Friday, March 28, 2008

Oldest Known Recorded Voice Sings Another Day

The BBC News recently reported that U.S. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California have retrieved a sound recording of a human voice made by Parisian inventor, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville on April 9, 1860. That's well over a decade prior to the phonograph of Thomas Edison singing a children's song in 1877, previously thought to be the oldest known audio recording.

The 10 second sound clip of a woman singing the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" was originally recorded on paper by a phonautograph, a device invented by de Martinville. His hope was to create a visual representation of sound waves. The paper was covered in soot from a burning oil lamp, and then lines were scratched into the soot by a needle moved by a diaphragm that responded to the sound. Interestingly, the recordings was never intended to be played. It wasn't until scientists were able to use a "virtual stylus" to read the lines of high-resolution digital scans of the paper that the woman's voice came back to life.

So that prompts the question: if you could find an old recording of one of your ancestor's who would it be, and what do you imagine they would be saying or singing?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Scare Tactics To Fill 2 min. 20 seconds

We see these "investigative" reports all the time on the evening news. Quick sound bites shouting "buyer beware," not overly concerned with those left in the wake. ABC15 News reporter Anne Yeager in Phoenix, AZ meets her editor's deadline with just such a story about genealogy called "Consumer Alert: Beware of genealogy rip-offs and scams." (after clicking the link above, scroll the bottom of that article to click the video camera icon to watch the video report.)

The two minute and twenty second video report attempts to sum up a lifetime hobby, and dishes up some incorrect impressions and statements in the process.

Like the sound bite quote from a local genealogist saying “It seems everyone wants to believe they are related to Charlemagne or Jesse James." Maybe it's just me, but that never crossed my mind. And my guess is it wasn't your top priority for delving into your family history.

And Yeager's warnings that all this research just might cost you money. Ya think? Kimberly Powell who writes about genealogy at her column has been thoughtfully talking about the cost of research. In her most recent email newsletter she's absolutely right when she says, "Web sites cost money to maintain and records cost money to acquire, digitize and transcribe." If we want to do quality research, it's going to cost something. Last time I checked, all the most popular hobbies and activities have costs involved. And when our child wants to learn to play the piano, don't we pay an experienced instructor to teach them?

If and when the American version of the family history TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" hits the airways, we can expect to see a lot more of these reports trying to sum up how to research your family in 2 minutes and 20 seconds. But if you think about it, wouldn't it be a shame if that's all it took? Genealogy research is a challenge and a lifetime joy, and an investment. And I for one wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Families by the Dozen at the Family History Expo March 22

Enjoy 10 jam-packed hours of genealogy at the The Logan Family History EXPO at the Eccles Conference Center ~ 5005 Old Main Hill ~ Logan, Utah. On the campus of Utah State University from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday March 22, 2008

This year’s keynote speaker is Timothy G. Cross, the Product Manager for New FamilySearch. The theme “Families by the Dozen” is all about finding the tie that binds families together forever. Come learn about New FamilySearch and how to find entire families, not just one ancestor.


You can register online at or call 801.829.3295

Monday, March 17, 2008

79,000+ Newly Digitized Newspaper Pages Now Available FREE

The Library of Congress Chronicling America Newspaper Website now has more than 500,000 newspaper pages available free on the website after adding over 79,000 pages. In addition, there are several new site features. The newspaper pages, dating primarily from 1900 to 1910, represent 61 newspapers from California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Utah and Virginia.

New features in Chronicling America include:
"See All Available Newspapers" page - A list of all newspapers with pages available on the site. RSS feed and E-mail Update service - Users can subscribe to Real Simple Syndication (RSS) updates or e-mail delivery. (see list under Topics/Newspapers and Journalism). Updates will include notices of added content and other points of interest.

Newly available content includes pages from the Hopkinsville Kentuckian and Liberty, both published in Kentucky; additions to The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Va.), New York Tribune (New York, N.Y.), Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City) and others.

Highlights of content available in Chronicling America include:

News of original discovery of the historic "Waldseemüller Map" of 1507 (More information about this map and the Library’s acquisition.)

The assassination of President McKinley in 1901

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906

The construction of the Panama Canal

The future for access to free newspapers is bright according to Guy Lamolinara at the Library of Congress. "Ultimately, during the next 20 years, NDNP will create a national digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 from all the states and U.S. territories. Also on the Web site, an accompanying national newspaper directory of bibliographic and holdings information directs users to newspaper titles in all types of formats. The information in the directory was created through an earlier NEH initiative: the United States Newspaper Program. The Library of Congress is also digitizing and contributing to the NDNP database a significant number of newspaper pages drawn from its own collections during the course of this partnership."

National Archives Opens Historic CIA Cold War-Era Records

Just released from the National Archives..."The National Archives and Records Administration has opened 534 cubic feet or approximately 1.3 million pages of historic Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) records covering the Cold War period from 1946-1977.

These newly-released records are from the CIA's Foreign Documents Division, which provided translation, abstracting and research services on newspapers, periodicals and other foreign-language publications. The series consist of translations of newspapers, periodicals, and other foreign-language publications in verbatim, excerpt, and summary form. These documents cover all major types of open-source intelligence subject matter, including economic, scientific, political, military, and sociological topics, with particular emphasis on developments in the Soviet Union, Eastern European countries, and the People's Republic of China. Also included are summaries and abstracts of foreign-language broadcasts.

These records are available to the public in the research room at the National Archives in College Park, located at 8601 Adelphi Road. A research card is required for viewing the materials. Cards may be obtained from the Consultant's Office in Room 1000 at the College Park facility. Clean research room procedures apply. Any closed information will be re-reviewed by the NARA, in response to researcher requests under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Some of the newly released material is available on the NARA website through the Archival Research Catalog." (ARC)

Newly opened records series include Information Reports filed under the following codes:
OO-UC, 1947-1954 (4.536 cf)
OO-UT, 1949-1957 (10.08 cf)
OO-X, 1949-1977 (70.056 cf)
OO-XX, ca. 1949-1969 (14.616 cf)
U, 1947-1953 (94.752 cf)
OO-M, 1954-1956 (5.544 cf).
OO-W, 1947-1956 (58.464 cf)
OO-J, 1957-1968 (24.696 cf)

In addition to:
Weekly Information Reports on Communist China, 1954-1959 (8.616 cf)
Foreign Translations, 1946-1966 (22.68 cf)
Surveys and Abstracts, 1948-1975 (41.808 cf)
Press Information Reports and Press Digests, 1966-1978 (46.504 cf)
Summaries, 1947-1967 (131.688 cf)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Episode 44 Published Today

The voice that ran away from home when the flu came for a visit is back, and I'm pleased to announce that I published Episode 44 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast today. We'll be crossing borders, having a sing along, browsing a library, eating a bit of cake and preserving our digital documents. Join me as we talk genealogy at Episode 44.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who Do You Think You Are Coming To USA

After ongoing speculation that U.S. networks ABC and NBC were both looking at bringing the British series "Who Do You Think You Are?" to the U.S., it was announced today that NBC has nabbed the series.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" is in it's fifth season on BBC1 in Britain. Episodes trace the ancestry of a celebrity looking to reveal surprising, extraordinary and often moving stories of their ancestors.

The American version will be co-executive produced by Lisa Kudrow who starred as "Pheobe" on the previous NBC hit series "Friends" which is now in syndication.

NBC has ordered the "reality" series from its UK producer Wall to Wall, which was recently bought by Shed, the company behind Footballers' Wives and Rock Rivals. Final production is dependent on finding suitable celebrities to appear in it. Producers are currently researching the family trees of several interested candidates to see if they have compelling enough backgrounds. Converting British celebrity-based reality shows to the U.S. is on the rise fuelled by the success of ABC's Dancing With the Stars which was based on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing .

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Census History Website Launched Today

(Note to Podcast listeners: I've been down with the flu, and though I'm on the mend, unfortunately have lost my voice. I'll let you know when the new episode is published, but until then, I'll be talkin' to ya on this blog)

It's Here! The new U.S. Census Bureau website which Bill Maury, Chief of History Staff at the U.S. Census Bureau told us about in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #43 launched today. It's an in depth look at one of our most important genealogical resources. At first glance some of the topics might appear lean, but be sure and keep and eye on the "In This Section" links on the left side of the page. That's where you can drill down to find:
  • Complete listings of the census directors since 1790 and the influence they had on it's collection.
  • Geography and Mapping data - this may prove helpful to those trying to locate elusive ancestors
  • The Economic Census which has measured our economic activities since the first census of manufactures in 1810.
Of particular interest to my household is the background information and photographs about the taking of the census. My husband's great grandfather Lars Johan (L.J.) Larson was an enumerator in his hometown of Winthrop, Sibley County, MN in 1900. (see his signature below) At the time, the 29 year old was establishing his business career in Winthrop, and he later became mayor of the town in 1904.

In fact it was on the home page of this new website that I learned that L.J. would have been the last to walk the streets of Winthrop knocking on his neighbors doors in the warmth of June. That's because Census Day was moved from June to April starting with the 1910 because Census Bureau Director Edward Dana Durand thought that less people were likely to be away from home on vacation in the springtime.

Bill Maury and the Census Bureau staff would like Genealogy Gems listeners and readers input on the website. Email your comments, and what you would like to see on the website to Lisa at Genealogy Gems and will I deliver them directly to Bill's email box.

Women's History in Focus

March is Women's History Month and considering the election year we find ourselves in, I thought it would be interesting to look at the short history of women's voting.

Let's start by listening to Profile America's "Women Voting" by the U.S. Census Bureau. (Click the BACK button when you're done listening)

Next, let's read what women 100 years ago were saying about their desire to vote. Read: "Eminent Opinions on Woman Suffrage," (San Francisco Call, July 4, 1909, pages 5 & 6). In this Independence Day Magazine section entitled "Woman and the Ballot Number,"multiple opinion pieces by prominent California advocates for woman's right to vote were published....Read more about it at the Library of Congress.

Finally, we have "Eighty-Sixth Birthday. Celebration of Woman Suffragists in Honor of Miss Anthony," from the Mount Vernon Signal (Mt. Vernon, KY) March 6, 1906 which reported on events held in Washington, DC, on the occasion of the eighty-sixth birthday of Susan B. Anthony, noted suffragist and reformer....Read more about it!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Senior Moments Anyone?

Do ya ever forget where you left off in your research...or forget where you put your flash drive...or forget where you put your CAR KEYS?! Well, you're not alone. As we get older we find it harder to...uh...remember stuff.

(Don't forget to turn up your speakers while watching the following video)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How Far Would You Go? As Far As Tyler?

In Episode 43 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast this week I shared an email from a listener who told us about how thrilled she was to find the location of the homestead of one of her ancestors. It can be really exciting to stand on the very spot where your ancestors once dwelled.

Now ask yourself:
How far would you be willing to go and how much would you be willing to do to locate an ancestor's homeland?

I also told you in Episode 43 that my daughter Lacey and I had an opportunity to visit with Tyler MacNiven, and that I would be blogging about that this week. If his name sounds familiar to you, it's probably because he and his friend BJ were million dollar winners of the CBS television show The Amazing Race. (Think "the Hippies").

Well, Lacey and I discovered that Tyler took an extraordinary ancestral journey that I think is probably one of a kind. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has done what Tyler has in order to find an ancestor's place of origin!

Tyler MacNiven walked 2000 miles...from the bottom of Japan to the very top! It was a five-month odyssey to find his American father's Japanese birthplace. (And also, Tyler admits, to impress a Japanese girl that he had his eye on!) Best of all, he meticulously filmed his journey which is available as the film Kintaro Walks Japan.

"My first trip to Japan in 2002 led me on a fairytale-like escapade through the rolling Japanese countryside." says McNiven. "My new friend Kobo The Clown dubbed me Kintarō (金太郎), which means ‘golden boy’ because of my crazy blond Californian locks. Kintaro is a legendary boy who was known to have great strength, wrestle bears, and befriend all the animals of the forest. Kobo took me to his clown commune where I spent two days balancing on the tight rope, learning to toss Japanese clowns, and drifting off to sleep to the sound of clattering juggling pins. Japan and I were instant friends, and I had to go back."

MacNiven embodied much of that strength of character as he strode the Japanese landscape, and like Kintaro, became a bit of a celebrity to the Japanese people while doing it.

"I thought that it would be a good chance to find my Father’s birthplace in Japan’s northern most island, Hokkaido. His parents had been Presbyterian missionaries in Hokkaido for two years, giving birth to the Big Cheese (Tyler's dad) there. Soon after returning to the U.S., Grandpa died and all the information of my father’s birthplace slowly evaporated. All except one sketch Grandma drew of a distinct coastal scene near where they were living."

Armed with just that pencil drawing from his Grandmother he made the trip, along the way arm wrestling 100-year old ladies, and dodging trains in tunnels!
A bit of wackiness definitely flows through the MacNiven DNA. Tyler's dad Jamis runs a restaurant here in the Bay Area called Buck's of Woodside, their motto being "Flapjacks and Tomfoolery".

You can watch Kintaro Walks Japan on Google Video, and purchase your own copy of the DVD at the Kintaro Walks Japan website. It's a funny and inspirational film the whole family will enjoy!