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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Updated February 2017 BYU Family History Library Webinar Series

The Brigham Young University Family History Library webinar series has an updated schedule. The times are all Mountain Daylight Time. The schedule shows the times of the live broadcasts. You can go to the schedule page by clicking here. You tune into the live broadcasts from the links on the schedule. All of the webinars are recorded and are then uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. In addition to the webinars, the Library will be uploading shorter training videos. If you would like to receive a notice when new videos are uploaded, be sure to subscribe to the Channel.

Here is an example of a recent, very popular video. At the time of this post there are more than 230 videos and the number will continue to increase every week.

Getting the Most from the Search Function on FamilySearch - Kathryn Grant

If you have a suggestion for a topic please let me know by leaving a comment on this post or any other post.

Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

By Unknown - Original source: Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. / United States. / States / New York / New York City / Stereoscopic views of parks, squares and cemeteries in New York City (Approx. 72,000 stereoscopic views : 10 x 18 cm. or smaller.) digital recordThis image is available from the New York Public Library's Digital Library under the digital ID G91F189_006F: → digitalcollections.nypl.orgThis tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.বাংলা | English | français | Nederlands | русский | Türkçe | 中文 |+/−, Public Domain,
Grant's Tomb, now formally known as General Grant National Memorial, is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), the 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant (1826–1902). See Wikipedia: Grant's Tomb. So why is there a long running joke about the contents of the tomb? Well, in reality, no one is buried in Grant's Tomb. Here is a quote from the Quote Investigator website:
Sticklers for accuracy have noted that the bodies of Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, are not actually below ground in the mausoleum. Hence, strictly speaking, no one is buried in Grant’s tomb. Perhaps responses of this type may have inspired humorists to create absurdist questions.
The Quote Investigator reports that the original quote was found to come from the following source:
The earliest evidence of this humorous question appeared in a syndicated newspaper column by the comedian and actor Ed Wynn who often used the persona of “The Perfect Fool”. In September 1925 the column “Ed Wynn’s Question Box: He Knows All – He Sees All” printed several interrogatives with a comic edge.
Of course, you know what this has to do with genealogy. You might also be interested to know that has 124 people with the name "Ulysses S. Grant." has 408 people with that name. There are also 301 people in the Family Tree with that name and 177,020 results for a search for the name on Finally, there are 1,002 people with the name that show up on Findmypast. com and many, many more in another search on You can likely see why we might have a problem with duplicate entries.

So, without qualification, there are thousands of "right" answers. This also points up the danger of assuming that someone with the same name is the same person.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Heredis Genealogy Software Launches New Version for 2017

[Note: Apparently, the new version of the program is not yet ready in German as of the date of this post. Check the website for updates on availability.]

The Heredis Genealogy program from France is the most popular software program in Europe. You really do need to take a serious look at Heredis 2017 if you are maintaining a local, computer-based genealogy program. The program is in French, German and English. If you go to the website and find it in French, you might want to translate it into English with Google Translate.

Heredis 2017 has a new and unique dashboard feature. Here is a description of the new feature.
There was a time when genealogists had to make an effort to find out where they had stopped in their genealogy, to find what they had done lately. Or to know which branch they were working on with their current research. Which ancestors had they already found? Which actions did they lack?

Now that time is over. With the Dashboard, at a glance, genealogists know where they are: what they have already found and what they still have to do.

Like a real on board computer, genealogists conduct their genealogical activities very easily. They note their progression: the genealogical and demographic statistics give them valuable indications. Detailed information enables them to analyze their file in depth and to measure the progress of their work, to check the completeness of their sources, to identify what remains to be done and to identify goals. Also, genealogists can customize this workspace by following only the indicators or widgets they have chosen.
The program is extremely feature filled, but at the same time, it is easy to use. Heredis shows an extensive array of relationships on their family tree such as step, adopted and other types of relationships. This feature makes it easy to see blended or extended families.

I have to admit that the Heredis staff struggle a little with the English language in their promotional materials, but the program is entirely in English and is relatively easy to use. There are all the kinds of features that you could want in a genealogy database program. As an important feature, the program runs on both Windows and Mac OS operating systems as well as Android and iOS devices. It also shares its data files over all of these devices. Here are some notes on the versions, pricing, and availability.
For the Windows version: improved font of notes, in immediate family and extended family: display of the county name, improvement of Gedcom ...  
For the Mac version: added occupations of spouses in descendant trees ...  
Heredis 2017 for Windows and Mac will be available on January 31, 2017 on and the App Store.
Here are the system requirements and pricing:
System Requirements
Vista to 10
500 MB of hard drive space Screen1024× 700 minimum 64 bits only.

Mac Mavericks (10.9) to Sierra (10.12) 300 MB of hard drive space Screen1024 × 700 minimum Internet connection for searches, publications, integrated maps and dashboard. 
No rate increases.
Windows: unlimited version at
US $29.99
Mac: Unlimited version at
US $49.99.
Due to the requirements of the AppStore, the Mac version does not have an update rate but a launch rate priced at US $24.99 until February 28, 2017, at 50% discount.

BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference

The 49th annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy will offer more than 100 classes, allowing participants to gain new skills and helpful information. The Conference is held on the beautiful Brigham Young University Campus in Provo, Utah every July. This year's four-day conference is scheduled for July 25 - 28, 2017 at the BYU Conference Center, Provo, Utah. 

The Conference Center is presently under construction, as it was for last year's conference. I drive by the Conference Center nearly every day as go to the BYU Family History Library and have been watching the construction. I was pretty sure the construction would not be completed by July of this year. I have attended the conference in the past and enjoyed some really interesting classes. This year, I have submitted some topics to teach at the Conference, but I know there are a lot of applicants and I haven't heard yet if any of my proposals will be accepted. I live only about five minutes away from the Conference Center so it is very convenient to go to the Conference. 

Compared to the large #RootsTech 2017 Conference, this one is relatively low-key, but the main difference is that the presenters are more focused on genealogy research. Here is a list of topics to be covered:
  • Youth and Genealogy
  • LDS Family History Callings
  • FamilySearch Family Tree
  • DNA Research
  • Google Genealogy
  • ICAPGen
  • U.S. Research
  • Methodology
  • International Research
  • Scandinavian Research
Additionally, the BYU Family History Library is open during the event and is right there on the campus of the university and you could spend some time in the second largest family history library in the world. However, Monday, July 24th, is a Utah State holiday and the Library and the rest of the University are closed. July 24th is Pioneer Day in Utah when the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. However, during the days of the Conference, if you would like a tour of the BYU Family History Library and maybe some help with research, I can probably schedule some appointments in the evenings after the conference, assuming the Library is open. We are on the academic calendar and classes are scheduled during the conference so the rest of the school will be open and running as usual. 

The weather in Provo is warm and sunny but there can be rain. Provo is about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City and there are quite a few hotels and dozens of restaurants near the campus. Provo is not particularly a walking city so you would likely need a car to get around. Provo is right next to some very high mountains and the altitude of the city varies from about 4500 feet above sea level to over 5000 feet above sea level. If you are not used to the altitude, you need to be aware that you might get more tired than usual walking around. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Building Bridges in the Air

I have been reviewing some of the online pedigrees for my remote ancestors and I commonly see people added either without any source citations or where the locations cited do not match the places where the family lived. When we are confronted with a unified family tree program, such as the Family Tree where all of the registered users have access to edit and add content, we need to be extremely careful to examine the sources and conclusions derived from those sources.

Most of the errors I find in these online family trees are like trying to build a bridge in the air. You need to start with a firm foundation before you start building the bridge out in the middle of the stream. Here is a quote from the Family Tree about one of my ancestors.
This information recently came to light--mostly from *** (name of person deleted), and then using my brain and promptings to 'organize' that information into the families as they really were.
This is what was provided rather than a source citation to any historical record. I really don't know how to respond to genealogy by "brain and promptings." I am certainly not discounting the importance of inspiration or insights, but they both usually come after a lot of hard work and research. In this particular case, no one has apparently reviewed even the records that are easily obtained and available. From my personal standpoint, I am still documenting this line starting with the previous or more recent generations. What is interesting about this comment is that the comment relates to a person who is not yet well documented from existing sources.

I would certainly agree that genealogy would be a lot easier if all I had to do was think about the families and not have to be bothered with all that messy and pesky documentation, but unfortunately, I am stuck with having done too many years of research to simply dump it all in the trash in exchange for good feelings and my "brain."

Genealogy should be source-centric. Every date and place should be supported by an evaluated and pertinent source document or record. As I have written many time before, unsupported entries in the Family Tree or any other compilation of genealogical data that is unsupported by valid sources is mere speculation.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Nine

England got a double dose of Latin-speaking (i.e. now called Romance Languages) conquerors. First, in ancient times, the Romans invaded the British Islands and ruled from 43 A.D. to 410 A.D. Then in 1066, William the Conqueror came with his Norman-French army. In addition, because of the influence of the Catholic Church, Latin was commonly used in both church and legal proceedings.

In the United States, copying Europe, a classically educated person was supposed to be fluent in both speaking and writing Latin. Of course, since there are no recordings of people who lived before recording machines were invented, we have only a very sketchy understanding of how Latin, more particularly, ancient Latin sounded when spoken. We can make very educated guesses, but we cannot know for sure.

So, because of the preeminence of Latin in both the ancient liturgical and legal communities, we are still burdened by a large number of Latin phrases even up to the present day. As I have written previously, some of these Latin words and phrases have become so common, they have passed into the English language and are used as regular English words.

Genealogists run into Latin in legal documents of all kinds including, but not limited to, court records, land and property records, contracts and many other types of records. Fortunately, when a genealogist today encounters a Latin term, the researcher can use a quick Google search to give the meaning and the context of the term.

So, why am I writing these blog posts about Latin terms? Good question. Since I speak Spanish fluently and have had a long exposure to legal terms, I suppose I just might be able to give some insight into the practical, as opposed to the "dictionary" meaning of some of the more commonly heard terms.

Here I go again.

pro bono publico literally, "for the common good"
This phrase is usually shortened to "pro bono." At the present time, the word is applied to the practice of doing work for the good of the public and with a total disregard for compensation or credit. In most places in the United States, attorneys are encouraged to provide a certain number of hours of work for free each year under the guise of working pro bono. However, most of us did a lot more work for free than we planned to or expected to do. When the phrase is used as "pro bono publico" it usually refers to some kind of charitable work. 

prima facie literally, "at first face" of better yet "at first look"
This is another term that has passed into the English language but it does have a fairly complex meaning in English. It is often used when something is obvious or self-evident. But it is also used in a technical sense in court to refer to the fact that the evidence in a lawsuit has to exceed some minimal level of proof before the case is deemed at issue, as in the following: the attorney failed to make a prima facia case for his client and the matter was dismissed by the court.

post mortem literally, "after death"
This is yet another phrase that has passed into English. It refers to the actions of a coroner or any one else who performs services for the deceased after death. The phrase has become common in television shows about special police criminal investigation units.

posse comitatus literally, "power of the county" or more generally, "power of the community"
This phrase was appropriated by a far-right political group in the 1960s. It is commonly defined as the common-law or statutory law authority of a county sheriff, or other law enforcement officer, to conscript any able-bodied man to assist him in keeping the peace or to pursue and arrest a felon, similar to the concept of the "hue and cry." The phrase originally appeared in the English common law. See Wikipedia: Posse comitatus. It is commonly shortened to "posse" and overused in old western movies. It has been partially outlawed in the United States. 

persona non grata literally, "unwelcome person"
Some of these phrases have become so common that they have not only become English words but also have become used so frequently that they have, in essence, a single word. In this case, just as with the previous phrase, movies and TV converted this word into a household term and uprooted it from its classical Latin beginnings. Although I have heard this word in a lot of other contexts, I cannot remember ever hearing the phrase used in court or in a legal pleading. 

per stirpes literally, "by branch"
A method of distributing an estate to the descendants of a deceased legatee in which the estate is divided equally among the branches of a family, without regard to differing numbers of people in different branches. Wikipedia: Per stirpes. Well, that is about as simple as you can get with methods of distribution in an estate. The practical reality of this type of distribution is that, for example, each child of the deceased takes the same amount regardless of how many children they have. 

per se literally, "by itself"
This is one of two of the Latin phrases I use more than any other. It has a multitude of uses and I usually use it for the English phrase, "without more" or in the words of Porky Pig, "That's all folks."

per quod literally, "by which" or "whereby"
The English translation has no real meaning but the Latin implies an entire legal issue. Quoting from the Wikipedia article entitled, "Per quod"
Per quod is a Latin phrase (meaning whereby) used to illustrate that the existence of a thing or an idea is on the basis of external circumstances not explicitly known or stated.
The article goes on to give a legal example:
"Statements are considered defamatory per quod if the defamatory character of the statement is not apparent on its face, and extrinsic facts are required to explain its defamatory meaning." Kolegas v. Heftel Broadcasting Corp., 607 N.E.2d 201, 206 (Ill. 1992)
With defamation per quod, the plaintiff has to prove actual monetary and general damages, as compared to defamation per se where the special damages are presumed.
A quick search on Google Scholar showed 3,480 United States' legal cases that used the phrase.

per proxima amici literally, "by the next friend"
This phrase addresses the issue of when a minor child cannot maintain an action pro per, then the court must appoint an adult to act "pro proxima amici."

In English the person appointed by the Court is often referred to as the "next friend" of the court. 

per curiam literally, "through the court."In the United States, this term usually refers to decisions made by the U.S. Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court where the decision of the court fails to list the judges from a multijudge panel who did not support the decision.

Well, time to stop again. Who knows when the urge to dive into some Latin phrases will strike me again?

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Was your ancestor a criminal? Criminal Law for Genealogists -- Part One

It is fairly common among those searching out their family history to find someone who was jailed for some reason or another. To some, this may seem to be something shameful to be ignored or even edited out of the family's history, but to other researchers, everything that happens to our ancestors creates the potential for valuable historical records.

In researching my own family, I have found a few instances of ancestors who were accused and convicted of criminal laws. I found one ancestor who appeared in the U.S. Federal Census in a California prison. In another instance, our family tradition was that a certain ancestor had never been arrested or convicted even though the tradition was clear that he had violated the law. Through research in local newspapers of the time, I was able to find an account of his conviction, although he did not have to go to jail.

Today's media is almost saturated with depictions of crimes and criminals. Unfortunately, very few of these shows come even close to representing the reality of the criminal justice system either in the present or in the past. Most of the dramatic depictions either focus on criminal trials or incarceration. In my own experience, when I was representing criminal defendants as a court-appointed attorney, criminal trials are just about as boring and ordinary as any other type of court proceeding. In the United States for the last 50 years or so, only a very small percentage of criminal convictions are entered as a result of a trial. Almost uniformly the vast majority of criminals in the United States plead guilty as a result of some plea agreement.

Criminal law is statutory law. This means that crimes are defined by the laws passed by the legislature or other ruling entity and are distinct from civil laws by the penalties imposed: fines, forfeitures or incarceration. Although there are civil fines, criminal laws usually have incarceration either as an addition to a monetary fine or instead of a monetary fine. In the more distant past, criminal laws are sometimes depicted as harsh and unreasonable, but with any historical research, it is important to view events in the context of the time when they occurred. From our present viewpoint, the penalties and treatment of criminal prisoners may seem harsh and very unfair, but in the early 1800s and before, individuals had very few rights to which we now believe everyone is entitled.

If we wrongfully assume that the conditions that exist today are the same as existed in the past, we will often miss important historical information. For example, we may dwell on the hardships suffered by our ancestors because of their primitive living conditions, but in doing this, we fail to realize that everyone lived under those same conditions. When we go camping we may have to give up a few modern conveniences such as hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing, but most of our ancestors lived with those "primitive conditions" all of the time. When we see movies or read about the deplorable conditions suffered by prisoners in the distant past, we need to have some perspective about how the rest of the population was living.

The procedures in criminal court cases are extremely complex. But the good news is that genealogists do not have to understand all the reasons and ramifications for each of the complex steps in the judicial process, but if you are reviewing a criminal court file for genealogical information, it does help to have a general knowledge of the procedure. Here is a summary of the court process as it is presently in the United States:
  • Criminal act alleged or reported
  • Investigation
  • Arrest
  • Individual charged with criminal act (Note: there are several ways this can happen)
  • Appearance before a judge to determine incarceration or release pending further action
  • Initial appearance (used to determine further proceedings and scheduling)
  • Pretrial procedures including further investigation
  • Preliminary hearing 
  • Arraignment where defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty
  • Pretrial Proceeding
  • Trial
  • Sentencing
  • Appeal
This is a really sketchy outline. Depending on the severity and publicity of the crime, these proceeding can get really complicated. But again, in the vast majority of the cases in the United States, if the defendant pleads guilty, the case moves on to the sentencing phase and the case is essentially over. 

In future posts, I plan to discuss the documents that genealogists might use from actual court records. 

Stay tuned.