You're likely to find all manner of things here - some trivial, some serious and lots in between: expect comments on books, family history, current events and matters great and small.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

OGS June 2012

Thanks very much for coming to one (or more) of my three presentations at the Ontario Genealogical Society’s conference.  I hope you enjoyed them and found them helpful.

The links to the PDF files I promised you are below. Please download the one(s) appropriate to your research.

If you attended my Saturday afternoon presentation on the New York State Library and Archives titled Researching Over The River: Resources for Family History Research in the New York State Archives and Library, the link below will take you directly to the promised list of URLs mentioned in the talk

If you attended my Saturday afternoon presentation on newspapers called Extra! Hear All About It: Exploring Some New and Less Familiar Pathways in Newspaper Research, the link below will take you directly to the promised list of URLs mentioned in the talk.

If you attended my Sunday afternoon presentation titled Keepers of the Family Stuff:  Maintaining The Family Home Archives, the link below will take you directly to the promised list of URLs mentioned in the talk.

The links above will remain active until Monday, June 18, 2012.

Also, next time you're poking around the internet, check out my other, much more elaborate and informative blog called "Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror" where I write about all kinds of things of interest to genealogists, family historians and books and archives types.

Here's the link to that blog:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Those Pesky Codes - They're Not That Hard!

I find it interesting that any number of folks on the "members only" listserv of the "Association of Professional Genealogists"  are having difficulty with the 1940 census; specifically, the entries where the "M" (for married) has been crossed out and replaced with the number 7.

A quick check of the census procedural history on the IPUMS website explains all this.  It means that the person in question claims to be married but that the spouse is not present.  The number "7": - it was added by census checkers in Washington. Professionals should know this.  This is not rocket science. Bluntly ... look it up! 

I blogged about this several weeks ago here:

Seriously, part of being a professional genealogist is (a.) knowing how to find out what stuff means and (b.) being able to interpret what you find.  If either (a.) and/or (b.) is too difficult, you might want to consider doing something else.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Thought Or Two Upon Accessing The 1940 Census (Or Failure To Do So)

I started trying to look at the 1940 census at around 9:30 AM EDT. For the past 10 hours or so, I’ve been unsuccessful in actually accessing the census images through the NARA.GOV website.  

 Of course, the census images are not actually on the NARA.GOV site; that’s only the portal for access.  In fact, they’re being delivered by, a third party private sector entity that is owned – whole and entire – by a Silicon Valley company called  Inflection.  Inflection describes itself as a company with “…over 14 billion public records in our databases.”  Inflection was created to be a “for-profit” entity, not a public service venture.  NARA gave them a contract to host and provide access to the 1940 census images.

Today, actually getting the 1940 census images to load through that NARA portal site is problematic, at best. 

Of course, that was not designed to be the case.  After all, this is what is known as a “public-private partnership”.   In other words, the public sector (NARA) turned to the private sector (Inflection, and their wholly-owned subsidiary to provide internet delivery of the 1940 census images.  This was supposed to eliminate the inefficiencies of government.   If you’ve been listening to the news, you’re supposed to believe that government is wildly inefficient, grossly incompetent, corrupt and wasteful.   

You betcha.

I’m pretty familiar with the “public-private partnership” concept.  Many years ago, I was the local administrator of a US Department of Labor-funded program called the Jobs Training Partnership Act (JTPA).  This was designed to be a “public-private partnership” that produced jobs for those in need (i.e., undereducated, low-skilled, etc.)  in the private sector.  It provided training, counseling, support services and a host of other things.   

Problem was, the private sector wasn’t much interested in hiring these folks, no matter what their skill level or training actually was.  They LOVED the idea of being paid to provide some sort of training, but were not particularly enthused by the HIRING part, since that would cost money.

If you’ve been listening to the national dialogues lately, you’re supposed to believe that the “public sector” – i.e., the government – is grossly incompetent and unable to provide any kind of public service in a timely or cost-effective manner.  You’re supposed to believe that the private sector – driven by the profit motive – will provide better and cheaper services. After all, free market competition solves everything.

Out of this concept, the “public-private partnership” idea was born.  After all, the concept is based upon the belief that everything is better in the private sector.  Cheaper, more efficient, you name it.

So, if you’re having difficulty accessing the census images through the public-private partnership that NARA set up, please remember that the fault does not rest with NARA’s servers.  The fault is not the fault of the Feds or NARA's employees.

Besides, if you can’t get the 1940 census images today, don’t worry.  There’s always tomorrow or next week. It’ll be a whole lot less busy sometime in May or June, probably.  The private sector folks know that you’ll be back. 

After all, it’s only the census.  It’s not like it’s important in the real private sector for-profit world.

(That's the "Your call is important to us..." mentality...)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Photos and Where They End Up

Yesterday morning, as I walked from Penn Station to the New York Public Library for the NYG&B's program on the 1940 Census (at which I was speaking), I was probably photographed a dozen times, mostly by Asian, Italian or South American tourists.  When I walked back to the train station later that afternoon, the same thing happened.

Actually, it wasn't me that was being photographed; it was either a NYC landmark or some kind of touristy "group shot."

I just happened to be in the general area that the person with the camera was focusing.  I was, in effect, the "accidental passer-by."  As a result, I ended up in lots of pictures that would eventually come to rest in places as diverse as Osaka, Firenze or Montevideo.

Which, of course, raises an interesting question.  How many of us are accidental subjects (albeit background players) of other people's photos, simply because of where we happen to be walking or standing?

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I'll be using this blog to post things that are not particularly suited to my Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror blog.  Posts will likely be shorter and on a variety of topics, including descriptions of things we've acquired for stock and things we're cataloging.

I'll also be using it to test hyperlinks to my public dropbox files, like this.

So, stay tuned.