Websites/Resources

Come Browse My Genealogy Digital Bookshelf

Approximately two years ago, I created an online site to help me organize all the great books and resources I was finding on the Internet Archive’s website. I call it my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf. I have been posting to it sporadically, but have been using it pretty regularly as my genealogy research takes me from state to state. 

Recently, I decided to freshen-up the site and will start posting to it more regularly.   I updated the theme, and added several pictures of libraries – just to make it feel more “authentic.”    :-)

I encourage you to follow along – you never know what may turn out to be of interest.  There is an RSS Feed, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.  Visit the site – look on the right sidebar and choose. 

 

 

Mocavo’s New Yearbook Collection Not All Really Theirs?

Yesterday, Mocavo.com released a new collection of yearbooks.  I was so ecstatic to see this!  

 I enjoy looking through old yearbooks.  A couple of years ago I created a yearbook index for the NCGenWeb Project.  To date, I’ve indexed more than 30,000 names from close to 500 yearbooks.  And where did those yearbooks come from that I’ve indexed? Mostly, yearbooks digitized by the NC Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC).  The group has been very active in the past couple of years digitizing yearbooks from across the state.  The digitized yearbooks are hosted on the Internet Archive, and then also viewable on the DigitalNC website.  The 500 I’ve indexed are only a part of what they’ve done –  so, I am quite familiar with their collection.   

Thus, naturally, as I started to explore Mocavo’s yearbook collection, I began by looking to see what they had available from North Carolina (well, yesterday you could filter by state — that feature is interestingly enough missing today).

 

But then, my “inner librarian” started to get suspicious.

 

I quickly realized that many of the titles I was seeing were the same ones put on the Internet Archive by the NCDHC.  I also searched yearbooks from other states that I have listed on my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf website, and see the same – -many on that list (which are all from the Internet Archive) were also in Mocavo’s database. 

Here are the problems…

  • You wouldn’t know that the Internet Archive is the source of these yearbooks.  Mocavo’s statement on the front page of the collection is that they  (as in Mocavo) “put” the yearbooks online. There is no mention that the IA is the source for the material.
  • Each yearbook has a watermark imprint in the bottom left corner that reads “Hosted by Mocavo.”  Does this mean that Mocavo took the file and placed it on their servers? They may not have the right to do that.
  • Some of the yearbooks are still under copyright.  Their placement in the Internet Archive does not necessarily bypass that – the 1953 yearbook of Wake Forest University is just one such example.  The 1936 Kent State yearbook is another. Their copyright statements state that images and texts cannot be used without permission and/or proper citation and acknowledgement is requested.  Did Mocavo seek permission from all copyright holders before putting yearbook digital files on the Mocavo servers? 
I do not doubt that Mocavo has added their own original  yearbooks to this collection.  And, their solicitation for people to send in their yearbooks is great. However, to claim that they put all of these online, when they did not, and w/o any attribution to the Internet Archive or to the organizations/libraries that digitized the yearbooks, is something that needs to be corrected.  At the minimum, I would encourage the company to be more transparent as to the sources of the yearbooks from the Internet Archive.  Especially given the very recent post on copyright infringement on the Mocavo blog. 
I have tried to get in touch with a Mocavo reprsentative, but my contact request, email, and twitter messages have not been answered as of yet. 
I would love to hear from someone at the company about this.  I am hopeful someone can clear this up.  Perhaps they do have an agreement of sorts? I would love to know!  If not, then I hope they make some adjustments. 
Oh, and please bring back the ability to filter by state and city.  Location is paramount for genealogical research! 
Update 11/10/12 — I finally had the opportunity to exchange some emails with Mocavo about their collection.  They informed me that the yearbooks were purchased from a 3rd-party who has license agreements to provide the images.  I hope that this third party does indeed.  However,  I do still feel that the partnership with this company could have been made more transparent.  

Coordinating a 1940 Census Indexing Group

When the 1940 US Community Census Project was announced, I wondered if I’d even take the time to participate.  However, I quickly realized this would be a great opportunity to become more familiar with the FamilySearch Indexing software and give back at the same time.  Soon after signing up, I decided to go ahead and coordinate an indexing group on behalf of the TNGenWeb

I wondered if people would sign up, and sure enough they did! While I would have been happy with just a handful, we had more than 50 people sign up to index and arbitrate for the TNGenWeb. Wow. 

I’ve blogged about our group’s efforts on the TNGenWeb blog and am hopeful we can keep the volunteers engaged as we move on to additional indexing projects, both with FamilySearch and internal to the TNGenWeb. I am so happy to have been part of this effort :-). 

My First Ancestry 1940 Census Hint

Last week, soon after the release of the index for Delaware on the Ancestry.com website, I received my first green shaky leaf hint from the 1940 census!

The hint was for a person in my McNair family tree, Ms. Carrie Lucille McNair Griffin (1919-2004).  Carrie was a granddaughter of our family patriarch, Rufus Tannahill McNair, and  from Plymouth, NC – the homebase of the McNair family.  Before I received this hint, I did know Carrie lived in Delaware as this is where she was living when she passed. 

As I reviewed my notes, I saw that I had Carrie in the 1920 census, but I don’t have her in 1930.  Well, now, I have her in 1940 so I’ll have to go back and look for her. 

In 1940, she is living in Wilmington, Delaware, with her mom Annie Registers McNair and siblings Ellen, Gertie May, Vance, Leon, Anna Mae, & Charles.  The 1935 residence columns indicate they’d lived in the area in 1935.  Ellen worked as a nursemaid and Carrie as a bookkeeper in an accounting office. 

Annie McNair and family. 1940 Census. Wilmington, Delaware.

Now it’s off to try and fill in more of Carrie’s branch!

Statistics and the 1940 Census US Community Project Society Dashboard

This morning I was quite happy to see that the US Community Project has shared information from societies participating in the indexing on their Society Dashboard.

I am pleased that the group I’ve coordinated – the TNGenWeb Project, has placed 10th in the list of “large” societies! Our group currently has 36 members and they are all doing an awesome job.  However, my pleasure is seriously hampered by what appears to be methodological problems in how these numbers were calculated and posted.

1) the first list on the page reports the Top 10 Societies for the number of records indexed “per capita.”  Later in the page, there is another table showing the top societies for the highest number of records indexed on average. Per capita, is a measure of the average; it is not necessary to have both tables. This also holds true for the arbitration tables on the page.

2) FamilySearch is categorizing societies into “small” (less than 16 members) and “large” (16 or more members).  Thus, their tables showing highest numbers of records indexed on average is presented as two tables – one for the small societies, and one for the large societies.  However, the table shown for highest numbers of records indexed for small societies is the exact same table as the per capita list (the 1st one on the page).  This does not make sense since the “per capita” at the top (even if they really meant to have a per capita list) should include all societies, not just the small ones.  Essentially, that first list, the per capita list -is not needed; not only is it repetitive of a later table, but it omits the large societies.

3) Reporting the “average” number of records indexed assumes that when you plot the data in a histogram it has a normal distribution (which means it looks like a bell-shaped curve).  Without getting too technical, to tell someone what the “average” of the group is assumes that most people in the group are working at about the same level within a specific range, and that range is around the  middle of the data set values. I would be willing to bet that of all the thousands of indexers participating in this effort, we are not all working at the same productivity level.  There are probably many indexers who are transcribing very high numbers of names, and many, many more who are indexing far fewer.  This could produce a data set that is skewed (therefore NOT on a bell-shape curve).

Here is the curve for the 35 indexers from our group who have indexed records (one person has not) as of 4pm CST today:

What this graph shows is that there are many indexers who have transcribed less than about 1800 records and there are very few indexers who have transcribed more than 6,000 records.  The high point is off to the left, which means this data set is skewed.  Therefore, to better understand the “middle” of the data set (which is what an “average” is reporting) it is more accurate to report our median instead of our average.  Our group’s “average” is about 1,648 records indexed; our median is 1,016 indexed.  That is a big difference. I would love to know if the numbers of records done by all the indexers for the 1940 census are skewed or not. I would be willing to bet that it is just given the nature of the work we are doing.  If the data set is not following a bell-shaped curve, then FamilySearch should be reporting the medians.

4) FamilySearch is reporting these values as values for April 2012, but the month of April is not even over yet.  What was the cutoff date for this data set? They should have reported the dates covered by this report.

5) Do the “averages” reported also include the non-contributors in a group?  If the numbers reported do not include the non-contributors, then, I question the need to divide contests between small and large societies. Even with a median value reported, if the data set is limited only to those contributing,  then it could be entirely possible that a small society can be far more productive than a larger one – why make the division?

I would love to know more about how the data was analyzed and perhaps learn I am incorrect in some of my points, but from what I’ve seen today, I am can’t trust the data shown.  I understand that we are all in this to contribute to a worthwhile cause and I am thrilled to do so. However, if this is going to be contest, then FamilySearch should at the least report the data accurately.  Ideally, I would love to speak to whomever generated this posting so I can better understand the report was derived.

More to come as I learn it! :-)

My Census Day

This has been a fun day! With the release of the 1940 census there has been a lot of excitement among many to see the records.  Technical glitches abounded online as unexpected demand crashed the NARA website but there was still plenty to do.

What did I do?  I made a half-hearted attempt to locate my paternal grandfather in Manhattan by browsing the New York records on Ancestry.com but gave that up after an hour.  That was enough for me to realize I don’t even want to attempt to go through the census until it’s indexed; my family moved around too much. :-)

I am coordinating a group of indexers for FamilySearch for the TNGenWeb, so several of us spent the evening indexing.  Currently, we have 30 members and as of this writing we have indexed over 3500 records (about 1,000 of them are census records).  I myself only indexed two batches tonight so plan to do more tomorrow – I worked on Colorado.  My favorite name of the evening was Perfecto Chavis - he and his family lived in Pueblo County.

Then, after that, I did some indexing for another project – the NCGenWeb Yearbook Database.  I started this about two years ago and tonight crossed the 30,000 threshold for the number of names indexed.  Whoo hoo!

It’s been a good day.

 

Wearing my 1940 Census Ambassador Badge

I added a new icon to my sidebar this evening — the 1940 Census Ambassador Badge.  I joined last week as I am going to be contributing to the creation of the index.

So much has been made available online about the upcoming census that I will not rehash here.  In short, when the census images are released on April 2nd, there will not be an index.  The only way to find people will be to really have a good sense of where they were living.  An index would be far more useful so there is a multi-partner initiative that is encouraging us all to volunteer and help create the index.

More excitingly for me is that I created a group for the TNGenWeb Project so that we can work as individual indexers, but contribute “points” towards our group.  More information about that is on the TNGenWeb site, so if you would like to be on our team, just let me know. 

 

Veteran’s Weekend Trip to the Nashville National Cemetery

This Veteran’s day I did not have a chance to blog about any veterans in my family, so I decided to honor the holiday differently.  I visited the Nashville National Cemetery yesterday and took pictures using the BillionGraves app.

In two hours I was able to take more than 800 photos – amazing.  Now, my work is done – the images are uploaded to the site and others are already transcribing them.  This is why I love BillionGraves – it is just too easy to be a contributor.  I even had the kids helping again :-)

Kaleya clears leaves in preparation for Jihad's photo-taking

Kaleya takes a picture

I wish I could share the map of the cemetery too and where I took pictures, but I had to add it to the BillionGraves database and it has not yet been added to the website.  However, here is a snapshot of my dashboard as of the end of the day today.  My next goal will be to hit 2000 pictures before the year is out.

My BillionGraves Dashboard as of 11/13/11

 

Upcoming History/Genealogy Projects from the IMLS

At my job, one of my primary responsibilities involves a grant project we have that is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Just this week, they announced a new round of funded projects.  Some of them caught my genealogy eye as they have potential to be of benefit for family history researchers.

The full list of funded projects can be found here but the following are of interest:

  • Florida – Orange County Library System(Orlando) — the library is planning to work with community partners to prototype and evaluate the feasibility of a new type of library service geared towards creating openly accessible online databases of obituaries.  The online obits will be places where family and friends can submit detailed tributes and in doing so, help build a meaningful history of the residents of the community.  This is a planning project, so the database will not be built in this round of funding, but concepts surrounding it will be explored.
  • Chicago – American Library Association – another planning grant; in this project, the ALA will begin a collaboration with StoryCorps to make the service accessible to public libraries across the country.  The StoryCorps program is an important one for capturing oral histories, so the more that we can capture now, the better off we will be in the future.
  • Southeastern New York Library Resources Council – to increase awareness of oral histories, the organization will work with libraries, museums, community organizations and others to digitize oral histories from several repositories. They will create radio broadcasts, create linked and dynamic websites to showcase the collections and create mobile apps. Sweet.

 


FamilySearch Just Rocks

Tonight while going onto the FamilySearch website to look for a death certificate in TN, I saw two new collections in their list of records.  Just added today, these browsable only collections are:

These collections are amazing! Even though they cannot yet be searched, just being able to browse them is a huge gain for TN researchers.  The second collection contains a lot more.  Just look at what is offered for the county I coordinate for the TNGenWeb – Blount County.

For a couple of years now I’ve been eyeing the Blount County will records at the Tennessee State Library & Archives.  They have been transcribed by workers of the Works Project Administration and I’ve been planning to put them online.  Well, looks like I only need to create a good index now!  HOW WONDERFUL!

There are so many goodies to be found in this collection.  If you have any Tennessee research interests, you MUST check these out.   FamilySearch – keep this up! :-)