Monday, 22 February 2016

Standards Matter!

In December, Ancestry caused shock and consternation to Family Tree Maker users by announcing that the software was to be discontinued.  On 2 February, Ancestry announced that they had sold Family Tree Maker to Software Mackiev, who have been developing the Mac version for the last 6 years.  However, if you think you can relax and concerns can be dismissed, I suggest you think again.

The big issue, that of getting of your hard won data, complete and intact, out of Family Tree Maker, remains unresolved.  The release of unspecified updates have been announced, due on 1 March, but I do not hold out hope that a compliant GEDCOM export will be included.

Much has been written about the shortcomings of GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communication), which is a dead standard because it has not been developed or supported since the late 1990s.  Despite years of agitation by independent developers, the formation of interest groups like BetterGedcom and FHISO, and many proposals for improvements, the major players in the genealogy industry have failed to co-operate in the development of a new genealogical data standard. 

A feeding frenzy of offers from other genealogy software vendors to FTM users followed the December announcement.  Sadly the widely touted idea that a GEDCOM file from FTM will perfectly transfer your data to another program is just not true.  Apart from the inadequacies of the GEDCOM standard, practically universal non-compliance with the standard further complicate data transfer.  In a series of 13 posts entitled Replacing Family Tree Maker, Keith Riggle is examining how to correct the faulty export and import processes for a range of genealogy software.  The comparison is presented as a crosswalk table

The take home message for the non-technical reader is that there should be no red or yellow blocks in this table. 

A program that does not comply is a shoddy product.  Customers, please demand better quality. 

Developers and vendors, please take a hard look at your product and ensure compliance, and work co-operatively to develop a new genealogical data standard.

A new functional genealogy data standard also needs to interact with other data standards.  Genealogists use archives, digital files and images, and geographic data all the time. Well established standards exist for archival (e.g. ISAD(G)), digital curation (e.g. OAIS),
digital image metadata (e.g. Metadata Working Group) and geographic information (e.g. Open Geospatial Consortium). 

Standards underpin many things we take for granted in daily life, including kitchen appliances that fit under the worktop.  Standards matter for genealogy.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Philippine War Letter Home a Treasure Discovered

I was going through my mother's writing files, and was floored when I found a portion of a letter my grandfather Harry Ozro Whitson wrote home to his mother, sister, brother, and friends in Oklahoma from the Philippines during the war. There is only the first page and a fourth page, but the first has a drawing he made of his surroundings at the top.  It is priceless.  I asked my mother about it and if she had the other pages or knew who did. She (she suffers from dementia) said I didn't have it, you must have.  I knew it wasn't me, as I would never have laminated it.
This find was exciting.  I have already had one journey in finding my grandfather's experience during the Philippines War and wrote it here on my blog.
Harry O Whitson 

Company B picture location was not written on the back, just Spanish American War
This letter gave me first hand experience from him where he was and some of what he did, albeit it is only part of the story. These are the two pages of the letter.  I believe that he wrote on the back of the paper, but it is hard to tell since it is laminated together.
Letter from Harry O Whitson to his family in Oklahoma from the Philippines 1900 in possession of Fran Ellsworth 

Page 4 or flip side of above of Harry O Whitson's letter in possession of Fran Ellsworth

The hand drawn illustration on the first page.
I had downloaded GenScriber before for transcribing some wills and documents, so I dusted it off and began my hand at transcribing what my grandfather had written.  It was not easy and obviously as I worked I saw he didn't know how to spell many of the place names, I was able to figure it out, but I did not change anything as I was transcribing.  NOW, I have another reason for posting, hoping some of my eagle-eyed genfriends will see what I have missed and let me know. Crowd sourcing. (smiling) Those of you just starting, this is an awesome FamilySearch Wiki page that helps tremendously Transcribing Historical Documents (National Institute)
This is my attempt at transcribing the above letter.
Marinduquie, Santa Cruz, Oct the 28th  9100
The 38th, , U. S. V. Inf. Co. B
Dear friends Mother Sister Brother and friends one and all I will Try and let you know what we are dewing and have been for the last 30 days, We left the Luzon the 25th of last month for this place for the purpose of recapturing the 29th the 58 men and th?ec (their?) captors it was T. Co. who were captured they were about 12 miles from there quarters and they were very for st?f ok they would of never ben captured   We went through the country a cupel of times and they thought they had better turn them in so they turned them over to us they looked very hard for they they  had no shoes and but very little clothing of any kind
[page 2 and 3 are missing]
Page (4)And the seconday on water there were some sick boys  I enjoyed the trip very well myself the 27th of Dec ? disembarked at Minalea and this 1th day of January 1900 We left Minalea and landed at [Supor… Brxny] there […one word…]first on the firing line  The 1st of Jan  We started in the advance to the south line with 20,000 trops in the skurmish line through the rice fields We landed at Balangas Jan the 16th  and stayed there until Sept the 25th and then We left for Marinduque Island Santa cruz and there we are know but I do not think We shall stay here long  I will have to get ready for drill so long I will write some more to night good by

Using his letter, I searched on some of the old newspapers and found the press coverage of the same events and online I found, a wonderful webpage about the Philippine War from their perspective (always good to have). 
My grandfather's company was under Captain Anderson who was the first to go search for the captured men. From the accounts of the press it appears that it was not an easy task. This war was captioned later as the first Viet Nam.  
One of several newspaper articles I found.
The Inter Ocean
(Chicago, Illinois)
17 Oct 1900, Wed • Page 3

  When searching the Newspapers on,, and, I first put  Marinduque insurgents and the date 1900.  The articles came right up.  My grandfather's account was as accurate as he accounted it. My quest for information was satisfied.
On a side note I discovered a short article about their clothing on GenealogyBank which really made sense. This is just a snippet.  Those guys must have been miserable when they first arrived.
This War was not covered greatly in my American History class. It was lumped in the Spanish American war that featured Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, so this has been a learning experience for me as well as a journey that has helped me know my grandfather a little better, probably better than my mother who was only 2 months old when he died.  See you all next month ~FranE

Sunday, 14 February 2016

A Valentine's Day post: ancestors in love

Valentine poem to Miss C, Bath Chronicle, 24 February 1763
Bath Chronicle, 24 February 1763

It's St Valentine's Day, so I'm going to look at a few love stories from my family tree. Happy, sad, or awkward, they remind me that my ancestors and relatives weren't just dates and names on a GEDCOM, they were living, loving, real people with all the ups and downs that go with being human.

Rwgan, Ceredigion, the old farmhouse
Rwgan, our family home in Wales
My father's parents met when my grandfather, Richard Owen, came to board at Rwgan, a Cardiganshire (now Ceredigion) farmhouse our family built in the early 19th century. Richard, the son of Griffith Owen of Anglesey and Elizabeth Richard/s, got a job in Lloyds Bank in the county town, Cardigan, and stayed at Rwgan with Rhys Lloyd and his wife Sarah Davies. Their daughter, Elizabeth Jane (Lizzie) lived there, too, and she was a beauty, small, with a heart-shaped face and long, luscious hair.

Richard was smitten... but Lizzie was choosy, and had turned down previous offers for her hand. One of her unlucky suitors had described her as 'frozen perfume' - I love that phrase! But something about young Mr Owen melted her... and they married and had two sons, my father and uncle.

My other grandfather was Laurence Thomas Delaney, known as Pop. He was the son of Mary Maude Wilson and Thomas Delaney (Tom). This story is about one of Pop's sisters, Florence (Flo) and also involves a paying guest.

Flo at the races, © Frances Owen
Flo was living with her parents at the family farm, Moyne, near Little Hartley in New South Wales. A trader, Robert Reinerts, from Hamburg, stayed at Moyne as a boarder when on leave from his work in New Guinea (presumably the north-eastern part, then under German control).

He and Flo fell in love. But international politics were cruel to them. The First World War broke out and Robert was interned as an enemy alien. After the war ended, Robert was repatriated to Germany.

He asked Flo to marry him, but she couldn't bear the thought of going to live on the other side of the world. So they parted, and she never married.

Her life wasn't empty, though; she loved going to dances with the other young Delaneys and, when the family moved to Sydney, she enjoyed days at the races and evenings at the opera.

One of my convict ancestors, James Thomas Richards (no relation, as far as I know, to the Elizabeth mentioned above), went on being a rogue into his fifties. At some time before May 1870, in Sydney, New South Wales, he met Rebecca Harrington, a free settler from Hackney in East London. You may have read about Rebecca's mother, Julia, in the Celestina Christmas story over on the A Rebel Hand blog.

James was about 25 years older than Rebecca. Who knows what drew them together? Did he represent security? He was a well-known figure on the quayside, and a prizewinning waterman. Maybe she was pretty, vivacious or charming. It could have been their East End backgrounds which gave them something in common.

But all we have are the facts - that on 28 February, 1871, when she was about 30 years old, Rebecca gave birth to James's daughter, Eleanor Ann Edith. The only problem was that James wasn't in a position to marry her - he already had a wife, Elizabeth Beadman.

I haven't got much evidence about how James, Rebecca and Elizabeth dealt with this uncomfortable situation. I do know that when Rebecca's father, Thomas Harrington, died in 1874, he was buried from James's house in Cumberland St, Sydney. Had he, or Rebecca, or both, been living there?

Burial notice of Thomas Harrington, 22 July 1874
Thomas Harrington's burial notice, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July, 1874
Elizabeth was still alive, though whether she was living at that address I don't know. Maybe she stayed at her grown-up son James's house. She died later that year, and James Thomas and Rebecca married on 14 October 1874.

Most of my ancestors just met and married (or didn't) without leaving a boy-meets-girl story behind them. I've written about how my earliest Australian ancestors may have got together, and I'll mention them again because 2016 is a bi-centenary year for three of them: Nicholas Delaney, who married Elizabeth Bayly (Bayley, Bailey), and Sarah Marshall and John Simpson, who probably didn't go through a ceremony but were 'married' as far as they were concerned.

Do you know any love stories which bring your ancestors to life?

I'm going to finish with a few Valentine notices I found in the British Newspaper Archive. I hope you enjoy them!

Plymouth Gazette, 15 February 1845. A cynical view...

Worcester Journal, 4 February 1854

Burnley Gazette, 19 February 1876. Sale of unwanted cards?

Burnley Gazette, 26 March 1881. A bit desperate?

'Offensive vulgarity' in 1926. Who knew they'd gone out of fashion?

Surrey Advertiser, 10 February 1940. The war can't stop love (or commerce). Take that, Hitler!

Friday, 12 February 2016

My First Impressions of Twile - Winner of The Peoples Choice Award at Rootstech 2016

File 06-02-2016, 19 03 42

This photograph is from the Twile Blog to find out more see the link below.

What is Twile?

Twile is a website which creates a timeline of your family memories that you can share with those in your family who may not be the avid genealogist that you are. 
Only the people you allow can see what you share but it allows us to share all those moments that we forget to record in our software programs.
Here is a link to why it was created and I shall leave you to explore their blog to find out more.

How I found the site

I first found out about this website when the semi finalists for the Innovator Showdown at Rootstech 2016 were announced and decided to sign up for the trial to see what it was all about. 

The Demonstration at Rootstech 2016

Life got in the way and I saw the video of the Innovator Showdown Semi-Final and decided I needed to get my GEDCOM file uploaded to the site so that I can start adding memories and sharing with my family. I know that many others are interested in this site as it won the vote from the audience including those watching online. Here is a link to the Innovator Showdown Finals 2016 if you have not had a chance to see it.

Exploring the website

I am only just starting to use this but I am impressed by the feedback from the team who run the website. They will be inundated with people wanting to join and try out the website. They are still managing to get back to answer individual queries and provide a solution in a timely manner.
Customer service is so important if you want the users to keep coming back.

Gedcom is up and working and I am adding profile pictures to my ancestors and adding living members. You can invite your family by email, and as the website can be accessed by tablets and smartphones, I expect it to be popular with the younger generations of the family.

The comment from my son after I sent an email invite  was " I received an email saying you added me to your family tree, I thought I was already a member! ". This sparked a conversation and I showed him the family timeline I am building which currently has only my side of the family and my husband. He looked at the date his grandfather died, knowing it was the same day that his cousin was born and the date the following week when we had the cremation, these are things that he remembers. 
He also asked if it was private so I told him that only the family could see this if I invite them. 
The more of them that join, even just the free part of the site, the better it will be for everyone. 
I love the timeline as it really helps to put things together in relation to each other in a way that those in the family, not "doing genealogy", can interact with and add contributions.
I like that you can add more than just the usual things like births, marriages and deaths. 
I have uploaded a few photographs from a couple of family get togethers today as milestone events.

From what I have seen so far I am almost certain I will sign up to be a premier member. 

We should all share in the mission to get the younger generations engaged, to ensure that the stories and memories we are creating today and have created or had passed on to us are saved, in a way that our families will want to share in the future. 
Photographs and stories are what inspire us to find out more. 
We have so many ways to record and store them but the best thing we can do is to share.

Just as I finish writing this there is more good news for Twile in this announcement
I already have an ongoing subscription with find my past so hopefully this will lead to integration between the sites.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Maternal Line

This post is scheduled to appear on the day that my third grandchild is due. I don't yet know if it will be a granddaughter or a grandson but I have already blogged about grandparenthood. When my 'about to be a big sister' granddaughter was born I focused on the direct maternal line backwards through the generations from her via me, back through generations of women, some of whom I know very little about. Maternal ancestry is always more difficult to trace than the male line, because each generation introduces a new surname. My granddaughter is the ninth identifiable generation in the direct female line, with a possible further two generations still to be confirmed.

So who were these women, where did they live, when did the marry and how old were they when they too became ‘Granny’? Many of these women lived into their late eighties or nineties - I am planning on inheriting those genes! The exception was my grandmother, who was a smoker - let that be a lesson to you. Despite this, a tendency to have children in the late twenties or thirties means that only twice has the family spanned four living generations. Spring births were popular and many of these ladies died in  the spring too. The line starts in Essex before moving to the London suburbs, then escaping to the Isle of Wight and Cambridge. I am very fortunate that I have photographs of seven generations of women, if you include myself, my daughter and granddaughter. I challenge readers to investigate their own maternal (or of course paternal) line in the same way as I have here.
Mum c. 1947
I will start with my mum, Gwendoline Catherine ‘Gwen’ Smith born 27 February 1925 159 Albert Road (later Davidson Road), Addiscombe, Croydon, daughter of Frederick Herbert and Ivy Gertrude Smith. Married Cyril Albany Braund 27 August 1947 St. Martin’s, Croydon. Died 13 March 2011 Devon. Married at 22, One child, First child born at 31, Grandparent at 57, Died at 86.

Ivy Gertrude Woolgar 1893-1963

Ivy Gertrude Woolgar born 4 January 1893 7 Chalford Road, Dulwich, daughter of Philip James and Clara Woolgar. Married Frederick Herbert Smith 8 April 1922, St Clement Danes, London. Died 25 April 1963 28 Sundridge Road, Addiscombe, Croydon. Married at 29, One child, First child born at 32, Grandparent at 63, died at 70.

Clara Dawson 1858-1949 possibly taken 1886

Clara Dawson born 15 April 1858 Great Baddow, Essex, daughter of Thomas and Mary Archer Dawson. Married Philip James Woolgar 21 December 1886 St James’, Dulwich. Died 26 January 1949 159 Davidson Road, Addiscombe, Croydon. Married at 28, Four children, First child at 30, Grandparent at 63, died at 90.

Mary Archer Dawson née Bowyer 1830-1919

Mary Archer ‘May’ Bowyer born 1830 (probably March) Writtle, Essex, daughter of John and Ann Bowyer. Married Thomas Dawson 2 April 1855 Independent Protestant Dissenters’ Old Meeting House, Chelmsford, Essex. Died 16 April 1919 6 St John’s Cottage, Penge. Married at 25, Six children, First child at 26, Grandparent at 48, died at 89.

Ann Oliver born c 1799 (probably summer) Writtle, Essex, daughter of James and Elizabeth Oliver. Married John Bowyer 25 December 1822, All Saint’s Norton Mandeville, Essex. Died 25 February 1889 Highwood, Writtle, Essex. Married at 23, Six known children, first known child 30, Grandparent at 56, great grandparent at 78, died at 89.

Elizabeth Fitch born c 1768 (probably late summer) Writtle, Essex, probably daughter of Cornel[ius] and Ann Fitch. Married James Oliver 20 January 1794, Writtle, Essex. Died 1863, Ongar District. Married at 25, Eight children, First child at 25 (pregnant when married), Grandparent at 55 (or before), Great grandparent at 88 (or before), died at 95.

Speculatively, before this come Ann Palmer and then Ann Mason. The genes that my granddaughter might have inherited from these Anns are pretty diluted but nurture, as well as nature, plays its part. I wonder how many mannerisms and traits have traveled through these generations?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Late Posting

Steve Rockwood, Familysearch CEO 
I have a very good excuse for delaying my post this month. I was totally immersed in the madness that is Rootstech, the greatest family history show on earth. Rather than skipping the post I am playing catchup and writing it now I am back in Australia. I will backdate so it appears in its correct spot in our blog archive. 

Why do I travel for hours across the Pacific to attend this event?

I previously wrote that I wanted to be Challenged, Educated, Entertained, Informed and Inspired. Rootstech with its broad program can deliver on all of these needs.
  • I like to renew old friendships and meet online pals in the flesh, a solitary life in the geneacave can be lonely sometimes. 
  • As an Official Ambassador for the event I like to attend in person and be a voice for Australia. I like to be on hand to help newbie Australians negotiate Salt Lake City and Rootstech. 
  • I enjoy the opportunities given to Ambassadors to interview celebrities and attendees. I love being able to ask my own questions. 
  • I was honoured to have a presentation proposal accepted and I was not going to miss out on sharing my thoughts with the attendees. I think I was the only Australian on the program and I like to see our nation represented. 
  • I appreciate the opportunity to have research time at The Family History Library
Some Rootstech Ambassadors
When I arrived home my husband asked "Did you learn anything?" I said "not a lot if you are talking of learning as acquiring skills". I said that I had been educated and enriched by the experience.

Did Rootstech Deliver?
I was challenged, as I listened to others' opinions in my presentation where I moderated a panel discussion "Ethical Dilemmas in an Online World".
Panelists from Four Nations
I didn't really find any of the presentations I attended,with the exception of Josh Taylor's, particularly challenging, Perhaps there needs to be more discussion of issues on the Rootstech program.

I was educated about DNA in the several sessions I attended on that topic. Outside of the formal program I learnt a lot about the Mormon faith through Ambassador visits to the new Provo Temple and The Church History Library. I did acquire some skills in an excellent presentation on Audacity given by Andrew Lee. I didn't go to many "How to"sessions as I like to learn by myself through trial and error.
With Sharn White (Australia) and Audrey Collins (UK)
I was entertained in several of the keynote sessions. There was the humour of AJ Jacobs, the passion of David Isay and the determination of Paula Williams Madison. There were many opportunities to be entertained at the formal and informal social events the occur around the time of Rootstech. I seemed to have a different party, reception and/or dinner every evening for nine days.

I didn't have to go to any sessions to be informed. A walk around the Expo Hall with over 300 exhibitors provided many opportunities to hear about products and services both old and new. I try to avoid formal sessions that are infomercials by company representatives. I prefer to visit the booths and ask my own questions.

I was inspired by Steve Rockwood, David Isay and Paula Williams Madison (Google them). Much inspiration came from hanging out with my genimates, ordinary people like you and me who have a passion for discovering their ancestors and their stories. Their enthusiasm is contagious and will carry me through until I return to Rootstech in 2017.

The icing on the cake for me is meeting up with people I have known online for several years. This year I finally met Tony Proctor from Ireland, True Lewis from the US, Jana Last from California and Geoff Mulholland (an Aussie) from Germany.

With Geoff Mulholland
With True Lewis