29 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions

A couple of suggested New Year's resolutions for Ancestry's programmers:
1) Communicate with Ancestry.com users.
2) Finish what you start.
Sometimes new features are just sprung on users with no explanation. No opt out and all Ancestry employees can say is, "That feature is being tested and until it is widely available, all I can do is acknowledge it is intentional - not an error." Helpful, really helpful.
Other times things are taken away with no notice whatsoever. If you're like me you probably hadn't noticed that links for locations are gone. We can no longer click on the location of an event and be taken to a map. It doesn't take much effort to use Google Maps instead but that's not the point. Lack of communication is the point. Apparently communication within the company is not a priority either. In this thread it took Ancestry employees over two weeks to figure out the feature had been discontinued.
Photo tagging disappeared when "global commenting" was added. Apparently it's never coming back. Has Ancestry said anything about this other than a random comment on their message boards?
Meanwhile, the programmers continue to add new features without ever fixing issues with existing ones.


Photo labels - Portrait / Family Photo, Site / Building / Place, Headstone, Document / Certificate, Other - have been around since at least 2009 but they have yet to serve a purpose. You cannot sort or search within a tree's photo gallery by label. You cannot include/exclude a photo label in a global photo search. I'm so glad I went through my entire gallery and assigned the appropriate label to each item. It's been so helpful. </sarcasm>
Photo captions and comments cannot be formatted. If you're typing and hit return it looks as if you've started a new paragraph, until you save the caption/comment and view it. The return is not recognized. Same goes for the transcription section for "Document / Certificate" images.
Formatting doesn't always work on stories either. Write a story in a word processing program, copy and paste to Ancestry and it looks fine. Save and suddenly all bold, italics, font changes, and paragraph indications are gone. Luckily you don't have to re-type everything but you do need to re-do all the formatting despite the fact that it looks fine on the editing page.

AFTER THE JUMP: Search, Hints & FTM, Records, Messages & Invites, Gift Memberships, and more.

22 December 2014

Cousin Mary

This story was making the rounds earlier this year. Since this woman thinks she is a cousin to the Virgin Mary I thought this week would be a good time to re-post it.
 "A Westmoreland County woman claims she is the 64th great-granddaughter of Saint Joseph Ben Matthat Arimathaea, who was the paternal uncle to the Virgin Mary. Mary Beth Webb, of Murrysville, said she began searching her ancestry in 2010 after years of "communicating" with her deceased mother, father and brother."
The reporter doesn't waste any time getting to the full on nuttiness. What was she thinking? Remember when journalists did research rather than just taking dictation? Some basic research, and a little common sense, would have alerted the reporter to the fact that this woman is delusional.
 "Webb emailed [ancestry.com] to share her discovery, and said a spokesperson replied with skepticism. They said, 'Well, that's nice, but you probably made a mistake along the way because that's easy to do,'" Webb said."
No follow-up with Ancestry.com? No quote from a professional genealogist?
No, I'm not going near the whole "I talk to dead people" thing.
Maybe more disturbing than the story itself were some of the responses to it on various Facebook pages/groups. Here are just a few examples:
 Ann: "Whether this is true or not, It's interesting to think about."
 Mary: "Any reason why it should not be true?"
 Jane: "Mary, do you really think this is happening?"
 Mary: "Honestly ? Who knows ? Anything is possible in this day and age - and I DO know people who can make contact with others who have left this world, so I believe it is possible, tho probably not probable."
 "Being a genealogist for 35 years, I say nothing is impossible but can be difficult to prove."
 "There is some sort of quasi-official British genealogical records (Royal?) that do indeed go back to not just some people around the Holy Family but also to personages in Genesis. A fellow researcher showed them too me one day in an LDS family library in OKC. They had some name like Warden or maybe Peerage records?"
 "the records are on Ancestry ..if people cant even be botherd to even look they miss out big time"

PREVIOUS POST: I Just Can't Wait to Be King
NEXT POST: New Year's Resolutions

15 December 2014

I Just Can't Wait to Be King

“Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They'll believe anything they see in print.”
― E.B. White, Charlotte's Web
From surname books that have little to nothing to do with genealogy to flat out lies like "family coats of arms" there will always be people trying to make a quick buck from genealogy. There always have been. The easiest prey are those who want fame, a royal connection.
Royal wannabes can buy fake coats of arms (most sites are not as upfront about the fake part as that one), their own royal portrait or their own royal title. I can't believe how many people have fallen for the latter one. They are easy to find because once someone is titled they need a website and/or a Facebook fan page to tout their importance and communicate with the little people.
The entire front page of the Royal Titles site focuses on impressing those who are, obviously, beneath you, and giving you a sense of self-importance.
"Sense of Grandeur and Historical Belonging, Social Status and Prestige, Instantly Perceived Glamour, Power and sense of difference and Privilege, Preferential treatment Everywhere, An incredible Source of Joy, Happiness and Amusement." 
The capitalization of random words really emphasizes the professionalism and trustworthiness of the site. (My kingdom for a sarcasm font!)
"We can offer a number of Royal Titles to choose." 
Because everyone knows if the King/Queen wants to knight you you can say, "Um, I'd rather be a Baron." Check out their disclaimer page. The site "does not sell noble titles." Yet a "Single Royal and Noble Title and Royal Medal is EUR €199." If you want to see what that gets you click here.
There are free sites that feed the royal wannabes need for these things. Most of the information on these sites has been copied to numerous Ancestry Member Trees (AMTs). At least Ancestry does its part to keep information on living people private. These other sites usually have no privacy boundaries but like a majority of AMTs, they have no credible sources. This one has profiles copied from a handful of books. From the "sources" section of the FAQ page:
"About half way through this exercise, I acquired a copy of S&N’s Royalty database, and merged this with my own database. Given I already had around 20,000 quite detailed records at this point, and the S&N was around 106,6000 separate records (with little detail given and absolutely no sources), this merging process took me a considerable period of time." 
No sources? No SOURCES! And you want to merge with it, why?
Then there's this one. Go to one of the indices and click through to a random entry. Chances are the only "source" you'll see is WorldRoots.com, a website that no longer exists. The only way to view it is with the WayBack Machine.
You might be thinking, "Well, no one would take those unsourced profiles as fact." I hate to burst your bubble but I didn't search for these sites. They were posted to Facebook threads by people encouraging others to use them.
What will it take to get these people to search for a record?

Genealogy as a Fraud from Genealogy's Star
Genealogy Scams: What You Need to Know About Generic Surname Histories and Coats of Arms from Price & Associates Genealogical Services
Myths, Hoaxes & Scams from Cyndi's List

PREVIOUS POST: To Complicate Matters
NEXT POST: Cousin Mary

08 December 2014

To Complicate Matters

Rule #11: Women are always entered with their maiden name.

Otherwise you end up with a profile name like this:

  Mary Hester Ann "Annie" Maples Luxton Hunter Baylor Ratliff Routh

No joke, there is a tree, well probably lots of them, with all women listed this way. On this particular tree the records attached, from what I can tell, are actually correct. All but one census has Ann or Annie, the one that doesn't has Mary A.. There is no information on the profile about where the name Hester came from. Her gravestone only has one given name, Ann. Of course that's not the issue. The issue is the surnames. The surnames of her spouses are Luxton, Hunter, Baylor, Ratliff, and Routh. Hers is Maples. Just Maples. Only Maples.
Do a search from her profile and it will need to be edited every time since it will automatically include the spouses surnames in the search. Do a search from Mary's profile and you're searching for: Mary Hester Ann "Annie" Maples Luxton Hunter Baylor Ratliff Routh Luxton Hunter Baylor Ratliff Routh.
Mr. Luxton did not marry Mary Hester Ann Maples Luxton Hunter Baylor Ratliff Routh. He married Mary Hester Ann Maples. Mr. Hunter did not marry Mary Hester Ann Maples Luxton Hunter Baylor Ratliff Routh. He married Mary Hester Ann Maples. Mr. Baylor did not marry Mary Hester Ann Maples Luxton Hunter Baylor...You get the idea.
There are a few instances when you will have to edit a search anyway. For some modern day marriages you might need to remove the husband's surname from the search. You'll also want to make a note on the profile if a woman didn't take her husband's surname.
If you've crossed a border or an ocean you'll want to look into naming practices in that country. For example, in Mexico women do not take the surname of their spouse and their full name includes their father's surname followed by their mother's surname. And then there are patronymic surnames.
We have enough to deal with. Don't complicate things further.

PREVIOUS POST: Facebook Hijackers
NEXT POST: Coming Soon

05 December 2014

Facebook Hijackers

Some people use Facebook groups and pages as their own personal photo albums, with no regard to the participation of every other user. In most cases these people will inundate a wall without stating a purpose. Do they want these pictures identified? Are they photos of their own family or were they found at an antique store? No one will ever know because not only do they usually post and run, they post only the photos and nothing else. If you criticize someone for posting two dozen photos in the span of an hour the Pollyannas (every group has them) will whine that you're the Grinch or Satan because you're against "sharing." Hijacking a group or page has nothing to do with sharing. It's narcissistic and self-centered. That or they have something to gain from a rise in the number of carpal tunnel cases.
Apparently some people do not realize that they can create a public photo album on their own page and share the link.

1. Go to the Photos tab on your own Facebook page and click "+ Create Album."

2. There are options to caption photos, write something about the album and set the privacy when you create the album. If you forget to do that or you want to change any of those things on an existing album click the "Edit" button for the album.

3. The Facebook prompt to "Say something about this album..." is actually a space to type something about the album. Use it!

4. (Still the image above.) Set the privacy to "Public." Be sure to click "Done" when you have finished editing (after Step 5) to save all the changes you made.

5. There are spaces under each photo to write your own caption. Use them!

Whether you want to share a single photo or an album, write something. Why are you posting? No one, except maybe your friends and family, will click through the album if you just title it "My Family" or don't write anything at all. Do you know where and/or when the photos were taken? Do you know any of the people in the photos? If you want to find out those things then ask. If you are just looking for compliments and likes try not ticking off dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of people in the process. Especially if you ever plan to ask for research help in said group. If you annoy people they will remember your name and scroll past anytime you post in the future.

NEXT POST: To Complicate Matters

01 December 2014

No Photo Yet

Rule #10: Every profile in your tree does NOT need a photo.

Each of the 9,000+ profiles on this tree has a gravestone photo. Of course most of the images are this:

On every profile the gravestone, whether the actual gravestone or the image above, is the profile photo. Even if there's a portrait of that person available! Apparently Ancestry's silhouettes aren't an obvious enough sign that a profile doesn't have a photo.

Please email me at buwtree(at)gmail(dot)com if you have a photo or profile to suggest. ;-)

PREVIOUS POST: A Genealogy Far, Far Away
NEXT POST: Facebook Hijackers