Evidentia pre-review

I just learned of the program Evidentia, which is designed to guide you through the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) process.  I just downloaded a copy to review, and though I’d give my thoughts on what such a program should do before I look at it and review it.  I’m not going to hold Evidentia to this standard, but if they surprise me with features that will be extra credit.

My main concern for this kind of program is that the GPS does not involve easily quantified criteria.  As a review, here are the five requirements for the GPS, copied from the Board for Certification of Genealogists page:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

So how might software help with the five steps?

A reasonably exhaustive search

I can’t think of a way to measure a reasonably exhaustive search, as the search space will vary for different problems.  The search is either reasonably exhaustive or it isn’t.  What I’d imagine would be a research log to keep track of your search. A checklist that you could create for what you need to do to achieve an exhaustive search would be handy.  Finally, a structured way to enter your findings would also be helpful.

Complete and accurate source citations

Hopefully the search section gives you the opportunity to enter your source citations and highlights facts where citations are lacking.  Help on creating the citations would be a nice touch.

Analysis and correlation of the collected information

I’m not sure how a program would help here unless it uses some sort of logical graphing to organize the analysis.

Resolution of any conflicting evidence

I’m at even more of a loss on this one, as I can’t think of what a program would do besides letting you list conflicts and type your resolution.

A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

I can’t imagine anything beyond attaching a Word document with your analysis.  Here’s a crazy idea, though.  If it is possible to represent your argument in step 3 in a purely logical fashion, it would be interesting if the program could then generate the proof argument in logical terms.  I think this is pushing the bounds of software, though, and wouldn’t expect to get something real readable.

So it looks like the opportunities to help the GPS process occur early in the process when you are doing regular investigation.  As it gets deeper into analysis and writing I can’t see where a special-purpose program would help.  Now to see if I’m wrong, and I hope I am.

Posted in Evidence, Genealogy | Tagged | 3 Comments

Surname Saturday – Konarski

Mary Konarski with Mieczyslaw

Maria Lewandowska Konarska with son Mieczysław, taken around 1895

I was reminded of Surname Saturday and thought I’d give it a try.  I’m going to start out with my own surname, Konarski.  Konarski is a Polish name.  The root “kon” comes from the Polish word for horse, koń.  There are two theories on how this turned into the surname.  One is that it referred to someone who worked with horses, like a groom. In this case -ski (a genitive ending that makes the word an adjective) is tacked on to the archaic word koniarz, which is groom.  Another possibility is that the name comes from the place-name “Konary”, a town near Sandomierz, or other towns with a similar name.

There is also a completely different theory, that the name comes from the word “konar”, meaning branch.

So we have three theories, any or all of which could be true.  I tend to stick with “groom” as it is the one I learned first, but I don’t have a good reason to favor that one.

According to Herby.pl, there were 5198 Konarskis in Poland in 1998, so even there the name is not real common.  The biggest group of them is in Warsaw, but I suspect that happens with a lot of names since the city is so big.  The second biggest grouping is in Radom, where I have ancestors, although not Konarskis that I know of.

I have gotten back five generations in the Konarski line, to Pawel Konarski, father of Ignacy (born 1812-1815 in Panki, Silesia or Kurdwanów.1) Details on Pawel and his wife Petronela Niepiekło have been elusive, though.  Pawel is a great-grandfather of Mieczysław, pictured above.

I have also done a Y-DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA to try to find connections, but so far there haven’t been any other Konarskis taking the test. If you are a Konarski get this done!

There are other groupings of Konarskis in the USA but I have not been able to find connections to them.  There are number of them in Cleveland, as well as some in upstate New York.

The famous Konarskis are few.  Stanisław Konarski was an educator and political writer.  Feliks Konarski was a poet and entertainer.

  1. Panki came from Marriage of Ignacy Konarski and Julianna Trzbiński, St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland, record 208; digital image, Archiwum Państwowe m.st. Warszawy (http://szukajwarchiwach.pl/72/161/0/-/19/str/1/29/#tab2 : accessed 2 February 2013), image 286.jpg. Kurdwanów came from a distant relative’s research but I don’t have the source information.
Posted in Genealogy, Photos | 7 Comments

“I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve”

This blog entry at FamilySeach deals with trees where the person says: “I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve” and whether it is actually possible.  I’ve seen plenty of these trees online and I am glad that the answer about whether this is possible is a big NO.

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The last person in my RootsMagic file

I’m following the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun assignment from geneamusings.com.  I like the random topics he suggests.

1. Go to your family tree database of choice (you know, like RootsMagic, Reunion, Ancestry Member Tree), and determine who the very last person on your list of names is.

I found him.  It is a person who happily is still alive, though, so I can’t publish his name.

2. What do you know about this person based on your research?  It’s OK to do more if you need to – in fact, it’s encouraged!

Based on my research I know absolutely nothing (see next question for why).  I did do enough extra research, though, to determine that he is probably still living.

3. How are you related to this person, and why is s/he in your family tree?

The person is a third-cousin once-removed in-law.  As a refresher from my earlier posting on calculating levels of cousins, his wife and I share a common ancestor.  One of us is four generations down from the ancestor and the other is five.  As it happens, I’m the one at five generations, from Pierre Joseph Lamielle (1792-1841).  The unnamed cousin is in my tree from a mass import of the Lamielle side of my family from a cousin.  I do this kind of thing less than I used to because I like to confirm what I put in my tree, but she is good about sourcing her facts so it has been handy to have the information in RootsMagic.

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Storing your pictures in folders? Consider switching to Picasa or iPhoto.

One of the fun parts of genealogy is collecting photos of your family ancestors, and with computers we have a lot of options beyond putting them into photo album books.  For many people this means storing their digital photos in folders on the hard disk, but if you are doing that I’m going to recommend an alternative method, which is to use photo album software such as Picasa (Windows or Mac) or iPhoto (Mac only).

The main benefit of photo album software is tagging, which makes finding and organizing your folders much easier.  The typical way to organize photos in folders is to make a folder hierarchy, with levels such as family, vacation, holidays, etc.  The problem is that a picture can only be categorized one way.  For example, say you have three photos:

  • Uncle Elmer and Aunt Fern taken in front of the house on the family farm in New Hampshire.
  • Uncle Elmer as an infant with his parents on a trip to New Jersey.
  • Aunt Fern marrying Steve in Las Vegas after Uncle Elmer passed away.

There is a lot of information in these photos, but a lot of it gets lost if the pictures are saved in folders on the operating system.  The typical way would be to put them under family, perhaps in an Elmer and Fern folder.  That’s fine, but then what do you do with the following?

  • Buildings: There might be pictures of the house on the family farm with other relatives, but there won’t be a way to search for them.
  • People: Uncle Elmer’s parents might have their own folder, since they are your grandparents.  Where do you then store the picture so that you can find both Elmer and his parents?
  • Locations: What if you want all of the pictures taken in Las Vegas?  People in other folders might have pictures there too.
  • Events: Maybe you want to search for wedding pictures, such as Aunt Fern’s wedding with Steve.  Since the pictures are organized by family members there isn’t a way to search for weddings.

Photo album software such as Picasa and iPhoto solve these problems by allowing you to tag photos.  The concept is that you organize the photos in a general structure, perhaps the one you are already using.  You can then add extra information to each photo in the form of tags.  Here is how you might tag the three photos I mentioned above:

  • Uncle Elmer and Aunt Fern taken in front of the house on the family farm in New Hampshire.
  • Uncle Elmer
  • Aunt Fern
  • Family farm
  • New Hampshire
  • Uncle Elmer as an infant with his parents on a trip to New Jersey.
  • Uncle Elmer
  • Grandpa
  • Grandma
  • New Jersey
  • Aunt Fern marrying Steve in Las Vegas after Uncle Elmer passed away.
  • Aunt Fern
  • Steve
  • Las Vegas
  • Wedding

Now that you have the tags, you can search by any of them, giving you a lot more power over viewing your photos.  Also, you now can’t go wrong on your folder structure, because you can always add more information to your photos with tags.

One big thing to keep in mind is that if you already have your photos laid out how you like in folders then the photo album software will keep that structure, and if you end up not liking the software you can always stop using it and go back to using the folders.  You shouldn’t really need to do this, though.

I’ll give examples of how to tag in future blog postings, but in the meantime give Picasa or iPhoto a try if you are still using folders to organize your pictures.

Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Improved CrossOver for running RootsMagic on the Mac

CodeWeavers, who makes the CrossOver program for running Windows programs on the Mac, just came out with version 12.  Of special interest to me was the new Mac Driver feature.  This allows CrossOver to run Windows programs without using the X Window system.  As I have mentioned before, there were problems where if a Mac window got on top of a RootsMagic window, clicking on the RootsMagic window would not bring it back to the top.  With the Mac Driver on CrossOver 12 this now works.  All it takes is an easy configuration change.

CodeWeavers is enabling the Mac Driver slowly as they consider it to be an experimental feature.  If you want to try it, though, just do the following:

  1. In CrossOver go to Configure->Manage Bottles.
  2. Pick the bottle running RootsMagic.
  3. Click on the Advanced tab.
  4. Click the box for Enable Experimental Mac Driver
  5. Close the window and start up RootsMagic.  The window behavior should now be normal.

Mac Driver configuration

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Review of Newspapers.com

Ancestry recently opened a new site, Newspapers.com.  It is similar to other newspaper sites like GenealogyBank and NewspaperArchive.  So do we gain anything from another newspaper archive site?

Newspapers.com has over 800 newspapers.  For comparison, GenealogyBank claims 6100+ newspapers and NewspaperArchive over 5,000 newspapers.  The free Chronicling America has 801 titles.  So if you are just choosing a service then Newspapers.com is at a disadvantage because of its weaker coverage.

Another source for comparison is Ancestry.com itself, which also has a newspaper archive, in this case with over 1,000 titles.  Looking at a few examples from Ancestry, they don’t have the same set of titles.  There are some overlapping ranges but other things that are just different.  So what’s the point of Newspapers.com?

My theory is that Ancestry is trying to get more subscription sources.  Just as Fold3 could have been pulled into the Ancestry.com database but is kept as a different service, Newspapers.com provides possible new subscriptions.  While Ancestry.com gains from having a huge database, after a while the financial benefits of adding more records diminish.  By putting content in separate web sites, Ancestry gets new revenue streams, both from people who don’t want to pay for Ancestry along with some who want the extra records.


Newspapers.com lets you search on the following criteria:

  • words
  • place
  • time range
  • when added to database

The word search appears to look for a page with some of the entered words.  Putting more than one word in quotes is supposed to limit the search to words that are next to each other, but in practice it also finds pages where the words are far from each other, if they are all on the page at all.    As an example, a search for “Frances McGovern” included hits for articles about George McGovern with no Frances highlighted at all.  This is annoying at it wastes time giving a lot of non-helpful pages.  For comparison, GenealogyBank does not have the ability to look for exact phrases, but NewspaperArchive does and it works well.  Both of the other services also let you exclude words as well.

A final comparison is cost.  Newspapers.com costs $79.95 a year.  GenealogyBank costs $69.95 a year.  Oddly, I can’t find an annual cost for NewspaperArchive.  I know what I paid but I can’t find the subscription price posted anywhere.

So overall Newspapers.com seems to be a weak way to make some extra money for Ancestry.  It doesn’t have many titles compared to other sites, the search tools are inadequate, and it is more expensive than GenealogyBank.  I can only think of one reason to subscribe, and that is if they are the only service with the newspapers you need.

Posted in Genealogy | Tagged | 17 Comments

A couple of reasons to use Bing maps for genealogy

I’ll admit up front that I almost always use Google for searching and maps.  I haven’t done much with Bing, which I see as a me-too product from Microsoft.  One exception, though, when I’m doing genealogy, is Bing maps.  It has two features that are real handy that I’ve been using with Place Details in RootsMagic and with photo identification.

The first nice feature is that when you search for an address Bing Maps gives you the latitude and longitude, just below the address.  You can then copy and paste the values into RootsMagic to get the coordinates for your Place Details.

Place details in RootsMagic after entering the coordinates from Bing Maps.

The other feature I’ll mention from Bing maps is more entertaining and can get you to places Google Street View can’t.  It is the Bird’s eye view.  It uses aerial photographs from an angle so you can see all sides of a building.  You don’t get quite as close as Street View but you can see from any angle you like.  For example, a while back my sister and I were trying to figure out where this picture was taken:

We thought it might be our great-grandfather Charles Menegay, but it’s not a real clear shot of his face and we weren’t sure where it was.  The bridge looked like it could be one of the railroad bridges in the valley just north of downtown Akron, but none of them looked like that nowadays.  My sister found, though, that in the early 1910s Charles worked at the Renner brewery.  Sadly, I had already been there that day and looked at the building from the street but didn’t see anything that clearly looked like the picture.  At home, though, I had an idea and brought up the location in Bing Maps and enabled Bird’s eye view.  I rotated it around so I could see the back of the building that I couldn’t get to that day and saw this:

The windows and doors in the circles area on the Bing picture match the ones seen in the older picture, they have just been bricked over some since then.  This was a huge breakthrough.  It showed where the old picture was taken, and gives us confirmation that the picture is of our great-grandfather without me having to drive back to the facility and go onto private property.


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Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

I just found the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun feature on the Geneamusing blog so I thought I’d try it.  Here is this evening’s challenge:

  1. Go to the Baby Name Wizard site and see how popular your name was over the 20th century, and how popular a baby name it is today.  Check out your spouse, your children and your grandchildren (if you have some!) also.
  2. What does your name mean (find out on http://www.babynamewizard.com/baby-name)?
  3. Tell us about it, and show us your graphs, in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, in a Facbook status or a Google+ Stream post.

1. My first name Beirne isn’t so popular.  It isn’t in the baby name wizard at all:

2. It’s not a surprise that my name wasn’t found.  I’m not the only Beirne, but it is an Irish family name and not very common.  One take on it is that it is a descendant of the Norse name Bjorn.  This theory is also mentioned in the book The Family Beirne by Bryan Patrick Beirne.  It seems to be one of those things that sounds reasonable but lacks actual proof.  In any case, Bjorn means bear, so that’s as close as I can get to a meaning for Beirne.

While the name is rare, I’m not the only Beirne.  The author of the book which became the movie 12 O’Clock High was Beirne Lay, Jr., so there were at least two Beirne’s there.  I’ve also exchanged a few emails with another Beirne.  He also got his name from a family surname.  In America there aren’t a lot of people with the surname Beirne either, though, as it tended to get anglicized to Burns or Byrne, even among my ancestors.  Back in County Roscommon, though, there are lots of Beirnes, which makes the genealogical research tough.

BTW, I don’t know how to properly pronounce Beirne in Irish.  Years ago when I was in Ireland I asked around and got three different pronunciations, including Bernie, the pronunciation I avoid.  I’ve was once told in an email that Beirne rhymes with “learn” rather than “burn”, but in my flat American accent I say both the same, so I’m still stumped.

I’ll add an extra, a picture of my farthest back known Beirne ancestor, Bernard Beirne (1833-1916).

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Working around window problems in RootsMagic on the Mac

Yesterday I mentioned how I only have one problem with RootsMagic on the Mac, and that is that if the RootsMagic windows get buried under windows from other applications then there isn’t an easy way to get RootsMagic back to the top to work on.  You have to move the other application windows out of the way, which is a nuisance.

This finally annoyed me enough that I came up with a workaround today.  I still don’t have a way to bring the RootsMagic window to the top, but I remembered the Spaces feature of Mac OS.  This lets me put RootsMagic on its own desktop, so that then nothing is there to interfere.

Here is how to get RootsMagic on its own desktop (based on Mountain Lion):

  1. Bring up Mission Control, either from the Dock or by hitting F3/Fn F3.
  2. The top row of the screen has your desktops.  Move the mouse pointer up there and an extra desktop icon will appear on the upper right of your screen.  Click on this to add a new desktop.
  3. Make sure RootsMagic isn’t running.
  4. Move to your new desktop.  You have several ways to get there.  You can swipe three fingers across your trackpad until you get to the desktop or go to Mission Control and select the desktop.
  5. Start up RootsMagic.

RootsMagic will now have a desktop to itself.  If entering data, you might want to be able to see your browser or the Preview program at the same time.  If so, reduce the size of RootsMagic on the screen, go to Mission Control, and drag the application to the Rootsmagic desktop.

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