Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
Summary of Events and
Vol. 2 No. 37 September 13, 1997
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IN THIS ISSUE:
- FGS Wrap-up
Last weeks newsletter was written in the midst of the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. The conference ended last Saturday evening, about 30 hours after I finished writing the last newsletter. I have attended many genealogy conventions and conferences but must say that this was one of the better ones. It was well organized. The facilities were excellent; and all the meetings seemed to be in close proximity. I was able to find every session within a few seconds. The vendor area was thoughtfully laid out with plenty of space and even tables in one aisle where you could sit for a bit.
The many vendors and attendees I talked with expressed similar pleasure with the proceedings; I didnt hear complaints. In fact, I only heard praises.
To the organizers of the 1997 FGS conference I have one comment: Congratulations on a job well done! To everyone else: Lets see if they can repeat it in Cincinnati, Ohio from August 19 through 22, 1998.
- Dinner In Dallas
My personal highlight of the FGS conference came a few hours after the conference closed. About 30 readers of this newsletter descended upon a local Tex-Mex restaurant and devoured lots of spicy food. It was great, although a bit raucous. The restaurant owners didnt seem to mind. However, someone in the crowd discovered that I had celebrated yet another birthday that week, and a large cake was delivered along with 30 people (loudly) singing "Happy Birthday." Luckily we narrowly averted calling the fire department to quell the conflagration caused by all the burning candles.
- Broderbund Locked Out Of RootsWeb
Just over a month ago, in the August 9, 1997 edition of this newsletter, I described the new Internet FamilyFinder service that can be accessed from their Web page. I praised the new service in that newsletter, writing " .they added the Internet FamilyFinder and Internet FamilyFinder Agents to that site. I had a chance to use these services this week and must say they are nifty. I believe the FamilyFinder Agents are unique to genealogy Web pages; I cannot think of any similar service that is strictly for genealogy. There are other search agents available elsewhere on the Internet, and I have written about some of them before in this newsletter. However, the FamilyFinder Agents are designed strictly for genealogy searches."
I also wrote "The Internet FamilyFinder search engine also searches forms of text that other search engines overlook. For example, the USGenWeb project has entered quite a lot of genealogical information in ASCII text form, not as Web HTML pages. Other search engines will not find information in this form, but the Internet FamilyFinder reportedly does index those pages. (I wasnt able to verify this, but Ill accept Broderbunds claims.)"
In contrast, this week I received numerous e-mails from people who use RootsWeb describing all sorts of problems with Broderbund. The laudatory words I wrote five weeks ago may have been true at the time I wrote them, but the facts apparently have changed since then. On Sept 8, 1997 messages were posted to many newsgroups claiming that Broderbunds "search robot" had run amuck on RootsWeb and that Broderbund was now been locked out of RootsWeb as personna non grata among 100,000 online genealogists.
The messages on the newsgroups were rather inflammatory, so I will not reproduce them here. They sounded very interesting, so I contacted Dr. Brian Leverich, who is the 'owner' of Rootweb along with Karen Isaacson. Dr. Leverich confirmed many of the rumors. When I asked him about problems caused by Broderbund, he replied:
This has to be quite an embarrassment for Broderbund. Not only has their advertising already been printed and distributed claiming that they search all the RootsWeb sites and USGenWeb sites, but now many e-mail messages are circulating among all the users of these sites. RootsWeb hosts 1,750 independent web sites and 1,600 mailing lists. Those mailing lists have more than 100,000 subscribers, most of whom heard about this problem at the same time that I did.
Anyway, if you keep copies or redistribute copies of my newsletters, you might want to go back and make a notation on the August 9 issue.
- Broderbund Expands Internet Initiatives
In other news about Broderbund, the company has announced formation of an online business unit to centralize and focus company's move into online product development, marketing, sales and technical support. "This is by no means Broderbund's entry into the Internet area," said Joe Durrett, chief executive officer of Broderbund. "This is more a focusing and an expansion of our online initiatives. We've learned with our Family Tree Maker line that the Internet can be both a source of revenue and a product platform. This group of people will take Broderbund's interactive content beyond shrink-wrapped software and directly into homes and schools. These efforts will both augment our CD-ROM line and provide the foundation of an entire new generation of Broderbund products."
Michael Murray, former director of the Broderbund Internet Fund, will serve as director of online business and general manager of the Online Business Unit. Murray will report directly to CEO Durrett. The unit will be managed by a Business Unit Board consisting of Durrett; Bill McDonagh, President and Chief Operating Officer of Broderbund; and the heads of the other Broderbund business units. The staff of the unit will be comprised of employees from Broderbund's offices in Novato and Fremont, Calif. and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Making up the unit's staff will be representatives from all of Broderbund's business units, who will remain involved in the day-to-day activities of their units.
Broderbund's primary web site is located at: http://www.broderbund.com.
I normally do not write book reviews unless the books pertain to the use of computers or other technology for genealogy research. However, I will gladly make an exception for this book. "Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian" is brand new and is a "must have" for every genealogist. This book describes in great detail how to record source citations.
As an aside, I will suggest that if you do not know what a source citation is and do not know why source citations are very important, you need this book! To quote author Elizabeth Shown Mills: "Any statement of fact that is not common knowledge must carry its own individual statement of source. Source notes have two purposes: to record the specific location of each piece of data and to record details that affect the use or evaluation of that data."
The previous reference book that was widely used was "Cite Your Sources" by Richard S. Lackey. His book first appeared seventeen years ago and quickly became a standard reference for serious genealogists. Unfortunately, Richard Lackey died soon thereafter, and the book has not been updated since its original publication. In the new book, Elizabeth Shown Mills credits Lackeys work and adds, "As I tender this replacement to our field, I do so with tender regret that Richard is not here to make my effort unnecessary and with a fresh sense of lifes tendency to close its circles."
Elizabeth is the editor of the National Genealogical Societys scholarly journal, the NGS Quarterly. She is a past president and a present trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists and is the present editor of the Boards educational newsletter, OnBoard. She also is the author, compiler or translator of more than two hundred articles and books and is well known as a genealogy lecturer.
The new book is slim, only 124 pages. It consists of a short introduction, 25 pages devoted to the fundamentals of citations, 17 pages discussing the fundamentals of analysis, and 44 pages of examples of proper citations. The book ends in several appendixes, a bibliography and an index.
The slim size is misleading. The information contained within is detailed and requires significant study. You will not breeze through these pages in a single evening! The book documents proper source citations for probate files, ships passenger lists, Social Security Death Index entries, newspaper clippings, naturalization records and hundreds more sources of genealogy information. And, yes, it even tells how to write proper source citations for information found in an e-mail message, on a World Wide Web site or in a ListServe message.
Ill make a request of genealogy software programmers: please buy this book and then insure that future releases of your program have proper fields to allow for the recording of source information in these formats.
"Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian" is published by the Genealogical Publishing Company and retails for only $16.95 U.S. funds. For more information, look at: http://www.genealogical.com
- Obituary: Milton Rubincam
The genealogy world lost one of its giants this week. Milton Rubincam died of
complications related to diabetes and vascular disease. He passed away Tuesday at Washington Adventist Hospital at the age of 88. Milton had been called "the dean of American genealogists" by the Smithsonian Institution.
Rubincam, who helped popularize the pursuit of family histories, did not pursue genealogy full time until his retirement in 1972. Before that, he worked for the Social Security Administration, the Board of Economic Welfare and the Commerce Department.
Milton Rubincam served four terms as president of the National Genealogical Society before becoming editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and then its book review editor, writing an estimated 2,000 reviews over 25 years.
Rubincam, who lived in Hyattsville, Md., was known in the genealogy community for his painstaking research, precise accuracy and dogged insistence on documentation and primary sources.
He was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Ocean City, N.J. He attended Temple University in Philadelphia and American University in Washington. He is survived by his wife of sixty-two years, Priscilla Teasdale Rubincam, three sons, and a grandson.
- Boston Seminar on Jewish Resources
A seminar on "Resources for Jewish Genealogy" will be held on Sunday, October 26, 1997 at the New England Historic Genealogical Societys building at 101 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts. This half-day seminar features three noted speakers:
Registration starts at 12 noon with the first presentation at 12:30. The afternoon will end with a guided tour of the NEHGS Library from 4:00 to 5:00 PM. Registration for the seminar is $40. It is expected to be completely sold out in advance; so do not wait until the day of the lecture to register or you may be disappointed. For more information, contact the New England Historic Genealogical Society at 617-536-5740 extension 202 or call toll-free at 1-888-AT-NEHGS (1-888-286-3447).
- New Hampshire Genealogists To Meet
The New Hampshire Society of Genealogists will hold its fall meeting in Dover, NH on Saturday, September 20, at the McIntosh College Inn and Conference Center, 181 Silver Street. Speakers will be Duncan D. Chaplin III, C.A.L.S., speaking on "Researching Lineages" and Helen Evans speaking on "Eighteenth Century Women in the News and The Specialist."
Registration for the event will begin at 8:30 A.M. with the business meeting to start at 9:00 A.M. A luncheon buffet will be served. The cost for the meeting and luncheon is $18.00 for NHSOG members and $22 for non-members if pre-paid. A $5.00 surcharge applies if payment is made at the door on the 20th. Checks should be made payable to NHSOG and mailed to Rosalie Godfrey, 56 High Street, Ipswich, MA 01938.
For more information, visit the NHSOG Web page at http://www.tiac.net/users/nhsog to print an agenda and reservation form.
- Panoramic Photograph Collection Online
Want to see a nifty Web site of old photographs? I spent more than an hour wandering around this one. Quoting from the home page:
The site is at: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/pnhtml/pnhome.html
- CompuServes Genealogy Forums Expand
As manager of the Genealogy Forums on CompuServe, I am proud to announce a major expansion. Previously there were two separate genealogy forums there: the "general purpose" Genealogy Forum at GO ROOTS and the Genealogy Vendors Support Forum at GO GENSUP. As the activity on these forums continues to grow and especially as the number of users in the U.K., Europe and the Pacific Rim keeps expanding, two new forums have now been added to the group.
The North American Genealogy Forum (GO NAROOTS) is devoted to genealogy research in the United States and Canada. It contains message boards, file libraries and chat rooms devoted to the different geographic areas as well as to an alphabetized list of surname sections. It also has sections for Afro-American and Amerindian genealogy research. The Canadian section is divided into two parts, one devoted to French-Canadian ancestry and the other devoted to English-speaking ancestors. Of course, the Amerindian section also covers Canada.
The World Wide Genealogy Forum (GO WWROOTS) is for genealogy research throughout the world excluding North America. It has separate sections for England/Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, France, the Benelux countries, Germany and others. The new Australia/New Zealand section already is very busy.
The older Genealogy Forum will be re-named the Genealogy Techniques Forum in a couple of weeks. It will focus on all aspects of genealogy research that are not geographic in nature. This will include how to use computers to aid genealogy research, online sources of information, introductory texts on how to get started in genealogy and a few other miscellaneous topics.
The Genealogy Vendors Support Forum remains unchanged. It still has separate sections for most of the leading genealogy vendors and several of the larger societies.
For all the details, log onto CompuServe and GO NAROOTS and GO WWROOTS.
- CompuServe To Be Sold
As I mentioned earlier, I am the manager of the genealogy forums on CompuServe. You can believe that I have been following this news story closely all week. As expected for many months, an announcement this week confirmed that CompuServe is being sold. However, the sale involves a complicated four-company deal.
CompuServes parent company, H&R Block, has reportedly talked with a number of potential buyers. H&R Block held out for their asking price of $1.2 billion and apparently they got the full price. H&R Block and CompuServe Corporation announced on Monday, September 8, that they have entered into an agreement with WorldCom, Inc., where WorldCom will acquire CompuServe in a stock-for-stock transaction. The Board of Directors of all three companies unanimously approved the deal.
WorldCom then agreed to a separate transaction with America Online, whereby WorldCom will acquire AOL's ANS Communications, Inc. subsidiary, in exchange for CompuServe's online services and $175 million in cash. At completion of the transaction, AOL's European partner, Bertlesmann AG, will pay an additional $75M to AOL, and both companies will invest $25M in a joint venture to operate CompuServe's European online service. AOL has also entered into a five-year agreement with WorldCom for network capacity.
Although the business deals have been signed by all the parties, all this is subject to review from the Justice Department, which can delay the process by two to six months. There will be no significant changes to CompuServe until that approval is completed.
AOL has publicly stated that they will continue to position the CompuServe brand as a service for business and professional users. Current CompuServe members will continue to access the existing service with the normal CompuServe software through the existing network. AOL also supports the next-generation developments at CompuServe, including the web forums (code named CSi 97). AOL plans to share its marketing and PR resources, and possibly some technologies, with CompuServe.
In a letter to subscribers posted on America Online Monday morning, AOL Chairman Steve Case said AOL and CompuServe subscribers should not expect to see many changes -- at least initially. AOL will operate CompuServe separately, he said. "That means CompuServe customers will continue to access their system on the CompuServe network," Case said. "There may be some synergies that make sense -- for example, we will look at the possibility of making some of CompuServe's business and professional content available to AOL members, and making some of AOL's unique technologies available to CompuServe customers -- but we'll be in a `walk before we run' mode to ensure maximum customer satisfaction."
Apparently AOL will operate CompuServe as a premium service in addition to its basic AOL service. CompuServe access will probably be available to AOL members for an extra surcharge.
Bob Pittman, CEO of AOL Networks (the online portion of AOL) described this to CompuServe employees on Tuesday when he and AOL CEO Steve Case visited the CompuServe employees in the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters. Pittman said, "Look, we recognize we're at the top of the second inning at this business. The vast majority of people aren't even online. As that continues to grow, the variety of wants and needs for online services are going to continue to grow. One size doesn't fit all anymore.'"
To better understand how AOL determined it can't be all things to all people, it's useful to bear in mind that Pittman founded MTV. Nobody knows better than the people at MTV, the popular music entertainment network owned by media conglomerate Viacom, that the channel's audience is limited. People who like young, flashy pop artists love MTV. Everyone else? Well, they go elsewhere. That's why Viacom doesn't own just one property. It owns MTV, Nickelodeon, and a whole host of specialty properties that cater to different interests. Apparently a similar philosophy will be used at CompuServe/AOL.
AOL also asked employees of CompuServe to stick with the company while it finalizes the deal. In the talk to employees on Tuesday, AOL president Steve Case offered a onetime bonus of between 10 percent and 12 percent of their annual salary to most CompuServe employees if they stay with the company through the completion of AOL's purchase.
So which company came out the big winner in all this? The Wall Street Journal seems to think it is WorldCom, Inc. In a long article on September 9, staff writer Jared Sandberg extolled the fast expansion of this formerly small telephone company based in Jackson, Mississippi. WorldCom has been acquiring companies rapidly to become one of the largest Internet backbone network companies. Last year WorldCom acquired MFS Communications, including its UUNet Technologies division. That alone created a large networking business for WorldCom. Now, in one fell swoop, WorldCom has acquired the network divisions of both CompuServe and AOL along with a five-year agreement from AOL to use WorldComs network services. WorldCom already provides most of the network services for Microsoft Network; now it will do the same for AOL and for CompuServe as well. The three largest online services all get their network services from one source. Thats a coup!
WorldCom pulled off this coup at very little cost: they issued stock (which has very little up-front expense) to H&R Block and then gave 175 million dollars to AOL. Now, that figure isnt exactly chicken feed, but it is a fraction of the value of the network divisions of these two companies combined.
The title of runner-up winner appears to go to H&R Block, owners of 80% of CompuServe. The tax preparation company received their asking price of 1.2 billion dollars. Actually, they received 1.2 billion dollars worth of WorldCom stock, but apparently H&R Block will be able to convert that to cash without much effort.
Third place winner arguably could be Bertlesmann AG, which is trying to become the major online service in Europe, either alone or through partnerships. Bertlesmann AG already had a partnership with AOL, but CompuServe had more customers in Europe than AOL and Bertlesmann AG combined. Now all the companies European customers are under the Bertlesmann AG umbrella.
And what about AOL? Well, the jury is still out. They absorb their largest competitor, of course. That has to be very satisfying to AOLs upper management. But previous surveys of CompuServe customers have always shown a high percentage of former AOL customers or customers who had simultaneous accounts on both services. These people paid extra money for the premium services on CompuServe even after using AOLs lower-priced service.
How many of these customers will remain with AOL after the acquisition? Thats the number one question right now. Industry pundits seem to be predicting a low rate of retention. But I dont believe those so-called pundits have realized that CompuServe will continue to run as a separate and distinct service. CompuServe has somewhere between 2.5 and 5 million customers, depending upon whether or not the customers of their SpryNet division or their business partner in Japan are included. The Japanese customers are not included in the AOL deal. The SpryNet customers probably will not convert. So only about 2.5 million CompuServe customers become possible AOL members. And nobody can predict how many of those will remain as customers once AOL takes over. So the question remains: how many customers will AOL gain?
To be sure, AOL also received 175 million dollars in cash from WorldCom and an additional 75 million dollars from Bertlesmann AG. In return, AOL loses one of its most valuable assets: its network division. AOL has spent millions of dollars in the past year adding modems and phone lines and high-speed backbone lines to its network in an effort to improve its widely publicized access problems. Now that network, along with all the improvements, goes to WorldCom.
Of course, all of this hinges upon approval by the U.S. government regulatory agencies. That approval is not expected for four to six months.
- Home Pages Highlighted
The following is a list of some of the genealogy-related World Wide Web home pages that have been listed recently on http://www.rootscomputing.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.
If you would like to submit news, information or press releases for possible inclusion in future newsletters, send them to email@example.com. The author does reserve the right to accept or reject any articles submitted.
DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is being written and sent via e-mail at no charge. I expect to write one new issue on a more or less weekly basis. However, life sometimes interferes, and the need to earn a living may create an occasional delay.
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About the author: Dick Eastman is the forum manager of the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe and is the author of "YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer" published by Ziff-Davis Press.