Note: The information in this archived copy was accurate on the date of publication. Since then, Web sites have appeared and disappeared, companies have been merged and many other facts have changed. You may find references in this archived copy that are no longer accurate.
EOGN: Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
A Weekly Summary of Events and
Vol. 6 No. 11– March 12, 2001
This newsletter was sponsored by Ancestry.com,
To learn about Ancestry.com’s
Past issues of this Newsletter
Copyright© 2001 by Richard W. Eastman. All rights reserved.
If you do contact any of the companies or societies mentioned in this newsletter, please tell them that you read about their services in this newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Merlyn Eastman, R.I.P.
- Merlyn Eastman, R.I.P.
This week’s newsletter is dedicated to the memory of my brother, Merlyn Eastman. Merlyn passed away last Tuesday morning after a long battle with cancer of the throat and tongue. This kind and loving man was the father of two, stepfather of three and had nine grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife Bernice survives him.
Merlyn was an older brother who taught me much about life, about mechanics and about maintaining a positive outlook. Merlyn ‘s obituary is available online at:http://www.bangordailynews.com/obituary.cfm?ID=17833
- Genealogy Scams
A few years ago I wrote a number of articles about the infamous Halberts of Bath, Ohio. This company would send an advertisement for a book that claimed to be a "history of your family name." After paying about $40, the hapless purchaser received a cheaply-made paperback containing a bit of generic "how to get start tracing your family tree information" accompanied by listings from telephone books. Sadly, similar information was available online at no cost.
In August 1998 I even visited the address in Bath, Ohio that Halberts used, and I wrote about my trip in that week’s edition of this newsletter. I found no company named Halberts at that address. In fact, the address was simply a mail drop. All orders sent to that address in Bath, Ohio were actually forwarded to the parent company in nearby Akron. About a year after my on-site visit, Halberts folded up. They gave layoff notices to all of their employees, sold the office furniture, and ceased operations. The company blamed "competition from the Internet" for their business failure. In my opinion, the competition was twofold: (1.) the same information was available online at no charge, and (2.) the Internet provides a great place for tracking such scams. Those who received the advertisements could easily go online to check Halberts’ reputation. All you had to do was to go to any search engine and enter the word "Halberts" to learn of the experiences of others. In fact, you can still do that today.
Of course, Halberts was not the only company with questionable business practices in this arena. Some of us still remember Beatrice Bailey. This lady sold products that were somewhat similar to those of Halberts. In her advertisement sent by mail to me, she would sign her name as "Beatrice Eastman Bailey." In a letter sent to someone named Smith, she would sign her name as "Beatrice Smith Bailey" and in an advertisement sent to someone named Williams she would sign as "Beatrice Williams Bailey." Beatrice Bailey apparently was a one-person operation. She was under investigation by postal authorities when she died.
Other companies have continued to sell "products" that claim to contain genealogy value but, in fact, have little genealogy information in them. The brave new world of the Internet has been a haven for honest entrepreneurs and dishonest scam artists alike. New scams have arisen and established scam artists have expanded into online operations. As always, spending money is a case of Caveat Emptor – "Let the buyer beware!"
There are several Web sites that track companies that sell questionable genealogy products and services. If you have any questions about an advertisement you received, either in regular mail or in e-mail, I would suggest that you check the following:
Genealogy scams in general:
The National Genealogical Society's Consumer Protection Committee is quite active at keeping an eye on the various scams, including both online and offline fraudsters. If you have a question about a particular company’s services, you can contact the NGS Consumer Protection Committee via traditional mail at: National Genealogical Society's Consumer Protection Committee, at 4527 17th Street North, Arlington, VA 22207-2399. The committee also maintains Web pages at:http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/comconsumer.htm and at: http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/comconsumerpsst.htm. However, those pages do not mention specific companies.
Cyndi’s List has a section for genealogy myths, hoaxes and scams at:http://www.cyndislist.com/myths.htm
I have received e-mail about the following companies; all have been mentioned as having questionable services. I have listed URLs where you can obtain further information:
http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm#Warning. There is an Anti-FamilyDiscovery.com newsletter at: http://compuright.dyndns.org/familydiscovery/
The xxx Family Yearbook – In this case, substitute your last name for the "xxx." For instance, an advertisement sent to a person named Smith would be advertising The Smith Family Yearbook while someone named Clark would receive an advertisement for The Clark Family Yearbook. These "yearbooks" claim to have genealogy information. However, those who purchase the "products" are usually disappointed. The producing company has several business names; for example, you can find them listed as Mountain West News Service or as the Mountain Pacific News Service. They also may appear as an organizational name, such as "The Smith Family Yearbook." However, all these "companies" have the same address: 1181 S. Parker Road, #105, Denver, CO 80231. The Better Business Bureau lists the parent company as MORPHCORP. The News Herald of Panama City, Florida has an article about these "products" at:http://www.newsherald.com/articles/2000/04/16/tp041600.htm
Family Tree House – I wrote about this company in the October 31, 1998 edition of this newsletter. The company gives an appearance of a Web site that offers genealogy services. In fact, it does not appear to sell anything. However, the same company advertises on another Web site with an offer to sell personal information obtained from genealogists who visit the Family Tree House site. You innocently enter personal information about yourself on Family Tree House and then operators of the site sell your personal information to bulk mail companies. Information for sale includes name, address, e-mail address and more. You can read that article at:http://ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm#sells
The Historical Research Center (HRC) International, Inc. sells "family histories" and coats of arms. Information about the true value of these products can be found on the Genealogical Web Site Watchdog site at:http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm#Coats. Keep in mind that this company sells franchises. A few years ago they were listed as one of the top 30 fastest growing franchises in America. You may find their products being sold by other companies who purchase franchises. One such company is Names.com, but apparently there are many others as well.
The International Hall of Names in Canada also sells "family histories" and coats of arms. They are also mentioned on the Genealogical Web Site Watchdog site at: http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm#Coats.
I would caution anyone to be careful about "family coats of arms." In fact, in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and most of western Europe, there really is no such thing as a family coat of arms. In those countries, arms have always been awarded to individuals, not to families. Displaying a coat of arms that you are not authorized to use is a form of identity theft, even if you do happen to have the same last name as the original grantee. Any company offering to sell you a copy of "your family’s coat of arms" is selling a bogus product.
If you believe you have been the victim of a genealogy scam, you can do something about it! If you purchased products or services from the above companies or any others that you feel did not live up to advertised claims, demand a refund! If your money is not returned within 30 days or so from a U.S. company, submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection at:https://rn.ftc.gov/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01. A few letters of inquiry from the federal government will send a strong message to the people who produce products or services of questionable value. If a Canadian company is involved, you can register a complaint at: http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/SSG/ct01250e.html.
You also might want to warn other genealogists and tell them of your experiences. You can post a message to others in the "Scams and Fraud" section of CompuServe’s Genealogy Techniques Forum message board. Go to: http://forums.compuserve.com/vlforums/default.asp?SRV=GenealogyForum&AREA=Msgs&SEC=15&loc=us&access=public
- The Baronage Press Controversy
Speaking of online and offline genealogy scams, there is an interesting battle being fought online. The Baronage Press has produced a respectable online magazine called "The Feudal Herald" for several years. The Feudal Herald gives information about heraldry, the study of coats of arms, and other insignia. This magazine was instrumental in exposing companies that sold so-called "family coats of arms" and often reported on those scams. The Feudal Herald exposed several bogus "title merchants." They referred to the purveyors of false family coats of arms as "bucket shops." I read several editions of The Feudal Herald and was impressed with the quality of the reporting.
Now a newer Web site called the "International Scams Magazine" claims that The Baronage Press itself is a scam. The new Web site is filled with sensational claims about The Baronage Press as well as other companies. The Baronage Press has fired back with statements of "Untrue" and says that a former scammer who was unmasked by The Feudal Herald created the newer Web site. This former scammer apparently has a grudge against the company that "blew the whistle" and so has created his own Web pages filled with false claims about his attacker. In short, The Baronage Press claims that the "International Scams Magazine" is an act of revenge.
Who is correct? Is there a real scammer here someplace? I honestly don’t know. I will say that I have read The Baronage Press for several years and have always found it to be an excellent publication that fought for accuracy and honesty. I also find it curious that the "International Scams Magazine" talks about "unmasking" the person or people involved and clearly identifies its enemies by name and even gives their home addresses. Yet the "International Scams Magazine" Web site itself never mentions the names or addresses of its own company or owners. The e-mail address for "International Scams Magazine" is a somewhat anonymous HotMail address. What do they have to hide?
- Family Group Sheets Sold on Ebay
Speaking of online scams, I also have a "problem" with family group sheets for sale on auction Web sites. However, these probably are completely legal. I will say "probably" as I am not a legal expert. I will let the lawyers argue the finer points of the law in this case.
The most famous online service, Ebay, enjoys an excellent reputation. Indeed, the company vigorously works at eliminating misleading claims on their very popular Web site. Still, some questionable sales do get made. My gripe is not with Ebay itself but rather with one or two of the "merchants" who sell on Ebay. I am amazed that small-time operators actually sell family group sheets there. Family group sheets are forms that list a family, showing parents’ and children’s names along with dates and places of birth, marriage and death, if known.
Anyone, you or I included, can go onto a popular genealogy Web site, download information, enter the data into a genealogy program and then print this free data in family group sheets. In theory, we could even sell it on Ebay. I will quickly caution you to not do that, however. There are copyright laws involved, which I will discuss in a future newsletter. If you obtain your information from an online site and then re-sell it, you will be in violation of copyright laws. The online merchants on Ebay do not mention where they obtained the data. Hopefully, it came from legal sources, not from online Web sites.
You can find these family group sheets yourself easily. Go to http://www.ebay.com and do a search on "family group sheets." You will probably find quite a few being offered for sale at any given time. Prices on these family group sheets seem to start at ten dollars and then are often bid up by gullible bidders to twenty-five dollars or more.
I will admit that most of the family group sheets that I have seen listed for sale on Ebay do appear to be accurately described. I also have to admit that there is no law against this, assuming that the original data was obtained from legal sources. Yet I also note that the sellers do not mention the fact that similar information, often in much larger quantities, is available online at no charge. Why pay $10.00 or $25.00 for a few printed family group sheets of a certain family name when you can access hundreds or even thousands of similar family group sheets of the same name at no charge on FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, RootsWeb.com, Genealogy.com or other such online databases?
Yes, it is possible that a printed family group sheet sold for $25.00 just might have a family listed that is not available elsewhere. But does that slim possibility make the value of the product worth the prices asked? I don’t think so.
I believe the people selling family group sheets for a price probably are not breaking laws, but they are taking advantage of gullible bidders. Once again, let the buyer beware.
- All Things Irish
Saint Patrick’s Day this week is an excellent time to start tracing your Irish ancestry. How much do you know about your Irish ancestors? Do you want to know more?
To master Irish research, one must first understand the nature of Irish historical records, says Andre Brummer, general manager of Ancestry.com. Brummer was quoted in a recent press release from Ancestry.com. He said that during the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth centuries, much of the Irish populace lived as tenant farmers or laborers and kept few written records. Nowadays, each Irish county is covered by one or more heritage centers that can be contacted to search their indexes.
"Family history experts suggest that researchers first thoroughly explore the U.S.-based resources before jumping over the pond to find Irish or foreign records," says Brummer. "It's possible to conduct a great deal of Irish and Irish immigrant research without going to Ireland now that some major sources have been microfilmed and are available online."
According to Brummer, family history research is constantly changing due to computer technology. Many important records have been transcribed, indexed and published in journals worldwide. The Periodical Source Index, or PERSI, is the largest genealogy and local history index ever assembled, with well over a million citations spanning 250 years and 5,000 different periodicals. The PERSI collection is available to members of the Ancestry.com Web site or on CD-ROM.
Brummer also went on at some length to describe accessible online indexes that may include church records, newspapers, tombstones, tax records, and civil records of births, marriages and deaths. You can read the entire announcement at: http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=106&STORY=/www/story/02-15-2001/0001428428&EDATE=
Here is a brief list of some of the better Irish genealogy Web sites:
There are thousands more online Irish genealogy Web sites. However, the above list will get you started. Many of the above sites contain links to still more online Irish resources.
Georgeann Malowney has created an Irish genealogy Web site that looks interesting. The site should be most helpful to people with a lot of Irish and Scots-Irish ancestry. IrishGenealogy.com features a master database (actually hosted on RootsWeb) containing more than 23,000 entries of information obtained from GEDCOM files contributed by RootsWeb members. All entries mention Ireland in some manner, usually as a place of birth.
The same Web site lists links to biographies, surname research pages, cemeteries, photographs and more. The site also lists genealogy researchers who will search Irish records for a fee.
To access the site, go to:http://www.IrishGenealogy.com
- Fourth Irish Genealogical Congress
The following announcement is from the Committee for the Fourth Irish Genealogical Congress:
http://indigo.ie/~irishgc. The website contains reservation details and a continually updated list of speakers and events.
- Lou Szucs on The View
Genealogy is often listed as being the second or third most popular pastime in America. So how come it never gets mentioned on television? Genealogy supposedly is more popular than golf, yet there is an entire 24-hour a day Golf Channel. Why not a Genealogy Channel?
I was delighted to see Lou Szucs, vice president of publishing for MyFamily.com, Inc., being interviewed last Wednesday on "The View," a nationwide daytime talk show hosted by Barbara Walters and four others. Lou discussed genealogy research and then demonstrated how to find family tree information online. Genealogy received a lot of favorable publicity because of Lou’s appearance on national television.
- Molecular Genealogy
An article this week by Hannah Wolfson of the Associated Press says:
The article then goes on at some length about the work of Scott Woodward, a microbiology professor at Brigham Young University. Woodward is directing a project that combines old-fashioned genealogy with the latest technology in the hope of making it easier to fill out family trees.
The entire article may be read online at:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2001/03/03/national1301EST0515.DTL
My thanks to Chad R. Milliner for sending me a copy of the article.
- DNA & the Family Historian
Speaking of excellent online articles about the use of DNA in genealogy, Chris Pomeroy has written an excellent article on DNA testing for family historians. He says:
Pomeroy explains that there are two basic DNA tests of interest to family historians: the Y-chromosome test and the mitochondrial test. The Y-chromosome in the nuclear DNA of every living man resembles that of his father and his paternal grandfather. It is carried by male cousins of any degree that share the same male ancestor. It creates a clear marker, known as a haplotype, that distinguishes one male-to-male lineage from another. The mitochondrial test looks at the DNA signature of mitochondria, a special part of nearly all human cells, which is passed on female-to-child and inherited down the female line. It is generally used to study long-term population developments such as migrations. Pomeroy then describes what the test shows and how the information can be used for genealogy purposes.
Chris Pomeroy’s article on "DNA & the Family Historian" can be found on the GENULI Web site at:http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/genetics.html
My thanks to Brian Randell for letting me know about this excellent article.
- Free Online Genealogy Courses
Brigham Young University’s Department of Independent Studies is offering two free online genealogy courses. The first is a basic introductory course titled "Finding Your Ancestors," and is targeted to a general audience. The second is targeted to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and is titled "Providing Temple Ordinances for Your Ancestors." I took a look at the first course, and it looks like a good one.
"Finding Your Ancestors" is aimed at the newcomer to family tree searches. It is divided into two lessons:
Lesson #1: Where Do I Start?
Lesson #2: Recording Family Information
The Personal Ancestral File program obviously is used because the LDS Church produces it. BYU is closely affiliated with the LDS Church. However, the concepts taught in this course should apply to any other genealogy program as well.
The BYU online course features (optional) Flash video and sound clips. The lessons are in a logical sequence, and I found the writing style was light and easy to follow.
The "Finding Your Ancestors" online course provides an excellent overview for getting started in genealogy. It is not in-depth a course and does not compete with some of the for-fee courses mentioned in earlier newsletters. At the end of the lessons the course gives several references to other online courses.
The "Finding Your Ancestors" online course is a great source of information for beginning genealogists. I would suggest that all genealogy newcomers take a look at the free BYU "Finding Your Ancestors" online course at:http://ce.byu.edu/is/dept/famhist.htm
- Hispanics In the United States
The United States continues to be a melting pot of all nations. This week the U.S. Census Bureau released some new statistics compiled in the 2000 census. The new figures indicate that the Hispanic population in the United States has risen nearly 60 percent since 1990, and is now roughly equal to that of African Americans. The number of people listed on the 2000 census as Hispanic was 35.3 million, about 3 million more than the Census Bureau had predicted.
Because Hispanics can be of any race, a portion would also be counted as blacks, whites, Asians and Native Americans. Hispanics are generally considered to be people whose ancestors are from Spanish-speaking countries. In the United States, about two-thirds of Hispanics are of Mexican descent.
You can read more about the new report at:http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hispanic/ho00.html
- CommSoft to Return?
CommSoft was a "big name" in the genealogy world for many years. The company produced the famous "Roots" line of software, starting with the release of ROOTS89 in April 1981. ROOTS89 was a genealogy program for the Heath H-8 series of personal computers. The Heath H-8 ran the HDOS operating system. I used an H-8 for a while, loading programs from the paper tape reader. While powerful by the standards of twenty years ago, HDOS looks primitive by today’s standards.
CommSoft president Howard Nurse and chief programmer Herb Drake then released more and more genealogy programs, including: ROOTS/M for the CP/M operating system, ROOTS II for MS-DOS, followed by ROOTS III and ROOTS IV. The company also released ROOTS V for Windows along with Visual ROOTS for Windows and Family Gathering for Windows. Roots III, ROOTS IV and ROOTS V were advertised as "the Cadillac of genealogy programs." Indeed, for a number of years CommSoft produced the most powerful genealogy software available. It wasn’t until the mind-1990s that they received serious competition for that title.
Palladium Interactive purchased the ROOTS product line in May 1997, and chose the name "Ultimate Family Tree" for their new product. Palladium assumed technical support for the ROOTS products. Palladium was later purchased by Broderbund, which, in turn, was purchased by The Learning Company, which was purchased by Mattel, which later spun the genealogy division off as a separate company, called Genealogy.com, which later was acquired by A&E Networks. Are we confused yet?
Along the way the company dropped the Ultimate Family Tree and all other software products based upon CommSoft’s former products. You can no longer purchase ROOTS or any program based upon ROOTS.
Many genealogists do not realize that CommSoft’s genealogy products were their second line of business, although the largest. In fact, CommSoft was originally formed as a company to sell ham radio software. Howard Nurse and Herb Drake were active ham radio operators, and together they developed some of the leading ham radio software of the early 1980s. Both men were also active genealogists and soon realized they had a potential for a second product line for genealogists. The genealogy products soon produced more software than the original ham radio products. The company then dropped the ham radio programs and focused on the moneymaking genealogy products.
While CommSoft sold their genealogy products to Palladium Interactive in 1997, the corporate name of CommSoft was not included in the sale. Howard Nurse apparently retained ownership of the remaining company although the corporation appears to be a one-person operation. However, a Web site indicates that the company is still alive and is now returning to its "roots" in ham radio.
The CommSoft Web site now proclaims "CommCat Is Coming!" Apparently this is a reference to a new ham radio program, to be called "The DX Advantage." ("DX" is a ham radio term for long distance, or international, communications.) There isn’t much information given, but you look for yourself at:http://www.sonic.net/~commsoft/index.html
- Home Pages Highlighted
The following is a list of some of the genealogy-related World Wide Web home pages that have been added recently onhttp://www.rootscomputing.com:
The annual reunion of the BOBO Family will be 19-22 April 2001 at the Comfort Inn, Clinton, SC. For complete details, visit the BOBO website:http://www.FamilyBobo.com
Old obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, legal notices, old news & more...all scanned from 18th through early 20th century U. S. newspapers from Maine to California. The Web site includes an index of names and sites searched and is updated daily:http://theoldentimes.com
The Roads Family of Buckinghamshire traces the family's roots back to 1553 and includes many families who married Roads/Rhodes/Roades family members. Roads researchers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America may trace their lineage back to Thomas Rodes and Joan Taylor, who married 15 November 1553 in Middle Claydon, Bucks. This tree may also be of interest to researchers of George Washington:http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=hrohrer
GenealogyPrinters.com, a family-run business in England offering printing services exclusively to the genealogist. They specialise in the printing of family trees and blank charts, which can be purchased online:http://www.genealogyprinters.com
Kruse Family from Germany, a Web site that has Kruse from Klein Belitz, Reinstorf, and Vietzen with parish records from Neukirchen, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany. Related surnames are Schroeder, Juerss, Kopplemann, Papenhagen, Lehmann, Knaack and many more:http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~fkruse/ you.
John Ladd Family Genealogy - Five Generations of Ladds lists the first five generations of the John Ladd Family of Virginia from the emigrant who was born about 1630 to the families of the early 1800s. Cites include records from all Quaker and county records located at the Library of Virginia and numerous books:http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/s/m/i/Paulette-M-Smith/BOOK-0001/0003-0001.html?Welcome=983460447
Arnolds and others from Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, Canada:http://Traytown.homestead.com
Barkley Family Genealogy Barkley Family Genealogy Page – includes Barkley, Robinson, McDowell, Boone, Gordon, Hunter, Perry, Steele and Hutchison. There are 1085 individuals and 364 families representing 267 surnames in this database:http://members.home.net/barkleyusa/Barkley.html
The West Virginia Genealogy Guide provides links to genealogical data for all of the West Virginia counties. The databases include: census records, births, deaths and obituaries, marriages, military records, cemetery inscriptions and biographies:http://www.westvirginiagenealogy.bigstep.com
Jewish-families.com is a website built to provide Jewish families a place to store virtual archives about their family. It has many services that look after the past, present and future of each family member, and it is meant to enhance the communication between members of a family:http://www.jewish-families.com/
To submit your home page to this newsletter, enter the necessary information at:http://www.rootscomputing.com/register.htm. Due to the volume of new Web pages submitted, I am not able to list all of them in the newsletter.
Are you interested in the articles in this newsletter? Would you like to learn more or ask questions or make comments about these articles? Join this newsletter’s online discussion group on CompuServe’s Genealogy Techniques Forum. The CompuServe forums are free and are available to anyone using Netscape, Internet Explorer or CompuServe’s own software Go to:http://www.rootsforum.com.
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