Genealogy Organization Disappointments

I didn’t want to start the New Year on a sour note so I hesitated on writing this blog. I think it’s time to share my opinion of a trend I’m seeing with several organizations in the genealogy world.

Have you noticed in the past year a negative change in genealogy societies where you are a member?

I have and I’m not sure what the reason behind it is. Pandemic fatigue? State of the world? Something else? If you have any ideas I’d like to hear from you as I think some of the following practices need to be addressed:

  • Newsletters/journal articles/magazines that are not published anywhere close to the schedule they were supposed to be? (Yes, there was a paper/ink issue during the pandemic, however, they are also available online and the publication date should have been kept with correspondence to those who request hard copies that the items would be sent as soon as possible.)
  • Reaching out to various sites with queries/comments and either not getting a response or being told to connect with someone else? (I think we’re all adept enough with email by now to know it needs to be checked and if you don’t know the answer, respond that you are forwarding it to someone else in your organization that might be of assistance.)
  • Websites that haven’t been updated since pre-pandemic? We were all online for the past three years so what were the webmasters doing during covid? (Clearly, not updating the website. Perhaps no one communicated to the webmaster the updated information. In that case, did the webmaster ever ask why no new information was available?)
  • Receiving too many requests for donations? (One large organization sent me two emails per day for 12 days during the recent holidays asking for money, along with two snail mail requests. If you are so short of cash you need to explore why that is occurring. If you lost members perhaps the questions I’ve asked above are a source of your problem. If your overhead has increased then raise your membership fees.  No one wants to receive 30 requests for a donation during a busy season.)

Notice I haven’t named organizations as I find that my frustration is with several, not all, and I see no point in singling them out. These organizations range from local to international so the problems I noted are at every level.

 I connected personally with all of those that I had a serious issues with. The responses, if received, were not promising. This year, I plan to seriously think about not renewing my membership with several organizations.

A few of the organizations I have blogged about in the past and highly recommended them. This brings about an ethical problem for me so I am going to inform you about one in particular that really disappointed me.

Previously, I had used Family Tree Maker to synch with Ancestry and have written about my frustration when the program stopped working. FTM blamed Ancestry and vice versa.

You may wonder why I care to have the trees synched. I mainly work on my Ancestry tree but I like the backup. Nothing lasts forever and although I have no reason to believe Ancestry will cease operating any time soon, I don’t want my years of research to disappear if they do. I also want a backup for my family. Someday I’ll not be researching any longer and I want them to have all of my findings without having to pay annually for an ever-increasing Ancestry subscription.

I was so excited when, back in June 2017, Roots Magic began synching with Ancestry.com.

I blogged in October 2021 about issues I was having with Roots Magic 8.

I figured I’d wait for an update and try again after my life settled down a bit after our major relocation last summer. I read online what others had written on the process so I was confident the synch would work.

In November 2022 I tried again and again and again. I’ve always been happy with the tech support from Roots Magic so, when I was unsuccessful after several tries to synch, I sent the following email on 28 November:

Hi! After 5 attempts, unable to synch my Ancestry.com tree with RootsMagic8. Have done so with RootsMagic7. Operating on Windows 10. Restarted the computer. My steps: 1. Downloaded from website 8.2.7 Installer placing it in Dropbox 3 times and on Desktop twice. 2. Followed steps to connect; signed into Ancestry and 5th time, clicked buttons to remember signon/password and restart. 3. 1st time it took about 3 hours to “Download tree from Ancestry” and another 3 hours for “Importing your Ancestry tree.” When it got to “Downloading media items it froze at 0% with continuous popups of “Unexpected Error.” Clicking Cancel just had the error message repeatedly pop up. Sent error report to RootsMagic. The remaining four attempts – the tree downloaded in seconds, importing the tree took several hours but always stops before fully importing. Last two times it stops at 72%. The Unexpected Error message is behind a Dropbox message “Remove [file name] from your Dropbox account and all devices? If you move this file to $Deleted, it won’t be available in Dropbox or on any devices.” I have to click “Move out of Dropbox” as clicking cancel does nothing. I’m unable to get rid of the messages unless I go to Task Manager and close out RootsMagic8. I have 2 TB of storage in Dropbox. I’ve tried to save to my Desktop instead but that freezes sooner, about 26%. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.”

I got a response with further instructions:

“First thing I read is you downloaded your RM8.2.7 program to Dropbox.  Our RM8 program is coded only to run in C:\Program Files.  You will have to download it again and make sure it is stored on your computer and not Dropbox.  
 
If you downloaded the Ancestry file to Dropbox, that is fine for storage, but we do not recommend you run the file from there.  The program best runs on C:\documents, or subfolders, or even flashdrive/external drive
 
When your RootsMagic 8 is installed correctly, our treeshare should download it fine.  If not you can share your Ancestry tree with me so I can test it.
 

If you want to share your Ancestry file with me

* go to your ancestry account,

* open to your file

* On right, click on Share or Invite

* Click on Email

* Add my email, [I’ve deleted it to retain the tech’s privacy]

(do not use my personal email other than for this,)

* Make sure you give me editor rights (Click on Role and choose editor

* Click on Send Invites

Once I have tested the download, I will delete your files from my Ancestry account and my RM8.  I do not change or work on your file.”

Wow, I thought. That’s awesome support. Definitely what I’ve encountered in the past from this group. Would have been nice if it had said somewhere on their website to download to a C drive only, though.

I had downloaded it to my desktop on two of my previous attempts but I tried again. I also tried it on my husband’s desktop, and my laptop. Nada.

I do have a very large tree and lots of media but no audio or video as I store that elsewhere.

I wrote back to the tech the following email:

“I’ve tried several times on three different systems, all Windows, and am still unable to download my Ancestry tree. I always get stuck when it gets to the 3rd step. I’ve cleaned the cache, shut down other programs, and followed your instructions. If there’s anything else you can suggest I’d greatly appreciate it.”

Here was the tech’s response:

“I have received you sharing your Ancestry file with me.  As I look at it I do see it is a very large file.  Ancestry has 74,393 names, 19,268 photos and records 267,983.  this is going to take a long time to download.  

I can download using my Mac during business hours, but I will have to download this on the weekend on my windows.  I should have a good idea if my Mac can download it with no issues.
 
If you try to download again, make sure you download to your computer or a flashdrive/external drive that has alot of room.  I see where large numbers photos like this needs alot of room to download to.  If while downloading finds it does not have room for this large file it will freeze or not finish the download.
 
I will get back to you next week”

Again, I was impressed. How many companies offer to work on your tech issue from home on a weekend? None to my knowledge.

Except, the following week I got no response. So, I emailed again and this is what I was told:

“I too could not download your Ancestry tree, I do not know if it is because it is so large.  The number of individual is okay, but you have so many citations.  It might be how they are linked to different sources and some may not be linked to any source.  
 
Downloading your file would take many many hours since you also have lots of photos.
 
If I find out what might be the problem, I will let you know. 
 
Make sure your find is not being downloaded to oneDrive, iCloud or Dropbox
When downloading make sure you have lots of Ram.  I download to an external drive which had more than enough room.”

So, now I was confused – the tech could download successfully to a Mac but not to Windows. The individual downloaded it to an external drive with lots of room to accommodate my large media-rich tree but still couldn’t get it to work on Windows. I see this as a problem with Windows and not Mac since it was the same data going into both systems. It worked on one but not the other yet the problem identified was I had too many citations and how they were linked (or not) to sources. Or possibly the tech thought I didn’t have enough room on my system. Whatever there was no solution.

I only had one option if I wanted to synch the tree – continue using RootsMagic7.7 which was still able to synch to Ancestry and then update all of the changes I made to my Ancestry tree since June 2019. Believe me when I tell you there were thousands of changes I have made. This is a boring, time-consuming, repetitive process I did not want to go through. But what other option did I have? None that the tech could give me.

To update a RootsMagic file, one must resynch and then click a box to identify only people who have had a change made. I was easily able to do that. I first went through and added new people and deleted from RootsMagic anyone I had deleted from Ancestry. That didn’t take long as my tree hasn’t really grown much since June 2019. I’ve spent much of the pandemic adding finds to existing people instead of researching collateral lines.

I was frustrated to find that the program identified many people who had no changes:

It’s far easier to clear this situation out with one click of a button on the top right but why would I even have to look at the record if no change was made? Something was amiss even with the Version 7.7 software.

I spent every free minute I had going through each individual change. I finished six weeks after beginning the process. All of this was done through Dropbox as that’s where I kept it and even though I was told by the tech that I had to save it to my desktop, 7.7 worked flawlessly to save in Dropbox.

The following day, imagine my surprise when I redownloaded version 8 to my desktop. What I discovered was that it had imported four files from previous attempts I had made on 30 November, 1 December, and 2 December. Those had not appeared the last time I downloaded 8.

Lo and behold, somehow, the files had synched with Ancestry.com. In other words, I never had to go through the individual 6-week grind of adding people to version 7.7.

There are no words to describe how I felt. I had wasted 6 weeks accomplishing a task that didn’t need to be done.

Here is how I know that Version 8 synched with Ancestry…My Version 7.7 contained media for living individuals. When Ancestry.com changed their policy in August 2021 regarding their rights to own any photos you put on their site, I removed ALL photos of anyone in my tree that was living.

I never removed the media from my 7.7 RootsMagic tree. When I open the 7.7 tree that has been updated to 8, I can see the media for the living. The trees that “magically” appeared from my attempts in November and December 2022 DO NOT have media attached for the living.

I am thankful that my tree(s) are synched and I have all of my hard-found data. I am not happy that RootsMagic tech tried to blame citations for the issue. Clearly, that’s not the problem. Space also was not the problem. I have no idea what the underlying issue is but you may be encountering the same problem I did. My advice, wait a while and periodically redownload 8 and check to see if your file appears as mine did.

But all was not well with the RM8 file. I made a few changes on Ancestry and immediately went to RM8 to update. It would not synch with Ancestry.com. Version 7, though, continued to synch, so I continue to update 7. When I tried to import Version 7 to 8 it would not take. This is beyond frustrating!

I’m hoping that RootsMagic looks into the matter and is able to figure out what really is behind the problems and correct them.

Going forward, I’m changing how I research – when I save something on Ancestry I will also save it in Dropbox under the individual as I’ve scanned all paraphernalia I’ve collected and created files for individuals where I’ve placed that information. This way, if RootsMagic has further issues, I still have all of the media for an individual, albeit, it’s now in two places. Three, actually, if I consider I’m working with both versions 7 and 8. What a nightmare.

Genealogy At Heart 2022 Top 5 Posts

Clip courtesy of the Mountaineer

Hope your holidays were extra special! Before moving forward in this new year, here are the top 5 posts from the old year you may have missed:

Tips for Writing Your Memoir

Find-a-Grave Memorial Changes – A How-To Guide

Scanned Your Photos? Think Again

Solving Two 44-Year-Old Brick Walls Parts 1

Solving Two 44-Year-Old Brick Walls Part 2

Genealogy This and That

Courtesy of 123rf.com

Last week was the first time I skipped posting a blog; it was so hectic in my part of the universe I just couldn’t find the time. If you were looking for me, my apologies!

Today’s blog will be short and sweet as I have my area’s historical society’s annual picnic to set up for in a few minutes. The weather here is frightful so we’ll be picnicking INDOORS. Sigh.

I’m happy to announce I did complete the organizational project I mentioned two weeks ago. It’s hard for me to recycle my paper files but I’ve already found how much more useful and quick those files are to recover once they’ve been scanned.

The past week I had a rush project; trying to find a descendant of a female pioneer from my area so a tombstone could be placed on her grave. You know how it is when you email someone for info and you wait and wait and wait for a response. This time, the lovely woman wrote back within an hour. The city approved the project on Monday but rescinded its decision on Friday. They wanted to connect with a descendant so I’ve just finished providing them with my contacts with the caveat that I haven’t fully researched those kinship claims.

I attended an interesting in-person local conference on preservation on Wednesday. I thought it would be about preserving buildings; instead, I learned some disturbing (to me!) information about my county’s “plan” in the event of a weather disaster. The plan isn’t a plan of prevention, it’s of how they plan to spend the federal and state dollars once the area is obliterated. I think I’m going through the stages of grief. I seem to have been the only attendee that was bothered by the slides presented. I came home and did further research and I understand where they were coming from – Florida lies on limestone so there is no way to prevent saltwater intrusion. Dikes aren’t going to work here. I discussed this with my family and we’re making our own plans. My thoughts are with the oldest genealogy book in existence, the Bible. Noah and his ark are definitely on my mind!

Racing and Genealogy

5K Award

Typically I blog on Saturday mornings but yesterday I participated in a very special event for me; I took part in my first 5K. I do like to walk but not run. My husband signed us both up to be in the race that we were already going to be attending to cheer on a family member who was entered into the marathon category.

It was a long drive to and from the event and that gave me time to reflect on how much racing is like genealogy.

One might disagree with me as running is all about getting somewhere quickly and genealogy is the opposite. Yet, there are striking similarities I’ve noticed.

I have never been a runner and really had no desire to become one. Our family joke is I would rather stand and fight than run. Pretty much. The truth is initially I really had no desire to be a genealogist. I had an interest in discovering answers to family questions. That interest, over time, became a passion. Successful runners have that passion to get up at the crack of dawn in all sorts of weather to hone their skills. Genealogists stay up into the wee morning hours doing research online. I would even go so far as saying genealogists get a version of runner’s high when they locate that long-lost document or solve a family mystery.

When runners are patiently waiting for the start of the race, they swap stories of past races. Runners also encourage each other to continue on the course. Genealogists cannot help themselves, when they get together, sharing their past finds and supporting their colleagues to continue on to a victory when researching a brick wall.

Runners have tricks of the trade that the novice would have little awareness about – like pickle juice. Genealogists have many of their own tricks, I enjoy sharing mine via my blog.

As I jumped into racing yesterday I once jumped into genealogy. I learned to warm up, wear my broken in gym shoes, and make sure I stayed hydrated. The destination is often not close to my home. Not much different than preparing for a genealogical research trip!

Getting to the finish line is difficult for both runners and genealogists as there are so many unexpected obstacles that pop up. One of the shared ones is the pandemic. We pivot, we adjust, we have our workarounds to reach the end. We eventually get there.

The biggest surprise I learned about racing was the sloth award. Who knew there was a coveted award for coming in last place! The point is that endurance is more important than speed. I like that. That should be running in the back of every genealogist’s mind. Happy Hunting!

GenealogyAtHeart’s Top 10 Posts of 2021

Looked at the calendar this morning and realized this will be my last Genealogy At Heart post for 2021! I will be taking a hiatus due to the holidays for the next 2 weeks. Hoping you have a delightful time – enjoy, reminisce, and stay safe.

10 Fantastic Photos! MyHeritage Does it Again!

9 Resolving Genealogy Tech Issues

8 A Unique Genealogical Find Christmas Night

7 Your Town’s History – A Treasure Hunt

6 Lessons Learned From Exhaustive Research

5 Reconnecting with Taboo Family

4 Remembering the Forgotten Ones – A New Project

3 Extra Special MyHeritage.com Announcement

2 Genealogy Acts of Kindness or Scam?

1 An Unusual Source to Find a Deed

Upcoming Genealogy Changes You Don’t Want to Miss

You might not want to miss the following:

Elizabeth Shown Mills lecture on Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offered FREE through October 31st. This is Elizabeth’s LAST LECTURE as she is retiring from lecturing. I will greatly miss her.

Special thanks to reader Tess who responded regarding my earlier blog mentioning problems I encountered with RootsMagic 8. She recommended posting on the RM Users Group on FaceBook so I’d like to pass that tip along if you are having difficulties. Before doing that, I viewed the FREE webinars that are available on YouTube and that solved my issue. More will be coming so here’s the link to register in advance.

The root of my problem was I was trying to reconnect to Ancestry.com due to a pop up on RootsMagic 8. I did not need to do that as the webinar stated if you were already logged into Ancestry.com on RM 7 you would automatically be connected in RM 8. That would explain why the program froze for me. My tree is very large which doesn’t help. I logged out and waited a day. When I logged back in I followed the directions provided on the video and have had no problems since. I absolutely LOVE version 8 – kudos to the RootsMagic staff for their hard work.

If you are doing French research, two changes are in the works. Geneanet.org has been purchased by Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com has acquired 90% of Filae.com. I’m not sure when databases will roll from the old company to the new one or what you do if you were a member of the old company. I recommend contacting the company for details. MyHeritage did blog about the new content so check that out here. I had a free Geneanet membership and never subscribed to Filae.

October Weirdness

Hurricane Sam courtesy of thehill.com

I had a Freaky Thursday. I volunteer at my local historical society on Thursdays and when it’s quiet, I read from their library. I had just discovered a thin paperback, almost of pamphlet size, called The Oldtimers that looked interesting. It was written about 1996 (no publication date) when the group was founded and it contained unsourced responses to the following statement, “You know you’re an Oldtimer when you remember…” I had no idea my small city once had an airfield adjacent to what is now a county park. I didn’t know about the house of ill repute, either. It was a quick read and before I was finished a guest arrived. He was an elderly gentleman who after I greeted him, thanked me for volunteering (I wear a badge). He asked me what I was reading and when I told him he was startled. Evidently, his father had started the Oldtimer group and he didn’t know there had been a book written. He left the area nearly a half century ago and only came back recently to finish the estate of his brother who had recently died. I told him we had a copy in the gift shop but he declined as he was trying to make arrangements to donate and not acquire.

If that wasn’t odd enough, I finished the book and retrieved another one, Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise. I had seen excerpts from this book in a cookbook I looked at last month that had been written by the granddaughters of the Paradise author. The story takes place on an island in the Gulf of Mexico that is south of where I live. I had wanted to write a journal article about a family tragedy in 1921 that happened during a hurricane and thought I might be able to find some information in the book. The title page wasn’t helpful and there was no index (of course). No endnotes. Scanned and found no footnotes. I sighed. I randomly picked a page and Wow – my eyes landed right on the paragraph that named the family I was looking for! I could not believe it. I had to immediately share the news with the museum coordinator.

I first heard the story of this family in September 1995. My youngest was selling the typical junk for his school and we were going door-to-door in our neighborhood. It had been a busy hurricane season and although I don’t recall which hurricane was out there, I decided we needed to get the sales out of the way quickly just in case.

We had moved to our then house in the spring so hadn’t yet met all of the neighbors on our street, which was a long winding drive. About 10 homes from our own, we met an elderly woman who asked what school the fund raiser was for. When my child told her, she said, “The school was named for my family.” We both thought that was pretty neat and I asked her if she was interested in visiting and maybe speaking to the students about her own education in the area. She smiled but declined. Then she began to tell me of the family tragedy. The story haunted me for years.

As with most stories you hear, if you don’t hear them or re-read them again the details become fuzzy. I couldn’t remember if the family was a Garrison or a Jones. This was on my to-do list since it’s the 100th “anniversary” of that great storm but I wasn’t scheduled to submit the article until next spring so I hadn’t looked into it yet. To find it by chance in this large book was just strange.

I also discovered in this brief paragraph why the family was on the island. I’m not disclosing at this time but it was timely to things happening today which gave me even more eebie-jeebies. I am glad I found the information, even if it was rather spooky.

Genealogy Acts of Kindness or Scam?

Yesterday I received an Ancestry.com message from a woman in Ohio who had found a Bible that had a name that appears in my public tree – Landfair.  She said she would mail it to me if I would pick up the cost.  I was warned that the Bible was heavy.

Unfortunately, there are so many scams today how do you know if the offer is legit or not?  She provided a phone number.  I Googled it and it was for Ohio but not for her.  She had provided her first and last name and checking that out, she was a member of a genealogy organization to which I also belong.  She did live in the area where she reportedly found the Bible.

I first messaged her back on Ancestry but after several hours, she hadn’t replied.  I decided to give her a call.  

I’m glad I took the risk…she was a sweet woman who said she finally was able to get out and enjoy an interest that she pursued BC (before covid) – reuniting found items to descendants.  She said she found my public tree first because I had the most citations for the family.  She also reached out to a few others who had the name in their tree.  

The oldest documented individual in the Bible was my first cousin three times removed.  I knew of a closer descendant so I texted the kind woman an email address and told her to mention my name. That individual lives close and would save the finder the issue of mailing.  

It was an absolutely important find for that line as there is NO marriage record to be found other than what was recorded in the Bible.  

Kudos to all of you wonderful people who spread genealogy acts of kindness!  

Wills and Probate

Did you know that August is Make-A-Will month?!  I had no idea until I received spam this morning that it was time for me to make a will. I checked it out and sure enough, this is the month to complete this important but disdained task.

Funny how as family historians/genealogists we LOVE wills and probate but personally, not so much.

Earlier this week I was volunteering at my local hospital when I overheard a family discussing a terminal family member.  The individual hadn’t yet died but the family members present, 2 grandchildren and 3 siblings of the patient, were in a discussion over who was going to get what after the death.  I tried really hard to ignore the conversation as it was not only none of my business, it was disheartening.  

A grandchild reported that the patient had expressed what items was to go to what individual.  One of the patient’s children said, “Fine,” but then went on to state they were going over to the patient’s home later that day to pick up items believed to be inherited.  The other adult children then decided they were going to go, too.  

I have no ending to the story.  Perhaps the patient recovered, went home and discovered items missing.  Maybe the family members would have returned them before the patient returned home.  More likely, the individual died and family members arriving after the death discovered items they thought belonged to them were gone.  

Personally, hubby and I have experienced family issues after a loved one’s death.  It is not pretty and can destroy relationships.  These events happened even though there was a will in most cases.  

Although I still miss my mom who passed in 2001, I was fortunate that she had planned well for her final days.  When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers, she asked me to attend a meeting she had scheduled regarding disposition of her remains as she wanted to be cremated.  She had previously made a will.  The only problem was she couldn’t decide where the cremains would be housed.  I never got an answer so my husband and I decided to inter them in the family plot where she grew up and where her parents and grandparents were buried.

Several years ago, I convinced hubby we needed to make our final arrangements to spare our adult kids the task.  We updated our wills and added a Living Will, Power of Attorney, and Designated Health Care Surrogates.  The kids each received a copy.  We had both children notarize the form regarding our body’s donation to science.  We purchased a space in our city cemetery and selected a funeral home that will receive our cremains once medical school students are done with them.  The funeral home has our obits.  We placed our children’s names on our property and bank accounts so that they can close out any debts or make needed repairs seamlessly.

To avoid the scenario that I overheard at the hospital, I have placed stickers on the bottom of several items that have been in the family for years and I want passed down to the next generation.  The labels state who was the original owner of the item.  I don’t care which of my children get what items and there isn’t a lot to fight over.  Unlabeled items they can keep, sell or donate.  

The death of a loved one is never easy.  The lack of a will makes the situation even more difficult. Make time to make your final arrangements soon.  You’re not only helping your closest family members, generations to come will discover your will and thank you for that.

Emancipation Day

Today is Emancipation Day to commemorate those who were freed from slavery.

Emancipation has another meaning, that of liberation typically from a legal, social or political restriction.  When my husband and I decided to retire as longtime public school employees we hadn’t been aware that the day we selected, August 1, 2021, that we termed our “emancipation” day was actually already memorialized as the day to remember those who had been enslaved.  

Reading the news this morning about emancipation made me realize this was an extra special day to celebrate freedom!

For those of you who follow my blog you know my life often has some odd coincidences occur.  Someone told me that happens to me because I tell everyone I know about the weird situations so they just keep coming. I guess the theory is that by talking and writing about them I become a magnet for more. I don’t know about that but I do think this is kind of strange… Friday, March 13, 2020 was my last day working onsite at a school.  The following day I was supposed to be volunteering at a library with my local genealogy society to help patrons with their brick walls.  The event was cancelled at the last minute because of covid-19.  Although the monthly meetings and trainings moved to Zoom, the brick wall event was not rescheduled until yesterday.  Friday, July 30 happened to be my last day forever in education and the following day, the brick wall event which was supposed to be back at the library got moved to Zoom because I live in the fasted growing covid area in the country.  

Too bad we couldn’t meet in person as it would have been a wonderful bookend of the beginning and termination of the pandemic. 

Although I’m leaving the K-12 education field permanently, I’m definitely not abandoning genealogy.  I’ll continue to blog, consult with clients, volunteer at my local historical society and provide research.  Due to my termination contract, I’m unable to “teach” for the next year in any capacity but plan to return to genealogical lectures eventually.  

In addition to spending more time on genealogy, I plan to invest time in my local community.  Due to my previously long commute I was never able to do that.  I plan on volunteering at my local hospital and with other community events. 

Hubby and I are so looking forward to this next chapter in our lives.  It is a privilege having you continue to follow my blog as I head off in a new direction.  Stay tuned for my new adventures!