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. 26 – June 25, 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:
- Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family’s Coat of
- Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family’s Coat of Arms?
In many shopping malls across America, you will see pushcart vendors selling reproductions of coats of arms, claiming to be the "proud history and heritage of your family name" or similar words. These merchants sell coats of arms on parchment paper, suitable for framing. They also may sell coats of arms on t-shirts, sweatshirts, golf jerseys, stationery, coffee mugs or even key chains.
Similar "businesses" exist on the Web. A number of Web sites proclaim that they can sell you "authentic" copies of your family’s coat of arms. One Web site says, "What is your Name? What was it's origin? Was it taken from the name of a village? Was it taken from the Bible? A clan name? An Occupation? An ancient landmark? Who were your historical namesakes who bore your fine family name in the homeland of your ancestors?" Sometimes they also claim to sell "gifts of lasting heritage."
I have one thing to say to these con artists: "Balderdash!"
Actually, that’s not my first choice of response, but, after all, this is a family newsletter.
The study of coats of arms is called heraldry. Those who control the issuance of arms are the heralds. Typically, each country in Western Europe as well as in England, Scotland, and Ireland has an office of the heralds, sometimes called the Kings of Arms. The heralds are empowered to decide who is authorized to display a certain coat of arms. If you do not have authorization from the heralds, you are not authorized to display any coat of arms.
Most Americans seem ignorant of one very basic fact: in Western Europe and in the British Isles, there is no such thing as a "family coat of arms." A coat of arms is issued to one person, not to a family. After that person is deceased, his eldest heir may apply for the same coat of arms. Again, when he dies, his heir may apply. The rules for determining who is eligible to display a coat of arms are very similar to the rules for becoming King or Queen of England. However, even the proper heir cannot display the coat of arms until he or she has received authorization (been confirmed) by the heralds. At any one time, only one person may rightfully display a coat of arms.
According to the American College of Heraldry, "While Americans are usually fascinated by the beauty of heraldry, they are rarely familiar with its meaning and traditions and, therefore, often misunderstand and even abuse this rich cultural heritage. They seldom understand that a coat of arms is usually granted, certified, registered or otherwise recognized as belonging to one individual alone, and that only his direct descendants with proven lineage can be recognized as eligible to inherit the arms. Exceptions to this rule are rare."
The American College of Heraldry also says, "It is highly inappropriate for one to locate the arms of another person sharing the same surname, and to simply adopt and use these arms as one's own." My interpretation of this is that, if you are displaying an unauthorized coat of arms, you are impersonating someone else.
The College of Arms in England (the heralds for English, Welsh, Northern Irish, and Commonwealth families) says, "For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past."
Despite these warnings, many vendors are making money by preying on Americans’ ignorance of the topic. The pushcarts you see in shopping malls typically are franchise operations. One pushcart owner told me that he paid $6,000 for a "franchise" to sell this stuff. The so-called franchise did not include a protected territory; another franchisee was free to set up business in the same area. For the $6,000 investment, the franchisee receives a computer with a database containing thousands of surnames and so-called "family coats of arms," a high-quality printer, a supply of parchment paper, and a supply of coffee cups, key chains and other paraphernalia. These franchisees reportedly receive no training in the study of heraldry. The ones I have talked to didn’t recognize the term "College of Arms."
The Web sites aren’t much better. The ones I have looked at seem to have carefully-worded claims. Instead of saying, "your family’s coat of arms," they will say something like "your historical namesakes." Okay, "namesakes" doesn’t mean "ancestors," but it still will be misleading to many people. When a Web site proclaims, "your historical namesakes," most people will think that means "my family." However, if argued in court, the wording on the Web site would probably be considered correct. In short, I doubt if these companies will be shut down for misrepresenting their wares as they are very careful in their choice of words.
The next time someone offers a copy of your "family’s coat of arms," ask them for the documentation. They won’t have any. If a friend of yours is displaying a coat of arms on his stationery or on his fireplace mantel, I suggest you simply walk away smiling. There’s no sense in upsetting a good friendship. But don’t be as gullible as your friend. And please, please do not display your "family’s coat of arms" on your genealogy Web site unless you have been confirmed by the heralds, Okay?
If you would like to learn more about the serious study of heraldry and any rights you might have to display coats of arms, there are a number of Web sites devoted to the truth. Here is a short list of some of the more reputable ones:
None of the above sell printouts on parchment paper, t-shirts or key chains. Some of them do sell books and magazines devoted to the study of heraldry, however.
Here are some Web sites selling questionable merchandise. If you care about accuracy, please avoid the Hall of Names at:http://www.hallofnames.com, the Historical Research Center at: http://www.names.com, the "Home to Family History Research & Fine Heraldic Art" at: http://www.traceit.com, Heraldry on the Internet at: http://www.digiserve.com/heraldry and other merchants of their ilk. There are many other such sites on the Internet; some of them appear to be franchisees of the ones I have listed. Any site that purports to sell "your family coat of arms" is a rip-off.
- Cyndi’s List in Two Volumes
One of the best-known genealogy Web sites in the world is Cyndi’s List athttp://www.cyndislist.com, created and maintained by Cyndi Howells. I used to describe this site as a "list of genealogy Web sites," but it has become much more than that. It has evolved into a huge reference of categorized and cross-referenced index to genealogical resources on the Internet. Want to find an online database of marriage records in Maine? Cyndi’s List has a reference to the Index to Maine Marriages 1892-1966. Looking for a resource for Eastern European records? Cyndi’s List will point you to the Federation of East European Family History Societies Web site. Those are only two of the more than 70,000 such genealogy referencessorted, described, and linked from Cyndi’s List.
A couple of years ago, Cyndi Howells wrote a book about using her Web site. In the August 21, 1999 edition of this newsletter, I wrote:
I then went on to describe the book at some length. This week I had a chance to look at a new edition, called "Cyndi’s List – Second Edition." This no longer a single book of 858 pages; it now is two volumes totaling 1,613 pages! Two years ago I described the first edition as "huge," so now I am groping for an adjective to describe the new edition that is twice the size of the "huge" first edition.
The books are almost identical to the information on Cyndi’s Web site. These two volumes contains listings of URLs (Web addresses) and brief descriptions of what can be found at each site. The book is arranged by topics and has an excellent alphabetical category index as well as a topical category index. These indexes precede about 1,600 pages of listings.
Why would anyone want to buy the book when the same information is already available online? I think there are several answers:
All of these people will appreciate a printed reference that helps maximize online research time.
"Cyndi’s List – Second Edition" is about what you would expect for a reference book listing Web sites. It starts out with a table of contents for Volume One, then an Alphabetical Category Index, followed by a Topical Category Index, then a list of acknowledgements, Foreword to the Second Edition (written by Richard Pence) and the Foreword to the First Edition (written by Cyndi’s husband, Mark Howells) is also included. Those few pages are then followed by what appears to be the largest list of genealogy Web sites ever printed.
"Cyndi’s List – Second Edition" is published by Genealogical Publishing Company. As you might expect of any publication of more than 1,600 pages, it has a hefty price tag: $89.95. You should be able to purchase it at any bookstore although it may be a special order item. Tell the bookstore that you want ISBN number 0806316780.
You may prefer to order it at Genealogical Publishing Company’s secure online Web site. For more information, go to:http://www.genealogical.com/item_detail.cfm?ID=8480
- London Parish Records on CD-ROM
This week I had a chance to take a new CD-ROM for a "test drive." S&N Genealogy Supplies recently released "London Parish Records, Volumes 1 – 10" on a CD-ROM disk and kindly lent me a copy. This new CD-ROM allows you to browse, search, and print pages from all 10 volumes of the London Parish Records that S&N publishes, including the Marriage Licences CD. The parishes covered are:
The CD-ROM contains images of more than 4,000 pages of previously published books. The books are standard genealogy references, printed in the late 1800s and very early 1900s. The CD-ROM contains approximately 200,000 names with dates. It is fully searchable.
I inserted the London Parish Records CD-ROM disk into my Windows computer and was looking at transcribed records within a minute or so. The images on this CD-ROM are in Adobe Acrobat format, an excellent selection in my opinion.
I already had the Adobe Acrobat reader installed on my computer, so I did not need to install any software. However, all the required software is included on the CD-ROM disk for Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, NT and 2000. In addition, Macintosh users and many UNIX/Linux users can download Adobe Acrobat software from Adobe’s Web site at no charge. I suspect this CD-ROM will work perfectly on Macintosh as well as Linux and some UNIX systems, although I did not text that myself, and S&N Genealogy Supplies makes no mention of that in their literature.
Using the CD-ROM was easy, although a bit primitive. I found that I could leaf through the books, one page at a time. In short, it was about the same as using a printed book, only I used my computer’s mouse to "turn pages" instead of an index finger. The software also allows for searches on names. I entered a few common surnames, and the software quickly found those names within the pages of these ten volumes.
The format of the books varied a bit from volume to volume. However, they mostly contained names and dates extracted from the various parish registers. Many entries were short and simple, such as "1656 April 3 – Arthur Sparkes and Mary North" (were married). However, many of the entries also had extensive footnotes. For instance, the record for Arthur Sparkes and Mary North was annotated, "According to Chauncey (Hist. Herts) he was an utter barrister of the Middle Temple, Deputy to the King’s Remembrancer in the Exchequer, Steward of the borough of Hertford, a J.P. for the County, and M.P. for the borough in 1666; and she eldest dau. and coheir of Hugh North, of Marden, in the parish of Tewin, in that county. Their second son, Arthur, born 1 March 1661-2 and died 12 Jan. 1665-6, and was buried at St. Andrews, Hertford." In short, this is excellent genealogy reference material.
The software included with the London Parish Records CD-ROM allows the user to quickly zoom in and out when the pages are displayed on the screen. I found the pages easy to read, even when a bit smudged in the original. I also was able to print pages easily on my local printer. The resultant printed pages generally looked better than photocopies of the original books.
While you can search for particular words on the CD-ROM, remember that what you see on your screen is an image of a page from the original book. You cannot "cut-and-paste" text from the CD-ROM into your genealogy program or word processor; you will have to re-type the data, as I did when writing above about Arthur Sparkes and Mary North.
The London Parish Records on CD-ROM is an excellent resource for anyone researching ancestors there in the 1600s and 1700s. The material has been available on paper for some time and at a rather high price. The CD-ROM version is easier to search, takes up less shelf space, and only costs £99.75 – about $160 in U.S. funds.
For more information about the London Parish Records on CD-ROM or to order the new CD-ROM disk online via credit card using a secure and safe Web order form, go to:http://www.genealogy.demon.co.uk
- The Chadbourne Family in America: A Genealogy on CD-ROM
I generally do not write about books or CD-ROM disks of specific families. I prefer to write about items that are of interest to lots of people rather than those items for only one family. However, this week I explored an outstanding family CD-ROM disk and decided to write about it. "The Chadbourne Family in America: A Genealogy" is an excellent example of a computerized genealogy on CD-ROM that many other family organizations might like to emulate.
This CD-ROM contains every word from the 1994 book entitled, "Descendants of William Chadbourne of Tamworth, England and in 1634 Kittery/Berwick, Maine including all known males for 15 generations and female descendants' families for the first five generations, together with an appendix of unlinked Chadbournes" as compiled by Elaine Chadbourne Bacon for The Chadbourne Family Association. This was a monumental book that is certain to be the standard reference for Chadbourne research for the next several decades.
The CD-ROM version includes every word from the original book plus many additions and a few corrections. Unlike many other CD-ROM disks I have reviewed, this one is text-based. You see words, not images of the original book. Best of all, you can copy-and-paste paragraphs or even pages of information directly into your word processor or favorite genealogy program. For instance, here is one such "copy-and-paste" that illustrates the kind of information you may find on this CD-ROM disk:
(NOTE: Depending upon which e-mail program you use to read this newsletter and whether it uses proportional or non-proportional fonts, the alignment of the above text may look "funny." However, it looks great in the word processor I used to prepare this newsletter. It will look equally good in your word processor if you copy-and-paste directly from the CD-ROM.)
The format is typical of Register format: brief, but with all the required information and references included. In this case, you can see that the sources of this information include the New England Historic Genealogical Register Volume 9, page 253 (NEHGR 9:253), "Nathan Goodwin's Book of Remarks" as found at the Maine Historical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Register Volume 90, page 229 (NEHGR 90:229).
The information is stored in a database format, not as images. The result is that printing works well; you can print one record at a time, that is, all the information about one person. The resultant printout looks as if it was created by one of the modern genealogy programs. These printouts are nicely formatted.
The same CD-ROM disk also contains a copy of every edition of the Pied Cow Newsletter, as published by the same family association. You can search for articles in the full file of thirty-one issues dating from 1984 to 2000. You can view the newsletters on-screen or print them on your local printer.
The Chadbourne Family in America CD-ROM was created with Folio Views software. All the required software is included for the 32-bit Windows systems, including Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000. It probably works on Windows ME also, but I did not test that. Macintosh users will be delighted to find that this CD-ROM also includes software for use on Macintosh with operating systems through version 9.X.
The Chadbourne Family Association created this CD-ROM disk in association with Search & Research Publishing Corporation. It sells for $35.00 (U.S. funds). However, if you join the Chadbourne Family Association for $10, the price of the CD-ROM drops to $25. As that still is a total of only $35, you probably will want to join the Association.
For more information about this CD-ROM disk, or about the Chadbourne Family Association, look at:http://www.chadbourne.org
- Archive CD Books Project Announces Major Expansion
Rod Neep in England is involved in a great project to scan old, out-of-print books, directories, etc. and to then distribute them on CD-ROM. This is a non-profit project; any funds received are either plowed back into the project to buy more books or are donated to the archives that have loaned books to the project. I wrote about this project in the October 7, 2000 edition of this newsletter, which is available at:http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/2653.asp.
Rod has now expanded the project significantly and supplied the following announcement:
You can read more about this great project at:http://www.archivecdbooks.com. You can also contact Rod Neep at: email@example.com
- Charging For Technical Support
Genealogy.com’s customers got an unpleasant surprise this week. The software producer has announced that they will now be charging for technical support. Apparently this applies to all of the company’s products. The announcement was placed in the company’s support message boards for Family Tree Maker, Family Origins, Ultimate Family Tree, Family Tree Creator, Family Tree Detective, and the online GenealogyLibrary.com division.
Rob Armstrong, Senior Vice President of A & E Television Networks and General Manager of the Genealogy.com Division, posted a lengthy message detailing the new plan. The heart of the announcement was, "We will continue to provide Technical Support by phone for those who require phone assistance, but we will begin charging for certain support services effective June 28, 2001. Support services not subject to fees will be identified in the Online Help Center. The phone number for paid-phone support will be 800-326-8733. Fees will be $2 per minute for the time spent by the technical support representative on the phone answering your specific questions. Charges will be billed to Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Card at the time of service."
He also wrote, "Please realize that Genealogy.com is committed to providing you with better genealogy and customer support tools, while also operating as a business. The benefit to you is that we are now able to apply additional resources directly to the products and features currently used by the majority of our customers who require phone support."
You can read the full text of the announcement in several places on Genealogy.com’s support message boards, including:http://genforum.genealogy.com/uft/messages/7601.html
The new announcement was not well received by many people on the message boards, for obvious reasons. Nobody likes to start paying $120 an hour for something that was previously offered at no charge. However, I would suggest that it is appropriate to look to other software support organizations for comparisons.
Technical support is somewhat like dentistry: nobody likes it and nobody thinks much about it. Most people prefer to use it as little as possible. However, when an urgent need arises for it, suddenly this service becomes very important! You then want to consult with a highly qualified expert.
Technical support for personal software (word processors, spreadsheets, games as well as genealogy programs) traditionally has been provided to customers free of charge. However, software producers have had to pay many thousands of dollars to provide this support. This isn’t "free money" since they have to cover their costs in some manner. Usually, these costs are embedded in the purchase price of the product.
Traditionally, only a minority of customers ever ask for support, but that minority often calls back time and time again. Therefore, all customers pay for the support given to the minority. The majority traditionally have paid in the form of higher purchase prices.
Commercial software has had a very different background. I have earned my living providing or managing software technical support for the past seven years. Prior to that, I did the same in hardware support for more than twenty years. My experience has always been in providing support to businesses and large organizations, not to private individuals. All of my employers have always charged for technical support.
If your employer uses an Oracle database, Microsoft Exchange e-mail server, credit card processing software or other high-powered commercial software, I bet they already pay a lot of money for technical support. Most companies pay for an annual support contract, with fees ranging from a few hundred dollars for simpler products up to tens of thousands of dollars or more for some of the more sophisticated applications. Business software users who elect to not purchase annual contracts normally are charged $100 to $200 per hour for technical support when they do place a call.
Personal software providers have slowly been moving to business models involving paid technical support. Microsoft, WordPerfect, and numerous other companies have started charging for support. In many cases, the offerings have been two-tiered: a simple "help yourself" mechanism of FAQs (Frequently-Asked-Questions) and other sources of technical assistance are made available at no charge. The customer is free to scan these, looking for answers without paying. However, as soon as the customer asks for personal assistance from a live human being, the time clock begins. The providers of genealogy software have been lagging behind the larger companies in this shift to paid support.
If you have been reading the business news for the past year or so, you know about the financial crunch in the software industry, especially in the "dot-coms." Company after company is waking up to the fact that they cannot cover their costs while giving away their services free of charge. Thousands of companies are wrestling with questions about how to cover costs and to eventually become profitable.
This week’s announcement by Genealogy.com should come as no surprise to the genealogy community. You do not need to be a business expert to understand the reasons. The simple fact is that no company can continue to provide free services and yet remain in business. Whenever a company incurs a significant expense, that company has to figure out how to pay the bills. They may elect to do that by charging for support, by increasing the purchase price of the product, or perhaps in other ways. The method involved is their choice, but they certainly do need to cover their costs.
I suspect that other companies in the genealogy business will watch for a few months to learn from Genealogy.com’s experience. If seen as a successful move, other companies will probably move to a paid technical support business model later this year.
However, this also provides an opportunity for a "differentiator" by some companies. Once a number of the major players in the field move to paid support, smaller companies could then gain an edge by proudly advertising that they provide technical support free of charge. If they can do so successfully, they probably will attract many new customers, and their increased product sales may have the same effect as the new fees charged by their competitors: increased bottom-line revenue.
It is a gamble either way. I bet a number of executives of genealogy software companies are wrestling with this question these days: to charge or not to charge. I think the next twelve months should prove to be very interesting as we see some companies charging for support while others do not.
I suspect this will not be the last article I will write about various companies charging for technical support.
- The Force Be With You on Census Records
If you've ever harbored a secret desire to dress up in a brown robe and run around brandishing a light saber - and then claim a tax deduction for liturgical paraphernalia - you recently had a chance to do just that. Well, only if you live in Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom.
A recent e-mail campaign encouraged folks in these countries to enter "Jedi" as their faith on the national census forms. The e-mail claimed that officials would have to recognize Jedi as a religion if 10,000 people claimed Obi Wan's creed as their faith.
The U.K. Office of National Statistics decided to take a light saber to the notion. Census authorities claim that for years, rabid soccer hooligans have claimed their favorite football team as their religion on the forms. According to officials, established religions have census code designations, and the census process automatically ignores followers of faiths like Jedi or Manchester United.
In an official statement, the Office of National Statistics wrote, "Completion of the Census form is compulsory under the Census Act 1920. If you refuse to complete it, or give false information, you may be liable to a fine. This liability does not apply to question 10 on religion."
In New Zealand, citizens who declared themselves members of the Jedi religion appear to have escaped scot-free - even though they faced a hefty fine for declaring themselves "Jedi" on the March 6 census. The government in Auckland apparently has decided to ignore the whole thing.
Australia initially took a harsh stance but later backed down. At first, the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics census program, John Struik, said that anyone who falsely provides information on a census faces a $1,000 fine. Mr. Struik said that, to be recognized as a religion, a formal organizational structure with a belief system must be demonstrated. "If we get 10,000 Jedis they will go down as no official religion," he said.
He said the question on religion was used to provide valuable data so that community services such as education, hospitals, and aged care facilities can be planned. But Mr. Struik said the email might not be all bad news for census officials. "It provides a bit of amusement, and people learn about the census," he said.
I am now wondering if some of my ancestors with undocumented origins may have belonged to the same religious cult. That would explain the missing records.
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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About the author: Dick Eastman is the forum manager of the three Genealogy Forums on CompuServe. He also is the author of "YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer" published by Ziff-Davis Press. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org