Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Late Post - Roots Television

I was recently reminded that I forgot to post a message here about my Roots Television interview on the Genealogy Cruise at the end of October. See the interview here:

A lesson in broken links

Recently someone submitted several new links through the form on Cyndi's List. There are several guidelines for submitting new links. Three of the points read as follows:
  • First verify the address before submitting it.
  • Type the address carefully for complete accuracy.
  • For error-free submissions, use the "copy & paste" function on your computer to highlight and copy the address from your web browser window and paste it into the text box below.
That seems straight-forward to me. The links are automatically added to a waiting area page on Cyndi's List (What's New) and they are sent to me to be forwarded to the mailing list. So, if links are submitted I assume the submitter is following the guidelines. I also assume the submitter cares about the link(s) they are submitting, thus the reason they submit. Well, you know that old saying about why I should never assume anything.

Links are often submitted to my site without much care. Incorrect URLs (addresses), no descriptions, poor descriptions, misspelled words, lack of've heard some of this from me before. But, that isn't what this message is about today. Today it is only about the incorrect addresses that cause broken links.

I don't normally pick on specific people or instances, but this one is still haunting me today, over a month and a half later, with dozens of e-mails coming to me to report the failed links. On November 15th someone submitted a link for each US state to a site called 51 new links (don't forget DC). Of those 51 links, 43 links were submitted with bad addresses and are broken. Further, the submitter didn't use consistent descriptions, so they obviously weren't merely doing a copy and paste (if so, the description would probably have been the same over and over again). 43 broken links, newly submitted, means extra work for me to now fix them on my What's New page for November (; 43 links are forever broken in the mailing list archives (; there are numerous wasted e-mails back and forth reporting the broken links to me; and a bunch of wasted time for all of you who tried to use those links. In the end, the broken links defeated the purpose of submitting them to my site in the first place--to get visitors to that site.

Now to the lesson in broken links. If you encounter a broken link you might be able to find the correct address yourself by looking carefully at the URL. In this case, the broken links resulted because the submitter put the first letter in the name of the state in uppercase instead of all lowercase letters. For example, they submitted this:
when it should have been this:
Another issue with the link for New York was easy to spot. It was uppercase, but they also left off the hyphen used in the two-word names for other links. For example, they submitted this: York
when it should have been this:

Another thing you can do is break down the address and move up directories to the main directory. In the examples above, just backtrack through the address, removing first the state name:
In this example you are taken to a page which is an index of all of the links to each state page. If this example hadn't worked we could just backtrack more through the address and go to the main homepage at:
If you haven't already learned these tricks, start looking at URLs for web sites to see if you might figure out broken links that you happen upon. I'm off to fix the links on the What's New page.

Successful surfing!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Catch-22 E-mail

This is one of the most common problems I have with AOL e-mail addresses, and the most frustrating to me. I have a lady AOL user who is writing to me. She is getting more and more frustrated and angry with me because I am not responding to her and will not subscribe her to my mailing list. The problem: every time I e-mail her I get a bounced message:

----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
(reason: 550 lady's name IS NOT ACCEPTING MAIL FROM THIS SENDER)

What this means is that my e-mail address is not in her address book as an acceptable sender, so I can't e-mail her. And the messages on my mailing list are now shown as being sent from my personal address, rather than the old server address that previously worked for her. So, I'm not sure what to do. I hate to disappoint her. But I also hate getting e-mail from people who are annoyed with me when it isn't under my control. Catch-22. Nothing that I can do to fix this....that I know of.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Problems, problems everywhere

This is a long overdue note from me. I've been dealing with several problems for the past few months, each of which compounded upon the other to make one big problem for me. And confusion for many of you.

1. I bought a new laptop in May. I spent most of the summer getting files and software moved from the old computer to the new one, setting up preferences, getting everything to work right. I had the majority of that work done and then the hard drive on the new computer died in the middle of October. The hard drive was replaced under warranty, but the warranty does not cover any file recovery expenses on the bad drive.

2. The new computer is running on Vista and the old was on XP. So, I am still in the process of learning where files are stored on the new computer as opposed to the old (i.e. where do my e-mail files get stored, etc.). As a result some of my stuff had been backed up and some had not yet been backed up. In fact, I had a new backup software program installed and was building that routine.

3. I then spent most of November getting tech support help to recover files from the failed hard drive. And digging out old copies of files from the old computer so that I could rebuild and reinstall on the new computer. I lost the install files for several of my software programs that weren't on CD, along with the some of the registration info. So, I had to revisit web sites, re-download the software, and prove my purchases in order to get the software registration codes. That was fun.

4. One of my biggest problems --- I found out that Eudora (the e-mail program I have used and loved since 1997) is no longer being supported or updated by Qualcomm. So, I had to look for a new e-mail program to install. I settled on Thunderbird from Mozilla. Since the beginning of November I have been setting up Thunderbird, converting my old e-mail to Thunderbird, and figuring out how to use this software. I'm working on new filters and trying to figure out how to automate many of the things I had automated under Eudora (i.e. replies to specific types of e-mails, etc.). My e-mail still isn't quite yet where I want it to be.

5. During all that I suffered another big blow. The one major advertiser that provided the majority of the income for the site changed their terms and conditions in September, making the way they pay commissions drastically different. So, my income dropped 70%. This will have serious effects for me and the site. First, it meant that I could no longer afford to employ anyone to help me on the site. So, my sis-in-law had to go find another job and I lost the only help I have for my site. Now it is only me working on the site alone for the first time since 1998.

6. In April I had been asked to find a new server for the site, so I moved it. As a result I also lost the tech support I used to have for the little tweaks here and there. In October on the TMG cruise I found help (yay!) through one of my genealogy computer-geek friends, Jeri Steele. She and I will be working on updates to the scripts that help me deal with new link submissions, the What's New posts to this mailing list, etc. We're just starting work on that.

7. The e-mail to the mailing list fell behind for several reasons -- the computer problems I had as described above. But, I have also had increasing episodes of inappropriate (waaaaaaaaaay inappropriate) links being submitted each day to Cyndi's List. So, each day I have to go through and remove those before the messages are sent to subscribers on the. And the CyndisList mailing list is set up to be moderated so that I am the only person who can post messages to the list. I forward the clean version of the message to the list, then I still have to go into RootsWeb to release it from the moderated section in order to get it sent out to the list. I'm finding that there has also been an increasing problem with spam sent to the CyndisList mailing list, so I have to sift through hundreds of those every day on the RootsWeb mailing server just to find my own correct messages to release them. What I'm saying, in a nutshell -- just to send out a simple message to you each day has become an incredibly unsimple process. I'm working on ways to re-simplify this.

And last, but not least--I'm a single mother of the most wonderful 10-year-old boy in the world. He is always my first priority. Evan is now in the 5th grade and his life is getting more busy, hectic, and more social as he gets older. Naturally, he gets my attention first, then the site and all of you. That is as it should be.

OK, now that you know why my e-mails have been behind and sent in large bursts to you, you also know the reason why I feel my head is exploding most days. My goal is to have most of the e-mail problems at my end resolved by the end of this year. Thank you all for your patience and understanding in all of this. I'm really sorry for all the inconvenience and confusion it has caused you.

Now, back to the e-mail (and blogging soon),


Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm not a spammer!

Grrr. Suddenly, everyone thinks I'm a spammer. All e-mails I send to Comcast, MSN, and Hotmail addresses are bouncing back to me:
"...sender was rejected.Remote host said: 550 Your e-mail was rejected for policy reasons on this gateway. Reasons for rejection may be related to content with spam-like characteristics or IP/domain reputation problems." and "...BL004 Blocked for spam"

I have not spammed anyone. This is another instance of technology failing us. Something in a software program somewhere is "detecting" behaviors and taking action based on that. So, I can't e-mail several of my friends or web site visitors tonight because of that software. Grrr.

In some past instances my e-mail address was blocked because I was sending out the RootsWeb mailing list posts to the CyndiList mailing list each day. Every once in a while RootsWeb mailing lists get tagged as possible spam, but this is the first time that my personal address has been tagged that way. I'm a bit irritated. I can't figure out how to resolve this. I've e-mailed my ISP. I've tried to e-mail Hotmail. I posted a request on Comcast. But I wonder if those are the right things to do. We'll see.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Mini Rant

Things that are making me crazy today:
  1. People who submit links for their web "sights."
  2. People who refer to me as Cindy even when they quote my site's address
  3. People who submit their web site link over and over again (almost always vendors) despite my rules that ask for no duplicate submissions.
  4. Broken links (that really isn't news).
  5. A weird smell in my kitchen that I can't locate.
  6. My 23-year-old clothes dryer that takes forever, but refuses to die and give me an excuse to buy a new one.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Penny shipping from GPC

Genealogical Publishing Company is offering shipping for ONE penny between now and September 5th (12 noon EDT). You can't beat that on book orders! Check out any of these areas or titles:

Monday, August 27, 2007

New category: U.S. - The American Revolution

I have a new category online today, with more than 300 links:
U.S. - The American Revolution

And I updated my lineage society page:
Societies & Groups - Lineage

I sub-divided it into three new, additional sub-categories:
  • Mayflower
  • National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
  • National Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Naturalization Links

I've started adding links to (see their 7-day free trial). You can search their databases for free, then view the original document images with a fee-based membership. They have an arrangement with the National Archives and Records Administration to digitize many of their records. The 17 new links I added tonight are all NARA naturalization records and indexes:

  • Naturalization Index - MA Original source: NARA M1545. Index to naturalization petitions and records for the District of Massachusetts, within the US District Court, 1906-1966, and the US Circuit Court, 1906-1911.
  • Naturalization Index - MD Original source: NARA M1168. Index cards for Naturalization Petitions filed in the US Circuit and District Courts for Maryland, 1797-1951.
  • Naturalization Index - NYC Courts Original source: NARA M1674. The Soundex index to naturalization petitions filed in federal, state, and local courts in New York City, including New York, Kings, Queens and Richmond counties, 1792-1906.
  • Naturalization Index - NY Eastern Jul 1865-Sep 1906 Original source: NARA M1164. A card index to naturalization petitions filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York from July 1865 through September 1906.
  • Naturalization Index - NY Eastern Oct 1906-Nov 1925 Original source: NARA M1164. A card index to naturalization petitions filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York from October 1907 through November 1925.
  • Naturalization Index - NY Eastern Nov 1925-Dec 1957 Original source: NARA M1164. A card index to naturalization petitions filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York from November 1925 through December 1957.
  • Naturalization Index - NY Southern Intentions Original source: NARA M1675. Alphabetical Index to Declarations of Intention of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1917-1950.
  • Naturalization Index - NY Southern Petitions Original source: NARA M1676. Alphabetical Index to Petitions for Naturalization of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1824-1941.
  • Naturalization Index - NY Western Original source: NARA M1677. Alphabetical Index to Petitions for Naturalizations of the US District Court for the Western District of New York, 1907-1966.
  • Naturalization Index - WWI Soldiers Original source: NARA M1952. Index cards for locating naturalization records for soldiers serving in the US Armed Forces during World War I, specifically the year 1918.
  • Naturalizations - CA Southern Original source: NARA M1524. Naturalization Petitions for the Southern District Of California, 1887-1940.
  • Naturalizations - LA Eastern Original source: NARA P2233. Naturalization records in this publication include petitions and oaths for new citizens in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1838 to 1861.
  • Naturalizations - MD Original source: NARA M1640. Naturalization Petitions of the US District Court for the District of Maryland, 1906-1930.
  • Naturalizations - MA Original source: NARA M1368. Petitions and Records of Naturalizations of the US District and Circuit Courts of the District of Massachusetts, 1906-1929.
    Naturalizations - PA Eastern Original source: NARA M1522. Naturalization Petitions for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania 1795-1930.
  • Naturalizations - PA Middle Original source: NARA M1626. Naturalization records for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, 1906-1930, also include US Circuit Court records for 1901-1906.
  • Naturalizations - PA Western Original source: NARA M1537. Naturalization petitions of the US District Court, 1820-1930, and the Circuit Court, 1820-1922, for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

More naturalization and immigration links (434+) are here:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Punctuation: It Isn't Just For Breakfast Anymore

At what point did it become acceptable to avoid using punctuation? And since when can you enter a long series of surnames with commas between them, but no spaces? And why is it okay to write complete sentences without using one uppercase letter? I may have failed the 8th grade spelling bee because of the word "scenario," but I do know that spelling is a lot easier these days with a spellchecker. Use it!!

I do not take e-mails seriously when several words are misspelled, when no punctuation is used, or when consonants and vowels are added or dropped randomly from words. Call me picky, but that is that. So there.

(who is overly fond of the comma and misplaces it regularly)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Google Tips for Genealogy: The Basics

The first time you went to the library you had to learn how to use the card catalog. The first time you went to the archives or a Family History Center you had to learn how to use a microfilm reader. So, you should take time to learn how to use another important research tool: Google.
  1. Take time to read the Help files at
  2. Start by reading the Basics, even if you think you've already had enough experience using Google. It is never too late to learn something new.
  3. Read the Advanced search help files to learn a new trick or two.
  4. Keep a research workbook open on your computer (a word processing file for your research notes) while you are visiting web sites.
  5. Copy and paste directly from the web browser window to your notes the search terms you use, the sets of results you get back, ideas you have for future searches, etc. Keep a running log of what you are doing so that when you step away from the computer you can later pick up again where you left off.

Basic Search:

  • Google is not case-sensitive for keywords, so uppercase or lowercase letters will each return the same results. Boolean operators are case-sensitive (AND, OR, NOT).
  • Google automatically uses "and" in the query, returning hits that include all of your keywords.
  • Google allows up to 10 words to be used in a search. Use your 10 words wisely.
  • Use distinct keywords unique to your query: a place name, a unique given name or surname, a year, etc.
  • Don't use common words or phrases such as: the, of, is, but (these waste your 10 words)
    For example, instead of The Genealogy of the Johnson Family in Iowa enter a simpler, more specific query with unique keywords such as:
    genealogy peter johnson iowa sweden

A Slightly More Advanced Search:

  • Place quotes around a set of words to keep them together as an exact phrase. In the example above I would use them if I want to be sure to get returns that include exactly the name "peter johnson"
  • Use + in front of a search term to insure it is included (although Google does default to assume this)
  • Use - in front of a search term to exclude a keyword or a phrase. In my example I could exclude possible hits returned that might include Norway:
    genealogy peter johnson iowa sweden -norway
  • Use OR in a phrase to include results, but not necessarily all of the words in your query. In my example I could use OR to look for variant spellings on the surname:
    genealogy "peter johnson" OR "peter johnsen" iowa sweden

I will post more Google Tips for Genealogy in the days to come . . . in the meantime visit my Googling for Grandma page for links.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ancestry's Free Databases - More Than I Realized

I have a links category called Basics. I created it a while back for several reasons: to draw attention to the numerous freely accessible resources available to everyone through Ancestry, and to point out how to subscribe and unsubscribe from their services (after hearing from people who stated they couldn't figure out how to do so).

In reviewing some of the many databases at Ancestry I noticed that they have highlighted several of them with a "FREE" tag next to the title. So, tonight I added a new section to my page for "Free Databases" and I started adding links. I have to say I'm really surprised how many there are. I just barely scratched the surface tonight, browsing through the first 900 out of 24,778. I didn't realize the number was so big. I have 29 new links to free databases already. Obviously I have more work ahead of me. In the meantime these links should keep you busy!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Follow the Bouncing E-mail

This is one of the things that really drives me crazy: bounced e-mail because of bad addresses, filters, or blocking services.

On average I receive about 200 e-mails a day. My ISP filters spam and viruses. My e-mail software (Eudora) then filters spam and junk one more time. Each day I go through both my ISP and my local junk boxes just to be sure that they didn't mistakenly identify something as spam. Periodically I find one that shouldn't be there. Following the junk filters my e-mail software then filters and sorts specific types of messages such as new link requests, broken link reports, blog posts, etc. Once all that is done my daily e-mail is whittled down to the daily odds and ends.

On my web site I clearly state that because of the huge load of e-mail and work on the site each day I don't have time to answer personal research questions. But that doesn't stop people. I get e-mail from them asking for help, advice, etc. Now, that makes me a bit irritable, but what is worse is when I actually reply to those types of people/messages only to have my e-mail bounced back at me with "no such address" "doesn't like recipient" or "not accepting e-mail from this sender" messages. Aaargh!! First, they ignore the fact that I say I can't help them, then they make it impossible to reply to them at all. That makes no sense! And their messages are usually full of "help me!" and "I'm desperate" and other such urgentness. I also get new link requests submitted with bad e-mail addresses, which means I can't contact them if I need further information and I can't send them my usual replies.

Hey folks, if you are going to e-mail someone with a genealogical query, first be sure you do a few things to make the correspondence successful.
  1. Add that person's e-mail address to your non-spam/junk filters.
  2. Add that person's e-mail address to your "It's OK, I like this person" list or whatever it might be called in your e-mail options.
  3. Check and double-check your own e-mail address as you supply it to them for a reply. If you can't correctly spell your own e-mail address you've got problems.
  4. Don't make the receiver go through one of the spam-blocking services by making them reply to an automated message first in order to be added to your list of acceptable addresses.

I've become pretty darned grumpy about that last one. When someone writes to me, I reply. When I get back the automated "please reply to message so that you can be added to my list of acceptable e-mail addresses" message I put my foot down. I don't reply. I delete. It really makes me grumpy because they wrote to me first.

Because e-mail is so easy to send it has also become easy to use to intrude on others without thinking first. Please be sure you use your e-mail wisely and think about the person at the receiving end. Especially if you hope to have a successful correspondence with them in the future.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Cyndi's List Genealogy Bookstore

I created a new storefront on tonight:
Cyndi's List Genealogy Bookstore
It is a categorized list of genealogy research books that looks a lot like my bookshelf at home.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Family Tree Magazine 101 Best Web Sites!

I'm honored to have received this today from Family Tree Magazine:

"Cyndi’s List
This classic collection of links continues to grow—with 264,800 links in 180-plus categories at last count—and remains our favorite stop to find family history sites."

Thank you David Frixel & Family Tree Magazine!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

New category: Podcasts

I just put a new category online:
Podcasts for Genealogy
It is small, but gives you a few ideas of what some people are thinking to do with them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Link backlog is shrinking

I just finished all the new link submissions from 2003. And Michele and I are putting a big dent in 2004 right now. The backlog has shrunk from over 10,400 to less than 9,400 links now. Going through the backlog we first weed out the broken links and sites that no longer exist. Those, along with duplicate submissions sent by visitors, account for approximately 10 to 15% of the backlog that is currently on the What's New pages.

Server problems today

Well, the server was down for a while today. Why does it always happen when I'm away from my computer? A girl has to sleep, eat, or play with the kid and the dogs sometimes too. Only one friend e-mailed to tell me the site was down. I can only assume the rest of you have a life away from the computer during the summer. Good for you! Some days I feel like this laptop is a ball and chain. I have about 50 e-mails waiting for me to reply (I get about 200 each day), with at least two of them being e-mails I should have answered a week ago. Sigh.

Back to the links...Cyndi

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I Should Be a Rocket Surgeon

I just noticed that my Your Research Workbook post on July 10th had no comments. I looked into it and found that the options for comments on that post were turned off. So, despite the fact that I asked you all for your comments about what you use for a research workbook, I didn't allow any of you to respond. I'm brilliant! Sorry about that. It is fixed now, so comment away.

Spelling Conundrum

I'm working on new links today (duh). Once again I have run across a web site with "geneaology" in the title. I often find misspellings in the title of a web site, or within the description. Obviously, those are the two spots I focus on most when I'm setting up a new link. When I find "geneology" or "geneaology" or "ancestory" I find myself with a conundrum.

Do I e-mail the owner and tell them that they've misspelled the word? That would be the nice and polite thing to do. But the next question that I ask myself is this: if they misspell the name of our hobby what other errors might appear within the information on their site? It seems logical to me that someone who makes that spelling error would also make other errors. They may not be careful with details. They might not be as thorough in the research as they should be. So, if I don't tell them about the spelling error and I set up the link as they titled their own site or with the description as they wrote it—spelling errors and all—I leave a clue in the link to people who will visit the web site.

When you visit a site with these misspellings in place you should think twice about the data you find on the site. Use the information as a clue, but don't rely on it to be 100% accurate. Of course, you really shouldn't rely on any information as 100% accurate until you get to the original source of the material, whether there are spelling errors or not.

So, if you find a link with misspelled words on Cyndi's List, don't immediately think that it was an error on my part. First, follow the link and visit the site to see if maybe the misspellings were found there originally. If the errors aren't on the site, then be sure to let me know and I'll fix my links.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Your Research Workbook

(Hi all - I started writing this one in May....then somehow lost track of June and half of July. Better late than never?)

When you visit the library, a courthouse, your local Family History Center, or any other research repository you take your research workbook with you, right? If you don't take it, you should. And if you don't have one it is time to create one for both your real-world offline research and your virtual research on the Internet.


A research workbook is a place for you to keep track of the work you do, the notes you take, the goals you have, and the ideas you have for future research paths to follow. It keeps you organized and helps you visualize the research puzzle you are the midst of solving. The workbook is the best way to make sure you don't duplicate research you've done in the past. It helps you to stop spinning your wheels and move forward because it gives you a direction, a plan, and a clear vision of what to do next.


If you are lucky enough to have a laptop computer your research workbook can be a virtual one that lives entirely on the computer. Be sure you make backup copies on a regular basis so that you don't lose this important research tool! If you don't have a laptop you will most likely develop two versions of your workbook: one on paper, in a binder, that goes with you on research trips, and one on your computer at home for online research. The online research pages can easily be printed and inserted into your physical binder so that all your notes are in one place when you leave home.

My research workbook has tabbed sections for each surname I'm working on. On your computer you can create folders for each surname, the folders being the "tabbed sections" in your workbook. You can also create sub-folders under the surnames for each couple or family group. Whatever make sense to you, because it all depends on where you are going in your research and how you organize yourself and your files.

Your research notes can be free-flowing text that you write or type as you work. Or your notes can be confined to pre-defined formats on charts or forms, or in software programs. Many people use the Notes field in their genealogy database program to type their notes on individuals. Some genealogy programs allow for large text entry and some have limited notes fields, so you will have to decide if this works for you or not. In the end you might find that a combination of free-flowing text, forms, or notes in genealogy software programs works best.


Whether your research notes are in pre-defined forms or free-flowing text, be sure to include these important bits as you find your ancestors in records:
  • Date you are doing the research
  • Copyright date of the material and/or "updated" date of any web site data (when the data was published)
  • Full title of source material
  • Call numbers, URLs, page numbers, etc.
  • Your comments, notes to yourself for the future, goals
  • For database or search engine searches list all the keywords and various combinations of keywords you used in the searches

I don't have the research time I used to have (gee, something else seems to occupy my time). So, my research workbook is a combination of everything I've described above. My old notebook goes with me to the library and so does my laptop. At some point I need to combine them and coordinate the old with the new. I'll be doing that in my spare time. So, what do you do for research workbooks and note-taking?


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Free access to military collection

Beginning now through June 6th (D-Day), will make its entire U.S. Military Collection free to the public. For more information on’s U.S. Military Collection, visit

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

News: Revolutionary War Records Are First Fruits of New Record Services Program

An excerpt from a press release I received from today:

"FamilySearch and Footnote announced today the first project of the new Records Access program-to digitize and index the historic U.S. Revolutionary War Pension records. The Record Access program helps archives and other records custodians publish their collections online. A significant collection of genealogical and historical significance will be accessible online by leveraging the resources of FamilySearch, the world's largest repository of genealogical information, with those of Footnote. Footnote is one of the new breed of genealogy web sites working with FamilySearch to digitally preserve, index, and publish the world's records in concert with archives around the world. As part of the agreement, FamilySearch will digitize the images currently held in the National Archives Record and Administration's collection (NARA) in Washington, D.C., and Footnote will create the electronic indexes. When complete, the indexes and images will be viewable at Family History Centers and at Indexes will also be available at Numerous other national and international projects are under development at this time and will be announced as agreements are signed or data is published. To see examples of the Revolutionary War Pension Files, go to"

News: FamilySearch Unveils Program to Increase Access to World's Genealogical Records

An excerpt from a press release I received from today:

"FamilySearch announced today its Records Access program to increase public access to massive genealogy collections worldwide. For the first time ever, FamilySearch will provide free services to archives and other records custodians who wish to digitize, index, publish, and preserve their collections. The program expands FamiliySearch's previously announced decision to digitize and provide online access to over 2 million rolls of copyrighted microfilm preserved in the Granite Mountain Records Vault. A key component of the program allows FamilySearch and archives to team with genealogy websites to provide unprecedented access to microfilm in the vault. The combined results ensure a flood of new record indexes and images online at and affiliated websites."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

All Done With the Move to the New Server

The move to the new server is complete. Thanks to a ton of help from Randy Winch at RootsWeb we seem to have the bugs finally worked out of the system. I also owe a debt of gratitude for terrific helpful advice from Illya D'Addezio at Now I'm back to work on a backlog of link requests and some massive updates I have to make across the entire site.

Monday, April 16, 2007

RE: RE: FWD: RE: FWD: Replying to the Wrong Topic

If I walked up to you and said, "I'm taking my son to the movies today," would you then reply to me with, "Do you think hamburgers are better with cheese?" Not likely. Most likely your reply would be something about the movies, thus staying on topic. And if you wanted to talk about cheeseburgers you would change the topic and we would move on.

So, if you wouldn't do this in face to face conversations why is it OK to do in e-mail or online conversations? It isn't. Following are several examples of where I see people doing this exact thing in day-to-day online conversations.

  • Mailing Lists: There are more than 30,000 genealogy mailing lists devoted to specific topics, localities, or surnames. People frequently join mailing lists and participate incorrectly. Sometimes messages are sent that are off-topic. Sometimes people reply with unrelated questions or comments to messages for specific topics. And people often send new messages to the mailing list by replying to a pre-existing message, so that the "RE: Subject Line" appears in their new message. Solutions: Find a mailing list for the topic you need and post your message there instead. Don't reply to messages unless you're actually replying to *that* topic. Start new e-mail messages to begin a new conversation and topic.
  • Message Boards: Ditto the points made above. Message boards (some call them "forums") have the same issues as mailing lists. The difference is that you receive mailing list posts by e-mail, but you have to visit a message board to read and participate.
  • E-mail: Sometimes an e-mail message, especially a genealogical query, will contain numerous topics or questions. Often, replies to such e-mails will address one or two of the topics/questions, but not all of them. As the replies go back and forth between the correspondents threads of conversation are lost, points are not made, and answers are not given. And sometimes an e-mail message is sent about the movies and the reply comes back about cheeseburgers. Solutions: Before you reply think about what you read and be sure to read it carefully—more than once if necessary. When writing an e-mail query stick to one topic per message. Or if you have three questions about an ancestor, separate them into three paragraphs that stand out and indicate separate replies for each would be best. And when you start a new conversation, start a new e-mail with a new subject line. If your conversation has changed topics it is okay to change the subject line to reflect the new topic.
  • Blogs: A blog is a personal online diary. Some people use them to post articles, to post genealogical findings, or as a substitute for a traditional web site. But the original concept is the same—messages on the blog are posted by the author. The nature of blogs allows for readers to post comments on blog entries. Blog authors can allow or reject those comments if they like. A blog is not a place for people to post comments on unrelated topics. A blog is not a place to ask unrelated questions. A blog is not a place for a reader to post a new topic. Since I started this blog I've rejected several messages that were attempts to contact me rather than actual comments on the topic the comment was attached to. Hey, if you want to e-mail me, then go through the web site and regular e-mail. If you have a comment on the topic, then use that blog feature. Otherwise, look for another more appropriate way to communicate with the author or find an answer to your question.

Overall, the theme here should be one of courtesy and common sense. Before you post a message anywhere ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my question relevant to the topic?
  2. Am I sending my question/comment to the correct person or group?
  3. Is there a better place I should take this conversation?
  4. Should I start a new topic or separate topics?
  5. Does my subject line and conversation thread reflect the intent of the original conversation or the purpose of the mailing list, message board, e-mail , or blog?
  6. If I were at the receiving end of my message would it seem appropriate and would it make sense?

All that said, this is my official rule for this blog: if you comment on my posts make sure that your comments or questions relate to the topic. If you post a comment that doesn't match the original topic I will reject the post. As simple as that—let's stay on topic folks!


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Which Genealogy Site is the Best?

I received this post as a reply to my search engine blog from a few days ago. This doesn't really apply to that topic, so I've moved it to a new topic. I'm asked this type of question all the time.

"Is there a site where genealogy websites are rated? There are so many out there and the descriptions of each are confusing to me. It seems they overlap each other an awful lot, and subscribing to more than one site will provide little more than a subscription to one or the other. Has anybody ever created a chart where they lay out what each site has access to and compared the sites in that way? I am interested in subscribing to a site where I can upload my gedcom file, but there are so many, that I don't know which would be the best.It surely would be more convenient for one huge website to contain all databases at once, but then they could charge whatever they wanted--and get away with it."

This is how I look at this topic: "Is there a book somewhere that rates genealogy books, publications, and records? There are so many out there and the descriptions can be confusing and they overlap each other. I really just want to read one book and want to know which one is the best for me to use."

That doesn't make sense, does it? You should say, "No." The reality in genealogy is that there are multiple sources for finding information on your family. Web sites aren't any different than other old-fashioned sources such as books, microfilm, microfiche, magazines, journals, or records of any sort. A web site--actually, the Internet in general--is just a new delivery system for that same old material. First and foremost, genealogy is about tracking down your ancestors through records for various life events. Start with yourself and work backwards through time.

Doing that means that I start in Washington state, move back to North Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Germany. So, I might review a genealogy web subscription service and give it 5 stars and say it is the best thing since God invented espresso. However, you might be working from Iowa to Illinois to Sweden. Or you might have Quakers in your family. Or you might have Jewish or Eastern European ancestors. Will my review for my favorite subscription service help you decide if it is right for you? No, it won't. Everybody's family is different, therefore everyone's research is different. What works for me might not work for you. So, even if there is a web site out there that reviews genealogy sites, you need to know that it is important for you to review them yourself. Review them in the context of what you need to fit your research.

The other part of this question that makes this hard to answer is the transient nature of the Internet. Web sites come and go. I add links to new sites and two months later they are gone. Datasets on web sites change. Web sites can be updated and edited any time, so one day a site is great and the next day it is awful (or vice versa). Review sites might exist out there. But if they do I think they are living an unrealistic expectation. People assume I review the sites that I link to on Cyndi's List. I don't and I can't for the reasons I outline above. I have more than 260,000 links. With the hundreds of thousands of possible sources out there how can any one person or source rate them all?

Having multiple sources, many overlapping, is not a bad thing for your research. It gives you a way to check and double-check facts or clues. Yes, it takes time to do all that. But if you thought genealogy was a quick thing to do you are definitely in the wrong hobby. It also takes a bit of organization on your part to keep track of what you do, where you've looked, and where you plan to look next. Any genealogist worth his/her salt is going to have a research workbook on their computer to keep track of the sites they've visited, on which date, and what they found (or didn't find) there.

As for uploading a GEDCOM file. . .that is a topic for another day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Moving Day for the Site

This is just an update to let you know that I'm moving Cyndi's List to a new web host this week. This might mean that there will be some downtime. I hope it won't be long, if at all. Please be patient and all should be up and running normally ASAP.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

AOL Doesn't Like my Mailing List

Every once in a while AOL decides that I'm a spammer. They start rejecting and bouncing the messages that I send to my mailing list each day. There are two daily messages, one of which is the "What's New" post with all the new links submitted in the last 24 hours. I am not sure what triggers AOL to decide I'm a spammer. Maybe it is one or more of the links or the domain names in the links that they have flagged. Or maybe it is because sometimes I send more than one day's messages at a time when I have a backlog. I would think that AOL could add the RootsWeb mailing lists to their "accept" list, but that doesn't seem to happen.

When they start bouncing I'm usually on the no-fly list at AOL for a few days. So, AOL users start getting unsubscribed from the mailing list by the automated software. That immediately triggers the flood of e-mail I get with comments like "Did NOT unsubscribe. Do not know why I received this message." or "Why did you unsubscribe me?" or "Kindly put me back on your list." and a few not-so-nice messages. As soon as I start to get this flood of messages I ask myself three questions:
  1. Why do these people not understand that this is an automated process, not something that I did to them?
  2. Why do these people expect me to re-subscribe them to the list? They managed to do it themselves the first time they joined, so they should be able to do it again.
  3. Why can't people think first before they hit the reply button and then wait for someone else to fix the problem? It isn't my fault that AOL bounced them, but they expect me to fix it.

At my end I believe I've already done everything I can think of to prevent the AOL problems. I've contacted the listmaster at RootsWeb and they assure me they deal with AOL on these issues regularly. I have a web page for my mailing list with all the subscribe and unsubscribe instructions: I have a section on that page with tips for AOL users on how to help make the CyndisList mailing more happily accepted by AOL's e-mail filters. And I periodically send those tips to the mailing list and I hope they read them or keep them for future reference (please!). For a while I even changed the way I was sending out the messages to the mailing list, sending them one at a time with a half-hour or more between the posts. The problem with that was that I would lose track of time and forget to send the next batch. The more obvious problem with that, for me anyway, is that the whole purpose in using the automated mailing list is to take some of the work off of me.

So, I'm done accomodating AOL users. This isn't my personal attack on them. This is just me working to preserve my own sanity. If you're an AOL user please know I'm not picking on you. I just don't have the time to clean up problems created by AOL's e-mail filters.

BTW, I sent out the AOL tips to the mailing list yesterday. So, what did I get today? A message sent to the list address (1st error) asking me to update their e-mail address (2nd error) by first confirming that I'm acceptable through their automated address book update service (3rd error).

Where's my chococlate?!!!??!!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Search Engines on Cyndi's List

I have 4 search engine options on Cyndi's List. You can find them here:
What's the difference between each of the search engines? Why do I need more than one? Why don't I want you to use the search engines?
  1. They are each free. OK, that isn't a difference, that is a similarity. Since they are free I thought it wouldn't hurt to offer all of them for you to choose from.
  2. All search engines work differently from one another. So, having more than one option seems like a good idea. You might get different search results using the same keyword(s).
  3. Everyone's favorite tends to be Google. So, the Google search engine box is the default and can be found at the top right corner of every page on Cyndi's List.
  4. The Google index of Cyndi's List is updated frequently.
  5. The FreeFind & WebSideStory indexes of Cyndi's List are updated once a week.
  6. The PicoSearch index of Cyndi's List is updated whenever Cyndi remembers to do it.

For years I fought the idea of having a search engine on Cyndi's List. The whole purpose of a categorized index of links is to...uh...browse the links found in the categories. From the very beginning I found that people who browse the categories end up tripping across a new topic or idea they hadn't thought of before in their research. I also found that many people were learning more and more about how to do their research by discovering specific topics or record types. So, browsing the categories is preferable.

Further, most people who solely use searching by keywords in their research are most likely only surname hunting. which means they are missing all the other possibilities out there. Or they are searching for something so incredibly specific that they miss the other important things they may help them. For example, I have heard from people who are looking for, but can't find, a ship that their ancestor immigrated on. They try looking for the name of the ship using a search engine on my site. Then they complain to me when they can't find it. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the information for that ship might not actually be online. Or might not yet be indexed by me. Or that they might have the wrong name for the ship. By limiting themselves to the search engine and just searching by keyword they miss browsing more than 700 other links I have for ship passenger lists, including numerous links to helpful articles or libraries or archives that will actually LEAD them to the ship of their ancestor.

That is why I don't want you to rely solely on search engines. And that is why I still categorize links every day. Browse the categories. Please! After years of getting requests I finally gave in and put the search engines on the site. You people just wore me down. Give each of them a try, but don't forget about the categories. . .browse, browse, browse!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

News: Canadian Records Online

I received two press releases today about Canadian records now available online. Following are excerpts. News Release:

", the world's largest online resource for family history, today announced the addition of the first and only online collection of more than 4 million names of individuals who crossed the U.S.-Canadian border between 1895 and 1956. These historical records are the latest addition to’s Immigration Records Collection, which also includes more than 100 million names from the largest online collection of U.S. passenger lists, spanning 1820 to 1960."

FamilySearch News Release:

"Early vital records of Nova Scotia, Canada, are viewable over the Internet for the first time and for free, thanks to a joint project by the Genealogical Society of Utah, FamilySearch, and the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM). The records include one million names found in birth records from 1864 to 1877, marriages from 1864 to 1930, and death records from 1864 to 1877 and 1908 to 1955. Users can search the database at Anyone can now search names in the index and view a high quality digital copy of the original image online for free at NSARM's Web site, In the near future, the index and images will also be available on"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time for a New Home, Then Back to Work

Well, I'll be a bit distracted for the next week or so. I have to move Cyndi's List to a new web host server in the next week. I'm really nervous about it. In fact, I'm kinda freaking out. I've been extremely fortunate to have had the same host since 1998. So, I've fallen into a comfortable routine and know what to expect or not expect. The unknown future is scaring me a bit. And change is bad, right?

I'm investigating local services and national services. Basically I need someone who will hold my hand 24/7, charge me next to nothing, and send me chocolates on a weekly basis. If anyone knows of such a web site hosting service please be sure to let me know. BTW, that would be dark chocolate.

This has preoccupied me for over a week now. And prior to that I had been on quite a roll working on backlogs of links. I have a backlog of link requests that goes back to September 2003 (all are available through the search engines on my site, but just aren't in categories yet). Also, after moving my office downstairs, I'm cleaning up old file folders, boxes, etc. and I'm finding all sorts of fliers, business cards, scraps of paper, and to-do lists that I've saved for years----all with URLs for sites or ideas for links and categories. It has been like stepping into a time machine and finding little bits of my brain from several years ago. After the site is safely moved I'll be back to work on the backlog.

The backlog of links bothers me. It first started about 6 months after the site was born in 1996. I started off working on the site about 2 hours every day. As the new link requests came in I started working more and more hours each day, but was still getting further and further behind. By 1998 I had a huge backlog sitting in my IN box. So, I had a programmer create a script for me to automatically submit the links and put them on the "What's New" pages and in the mailing list posts each day. That way the links weren't out of sight on my computer's hard drive doing no one any good. Now all the newly submitted links are available to everyone, but they still need to be put into categories. And not getting to them to be categorized quicker bothers me. I'm thinking of challenging myself. If I did a month every week I could get them done in 43 weeks. Oh, that doesn't sound very good. Maybe I should stop thinking about it and just work on them. After I get done freaking out and get the site moved to its new home. Where's my chocolate...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why I Shouldn't Have Started a Blog!!!

Yep. Now I know why I was so slow in getting around to doing a blog. Because it gives people one more way to not read what I write. Sigh. I'm afraid this blog might start to show my snarly side. That would be the side I show when I growl at my son, my niece, or my nephew---after which they promptly laugh at me. No one takes me seriously.

I've received a couple of messages here with requests for me to add links or fix links on Cyndi's List. That isn't what this blog is about. That isn't what any of my previous messages on this blog have been about. This blog is a place for me to talk to all of you. Share my thoughts. Share my ideas. Rant.

The web site has everything you all need to submit new links. There is a "Submit a New Link" link on EVERY page of my web site. In fact, there is a "Submit a New Link" link in the right column of this blog. -------------->LOOK!! LOOK over there! See it?!! grrrrrr

OK, Drew. Stop laughing at me.

And, every page on my site has a "How to Update an Existing Link on Cyndi's List" link in the left column under FAQ. And at the bottom of every category page there is a link to "Update a Link" on that page.

So, why do people still attempt to write to me about new links or updates for links at the read-only newsletter mailing list address? Or through this blog? Stop it. Please!

I'll tell you why I think this happens. The Internet, computers, and our instant-gratification lifestyle these days, have all made us into click, click, click, SEND people. We pretend we know how to speed-read by skipping half the words in a message, then promptly reply and hit the SEND button without really stopping to digest what we just read or what we just wrote. No one reads instructions. No one reads "about this web site." People just half-skippity-dippity read part of what is on the screen and then form an instant opinion or put something into action immediately. Then they toddle off to fix dinner or watch their favorite show. And what do I do? I spend several hours every day or evening reading, dealing with, fixing, or replying to the more than 200 half-skippity-dippity e-mails, mailing list posts, and now blog posts. As I am doing right now. And I should be fixing dinner.

I'm starting a campaign right now. Pass this on to all your genealogy buddies. This is the "I Promise to Carefully Read and Carefully Write Everything I Do Online" Campaign. Oh sure. That will work.

Really, Drew. Stop laughing at me. Get off the floor.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Top 10 Don’ts for a Genealogy Web Site Title

  1. Don’t neglect to use one consistent title throughout the web page or the rest of the web site. People tend to fluctuate between titles, phrases, or keywords, which can create confusion as visitors navigate from one page to another. Choose one title and stick with it.
  2. Don’t use redundant, useless words or phrases such as:
    ---“Welcome to the home page of….”
    ---“Home Page of…”
    ---“Personal Genealogy Web Site for….”
  3. Don’t choose a title that isn’t descriptive enough, such as:
    ---“My Family History”
    ---“Smith Family History”
    ---“Our Family Tree”
  4. Don’t choose a title that isn’t completely honest or truthful, such as:
    ---“The Only Site You Ever Need to Use”
    ---“Every Smith Birth Record Ever Made”
    ---“The Complete Genealogy for the Johnson Surname”
  5. Don’t forget to include important items in the title, such as:
    ---Place names
    ---Anything that is topic-specific to the content of the site
  6. Don’t include the title only on a custom-made graphic, and not in actual text on the web page. Search engines can’t read graphics. You must include plain text on the page as well.
  7. Don’t load up the TITLE bar with a list of keywords in the hope that this will improve search engine hits and indexing. Wrong. That is an Internet old-wives’ tale. It doesn't help improve your search engine hits, but it does make for a very messy looking title bar, bookmark, favorite, or search engine hit.
  8. Don’t forget to include the actual title of the web site in the TITLE bar. Some people remember to put everything else but the title in that spot.
  9. Don’t leave the TITLE bar blank or empty so that the web browser default of “home” or “index” or “Insert Title Here” or the URL appears there instead.
  10. Don’t use the site’s domain name in the TITLE bar unless that is the actual name and title of the site as well.

Examples of concise, descriptive, and useful titles:

  • Descendants of David H. Ingle, Towner County, North Dakota
  • The Story of George & Kesiah Smith, Exira, Audubon County, Iowa
  • Smith, Johnson, Knox, Nash, & Frederick Families: Iowa to South Dakota
  • Greengrass Cemetery, Anywhereville, Ohio - Complete Transcription, 1998

Good luck!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not Using Titles Properly

Indexing links every day makes this topic one I frequently grumble about. Why don't people properly title their web site/pages?

If you publish a book you put your book's title on the front cover, on the spine, and on the title page. And most publishers would tend to insist that you should use the same consistent title on each of these spots. So, why don't people do the same on their web sites?

The majority of web sites I visit put at least two different titles on their web site: one in the body (the cover and/or title page) and a different one in the TITLE tag or bar at the top of the browser window (the spine). And if they submit their site as a new link to Cyndi's List many times they will use a third, different title when they do so.

As an indexer, which title should I choose to use in the link? Which one is more important to the author? Generally, I assume it is the one in the body. However, which one is more important to technology on the Internet? The TITLE tag. Search engines, web browsers, bookmarks, and favorites all use what they find in the TITLE tag to index web sites. Because of that I have always used the TITLE tag for indexing the links on Cyndi's List.

If you have a genealogy web site take a minute today to look at the title of your site. Do you have one title? Or several? Does your preferred title appear in the TITLE bar at the top of your browser window? If not, it is time to update your web site.

And if you have a genealogy web site linked on Cyndi's List don't complain to me about how I indexed the link. First look at the title that you chose and think about possible corrections that might improve your site's indexing future.


NEW: Cyndi's List Blog

Cynd's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet ( is a free, categorized & cross-referenced index to genealogical resources on the Internet. Cyndi's List is almost 11 years old. Does everyone know about the site? Does everyone use the site to get the most out of it?

Every day I think of things that I wish I could say to the people who use my site. I reply to many e-mails with some of the things I want to say, but I rarely hear back from people. I wonder if visitors ever read my messages. I wonder if they ever read the instructions, or the hints, or the bits of advice I put throughout my web pages on how to best use the site.

I doubt it. So, I started this blog. I'm going to use this spot to post my random thoughts, wishes, and periodic rants. I hope you all find this useful. If nothing else I get things off my chest and won't have to mutter to myself as often.