an open book beneath which is a lamp of knowledge emitting rays above in base two crossed quills. Around the whole a wreath of single leaves, surrounded by an outer band bearing between two stars the words “U.S. Department of Commerce” in the upper portion and “Bureau of the Census” in the lower portion, the lettering concentric with an inner beaded rim and an outer dentilated rim. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll readily admit that I have not been a regular user of Heritage Quest.  As a matter of fact, I would avoid it.  Probably because I didn’t know how best to take advantage of it.  When I did go there, it was usually at the library where I volunteer and occasionally teach or lecture on genealogy research principles.Today, however, I watched a video that introduced me to the new version that has just been released.  I think they hit a home run with this one.  Maybe a grand slam!

The style echos what will be the newest version of Ancestry.com once they release the beta version which some of us have been able to “get friendly with” and provide feedback to Ancestry.  More on that in another post another day.  For now, I just want to encourage everyone to take a look at Heritage Quest and see all the new features.

First, it’s a little more pleasant of an atmosphere.  Maybe, for me, it’s just that it’s a refreshed website.  But the real meat of the upgrade is the collections that you will find there.

Brief rundown: The original 6 data sets are still available but PERSI and the US Serial Set will, for now, redirect you back to the original site.  Census records are now available to 1940 given the collaboration with Ancestry.com.  The census records and other sets will now display images in 256 grey scale or color rather than “bi-tonal” making them easier to read.  You will also be able to save them, download them or e-mail them in a image format.

In addition to US Census Population Schedules, images for US Territories, Military and Naval Forces records, US Indian Census Rolls 1885-1940, Mortality Schedules from 1850 to 1880, the 1880 schedules of Dependent, Delinquent and Defective classes and select Non-Population schedules from 1850 to 1880.

English: A collage of American Revolutionary W...

English: A collage of American Revolutionary War public domain images. Clockwise from top left: Battle of Bunker Hill, Death of Montgomery at Quebec, Battle of Cowpens, “Moonlight Battle”. Interlingua: Un collage de imagines in dominio public super le Guerra de Independentia del Statos Unite. Ab sinistra superior in senso horologic: Battalia de Bunker Hill, morte de Montgomery a Quebec, Battalia de Cowpens, Battalia de Capo St. Vincente. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The complete NARA M804 Revolutionary War pension and bounty land applications with “every name index” of pension apps and applicants. All NARA pension apps are included regardless of page count or genealogical value.

The image viewer appears in either basic of advanced view without the need for any special plug-ins.  Boolean operators are not allowed (AND, OR, AND NOT, etc.) but truncation and wildcards are (Eli?abeth or Sam*).  An exact match option appears when typing begins. You are also allowed to add life events or other family members to refine your search and use double quotation marks for specific phrases (“first edition”),

All documents are downloadable in PDF format.  The site includes several pages of tips and tricks for researchers.

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Map Guide to the US Census” has been moved to the new interactive MAPS

English: Map of US Census Bureau's geographica...

English: Map of US Census Bureau’s geographical regions Category:Census Bureau images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

section.  The maps have their own tabs, can be saved, printed or e-mailed using a right click for the option menu.

“The Census Book” by William Dollarhide is included in the MAPS section and includes blank census forms. You may be interested in other William Dollarhide books which include “American Migration Routes 1735-1815,” “New  York State Census & Substitutes,” or “Managing a Genealogical Project” among others.  They’re all available at Amazon.com.

 

I’m not familiar enough just yet to expound on the new features or any of the improvements to what has been available for a while.  But it’s certainly worth a look!

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