Genealogy is a solitary pursuit. In its traditional paper-based past, a genealogist worked as an individual researcher. Occasionally a family would cooperate and share some of their joint information, but even with this sharing, families remained isolated from each other. This genealogical isolation first began to break down with the establishment of the GEDCOM program back in 1984. During my first twenty or so years of doing genealogical research, I worked entirely on my own. None of my immediate family members were at all interested in what I was doing and I was entirely unaware of the efforts of any other living family members. Even sharing my files by uploading copies of my data to the Pedigree Resource File did not provide any collaboration or sharing opportunities.
Across my many family lines, the research was fractured and disjointed. Some lines seemed to be well researched as evidenced by a collection of surname books, but others had apparently been entirely neglected. Slowly, as computer technology advanced, I was able to obtain an overall view of my family lines, but I still had no contact with any other family members. On some of my lines, such as the Tanner family line, to this day I have still never encountered a serious, source-based, genealogist who is actively working on this family line.
The effect of this isolationist fragmentation was that there was no “feedback” and errors accumulated rather than being eliminated. With the introduction of the internet, individual online family trees became a possibility. The internet opened up a way to share information. Unfortunately, the “sharing” process that evolved consisted primarily of indiscriminate copying. Shortly after online family trees became available, I began to realize that my early uploaded copies of my family lines, including all my early wrong conclusions and errors, were being quickly and efficiently copied across the internet.
The seriousness of this situation became evident when FamilySearch introduced the new.FamilySearch.org program. Some of my ancestors had multiple hundreds and perhaps thousands of copies. Most of these copies originated as result of the isolated word of family members for over a hundred years. But a significant portion was also the result of copies made from online sources such as the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.
Because each “genealogist” or “family historian” had to have their “own” copy of “their family” the number of copies, with all the accumulated errors and wrong conclusions, proliferated at an extraordinarily fast pace. The solution was the introduction of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. This free, online, unified, collaborative program allowed everyone to cooperate and collaborate in fixing the problems generated by the years of isolation.
Guess what? Some individuals feel threatened by the unified program. There is still a huge core of isolationists who think they own their ancestors and that they somehow are right when all the rest of the world is wrong (sort of like some of the governments out there today). They not only fail to share their work, they become belligerent and protective to the point of refusing to cooperate with anyone. The tragedy is that they are very likely spending their lives duplicating research that has already been done. The Family Tree acts as a giant clearing house for genealogy. If you put your research in the Family Tree, then anyone else can see what has already been done and does not have to repeat your work.
But what about the issue of changes? Yes, the information in the Family Tree is in a state of flux. But that is the price we pay for over a hundred years of isolation. But what about the other online, collaborative family trees? Yes, there are some other collaborative family trees but FamilySearch is in a unique position due to its sponsorship by the worldwide organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church has far more than a mere economic interest in maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree. The Family Tree may evolve in the future, but it will be maintained in some fashion as long as is foreseeably possible.
But what about the isolationists? Too bad for them. They are condemned to spending a life duplicating the work of others and in the end having all their work lost to their posterity or anyone else for that matter.
Congratulations to the Finalists in AARP’s 2nd Annual AAPI Hero Awards Contest! We wanted to hear about the hard-working staff and volunteers who bring their passion and energy to non-profit organizations that serve AAPIs who are 50-plus. We were looking for the people who are the heart and soul of their organizations, not just the founders, CEOs and executive directors.
We received 61 nominations, and the judges were impressed by every nominee. After much deliberation, we chose 10 outstanding finalists and have posted them on a Facebook photo gallery, where YOU can vote and decide on our winners.
We will award three Heroes from these finalists with $1,000 for them and another $1,000 for each of their non-profit organizations!
Here’s how it works: You’ll be able to cast your vote for your favorite finalist. Read their biographies and the descriptions of their non-profit organizations. And then vote with your “Likes,” “Shares” and “Comments” for the Finalists you think deserve to be named our three Heroes.
Each Like will count as one point, each Share will count as two, and Comments will count for three points.
If you know people who are not on Facebook who want to cast a vote, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to vote for their favorite Hero. (NOTE: Each email vote will only be counted once, and please do not vote both on Facebook and with an email.)
Deadline for voting is Friday, July 14, 11:59 pm ET. The finalists with the top three scores will be named Heroes.
This year’s AAPI Hero Finalists and their organizations are: Dilafroz Nargis Ahmed, India Home, Inc., Glen Oaks, NY; Adrienne Dillard, Kula no na Po’e Hawaii, Honolulu, HI; Shongchai Hang, South East Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, Inc., Philadelphia, PA; Sharon Hartz, Korean American Association of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA; Hyeyoung Kim, Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Atlanta, GA;
Linda Mayo, Pan-American Concerned Citizens Action League Inc. (PACCAL), Jersey City, NJ; Jane Ka’alakahikina Pang, Pacific Islander Health Partnership, Santa Ana, CA; Nor-Oghan Mimi Saito, Asian Pacific Development Center, Aurora, CO; Tracy Wu, Chinese Community Center, Houston, TX; and Dale Yamada, Asian Community Center of Sacramento Valley, Sacramento, CA.
You can read each finalist’s biographies and learn about their organizations on the Facebook photo gallery. Congratulations and good luck to them all!
A short time ago, I was asked to help a patron who had come from out-of-state to the Brigham Young University Family History Library with some genealogical research in the Philippines. I immediately accepted the opportunity because I simply assumed that FamilySearch.org likely had a large number of records from the Philippines for the reason that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a large number of members in that country.
I was not disappointed. There were a great number of records and I soon found some crucial ancestral names for the patron. The patron was obviously very happy. But what about finding records on the FamilySearch.org website from countries where there are few members of the Church? I learned from some of the other missionaries at the BYU Family History Library that the website had a large number of very useful records from India (see the screenshot above).
Then I got interested to find out what other countries, outside of those usually associated with genealogical research, might be represented by records on the website.
One key to answering the question is to start any search by using the FamilySearch.org
Catalog rather than simply looking at the list of digitized records available in the Historical Record Collections. For example, there is a huge list of records from Italy.
Granted, there are still places around the world where genealogical records are not easily obtained, but before you make such a conclusion, I would suggest that you do extensive online searches. The FamilySearch.org website has more than a hundred year’s worth of accumulating records and I would not discount the fact that some records may have been obtained that are pertinent to most of the world’s population.
Another example comes from China. It seems that many researchers automatically assume that Chinese records are not available. However, FamilySearch has a huge and rapidly increasing number of records from both China and Taiwan. Here is a representative screenshot.
You will never know what you are missing until you look. One last example. This one is from Africa.
If you keep clicking down in the places included links, you will see additional resources, but you can also search by looking for a specific country.
Helen Zia, photo by Jason Jem (courtesy of Helen Zia)
On the night of June 19, 1982, 27-year-old Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor’s party with friends in a Detroit strip club. He got into an altercation with two white men, and both groups were thrown out. The two men tracked down Chin with the help of a third man and brutally beat him with a baseball bat.
Their reason? They had been laid off from their auto industry jobs and blamed Japanese cars, which were at the time overtaking American models in popularity. They thought Chin was Japanese. He was Chinese American.
Vincent Chin was left in a coma and died four days later, on June 23 — a few days before his scheduled wedding. The two men from the club (one of them was the killer while the other held Chin) were charged with second-degree murder but the charge was reduced to manslaughter and neither served any jail time. They were ordered to three years probation and to pay $3,000 in fines.
A young Asian American journalist, Helen Zia, reported on the murder, then led the efforts to bring federal civil rights charges against the men. In the end, the accused murderers settled a civil suit out of court. Ronald Ebens, the man who beat Chin, was ordered to pay $1.5 million, but Chin’s estate has never received any payment.
It was national news when it happened, but it’s faded from memory for most people. Today, if the tragedy of Vincent Chin’s death is remembered, it’s in part because of the reporting and subsequent writings of Helen Zia, whose book Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, published in 2000, chronicled the rallying of the AAPI community in the wake of Chin’s murder and also the rise of the community’s consciousness through subsequent racial tensions across the US.
This week Zia, who now lives in San Francisco and is the executor of Chin’s estate (his mother Lily Chin died in 2002), is returning to Detroit for a commemoration of Vincent Chin’s death.
In an interview, Zia, who’s since written a book with Wen Ho Lee, the scientist at Los Alamos who was wrongfully accused of espionage for China, and served as executive editor of Ms. Magazine from 1989-1992, is typically modest about the impact of Asian American Dreams.
When asked how she feels about the book being a gateway for a generation of young AAPIs’ social justice activism, she says softly, “I don’t think that’s for me to say. I feel like I was part of a generation of Asian Americans coming of age of our community.
“We were part of a group that had a critical mass of numbers and saw the voice we could have together,” she adds. “I was able to write about that and chronicle that.”
Helen Zia speaking at a Vincent Chin rally (courtesy of Helen Zia)
Chin’s murder was one spark for the community’s coalescing, but it wasn’t the sole inspiration for the book, she says. “It was definitely part of a whole feeling that I had, that our stories were not being told. The way I imagined it was that little balloons would pop up occasionally involving an Asian American then it would pop and disappear. We were blips. It was striking that we were not considered newsworthy at all, that we weren’t part of the community.”
“Vincent Chin was one of many stories and I saw it from the street level,” she says. “I had to tell it just to get it out myself, it was so distressing.”
Thanks in part to Zia’s efforts, there’s more awareness of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a bigger presence in the media today. “There are more Asian Americans in the news occasionally. We should be now — we’re approaching 6% of the American population. But much of the news looks at Asian Americans as invaders still, untrustworthy….”
She acknowledges that Chin’s legacy today is a wider awareness of hate crimes. “The case opened up civil rights law, broadened it to cover immigrants. I credit that debate and decision to lead to where we are now, with hate crimes laws. I can’t even count the number of organizations now that are watchdogs for hate crimes.”
“Vincent Chin was killed in a national climate of extreme rhetoric against Japanese or anyone who happened to look Japanese,” she notes. “But his death led to the expansion of the justice coalition to include Asian Americans. To say we are all human beings and deserve to be treated with full human dignity.”
When we have a family reunion, we all go camping. We will be camping in this lovely site in the Wasatch Mountains State Park. We will have about 40+ people all camping together for a couple of days. Hmm. Real internet connection. I might not have any posts for a couple of days. 🙁
Meanwhile, take this opportunity to read some of my thousands of previous posts or watch some of the almost 300 videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. 🙂