Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Bad Advice on Preserving Memories from Costco


I was surprised in reading a recent article in The Costco Connection about preserving personal records to find that many of the ideas suggested were not only inaccurate and contrary to accepted archival practices but misleading and wrong. One of the disappointing things about the article entitled, "Putting a lifetime of photos and more on a DVD Preserving Memories, was that a sidebar had links to both the U.S. National Archives and the Library of Congress websites with current, accurate information that contradicted the article. Apparently, neither author nor the editorial staff of The Costco Connection took the time to investigate the recommended best practices.


The author of the article starts out by telling about a fairly common situation where valuable family photos and documents are neglected by family members for an extended period of time and finally end up in the author's garage. I have actually rescued valuable family documents stored in garages. 

From our perspective, over the years, my wife, my daughters and I have rescued a huge number of genealogically valuable records and have put thousands of them online or in libraries and archives where they will be permanently preserved. The ideas expressed in this article are very, very sad because ultimately the valuable genealogical information is destroyed or almost surely lost to the family. People following the suggested practices outlined in the article will almost certainly end up destroying valuable records and photos and losing their genealogical heritage. From a genealogical perspective, the article is a travesty. 

Here is the first of many absolutely poor practices advocated:
My first step was to take a broad sweep through all the bins. I quickly put the photo albums into one area and all other documents in another. Though it was hard, I adopted this mantra: Toss it if it's not absolutely precious. So out went Christmas cards from friends, poor-quality snapshots and other things that were important to my folks but not to me or my siblings.
The author is taking it upon himself to decided what is important and what is not. He does not indicate any particular interest or knowledge about his family and certainly does not seem to care about what his parents thought was important. Granted, there are some things that have little or no historical or genealogical value, but one man's trash is another man's treasure. In this case, his lack of sensitivity and lack of investigation are outrageous. If there is any doubt at all about the value of preserved records then digitize everything. But paramount and above all, preserve what you find. A seemingly unimportant news article or holiday card may be the key to identifying a lost ancestor.

Here is the next bad practice.
Then the hard part began. I sorted through all the photo albums, taking a long trip down memory lane and deciding which photos to digitize and which to discard. This took a dozen long sittings because I had to disassemble many of the books and carefully peel the photos off the pages.
Not only has the author destroyed the arrangement and context of the photos, he has probably damaged many of them by improperly removing them from the albums. My practice is always to image the entire page from an album and then also scan the individual photos in place with any notations made.

The damage continues.
For many photos, the decision was easy: Toss those repeated sunset scenes, out-of-focus shots and others that didn't grip me. But others were more difficult. Who were those people at the dinner table? Would this picture be important to somebody else in my family? And hardest of all: Once I discarded a picture, it would be gone forever.
Just because you don't happen to recognize your own ancestors is no criteria for "throwing out the photos." I shudder to think about the continued loss of valuable artifacts and documents this article might inspire. There is nothing in the article suggesting that the author or others take some time to identify the people in the photos before tossing them out.

The author then says it is not worth his time to digitize the photos so he is going to pay Costco to do the job for 32 cents a scan. If I were being paid 32 cents a scan, I would have been paid more than $100,000 or so for my scanning efforts plus what I have paid my grandchildren to scan documents.

The author finally begins scanning a few of the selected items himself. But then he decides to put the entire project into a standard photo utility from Microsoft called "Photo Gallery." He does not discuss either the resolution of his scans or the format of the files, all important issues for preservation. But the biggest problem is thinking that any one program will solve the preservation issue. How long will Photo Gallery be supported by Microsoft? How many of these types of programs have been abandoned and the file formats no longer supported? This is a major preservation issue. You cannot just scan and forget. You have to continue to migrate your files to new formats as time passes. Migration is a fundamental issue with digital preservation and ignored completely by this article.

The final comment from the article is extremely sad. Here it is:
But in the end, I decided to simply present the files to my family members on a DVD. They can put together their own slide-shows or other projects. The important point is that all those old photos and documents—the story of a family—are now preserved forever.
Almost none of the newly manufactured computers contain DVD drives. A so-called "archival quality DVD" depends on the availability of a drive that will be able to read the content and in this case also a program that will recognize what is on the disk. How long will you be able to read a DVD disk?

These comments are intended to point out that many of the most common practices are destructive to actually preserving our family's memories. As the author and Costco fail to point out, their suggestions are not supported by the Library of Congress. Even a casual review of this entire section of the Library of Congress website will graphically point out the errors in the Costco article.

See Library of Congress, Preservation Directorate. See also the Recommended Formats Statement. Here is one quote from the Library of Congress on CD-R and DVD-R RW Longevity Research.
Recordable optical discs can be convenient media for access and temporary storage. Recordable disc formats include CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. Unfortunately, these media are machine-dependent, and continued access to the digital content is contingent on the availability of compatible hardware and software. Additionally, these media are subject to deterioration just like any other material.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Old People, Genealogy, the Internet, and Computers


I read an interesting quote from Vincent Cerf, one of the inventors of the internet. He is quoted in and interview in the AARP.org Bulletin for December 2016, Vol.  57, No. 10 as follows:
Do you ever encounter a bias about older people using the Internet and new technologies? 
There are some people who imagine that older adults don't know how to use the internet. My immediate reaction is, "I've got news for you, we invented it." On the whole, our older Americans are quite capable of using these kinds of technologies.
One of my sons sent me a link to a study cited by the Nielson Norman Group dated November 13, 2016 and entitled, "The Distribution of Users' Computer Skills: Worse  Than You Think." Here is a description of the study,
A recent international research study allows us to quantify the difference between the broad population and the tech elite. The data was collected from 2011–2015 in 33 countries and was published in 2016 by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a club of industrialized countries). In total, 215,942 people were tested, with at least 5,000 participants in most countries. The large scale of this study explains why it took a few years to publish the findings. 
The research aimed to test the skills of people aged 16–65, which is the age range referred to as “adults” in the report. While it’s true that people aged 66+ are rare in the workforce (and thus of less interest to this workforce-targeted project), they are a major user group for many websites. Our research with users older than 65 has found many important usability issues for this age segment, who often has lower technology skills than younger users. Thus, in assessing the OECD findings, we should remember that the full user pool has lower skills than what the study data shows.
There is an undercurrent of issues involving the use of computers by older adults, particularly in the genealogy community. I suggest you read the report cited above for the full impact of the report. But the summary of the report shows that 26% of the adults tested were unable to use a computer. Now, this report is talking about people under the age of 65.

The article is particularly interesting in light of the large online genealogy programs whose target audience is really a lot of older people as reflected in the opening statements which are directed at those who design computer programs.
One of usability’s most hard-earned lessons is that you are not the user. This is why it’s a disaster to guess at the users’ needs. Since designers are so different from the majority of the target audience, it’s not just irrelevant what you like or what you think is easy to use — it’s often misleading to rely on such personal preferences. 
For sure, anybody who works on a design project will have a more accurate and detailed mental model of the user interface than an outsider. If you target a broad consumer audience, you will also have a higher IQ than your average user, higher literacy levels, and, most likely, you’ll be younger and experience less age-driven degradation of your abilities than many of your users. 
There is one more difference between you and the average user that’s even more damaging to your ability to predict what will be a good user interface: skills in using computers, the Internet, and technology in general. Anybody who’s on a web-design team or other user experience project is a veritable supergeek compared with the average population. This not just true for the developers. Even the less-technical team members are only “less-technical” in comparison with the engineers. They still have much stronger technical skills than most normal people.
For the last thirty years or so, I have been involved in one way or another with designing websites and programs and I have become painfully aware of the gap between the developers and the users. One statement from the article is directed at these developers and designers. The statement is directed at the set of skills that were given to all the tested subjects of the study.
What’s important is to remember that 95% of the population in the United States (93% in Northern Europe; 92% in rich Asia) cannot do these things. (Emphasis in the original).
Now, what about those people who are older than 65? Another article from Nielsen Norman Group is entitled, "Seniors as Web Users." But before I get to the article, I would note that the entire population down to 16-year-olds is basically incompetent with computers. Even if older adults show a lack of computer skills, assuming that the "younger population" has these skills is an inaccurate and unsupported assumption. The younger users are not going to save us from our technological incompetency. The summary of the article about Seniors is as follows:
Summary: Users aged 65 and older are 43% slower at using websites than users aged 21–55. This is an improvement over previous studies, but designs must change to better accommodate aging users.
The article points out that in the United States there was a growth rate of 16% per year increase in the number of computer and internet users over the age of 65.  One conclusion of this particular study is interesting and that is that seniors (over age 65) have gotten more skilled at using the web although there was no progress over time in the mainstream audience's web skills.

Genealogy companies as a whole need to be more aware of the limitations of the older adults because they make up the vast majority of their users. On the other hand continued assumptions that younger users are better at basic computer skills are unfounded and inaccurate.

What is even more interesting about genealogy is that the subject itself incorporates a whole set of additional research and evaluation skills that are also almost entirely missing from the general population. The inaccuracies and unsubstantiated content of the vast majority of the online family trees are more a reflection of this double lack of skills than from any other reason.

Obviously, this is one of my favorite topics primarily because I constantly hear so many references to how genealogy will be saved by the youth. I think this statement from the article on senior web use is appropriate:
The younger users in our control group were twice as likely as older users to try more and different methods—such as site search, contextual help, or online chat—to find the answers to their questions or to complete tasks. 
Conversely, seniors were almost twice as likely to give up on a task. Among all users who quit a task without completing it, seniors gave up 30 seconds before the younger users did. 
When users had problems, seniors blamed themselves 90% of the time, compared to 58% of younger users. As I see it, almost 100% of the blame should fall on the websites and their designers, because most problems could have been avoided if they’d paid better attention to the usability guidelines for designing for seniors
Perhaps because of their reduced confidence, seniors were much more likely to turn to web-wide search engines like Google or Bing. These sites are familiar and welcoming ground, and seniors used search engines 51% more than the younger users to complete tasks.
Comments being made about the superiority of younger computer users are not only inaccurate, they are highly discouraging to older adults.

Those who design and try to sell genealogy programs should be aware of these issues. Those who try to promote genealogy as a populist pursuit should also bear in mind that there are certain very complex and difficult to master skills that are required for anyone to do adequate research. That is not to say that people cannot acquire those skills but as the first study shows, less than 5% of the population of 33 developed countries have even the computer part of those skills now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Surviving a Precarious Reliance on the Internet


Last night, the vaunted Google Fiber network to our house in Provo, Utah went dead. A chat with Google that lasted over an hour, ended up with an announcement that the first day they could schedule anyone to come and look at the situation was five days off. I might as well be sitting in the middle of Canyonlands National Park. Fortunately, I do have the alternative of driving down to the BYU Family History Library and camping out for the entire day.

I recently wrote a post about backing up your data files (and everything else while you are at it) called, "Back It Up, Archive It, Preserve It or Lose It." I fear that I didn't emphasize enough the evanescent nature of each of the popular media for backing up computer data. Genealogists generate a lot of data. Historically, this was, and still is, most piles of paper. But those of use attached to the internet are accumulating huge numbers of files. I may have mentioned this recently, but my most recent backup entailed the transfer of more than 10 million files and took three full days.

If you listen to the "back it up online" advocates, they represent their products and programs to be the solution to all your data preservation issues. But as my recent experience with my internet connection illustrates, depending on the internet to be operational at any given moment can be risky. I have long ago learned not to rely on internet connections when doing presentations in classes or at conferences. But our recent five-day down experience should be a graphic demonstration of the present unreliability of all of the forms of backing up data.

The only answer is to have more that one backup media and then add redundancy to each of the different methods. In other words, don't put all your eggs in the same basket.

If you use hard drives, make sure that you have more than one hard drive and in the best case scenario, keep one off site in a trusted location. If you use any other media, such as flash drives (thumb drives to some) then this redundancy is even more important.

I may be struggling to have time to write. I usually start very early in the day and write most of the morning. For the time being, I will have to get completely ready and travel to the Library to write at all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

iPhone 7 Plus vs. Sony Cybershot DSC-HX400V

I recently upgraded my iPhone to the new iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 7 Plus has the following camera specs:

  • 12 MP wide-angle and telephoto
  • Wide angle f/1.8 aperture 
  • Telephoto f/2.8 aperture
  • Optical zoom at 2x, digital zoom up to 10x
The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX400V has the following specs:

  • 20,4 MP Exmor R CMOS
  • ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar® T* Lens
  • f/2.8 - f/6.3 (Telephoto) aperture
  • 50x optical zoom
Of course, the sensors are different due to the physical size of the cameras. The sensor on the Sony is a 1/2.3 inch or 7.82 mm sensor. The iPhone has a 3.99 mm sensor.

I wanted to compare the two cameras with the same photo taken at about the same time. So I went outside in the morning when it was 26 degrees and took the following photos with the two cameras. You can click on the photos to see them full-size. 

Here is the Sony photo.


Each of the photos is entirely unretouched and straight from the camera. 

The following photo was taken with the iPhone 7 Plus camera using the standard Apple photo app.


I then took one more photo, before I froze, with a newer app called ProCam 4 - Manual Camera + RAW. All of the photos were taken from JPEGs to even the field. 


Then I pulled all three photos into Photoshop CC 2017 and started to work with them. Here are details from all three photos at 200% magnification.

First the Sony:


Now the iPhone with the Apple app



I don't really need to go much further. The iPhone image is already losing detail. If I go to 300% magnification, the difference becomes even more obvious.

Here is the Sony at 300%:



Here is the iPhone at 300%:


The new smartphone cameras are being promoted as a "replacement" or "equivalent" to DSLR cameras. Baloney. The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX400V is technically a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera or DSLR but it is also an inexpensive consumer level camera. The iPhone 7 Plus cost around $800 and the Sony cost about $450. If I did the same test with my Canon 5D Mark II, there would be an even greater difference in resolution. In cameras, most of the time, you get what you pay for. Smartphone cameras have a long way to go before they replace my DSLR or even my Sony camera. For a better comparison, here is a photo of the same part of the mountain taken with the Sony using the camera's zoom option and no magnification in Photoshop. 


Now, if you go back and look at the two original photos, you might say they were about the same. The difference is in the amount of information contained in the photo. This might or might not seem important to you, but as a professional photographer it is very important. 

If you want some more information about digital photography see my video for the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel.


Digital Photography for Genealogists - James Tanner

Callaway Family Association v Commissioner -- Tax exempt status of family organization


The Tax Court case of Calloway Family Association v. Commissioner, 71 T.C. 340 (1978) challenged a ruling by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue denying the Association tax exempt status under Section 501(a) as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 in effect during the tax years at issue. The facts of the case were reviewed in the decision entered by the Judge of the United States Tax Court as follows:
Petitioner the Callaway Family Association, Inc., was incorporated on September 3, 1975, as a nonprofit corporation under the District of Columbia Non-Profit Corporation Act. It filed a Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, under section 501(c)(3) on December 28, 1976. The application was filed with the Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., and was forwarded to the Office of the District Director of the Internal Revenue Service in Baltimore, Md. Respondent issued a final notice of determination dated October 20, 1977, affirming a prior adverse determination of June 8, 1977, which denied petitioner exemption under section 501(c)(3). Respondent determined that petitioner's genealogical activities are not in furtherance of an exempt purpose specified in section 501(c)(3) and that they serve the private interests of the Callaway family members.
 The Petitioner's Articles of Incorporation outlined the educational objectives of the corporation as follows:
A. To study British immigration to the North American colonies in the early colonial period and to further knowledge and understanding of the contribution made by the descendants of those early colonists to the subsequent growth and development of the continental United States by tracing the migratory patterns of succeeding generations and by researching the social and economic milieu in which they lived. In abstracting and collecting historical data in furtherance of this objective, to concentrate research on the public and family records of the Callaway (as variously spelled) and related families, as being typical of the times and places in which they lived;

 B. To issue publications featuring abstracts of the raw historical and genealogical data collected and generalized articles based thereon and, ultimately, a synthesis of all collected data in the form of a history of social and economic development in pertinent parts of the United States, as typified by the growth and dispersal of the Callaway and related families; and

C. To provide instruction and education in the methodology of historical, biographical, and genealogical research, encouraging the compilation and preservation of accurate and complete records, and to promote scholarly writing.
The Tax Court Judge cited additional purposes of the Association as follows:
These purposes are to be accomplished by activities including the annual publication of The Callaway Journal; annual "meetings" with lectures; workshops in genealogyresearch; and the ultimate publication of the history of the Callaway family. This history, petitioner states, will be "an effort to chronicle the process of the peopling of America as seen through the eyes of one family." (Some citations omitted).
The basic issue of the case was whether or not the activities of the Association were broad enough to qualify as general educational objectives that would benefit the larger public interests or were so limited that they only benefitted the named group i.e. the Calloway family.

Of course, the advantage of obtaining tax exemption for a family association would be that any income made by the Association would not be subject to income taxes. If the Association qualified as a 501(c)(3) organization then donations made to the Association may have been tax deductible.

The Tax Court Judge identified the issues of the case as being whether or not the petitioner was operated exclusively for educational purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3). He states that the Petitioner contends that its purposes are educational and benefit the general public. He further noted that Petitioner maintains that its genealogical research and associated activities are a means to the end of providing insights [in]to our country's history by use of a methodology which focuses on one family's development.

The Respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue, on the other hand,
...contends that the petitioner's purposes primarily serve the private interests of its members, the Callaway family, no matter how diverse and widespread that family might be. Respondent maintains that the administrative record supports a finding that petitioner aimed its organizational drive at Callaway family members, and appealed to them on the basis of their private interests. In its ruling letter dated October 20, 1977, respondent concluded that petitioner did not qualify for exempt status because: 
More than an insubstantial part of [petitioner's] activities consists of the compilation and publication of a genealogical history of the Callaway family, and this activity is not in furtherance of an exempt purpose specified in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Also [petitioner's], organization is serving the private interests of members of the Callaway family, rather than serving a public interest.
If you were considering the formation of a family association or other organization, how would you change the description of the of the corporation's Articles of Incorporation to comply with the United States Tax Laws? From my perspective, it appears that either the corporation tried to obtain tax-exempt status without the benefit of consulting legal counsel or the advice they received was faulty. There is a specific provision, as noted by the Tax Court Judge, that Section 501(c)(3) holds as follows:
The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.
The Tax Court Judge noted that:
Finally, petitioner relies heavily on Rev. Rul. 71-580, 1971-2 C.B. 235, in which respondent granted tax-exempt status to a family association that compiled a family's genealogy for religious purposes. Petitioner insists that respondent must follow his own revenue ruling. However, we need not pass on this argument for we find that Rev. Rul. 71-580 is distinguishable.
What the Tax Court Judge means here is that he does not think that the earlier ruling can be used as an argument in this particular case. The Tax Court Judge expands on his explanation of the prior case as follows:
Rev. Rul. 71-580 involved the narrow issue whether a family association furnishing "genealogical information the [Mormon] Church needs in order to conduct certain religious ordinances in accordance with basic religious doctrines" is an exempt religious organization under section 501(c)(3). The Mormon Church follows a practice of setting up family groups to study the genealogy of each member family back to Adam and Eve. This is part of a broader goal of the church to record the names of all deceased persons and to perform baptism upon them, since Mormon theology holds that salvation for the dead can be effected by the living. The names of all known ancestors collected by each family group are stored in a central location. These records, they believe, will be the basis for judgment on the last day, since deceased ancestors of members may be accepted into the church through their living family members.

It is evident that family genealogical associations play an integral role in Mormon religious practices. Accordingly, Rev. Rul. 71-580 analogized the exempt status allowed for this practice of the Mormon Church to cases which have upheld trusts for other religious practices, such as Catholic masses for the dead and Hebrew memorial services for the repose of souls. The law of charity has traditionally recognized trusts for these and similar religious purposes as charitable on the theory that the religious purpose of the trust is of spiritual benefit to all the members of that faith and to the general public as well. We believe that this is a sufficient basis for distinguishing petitioner's case from the narrow circumstances encompassed in Rev. Rul. 71-580.
The court indicates that the general educational purpose of the Petitioner Association does not fall within the specific exemption given to a religious purpose. I would note that the ruling cited relies on some inaccurate factual details. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon Church] does not follow the practice of  "setting up  to study the genealogy of each member family back to Adam and Eve." The purpose of family organizations in the church is much broader than this simplistic explanation and members are certainly not encouraged to try to pursue their family trees back to Adam. In addition, there is an implication that deceased family members are "accepted into the church through their living family members." This is also a misstatement. In this regard, I suggest that anyone interested in this doctrine read the following article on LDS.org: "Baptisms for the Dead" where it states,
Some people have misunderstood that when baptisms for the dead are performed, deceased persons are baptized into the Church against their will. This is not the case. Each individual has agency, or the right to choose. The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world. The names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records of the Church.
When I read a case like this, I am reminded of my experience with news reporting. When I personally know the facts of a particular news story, I am nearly always amazed at the inaccuracies reported.

In the end, the Tax Court Judge denied the appeal made by the Petitioner Association. Given the condition of the Association's Articles of Incorporation, the decision was a foregone conclusion due to the advantages accruing to individuals and not the general public.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Whatever happened to the Mesa FamilySearch Library?


Preliminary note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of any other entity or organization including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It has now been two years since the Mesa FamilySearch Library closed for renovations. Apparently, the renovations were to take about a month or so, but problems with the building housing the Library stopped the entire operation. Now two years later, the Library is operating out of the old building the corner of 1st Avenue and LeSueur, 464 E. 1st Avenue, Mesa, Arizona.  For some reason, the website for the Library is down at the time of this post.  I served as a volunteer missionary at the Mesa FamilySearch Library for about ten years.

Most of the individual Family History Centers around the world are operated by the local units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called "Stakes." There are approximately 5000 of such Centers in operation. The Mesa FamilySearch Library was variously called the Mesa Family History Center, the Mesa Large Multi-Stake Family History Center,  and the Mesa Regional Family History Center at one time or another. Operation of a large Family History Center such as the one in Mesa is complicated by the fact that several different Church organizations have input and control of different aspects of the operation. For example, the maintenance of the facilities falls under the general building maintenance of the Church, while the volunteers are asked to serve under the direction of the Church Missionary Department and serve as Church Sevice Missionaries. In addition, the overall supervision and control of the Centers comes from FamilySearch.

During the time of its operation out of the newer building at 41 South Hobson in Mesa, there were about 150 missionaries serving and helping more than 35,000 patrons a year. At the time it closed, the Library had the following resources:
  • 129 computers and 14 film/fiche readers
  • Free access to subscription-based Internet websites, Including FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, Footnote, HeritageQuest, AmericanAncestors.org (formerly New England Historic Genealogical Society), World Vital Records, Godfrey Memorial Library and many other sites.
  • Pedigree Resource File CDs
  • Over 700 Commercial CDs with genealogical research data.
  • Over 30,000 to 40,000 Books, including many digital books. Index of the Digital Books
  • Over 81,000 rolls of microfilm and 52,000 microfiche. Additional films and fiche may be rented from the Family History Library.
  • Copiers and printers are available.
  • Genealogy software programs, forms, research outlines, word lists, etc., available at cost in our Copy Room.
  • Free Classes and Workshops --- Over 90 classes and workshops scheduled each month.
  • Research Specialty Committees.
  • Workshops -- with 26 computers at the Family History Training Center, 464 E. 1st Avenue for hands-on-training.
Over the last two years, I have inquired several times as to the possible disposition of the facility and the future of the Library without any firm response. Meanwhile, FamilySearch has proceeded with several other large Family History Center and Family Discovery Center projects. 

As I have recently written, many of the existing Family History Centers are losing the attraction of their basic resources due to the ongoing digitization projects being finalized in the not-to-distant future by FamilySearch. The majority of the books in the Mesa FamilySearch Library have already been digitized and added to the FamilySearch.org website. Currently, the FamilySearch.org Books collection has 321,206 digitized volumes. With the conclusion of the digitization of the microfilm collection in the Salt Lake Family History Library in the next few years, the main reasons for doing research in a facility like the Mesa FamilySearch Library will end. Most of the reasons for visiting a library or center such as the one in Mesa were based on the research resources available. Here in the United States, for example, most of the people in the country now have access to online computers at home. A Pew Institute Study entitled, "Americans' Internet Access: 2000-2015" indicates that in 2015, 84% of the adults in the United States had internet access. 

However, one component of some of the Family History Centers, including Mesa, is the ability to provide excellent training and support to patrons. If the type of center in Mesa is going to continue to operate in the future, these centers will have to become primarily teaching, training, and support facilities. It may well be that this almost certain future of the existing Family History Centers dominates the reasoning behind virtually closing down much of the Mesa facility's operation. If that is the case, then many of the Family History Centers in the United States will probably suffer the same fate as the one in Mesa, particularly those 

Family History Centers located in countries other than the United States serve a different function. Where there is limited access to internet technology the Family History Centers give patrons free access to online resources. 

The Globalization of Ancestry.com


I recently took a look at the Ancestry.com Card Catalog as of the date of this post. Ancestry.com has always been a major resource for finding your ancestors in the United States and Great Britain but has not been so helpful in other parts of the world. If you take a look at the new collections added to the website recently, you will see that this limitation is rapidly changing. Here are a few excerpts showing the globalization of the collections. 

The list could go on and on. Interestingly, these additions are primarily from FamilySearch.org. For example, the Serrara Fontana, Napoli, Italy, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929 (in Italian) collection has the following description of the source:
Ancestry.com. Serrara Fontana, Napoli, Italy, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Italy, Napoli, Serrara Fontana, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
These extensive collections are a benefit of the strategic partnerships created between FamilySearch and some of the large online databases. The important fact here is that these collections were in microfilm format from FamilySearch.org and are now indexed on Ancestry.com.  The images are on FamilySearch.org.


We can expect more of this kind of synergy to occur in the near future as FamilySearch finishes the task of digitizing all of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in its vast collection.

But this also points out the importance to genealogists that they break away from the "traditional" methods they have used to find documents and realize that they need to look at a wider, globalized network of information rather than relying on the their "accepted" methods of doing their research.