RootsTech 2011: Day 2

Day 2 of Root­sTech started with a spir­ited keynote address by Curt Witcher of the Allen County Pub­lic Library on “The Chang­ing Face of Geneal­ogy.” His point was: The world is going dig­i­tal and going there quickly. Get on board, or be left behind.

Brian Pugh of Fam­il­y­Search pre­sented a pow­er­ful talk on how the new Fam­il­y­Search web­site has uti­lized cloud ser­vices (pri­mar­ily from Ama­zon Web Ser­vices: http://aws.amazon.com) to pro­vide world class web­site in a cost-efficient man­ner. The strat­egy has allowed them to auto-scale up and down their ser­vices as needed. Addi­tion­ally, they are able to cre­ate data snap­shots to quickly build new pro­to­types of their site for devel­op­ment and test­ing. They use Ama­zon S3 as a shared filesys­tem for dynamic con­tent, though the per­for­mance of S3 is not designed for serv­ing up images, and so on, so they cache the data stored on S3 for actual deliv­ery to web browsers.

One thing they are doing on the Fam­il­y­Search web­site is uti­liz­ing Ama­zon Elas­tic IPs to allow for “hot” deploy­ment of new ver­sions of the site. They can build the new ver­sion of the site, test it, and then in a mat­ter of sec­onds, have Ama­zon redi­rect the IP address of the web­site to the new site, while keep­ing the old site in reserve. If they need to fall back to the old site, it’s again only a mat­ter of seconds.

They also use Ama­zon MapRe­duce to per­form com­plex computations.

Fam­il­y­Search engi­neers have made avail­able pro­gram­ming lan­guage for cre­at­ing cloud based sys­tems, avail­able at: code.google.com/p/lasic. This allows man­agers of cloud envi­ron­ments to quickly issue “verbs” such as

  • Deploy
  • Con­fig­ure
  • Shut­down
  • Snap­shot

One key thing that Mr. Pugh said about Amazon’s offer­ing in this space, is that it is being widely used. Among oth­ers, he men­tioned that the New York Times, Major League Base­ball, Net­flix, 3M, Activi­sion, ESPN, NASDAQ, The Guardian, and Razor­fish (and I can add the New Eng­land His­toric Geneal­ogy Soci­ety, based on the Fri­day luncheon.)

Later in the day, I was able to attend a view­ing of “Who Do You Think You Are?” at the Fam­ily His­tory Library. They gave out raf­fle items, and I won a copy of Ances­try for the Mac. I then took advan­tage of the Library being open until mid­night, research­ing my Hills, John­sons, and Crows in Howard County and Nance County, Nebraska.

RootsTech 2011: Day 1

Yes­ter­day was the first day of Root­sTech, a new con­fer­ence on geneal­ogy and tech­nol­ogy held in Salt Lake City and spon­sored by Fam­il­y­Search Inter­na­tional, the geneal­ogy infor­ma­tion arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The con­fer­ence started with a lit­tle bit of con­fu­sion: It seemed that there was a rush to the reg­is­tra­tion table just prior to the keynote address. This kind of thing can be min­i­mized, of course, by open­ing reg­is­tra­tion the day before, or by send­ing all the light­weight items (tick­ets to lunches and events, lan­yard and badge) ahead of time, and then sim­ply exchang­ing one of those tick­ets for a stan­dard back­pack or lap­top case and any other schwag and late-breaking news.

In any case, the orga­niz­ers offered to let peo­ple reg­is­ter later; they were not going to check badges for the first event. This was some­thing I def­i­nitely took advan­tage of, since I didn’t want to miss the talk by Shane R. Robi­son (Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Strat­egy and Tech­nol­ogy Offi­cer, Hewlett Packard) A World of Infor­ma­tion and Jay Verkler (CEO, Fam­il­y­Search Inter­na­tional) Turn­ing Roots, Branches, Trees into Nodes, Links, Graphs.

I am not sure what the more genealog­i­cally and less tech­no­log­i­cally minded atten­dees thought of Shane’s speech. It was a well-delivered dis­cus­sion of the future of cloud com­put­ing and glob­al­iza­tion. I found it fas­ci­nat­ing. Of course, with so much of the world so pop­u­lated, and with these other pop­u­la­tion cen­ters (China, India, Brazil) poised to dra­mat­i­cally move into more of a middle-class exis­tence, there are seri­ous chal­lenges for global sus­tain­abil­ity. I was glad to see that Mr. Robi­son had sus­tain­abil­ity in the cen­ter of his group of pri­or­i­ties for Hewlett Packard.

Mr. Verkler got up and tied this all back into geneal­ogy, point­ing out that cloud com­put­ing is hap­pen­ing in a big way already in the geneal­ogy space: All of the new Fam­il­y­Search web­site is hosted on Ama­zon EC2 servers in the cloud, not on servers Fam­il­y­Search owns itself.

Later in the day, I spent some time man­ning the NGS booth, looked around at the exhibit hall, and attended some talks. IBM has a space in the exhibit hall with games: non-virtual (pool, air hockey, chess) and vir­tual (Microsoft Kinect). They were also giv­ing away mas­sages. I also attended jQuery and Web Ser­vices, a talk by Logan Allred. He was cogent and clear. Over lunch, I heard Chris van der Kuyl of bright­solid dis­cuss Fam­ily His­tory in the Age of the Cloud. He didn’t really talk about the cloud much, but it was an inter­est­ing romp through the inter­sec­tion of tech­nol­ogy and geneal­ogy, and a good intro­duc­tion to bright­solid as a company.

Jimmy Zimmerman’s Ruby Library for Fam­il­y­Search API was also a great talk, so full of details, it was prac­ti­cally a code review. I regret to say that Barry Ewell’s talk, Dig­i­tally Pre­serv­ing Your Fam­ily Her­itage, did not impress me. He’s very knowl­edge­able about the topic, but his speak­ing style grated on me. He would start a sen­tence, stop in the mid­dle, say a cou­ple of sen­tences that were rel­e­vant to him, then fin­ish the orig­i­nal sen­tence. Maybe he was hav­ing an off day, or was a lit­tle ner­vous in the lights, but it didn’t make for a good pre­sen­ta­tion in my opin­ion. Michael Buck’s Top Ten Web Appli­ca­tions Secu­rity Risks (based on OWASP rec­om­men­da­tion) was clear, well thought out, and easy to follow.

At the end of the day, bright­solid spon­sored a Night at the Plan­e­tar­ium. There were nachos, sand­wiches, and pop­corn, but also IMAX films, as well as all the plan­e­tar­ium exhibits. A great end to the day … except that I also headed to the Fam­ily His­tory Library, which was open until 11.

Multiracial and Multiethnic Trees

New York Times: Mixed America's Family Trees
New York Times: Mixed America’s Fam­ily Trees

The New York Times has an arti­cle and an accom­pa­ny­ing inter­ac­tive fea­ture that allows users to explore the Amer­i­can phe­nom­e­non of mul­tira­cial and mul­ti­eth­nic families.

The story points out that the gov­ern­ment uses sta­tis­tics on race and eth­nic­ity to address race– and ethnic-based inequities, how­ever the increas­ingly com­plex nature of fam­ily back­grounds is caus­ing a shift from tra­di­tional “select one” to more accu­rate “select all that are appro­pri­ate” mea­sures. The story fea­tures a young woman, “Michelle López-Mullins — a uni­ver­sity stu­dent who is of Peru­vian, Chi­nese, Irish, Shawnee and Chero­kee descent” and notes that the Edu­ca­tion Depart­ment would clas­sify her as “His­panic.” This obvi­ously over sim­pli­fies her back­ground, and thus, from my point of view makes the data and con­clu­sions drawn from it ques­tion­able. The US Cen­sus tracks 63 com­bi­na­tions of racial and eth­nic cat­e­gories, and allows peo­ple to select as many as apply to them.

Accord­ing to the arti­cle, things have changed dra­mat­i­cally to the extent that cur­rently 1 in 7 mar­riages in the US are mul­tira­cial or mul­ti­eth­nic. The cur­rent wave of immi­gra­tion, as well as falling bar­ri­ers between eth­nic and racial groups, as well as dimin­ish­ing of stig­mas regard­ing mul­tira­cial and mul­ti­eth­nic families.

If you click on the image to the Multiracial and Multiethnic Categorizationright, you will see some of the dif­fer­ent ways one indi­vid­ual is cat­e­go­rized. (In addi­tion to gov­ern­ment cat­e­gories, the Times gives us an idea of what Ms. López-Mullins, her father, and one of her friends think about her background.)

This is of crit­i­cal impor­tance to geneal­o­gists. In the future, some­one min­ing gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments of their ances­tors will be enabled, if the infor­ma­tion is accu­rate and detailed enough, to get new clues. If the infor­ma­tion is watered down or con­fus­ing, with mul­ti­ple stan­dards within Fed­eral agen­cies, not to men­tion across the states, the work of the future geneal­o­gist will be more difficult.

The inter­ac­tive fea­ture I men­tioned allows you to share a small fam­ily tree along with the eth­nic and racial back­grounds that make it up, with pic­tures, if you have some handy. You may also add an audio file of up to 10 MB of audio explain­ing the tree.

Cyber Security

How to Pro­tect Your­self in a Con­nected World

As geneal­o­gists, we are often online — whether using scanned records from a sub­scrip­tion site, search­ing through tran­scrip­tions on Gen­Web, vol­un­teer­ing for a local soci­ety, or send­ing e-mail to a recently found cousin. Being online as much as we are, we assume some risks. While these risks are man­age­able, and do not exceed the value of com­put­ing and Inter­net use for geneal­o­gists, it is impor­tant to assess your risk level, and take steps to limit poten­tial attacks. Let me walk you through some of the things you should consider.

Cre­ate Secure Passwords

With all of the pass­words we need to cre­ate and remem­ber, it is tempt­ing to have a sin­gle, mem­o­rable pass­word for e-mail, sub­scrip­tion sites, and finan­cial insti­tu­tions. Doing so puts you at risk. If your pass­word is mem­o­rable for you it can prob­a­bly be guessed by some­one else, or by a com­puter pro­gram. And if you only have one pass­word, if some­one guesses it, that per­son has access to any and all of your accounts. The best pass­word secu­rity will include pass­words that can­not be guessed. They should not be a date, a name, or a com­monly known word found in any dic­tio­nary. Com­puter pro­grams exist that can try numer­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties to hack your pass­word. Instead, your pass­words should have a com­bi­na­tion of upper– and lower-case char­ac­ters, numer­als, and sym­bols. There are web­sites that can pro­duce ran­dom, secure pass­words; for exam­ple, PC Tools offers one www.pctools.com/guides/password/. Of course, hav­ing dozens of pass­words, all of them difficult to remem­ber, presents its own prob­lems— human mem­ory has its limits.

There is the tried-and-true method of writ­ing things down, but you cer­tainly do not want to lose a note­book of your pass­words. Since you might not want to take your pass­word list out of the house, you will not be able to log in to your sub­scrip­tion research sites from Star­bucks. Another method, which I rec­om­mend, is stor­ing your pass­words in a pass­word man­ager, either online or offline. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it works. Pro­grams such as Robo­Form and web­sites such as Last­Pass allow you to encrypt pass­words and then store them on your computer’s hard disk, or in the cloud.

Robo­Form runs on Win­dows and stores all the pass­word data on your hard drive in one of a num­ber of encryp­tion for­mats. You can also pur­chase a ver­sion that runs on a USB key, so you can take it with you. Last­Pass stores your pass­words in an encrypted form in the cloud, in other words, poten­tially on a num­ber of servers across the Inter­net. For added secu­rity, you can get a USB key to pro­vide another level of val­i­da­tion. Access to the pass­words requires that the key, which is spe­cially configured for your account, be plugged into your com­puter, and that you know the e-mail address and pass­word of the account. If you lose the key, you can reset the account by a request on the web­site that you then must respond to from your pre­vi­ously asso­ci­ated e-mail account.

Avoid E-mail Scams

Bulk e-mail can be a very finan­cially efficient way for peo­ple to steal data. Spam­mers can send out mil­lions of mes­sages for almost noth­ing, and if only a few peo­ple respond in ways they can exploit, their cam­paign has been finan­cially suc­cess­ful. The main method of e-mail scam these days has been called “phish­ing.” In a phish­ing attack, the scam­mer sends an e-mail that pre­tends to be for a legit­i­mate pur­pose, request­ing that you log in to its site, send your pass­word by return e-mail, or in some other way to pro­vide the scam­mer with some of the cre­den­tials (user name/password com­bi­na­tions) that would allow access to one or more of your accounts or your pri­vate data. The e-mail can look very official, but often has some tell tale signs: words are mis­spelled and URLs are slightly differ­ent, either in a way you can read­ily see or under­neath the HTML code, which you can observe by hov­er­ing your mouse
over them.

To pro­tect your­self, the best first step to have good spam filter­ing. G-mail from Google includes some of the best spam filter­ing avail­able. G-mail is also free and is easy to set up. Very rarely do I see a phish­ing attack in my G-mail inbox; but the spam folder on G-mail is full of phish­ing attacks. In addi­tion to e-mail filter­ing, you can set up lists of e-mail addresses and domains so as always to allow (white list) or dis­al­low (black list) mail from those sources. For exam­ple, if you want to make sure that mail from your cousin Sheila gets though, you would white list her e-mail address. On the other hand, if you had received mali­cious e-mail from paypal.net (not PayPal.com), you might black list any mail com­ing from the domain paypal.net. Many ser­vice providers pro­vide this ser­vice, build­ing a black list of known or sus­pected sources of spam and malware.

Once you have spam filter­ing, and even if you have a black list and white list set up, some phish­ing attacks will get through. To keep your data safe, use cau­tion when respond­ing to e-mail. The e-mail address the mail comes from might be other than what appears in your e-mail soft­ware. If you believe that your bank may actu­ally be con­tact­ing you via e-mail, do not sim­ply click on the e-mail link, hit the reply but­ton, or call a phone num­ber in the e-mail. Con­tact the bank directly, either by typ­ing its Web address in your browser your­self, send­ing e-mail where you enter the address your­self, or by call­ing the bank with a phone num­ber you already have on file for them. If this was a legit­i­mate e-mail from your bank, a copy of it will be in your online account, and it should also be avail­able to the bank’s cus­tomer ser­vice per­son­nel when you call.

Thwart Viruses and Malware

Mal­ware is soft­ware that is designed to do harm. This soft­ware can be embed­ded into soft­ware pro­grams or files, and can be hid­den in what look like harm­less web­sites. This is a risk whether you are on a Win­dows or a Mac computer.

Over the years, Mac­in­tosh enthu­si­asts like me have boasted that its oper­at­ing sys­tem is immune to these kinds of attacks. Despite the fact that we can be annoy­ing, even PC devo­tees have to admit that the num­ber of mal­ware pro­grams directly aimed at the Mac OS has remained low. There have been no major virus out­breaks on Mac OS X, but this may be on the verge of chang­ing. Even the Mac OS X has to use browsers to nav­i­gate the Web, and any soft­ware designed to request files from the Inter­net will have vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. At the CanSecWest dig­i­tal secu­rity con­fer­ence in Van­cou­ver this Spring, com­puter secu­rity engi­neers demon­strated the abil­ity to exploit Inter­net Explorer on Win­dows, Fire­fox on the Mac­in­tosh, and Safari on the Mac­in­tosh and on iPhones. (Google Chrome was the only browser on which no one was able to demon­strate secu­rity holes.) Another aspect of anti-virus con­sid­er­a­tions is that users who run Win­dows through Boot­Camp or a third-party Win­dows vir­tual machine, have Mac­in­toshes that are vul­ner­a­ble to both Mac­in­tosh and PC viruses.

What can you do about this? First of all, you should install virus pro­tec­tion soft­ware. On Win­dows, the best known pro­grams are McAfee VirusS­can and Nor­ton AntiVirus; on the Mac OS, choices include Nor­ton AntiVirus, McAfee VirusS­can, and Intego Virus­Bar­rier. Next, you should keep your oper­at­ing sys­tem and browsers up to date. Oper­at­ing sys­tem and browser devel­op­ers reg­u­larly release patches (small fixes) to their soft­ware when they are able to thwart a known secu­rity threat. If you set your pref­er­ences to allow down­load and instal­la­tion of these secu­rity patches, you will be less vul­ner­a­ble to mal­ware than you would oth­er­wise be.

Geneal­o­gists pre­fer to focus their time on research and on eval­u­at­ing sources, but the abil­ity these days to do research depends on access to the Inter­net and to the files that have been scanned, down­loaded, and cre­ated. If you invest a min­i­mal amount of time in learn­ing how to address pass­word secu­rity, phish­ing attacks, and mal­ware, you will likely avoid much more time-consuming and frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tions in the future, where you might lose some of your genealog­i­cal data or have your com­puter raided.

This arti­cle, which orig­i­nally appeared in a slightly dif­fer­ent form in the National Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety’s NGS Mag­a­zine, is repub­lished here by permission.

Kindle Update, 3.1

Kindle 3 with 3.1 Software (New York Times Capture)

Ama­zon announced today an update for the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of the Kin­dle e-book reader, com­monly called Kin­dle 3. Users can wait for their Kin­dle 3 or Kin­dle DX devices to auto­mat­i­cally be updated, or they can down­load the soft­ware and install it them­selves at:

Kin­dle Soft­ware Update Ver­sion 3.1 — Early Pre­view Release

Accord­ing to Ama­zon, the update pro­vides the fol­low­ing benefits:

  • Pub­lic Notes — In the inter­est of help­ing peo­ple become “social” about their read­ing, Ama­zon will allow peo­ple to share their notes and high­lights with other read­ers. In addi­tion to pub­lic shar­ing, there will also be pri­vate shar­ing, allow­ing book clubs or stu­dents to share their notes only with spe­cific people.
  • Real Page Num­bers — This has been requested from the begin­ning. In order to allow for what is called “re-flowable” con­tent, Ama­zon, and most other man­u­fac­tur­ers of e-readers, pro­vide loca­tions in an inter­nal scheme that doesn’t mean any­thing to users, and makes it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple using a Kin­dle to have close-text dis­cus­sions with oth­ers, say class­mates, read­ing the same book on paper. The Kin­dle page num­bers will be based on one spe­cific printed edition.
  • Before You Go — At the com­ple­tion of  a book, read­ers will be invited to rate it or to com­ment in a more detailed way.
  • New News­pa­per and Mag­a­zine Lay­out — Designed to give users a quicker overview of the con­tent, and eas­ier nav­i­ga­tion to it.

These changes will be ported to other Kin­dle software-based read­ers, such as Kin­dle for Mac and Kin­dle for Android. I could not get any of the books I have pur­chased before to dis­play pages, even after down­load­ing them again. The new for­mat for news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines is a big improvement.

Geneal­o­gists should know that the newer ver­sions of the Kin­dle (the Kin­dle 3 and the Kin­dle DX) can read any PDF natively. I find it handy to bring along dozens of PDF books with me every­where I go, in a portable, quick start­ing, low power device that can go weeks with­out a charge. I am also enjoy­ing Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Nar­ra­tive as an audio book from Audi­ble (a sub­sidiary of Ama­zon), which I also have on my Kindle.

Civil War Sesquicentennial Blogs

Geneal­o­gists need to be his­to­ri­ans. There is no way to under­stand a fam­ily his­tory out­side of the larger con­text of the his­tory the fam­ily lived through. Geneal­o­gists have a rare oppor­tu­nity over the next few years to wit­ness the sesqui­cen­ten­nial (150th anniver­sary) of the Civil War. This will be com­mem­o­rated with exhibits, books, web­sites, records releases, and re-enactments of battles.

In com­mem­o­ra­tion of an impor­tant and painful period in Amer­i­can his­tory, sev­eral groups have set up blogs about the sesqui­cen­ten­nial of the Civil War:

Many states also have blogs or other web­sites com­mem­o­rat­ing the events and detail­ing museum exhibits or online col­lec­tions. This is not intended to be a com­pre­hen­sive list. For exam­ple, I have not includes sites that seems to be mainly about a his­tor­i­cal com­mis­sion, but not about the Civil War his­tory itself.

Surname Saturday: Via

George A. Via
George A. Via, My 4th Great Grandfather

The Via sur­name is one of my more unique sur­names. Since I reg­u­larly research Smith, Jones, John­son, Miller, Hill, and Gra­ham, it’s good to have the occa­sional rare sur­name. My Vias descend through Mica­jah Via, Sr. (circa 1742 — circa 1810) and Phillipi Bur­nett, and their son Jonathan Via, Sr. and his wife Cather­ine O’Buck (or O’Bock).

George Allen Via, the son of Jonathan Sr. and Cather­ine O’Buck Via, was my 4th great grand­fa­ther. He and his wife Mary Eliz­a­beth Lane (mar­ried 2 Dec 1839) had a dozen or so chil­dren (I’m still work­ing out that gen­er­a­tion). Two of their sons Thomas David Via and John Robert Via, served in the Con­fed­er­ate army. John was in Com­pany A (2nd Com­pany), 12th Batal­lion, Vir­ginia Light Artillery Reg­i­ment (along with 6 other Vias).

Thomas (who is my 3rd great grand­fa­ther) first served in Com­pany ‘I,’ 7th Reg­i­ment Vir­ginia Vol­un­teers (along with two other Via), but after being cap­tured at Gettysburg,and impris­oned at Point Look­out Prison, he joined the 1st US Vol­un­teer Infantry, likely as a mat­ter of sur­vival. (This means he was a Gal­va­nized Yan­kee, which I will write more about in another post.)

Most of the Via’s that I have come across in the US descend from Amer Via, a Huguenot immi­grant to Vir­ginia in about 1680. Alter­nate spellings of Via include Vier/Viers, Viar/Viars and Viet.

A cou­ple of forums for the Via sur­name exist:

Here are some items I will be post­ing, as I get a chance, on this site. As I post them, I will come back to this page and link into them.

Pho­tographs
Mary E. Lane Via (1820−1893)
George A. Via (1814−1894)

Mag­a­zine and News­pa­per Arti­cles
Mica­jah Via, peti­ton on paper money, 1788
Betty Via on her stu­dents as crit­ics, 1953
Dan O. Via, Sr., 50th anniver­sary, 1968
Daniel Via, 20th anniver­sary, 1974
Dan O. Via, Jr. play about Jesus, 1982
Mar­garet B. Via ordi­na­tion, 1982
Via fam­ily saved by their dog arti­cle 1, 1986
Via fam­ily saved by their dog arti­cle 2, 1986

Birth Records
Floyd County, VA, 1853–1896
Franklin County, VA, 1852–1870
Hanover County, VA, 1853–1893

Land Records
Deed: James and Rosina Ingrum to Ander­son Via, 1848
Deed: James and Mary Via to David McAlexan­der, 1848
Deed: Robert and Eliz­a­beth Via to James Dod­son, 1849

Tax Records
Vias in the Albe­marle County, Vir­ginia Land Tax Records, 1782–1813
Vias in the Albe­marle County, Vir­ginia Land Tax Records, 1814–1825
Vias in the Floyd County, Vir­ginia Land Tax Records, 1831–1850
Vias in the Hanover County, Vir­ginia Land Tax Records, 1782–1857
Vias in the Nel­son County Per­sonal Prop­erty Tax, 1809–1850

Mil­i­tary Records
Thomas David Via’s pen­sion papers (HTMLPDF)

Mar­riage Bonds & Cer­tifi­cates
Jonathan Via and Cather­ine O’Buck, 1801

Death Records
Augusta County, VA, 1853–1896
Floyd County, VA, 1853–1896
Flu­vanna County, VA, 1853–1896
Franklin County, VA, 1853–1896

Wills
Jonathan Via, Sr., 1858
Jonathan Via, Jr., 1888

Tomb­stones
Thomas D. and Sal­lie E. Via
Mary Via

Obit­u­ar­ies
Obit­u­ary of Sal­lie Thomas Via, 1911
Obit­u­ary of Thomas David Via, 1913
Obit­u­ary of William Mar­tin Via, 1937
Obit­u­ary of Willie Cather­ine Eliz­a­beth Via, 1937
Obit­u­ary of Betty Via, 1993

Ged­coms and Other Com­piled Research
Jor­dan Jones’s Ged­com of Vias
Jor­dan Jones’s Geneal­ogy Data­base List of Vias

Who Do You Think You Are, Episode 201

The sec­ond sea­son of the NBC series Who Do You Think You Are? pre­miered tonight, with an episode fea­tur­ing Vanessa Williams.

The ances­try of Ms. Williams was traced back to a great great grand­fa­ther (on her father’s side), David Carll. He was born a free black man, joined Co. I, 26th US Col­ored Infantry. For join­ing the infantry, he received $300 bounty money; five days later, he bought land for $200 pro­vid­ing some secu­rity for his fam­ily in Oys­ter Bay, New York. He served for the remain­der of the war, and helped enforce eman­ci­pa­tion after the war.

Another great great grand­fa­ther, William A. Fields, was born a slave in ante­bel­lum Ten­nessee. Not only did he live to see slav­ery abol­ished, but he was elected to the state house of Ten­nessee, and died as a well hon­ored and trusted justice-of-the-peace. While in the leg­is­la­ture, he intro­duced a bill for uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion between the ages of 7 and 16. Unfor­tu­nately, it died in committee.

The show had pow­er­ful emo­tions, as Ms. Williams iden­ti­fied ana­logues to her own expe­ri­ence in the lives of her ances­tors. An inter­est in edu­ca­tion has been a part of her fam­ily since the Civil War era.

The show moves more quickly this sea­son, with almost no recaps. The show is get­ting tighter, and tells a more com­pelling story. Less is sim­ply handed to the celebri­ties, at least in view of the cam­era, so the show feels more imme­di­ate in this episode than it did in most of the episodes of the first season.

In one of the teasers for future episodes, we hear Rosie O’Donnell say: “It’s not going to be as easy as it looks on TV.” This should be carved into the lime­stone of the National Archives build­ing. The hours of research that went into the find­ings are not really men­tioned. While I don’t think this should be dra­ma­tized or take much time, I will con­tinue to tell any­one who will lis­ten that the genealog­i­cal pro­fes­sion would ben­e­fit if the show had a sim­ple title card read­ing: “Research for this show included X hours of research by Y pro­fes­sional researchers in Z states.”

The show runs on NBC on Fri­days at 8 (7 Cen­tral). Check your local list­ings. The next episode fea­tures coun­try music start Tim McGraw. Sub­se­quent episodes will fea­ture Gwyneth Pal­trow, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cat­trall, Lionel Richie, and Ash­ley Judd.

You can watch the Vanessa Williams Episode, 201: “Mak­ing His­tory” on NBC.com.

RootsTech 2011

RootsTech LogoAre you attend­ing Root­sTech in Salt Lake City next week?

Root­sTech is a new fam­ily his­tory and tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence, which aims to unite tech­nol­o­gists and tech­nol­ogy users. Spon­sors of the con­fer­ence include the usual sus­pects (FGS, NEHGS, NGS (for which I am a board mem­ber), Bright­solid, Archives.com, and Ances­try), but also tech­nol­ogy lead­ers such as Microsoft, Dell, Nov­ell, Ora­cle, and Sprint.

There will be booths and pre­sen­ta­tions, but there are top-notch key note speak­ers on the billing, including

  • Shane Robi­son, Exec­u­tive VP and Chief Strat­egy and Tech­nol­ogy Offi­cer, Hewlett-Packard
  • Brew­ster Kahle, Founder of WAIS and the Inter­net Archive
  • Curt B. Witcher, His­tor­i­cal Geneal­ogy Dept. Man­ager, Allen County Pub­lic Library
  • Jay Verkler, CEO, Fam­il­y­Search

The con­fer­ence starts on Thurs­day 10 Feb­ru­ary and runs through Sat­ur­day 12 Feb­ru­ary. I will be there rep­re­sent­ing the NGS and par­tic­i­pat­ing in a dis­cus­sion on Sat­ur­day morn­ing on genealog­i­cal data mod­els. Check out the full list of events.

Wordless Wednesday: Kjerstin Johnson (1834−1927)

This is my great great grand­mother, Kjer­stin John­son, who was born in Swe­den, immi­grated to Amer­ica at the age of 34, had 12 chil­dren (11 sur­viv­ing to adult­hood), and died at the age of 92.

You can read more about her and her fam­ily in “His­tory of Swan John­son Fam­ily, Nance County, Nebraska, Jan­u­ary 1936,” by her eldest grand­child, Lena John­son Schlicte­meier, also pic­tured here with her mother and grandmother.

[slickr-flickr tag=“Kjerstin John­son” type=“gallery”]