Disappearing Genealogy Books

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Are books disappearing from your local library or archive? I’ve heard concerns locally from several patrons and I do share their concerns. The books are showing up at library book sales and even Goodwill.

I asked a local librarian why this was occurring and was told that the books weren’t being used. I asked how would they know if the books were being used or not since they were all reference books not available for check out. Didn’t get an answer.

Last month I spent the day at the Indiana Historical Society. I asked Suzanne Hahn, VP of Archives and Library and Bethany Hrachovec, Director, Education and Engagement if there was a trend towards purging genealogical tomes. There is for the following reasons:

  1. They are a duplicate copy
  2. They have been digitized (though not necessarily by the library who is purging it)
  3. There is a copy at a larger library. In northeastern Indiana that would be Allen County Public Library, Indiana State Library, Indiana Historical Society, or a university library.

Many libraries are now moving to a theme – only railroad books, for example, or only books for their particular county. Could be but I’m seeing books meeting the purported theme also removed. I’m also not seeing communication between libraries so one removes a book that would be a great addition for another library’s theme. Instead of contacting the library it goes to the resale bin.

Which gets me to the current situation I see in my local library. Too many books for resale and not enough storage so they are giving the books to Goodwill. If they don’t sell they are then disposed of. So very sad!!!

There are people who cannot read digitized books. Perhaps they don’t have the tech or their eyes will not handle it. I see no sense in removing a book that has been digitized, especially not by the entity that was purging it. How do they know that book will stay available to the public? Think about the recent law suit with Internet Archives! The case is back in court again but that doesn’t mean that Internet Archive will survive their appeal. What a loss that will be for all of us.

Maintaining only one regional copy is also problematic. When it starts snowing here people stop driving, especially older folks. Having to travel up to two and a half hours to look at a book that used to be available five minutes from your home is a ridiculous waste of time and money.

If shelf space was at a premium I could understand thinning the ranks but in most cases, it’s not. If the library had funds to purchase new materials I could understand it but that’s not happening, either.

If this situation is occurring in your region speak up. Complete library surveys to voice your concerns. If you have the funds and space, purchase the volumes. Perhaps a genealogy club or society can scoop up the works and create their own check out system. Genealogy books need to be treasured and available to future generations. Help make that happen.

Genealogy Gift Ideas

Photo by Lori Samuelson

I received the most unusual genealogy Mother’s Day gifts from one of my kids that I just have to share. The first is the game you see above – Guess Who? We had the game when my kids were young but my adult child bought a new game and switched out the faces to include the faces of ancestors. I’ve taken the cards that were made to replace the ones that come in the box and placed it on the box top so you can see the variety of family photos included.

This is an awesome idea if you are having a family reunion or want to get a head start now for a holiday gift in December. What a wonderful way to get the younger generation involved in identifying their ancestors!

The second gift I received was also unique. One of the parts of genealogy I love is uncovering mysteries. Who were these people? Why did they do what they did? How did the meet? Where are they buried? Well, the second gift is using old time snail mail to send a letter written in cursive to my home every two weeks for a year. The company, TheFlowerLetters, has several themes. The one I’m receiving is the Adelaide Magnolia Collection which takes place in England in 1817. Since I’ll be trekking to Great Britain later this summer it’s a perfect way to get me in the mood. For the genealogist in your life, the letters feature mystery, history, adventure, and romance – what more could a genealogist want?!

The National Genealogical Society conference continues today. Thank you, dear readers, for all of you who attended my presentation with six other genealogists last evening. If you missed Rapid Roots or would like to review it since it was rapid and had lots of helpful tips, please do so. Don’t forget to complete a review through Whova. You can still leave questions on Whova for the next three months or you can email me anytime at genealogyatheart@gmail.com.

Genealogy At Heart’s Top 5 Posts of 2023

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Blogger stats have identified the following must read of my blogs from last year:

1. Genealogy Organization Disappointments

2. Can AI Solve Your Brick Walls?

3. Evaluating Ancestry.com’s ThruLines

4. Using AI to Write a Genealogical Narrative

    5. Researching at FamilySearch Library

     Grab a cup of coffee/cocoa/tea and check out the links!

    Family Tree Myths That Aren’t

    Courtesy of Britannica

    I recently read an article in Family Tree Magazine about 13 purported genealogical myths. I’ll be the first to agree that family stories are not 100% accurate. That doesn’t mean there isn’t useful information in them that provides us with hints for further research. I don’t agree with labeling a family story as a myth. Here are the purported myths mentioned that I disagree with:

    1. Surnames were NOT changed at Ellis Island. Umm, perhaps not surnames but first names and gender was. Here’s a little-known story about an individual who arrived from Great Britain to Ellis Island in October 1908 as Frank Woodruff. During the physical, it was discovered Frank was a female. When asked why she was dressed as a he, Frank informed Ellis Island personnel that life was easier as a man and they decided to become one 15 years earlier. Hard to argue with that as during this period in time women couldn’t vote, had few legal recourse when their husbands beat them, and society wasn’t welcoming them to have a career other than a wife, or teacher until they married, nurse, or nun. Ellis Island wasn’t having Frank’s argument so they changed the manifest making him a her and the name from Frank to Frances. In my own family tale, at Ellis Island, a helpful clerk asked my grandparents separately, as they did not emigrate together, for the “rest of your name.” They had given the name Kos. My grandmother, who was literate, said that was it. The clerk mentioned he thought there were more letters as most American names are longer than three letters. Ellis Island claims they had many clerks of various origins that spoke in the native tongue of the immigrants. If that were true, you would think these clerks also understood culture and customs. Kos is a very common Croatian name meaning crow or blackbird. You would think the clerk would be aware of how it was spelled. No, the clerk didn’t change the name but they gave their opinion and as a new immigrant who wanted to fit in, that was enough for the family to add a second “s.” Obviously, the family felt pressured to change the name. They legally changed it to Koss in the early 1940s, 35 years after they immigrated. Interestingly, their tombstones is engraved with the origin name.
    2. Myth 9 in the article was about three brothers who came to America. The myth here is that there are always three brothers in every story and that’s not likely to occur. Well, in my family it is. My story was once even pooh-poohed by a very well-known professional genealogist who got quiet when I provided the facts. My three brothers were the Hollingshead boys who purportedly served together in the Battle of Blenheim. No records in Great Britain remain of the soldiers but using church records in Cheshire it is apparent that only two of the three brothers returned home. One of those brothers, Daniel, of whom I am a descendant, continued to serve in the military and was transferred to Barbados. He eventually made his way to the New Jersey Colony where he served as a ranger. Inheriting vast amounts of land through his second wife, Thomasin Hassell, he was on his way to a Council of Proprietors’s meeting in New York when he met a man on the road who was his brother who had just emigrated to New England. No, the two brothers did not emigrate together but there were three brothers originally who went off to war together. I don’t understand why this is always mentioned as a myth as there were often large families back in the day and they stuck together wherever they roamed. Safety in numbers is not a new concept.
    3. Myth 11 was that our ancestors were shorter than us. That would be true in my family. I personally knew my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Every generation we grew 2 inches. You can see this in photos when we stand by each other and I have medical records to prove it. I can also prove this with the men. Military records from the Civil War remain and it’s not too difficult to find them today with their height and weight listed. I believe the truth is that we are heavier today, however, that might not apply to all families. Genetics in some families probably plays a part. Both my grandmothers were known as big-boned ladies. I have no idea how much either weighed as it wasn’t polite to ask. Suffice it to say, my body build is similar to theirs. I can even go back several generations before my paternal grandmother and we all have the same body type by just looking at photos to make a comparison.
    4. Myth 12 was that our ancestors died young. Most died younger in my family than they do today; same with my husband’s lines. He is older than his mother was when she died. Same with both his grandfathers. Additionally, statistics play a role here. People once had many more children than they do today. Due to a lack of medical care, availability of antibiotics, sanitation systems, etc., back in the day will skew results. The pandemic altered our outcomes so it looks like our life expectancy isn’t what it was a few years ago. Statistics doesn’t always take this into account.
    5. Myth 13 was that our ancestors were mostly illiterate. Again, that would depend upon the family’s economic status, availability of local schools, and gender. Many of my female ancestors were deprived of educational opportunities. Many of my male ancestors had to help work in the fields and had their education cut short. I like to think of Maslow’s Hierarchy – you got to eat before you can become self-actualized!

    If you’d like to read the entire article you can find it here.

    My point is that I’d like genealogists to be more accepting of information that is shared with them and not quickly assume it’s a myth because they’ve heard it before. Only through research can the answer be determined for a particular family.

    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