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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1000 Programs on GenSoftReviews

http://www.gensoftreviews.com/
Almost everyone who has an internet connection recognizes the "star system" of ranking programs and other merchandise. GenSoftReviews.com has been doing this for years with reviews generated by actual users of various genealogy programs. What is amazing is that the number of such programs has grown over the years and has now surpassed 1000.

This means that there have been over 1000 different genealogy programs developed. I must admit that I have not kept up with all of them. Time and old age take their toll. Actually, I am way too busy to try all the programs like I used to do. But with some notable exceptions, such as the strange case of programs that are highly rated but no longer supported or available from their developers, the rankings are quite accurate. Low ranked programs have some serious issues. Higher ranked programs have a lot fewer issues. Many programs have a dedicated fan base and some of these fan bases are like the people who are still looking for Elvis. They apparently expect really old programs to continue living long after they are officially dead.

GenSoftReviews.com is more than another website. It is a real window into the history of genealogy software and the attitudes and opinions of thousands of genealogists around the world. If I were rating genealogy websites, I would give GenSoftReviews.com five stars and a place in the Genealogy Website Hall of Fame.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Genealogy and the Courts Continued: Copyright Chaos


This post isn't really series, but from time to time, I address any legal changes that may affect the genealogical community. Sometimes a random court decision about a case that seems to have no relevance to genealogical research or anything else becomes a deal changing blockbuster. The latest controversy involves a case from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The case citation is as follows:

Justin Goldman v. Breitbart News Network, LLC, Heavy, Inc., Time, Inc.,Yahoo, Inc., Vox Media, Inc., Gannett Company, Inc., Herald Media, Inc., Boston Globe Media Partners, Inc., and New England Sports Network, Inc., Case 1:17-cv-03144-KBF, S. District of New York, 2018.

Here is the court's own summary of the facts which includes a footnote.
On July 2, 2016, plaintiff Justin Goldman snapped a photograph of Tom Brady (the “Photo”), Danny Ainge, and others on the street in East Hampton. (ECF No. 149, Goldman Declaration (“Goldman Decl.”) ¶ 2.) Shortly thereafter, he uploaded the photograph to his Snapchat Story.1 (Id. ¶ 5.) The Photo then went “viral,” traveling through several levels of social media platforms—and finally onto Twitter, where it was uploaded by several users, including Cassidy Hubbarth (@cassidyhubbarth), Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning), Rob H (@rch111), and Travis Singleton (@SneakerReporter). (Id. ¶ 6–10; ECF No. 120, Defendants’ Statement of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 (“Defs.’ 56.1 Statement”) ¶ 28.) These uploads onto Twitter are referred to as “Tweets.”

1 Snapchat is a social media platform where users share photographs and messages; a Snapchat story is a series of photos a user posts—each photo is available for twenty-four hours only.

Defendants in this case are online news outlets and blogs who published articles featuring the Photo. Each of defendants’ websites prominently featured the Photo by “embedding” the Tweet into articles they wrote over the course of the next forty-eight hours; the articles were all focused on the issue of whether the Boston Celtics would successfully recruit basketball player Kevin Durant, and if Tom Brady would help to seal the deal.

It is undisputed that plaintiff holds the copyright to the Photo.
The key to understanding this controversy is that the photo was undeniably subject to a claim of copyright and then used by commercially oriented websites without a license or even the courtesy of attribution.

The court goes on to examine the process of "embedding" a photo in an HTML document. To make this part of the case as simple as possible, the photo at the beginning of this post is "embedded." All that means is that it is used in the context of this post and copied here by reference to another copy of the same photograph. By the way, the photo above is in the Public Domain and not subject to copyright claims.

Apparently, the defense raised was that no actual "photo" was copied and that the "original" was never used. This is a pretty lame defense from my perspective. I would probably have claimed that the "viral" photo had passed into the public domain by virtue of the fact that the "author," here the photographer failed to take steps to protect his copyright from use by millions of people. He could have watermarked his photo with a claim of ownership, for example.

This case has implications for anyone who copies a copyrighted photo because, at least in this early phase of the litigation, the court did not discuss the issue of abandonment.

The discussion by the Judge is a good summary of the status of U.S. Copyright law as it relates to technology such as the internet. However, many of the statements quoted by the Court demonstrate the lack of sophistication of the various judges who are quoted.

It should also be noted that this lawsuit is far from over. The order referenced above is only a decision on part of the case and the final decision or judgment of the court is still a long way off. After the decision is made, the parties could always appeal to the Court of Appeals and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court.

If this case is finally decided on the basis of the reasoning set forth by the Court, it will become a landmark decision and a very good reminder to all of us to be extremely careful when copying and using content from the internet.




Sunday, February 18, 2018

Personal Blogging is still Fading Slowly Away


I noticed an article in the news stream that indicated that Facebook's traffic is down 50 million hours per day. See Mahable.com "Facebook's traffic is down 50 million hours per day as Zuckerberg demands fewer 'viral videos'." There aren't equally as clear statistics for blogging because the trend is that blogs are becoming almost exclusively marketing vehicles. A not-so-recent article entitled, "52 Incredible Blogging Statistics to Inspire You to Blog" makes the statement, "Over the past five years blogging has evolved into a serious online marketing activity." Yes, my blogs are becoming an endangered species.

Of course, you are more than welcome to buy any of the books I have authored or coauthored. You are also welcome to use or purchase any of the programs I mention. But I do not view my blog as a marketing activity. I still present at conferences when I am available. But this year, I am only scheduled, so far, at two very local events. I would be at #RootsTech 2018 this year, were I not volunteering at the Maryland State Archives and working every day at digitizing records so all of you out there will have records to search.

The reality of blogging is that rather than disappearing, it has become the main news and marketing vehicle for what was previously the publishing and newspaper industry. I haven't read a paper newspaper for some time. Although, I did read the paper editions of the Universe, the student newspaper at Brigham Young University while we were there at the BYU Family History Library. I also read the paper edition of the Deseret News' National Edition, the local Salt Lake City, Utah newspaper. I read both because they were free and distributed at the entrance to the Library. I could read both online, however.

Facebook users, especially younger users, are migrating to Snapchat and Instagram. Bloggers have been migrating to Facebook for some time now and will probably follow the lead of the younger users to Instagram. Quite frankly, Facebook has simply become another junk mail outlet as have many of the blogs.

There are still some dedicated genealogy bloggers out there and a few new ones, but they are mostly drowning in a flood of commercial blogs, some of which post dozens of times a day. My blog aggregator, Digg.com, and my news and blog aggregator, Feedly.com, can both have over a thousand posts listed in a little more than one day. In one sense, blogging is dying from success.

I am no longer actively promoting blogging as a genealogy activity. I do have occasion to talk to genealogical entrepreneurs from time to time, and I do suggest that they use the media to promote their activities and include blogs and Facebook posts, but now the field also includes Pinterest, Instagram, and other such outlets. Promoters or all kinds are also exploiting Twitter, YouTube, and Google+.

Of course, I post to all those outlets. However, my Instagram account is family oriented and not generally public.

Will I keep blogging? I was speculating about the amount of time I might have to blog here in Annapolis, but it turns out that I just work more and do some of the same things I did before coming here. My question was if I was going to work for for over 40 hours a week, what would I do with all my extra time. I guess I am finding out.



We have our five MyHeritage Party Winners


I would like to congratulate the winners of free passes to the MyHeritage.com Roaring Twenties party after #RootsTech 2018 which is quickly coming up. They are:
  • Bev Bremness
  • J Ray Scott
  • Dave & Manja Midgley
  • David Farstead
  • Linda Lenhard
Thanks to all those who submitted entries. Sorry again, that I won't be there to enjoy this great party. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

From Whence and to Thither -- Understanding Migration Patterns: Part Eight

Representation of Thomas Hooker's Settlement of Connecticut
This highly stylized image of early colonial travel and settlements is far from accurate, but it does give an idea of the obstacles facing early travel in the Colonial Era. When moving, the early settlers of America had to carry everything they needed to survive. The least realistic aspect of the above image is the lack of equipment and supplies carried by the people shown. There were no opportunities to seek out local food or shelter when they reached their destination. As roads and settlements increased the wilderness simply moved further west and north.

The main access to the interior of the American continent was by following the rivers upstream. It is no coincidence that most of the major cities in the United States are built along rivers. The most obvious access point is the vast Chesapeake Bay. Technically, the Bay is really an estuary. An estuary is a flooded river valley where the tides from the ocean meet a river stream. Here is a satellite view of the Chesapeake that shows its size.


Satellite (Landsat) picture of Chesapeake Bay (center) and Delaware Bay (upper right) - and Atlantic coast of the central-eastern United States.
Just north of the Chesapeake is the Delaware Bay, another estuary. Some of the cities along these to great waterways are Washington, D.C., Baltimore in Maryland, Dover in Delaware, Wilmington in Delaware, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and ultimately upriver, Trenton in New Jersey. New York, did not have a huge estuary, but it did have the protected bay and the huge stretch of protected water on the north side of Long Island. Here is another satellite view showing the area around New York City.

New York STS058-081-038
This second satellite image also shows the impact of the Hudson River as a pathway into the interior of the country. The amount of goods and equipment that could be carried by boat far exceeded the capacity of wagons during all of the early history of America.

Accordingly, the migration patterns of American immigrants were governed by geographic reality: mountains and rivers. To begin to understand how your ancestors moved, you need to look to both the mountains and the rivers.

One of the basic motivations for movement from the Atlantic seaboard was the constant increase in population. One major motivating factor in moving to America was to obtain land ownership. Even though many immigrants came as enslaved people or indentured servants, those who came voluntarily were interested in land. Even among the well-known Mayflower passengers, some of the immigrants were not motivated by a desire to have religious freedom but were merchants and craftsmen. There were also some orphaned children and indentured servants. See Mayflower Compact.

It was over a hundred years after the first settlements along the Atlantic Coast before the interior began to be settled. As genealogists, before assuming that our early American ancestors were born in places like Kentucky or Tennesee, we need to be aware of the availability of transportation into these inland areas. One example is the Susquehanna River; the longest river on the East Coast. Here is a map of the Susquehanna River Basin.

By I, Karl Musser, created it - Own work: based on USGS data., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=735204
Primarily, because of the access to the interior afforded by the Susquehanna River, in combination with the Ohio River,  Pennsylvania was settled from east to west by about 1830. But to get an appreciation for the impact of migration routes, it is necessary to focus on the time each of the western states was first settled. Here is a partial list of what is considered the first European settlements for some of the states that do not have Atlantic sea coasts.
  • Vermont 1724
  • Ohio 1788
  • Kentucky 1774
  • Tennessee 1768
  • Arkansas 1686
Kentucky and Tennesee were first settled from Virginia. Vermont's first settlers came from Massachusetts. Ohio was settled because of the river systems as was Arkansas. It is important to understand how the pattern of settlement in each of these states continued after the first settlement.

The largest interior town in America, for many years, was Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The main road from Philadelphia to Lancaster was the Lancaster Turnpike. Here is a description from Wikipedia: Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike.
The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, first used in 1795, is the first long-distance paved road built in the United States, according to engineered plans and specifications. It links Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia at 34th Street, stretching for sixty-two miles. However, the western terminus was actually at the Susquehanna River in Columbia. The route is designated PA 462 from the western terminus to US 30, where that route takes over for the majority of the route. The US 30 designation ends at Girard Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood of Philadelphia, where State Route 3012 takes it from there to Belmont Avenue. At Belmont Avenue, State Route 3005 gets the designation from Belmont Avenue until the terminus at 34th Street.
Note that the road ran to the Susquehanna River. Genealogical research becomes more manageable as you begin to realize that your ancestors lived in the context of their own history and that movement in the earliest times was dramatically restricted from what it is today.

You can see the earlier posts in this series here:

http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/02/from-whence-and-to-thither_14.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/02/from-whence-and-to-thither_11.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/02/from-whence-and-to-thither.html
https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/01/from-whence-and-to-thither_10.html
https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/01/from-whence-and-to-thither.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2017/12/from-whence-and-to-thither_31.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2017/12/from-whence-and-to-thither.html

Friday, February 16, 2018

Stories and Histories of Black Mormon Pioneers

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865696018/Histories-of-black-Mormon-pioneers-remind-us-all-are-alike-unto-God.html

My daughter and blogging partner, Amy Tanner Thiriot, in celebration of black history month made a standing room only presented a lecture at the Church History Museum’s series titled, "Evening at the Museum," on February 15, 2018. The above article appeared online on the LDS ChurchNews section of the Deseret News website. Quoting from the article:
Professor Paul Reeve, from the University of Utah, introduced Thiriot as a “thorough and meticulous researcher.” He quoted Thiriot’s own description of her work as having been prompted by “the little known black pioneers of the Utah territory” and said that “theirs are stories that have largely been forgotten, so researching their lives has been like a second emancipation; freeing these men and women from historical obscurity.” 
And while Thiriot’s research can be looked at as an exciting new turn that brings to light truths lost or hidden by history, the quiet and somber manner with which she told the histories of 19 different black pioneers who played various roles in settling the Utah territory created a memorial-like atmosphere during the presentation.
The article is quite long and was merely a summary of the research Amy has done in writing her upcoming book, "Slaves in Zion: African American Servitude in Utah Territory."  The article goes on to comment about the stories Amy told during her presentation:
These stories, and other detailed examples of documents and records uncovered by Thiriot, are just part of what makes her research groundbreaking for the black Mormon community.
Well done Amy. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Old Genealogists Never Die



If you were spending eight or more hours a day digitizing documents this might not be funny.