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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Free MyHeritage Online Genealogy Seminar

Here is an announcement from You might remember that MyHeritage purchased both the Legacy Family Tree program and the Legacy Webinar series. This is apparently one of the first offerings directly from MyHeritage. Here is the text of the announcement.
I'm happy to invite you to attend MyHeritage's first One-Day Genealogy Seminar, to be held on October 29, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. Learn from experts in the fields of DNA, Jewish genealogy, general research techniques, and technological trends in genealogy. MyHeritage will broadcast the lectures from our headquarters in Israel, and the public is invited to participate via Legacy Family Tree Webinars from anywhere in the world for FREE. Recordings of the lectures will later be available to view on demand for free. To register, click here
Please share this with your friends and followers. 
Best regards
Daniel Horowitz

Modern Europeans Have Twice as Much Neanderthal DNA as Previously Reported

This is the kind of story that you might usually expect on the cover of a supermarket tabloid, but apparently, there is some support for this updated disclosure. Some genealogists who have taken popular DNA tests have been getting results showing a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA for some time now. A search on results in over 1200 books and other publications on the subject of Neanderthal DNA. Checking on the website of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), there are two companies that represent providing Neanderthal DNA percentages: and the National Geographic, Genographic Project, Geno 2.0 Next Generation Test.

The headlines apparently come from findings at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany back in 2013 when the entire Neandertal (Neanderthal) genome was decoded. See "Entire Neandertal Genome Decoded." Although the news article does not give a citation to the source, the article that opened the issue to the discussion was published in the journal "Science" as "A high-coverage Neandertal genome from Vindija Cave in Croatia," by Dr. Kay Prüfer and others. Here is a copy of the abstract of the article:
To date the only Neandertal genome that has been sequenced to high quality is from an individual found in Southern Siberia. We sequenced the genome of a female Neandertal from ~50 thousand years ago from Vindija Cave, Croatia to ~30-fold genomic coverage. She carried 1.6 differences per ten thousand base pairs between the two copies of her genome, fewer than present-day humans, suggesting that Neandertal populations were of small size. Our analyses indicate that she was more closely related to the Neandertals that mixed with the ancestors of present-day humans living outside of sub-Saharan Africa than the previously sequenced Neandertal from Siberia, allowing 10-20% more Neandertal DNA to be identified in present-day humans, including variants involved in LDL cholesterol levels, schizophrenia and other diseases.
Perhaps this type of finding gives genealogists a little more accurate assessment of the value of the ethnicity estimates that are now popularly provided with genealogical DNA tests.

More about this later.

The Sonny Bono Memorial Collection on

I found an article recently entitled, "An obscure copyright law is letting the Internet Archive distribute books published 1923-1941" on Here is an explanation of the issue:
Section 108(h) of the Copyright Act gives libraries the power to scan and serve copies of out-of-print books published between 1923 and 1941; it's never been used before but now the mighty Internet Archive is giving it a serious workout, adding them to their brilliantly named Sonny Bono Memorial Collection (when Bono was a Congressman, he tried to pass a law that would extend copyright to "forever less a day" and was instrumental in moving millions of works from the public domain back into copyright, "orphaning" them so that no one could preserve them and no one knew who the copyrights belonged to).
Here is the Internet Archive's description of the collection:
We believe the works in this collection are eligible for free public access under 17 U.S.C. Section 108(h) which allows for non-profit libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, display and publicly perform a work if it meets the criteria of: a published work in the last twenty years of copyright, and after conducting a reasonable investigation, no commercial exploitation or copy at a reasonable price could be found. This provision was enacted at the same time as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. This collection has been named for Sonny Bono to acknowledge this valuable exemption specifically granted to libraries that was put into the law. 
Please be aware that subsequent uses may not be permitted under US copyright such as reproduction, distribution, display or public performance.

Works may be in the public domain already, in which case, these restrictions do not apply.
Section 108 (h) of the Copyright Act reads as follows:
(h)(1) For purposes of this section, during the last 20 years of any term of copyright of a published work, a library or archives, including a nonprofit educational institution that functions as such, may reproduce, distribute, display, or perform in facsimile or digital form a copy or phonorecord of such work, or portions thereof, for purposes of preservation, scholarship, or research, if such library or archives has first determined, on the basis of a reasonable investigation, that none of the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of paragraph (2) apply. 
(2) No reproduction, distribution, display, or performance is authorized under this subsection if— 
(A) the work is subject to normal commercial exploitation;
(B) a copy or phonorecord of the work can be obtained at a reasonable price; or
(C) the copyright owner or its agent provides notice pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Register of Copyrights that either of the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (A) and (B) applies. 
(3) The exemption provided in this subsection does not apply to any subsequent uses by users other than such library or archives. 
(i) The rights of reproduction and distribution under this section do not apply to a musical work, a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work, or a motion picture or other audiovisual work other than an audiovisual work dealing with news, except that no such limitation shall apply with respect to rights granted by subsections (b), (c), and (h), or with respect to pictorial or graphic works published as illustrations, diagrams, or similar adjuncts to works of which copies are reproduced or distributed in accordance with subsections (d) and (e).
If you can read that and understand what it is saying, you can also understand why copyright law in the United States is such a disaster. 

I need to note, however, that Internet Archive or now has over 14 million books online plus a lot of other stuff. For genealogists, many huge databases are going online on and not yet on any other website. It is time to begin regularly using this website for genealogical research.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Genealogy Cures the Common Cold and 43 Other Diseases

Note: After contacting my unnamed sources in the desert outside of Mesa, Arizona, I was able to obtain this top secret report from the American Advanced Genealogical Study Institute reporting a recent study about the effects of doing genealogy for 14 hours a day, seven days a week for 15 years. Please be aware that I am not responsible for this reports contents. Any use of this report's contents is strictly the responsibility of the individual. I must also report that my source has since disappeared into the Superstition Wilderness Area looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine.



22 October 2017. The AAGSI has today concluded a study that it has been secretly conducting for the past 15 years on the effects of doing genealogy for 14 hours a day, seven days a week. The study was concluded when the study subject succumbed to the 45th disease in the study. However, the promising conclusions of the study were verified just before the study subject expired. Yes, the study strongly supports the findings that the study subject, a white male approximately 70 years old, had actually been cured of 44 previously incurable diseases.

Before this study can be released to the public, it is necessary to substantiate the findings by doing another 15-year study using a group of grade school children. But because it will take approximately thirty years to train the children in genealogical research, the actual results of the follow-up study will not be available for approximately 45 years. Meanwhile, the AAGSI is secretly recruiting older test subjects who are already able to do research 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Participants will only be charged $1000 a month to participate in the study.

Subsequent Note: Unfortunately, it was almost 100 degrees outside when I met the informant out in the desert and by the time I was able to return to my air-conditioned car, I lost the rest of the report. All I was able to retrieve was this partial list of diseases from which the study subject was cured:

STUDY SUBJECT DISEASE CURES (in alphabetical order)

bladder in the throat
bone shave
crop sickness
eel thing
green fever
hectical complaint

This is where the document ends.

Your Local Library as a Genealogical Resource
If you take the time to look at your local library's website, you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that the library has a number of genealogically related services. This screenshot is a somewhat random page from a county in Florida. Granted, the resources are somewhat limited, but you should note that the main subject is a heritage collection of local photos. Here is a further screenshot of the collection page:*&by=KW&sort=PD&limit=TOM=dmc&query=&page=0&searchid=1
The genealogical resources that are available in local libraries often include local histories, photos, newspapers, and even journals, diaries, family bibles and other items of more than local interest. In addition, the librarians can be a source of valuable local information. I write about this topic from time to time because it is important that as we do research across the world to remember to check with the local libraries. By the way, I phone call does not constitute a visit. Sometimes phone calls will provide some information, but usually, a visit and taking the time to look at what is available will result in far more information.

Finding a local library is as simple as doing a search for a place and adding a search term such as the word "library." While you are searching for the local library, how about searching for a historical or genealogical society:
Here is the Alachua County Museum page.
Now you have three places to visit in this same county. Be sure to check on operating hours and services before attempting a visit.

Also, don't forget the county websites. Many of them have leads to further information about the county's history.

While you are doing research in the county, make time to visit and research in the court records and talk to local newspapers and mortuaries about their archives and records.

Targeted Advertising: Is it really targeted?

So-called targeted advertising is now part of our online world thanks to Google and all those who think that it is an effective way to reach consumers. Even genealogists are affected when we start seeing ads for genealogically related products initiated by our searches for data on different websites.

There are a lot of doomsayers and hand-wringers who predict the end of the world as we know it caused by Google trying to sell us products, but does targeted advertising really accomplish what they think it does?

Many years ago, my wife and I started the tradition of opening our mail next to a garbage can. Most of the obvious junk mail goes directly into the garbage without even being opened. When the unsolicited or junk mail is opened, we generally do this in order to shred the contents that might contain information we do not wish disseminated. In addition, we have junk filters on our computers that filter out almost all the spam. But what about display ads?

The idea behind targeted advertising is that as you do searches online, the information about you and your searches is used to match you up to products you would be interested in purchasing. Actually, this is not a new idea at all. Advertising companies have been targeting mailings for a long time. The reason the issue has become a concern is mainly based on the fact that Google and other search engines can gather so much more detailed information about us as users of their search services. This data is seen as a "threat" to our "privacy" and the unauthorized use of our personal information for profit.

The reality falls way short of the imagined effect of this targeted advertising. Here are some examples of why I find this to be the case:

1. Suppose I buy a replacement part for something that needs repair. I use the part to make the repair. Immediately, I start to get a series of online ads for the same part or related parts. I do not need the part again and I may never need the part again. The ads are mere noise and I am not induced in any way to buy the same part again that I only needed one time. This "one-time" issue goes for other items that I only purchase once a year or so. If I buy a new car, I am not likely to buy another new car for a long time so immediate ads for cars are simply noise and have no interest for me at all.

2. Again, let's suppose I search for a general topic such as "genealogy." On Google, my results will have one or more paid advertisements for genealogy-related websites. Here is an example.

If I happened to click on one or more of these paid advertisements, Google would directly or indirectly make a very small amount of money. But if I had actually wanted to find any one of these four websites, I would have searched for the website directly. Google has no real way of determining my motivation for searching for a general term. In this case, I used the search term as an example in this blog (Note: if you are in to self-referential statements, this blog post is fast becoming one).

3. So-called targeted advertising is entirely subject driven. If I search for clothes, I get clothes ads and so forth. But my searches do not always fall into the category of an interest in purchasing products. Targeted advertising makes an invalid assumption that I am a constant and single-minded consumer when nearly all my decision to purchase items falls into categories that are not addressed by advertising. For example, I periodically need to maintain my cars including oil changes, tires, windshield wipers, etc. When I search for these items online, I have a specific item or service in mind. Suggestions of other products are merely noise. This is particularly evident when the ads are trying to sell me products I already use or purchase. The products I really need or want seldom, if ever, appear in the targeted advertising.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Here is a targeted ad from one of our commonly used genealogy websites:

Once I sign in to, my screen changes into a series of "targeted" ads for different features or products. Obviously, FamilySearch is not trying to get me to buy something, but they are trying to motivate me as a "consumer" of their services. Yes, I am presently a "Temple and Family History Consultant" but the repeated ad does not take into account that I have already extensively "learned about my calling." Likewise, I am abundantly aware of Record Hints (i.e. the blue icon list on the right side of the page). In fact, all I really want to do is use the catalog or go to the Family Tree, this constant reminder of the services is nothing more or less than noise.

FamilySearch is certainly not alone in this practice of targeted advertising. Here is another example.

Here again is a list of "Product and Services," most of which are merely redundant listings of the items in the menu bar. This list does not take into account that I already have purchased a DNA test from and has "Learn about AncestryDNA" at the top of the list. In short, their targeted list includes nothing I am interested in when I go to to do research or update my family tree. I know I can "customize" my Ancestry startup page, but I hardly notice this page as I continue to use the program. I am certain that there is a whole legion of Ancestry employees who agonize over what to put on this list and how to present it. Their entire effort is simply lost on me.

What seems to be lost on most, if not all, of these online advertisers is that we ignore them. When the level of advertising reaches a certain point we also stop using their services. One common question I get from those who use is what are they supposed to do with the stuff that appears on their personalized startup page and my response is always to just ignore it unless there is something they are really interested in doing right at the moment. Yes, there are websites and services I will not use, simply because they saturate their online environment with advertising. Here is an example.

There is nothing that will make me use I do not want and will not look at the stuff on this website.

Friday, October 20, 2017

MyHeritage on Good Morning Britain

Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid Discover Their DNA Origins | Good Morning Britain

Aaron Godfrey - VP of Marketing for appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain. MyHeritage also recently appeared on Russell Brand's popular radio show which you can watch here.

Here is the United States, MyHeritage has not had a high-level media presence, especially when compared to another of the huge online genealogy companies. But recently, I have been seeing some video ads on so I am guessing that the company is finally making a move into a higher level of marketing visibility here in the U.S. as well as in Great Britain.