You May Have Missed This – Another Genealogy Organization Change

While you were partying away the holidays, you might have missed the announcement from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, that he has sold his business to Verogen, Inc.

What does this mean to you?  Well, stay tuned as for now, not much but in the ever changing world of genealogy it could be something later. 

I’m not surprised by the sale; GEDMatch was having a difficult time moving the company forward (ie. the website was early millenium when they started) and with policy, such as what constituted adherence to their guidelines ethically regarding privacy and usage by 3rd party sources.  I’ve blogged about last year (The Dark Side of DNA) if you’d like details. 

Personally, I’ve left my DNA open to view.  This may be a naive decision but I think it’s the most ethical for the moment.  I don’t care if I’m contacted by the police searching for a relative.  No one is going to steal the limited DNA available and clone me (I have heard that claim from a few clients). On the contrary, I may connect with others who hold the answers to which I seek.  And maybe not!

Like every decision we make daily, there are pros and cons.  I’m taking a wait and see attitude with this sale and will keep you informed of any new developments.

Top 10 Genealogy At Heart Posts from 2017

Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new but before we do that, let’s take a look back at the most read Genealogy At Heart posts from last year in descending order and a tie in 4th place:

10 VivaVolunteers! A Unique Opportunity for You

9 More on Accessing Records

8 Saturday Serendipity

7 Access to Preserved Records is Being Threatened!

6 My Grandfather’s C-File Has Finally Arrived!

5 Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

4 Perseverance Amidst Adversity – The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs

4 Genealogy Resolutions

2 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 2

1 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1

If you’re on the east coast of the U.S., get a cup of cocoa, stay warm and enjoy re-reading these blogs.

Next week, I’ll rank articles that I did for other publications in 2017.

Privacy and the Genealogist – Part 2

My last blog was about ways to find the living who might have the genealogical information you need without making them feel threatened that their privacy had been invaded. Today, I’m thinking about how much more private our lives are then in the past. Thomas MacEntee mentioned this, too, in an interactive webinar he recently did. If you don’t believe that, check out an old newspaper and you just might find something like this:






These are just a few of the times that George Harbaugh was noted in three local papers between 1900-1909. From the first notice we know that there were two individuals who were professors who traveled together to Missouri. Today, a notice like this would alert burglars and the professors might return home to find a break in had occurred.
The second item confirms that George was an educator. Did they send junk mail back in the day? He’s fortunate that there were no big box office supply stores sending him ads based on his job description.
Next item lets us know not only his residence but that he has a son with the same name and that they visited Plymouth, Indiana. Great information from a genealogical standpoint; we’ve got relationship confirmation! The fourth notice lets us know that George visited nearby Walkerton, Indiana on a Saturday. Together, both notices are kind of creepy. Can you imagine every time you leave your town that it would be published in your local newspaper?! Sure with public figures, every movement is tracked and reported today but George wasn’t famous. Looking at the other statements surrounding George’s show that this was common practice; we know that G.S. St. John of Tipecanoe also visited Plymouth and Ed Cook purchased from William Burger a “fine carriage.” Seriously, when you buy a new vehicle or a major appliance, we certainly wouldn’t expect it to be published in the newspaper.
Today, we continue the practice of placing family relationship information and residence locations in obituaries as item 5 did. We can connect George to his father and two of his brothers. Another clue to finding George’s whereabouts on a Sunday might be the Dunkard church as that’s where his father, grandpa Harbaugh, attended. Since grandpa lived with George more information about George might be found there. Again, nice for a genealogist and even nicer for a crook who knew the family wouldn’t have been home during church service. Don’t think they had robberies in those days? George’s aunt, Mary Ann Eyster Johnson, wrote in her diary on 10 April 1898 that “Today we found that the Meeting House had been robbed. Tablecloths, aprons, dishes, knives, and forks and baskets all gone. No clue to the robbery.”6 Interestingly, I never found the story of the church robbery in the newspaper.
Clearly, it was not just a slow news day but a standard practice to record the comings and goings of residents a century plus ago. Your personal whereabouts is fairly safe these days, although it can be gleaned from public records courtesy of your property appraiser. Don’t despair, so is your neighbors! The only difference between property records now and in the past is we can look the information up quickly using the internet instead of having to drive to the assessor’s office.
Although our privacy is more assured, future genealogists will not find the gems that we do in newspaper archives. All the more reason for you to start writing about yourself!

1 “Lapaz Items,” Marshall County [Indiana] Independent, 27 April 1900, p. 5, col. 5.
2 “Lapaz Items,” The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 2 July 1903, p. 4, col. 4.
3 “Saturday,” The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 1 September 1910, p. 5, col 2.
4 “Saturday,” The Weekly [Walkerton, Indiana] Republican, 14 March 1912, p. 2, col 3.
5 “Lapaz Items,” The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 28 January 1909, p. 5, col. 6.
6 Mary Ann (Eyster) Johnson, “Diary,” 10 April 1898, n.p.; privately held by the Pine Creek Church of the Brethren, North Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana.

Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1

Have you ever Googled yourself? If not, take a moment and do so. If you have, then you know how much information about you is readily available at the click of a few keystrokes.
I understand why many people are greatly concerned that their personal information is “out there.” In the uncertainty of today’s world, we’ve all heard horror stories of identify theft and Craig’s list murders. It makes us more cautious and fearful.
Recently, I took an interactive webinar by Thomas MacEntee about finding living persons. Why would you want to find the living? It’s the best way to make contact with folks you are related to that may just have the information you are seeking. I though it very interesting and I totally agree with Thomas that using snail mail is the most effective way to make initial contact. People are more apt to respond to you if they have the time to process the contents. Additionally, the distance between you and them provides a sense of security. Think about it! If you telephone the individual you have caught them off guard and no one likes to feel that way. Emailing can work but may go to spam. I never tried texting someone I don’t know but if I received a text from a stranger I certainly wouldn’t respond.
When I write a letter to an individual I do not type it. I typically print as cursive can be difficult for older eyes (and though I haven’t written to anyone under 20, if I did they most likely wouldn’t be able to read it since it isn’t taught in school any longer.) Printing also sends the message that you took the time to be personal. I keep it short which is often difficult for me to do! In the first paragraph I introduce myself and explain my connection. The second paragraph explains what I’m seeking – a Bible record or a photograph, for example. The third paragraph gives ways to contact me that are more expedient than mail, such as my phone and email address. I also offer to pay for the cost of copying and mailing. I always end with “looking forward to hearing from you soon.”
Does this always work? No, but it might and has so give it a try! I’ve been successful in many cases. I can only think of once where I didn’t get a response and possibly, the individual did not have the information and being in his 90’s, was not able to let me know that. In two other situations I did make contact but the individuals were “too busy” to get the information to me. Both emailed me that they would but after a few reminders over the course of a year it didn’t occur. I haven’t given up hope yet as last fall, I connected with the son of one of my deceased’s mother’s friends. The friend had recently died and the son, while cleaning, found my name and contact information as I had sent a Christmas card 15 years ago right before she moved from our area. The son had newspaper clippings of my wedding and events my mom had attended with his mother. So you never know who has your personal information! In my next blog I’ll continue discussing privacy and share some examples of why I believe, like Thomas, that we have more privacy today than in the past.