RootsMagic and Ancestry: Perfect Marriage

I was thrilled to get the news in my RootsMagic genealogy software program that RootsMagic has partnered with Ancestry to finally connect with their API. What does this mean? Oh, get excited.

Currently, RootsMagic connects with two APIs, MyHeritage and FamilySearch. With the FamilySearch API, RootsMagic links with the FamilySearch site and database connect ancestors. Make changes through the FamilySearch interface of RootsMagic and you can quickly and fairly easily update your FamilySearch tree and history data. While there is definitely room for improvement, such as linking sources with matched data instead of forcing the user to reconnect the source dots after linking the data, causing more errors and mismatched sources in RootsMagic than there should be, this connection opens up a vast range of data from other FamilySearch members and research.

RootsMagic taps into the MyHeritage API to bring hints only, as it does with FamilySearch data. The information must be added manually, but it does help you easily find those wonderful hints.

The news is new and there isn’t an update available yet for this new partnership with Ancestry, but expect something soon. Ancestry has been protective and cautious about their API and it is well past time when they needed to see the big picture and link beyond their gates.

This comes not long after the announcement of Ancestry going on the auction block in May 2015. Permira Advisers LLD bought it in 2012 and last year’s subscriptions grew to $553.8 million in 2014 over $334.6 million in 2012, and Permira issued a $215 million special dividend from Ancestry in August, indicating that the service is still viable and in demand. According to general news, Ancestry is still on the auction block with Permira currently owning 50%, but there is little concrete news.

The sale of Ancestry made many nervous, even more so when Ancestry announced last month that they were terminating their Family Tree Maker software, recommending RootsMagic as an alternative, and RootsMagic jumped to provide Family Tree Maker (FTM) users step-by-step help to get on board their program with a special discount for FTM users.

Today it was announced that The Software MacKiev Company has bought the popular Family Tree Maker program. With FTM staying on the market with fresh new developers, the competition could benefit genealogy and family historians as these two leaders in the field battle it out in the genealogy research industry.

Personally and professionally, while I was nervous about Ancestry’s auction, the demand for genealogical and family history research is higher than ever. Ancestry has a vast investment in data, valuable data, and they are buying and digitizing more and more every minute of every day, adding to the wealth of historical information for genealogists and family historians.

After switching from The Master Genealogist to RootsMagic over a year ago, I’ve found it easier than ever to do my research from the comfort of my desktop computer. This doesn’t mean I won’t be on the ground digging through papers and maps stuck in dusty file cabinets in the back of old crumbling city office buildings somewhere in the world, but it does make the process of uncovering the basics much easier, and my tree is growing daily. With the inclusion of Ancestry, and hopefully MyHeritage and other genealogy services expanding their APIs, it could be an exiting next few years!

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Choosing Between RootsMagic and Personal Historian

When the news came that The Master Genealogist was being discontinued, I waited with the rest of the fans of one of the world’s best genealogy research and tracking programs to see what would happen. While there is noise of an open source version and suggestions that it be purchased or taken over by others, I haven’t found any compelling activity. I have to continue with my genealogy research, so I did a ton of genealogy software research and narrowed my choices to two:

Both have won plenty of awards and honors, some years top notch, others down a few pegs but bouncing back up over many years. I wanted a program with history itself, longevity, and a community base of fans and support.

Years ago, my father didn’t realize I was using TMG and bought me the full Legacy Family Tree package with like a dozen CDs, books, and all packed into a big hard case. I experimented with it and others, but kept coming back to TMG. I say this because I’m familiar with several different programs, but TMG won hands down. Finding something that compared to its power with even more features was the goal.

What finally pushed me over the edge were the following things that might help you with your decision.

Easy Importing from TMG

While both now have import tools for The Master Genealogist (TMG), RootsMagic went out of their way with step-by-step instructions (PDF) including highlighting the downsides and problems with importing, and how to prepare TMG for export to RootsMagic.

This saved me a ton of work and worry.

What was more amazing is that RootsMagic offers the ability to search your hard drives for TMG project files. With all the hard drive crashes, massive backups, and other computer woes over the many years of genealogy research with TMG, it found over 47 files, mostly duplicates, helping me to find all the missing pieces of my family history research. I copied them all into a single folder for processing and management, cleaning up my hard drive at the same time. I did a single zipped backup to the cloud and another to a portable backup drive, and felt better about protecting the old research while working on the new. Continue reading

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Sharon Knapp Lee 1944-2014

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the death of my dear cousin, Sharon Knapp Lee. The following is her obituary from the Skagit Valley Herald.

Sharon Mae Lee of Mount Vernon, born, Sharon Mae Knapp, March 6, 1944, died peacefully on September 12, 2014 of acute leukemia. Her son, Dr. Kelly McCullough, was instrumental in coordinating the care she received from her doctors during this illness. Her beloved husband, Don Lee, was with her constantly throughout her struggle and was holding her as she passed.

Sharon was the only child of Wayne P. and Letha Myrtle Knapp. She grew up in Seattle, attended Franklin High School, and taught first grade after graduating from Seattle Pacific College. It was at SPC where she met her first husband, Robert J. McCullough, with whom she had, and raised, her three children, Mary E. Kudenchuk (Peter), Kelly D. McCullough (Kristin), and Robert W. McCullough (Michelle Arab).

Sharon met Don in 1997. They made their home in Shelter Bay on Swinomish Channel. Sharon loved their waterfront beach property, a great place for gardening and entertaining the grandkids. They moved to Mount Vernon in 2012.

Sharon was born to nurture, and one of her great contributions was caring for the children of others through her daycare in Woodinville, WA. She loved reading and always had great book recommendations. She was masterful in the kitchen, making meals seem effortless. Flower gardening and her pets gave her much joy. She especially treasured her five grandchildren, Elizabeth H. Kudenchuk, David A. Kudenchuk, Ava G. McCullough, Ronan R. McCullough, and Oscar M. McCullough. She loved her cousin Ramona Fletcher and her dear friend Delwin Rimbey.

Sharon’s faith in Jesus Christ gave her a secure future. We grieve her passing and profoundly miss her. She will always be a part of the fabric of our lives. We wish to thank Puget Sound Blood Center for making these past months possible.

Donations in her memory can be made to Puget Sound Blood Center.

Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company on Sept. 16, 2014

Legacy Obituaries

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When Family Gets in the Way of Family History

Family gets in the way, even for a family history researcher.

Recent family events have taken the heart out of my family history blogging efforts, and I’m slowly struggling to put the emotional aspects of living family aside and get concentrated back on blogging about my dead family.

Family interferes by protecting or preventing access to family history in many ways. We dig and dig, but road blocks from the living prevents us from learning more about the other living and recently deceased for reasons often not provided.

Uncooperative family is also a road block. While they want to help, they just don’t see the value nor interest in what you are doing, dragging you down with them. Honestly, why bother?

Family gets in the way by providing too much information sometimes, though I’ve found this is rare among many researchers. Their enthusiasm distracts as well as overwhelms, consuming more time and information processing than you may have originally anticipated.

For the most part, some family members are very cooperative and supportive. Others are completely disinterested.

How do you handle it when the struggle to document your family’s history is more work that its worth?

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Library of Congress Railroad Maps Collection

The Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, has put together the Railroad Maps Collection, an amazing collection of more than 600 maps of railroads across the United States.

Compiled by Andrew M. Modelski in 1975, these maps go back through history to showcase the growth of rail travel and settlement across the country, as well as the development of industry and agriculture.

My family on all sides were influenced by the rail lines, traveling by rail for work, travel, migration, and business. On my maternal side, my grandparents’ families united in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, the end of a rail line that served the logging industry, hauling fresh cut logs out to the rest of Wisconsin and the world for use in buildings and paper products. One of my family members in the DesRochers family just retired from the railroad system in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, carrying on the family railroad tradition of ties to the rails.

Here are some other historical map collections worth investigating in the United States.

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Flickr and Library of Congress Open Archives

Kevin’s Meandering Mind reported om 2008 that the US Library of Congress has joined with Flickr to put thousands of photos from its archives up on Flickr for viewing and use by us, the people. And oh, how lucky we the people are!

I may jest, but it’s been a few years since Flickr started hosting the images and I wanted to take a look at how many had been added since then. The quantity and quality is impressive.

The Flickr stream is identified as Library of Congress and feature images of people throughout history, going back through wars, lifestyles, all of American and world history.

I look through the faces of “unidentified soldiers” and wonder if one or more of these is related directly to me, their images preserved forever but their identity not.

[Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with bayoneted musket, knife, revolver, canteen, and knapsack]  (LOC)[Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with three unidentified women in bonnets and one unidentified man]  (LOC)

Were any of my female (or male) family members in the protests for women’s right and suffrage?

[Hedwig Reicher as Columbia] in Suffrage Pageant  (LOC)

My family history is full of soldiers, loggers, nation-builders, and nation-destroyers. We’ve got them all in my family tree, so I wonder if a family member was a part of this war-time destruction of a bridge in a stereoscope image.

Destruction of a railroad bridge (LOC)

I know that many family members joined up in Michigan to fight in World War I, so maybe they passed through Camp Custer in Michigan, captured with this unusual panoramic portrait with the camera elevated 500 feet into the air. I’d like to see the picture of the camera setup!

Camp Custer, Michigan, photographed from kites, camera elevated 500 feet (LOC)

Who knows what you may find as you dig through the sets on Flickr. It’s a wonderful visual tour through history, especially our own history.

I look forward to more images being added to the set as I know the Library of Congress must have millions of photographs to share with the world.

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Howard W. West Sr. Timeline

Howard William West Sr as a cadet circa 1925 - Bremerton, Washington - from family. From Howard W. West Sr. Photo Album.I’ve had some challenges researching long lost relatives, but the mysteries and myths in and around my grandfather, Howard W. West Sr., continue to amaze as I dig through his history. The following is what I have at the time this was published. I will edit it and update it as I uncover more information.

Updated: April 2015 In April 2015, I was cleaning up the papers inherited from my father and found the Service Record log book of Howard W. West Sr. with all of the vessel discharge papers charting most of the course of his naval career in the 1920s and 30s. The information dated journeys to the Orient, as they called it. This will help to date the photographs from his photo albums and gives us more of a picture of his early years and adventures.

Biography about Howard William West (senior) from interview by Lorelle VanFossen with father, Howard William West (Jr.), March 12, 2006, Mobile, Alabama. The biography includes notes from the Farlin-West Family Bible, the David West Descendants family tree, and family stories gathered over time.

  • Louella Pinder Parret and son Howard W. West Sr. From photo album of Howard W. West Sr.Howard William West (senior) was born circa September 29, 1905 in Michigan or Canada. Died June 1968, Bridgeport, Washington. Mother, Louella Pinder (?-c1930). Father, Walter E. West (1881-1965).
  • Howard traveled with mother and/or father to Portland, Oregon, area. Walter worked in the camps. Possibly faked marriage to Pinder, so is considered illegitimate by family history stories.
  • Howard W. West as a child in Portland, Oregon, circa 1907 - from Howard W. West Photo Album.Circa 1909, he was abandoned by mother (Louella Brunner Pinder) and taken with half-sister, Carmen (of Pinder and Clyde Moorhouse), to Catholic Convent Orphanage in Portland, Oregon. Records from Rescued by father circa 1919, at age 14. Howard could not read or write.
  • Circa 1919, Howard ran away from home in California and lied about his age and joined the Marines (according to family stories). Traveled the world including crossing the Panama Canal and traveling to Japan, Philippines, and other nearby areas. He was on the USS Arizona 1924-1925. He learned to read and write from his shipmates. He joined the Merchant Marines or Merchant Service which eventually became the Coast Guard in 1939.

    From Howard W. West Sr.Photo Album. Believed to be USS Arizona c1924.

  • Married Faye Vaughn March 31, 1925, in California.
  • From the Service Record log book, Howard spends much of each year away from home. He served on the SS West Cayote, SS Oregon, SS Ryder Hanify, SS San Angelo, SS Admiral Farragut, SS Kentucky, SS Oakridge, SS West Nixton, and other vessels traveling mostly in the San Francisco to Portland Pacific coast waters, though some of the voyages took him to “The Orient,” “Transpacific,” and “foreign” lands and waters. His job on the ships was as an oiler, wiper, or fireman, positions considered entry-level marine and described by the Coastal Vitality Project – “Guide to Basic Licenses and Endorsements in the US Maritimes” as “the most junior crew member in the engine room of a ship. Their role consists of cleaning the engine spaces and machinery, and assisting the engineers as directed.”
  • Howard W. West Sr. on ship in tank top and sailor uniform pants and cap, circa 1924.Daughter, Reta June West, born July 4, 1928, in southern California (Long Beach?).
  • Coast Guard duty (Light House Service) moved him to the Pacific Northwest Coast where he manned light houses in Friday Harbor, Washington.
  • In September 1931, we have record of a certification for smallpox vaccination in the Philippine Islands.
  • Son, Howard William West, born April 20, 1937, Everett, Washington.
  • The West family lived at Sholtes, Washington. He was on a light ship, the Swift Shore Light Ship, with six weeks on the ship and three weeks off home. He lived next door to Madge (Smathers) McClure, his step-sister.
  • Circa 1939, the West family moved to Friday Harbor, Washington, on San Juan Island, to supervise the lighthouse.
  • In 1945, the moved family to The Dalles, Oregon, where Howard tended the river lights (aids to navigation), in the Coast Guard Ship, the Lollipop (possibly nickname). This is the only evidence we have from a story by my father that the family lived in The Dalles, but it makes sense as Reta June married and raised her children there. Currently seeking military reports to support this information.
  • Circa 1947/48 transferred to Seattle to the ship, Watusis (Watchusus?), Destroyer Escort Class. Left family behind in The Dalles, Oregon.
  • Wife, Faye Vaughn, died 1949 of heart attack, possibility of also compilations from obesity and diabetes. She was sick for at least one year before her death, and spent a lot of time in the Marine Hospital in Seattle, where she died. Death certificate credits death as Bilateral Massive Pulmonary Embolism, a complication of obesity and heart disease. Son believes they forced her to lose weight too fast, which put tremendous pressure on her heart, strained by polio as a child and too many years extremely obese. Body was buried in The Dalles, Oregon.
  • Howard Sr. returned to duty in Seattle immediately, leaving son, Howard, with sister, June, and her new husband and baby, Rochelle.
  • Met and married Ana Mae Larmar of Ritzville, Washington, in October 1949.
  • In 1952, after three years of marriage to his new wife, returned for Howard Jr. and brought him to Seattle, Washington, where they lived on Valley Street, on Queen Anne Hill.
  • Howard W. West Sr in Coast Guard Uniform outside Friday Harbor Lighthouse, Washington State.In 1952, the family moved to Illwaco, Washington, to man the Northhead Lighthouse. Howard Sr. suffered several heart attacks, and the family moved back to Seattle, setting up home at the base of Queen Anne Hill, at one block off Mercer on First Avenue West (second house in from Mercer – a Safeway Grocery Store sits there now). Howard Sr. worked for Boeing for a short time and then applied for the Core of Engineers, and moved to Camp Hayden in Port Angeles, Washington, and then was moved to Hudson Point, Port Townsend, Washington, then moved to Whidbey Island, Washington, on various jobs. Ana Mae and Howard Jr stayed in Seattle so the teenager could complete his high school education.
  • Unemployment documents find him in Port Angeles, Washington, in 1956-1957.
  • March 23, 1962, Howard Sr. and Anna Mae moved to Chief Joseph Dam, Bridgeport, Washington, where he worked as a guard. The date is remembered because his grandson through Howard Jr. was born on that date and they didn’t stop in to welcome the new member to the family as they passed through on their way to Eastern Washington. Howard Jr. had gotten special permission from the military hospital to permit his father to visit the newborn, and he was a no show.
  • Most summers until Howard Sr’s death, Howard Jr and his family would travel to Bridgeport to visit Howard Sr. and Anna Mae in their mobile home in the desert, surrounded by cherry, plum and other fruit trees.

Continue reading

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I Haven’t Been Counted

I haven’t been counted. In my genealogy research, census reports have uncovered many mysteries in the recent past of my family, yet I have not been in the past two or three censuses. ARGH. How did that happen?

The last one in 2010, I was in North Plains, Oregon, just west of Portland, living with my husband in our own home. We waited patiently for a census taker. I assumed one would come knocking or a letter would arrive in the mail. Something to allow us to be counted and found in decades to come by family history researchers finding me of some significance in their family tree.

No one showed up and nothing arrived in the mail, and I forgot about it, until last year when the numbers started coming out! Without me!

In 2000, we were living in Israel and no one contacted us about being counted in the states as we weren’t living there.

In 1990, where was I? I was living in Seattle alone. No census taker came by my place that I know.

In 1980, hmmm. Good question. I was in Spain or Everett, Washington. Depends upon when the census takers would have been out working. I was a vagabond, living out of a backpack, going here and there as whim, jobs, and life took me.

In 1970, am I listed? I was living with my family, a kid running wild in the woods. We were in Lake Stevens, Washington, out on our quasi farm/ranch in the once backwoods of Snohomish County.

What about as a baby. Was I in time for the census then? Am I listed?

Okay, 2020. You are a few years away, but I’m ready for you. I’m going to be on that census report hell or high water. I spend too much time pouring through census reports looking for lost relatives to not be among the counted when it comes to generations in the future digging through current census reports and finding me.

ME! That’s right! I want to be counted. Don’t you?

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The Genealogical Paradox

The Genealogical Paradox

In a BBC article, “Family trees: Tracing the world’s ancestor,” it talks about the process of building your family tree, and the problems associated with it.

The surprise comes if we look at inheritance from both parents. Here, the numbers change drastically as the generations go by. For instance, we have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on.

Each generation back, we multiply the number by two. This leads to what is called an exponential increase: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024 and so on.

It’s not long before we hit huge numbers. Take the specific case of Jesus and King David.

The number of generations between them is at least 35. Luke lists 42 generations down the male line, and Matthew gives an incomplete list of 27.

These numbers agree reasonably well with an average time between generations of 25 or 30 years – an estimate taken from documented historical records from Iceland and Canada.

So back in the time of David, Jesus would have had at least 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 (35 times); in other words 2^35 – or more than 34 billion potential ancestors. That’s far more than the total population of the world, of course.

This is a good illustration of what’s been called the “genealogical paradox”.

This had never occurred to me.

The path towards uncovering my ancestors had to specifically be narrowed down. On this site, I’m focused on my immediate and direct ancestors, following the West, Knapp, Anderson, and Vaughn lines, though branching out a little as interest and time allows, but I’m keeping my path narrow.

Now I understand why. If Jesus would have had 34 billion ancestors, how many would I have today, 2,000 years and many generations later?

Another fascinating point in the article is the concept of six degrees of separation, though in their example, it’s 20 generations degree of separation.

Even so, by that time, you will have collected a large number of people in your ancestry. So it’s not surprising that any two people in any one country probably won’t need to go back many generations before finding a common ancestor.

…If people in this population meet and breed at random, it turns out that you only need to go back an average of 20 generations before you find an individual who is a common ancestor of everyone in the population.

…In fact about 80% of the people at that time in the past will be the ancestors of everyone in the present. The remaining 20% are those who have had no children, or whose children have had no children, and so on – in other words, people who were genetic dead-ends.

That’s why everyone alive in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus would have been able to claim David for an ancestor.

Another reason why just about anyone alive today could claim King David (and Jesus if you believe he had children) as an ancestor. 😀

So the odds are high that 20 generations back, I might have a common ancestor with Barak Obama, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, Prince Charles, even the Queen! And with you!

My family trees go back at most 11 generations, maybe 12 or 13 counting today’s generation. Hmm, I’ll have to get busy and go further to find those connections.

The article also states that in about 3,000 years, someone alive today will be the common ancestor of all humanity, and a few thousand years after that, 80% of the breeders today will be ancestors to all humanity…a frightening and exciting thought.

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Where Do You Draw the Family History Research Line?

In The Worst Question in Genealogy, genealogist Kerry Scott of Clue Wagon admits that the worse question ever asked is “What do you do?” For a family historian, the next question is “How far back have you gone?”

I love her response as I find it similar to my own, though I know I need to change my mindset.

Am I the only one who hates that question? Because here’s the answer: After nearly 20 years, I’m back to around 1800 or so.

Of course, they’re disappointed, because they wanted to hear that you were back to the Mayflower or Thor or Adam and Eve or something. Nope. Not me. 1800-ish.

Confession: I’m not even all that interested in getting all the way back to Thor. I like American history. I’m interested in research here in the United States, and as soon as they’re back in Europe, I’m…well, not entirely disinterested, but much more likely to wander off in search of ice cream. My original attraction to genealogy was about understanding The Big Move–why they came, what they experienced when they got here, and what happened as a result of their decision to come. I’ve been moving my whole life, so big moves are a big deal for me.

For her family history research, she is interested in recent American history as well as the current history of her family. She admits to gathering and preserving all the information she can on siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and all of the family members for multiple generations around her now, not just way back when.

For me, it’s a fine line between preserving everything I can now of now, combined with as far back as I can go, preserving the preservable before we lose it all.

My ancestor, Nicholas Knapp, has been researched thoroughly by historians yet they cannot seem to cross the Atlantic Ocean to properly uncover his true roots. There is much conjecture I’ve learned, but no proof other than genetics, of where he came from. For me, that is a stopping line until I have “proof,” whatever that is, of his past. Like so many, he arrived in the United States and was re-born anew, a truly fresh start. Hard for me to push past that.

Other family lines I can trace back to their European roots, but I’ve get to get enough information to quantify a trip over there with genealogy in mind. I need to do more, but I’m so busy collecting the information from the past four hundreds years and solving the mysteries of proximate relations, international feels like too much work.

An acquaintance, the family historian for their family, bragged that he had over 1300 entries in his genealogy program. I congratulated him but thought to myself, “How much does he really know about all 1300 people?”

Numbers can be impressive, but a part of me wants more. I want quality. I constantly want to know more about these people and rejoice when the research gives me just one more piece of the puzzle of who they were, why they did what they did, how they came to be who they were and what they did as well as where they lived.

For me, I want to stop my relatives in their tracks and ask them the worse question: “What did you do?”

Are you that way, too? Where do you draw the line in your research?

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