24 December 2009

Mission of the National Archives: Museum or Access Agency?

On Wednesday, 16 December 2009, the Information Policy, Census and National Archives subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Mission of the National Archives.

The participants on the first panel were Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of The Smithsonian Institution, and new United States Archivist, David S. Ferriero. Each participant submitted a written statement and delivered a five-minute summary. Mr. Ferriero’s written statement has been posted on the NGS website at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/NARA_hearing. Although we were there to present the concerns of the genealogical community, the subcommittee was most interested in preventing security breaches and making sure the Archivist develops a plan for preserving and safeguarding the electronic records of the many government agencies. The Archivist was also asked a series of follow up questions about delays in responding to FOIA, requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The purpose of the first panel was to hear how the other two institutions balanced conflicting demands for resources from their many different user groups. Members of the subcommittee asked questions about strategic plans and measurement of plan accomplishments. Subcommittee member Eleanor Holmes Norton, representative from the District of Columbia, clearly supports museum expansion of the National Archives. If you live in the District, you need to write Ms. Norton and remind her that many genealogists visit Washington, D.C. every year and spent tourist dollars.

The genealogical community was represented on the second panel by Jan Alpert, President of the National Genealogical Society. The oral statement she delivered and the full written statement presented to the subcommittee are available on the NGS website in their entirety. The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) prepared written statements, which were acknowledged by Chairman Clay but not accepted into the record by the clerk due to a strict interpretation of House protocol. Their written statements together with a statement prepared by the NARA User’s Group and supported by a number of area genealogical societies were presented on Thursday at a follow-up meeting at NARA. Those three additional statements have been posted on the NGS website so that, as interested genealogists, you can be brought up to date on all the issues.

Other participants on the second panel included Anne L. Weisman, Chief Counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Kevin M. Goldberg, legal counsel for the American Society of News Editors, and Carl Malamud, founder and president of Public.Resource.Org. Although we access different records at the National Archives than these organizations, we share some similar interests. We all want accessible hours, availability to make requests online, better response times, and more digitization of the records at NARA.

Based upon the questions from members of the subcommittee and responses from new Archivist Ferriero, it appears that there will be subsequent hearings on issues affecting the National Archives. We will keep you advised through this blog.

20 December 2009

NGS Awards and Competitions Deadline Approaching!

The deadline for entries in the following awards and competitions is 31 January 2010. Read on for descriptions and links to the details for each competition!

NGS Rubincam Youth Award

This award recognizes youth in two categories based on age and grade level. Senior - Students in grades 10 to 12, or between the ages of 16 to 18 years. Junior - Students in grades 7 to 9, or between the ages of 13 to 15 years. NGS Membership is not required. Students must submit an original unpublished work written in English and include email contact information. Complete details and submission forms are available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/rubincam_youth_award/nomination_form.

NGS Home Study Course Scholarship Award

The award is a scholarship for the NGS American Genealogy: A Home Study Course. It presented to an individual who demonstrates a serious interest in furthering their genealogical education, has attended national/regional or local conferences, and subscribes to genealogical publications. NGS Membership is required. NOTE: Ineligible are those who have previously enrolled in the Home Study Course and those with genealogical accreditation or certification. Details and submission forms are available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/home_study_course_scholarship_award/nomination_form.

NGS Genealogical Writing Competitions program recognizes excellence, scholarship, and achievements in the field of genealogy by presenting two awards to individuals and nonprofit organizations for significant contributions to the field of genealogy or for a specific, significant, single contribution in the form of an article or book, or other publication which serves to foster scholarship and/or otherwise advance or promote excellence in genealogy. Nominees need not be a member of NGS. The publication must have been published during the past three years. The two categories are:

1. Award for Excellence: Genealogical Methods and Sources is selected for a specific, significant single contribution in the form of a book, an article or a series of articles published during the last three years that discuss genealogical methods and sources and serves to foster scholarship and/or otherwise advances or promotes excellence in genealogy. All nominations must include e-mail contact information. Instructions and the nominating forms are available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/award_for_excellence_genealogical_methods_sources/nomination_form.

2. Award for Excellence: Genealogy and Family History Book is presented to the person who has made a specific, significant single contribution in the form of a family genealogy or family history book published during the past three years which serves to foster scholarship and/or otherwise advances or promotes excellence in genealogy. All nominations must include e-mail contact information. Instructions and the nominating forms are available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/award_for_excellence_genealogy_family_history_book/nomination_form.

NGS Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship Sponsored by ProQuest

An outstanding librarian will be honored during the 2010 NGS Conference in Salt Lake City 28 April – 1 May. The Filby Award is $1000 sponsored by ProQuest and is awarded to a librarian who has made significant contributions in the field of genealogy. If you know a worthy librarian, please nominate them today. Criteria for judging and nominating forms are available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/the_filby_prize_for_genealogical_librarianship/nomination_form.

Award of Merit

NGS will present awards to individuals or institutions who, over a period of five years or more, have made outstanding contributions to NGS programs or who have performed outstanding work in the field of genealogy, history or biography. The nominee need not be a member of NGS. If you know someone worthy, nominate them today. Forms are available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/award_of_merit/nomination_form.

Distinguished Service Award

NGS will present awards to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to NGS programs or who have performed outstanding work in the field of genealogy, history, biography, or heraldry. A nominee must have been an NGS member for at least one year when nominated. The submission form is online at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/distinguished_service_award/nomination_form.

National Genealogy Hall of Fame

NGS Hall of Fame honors individuals of the past who made significant contributions to genealogy and set high standards by which we work today. A nominee need not have been an NGS member. They must have been actively engaged in genealogy in the United States for at least ten years, must have been deceased for at least five years at the time of nomination, and must have made a contribution to the field of genealogy judged to be of lasting significance in ways that were unique, pioneering, or exemplary. Submission forms are available online at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/hall_of_fame.

Fellow of the National Genealogical Society

The NGS Fellow Award recognizes outstanding work in the field of genealogy, or the related fields of history, biography or heraldry, in addition to outstanding service to NGS. The nominee must have been an NGS member for at least five years. The nominating form is online at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/ngs_fellow/nomination_form

16 December 2009

Research in New Jersey guide available

Just in time for Christmas, the latest NGS Research in the States guide, Research in New Jersey, is available. Written by professional genealogist Claire Keenan Agthe, this guide to the Garden State leads researchers down the right path to finding their ancestors—from the colonial era to later immigrants. Early in the history of the NGS Quarterly, lengthy articles about researching in specific states were featured. Eventually the articles were updated, expanded, and published as concise guides to the history, records, and research facilities of a state. The Research in the States series continues this tradition by publishing new guides in print and e-book versions. Research in New Jersey is the latest of thirteen states now available. The guides are economically priced, so you can buy the print version for your library and the electronic PDF version for your computer. Imagine having the entire collection on your laptop for reference, yet taking up no space in your briefcase or tote bag. And don't forget that NGS members receive a discount on purchases made in the NGS online store. Shop the NGS online store today for the states you need (be sure to log on to the NGS website before completing your purchase.)

09 December 2009

SLC Research Trip: Act Now to Share a Room

Want to rev up your research? The 24-31 January 2010 NGS research trip to Salt Lake City has an opening for a female who would like to share a room ($640 for NGS members, $690 for non-members). This is a fun, but yet educational, trip and we have a number of participants who come year after year. It is a week to fully immerse yourself in genealogy with other like-minded people. More details can be found at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/research_trips.

The cut-off is 23 December 2009, so please act quickly if you would like to use this available space. Contact Gayathri Kher directly at [email protected] or call her at (703)525-0050 Ext. 221.

Gifts for the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays to all UpFront readers! It is that time of the year again..... when you are wondering what the best gift would be for the family historian in your life. And what better way could there be than polling fellow family historians?

Cast your vote today, using the list on the left of your UpFront window. Be sure to visit UpFront again and see how your gift list compares with other readers! Listed below are some of the gift items the NGS staff came up with.

  1. Kindle Wireless Reading Device
  2. Registration to attend the 2010 NGS Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah
  3. Portable GPS Navigator
  4. National Genealogical Society Membership
  5. Netbook
  6. Subscription to Ancestry.com or Footnote
  7. Digital Camera
  8. Nested Luggage Set
  9. Digital Photo Frame
  10. A wonderful holiday season with friends and family - Priceless!
  11. Membership to a local/state genealogical society
  12. Genealogy Software or Application
  13. Ellis Island Gifts

If you would like to have your suggestion added to this list and the poll, please use the comments section to indicate your item for addition. Happy shopping and happy polling!

07 December 2009

Review and Reader Discount: British Newspapers Online

by Pam Cerutti, Editor

A recent press release announced the online availability of British newspapers from 1800 to 1900. (See UpFront article dated 20 September 2009.). This review includes a limited-time offer for 50% off your purchase of a full day pass or week pass to this great web site. Full details appear at the end of this article.

I had a chance to look at the British Newspapers web site and found it both easy to use and full of interesting information. In this article I'd like to share my experiences. You can try it out for yourself as the website offers free access to all the articles in two London publications, The Graphic and The Penny Illustrated Paper.

Made available by Gale, part of Cengage Learning, The British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee, the British Newspapers website at http://newspapers.bl.uk provides lots of information to help put into timely context ancestors who lived in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales during a 100-year span. It has fully searchable newspapers as well as a timeline of major events, articles about aspects of life in those times, and articles about both people in the news and the newspapers themselves. A good amount of information is available for free; however, views of most full newspaper articles are offered by purchase of a modestly-priced pass for either 24 hours or 7 days.

To start with, I decided to see how many hits I'd get when searching on a surname of interest. A simple search on “Towler” found 3756 entries, the first two of which are shown below in the easy-to-use results screen (Note: You can click on any picture to see it full-sized; then use your browser's Back button [<] to return to the article.):

The default results are sorted by Publication Date Ascending, but the dropdown choices let you quickly switch to Publication Title, Article Title, Publication Date Descending, or Relevance. In addition, the options on the left side of the window allow you to further limit your results by either Newspaper Section (Advertising, Arts and Sports, Business News, News, or People) or Article Type (Arts & Entertainment; Birth, Death, Marriage Notices; Business; Classified Ads; News; or Sports). I decided to focus first on vital records, so I changed my display to Article Type and clicked on Birth, Death, Marriage Notices to limit my Search Results to the 118 results of this type that included my “Towler” surname.

Efficient researchers will definitely want to take advantage of the Advanced Search. Besides limiting your search results to a particular category and/or article type, you can specify a date range, publication, or place of publication. I found valuable information about my surname in some less-than-obvious categories, such as Classified Ads, for example, so I’d suggest you keep an open mind as to what you might find within each section.

You can also use all the standard search tools with the Advanced Search: quotation marks, wildcards, and logical (Boolean) operators, as well as range and proximity operators. If you need a refresher on any of these, click the Help link for clear, concise explanations of each. Shown below, I filled in the Advanced Search window to find the name “towler” either 30 words before or 30 words after “weeting,” the home of my Towler ancestors. I further restricted this search to three types of articles published before 31 December 1875 in the English language.

Of course, the real fun begins as you peruse your search results! As the Search Results window tells you, you can click on the thumbnail image of any article to see a free extract containing the words used in your search. The thumbnail images give you a preview of the first match for your search word(s) within a listed article, allowing you to see its context without using one of your purchased article views. If it looks good to you, you can go ahead and view the full article. For my search, each thumbnail showed green highlighting on the section containing my “Towler” search word. Here's an example:

To quickly scan all your results, you can bypass the thumbnail's Close button and just click on another thumbnail. Whenever an item is labeled as free content, you can view the whole article without a subscription. You can view the subscription-based articles by purchasing either 24-hour pass or a 7-day pass.

You can display the full article by clicking on either the link inside a displayed thumbnail enlargement, the blue title line for the entry, or one of the links below the title: Article, Page, or Browse Issue. Once displayed, the article can be enlarged or even searched for further key words. The example below is 50% of its full size and shows the clarity of the scanned image; I have also pointed out the other options available:

The clarity of the scanned newspapers varies, as can be expected with paper that is 100 to 200 years old. However, everything I found was quite readable. You can always zoom in to enlarge any item that you want to see better. Below is example that provides a glimpse into the life of Ann Towler, even offering information about her father that was new to me. It is zoomed to 50% and is very clear:

Placing a check in the “Mark” box at the top places the item in a “Marked List,” where you can perform further actions on all your marked items at the same time. The other actions each display in a new window. Some were a bit confusing to me at first, so here are descriptions of each:
  • Bookmark displays the full URL to display the same search results or article, depending on what’s displayed when you click it. From the Bookmark window you can email a link to yourself or other recipients. When recipients click on this link, they will see the same search results list or article. Their access to the full articles that are not part of the free content depends on whether or not they have purchased a pass to the British Newspapers site. Note that simply using your browser's bookmark or favorites feature will not work to bookmark pages that contain dynamic content, such as search results, marked items, or a document.

  • Print Preview lets you create an HTML or PDF file of articles or a PDF file of an entire newspaper issue that you can then either save or print. Keep in mind that the included newspaper content will be the scanned image that you displayed or checked in your Marked List – not a transcription; this is a good thing because it averts the possible errors that transcriptions can create due to bad guesses by humans or software. The choices for the output depend on what page is displayed when you select the Print option.
I noticed a couple other points about the Print option worth reporting. (1.) If you want to print the entire page or issue, you need to display that page or issue before choosing the Print option. (2.) Only the HTML option will include source citation details such as newspaper title and date and website-specific document number. I found it most efficient to mark the articles I wanted and then go to the Marked List to click on the Print icon. Here is a sample of the Print window displayed from the Marked List, which generates an HTML file (that your browser can display) containing citation detail and the article for each marked item that you keep checked:

  • Email generates citation details that you can send to yourself or other recipients. Note that you cannot email any part of the newspaper with this option – only source citation information.
  • Download allows you to generate either an HTML file of citation information or a PDF file of the displayed item, which you can then download to your hard drive, USB flash drive, or other portable device. Here again, the contents of the PDF file depend on whether you have displayed just the article, the full page, or the entire issue. Instead of using this Download option, I found it preferable to display the desired article and then, using the Print option, click on the HTML button; the resulting HTML page included both citation detail and the article itself.
These options are available from many entry points. The icons appear in the top left corner of the window, so be sure to keep your window as wide as the full display. Whenever a particular option is not available, it will be grayed out. On occasion, the window for one of these icons seemed to open behind my browser window; this may be my own doing, but if you don't see the window, look for it in the tray of open windows at the bottom of your screen.

The site also provides helpful background information on each newspaper. This information is freely available on what the web site refers to as “Issues pages.” You can display Issues pages by several avenues, but my preference is from my search results since this is where a particular newspaper gains my interest. When you click on a displayed publication title, its Issues page provides its background information, such as key dates in the publication's history, an explanation of its role, significance or political leanings, and a description of its layout and contents. Below is a sample Issues page:

The British Newspapers site offers much more information that's available for free. A lot of it is accessible from the Research Tools tab, which displays four sections, each of which expands into a number of subsections:
  • Researching Historical Newspapers and Periodicals provides two clear and scholarly articles that give historical, social, and economic context for newspapers as they developed in the periods from 1800 to 1860 and from 1860 to 1900, respectively. You will also find a lengthy bibliography of 19th Century British Library Newspapers for all the footnotes referenced in the articles.
  • Historical Context is a large section that starts with a Chronology, or timeline, of major news events throughout the nineteenth century. Clicking on any of these events displays Search Results of newspaper items about that event. Following the Chronology are no less than sixteen topics ranging from “Rights, Responsibilities and Emancipation" to “Sex and scandal." The link for each topic displays a full article on its subject, and some of these articles end with a list of links to still more articles that you can download and print in PDF format. (If you don't have a program that can read PDF files, you can download Adobe's free Acrobat Reader at http://get.adobe.com/reader/.) The following screenshot shows this section expanded and displaying an article on “Emigration, Immigration and Migration in Nineteenth-Century Britain.”

  • The People section contains right-sized articles that highlight the lives of eight prominent individuals of the nineteenth century.
  • The About section includes an Introduction describing the partnership between Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, and the British Library that allowed the creation of this web site as well as a larger collection that spans three hundred years of newspaper publishing in the U.K. There's also a brief description of the digitization project and the selection of the included newspapers. I found the last section especially helpful: it's a thorough Frequently Asked Questions section that answers many questions about the web site's contents and operation, as well as how the subscription options work.
I found the overall operations quite intuitive, but I’d like to offer a suggestion to maximize your time if you decide to purchase a pass. A strategy you might consider is to read any articles of interest within the Research Tools before purchasing your pass. Also, peruse the Help to orient yourself to the options you’ll have, especially any Advanced Search tips you need to brush up on. Then do a couple searches on the free content so that you know what to expect from each action in the Search Results window. Now that you’ve whetted your appetite, you’re off and running.

All in all, anyone with nineteenth century U.K. ancestry will find the British Newspapers website a valuable resource. Besides finding details about my ancestors that I had not seen anywhere else, I found many fascinating stories about their towns and contemporaries that gave me a much more colorful picture of their lives. Subscriptions are reasonably priced at either £9.99 (about $16.50 US) to open and work with 200 articles over a week's time, or £6.99 (about $11.50 US) to open 100 articles over a 24-hour period. You can try it for yourself at http://newspapers.bl.uk.

The folks at Gale, part of Cengage Learning, have graciously offered readers of UpFront with NGS a 50% discount for either pass – 24 hours or 7 days – until December 31. To take advantage of this offer, simply go to http://newspapers.bl.uk and click Subscribe Now! When the payment window appears, enter coupon code NGSdiscount (Code is not case-sensitive.).

06 December 2009

Family History Writers Contest: Open to Public

The Southern California Genealogical Society sponsors one of the very few writing contests designed specifically for family historians that is open to the general public. Membership in SCGS is not required to participate in the contest.

The GENEii Family History Writers Contest, now in its tenth year, offers cash prizes in two categories:

Category 1: Family or local history articles of 1,000-2,000 words in length, published or unpublished. If previously published, entries must be accompanied by the written permission of the publisher allowing article to be reprinted by SCGS.

1st Place, $200
2nd Place, $100
3rd Place, $50
Honorable Mentions, certificate
Finalists, certificate

Category 2: Family or local history articles of 1,000 words or less, published or unpublished. If previously published, entries must be accompanied by the written permission of the publisher allowing article to be reprinted by SCGS.

1st Place, $100
2nd Place, $50
3rd Place, $25
Honorable Mentions, certificate
Finalists, certificate

The deadline for submissions for the 2009 contest is December 31, 2009.

All of the details and contest rules can be found on the SCGS Website at www.scgsgenealogy.com. The FAQs can be found at http://www.scgsgenealogy.com/2009contest-faq.htm

You can read examples of some of the entries on the website as well. Look on the left-hand side of the screen for "Writing Contest" and click on that link.

In November, 2005, Heritage Books, Inc. published an anthology of some of the most memorable entries to our contest in the contest’s first five years. The anthology is called Celebrating Family History, and is available for $25 plus shipping and handling through the SCGS website.

Your Help Needed: NARA in Congress on 16 December

As you may have heard, renovations are again proposed for the National Archives that will affect all NARA researchers. If the changes materialize, some research space at the downtown facility will be converted to offices, exhibits, and other uses, and research services will have to be reconfigured. To assure that research resources are enhanced, rather than diminished, we again appeal—urgently--for your help.

Several notices have circulated about an extremely important congressional subcommittee hearing later this month. The hearing of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, which oversees NARA, will examine the National Archives mission. The proposed changes at Archives-1 will undoubtedly be discussed. The new Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will testify.

This is our opportunity to voice concerns and priorities to congressional leaders. Please participate by 1) writing to the members of the subcommittee (details below); and 2) attending the hearing if you are in the Washington DC area (details below).
  1. CONTACT SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS: It is critical that we contact every member of the subcommittee in advance, to 1) encourage them to attend and participate in the meeting, 2) to express our concerns, and 3) to urge them to make researcher services a priority. Please take time now to send each of them a note. It is especially important for constituents of the subcommittee members to contact those members. (See below for list of subcommittee members, and suggestions for writing.)

  2. ATTEND THE HEARING: If you are in the Washington DC area on 16 December, please attend the hearing. Members of Congress take careful note of attendance at such hearings. A well-attended meeting will communicate that researchers care about what happens at NARA. Wednesday, 16 December 2009; 2 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154
ALSO, if you are in the DC area, a public meeting will be held the following day, 17 December 2009, at 1:00 p.m. at NARA, specifically to discuss the proposed changes. If you can make that meeting also, please put it on your calendar.


  • Keep your message to one page.
  • At the TOP of the message, identify your reason for writing. For example: “Re: Information Policy Subcommittee Hearing on National Archives, December 16.”
  • If at all possible, write an individualized letter (you can cite some issues below, or add others; a sample letter appears below).
  • Contact each member only once about the hearing.
  • Be succinct. Readers should be able to read and understood the message in one minute. Specify your request in the first or second sentence. In another two or three sentences explain how important it is for the member to attend and participate in the hearing.
  • Specify if you are writing as an individual or representing a group.

Issues you may wish to address (among others you might include):
  • Renovations at Archives-1 (downtown) should aim to make it a world-class research facility.
  • Reconsider decisions already made (on the Constitution side of the building) so the result will optimally serve the public and researchers without compromising the latter.
  • Upgrade services, personnel, hardware, and software to bring the research facility in line with other first-rate research facilities in the world.
  • The mission of the National Archives and Records Administration: to safeguard and preserve government records and provide public access to those records both in our nation's capitol and at NARA regional facilities.

How to contact subcommittee members:
  • If you live in a member’s district, use the “Write your Representative” site, which provides direct email contact for constituents. Users enter a state +zip code. Use this link: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
  • To contact other members, use email if an address appears below (many do not provide email addresses for non-constituents). Otherwise FAX letters. Do not use USPS mail as postal delivery to congressional offices takes very long. (See below.)
  • If you represent an organization, follow up with a reminder fax the morning of December 15.

Clay, William Lacy ..... Phone: (202) 225-2406 ..... Fax: (202) 226-3717
D MO, 1st D.

Kanjorski, Paul ..... Phone: 202-225-6511 ..... Fax: (202) 225-0764
D PA, 11th D.

Maloney, Carolyn ... http://tinyurl.com/yzfttfn ..... Fax: 202-225-4709
D NY, 14th D.

Norton, Eleanor Holmes ... Phone: (202) 225-8050 .... Fax: (202) 225-3002

Davis, Danny ..... http://tinyurl.com/yzs8gl6 ..... Fax: (202) 225-5641
D Chicago, 7D.

Driehaus, Steve ..... http://tinyurl.com/yz637fg .... Fax: (202) 225-3012
D OH, 1st D.

Watson, Diane ..... Phone: 202-225-7084 ..... Fax: 202-225-2422
D CA, 33rd D.

Cuellar, Henry ..... Phone: 202-225-1640 ..... Fax: 202-225-1641
D TX, 28th D.

Ranking Minority:
McHenry, Patrick ..... Phone: 202.225.2576..... Fax: 202.225.0316
R NC, 10th D

Vice Ranking Minority:
Westmoreland, Lynn .....Phone: (202) 225-5901 ..... Fax: (202) 225-2515
R GA, 3rd D.

Mica, John ....... http://tinyurl.com/y9bxwuf ..... Fax: (202) 226-0821
R FL, 7th D.

Chaffetz, Jason ..... Phone: (202) 225-7751 ..... Fax: (202) 225-5629
R UT, 3rd D.


Addressee / address
Re: Information Policy Subcommittee Hearing on National Archives, December 16

Dear ______:

The proposed renovation at the National Archives (Washington, DC facility) is a major concern for all researchers. As [a frequent researcher at NARA, a representative of…] I hope the work being considered will result in upgraded, enhanced research facilities that make it a world-class research facility. Many of us are worried that some changes appear to aggrandize exhibits, the gift shop, and other tourist attractions in the building at the expense of resources serving researchers.

First and foremost, the public documents preserved at NARA should be made accessible to scholars, historians, educators, journalists, artists, family historians, scientists, and other researchers—via up-to-date technology, facilities, and expert archival assistance. In your oversight role, please assure that this is the top priority as renovations proceed. I hope you will be at the subcommittee meeting and take an active role in the proceedings. [I plan to attend the hearing.]

Congressional oversight and support for research services is critical if NARA is to remain a renowned research institution, fulfilling its mission to the American public, and in line with similar facilities in other countries.

Thank you, in advance, for your support. If you wish additional information, please feel free to contact me.



04 December 2009

Richard Pence, 1932-2009

Richard Pence was a long-time member of NGS who contributed his many talents to the organization, especially in the early days of computer genealogy. We are saddened to learn of his recent death. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Conference Center located at 4301 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203. The following obituary was contributed by his family.

Richard A. Pence, an editor and publications advisor whose hobby of tracking his ancestors evolved into pioneering work in the use of computers in genealogical research, died November 25 in Fairfax,Virginia. He was 77.

Pence’s work in genealogy, once a side-line, became a full-time effort in 2000 when he retired from his 39-year career in communications work for rural electric cooperatives on the state and national levels.

Pence’s principal genealogical contributions stemmed from his interest in the Pence surname. He amassed several large databases of information on those with this surname, some of which are available to researchers through a web site he created and maintained (www.pipeline.com/-richardpence/>.

In addition to two books of Pence family history, he was co-author in 1985 of Computer Genealogy, the first book covering this topic. In that year, he was also editor of The Next Greatest Thing, an award-winning photo history of the first 50 years of rural electrification in the United States.

In 1982, he was among the founders of a computer interest group within the National Genealogical Society, and he received the Distinguished Service Award and an Award of Merit from the society for his pioneering work in computer genealogy. In 2002, he was among the initial inductees into the Genealogy Technology Pioneer Hall of Fame by GenTech, an organization of genealogists interested in computer applications.

Pence authored numerous how-to articles on genealogy and computers, many of which can be found on the internet, and he was a featured speaker on this topic at several national genealogy conferences. He was especially fond of speaking engagements that allowed him to relate humorous incidents both with computers and life in general.

Following service in the U.S. Navy in 1950-1951 and graduation from South Dakota State University in 1955, Pence began his journalism career with brief stints at weekly newspapers in Britton, South Dakota and Tracy, Minnesota. He then completed course work for a master’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University followed by a move to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he was a publications editor at North Carolina State University.

He began his career in the rural electrification program in 1961 as editor of The Carolina Farmer (now Carolina Country) a monthly magazine published by the statewide association of North Carolina rural electric cooperatives. In 1967 he moved to Washington, D.C. to become editor of the Rural Electric Newsletter for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

Pence received many awards for his journalistic and genealogical efforts and has authored several works, including Two Longs and a Short, a personal remembrance of growing up in a small South Dakota town. Proceeds from the sale of this book have gone to support college scholarships for Frederick, South Dakota High School graduates.

During his career with NRECA, Pence also served as editor of Rural Electrification Magazine and as head of the association’s publications department. He spent the latter part of his career at NRECA as a communications consultant specializing in assisting local electric cooperatives with pressing public and member relations problems, including threats of sell-outs. In addition to on-site assistance, he developed and conducted training sessions to guide local cooperatives in building sound public and member relations policies and programs. For the past several years he wrote a monthly column featuring historical flashbacks for RE Magazine.

Pence was active in numerous professional, cooperative and rural organizations and was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the National Food and Energy Council (Columbia, Missouri). He won the 1961 George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award, conferred by NRECA yearly to the editor of the statewide publication (Carolina Farmer) for presenting the most lucid, forthright and effective presentation of issues advancing the objectives of electric cooperatives.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Ellyn (Hutto) Pence, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, their three children, Todd of Fairfax, Virginia; Robert of Raleigh, North Carolina and Laura Pence Larson, son-in-law Matthew Larson of Allenspark, Colorado, and two grandchildren, Molly Bellou Larson and Calvin Pence Larson.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Monroe Pence and Clarice Ethelyn (Stanley) Pence of Frederick, a brother, Donald and a sister, Margie Ann (Pence) Buntrock (Mrs. Ralph Buntrock).

02 December 2009

RootsMagic Releases Free Genealogy and Family Tree Software

Editor's note: The following press release was issued by RootsMagic, Inc.

"RootsMagic Essentials" Brings Free Tools for Family History

SPRINGVILLE, Utah. — November 18, 2009 — RootsMagic, Inc. announced the immediate availability of RootsMagic Essentials, free desktop genealogy software based on their award-winning RootsMagic 4 system. RootsMagic Essentials contains many core features found in its namesake that allow the public to easily start tracing their family trees.

Essential Features for Everyone

“Many of our users have told us that they have friends and family members who are interested in getting started in family history but aren’t ready to invest in a more comprehensive package like RootsMagic,” said Bruce Buzbee, president. “RootsMagic Essentials gives them the features they need to start researching and recording their family tree at a price that can’t be beat — free!”

RootsMagic Essentials shares many of the same features with the full RootsMagic software including clean and friendly screens, the ability to add an unlimited number of people and events, pictures and media management, the SourceWizard to write your source citations for you, powerful merging and clean-up tools, dozens of reports and charts, support for international character sets, FamilySearch integration, and the ability to share data with other people and software programs. The full version of RootsMagic is available for purchase and includes
features not available in RootsMagic Essentials.

Free and Available Now

RootsMagic Essentials is available now for free at http://www.rootsmagic.com. Users of other genealogy software products will find it easy to experiment with RootsMagic Essentials using their own data. RootsMagic Essentials can directly import data from PAF, Family Tree Maker (through 2006), Family Origins, and Legacy Family Tree. It can also read and write data using the popular GEDCOM format.

"We're excited to make RootsMagic Essentials available to the community," said Michael Booth, vice-president. "Our mission is to provide 'software to unite families' and our hope is that RootsMagic Essentials will encourage more people to record their family trees and connect with their family histories."

About RootsMagic, Inc.

For over 20 years, RootsMagic, Inc. has been creating computer software with a special purpose—to unite families. One of our earliest products- the popular "Family Origins" software, introduced thousands of people to the joy and excitement of family history.

That tradition continues today with "RootsMagic", our award-winning genealogy software which makes researching, organizing, and sharing your family history fun and easy. "Personal Historian" will help you easily write and preserve your life stories. "Family Reunion Organizer" takes the headaches out of planning those important get-togethers. And "Family Atlas" creates beautiful and educational geographic maps of your family history.

For more information, visit http://www.rootsmagic.com.