2015: Year in Review

2015: My Genealogical Year-in-Review

This year has been amazing for my genealogical research, my genealogical connections, and my telling my family history. My most popular blog post from this year, in terms of pageviews, was “My Response to Ancestry’s Business Decisions,” which is my rant regarding Ancestry’s decision to drop Family Tree Maker. It is also, by far, the blog posting that have received the most comments regarding. My most popular post of all time remains my 2013 review of Family Tree Maker Mac 3. In light of Ancestry’s decision to drop Family Tree Maker from its product line, it is also my most embarrassing post.


I was blessed by guest blogger Jenne M., whose incredibly interesting articles I began posting. I thank Jenne for her work and for sharing her family’s history with us.
I also continued my research into the life of my grandmother Madonna Montran and her vaudeville days. In particular, I followed her “Chin Chin” experiences through several articles.
Jacob & Bertha (Trümpi) Huber
Regarding my Howell/Darling research, I posted several biographies and documented my brick wall regarding Jacob Huber.


In February, I wrote an unpopular post regarding my great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Manning Brown. It was “unpopular” because I laid out why I believe she was born in 1878 and not 1876, thus her family jumped the gun when they celebrated her 100th birthday in 1976.


My social networking activities resulted in a treasure trove of photos from a newly found cousin. The photos included definitive proof that my grandfather was in Panama about the time my grandmother was also in Panama, thus confirming family oral history. There were also hundreds of scanned imaged included in a disk from my cousin as well as some original poems written by my grandfather. The photo images I received included dozens of my direct ancestors that I had never seen before. It was an amazing sharing of information. Thank you so much to my cousin Beverly.
Arthur & Mary (Manning) Brown


Again, thanks to social networking I was able to share memories of a cousin, this time from my late cousin, Sharon Huffman. Sharon wrote about her grandparents, my great-grandparents, Arthur and Mary Brown. Much of what she wrote I have verified in independent research, such as great-grandfather Arthur dying of cancer. But more importantly, her shared memories provide texture to the lives of Arthur and Mary and insights into their personalities. Thanks again to Tim and Julia for sharing the stories with me.


Besides expanding upon my grandmother Donna’s time in Panama as a “Cabaret Girl,” I wrote an extensive post regarding searching newspapers and the process I use for using them in my research.


I was able to take the time to volunteer for Find-a-Grave by going to an old cemetery in nearby Gorham, Maine, and take photos of several markers that weren’t on the site already. It can provide a great way to help the genealogy community and get outside.


I put the final changes on a presentation, Social Networking for Genealogy. It was the first genealogical presentation I’ve given since moving to Maine. I gave the presentation at the August 1st meeting of the Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society. I will be giving the presentation again to the Scarborough Historical Society on January 6th, 2016.
My research also uncovered what I believe to be a new cousin on the Montran line. I am pretty certain that her ancestor, John F Montran, and my great-grandfather, John F Montran, are the same person. I exchanged several emails with her but seem to have lost contact since an original flurry of correspondences. I hope she is okay.


I continued my research regarding the Montran line with articles about John Montran and Ruth Grace Montran.


I attended the Maine Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Brewer, Maine. It was an excellent experience
Another guest blogger, Melody Pettus, wrote about her second great-grandfather, Shadrick. I give my thanks to Melody for sharing her research and some of her family’s story.
I attended the Scarborough Historical Society’s September presentation about yearbooks. It revolutionized my thinking about yearbooks and some of the not so obvious things you can learn from them, so I posted about both the presentation and what I learned.


Ancestry.Com added “Wills and Probate Records” to their multitude of databases. Using the database, I was able to learn much more about my wife’s great-grandmother, Annie D (Long) Hobbs. It is one of the most significant databases that Ancestry has provided access to in quite a while.  
I was also able to discover new details about my grandmother’s biplane flights. She was an incredible woman.


Randy Seaver’s blog, Genea-Musings, often suggests topics for consideration. He often inspires me to think about my research and some of the fun facts you can learn. One such topic included my most recent immigrant ancestor. I hadn’t thought about whom it might be until after I read his blog.


Crumbling Brick Wall” by John Schneider
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The biggest genealogical breakthrough I had this year was figuring out who my biological father probably is. Through a combination of both Y-DNA and atDNA tests and analysis, I feel about 75% certain that I have the name of my biological father. It isn’t a “slam-dunk,” but it is the best lead I have ever had. I really opened a completely new area of research for me.
The above is only a sampling of the 103 blog articles (including this one) I wrote this year – nearly two a week. I have written about my three major research areas, Brown-Montran (my maternal line), Darling-Huber (my wife’s maternal line), and Howell-Hobbs (my wife’s paternal line). I have had a “Roberts Notional” project for several years; however, now I’m almost ready to change it to a new, Roberts-Barnes, research area. I also have two secondary research areas, Donna Montran – her show-business life is fascinating, and DNA Research, which augments all my research areas and several of my projects.
For other projects, I have several. They include Adair, Angley, Burlison, Middleton, Mowbray, Rode, Schlotterbeck, and Whitten. In addition, I am encouraging others in their research that has resulted in guest blogger postings. I also review books and software and write general genealogical interest articles. So, I am keeping busy.

My Goals for 2016

Brown-Montran – Prove the connection between my grandmother and a potential a half-sister.
     Determine the biological father of my half-sister, Glennis.
Darling-Huber – Determine the connections and family unit for the Bernhead Trümpi household.
Howell-Hobbs – Determine who “M,” George Hobbs’ wife was.
     Determine who Peter M. Howell’s father is.
Roberts-Barnes – Prove the connection to a paternal ancestor.
Donna Montran – Continue research and detail at least 12 of her vaudeville shows.
DNA Research – Continue using DNA in my research for all my research area and my Adair and Angley projects.
Continue supporting the Scarborough Historical Society and the Scarborough Museum.
Continue supporting the Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.
Take at least 104 hours of genealogical training (2 hours every week). I could do even more.
Finally, I want to post at least 121 blog articles (one every three days) in 2016. I expect 2016 to be a busy and fruitful year.

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My Search for a Family Tree Maker Replacement – Part 1

My Search for a Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 Replacement

Part 1 of 2

Legacy Family Tree

I have long recommended Legacy Family Tree to my friends that have Windows. Their product only operates in a Windows environment. On a Mac that means you need to run Parallels, CrossOver, VMWare, or something similar that allows you to run Windows programs on a Mac. I used VMWare for a year or two when I switched to Mac. It allowed me to run all of my legacy Windows programs on my new Mac while I converted to using Mac programs. That way I didn’t have to replace all of my software all at once. I upgraded my Mac to a newer OS (operating system) a couple years later and found that my version of VMWare didn’t run on that updated OS. I had to do a paid upgrade of VMWare to continue using it or drop it. I only had one Windows based program remaining and buying a new Mac version of that program was less expensive than upgrading VMWare. If you have a Mac, have a Windows running program, and are used to Windows programs, I still recommend Legacy Family Tree as a solid solution to your Family Tree Maker for Mac dilemma.

Roots Magic 7

The president of my local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society posted a sales notice regarding Roots Magic. I have long heard good things about Roots Magic. I went to their site and saw it was on sale for $20 instead of the regular $44.90 price – A sale too good to pass up. They also indicated they have a new Mac Version. I’m not big on “free” versions of software, so I bought the full version, installed it, and ran it. I quickly found out it isn’t an actual Mac version; rather it uses CrossOver as a Windows environment emulator. As such, it works like Windows software and not like Mac software.
I opened one of my smaller trees in Family Tree Maker for Mac and exported to a GED file. I then imported it into RootsMagic 7. Then I walked through each of the menu options and looked at what my options were. Some of the options I really liked, such as identifying the married name for a woman. Some of the options I didn’t understand, such as “general source, an individual source, and a family source. Some of my work didn’t import as I expected, for example my “to do” tasks, but I expected that. Those minor shortages were overcome by the some of the really cool features, such as generating the files for a website and creating a shareable CD.
As I expected much of my data was all over the place. I had descriptions in locations and many other problems. All in all, it will take a long time for me to clean up all of my files, sources, places, and individuals — A very long time.

I was looking at the Media gallery and under tools, found “fix broken media links.” I found the disconcerting Windows type of file system. The prompt didn’t allow me to select any directories so search so I had to search an entire drive.  Not cool. I let it run for several hours and it seemed to have locked up. I gave up and hit cancel. It did give me the option to import what it had found thus far. Therefore, I was able to import 80 of the 133 media items that I had in Family Tree Maker for Mac. That said, I’m not positive if the 53 missing items were because of RootsMagic or because my Family Tree Maker file had already started corrupting – Probably the latter.
I adjusted the fonts and other settings to make it better for me and used it for a couple days. Roots Magic is a complicated program and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. There were times I felt like the tail was wagging the dog. That is to say, it seemed that the software was driving what I needed to do rather than my workflow being able to be documented easily by the software. Using Roots Magic really helped me understand how I like to work.
Painting by Henry Thomas Alken
[Public domain]
As I mentioned in a previous blog posting (Jump Hunting and the Maine Register), it is like jump-hunting ducks. I decide where I’m going to go hunting, go there, and “bag” the available information. Then I clean it, cook it and eat it – analyze the information, extract the information, and incorporate it into my family history. I don’t like to eat things I don’t know where they came from. Likewise, I try to have every fact, event, and story in my family history clearly documented as to the source.
The bottom line is that after a couple days of working with Roots Magic 7, I just could not learn to love it. I can definitely see why many others use it, but I just couldn’t fit my jump shooting stratagy into it’s use. Between the complexity of the software and the Windows interface, I decided to abandon my Roots Magic test and begin my search for a Family Tree Maker for Mac replacement once again.

To be continued….

[By the way, if you are interested in converting from Family Tree Maker to Roots Magic 7 , now is the time to do it with their special FTM to RM offer of only $20.]

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Search Military Records - Fold3 Search Military Records - Fold3

Backup Software for the Museum

Backup Software for the Museum

I was recently talking with some folks at the Scarborough Museum regarding disaster contingency planning. With my computer background, I quickly thought about backups and off-site storage of important computer files.

Time Machine logo with space background By FHKE - ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) - via https://www.flickr.com/photos/fhke/240086966I have a Mac, so for my personal use I have Time Machine for my local backups. It is awesome and easy to use. It allows me to go back to the version of a file I had on just about any date.  It was great when I had to replace a disk drive. However, in the event of a major disaster, I know I need a good off-site backup solution.  I use CrashPlan for that and love it. But, I didn’t know if it would be really good for the Museum, they use various Windows based systems. I also wondered about costs for them. 

I thought about their requirements.  They have a multi-terabyte disk drive they use for local backups.  That gives them a good system to restore the occasionally damaged or corrupted file from a backup on site. To accommodate their backups, off-site storage needs to be large, very large. Photos scanned at 600dpi and saved in TIFF format make for large files. A recent scan project that another person was doing resulted in hundreds of files all nearly a gigabyte each. So, off-site storage needs to accommodate that. Because of the local storage, they will seldom, and hopefully never, need files recovered from off-site. If they do, recovery can be slow, so restoration speed isn’t paramount. I can’t imagine the Museum needing to backup Android or IOS devices anytime in the near future so those capabilities are nonexistent. Another important aspect of their requirements is how they use their systems. Generally, they are used for a short time, when the volunteers are there. Real-time backups to the cloud aren’t critical as long as backups to the cloud can occur before another individual uses the computer on another day. Another critical requirement is that the software should be easy to use. It should be set and forget. Finally, the off-site storage should be inexpensive; the museum has a limited technology budget. That said, I know you get what you pay for and free or super inexpensive software typically doesn’t have adequate feature.
After considering basic requirements, I began an internet search.

My first stop was PC Magazine’s site and a review of The Best Online Backup Services for 2015.

They listed three as their “Editor’s Choice” services: iDrive, Crash Plan, and SOS Online Backup.
IDrive has a 1TB storage limit, which disqualified it as an option in my mind. Because I dropped iDrive my contention, I added their next choice, Carbonite to my list for consideration.
Next stop, About.Com’s site and 34 Online Backup Services Reviewed. Their top choice was BackBlaze followed by Crash Plan, Carbonite, and SOS Online Backup.  Back on the PC Magazine site, BackBlaze was number six on their list, so I felt it should be a top contender.
That gave me four off-site backup storage services to consider.

Crash Plan
90 Days
Business Cost
CrashPlan Pro for businesses. $9.99/month
Business version $15.99/month 
BackBlaze for Business $50.00/computer/year

Cost: Not enough difference to matter. Although some have free versions, their features are scaled back enough that none of their free versions should be considered.
Storage: All are unlimited.
Copies: Carbonite only keeps 12 versions of a file. This isn’t really an issue for documents and images, however, can be a killer for databases that change daily. The other three services keep unlimited copies of files.
Retention: Carbonite has a retention period of 90 days. If you delete a file, you need to restore it within 90 days. If you don’t, it is gone. I can visualize a situation where a file is deleted and no one notices for months and then the file can’t be restored. Because of that, I thought their retention policy is inadequate for the museum, so I dropped Carbonite from further consideration; however, I believe it is still an excellent choice for personal use.
External/USB Drives: The three remaining products all backup External and/or USB Drives.
Business Costs: Most reviews and pricing notes relate to individual licenses for software. In the case of the museum, a business license(s) would be necessary. I was taken aback by the additional costs for the business use. I contacted the three remaining products via email for cost information for the Museum’s environment.

CrashPlan replied with a form email. We would need CrashPlan Pro for $9.99 per month ($119.88/year). 

SOS Online Backup impressed me with their response.  They sent an email indicating that someone would call. An individual did call and provided pricing for our environment. He told me that as a non-profit we would receive their best possible pricing. A computer plus an external drive would require two licenses which would run $15.99/month ($191.88/year). To backup all five computers at the museum, the license would run $34.99/month ($419.88). I really appreciated the call. Again, I think it is an excellent choice for personal use, but not the best pricing model for the Museum.

BackBlaze and BackBlaze for Business are the same price and have the same features. $50.00/year ($4.16/month). Clearly the most cost effective choice.
BackBlaze Online Backup Logo

For the Museum, I recommend BackBlaze Online Backup for Business as the archive and backup off-site as their solution. See: BackBlaze Online Backup for Business for more information.

Book Review – Finding Family

Book Review – Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA

by Richard Hill

Review by Don Taylor

I don’t often read books for entertainment. I read a lot of magazines and articles on the Internet, but not many books. Therefore, when I do read a book it better be good or I put it down.

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA by Richard Hill was one I couldn’t put down. I have a half sister who was put up for adoption as an infant; she didn’t find her birth mother and family (including me) until we were both in our 40s. In addition, my best friend from high school was adopted and was in his 40s when he finally discovered his birth mother. Also, I’ve never known who my father is and have used DNA as a tool to try to determine a paternal connection. Consequently, finding birth parents has always been interesting to me.  When I saw Richard Hills book about how he pieced together his origins through a mix of detective work and DNA, I was very intrigued. Could I find new techniques in my research buried in his story?

Finding Family reads much like a novel, however, we know what the ending will be. I was sure that the author would determine his birth parents before I opened the book. So, the ending of the mystery isn’t the important part, it is his path to solving the mystery that is the compelling story. We want to know how does he find out that he was adopted? What are the challenges he encounters during his journey? How does he overcome them? Those are the important notes in the story.

Hill does an excellent job of navigating the twists and turns of his search. His character development is very good. I found that I became interested, not only in his story but in the stories of the other individuals who both helped and hindered him along the way. I think he does a good job of not speculating on the motives of other people’s actions, but rather describing their actions.

The story does a great job of bringing us along through his process from simple investigative work, generating hypothesis and then trying to find corroborating evidence for those hypotheses He then brings in standard genealogical processes and learns more. Then initial Y-DNA testing leads him to new conclusions. Finally, modern autosomal DNA (atDNA) changes his original conclusions.

I enjoyed the book and I highly recommend it for anyone using a blend of genealogy and DNA to determine family connections. I think I’ll send a copy of it to my half sister. I hope that she will take it as inspiration for her to tell her story of locating her birth mother and other family. She is a great writer and also has an amazing story.

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA by Richard Hill

 Paperback: 260 pages
 Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 17, 2012)
 ISBN-10: 1475190832
 ISBN-13: 978-1475190830

————- DISCLAIMER ————-

Review: Family Tree Builder for the Mac

In January, I attended a meeting of the Greater PortlandChapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.  During the meeting, there were some questions about software to use to manage genealogical information. I had several suggestions for PC Users, but told folks there were not any free products for the Mac.  What do you know, a week later MyHeritage announced free download for Family Tree Builder (FTB) for the Mac.  I thought I’d give it a try, sort of kick the tires and check the engine for leaks.
Over the years I’ve used many products, Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Mac (Orig, 2, & 3), Heredis, Mac Family Tree, also Reunion, so I have experience with several genealogy programs.
My Heritage Logo
By myheritage.com
[CC BY-SA 2.5]
via Wikimedia Commons
I already had an account with MyHeritage so downloading and installation was easy. I would have had to register with MyHeritage if I had not already done so; registration is very easy. The installation followed typical Mac installation processes – download DMG, execute the DMG, drag the icon to your applications directory and then launch the program.
I was disappointed that the file system and the interface was very (Microsoft) Windows like.  It took me a bit to figure out how to find my GED file, which I had created earlier, in order to import it.  I am so out of practice using Microsoft Windows. Likewise, the software interface with its buttons was very Windows-like and not at all Mac-like. I finally imported the file and learned that I had quite a few errors occurred in the import process. Nothing told me how important the errors were — Oh well. 
I was unhappy with the constant and regular nagging to purchase the upgrade. It seemed like everything I tried to look at was available in the Premium package.  I learn quickly and learned how to keep away from those features.
My real shock was when I tried to edit one of the entries.  It reminded me about why I hate Microsoft Windows. The message confirmed that the program is actually a Windows program running on a Mac by using Wine and probably some enhancements by Codeweavers’ Crossover. I had several more “Program Errors” during my use of the program.  I restarted my computer, which seemed to mitigate the issues and I haven’t had as many “Program Errors” since the computer restart. 
I really liked many of the features in FTB. The data managed for living people was exceptionally good. In addition, because of MyHeritage’s Smart Matches, the program makes it very easy to contact other researchers.  The photo management also seemed very good and included a feature for adding the reverse side of a photo, something that I liked seeing.  The reports were okay but didn’t have the visual impact of some other programs I’ve used. 
Sources and citations were nice and easy to manage, however, associating them to facts in a person’s profile seemed difficult.  Maybe with time I would figure out a better way to do it but my way was difficult. I will say that few programs make the process easy and FTB isn’t alone in making it cumbersome.  What I would like to see is a method to easily enter a source and citation then from that screen create facts associated with a person and or a group of people. (Rant off.) 
MyHeritage has a really nice website creation process and includes many tools to increase genealogical awareness, including genealogy games for kids to get them interested in your family tree.  It also handles writing stories and activities really well to make it more interesting to tell your story.
23 & Me now has a relationship with MyHeritage.  23 & Me is a DNA testing company. They used to have customers enter their tree on the 23 & Me site.  They recently partnered with MyHeritage so that MyHeritage now maintains your family tree information and makes connecting with genetic cousins much easier.  That feature could be a reason to use MyHeritage and/or FTB.
The real issue with the software is that it is a marketing/sales product.  The free version of the software, like the free version of the web interface on MyHeritage is limited to 250 individuals and 250 MB of storage. You need to upgrade to Premium to expand to 2500 individuals and to Premium Plus to go above 2500 individuals.  
If you are a Windows user of MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder and are moving to the Mac, it is definite that the Mac version will ease your migration. If you are a MyHeritage subscriber, then Family Tree Builder will make many of the tasks and research easier to use.  Its integration into MyHeritage research options is excellent.  I haven’t figured out exactly what will happen if you drop your MyHeritage subscription and have more than 250 individuals in your tree.  If you are a Mac user that really likes the Mac interface to programs, you will not like FTB.  
The bottom line is that FTB is a desktop application that improves interaction with your MyHeritage account and online trees.  If you do not have a MyHeritage subscription, you probably do not want to use Family Tree Builder.

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