Thursday, July 17, 2014

STOP THIEF Part 2 - Trying to become a genealogy pirate

Shamus, whose father was a tree, from Family Guy. (courtesy of the Family Guy art archives)

With apologies to Shamus, above, most of us don't think about piracy and theft much when we're doing genealogy. In fact, I hadn't even thought it possible to be a pirate or a thief when doing genealogy unless I like, you know, stole something from an archives or something.

But little did I know that when I joined large Facebook genealogy groups such as RAOGK that the word thief, stole, and took would be some of the most common words used on the site, mostly in relation to and Find-a-Grave. This presented a problem for me, because I hadn't really thought about the site in that way, but then I realized they were talking about using items without permission, regardless of copyright and attribution, so its kinda like piracy, just in the nicer guise.

And I do understand the trouble with Ancestry. There are SO many layers of complication to the story with the member trees there. Bugs. Free vs. paid accounts. No attributions. Beginners vs. experienced genealogists. Group ownership of other websites, like Find-a-Grave. Those accursed shaky leaves, aka "hints".

So what I decided to do was to try and make a tree and just take everything I could find. So I did. I learned about the Pollock family, in an attempt to figure out why Jay Pollock was buried on the same stone as my Webber family with no apparent connection. [Side note: I don't

I added every document, every photo, every connection. I downloaded every census, and put it into the tree without a care in the world. And then I waited. Expecting that there would be angry cries, accusations of thievery and calls to burn the heathen!

Like this scene from Frankenstein (1931). Because, you know, all good angry mob scenes are in black and white, at night, and consist of walking halfway around town first.

But nothing happened. No angry cries, no threats, nothing. I can only surmise that there are five problems:

1. This family just isn't that popular. Or maybe the descendants have died out. They have become the property of the commons, without anyone taking ownership of them. (entirely possible).
2. The contributors of the documents willingly gave them out for free use on the internet (entirely possible).
3. Maybe, in an age where it is super easy to connect documents to our trees, that people have given up and just assumed it would happen. (entirely possible)
4. They couldn't contact me through Ancestry (although my email is listed in my profile just in case). (again, entirely possible).
5. Or maybe, our proof centered genealogy culture makes thievery a bit of an inevitability. (see below).

#1-4 are entirely possible. Practically a prediction, in fact. #5 though, was the one that made me think more. In discussing this case with several genealogy buddies, it came out that whenever we want to do something in genealogy, we prove it. We make copies of original documents. We take photos. We scan. We post. We do all this in an attempt to prove that we have the "real case" on our ancestor. We want to prove that our knowledge is the "right" knowledge. We even have people trying their darndest to make genealogy snobbery a thing with people claiming snobbily that they only research "the right way, in person".

Is our compulsion to collect the proofs what has encouraged a system of lazy, inadvertent theft? Perhaps. I can see where it would lead to an idea that only we can "own" our ancestors and that the other folks who develop these contents are mere caretakers. But perhaps it is because we do not understand the nature of the cloud system, and we do not trust that sites will be around to forever provide archives of our documents and photos. If that's the case, what do we do then?

Stay tuned for part 3 - learning about book piracy, and part 4 - solutions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

STOP THIEF Part 1 - Confessions of the Reluctant Pattern Pirate

The Pride of Baltimore, a privateer ship similar to the Cygnet, ship of the reluctant pirate Charles Swan courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons.

This might get a little long, but I promise, the story is worth it. Please note, before I start here - my accounts are gone. I closed them down. I deleted any content I saw might be connected to the sites mentioned. I removed anything I shared. And I tried my best to remove any comments I had made. I've never uploaded anything that was remotely within copyright, or intellectually owned by anyone else. I've reached the end of my investigation, so that really meant I had no business interacting on these sites anymore.

Nearly 10 years ago, someone posted a message to a Yahoo group that no longer exists saying that they found this cool new site with tons of knitting and crocheting content. Excitedly, my friends and I visited the site and discovered that it had a lot of cool books and other foreign patterns on it that we had never seen before, and it blew our minds with the horizons that had already been passed in Spanish, Russian, and Japanese knitting. 

Then I started to see our English designs go up on there. Not just the big corporate ones, but small designers who were just starting out, designers that who were the beginning of the vibrant marketplace at Ravelry. And I was horrified. 

What kind of person would do that? And then I realized - my friends, chatting back and forth about this resource, were in effect, becoming part of this virtual stitching circle that was quite honestly, clearly violating international copyright law. 

It took a little convincing (well...maybe a lot) but we STOPPED. We deleted everything. And we started reporting the places on the site that violated the copyright of the people we knew. And then we started reporting the corporate violations to the companies, like Rowan, Alan Dart, Martingale Press, Crochet Today, Interweave, Vogue, etc. 

And we saw progress. The violators were punished, while leaving the rest of us alone to chat about the aftermath, and our own stitching. And so things were quiet. Then another site cropped up. So we collectively reported it. And it went down. Then we learned about this new thing called torrents. So we started quietly policing those too, getting people to take torrents down and manipulating the seeding process to make the torrents unusable. 

But the sites keep coming. And increasingly, they are in Russia and China, where it is increasingly hard to defend intellectual property. So we started talking to copyright lawyers and intellectual property lawyers. Their work got a few more sites down.  

But of course, another site came up. So this time, filled with indignation, I joined. All these designers' generosity was being repaid by these jerks who were charging for their designs! And the charged money for the privilege! So I decided to study the system, and see how it worked. Basically, the design of this site and clones is that you earn a currency (mostly called coins) and you earn status to move up in rank. The sites are in multiple language, with the one pictured above requiring participation in English with members from all over the world.

Without rank, you can't do much. You can look at a limited amount of items, and you can participate in text messaging and games and chats, so the site automatically encourages people to "share" patterns with others in order to earn more currency and more status. As long as you don't share something duplicated elsewhere on the site, your work will get approved. Usually it requires minimum work to upload it, naming the designer, the type of file, the language and an image of the pattern. 

So the more currency you earn and the more rank you have, the more you can download and see on the site (as certain things are limited to folks of a certain rank). 

You can see the problem in this - basically, it encourages people to upload whatever they have, no matter if it is paid, free, theirs, not theirs - inadvertent theft still is theft. And its all free to those who want to spend the hours.

At first, I couldn't get the users to engage. It was impossible to stand out as a beginner. After a bit I arrived at the solution.

I could pirate my own work.

So I did. And that got me enough points to be able to move throughout the forums. At first, I tried pointing out that the patterns are free elsewhere. I mean, why spend money to get the currency for the site when the items were free elsewhere? It didn't make sense in my head.

And I got friends to help me. One by one, they were banned by their IP address, making them unable to access the website in question. But somehow my account endured. So I kept posting. Finally people started warming up and explained that they could earn the currency needed without worrying about buying currency. And then they said they were smart enough to go get the items from the site they were free from, because they were members there too.

Which got me thinking: who are these people? I had this stereotypical vision of the angry Chinese hacker, stealing from our American designers and posting them for free for their people. It made me sad and ashamed that I stereotyped people in this way. :-(

So I kept at engaging them. When one site had a bit of a meltdown, another site was born, and folks invited me there. So I went with them. And watched the site grow as people shared multitudes of craft instructions ranging from cross stitch patterns, knitting patterns, crocheting patterns, and fifteen other crafts. 

The benefit of this, of course, was that I could get to know these folks from the very beginning. I could learn the inner workings of the folks at the beginning of the setup of the site. So I started pirating far vintage patterns, very far out of copyright, intellectual property long since forgotten and not owned by anyone currently (I intend to write a blog series in the future, talking about this investigation process!), trying to make me a high ranking member of the site. And I succeeded. 

The higher my rank got, the more trusting people became. 

I learned that fully half of the people on the site were Americans. The rest were folks around the world, with issues getting access to crafting patterns, trying to practice their English with us. Most of them were older, many on a fixed income doing their crafts in retirement. They view the site as an extension of their stitching circle. At least half are not computer savvy but liked networking with other stitchers. They found the site through Google or by word of mouth. They didn't think about aspects of the site that I thought about, like ethics of depriving designers of web traffic, or if what they were doing was theft. After all, it was just exchanging between friends, right?

Except it wasn't. The site we all came from? It hit 65,000 members. The "new" site? Hit 2,000 members. Can one really legitimately argue 2,000 people are your best friends? 

But I just kept talking to them, trying to understand the actions, because it didn't make sense to me. Then it started to roll in. Multiple people said they were just passing along something their other friend sent them. That friend got it from another friend. At this point, they felt there was little harm in sharing something that had been shared eighty billion times before. They viewed it as building karma in the community, not stealing.

The other curious thing that came about on the site was that these people were still BUYING things. many of them stating they had craft budgets of $15-20 a month to spend on patterns and other materials, and mentioned that the site increased their pattern buying, because they became a fan of this designer or that designer because they had tried out a pattern on the site. This didn't jive with what else I learned, because it didn't make sense - if you're going to buy patterns, then why bother with this crazy site and getting more patterns that you didn't need? 

Then I came upon a post by John Brownlee over at the Cult of Mac blog. And now I get it.

These folks don't appreciate the patterns that they have. Brownlee's quote here says it best: "It’s clear to me, in retrospect, that my piracy was mostly mere collecting, and like the most fetishistic of collectors, it was conducted with mindless voracity".

These folks aren't really dedicated stitches, stitching hundreds of pieces a year. They're mindlessly collecting things because they can. They know artists like Laura Aylor, Heaven and Earth Designs, Lydia Tresselt, and more are amazing, and therefore want to "admire" their work by collecting it. 

One of the funniest episodes I've ever seen that has an amazing allegory about collecting and hoarding, check out the episode from Season 4 of South Park "Trapper Keeper" (still shot above courtesy of South Park Studios).

Except they aren't really admiring or collecting, they're hoarding. They have the digital equivalent of a house on Hoarders, filled with patterns and sharing more patterns, making this monster up that they will never, ever make, never making those patterns blossom into real things. The intangible, always to stay intangible, never moving forward.

Are designers losing money due to piracy? Yes. Are they losing opportunity to sell to these folks? No. It's an important distinction. Should designers be chasing these people? Well...defending your intellectual property is important, but the amount of time and money involved in doing so can make such actions cost prohibitive. And considering that these people don't represent future opportunity, because they'll never make your pattern and convert to a paying might not be worth it. 

Stay tuned for part 2 - trying to be a genealogy pirate, part 3 - learning about book piracy, and part 4- what can be done about pattern, book, and genealogy piracy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


(Courtesy of

I start this blog post with a little trepidation. It seems all too common today to accuse people of being thieves, stealing with abandon things that are intangible, such as music, movies, patterns, photos, and data. The person is dismissed with a word, and their word is never to be trusted again. In some cases, I've seen designers so vilified by an accidental similarity that they disappear from social media, Ravelry, and other sites, never to be seen from again. In the genealogy world, angry folks spread the word about a supposed thief without any supplemental information (excepting Gustave Anjou and the Horn papers, proven frauds/forgeries), and the person is written off.

I guess this is what prompted me to ask the question - what exactly makes a person decide to take something? What makes them interested in pirating sites? Why do they do what they do, whether it be grabbing a photo without attribution, or reading a free copy of a book?

So back to that trepidation - in order to understand the people in front of me, I had to join the masses. Yes, I had to masquerade as a pirate. No eye patches, but a digital identity that could not be traced back to me somehow. Which brought up a problem - how does one exactly become a pirate without actually being a pirate?

The answer is twofold: one, share my own work, and two, share things that are out of copyright, out of license, so far out that there was no question. So for example, sharing leaflets from the late 1800s. Sharing from companies that went out of business more than 70 years ago and didn't sell their copyrights and licenses. This actually entailed a lot of work, to make sure that what I was sharing did not violate these tenets. And to share the bare minimum in order to engage the audience at the appropriate level about topics so that I could get to know them.

As I go through this series, I will share my observations from actually trying to be a thief/pirate, and what I learned about the people who are actively sharing materials without observation to copyright, trademark, or license. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

3 mistakes to help rookie genealogists to fix (and avoid heartache later)

With the exception of Homer here (courtesy of the Simpsons art archive), most of us have to live with our rookie mistakes whether at work, at home, in knitting, or in genealogy. I was having a long email conversation with a friend over the weekend, and it occurred to me that others might benefit from the same conversation.

Her question (used with permission, thanks Helen!) All I did was correct her spelling to make it easier to read:

How does one teach a beginner the basics of how not to screw up without boring them to tears, scaring them off the hobby, or driving them into the arms of and their commercial proclaiming them the loving guide to their families' genealogy?

My answer? Great question! Here are three foolproof techniques to use with beginners to capitalize on their excitement in genealogy but give them necessary tools to help them later on so these rookie mistakes don't haunt them for the rest of their genealogy life, in the context of the usual conversation I have with people.

The conversation starts: Answer their immediate question. Usually its "how do I read this?" or something of the ilk. Gain their trust. Then ask them how they know its their person. Usually this provokes a conversation about how they got their information.

Mistake 1 - Lack of documentation - Fix. Tell them to write down how they got there and save it with their person. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't even need to be paragraphs. Even a bulleted list can save them years of work later. The idea is that they start to document their work, so they realize later what they did and can save hours of re-finding effort. Later on, these documents can serve as the start of their research logs and help them in future research.

They're intrigued, and the conversation continues. If they complain about common family names, ask them if they have made a family chart. This is easy with most family tree programs and can be created. If you can, help them print it out, put it in the cover of their binder, put it on the wall, or even make it into a picture to use as the background on their computer desktop.

Mistake 2 - Mixing up generations with the same names - Fix. Getting that family chart is still the best way to keep different members of the family straight, especially when you get into the generations of the Daniels, Joshuas, Jacobs, and Matthews, where all names are Biblically based and repeat each generation. Sometimes the things that they told us to do at the beginning in 1980 are still current and valid techniques!

Basic family charts are the one thing that I still recommend printing, not only because they are pretty :-) but because they can help out in so many situations. "When was grandpa's birthday?" "What was Bill's father's name again?" "Which Daniel Graves are you talking about?" etc.

Moving beyond the basics but not quite to intermediate. At this point, people normally start telling me how they ran out of information to find online and that they're looking for more. If they get to this point, that's great! That means they are out of what I call the "beginner identity" and are starting to look for more. Start talking to them about the great events coming up in the area, or the neat new library.

Mistake 3 - Realizing Ancestry may not have the entire guide to their family history - Fix. For the love of all that is holy, do not utter the words "Oh, you can't find everything online" and start ranting about inaccuracies in family trees online. The beginner is just starting to learn and move beyond this, and you've just dismissed all their work.

What you want to do is get them excited about the things that are out there offline. Pictures! Documents! Newspapers! There's all kinds of fun in reading about their ancestor, and they can find them at libraries, document centers, etc. Genealogy is a hobby, not a lifestyle for the majority of folks, and you want to keep the message on the positive, motivating things that got yourself involved in the conversation.

Conclusion - I know this seems simple. But over and over, I've had the same conversation with people and seen the same mistakes made every time. I often stop people at meetings and at the library and say "Hey, I overheard you say ..." and launch into this after they've had someone berate them for not keeping their sources or using online sources. The relief that they feel and the thanks they have for someone helping them (but at the same time, giving them some tools to launch them into the genealogy techniques) is well worth the effort to overcome and actually talk to them. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Genealogy: How to Build a House of Citations

"Just what is the difference between the ground, the first floor, and the second floor of the genealogy citation? I don't get it."

Well I'm glad you asked. There is a lovely photo of my grandparents up there that my cousin Tammy gave me. Let's walk through the floors of citation and attribution, from the bare minimum (floor) to the best ever (roof).

The Ground: "My grandparents at their wedding. Tammy gave me a copy of this photo Uncle Martin took."

Positive: we know a little about who's in the photo and where it came from.
Negative: no identifying information, no idea who Tammy is unless you're family, and virally, it has little incentive for people copying it to contact you.

This is bare minimum that you need in order to get a citation in. But it gives us some information we didn't have before, like what it is, who has it, and someone's contact info.

The Basement: "My grandparents are their wedding in 1934. Tammy Creswell gave me a copy of this photo Uncle Martin Graves took, she can be reached at tlctc on Ancestry and I'm cfbandit on Ancestry."

Positive: we know a little about who's in the photo and can probably piece together who's talking and where it came from. Getting better with the contact info. A little more detail. Now we know who Tammy is! And we know who took the photo, to better trace copyright rules.
Negative: We still don't have a lot of info. We don't know who the people in the photo are. We're still not clear on who's talking.

The first floor: "Daniel James Graves and Louvain Needham at their wedding on 21 December 1934. Tammy Creswell (tlctc on Ancestry) gave me a copy of this photo that Uncle Martin Graves gave her permission to share. Email me at to talk about it!"

Positive: Now we're starting to get somewhere. We know who is in the photo and when this was taken. We know where to find it. We have some contact info if it starts to spread.
Negative: We're still missing some key info, like where it was taken and the formatting leaves a lot to be desired.

The second floor: "Daniel James Graves and Louvain Needham at their wedding on 21 December 1934 in Elk Point, Alberta, Canada", JPEG photo, from Tammy Creswell (tlctc on Ancestry), permission to share from Martin Graves, 1934. Email me at to talk about it!"

Positive: This is starting to look like a real citation. There's all the info we need to understand the who, what, where, and when of the photo, and who's got it now and where to talk about it.
Negative: This is really starting to look good! Really the only thing that's missing is a link to the location of the file.

The ceiling: "Online photo, "Daniel James Graves and Louvain Needham at their wedding on 21 December 1934 in Elk Point, Alberta, Canada", JPEG photo, from Tammy Creswell (tlctc on Ancestry), permission to share from Martin Graves, 1934. Email me at to talk about it!"

Positive: This is starting to look like a real citation. There's all the info we need to understand the who, what, where, and when of the photo, and who's got it now and where to talk about it. Even better, we can go to the tree and verify its existence for ourselves.
Negative: Again, starting to look good, but we have to find the photo, not directly linked to it.

The roof: "Tammy Cresswell, "Daniel James Graves and Louvain Needham at their wedding on 21 December 1934 in Elk Point, Alberta, Canada." JPEG Photo, (Online: Tammy Cresswell (tlctc),  2010),, accessed on Ancestry Tree by Concetta Phillipps on 15 April 2014. Permission to share and republish from Martin Graves, given 1934. 
Email me at to talk about it!"

Positive: This is starting to look like a real citation. There's all the info we need to understand the who, what, where, and when of the photo, and who's got it now and where to talk about it. Even better, we can go to the tree and verify its existence for ourselves. And we've got full attribution rights as listed.
Negative: These citations and attributions can get quite long and sometimes exceed the characters allowed in the Ancestry description box. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Genealogy: Is segregation okay, or should we all play in the same sandbox?

First off, why yes, the title does have strong language. I have to admit, I get pretty riled up at some of the topics going around the genealogy community as of late. See Tammy Hepps' "Is Genealogy a Hobby?" and James Tanner's "Is Genealogy a Hobby?" and several posts on Drew Smith's blog. I apologize in advance, this may get a little long.

The latest is "Hobbyists vs. Professionals". If you don't do your genealogy to at least the GPS you're not a genealogist and you're not doing genealogy. (With "Professional" standing in for anyone who does give a whit about sourcing and has some idea of attribution, copyright, and publishing, and "Hobbyist" standing in for the folks who have more fun making discoveries than documenting them).

To all the people that say they are on either side of this - I want you to go volunteer for a month to help people do their genealogy at their FHC, on GenWeb, etc. and then come back to this issue.

As someone who strongly believes in education and in the value of having a floor of knowledge, I think that we need to work harder as genealogists to bring the two camps together. On the other hand, there are always going to be some people who do not care about sourcing nor do they care about genealogy in general. They are there to do their genealogy because it was put on their list of things to do before they die. They're not doing it for the love of the puzzle, for the love of finding out the truth about their ancestry, or the joy of finding a long forgotten ancestor in a book from the 1700s.

In the above diagram, we see the three groups - the genealogy, the professionals, and the hobbyists.

A lot of folks seem to be arguing that the way things "should" work is that professionals have an exclusive hold on the genealogy world. The "hobbyists" get to dabble and should be dismissed. 

The problem with this? The cart and the horse have already left. The train's out of the station. The car is done and left the house. 

The Internet's democratizing effect happened in genealogy just like every other hobby and industry. I think some people are STILL bitter over that, and it happened 20 years ago now. So it made genealogy something that everyone can do. And now Ancestry has capitalized on this, telling everyone it is fun and easy (one of the words that should be banned from any hobby) to do genealogy:

No, I do not believe that you can point and click to your genealogy. But I do think we can help the folks who DO think this without having to get into the finer details of APA formatting and perfect citations. 

If you ask me, this is what the world of genealogy really looks like. Genealogy has equal interaction with both hobbyists and professionals. We play in the same sandbox. We NEED the professionals in order to set the bar of what the mid-ground folks aspire to. They inspire the people that grow out of being a hobbyist (perhaps, as a child) and into the professional category through education.

I wrote this on Tammy's blog, but I believe it needs saying again. We need to do three things:

1, have the experts posting in the same sandbox as everyone else but in the highest quality possible. We need people to point to for inspiration for the middle group of genealogists who want to elevate their work from hobby to excellence. 

2, expand the best education out there. Work with Rootstech, FamilySearch, Ancestry, GenWeb, etc. to help push common sense education that anyone can understand to get that genealogy isn’t about names and dates, its about history and people and life. 

3, Work to help people get the best quality information out there. Helping them get to high quality research sites, helping them get to the right experts in a niche (i.e. Judy Russell for law research, Elizabeth Shown Mills work for sourcing help, Gene Williams for criminal research, Thomas MacEntee for technology, etc.).

By pointing folks strongly at simple, easy to understand education in every form from emails to message boards to videos and articles, we can make a floor for folks to understand that at a minimum, their tree needs to say where they got their information and from whom. It may be just "Mom downloaded this" but that helps ALL of the folks in all of the camps figure out how to judge the evidence in front of them. What we could strive for is "US Census, 1880, Port Sanilac, Sanilac, Michigan" and then we can applaud them for when they make a full citation and include a link or image. 

From there, you can progressively raise the floor until it starts to get closer and closer to the ceiling of what we want to see. Folks will always be out in the fringe of that hobbyist category, but their data will start falling further and further into the fringe, and the good stuff will start to come closer to what we want to see. Folks will always be on the upper fringe of the Professional category as well, and that's okay. We need idols like them to help all of us in the middle to understand the how and the what of what we are doing. 

But we cannot help people if we are arguing constantly of what camp people are in, and how we can exclude everyone else. Multiple examples of segregation over the years have proved the system doesn't work. Education has time and time again proven that it can raise people off the floor and towards the ceiling. We need to focus everyone's efforts on making the floor, then starting to raise it so that the overall quality of genealogy in general will be as high as we want to see when the innovations of the common family tree and the common DNA tree start to converge (a topic for another day).

I doubt many people will read this article all the way through (my genealogy articles always seem to lag far behind the crafting ones in terms of reader numbers), but I hope it inspires the folks who are in a position to help influence this silly segregation and bring our genealogy community together. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph's Day - advice for Sfince di San Giuseppe for gluten free folks and a bit of history

This my friends, is a sfinge (sfince in Italiano). Flickr user Howard Wallfish shows off the colors of it nicely here, with the ricotta, orange peel, and cherry. 

My family was not exceptionally into the Italian feast holidays. I suspect is has to do with the fact that the US was not a friendly place for Italians during the WWII era and many Italian Americans outside the major strongholds like Brooklyn decided it was better to fit in and provide a good life for their children than stick with feasts and other events. 

St. Joseph's day, however, has always been a special thing for me. I always try to wear green for my grandmother on March 17 for St. Patrick and red on March 19 for my grandfather. They were always so close to each other, it only seems fitting that their respective races have their major holidays only two days apart. Even when I was 16 hours away from my extended family, it was my little way of putting a connection back together. 

Most Italian American families have traditions that go back to the Middle Ages. When there were famines in Italy, especially in Southern Italy, the poor families relied on their faith to keep going. St. Joseph is the protector of the Holy Family (for those of you non-Christians out there that's the baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and himself). So the people would pray to him to end the famine, and they would celebrate when the famine ended by celebrating and making offerings with fish, with bread, and for dessert, sfingi, using the best of the foods that were preserved for use (waste not, want not). The candied orange peel would traditionally be the last bit of the oranges that were preserved over the winter to prevent scurvy, the cherries, soaked in alcohol to preserve them, and the ricotta, the last of the whey left over from making cheese from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk.   

Now before we get into the advice about gluten free sfinge, a word.

Sfinge is NOT Zeppole. Those of you who don't like ricotta filling can just suck it. Even the bakers admit they only make zeppole for St. Joseph's Day because they have to for pitiful American palates. If you're going to gorge on this many calories, you should go for the real thing. There, now that is out of my system...

The question becomes after that, what do you do if you're gluten free, and like most Italian-Americans, making food for the St. Joseph's Day feast? 

Let's start with these:

Nichole from Gluten Free on a Shoestring has an amazing recipe for creme puffs that would give you the base recipe that you need in order to make the dough for real Sfinge. If you were being 100% traditional, you would want to fry them, but I think they're at least a little healthier if you bake them. 

Then, the next step would be filling. Let's go back to the traditional filling: ricotta, chocolate, sugar, grated or candied orange peel, and crème de cacao (though I think you can do w/o it). There you go! Gluten free Sfingi di San Giuseppe. 

If you want to admire some gorgeous Sfinge di San Giuseppe, you need to check out the blog at Pane, Burro e Marmellata.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Update: Osgood scarf

So an update on the Osgood scarf - I'm progressing through it, though its probably only about 10% done. It's looking very nice so far, I've been pleased with how enjoyable it is to knit the ribbing. The white/clay sections are the most annoying by far. I've come to decide that is because I enjoy knitting the colors much more.

For those of you working on a scarf of your own, StarCATs over at Ravelry has done an insanely excellent job of compiling the data we know and making the observations on the row counts, fringe, and edges of the scarf. If you're interested, I would recommend going over to Rav and checking out her project page which has a graphic with the row counts that is very useful.

I've mainly been working on it when my hands hurt too much to crochet toys at the tight gauge they need to be at, so I don't think its doing bad for working on it here and there.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Part 3: Here's the positive way of dealing with New Genealogists

I decided to move this column up a bit to explain the end of the series before the weekend, based on the amount of comments I received on Google+.

So what happened to David? Well, I decided to write a forum with my frustrations and see if someone else could see something that I could not. 

Name: David Ingerson 
Marriage to Almira Drake 1821 Evans Mills, Jefferson Co, New York, United States 
Kid 1 Eneas Ingerson, b. 1832 NY 
Census 1850 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 
Marriage to Elizabeth Graves 1852 
Mary J Ingerson, b. 1852 NY
Jay Eugene Ingerson, b. 1857 NY 
Census 1860 Macomb, St Lawrence, New York, United States 
Military 1864 Private, 92nd New York Infantry 
Census 1870 Forester, Sanilac, Michigan, United States 
Census 1880 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 

Death 23 April 1886 Gouverneur, St Lawrence, New York

I've updated "Super David" above in bold with things that have moved further along the proof line. What does this map from Wikipedia have to do with anything? It represents something that I hadn't previously considered - that it was easier than expected to get between New York and Michigan at the time because of the railroad. Am I farther along in providing David's full line? No, but I have significant progress and I've also impacted several other folks in this same area (Elizabeth Graves Ingerson's family, in particular).

As most of you are probably saying, this is a charming aside, but what does it have to do with anything? I use this as an episode in how working with others, even those who don't know the ESM standard for evidence and have scrapbooks of census info and other documents and have trees on Ancestry can be helpful in pointing out how to critically evaluate evidence. 

And that's what is missing from this treatment of new genealogists in the field. We are not using our opportunity to teach people critical thinking and evidence evaluation. We are in short, cutting off our own nose to spite our face. What's so frustrating is that social media offers so many opportunities to do better. In short:
1. We can go into depth and share our information with more people than ever before, thanks to blogs, online sources like, Fold3,, and many digital sources at our local libraries, like Early American Newspapers, 19th Century British Newspapers, and Heritage Quest, to name a few!
2. We can EXPLAIN in great detail the how, the when, and the why behind our decisions in making our trees. We are not limited by the length of the words that can fit on the page.
3. We can use many platforms to enhance the knowledge of folks who live even in the farthest reaches of the world.

If every genealogy blogger out there took the time to write one blog about a particular situation they faced and how they solved it, the world's knowledge base of genealogy would be greatly advanced, and for the folks that are choosing to learn about genealogy, represent a base of knowledge that could help them pick up their own critical thinking skills and be able to make the decision whether or not to add that 53,002nd person, or to walk away and work on a person in there existing tree.

In short, instead of throwing up our hands, calling them collectors and railing against what is immovable, we could give an effort to making things change, and then working on our own ability to manage what's out there. All we can control is what we do, not what THEY do.

As a result, my approach to these people has changed. Instead of sending angry rants to my genealogy buds about this, I'm trying really hard to make my approach to try and explain to people what is not correct, and then working on my own response to the issue. It is their onus whether or not they will take me up on learning why what they have is not correct. I can continue to use their research as a way to point me in a direction, but I will continue to critically evaluate every point in an ancestor's life, no matter what the source.

Part 2: The Pitfall of Vilification of New Genealogists

So in part 1 I talked about the frustration of the vilification of all new genealogists, asking folks to throw away years of work or take their work offline or follow a so-called "expert's" standard from an online forum.

I can see where that might be mystifying to many genealogists, who really don't use social media for genealogy. But I will keep going with the negative issues associated with this vilification for the moment (rest assured, tomorrow's post will conclude with some positive ways to focus) for the moment. Please bear with me.

So what's the problem with hating on the new people? #1. It teaches you to be sloppy.

Recently, I decided to write up a series of blog posts  on a couple that I've been working on for 3 years with little luck and little family interest in trying to see what happened to them, David Ingerson and Elizabeth Ann Graves.

Those blogs are still in draft mode. Why? Because I realized that I was following in this trap. I recently discovered a very small piece of information about David Ingerson online. Curious, I click on the Mundia link  given by Google and see:

See that last part? Let me zoom in for you.

Yes, that says 53,692 people in this person's tree. ::facepalm::

Now, I was about to do as most of the other online forum members would do - roll my eyes, dismiss this person's research, and assume that it was bad. What could I do? It was so frustrating! Yet I found the brain power to follow the advice in my opening pic. "Check myself before I wreck myself!" 

Here's the thing. Yes, this person's research was TERRIBLE. But it made me stop and think to evaluate MY research. So I compiled what I have affectionately dubbed "Super David" with ALL of my research put together:

“Super David” Ingerson 
Child of Jonathan Ingerson and Abigail Scofield ?
Birth 29 Apr 1801 Saratoga, Saratoga, New York, United States ?
Marriage to Almira Drake 1821 Evans Mills, Jefferson Co, New York, United States 
Kid 1 Eneas Ingerson, b. 1832 NY 
Census 1850 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 
Marriage to Elizabeth Graves 1852 
Mary J Ingerson, b. 1851 NY 
Jay Eugene Ingerson, b. 1857 NY 
Census 1860 Macomb, St Lawrence, New York, United States 
Military 1864 Private, 92nd New York Infantry 
Census 1870 Forester, Sanilac, Michigan, United States 
Death 13 May 1872 Sanilac, Sanilac, Michigan, United States ?
Census 1880 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 
Death 23 April 1886 Gouverneur, St Lawrence, New York

This compilation of facts that have been put together across multiple years of research shows the mess that Super David is in. 2 deaths, a semi-proven parentage (? standing for questionable data in this case, blogs really aren't the best place for me to pull all the sources together without writing up a full case study). 

So I dug into each fact individually, taking each piece of evidence on its face. 

And I would have probably thrown the computer out the window if I could have. Instead, I substituted my rage for knitting, and calmed right back down.

Tomorrow: the conclusion of the story, and why the world is not doomed because of all these new genealogists