Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Last night, the vaunted Google Fiber network to our house in Provo, Utah went dead. A chat with Google that lasted over an hour, ended up with an announcement that the first day they could schedule anyone to come and look at the situation was five days off. I might as well be sitting in the middle of Canyonlands National Park. Fortunately, I do have the alternative of driving down to the BYU Family History Library and camping out for the entire day.
I recently wrote a post about backing up your data files (and everything else while you are at it) called, "Back It Up, Archive It, Preserve It or Lose It." I fear that I didn't emphasize enough the evanescent nature of each of the popular media for backing up computer data. Genealogists generate a lot of data. Historically, this was, and still is, most piles of paper. But those of use attached to the internet are accumulating huge numbers of files. I may have mentioned this recently, but my most recent backup entailed the transfer of more than 10 million files and took three full days.
If you listen to the "back it up online" advocates, they represent their products and programs to be the solution to all your data preservation issues. But as my recent experience with my internet connection illustrates, depending on the internet to be operational at any given moment can be risky. I have long ago learned not to rely on internet connections when doing presentations in classes or at conferences. But our recent five-day down experience should be a graphic demonstration of the present unreliability of all of the forms of backing up data.
The only answer is to have more that one backup media and then add redundancy to each of the different methods. In other words, don't put all your eggs in the same basket.
If you use hard drives, make sure that you have more than one hard drive and in the best case scenario, keep one off site in a trusted location. If you use any other media, such as flash drives (thumb drives to some) then this redundancy is even more important.
I may be struggling to have time to write. I usually start very early in the day and write most of the morning. For the time being, I will have to get completely ready and travel to the Library to write at all.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
I recently upgraded my iPhone to the new iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 7 Plus has the following camera specs:
Digital Photography for Genealogists - James Tanner
- 12 MP wide-angle and telephoto
- Wide angle f/1.8 aperture
- Telephoto f/2.8 aperture
- Optical zoom at 2x, digital zoom up to 10x
- 20,4 MP Exmor R CMOS
- ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar® T* Lens
- f/2.8 - f/6.3 (Telephoto) aperture
- 50x optical zoom
Of course, the sensors are different due to the physical size of the cameras. The sensor on the Sony is a 1/2.3 inch or 7.82 mm sensor. The iPhone has a 3.99 mm sensor.
I wanted to compare the two cameras with the same photo taken at about the same time. So I went outside in the morning when it was 26 degrees and took the following photos with the two cameras. You can click on the photos to see them full-size.
Here is the Sony photo.
Each of the photos is entirely unretouched and straight from the camera.
The following photo was taken with the iPhone 7 Plus camera using the standard Apple photo app.
I then took one more photo, before I froze, with a newer app called ProCam 4 - Manual Camera + RAW. All of the photos were taken from JPEGs to even the field.
Then I pulled all three photos into Photoshop CC 2017 and started to work with them. Here are details from all three photos at 200% magnification.
First the Sony:
Now the iPhone with the Apple app
I don't really need to go much further. The iPhone image is already losing detail. If I go to 300% magnification, the difference becomes even more obvious.
Here is the Sony at 300%:
Here is the iPhone at 300%:
The new smartphone cameras are being promoted as a "replacement" or "equivalent" to DSLR cameras. Baloney. The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX400V is technically a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera or DSLR but it is also an inexpensive consumer level camera. The iPhone 7 Plus cost around $800 and the Sony cost about $450. If I did the same test with my Canon 5D Mark II, there would be an even greater difference in resolution. In cameras, most of the time, you get what you pay for. Smartphone cameras have a long way to go before they replace my DSLR or even my Sony camera. For a better comparison, here is a photo of the same part of the mountain taken with the Sony using the camera's zoom option and no magnification in Photoshop.
Now, if you go back and look at the two original photos, you might say they were about the same. The difference is in the amount of information contained in the photo. This might or might not seem important to you, but as a professional photographer it is very important.
If you want some more information about digital photography see my video for the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.
Petitioner the Callaway Family Association, Inc., was incorporated on September 3, 1975, as a nonprofit corporation under the District of Columbia Non-Profit Corporation Act. It filed a Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, under section 501(c)(3) on December 28, 1976. The application was filed with the Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., and was forwarded to the Office of the District Director of the Internal Revenue Service in Baltimore, Md. Respondent issued a final notice of determination dated October 20, 1977, affirming a prior adverse determination of June 8, 1977, which denied petitioner exemption under section 501(c)(3). Respondent determined that petitioner's genealogical activities are not in furtherance of an exempt purpose specified in section 501(c)(3) and that they serve the private interests of the Callaway family members.The Petitioner's Articles of Incorporation outlined the educational objectives of the corporation as follows:
A. To study British immigration to the North American colonies in the early colonial period and to further knowledge and understanding of the contribution made by the descendants of those early colonists to the subsequent growth and development of the continental United States by tracing the migratory patterns of succeeding generations and by researching the social and economic milieu in which they lived. In abstracting and collecting historical data in furtherance of this objective, to concentrate research on the public and family records of the Callaway (as variously spelled) and related families, as being typical of the times and places in which they lived;The Tax Court Judge cited additional purposes of the Association as follows:
B. To issue publications featuring abstracts of the raw historical and genealogical data collected and generalized articles based thereon and, ultimately, a synthesis of all collected data in the form of a history of social and economic development in pertinent parts of the United States, as typified by the growth and dispersal of the Callaway and related families; and
C. To provide instruction and education in the methodology of historical, biographical, and genealogical research, encouraging the compilation and preservation of accurate and complete records, and to promote scholarly writing.
These purposes are to be accomplished by activities including the annual publication of The Callaway Journal; annual "meetings" with lectures; workshops in genealogyresearch; and the ultimate publication of the history of the Callaway family. This history, petitioner states, will be "an effort to chronicle the process of the peopling of America as seen through the eyes of one family." (Some citations omitted).The basic issue of the case was whether or not the activities of the Association were broad enough to qualify as general educational objectives that would benefit the larger public interests or were so limited that they only benefitted the named group i.e. the Calloway family.
Of course, the advantage of obtaining tax exemption for a family association would be that any income made by the Association would not be subject to income taxes. If the Association qualified as a 501(c)(3) organization then donations made to the Association may have been tax deductible.
The Tax Court Judge identified the issues of the case as being whether or not the petitioner was operated exclusively for educational purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3). He states that the Petitioner contends that its purposes are educational and benefit the general public. He further noted that Petitioner maintains that its genealogical research and associated activities are a means to the end of providing insights [in]to our country's history by use of a methodology which focuses on one family's development.
The Respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue, on the other hand,
...contends that the petitioner's purposes primarily serve the private interests of its members, the Callaway family, no matter how diverse and widespread that family might be. Respondent maintains that the administrative record supports a finding that petitioner aimed its organizational drive at Callaway family members, and appealed to them on the basis of their private interests. In its ruling letter dated October 20, 1977, respondent concluded that petitioner did not qualify for exempt status because:
More than an insubstantial part of [petitioner's] activities consists of the compilation and publication of a genealogical history of the Callaway family, and this activity is not in furtherance of an exempt purpose specified in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Also [petitioner's], organization is serving the private interests of members of the Callaway family, rather than serving a public interest.
If you were considering the formation of a family association or other organization, how would you change the description of the of the corporation's Articles of Incorporation to comply with the United States Tax Laws? From my perspective, it appears that either the corporation tried to obtain tax-exempt status without the benefit of consulting legal counsel or the advice they received was faulty. There is a specific provision, as noted by the Tax Court Judge, that Section 501(c)(3) holds as follows:
The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.The Tax Court Judge noted that:
Finally, petitioner relies heavily on Rev. Rul. 71-580, 1971-2 C.B. 235, in which respondent granted tax-exempt status to a family association that compiled a family's genealogy for religious purposes. Petitioner insists that respondent must follow his own revenue ruling. However, we need not pass on this argument for we find that Rev. Rul. 71-580 is distinguishable.What the Tax Court Judge means here is that he does not think that the earlier ruling can be used as an argument in this particular case. The Tax Court Judge expands on his explanation of the prior case as follows:
Rev. Rul. 71-580 involved the narrow issue whether a family association furnishing "genealogical information the [Mormon] Church needs in order to conduct certain religious ordinances in accordance with basic religious doctrines" is an exempt religious organization under section 501(c)(3). The Mormon Church follows a practice of setting up family groups to study the genealogy of each member family back to Adam and Eve. This is part of a broader goal of the church to record the names of all deceased persons and to perform baptism upon them, since Mormon theology holds that salvation for the dead can be effected by the living. The names of all known ancestors collected by each family group are stored in a central location. These records, they believe, will be the basis for judgment on the last day, since deceased ancestors of members may be accepted into the church through their living family members.The court indicates that the general educational purpose of the Petitioner Association does not fall within the specific exemption given to a religious purpose. I would note that the ruling cited relies on some inaccurate factual details. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon Church] does not follow the practice of "setting up to study the genealogy of each member family back to Adam and Eve." The purpose of family organizations in the church is much broader than this simplistic explanation and members are certainly not encouraged to try to pursue their family trees back to Adam. In addition, there is an implication that deceased family members are "accepted into the church through their living family members." This is also a misstatement. In this regard, I suggest that anyone interested in this doctrine read the following article on LDS.org: "Baptisms for the Dead" where it states,
It is evident that family genealogical associations play an integral role in Mormon religious practices. Accordingly, Rev. Rul. 71-580 analogized the exempt status allowed for this practice of the Mormon Church to cases which have upheld trusts for other religious practices, such as Catholic masses for the dead and Hebrew memorial services for the repose of souls. The law of charity has traditionally recognized trusts for these and similar religious purposes as charitable on the theory that the religious purpose of the trust is of spiritual benefit to all the members of that faith and to the general public as well. We believe that this is a sufficient basis for distinguishing petitioner's case from the narrow circumstances encompassed in Rev. Rul. 71-580.
Some people have misunderstood that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church.When I read a case like this, I am reminded of my experience with news reporting. When I personally know the facts of a particular news story, I am nearly always amazed at the inaccuracies reported.
In the end, the Tax Court Judge denied the appeal made by the Petitioner Association. Given the condition of the Association's Articles of Incorporation, the decision was a foregone conclusion due to the advantages accruing to individuals and not the general public.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Preliminary note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of any other entity or organization including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It has now been two years since the Mesa FamilySearch Library closed for renovations. Apparently, the renovations were to take about a month or so, but problems with the building housing the Library stopped the entire operation. Now two years later, the Library is operating out of the old building the corner of 1st Avenue and LeSueur, 464 E. 1st Avenue, Mesa, Arizona. For some reason, the website for the Library is down at the time of this post. I served as a volunteer missionary at the Mesa FamilySearch Library for about ten years.
Most of the individual Family History Centers around the world are operated by the local units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called "Stakes." There are approximately 5000 of such Centers in operation. The Mesa FamilySearch Library was variously called the Mesa Family History Center, the Mesa Large Multi-Stake Family History Center, and the Mesa Regional Family History Center at one time or another. Operation of a large Family History Center such as the one in Mesa is complicated by the fact that several different Church organizations have input and control of different aspects of the operation. For example, the maintenance of the facilities falls under the general building maintenance of the Church, while the volunteers are asked to serve under the direction of the Church Missionary Department and serve as Church Sevice Missionaries. In addition, the overall supervision and control of the Centers comes from FamilySearch.
During the time of its operation out of the newer building at 41 South Hobson in Mesa, there were about 150 missionaries serving and helping more than 35,000 patrons a year. At the time it closed, the Library had the following resources:
- 129 computers and 14 film/fiche readers
- Free access to subscription-based Internet websites, Including FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, Footnote, HeritageQuest, AmericanAncestors.org (formerly New England Historic Genealogical Society), World Vital Records, Godfrey Memorial Library and many other sites.
- Pedigree Resource File CDs
- Over 700 Commercial CDs with genealogical research data.
- Over 30,000 to 40,000 Books, including many digital books. Index of the Digital Books
- Over 81,000 rolls of microfilm and 52,000 microfiche. Additional films and fiche may be rented from the Family History Library.
- Copiers and printers are available.
- Genealogy software programs, forms, research outlines, word lists, etc., available at cost in our Copy Room.
- Free Classes and Workshops --- Over 90 classes and workshops scheduled each month.
- Research Specialty Committees.
- Workshops -- with 26 computers at the Family History Training Center, 464 E. 1st Avenue for hands-on-training.
Over the last two years, I have inquired several times as to the possible disposition of the facility and the future of the Library without any firm response. Meanwhile, FamilySearch has proceeded with several other large Family History Center and Family Discovery Center projects.
As I have recently written, many of the existing Family History Centers are losing the attraction of their basic resources due to the ongoing digitization projects being finalized in the not-to-distant future by FamilySearch. The majority of the books in the Mesa FamilySearch Library have already been digitized and added to the FamilySearch.org website. Currently, the FamilySearch.org Books collection has 321,206 digitized volumes. With the conclusion of the digitization of the microfilm collection in the Salt Lake Family History Library in the next few years, the main reasons for doing research in a facility like the Mesa FamilySearch Library will end. Most of the reasons for visiting a library or center such as the one in Mesa were based on the research resources available. Here in the United States, for example, most of the people in the country now have access to online computers at home. A Pew Institute Study entitled, "Americans' Internet Access: 2000-2015" indicates that in 2015, 84% of the adults in the United States had internet access.
However, one component of some of the Family History Centers, including Mesa, is the ability to provide excellent training and support to patrons. If the type of center in Mesa is going to continue to operate in the future, these centers will have to become primarily teaching, training, and support facilities. It may well be that this almost certain future of the existing Family History Centers dominates the reasoning behind virtually closing down much of the Mesa facility's operation. If that is the case, then many of the Family History Centers in the United States will probably suffer the same fate as the one in Mesa, particularly those
Family History Centers located in countries other than the United States serve a different function. Where there is limited access to internet technology the Family History Centers give patrons free access to online resources.
I recently took a look at the Ancestry.com Card Catalog as of the date of this post. Ancestry.com has always been a major resource for finding your ancestors in the United States and Great Britain but has not been so helpful in other parts of the world. If you take a look at the new collections added to the website recently, you will see that this limitation is rapidly changing. Here are a few excerpts showing the globalization of the collections.
- Japan, Clan Genealogies, 850-2012 (in Japanese)
- Magdeburg, Germany, Births, 1874-1903 (in German)
- Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1783-1875 (in German)
- Korea, Collection of Genealogies, 1500-2009 (in Korean)
- Callao, Peru, Civil Registration, 1874-1996 (in Spanish)
- Serrara Fontana, Napoli, Italy, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929 (in Italian)
The list could go on and on. Interestingly, these additions are primarily from FamilySearch.org. For example, the Serrara Fontana, Napoli, Italy, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929 (in Italian) collection has the following description of the source:
Ancestry.com. Serrara Fontana, Napoli, Italy, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.These extensive collections are a benefit of the strategic partnerships created between FamilySearch and some of the large online databases. The important fact here is that these collections were in microfilm format from FamilySearch.org and are now indexed on Ancestry.com. The images are on FamilySearch.org.
Original data: Italy, Napoli, Serrara Fontana, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
We can expect more of this kind of synergy to occur in the near future as FamilySearch finishes the task of digitizing all of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in its vast collection.
But this also points out the importance to genealogists that they break away from the "traditional" methods they have used to find documents and realize that they need to look at a wider, globalized network of information rather than relying on the their "accepted" methods of doing their research.
When the early European explorers began their voyages of discovery in the 1400s, they had no idea about the ultimate results of their precarious adventures. From a global perspective, they weren't really discovering anything at all. Nearly all the places they "discovered" were already inhabited and had been for thousands of years. What was really happening was globalization. Those people living on the American continents were just as ignorant of the existence of the Europeans as the Europeans were of those in America.
The physical contact established by the so-called explorers created a worldwide system of communication between the previously isolated populations of the world. In some places, such as in the Amazon jungles, this expansion of communication and contact is still going on today. But just as the end effect of this "Age of Discovery" could not be imagined or even visualized by the early participants, we cannot comprehend or visualize the effects of the communication changes that are rapidly occurring today.
The Age of Discovery has lasted over five hundred years and there are still places in the world that are almost completely unknown and seldom mentioned or visited. Now, we are well into a completely different type of globalization. This expansion of communication is often referred to, incorrectly, as the dawn of the Information Age. It is really the beginning of the Network Age. There are differing estimates, but almost certainly, within the next few years, we will see nearly the entire population of the world connected to one vast network.
As genealogists, we are being swept up in this globalization, ready or not, willing or not. Part of this process of globalization includes the digitization of practically all aspects of our lives. We constantly hear about millions of new records being digitized almost every day. But this is only one aspect of the entire process. A digitized record is no more accessible than a paper record until it becomes available online through the network.
If you were a tenant farmer or serf living in a European country during the entire "Age of Discovery," your life or the lives of your descendants would hardly have changed during those hundreds of years of discovery from the 15th Century until the 19th Century except for those who immigrated to another country such as to America. In contrast, presently, even the most remote villages of the world are being impacted directly and profoundly by the expansion of the digital network.
Statistics about the globalization of the network exceed our ability to comprehend the numbers. Estimates are that there will be at least 4.77 billion mobile phone users by the end of next year; 2017.
See "Number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2013 to 2019 (in billions)." That number is about 64% of the world population. But the impact of those numbers is much greater because even one mobile phone in a family will engender a substantial change in the lives of that family.
I am constantly reminded of the impact of these changes as I interact with genealogists around the world. So why am I writing again about this topic? Genealogists comprise an interesting subset of humanity. Over the years that I have been intensely involved in the genealogical community, the demographics of the participants have hardly changed. The person most likely to be interested in doing genealogical research has for some time been a 50+-year-old female with a college degree. Of course, there are exceptions and every time this topic comes up, I get comments about the exceptions.
Network globalization is starting to have some dramatic effects on genealogical research and methodology. But just as the serfs in Europe were little changed until relatively recently, likewise those genealogists who continue to try to rely on traditional paper-based research are being caught in a technological backwater. These traditional genealogists keep focusing on paper forms such as Research Logs and Family Group Records. I was listening to a class recently where the instructor told the participants to put all of their ancestor's surnames in capital letters so they could identify the surname. This was a common paper practice for years but has been entirely obviated by computerized forms that clearly separate the surname from the given names. The suggestion at this point in time is an archaic artifact.
But we are not just faced with a change in methodology that mandates a few adjustments to the way we record our information. We are really faced with a monumental change in the way information is obtained, manipulated, evaluated and recorded. Genealogy has always been a complicated pursuit. But now it has been globalized and networked into something that has become unimaginably complex. This complexity has driven many of the "traditional" genealogists into a protective shell of focusing on trivial formalism in an attempt to block out the reality of networked globalization.
As I sit in front of my computer using a Google Fiber connection to the internet, I can visualize an immense network of connections that spread out over the entire world. If I want to find out something our research a topic, in seconds I can find more information than was even possible to imagine just a few years ago. For the past few months, we have been working with a patron at the BYU Family History Library who was looking for an immigrant ancestor born in "Germany" in the mid-1800s. This patron, unlike many others, refused to be defeated in her research. She continued to come to the Library for help, week after week. During her first visit, we told her exactly what she needed to do to find her immigrant ancestor. It took her weeks of returning to the Library before she internalized what we had said during her first visit and finally after we repeated the instructions, she realized how the network worked and she was able to find her ancestor. She did this by ultimately identifying where he was born and then locating a researcher in Germany who could help her with research in the original records.
The point here is that the challenge of finding the origin of an immigrant ancestor involved using the complex resources of a vast global network of connections. Historically, she might have accomplished the same thing through letter writing and over a long period of time, but email and the online resources that were available facilitated the solution of the problem. On the other hand, it did take her weeks of study and thinking about the problem to even begin to conceptualize the solution. By the way, she was a 50+-year-old female with a college degree.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
The winner of the RootsTech 2017 Free Ticket Contest is David Howard of Mesa, Arizona. He was the first entrant with the correct answer. The geographic location was the top of this butte called the Temple of the Sun in Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. There were some entrants that also correctly located this geographic feature but unfortunately I only had one ticket to give away.