Saturday, April 25, 2015

Old and New Subscription packages

It appears that has different plans depending upon whether you are a new subscriber or upgrading a current account. This isn't unusual - but the difference is significant. Not in what they are charging, but the plans themselves.

A new subscriber has two options on reaching the website. Subscribe to a plan, or a 14 day free trial. (But the 14 day free trial requires you to select a plan that will follow the trial.) Except for the 14 free days, the prices and plans are identical. Note, however, that you no longer have an annual subscription option as a new subscriber.

The plans may look unusual to the current member. It appears they no longer offer their "US Discovery Plan" providing access to all US records. (I have discovered at least one place, for now, a new subscriber can access this old plan, which I discuss below.)

Your choices are:
  • All World Records, minus some 'premium collections'
  • All World Records
  • All World Records + Fold3 + + Ancestry Academy

Premium collections (see image) include yearbooks, wills and probate, homestead and land deeds, occupational records, military draft cards, enlistment and casualty records, and 'other' family and local history sources.

The 'Standard' option seems to only include census, civil, birth, marriage and death records, as well as the family trees.

If you currently have an account you have two options.

(Note: I am assuming this is what you see whether your account is a Free 'lapsed subscription' account, or a paid subscriber account. My account is currently lapsed. If I am incorrect, let me know in the comments.)

You can either select Subscribe or My Account.

If you select 'Subscribe' your options are the same as above. Same costs, too.
If you select 'My Account' you have an upgrade option with the old packages.

So the US Discovery membership is still available for the same price as the new Standard package. You have the choice of paying the same thing and getting a subset of records for the whole world, or all of the US records. But you only have the latter option if you already have an account, which suggests the option is likely to be phased out in the future.

That is, new subscribers don't have the US Discovery option directly from the Ancestry website.

Have you heard of Goodshop? It's a place where you can select the non-profit of your choice, and companies across the internet have agreed to contribute a percentage of your purchases to that non-profit if you go to their site from Goodshop. Ancestry contributes up to 7.5%.

And the US Discovery membership plan is still available at Goodshop. (I don't know for how long.)

Here are all of Goodshop's related coupons

Goodshop also has a 20% coupon for an AncestryDNA kit that supposedly expires April 27. If you click the link on the "Save $60" coupon below, you end up with the Ancestry membership options shown above. (It's not really an exclusive coupon, since it's the normal $60 discount you get from the Semi-Annual membership when compared to the monthly membership. But your chosen non-profit gets a cut.)


Eliminating the US Discovery package is likely a smart business move for Ancestry. I suspect there are a lot of family historians who were very comfortable with just the US Discovery package, but will pay the extra for the collections now labelled 'premium.'

I do wonder if the Ancestry Library Access package will remain all US records, or whether it will be changed to match the Standard package.

I let my Ancestry membership lapse because I thought I would try out some other subscription sites in its stead. I know I will return to Ancestry, even if it is only for single months at a time to see what new records there are. A 1-month All Access pass is tempting if I find a month where I know I will have the time to conduct some research. With a pair of two-year old twins and a full-time job, my research time has taken a direct hit. (I wouldn't trade this for my former life for anything, though.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NGS Conference Countdown: Planning my itinerary

The National Genealogical Society Conference is less than a month away, so I have been looking at the online Program Guide and trying to decide which sessions I wish to attend. There are often 8 or 9 different presentations going on simultaneously, so it can be a difficult decision. Creating an itinerary helps me to get excited about the conference, as there are so many presentations that sound like they will be helpful to my research.

Subject to change, this is what I've narrowed it down to so far (with links to their online descriptions, and a handful of notes):

Wednesday May 13

Opening Session:The Tales of Pioneer Paths - J. Mark Lowe

There seems to be two hours without a  session.
Perhaps built-in time for socializing, and wandering the Exhibit Hall

Principles of Good Writing and Good Storytelling - John Philip Colletta
Tracking Pennsylvania Ancestors: Keys to Successful Research - Kay Haviland Freilich
But I’ve Looked Everywhere - Barbara Vines Little

I'm not sure the first one above is what I want or not. The description reads: "Demonstrates how to present an ancestor’s life in writing as an engaging true story; addresses essential elements of setting, action, characters, and theme." I've taken collegiate fiction writing courses, so I suspect much of this won't be new information. However, I would like to hear someone discuss how to use fictional elements, without turning the work into fiction. I refuse to make up dialogue, or actions. When the extent of my knowledge is what is contained in documents I find it difficult to 'flesh the story out' while adhering to the known facts.

The Rest of the Story luncheon - Judy G. Russell

Maps! Wonderful Maps! - Rick Sayre and Pamela Boyle Sayre

Confronting conflicting evidence - Pam Stone Eagleson
Analyzing Deeds and Wills: I See What it Says, but What Does it Mean? - Elizabeth Shown Mills
Finding Your Ancestors in Congressional Documents - Patricia Walls Stamm

Thursday May 14

Transcription, Abstraction and the Records - Rev. David McDonald

The World’s Periodicals in Your Hands: PERSI and beyond - D. Joshua Taylor
Back to the USSR: Tracing your Russian Roots - Amy Wachs

Research Jewish Genealogical Records from your couch - Daniel Horowitz

12 noon
Lunch break

Genealogical Research and Writing: Are you a Saint, Sinner, or Bumfuzzled Soul? - Elizabeth Shown Mills

Guidelines to Finding Polish Records - Amy Wachs

Friday May 15

Navigating the Best online resources for Irish research - Donna Moughty
Researching your ancestors and their units in the colonial military (1637-1775) - David Allen Lambert

Since there is a Scots-Irish research session later in the day, that might help me choose here.

The problem solver’s great trifecta: GPS + FAN + DNA - Elizabeth Shown Mills

Scots-Irish research - Robert McLaren

12 noon
Lunch break

The Everyday Life of Our Ancestors - Ann Staley
Illinois: Research in the Prairie State - Diane Renner Walsh
Organizing your Genealogy Without Losing Your Mind - Julie Miller

While my wife and I have some Illinois kin, I think I really need some advice on organizing my research.

Saturday May 16

Investigate the Neighborhood to Advance your Research - Melinda Daffin Henningfield

Smiths and Jones: How to Cope With Families of Common Names - Elizabeth Shown Mills
iPad and iPhone Power User Techniques for Genealogy - Lisa Louis Cooke

While a lot of Elizabeth Shown Mills' panels sound interesting to me, this one might be the most useful for my research.

Petitions, Memorials, & Remonstrances in Early America: Good Genealogical Sources - Claire Bettag
Civil War Prisoner of War Records - Craig Roberts Scott

I, and my wife, each have one ancestor who was a Prisoner of War during the Civil War, and I am curious if there are records in addition to those I have already found. I'm also interested in researching some of our early American ancestors.

12 noon
Lunch break

Beating the Odds: Using Indirect Evidence in Problem Solving - Vic Dunn
How to Plan your Digital Afterlife - Julie Miller

Five Proven Techniques to Finding Your Ancestor’s European Origin - Thomas W Jones
Researching the War of 1812 Soldier - Craig Roberts Scott

I don't have any ancestors who fought in the War of 1812, but several kin did. Mostly on the side of Canada.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Value of a Library Card: 2015

It's National Library Week so I thought I would update a post I wrote in 2012

I conduct a lot of genealogy research from the comfort of my home computer. One of the key resources I use is my St. Louis County Public Library Card. (Other library systems, as well as some genealogy societies, provide similar resources for their users.)

Here's a sampling of databases I can search/browse from the comfort of my home, for free (complete list)

I have indicated the subscription price I'd have to pay without the library card
  • ($100/6 mos)
  • AccessibleArchives: African American Newspapers 19th century ($60/year*)
  • AcessibleArchives: Civil War – A Newspaper Perspective ($60/year*)
  • Fold3 ($80/year)
  • Newsbank: St. Louis Post Dispatch (1981-Current) ($200/yr**)
  • Newsbank: Access World News (1978-current) ($200/yr**)
Databases only available to libraries and other institutions - not by individual subscription
  • AlexanderStreet: American Civil War Research Database
  • AlexanderStreet: American Civil War Letters and Diaries
  • ProQuest: Historical New York Times (1851-2011) 
  • ProQuest: Historical St. Louis Post Dispatch (1874-1922) 
  • ProQuest Digital Microfilm - St. Louis Post Dispatch 1989-Present 
  • ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970 Missouri and Illinois
  • Gale Cengage: Nineteenth Century US Newspapers
  • EBSCOhost: Academic Search Elite (1985-current)
While not genealogy-related I also value the following two resources:
And while I can't access it from home, it is available to me at the library:
So calculating only the databases which I could purchase access to as an individual, I am saving $1,144/year with my library card. Then there are the databases I can't purchase access to as an individual.

And this doesn't include the resources, in addition to Ancestry, available to me when I actually visit the library. Including:
I know I am lucky to live in St. Louis, as not every library has equivalent resources. However, if you don't check, you won't know what your library has to offer.

* The annual subscription provides access to all of the AccessibleArchives collections, which includes several others in addition to the ones listed above.
** The annual subscription at NewsBank's provides access to a large number of newspapers, but there is a North American focus, and there is a 500 article limit.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Defining a genealogical relationship

I think the people at Geni have played one two many games of Degrees of Kevin Bacon and are confused about what it means to be related.

They say William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are related.

This is not a genealogical relationship:

One might be able to call it a legal relationship. Though once you get beyond one set of in-laws I suspect that is questionable. And since there is one "ex" involved in the chain, the legal relationship that was created was also dissolved. Legally. Regardless, Geni isn't supposed to be a legal site. It's supposed to be a genealogy site.

If we accept legal relationships in genealogy, do we accept census definitions?

  • Are POSSLQs relatives? The US Census Bureau created the term. A relationship created by the US Government has to be considered a legal relationship.
  • Is a female who was in the same dormitory as me in college a POSSLQ? Were we related? Are we still related all these years later? Do I need to tell my wife?
  • What if, instead of a dormitory, it was a group house?

Yes, my wife and I have adopted twin sons. I don't claim a genealogical relationship with them. A legal relationship. A loving relationship. Not a genealogical one. When they grow older they may well 'adopt' my ancestors as their own, as many adoptees do. But the relationship will be one of the heart, similar to when someone refers to a friend of the family as "Uncle Joe" or "Aunt Jane." One doesn't expect to see these relationships on a genealogy website either.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Tartan Day 2015

Happy Tartan Day!

Today is the 695th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.

The Declaration of Arbroath is the Declaration of Scottish Independence. It took the form of a letter sent to Pope John XXII on April 6, 1320.

Originally written in Latin, an English translation follows:

To the Most Saintly Father in Christ the Lord, the Lord John, by divine Providence, Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, from his humble and devoted sons, Duncan - Earl of Fife, Thomas Ranulph - Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and Annandale, Patrick Dunbar - Earl of March, Malise - Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm - Earl of Leven, William - Earl of Ross, Magnus - Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William - Earl of Sutherland; Walter - Seneschal of Scotland, William Soules - Butler of Scotland, James - Lord of Douglas, Roger Mowbray, David - Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville, John Menteith - Guardian of the Earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gibert Hay - Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith - Marischal of Scotland, Henry Sinclair, John Graham, David Lindsay, William Olifaunt, Patrick Graham, John Fentoun, William Abernethy, David Wemys, William Montefix, Fergus Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay, William Montealt, Alan Moray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald leChien, Alexander Setoun, Andrew Leslie, and Alexander Stratoun, along with the other Barons, Freeholders and all the common people of the kingdom of Scotland, we send every filial reverence with devoted kisses of your blessed feet.

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know from the deeds of the ancients and we read from books -- because among the other great nations of course, our nation of Scots has been described in many publications -- that crossing from Greater Scythia, via the Tyrhennian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and living in Spain among the fiercest tribes for many years, it could be conquered by no one anywhere, no matter how barbarous the tribes. Afterwards, coming from there, one thousand two hundred years from the Israelite people's crossing of the Red Sea, to its home in the west, which it now holds, having first thrown out the Britons and completely destroyed the Picts, and even though it was often attacked by the Norse, the Danes and the English, it fought back with many victories and countless labours and it has held itself ever since, free from all slavery, as the historians of old testify. In their own kingdom, one hundred and thirteen kings have reigned of their own Blood Royal, without interruption by foreigners.

The merits and nobility of these people, even if they were not obvious from the other signs, shine out openly enough from this, that even though they lived at the furthermost ends of the Earth, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ after His Passion and His Resurrection, called them nearly the first to his most Holy Faith. Nor did He want to confirm them in the said Faith by anyone but the first to be an Apostle, despite being second or third in rank, the brother of the Blessed Peter, gentle Saint Andrew, whom ever since, He has asked to protect them as their Patron.

However, the Holy Fathers, your predecessors, considering these thoughts with a careful mind, bestowed on this very kingdom and people many favours and countless privileges since it was the special charge of Blessed Peter's brother. Thus, obviously, the result was that until now our people lived free and untroubled under their protection until that mighty prince, Edward, King of the English, the father of he who now reigns, came with the appearance of a friend and ally to harass like an enemy, our leaderless kingdom and our people who were accustomed neither to evil or treachery nor to battles or ambushes. He committed injustices, killings, attacks, robberies, arson, the imprisonment of priests, the burning of monasteries, the looting of churches, and countless other enormous outrages, on the said people sparing no one on account of age or sex, saintliness or rank, to an extent that no one could describe nor fully believe unless they had experienced it.

From these countless evils, with His help who afterwards soothes and heals wounds, we are freed by our tireless leader, king, and master, Lord Robert, who like another Maccabaeus or Joshua, underwent toil and tiredness, hunger and danger with a light spirit in order to free the people and his inheritance from the hands of his enemies. And now, the divine Will, our just laws and customs, which we will defend to the death, the right of succession and the due consent and assent of all of us have made him our leader and our king. To this man, inasmuch as he saved our people, and for upholding our freedom, we are bound by right as much as by his merits, and choose to follow him in all that he does.

But if he should cease from these beginnings, wishing to give us or our kingdom to the English or the king of the English, we would immediately take steps to drive him out as the enemy and the subverter of his own rights and ours, and install another King who would make good our defence. Because, while a hundred of us remain alive, we will not submit in the slightest measure, to the domination of the English. We do not fight for honour, riches, or glory, but solely for freedom which no true man gives up but with his life.

It is for these reasons, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beg your holiness with humble hearts and every urgent prayer, knowing that you will review everything with a true heart and a saintly mind since before Him in Whose name you reign on Earth there is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or Angle, and considering the trouble and anguish brought on us by the English, that you will warn the king of the English, that he ought to be satisfied with what he owns because once it used to be enough for seven kings, and that you will think it right to encourage him to leave us Scots in peace, living in poor Scotland beyond which there is nothing habitable and nothing we desire. For this, we will effectively do whatever we can to gain peace, bearing in mind our situation.

For this concerns you, Holy Father, since you see the raging ferocity of the pagans against Christians, which the sins of the Christians deserve, and the borders of Christendom being pushed back every day and you must see how much it will hurt your saintly reputation, if (which let it not) any part of the church is overcome or induced to sin during your time. Therefore let Him rouse those Christian leaders who say that they cannot go in support of the Holy Land for no reason although they pretend that the reason is wars with their neighbours. The reason for their difficulties is actually because they expect better rewards and weaker resistance in warring with their smaller neighbours. But the omniscient One knows well enough with how light a heart we and our aforesaid lord and king would go there, if the king of the English would leave us in peace.

If your Holiness, trusting too much in the English version of these events, does not truly believe us, or does not stop supporting them to our disadvantage, then, we believe that the slaughter of bodies, the loss of souls, and all the other things that will follow, the injuries that they will do to us and we to them, will be blamed by the Most High on you.

Thus, as if your sons, we are and always will be ready to do for you, His vicar, whatever you require insofar as it is our duty; and so, we commit the upholding of our cause to the Supreme King and Judge, entrusting our worries to Him and completely confident that He will fill us with courage and reduce our enemies to nothing

May God grant you holiness and health in His holy church for a long time.

Sent from the Monastery of Arbroath in Scotland, on the 6th day of the month April, in the year of Grace 1320, the fifteenth year of our abovementioned king's reign.


My wife is from Clan Wallace, and with the reference to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the comparison of Robert to the Maccabees and Joshua, and the statement that in the Lord’s eyes there “is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or Angle” – she and I found the text especially meaningful this year, Tartan Day coinciding with the Passover holiday.