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Twitter, Amazon Alexa, GameBender, More: Thursday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, May 30, 2019

Hey y’all! The latest Inside Google & Alphabet newsletter is available at . Today’s topics include YouTube’s trending videos, Google Play, and a Throwback Thursday to Google Wave! Remember, the newsletter comes out every weekday excepting holidays and it’s free. Sign up here:


The Verge: Twitter is looking to hire a ‘master in the art of Twitter’ to become its Tweeter in Chief. “In the age of brands engaging in disturbing levels of personified intimacy with users on social media to package and sell mental illness or fashion consumption as a radical act of self-expression, Twitter itself is realizing that it needs some of the same marketing magic its platform has gifted fast food brands. streaming services, and cookie companies. That or Twitter wants its own Wendy’s chicken nugget or Instagram record-breaking egg moment.” When a pulled quote just makes you go uuuuugh.

CNET: Amazon’s new Alexa features puts added emphasis on privacy. “Privacy has become a much bigger concern for consumers and Amazon appears to be paying attention. The tech giant on Wednesday said it made it easier for users to delete their Alexa voice recordings.”

Santa Cruz Sentinel: GameBender teaches children how to code while gaming. “Instead of watching a TV show passively on the couch, children can now make changes as they watch and learn how to code, thanks to GameBender. The education startup, created by the makers of Makey Makey, will release its first gaming system Wednesday. Headquartered in Cocoa Beach, Florida, GameBender gives children the ability to make edits to characters and their actions on video games, science apps and DIY TV shows from the visual programming language nonprofit Scratch.”


KnowTechie: 7 of the smartest AI-apps I’ve used so far. Apparently a guest post, but a fun guest post. “Nowadays, there are plenty of apps that you can download at home onto your smartphone to see just how far AI has come. Not sure where to look? Here are 7 of the smartest AI-apps I’ve used so far.”


Slate: Donald Trump’s Wikipedia Entry Is a War Zone. “On July 16, 2018, Democrats, Republicans, and the media were reeling from the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki. President Donald Trump had announced before the entire world that he didn’t ‘see any reason why’ Russia would have interfered in the 2016 election, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary gathered by the intelligence community…. Wikipedia editors, meanwhile, were split over whether the summit was momentous enough to include on Donald Trump’s page, one of the site’s most contentious areas.” The headline might have given you the idea that this is one of those incendiary articles. It’s not. It’s a deep dive with an interesting look at Wikipedia’s editing mechanisms and culture.

WRAL: Many items in Rhode Island’s archives are at risk of damage. “Many items in the Rhode Island archives, including the state’s copy of the Bill of Rights, are at risk of damage because they’re kept in a building that’s not meant for preserving rare, historic documents, according to an assessment released Tuesday.”

NBC News: Did the Iranians create fake U.S. social media accounts and pose as GOP politicians?. “Starting in April 2018, a group of anonymous people created fake American social media accounts to pose as journalists, plant letters to newspapers and impersonate Republican candidates for Congress — all in an apparent effort to promote Iranian interests. Was this the work of an Iranian intelligence service? A third country? A band of pranksters?”


United States Army: CID warns Army community about social media impersonation of Soldier accounts. “U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (CID) Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU) is once again warning Soldiers and the Army community to be on the lookout for ‘social media scams’ where cybercriminals impersonate service members by using actual and fictitious information, not just for ‘trust-based relationship scams,’ also known as romance scams, but for other impersonation crimes such as sales schemes and advance fee schemes.”

India Times: Andhra Pradesh agriculture ministry site exposed Aadhaar data of farmers. “Aadhaar numbers of thousands of farmers in Andhra Pradesh have been leaked, with the state’s agriculture ministry exposing the details through an open database on its website. A French security researcher who goes by the Twitter name Elliot Alderson and @fs0c131y Twitter handle, first discovered the data breach on Tuesday.”


Wired: To Fight Deepfakes, Researchers Built a Smarter Camera. “One of the most difficult things about detecting manipulated photos, or ‘deepfakes,’ is that digital photo files aren’t coded to be tamper-evident. But researchers from New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering are starting to develop strategies that make it easier to tell if a photo has been altered, opening up a potential new front in the war on fakery.”

SecurityWeek: Research Shows Twitter Manipulation in Weeks Before EU Elections. “This is an age of large scale political social engineering through social media, both by advertising and the presentation of misleading data. International social engineering became frontpage news with the 2016 US presidential elections, but has not abated since. Researchers with the Sherpa project analyzed the use of social media as a recommendation system — specifically Twitter — ahead of the European elections in May 2019.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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Ancestry® Announces 94 New and Updated Communities For People of African American and Afro-Caribbean Descent, Delivering More Historical Context Than Ever Before

With family history research there is always more to discover, and at Ancestry® we are relentless in our commitment to bring new products, insights and updates to you, our members, to empower your journey. Aiding in the uniquely challenging journey of discovery for people of African heritage, today we released 94 new and updated AncestryDNA® Read More

The post Ancestry® Announces 94 New and Updated Communities For People of African American and Afro-Caribbean Descent, Delivering More Historical Context Than Ever Before appeared first on Ancestry Blog.

Serfin’ U.S.A. with Benjamin Franklin

Yesterday I examined the facts and logic of a recent USA Today opinion essay, “Killing the Electoral College Means Rural Americans Would Be Serfs” by Trent England. I found them unconvincing.

The portions of the essay that invoke history are more alarmist and equally slipshod. England writes:

…history shows that city dwellers have a nasty habit of taking advantage of their country cousins. Greeks enslaved whole masses of rural people, known as helots. Medieval Europe had feudalism. The Russians had their serfs.

That’s laughable, and not just because this conception of world history appears to be confined to the western half of Eurasia.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the overwhelming proportion of people in all large societies worked in agriculture. Cities were relatively small. Urban elites didn’t just head out to the countryside and enslave the people they found there. Rather, local strongmen forced the bulk of their neighbors to work the fields for them in exchange for protection. Only over time did elite families take urban dwellings as well, and only later did urban traders turn themselves into country aristocrats.

Notably, England doesn’t discuss the U.S. of A.’s own history of enslaving and oppressing people to make them work on agricultural production. In the ante-bellum period and then in the Jim Crow era, the Electoral College preserved the power of the local elites who maintained and benefited from that exploitation. Nobody looking at U.S. history should think that the Electoral College system has protected the rural Americans who actually did the work.

“The idea that every vote should count equally is attractive,” England writes. Yes, that’s why his state of Oklahoma and every other counts votes equally for local elections. I have yet to see proponents of the national Electoral College demand a similar system for their own states. The U.S. Supreme Court has even ruled that state and local elections must be based on the principle of “one person, one vote.”

England goes on:

But a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin famously reminds us that democracy can be “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.” (City dwellers who think that meat comes from the grocery store might not understand why this is such a big problem for the lamb.)

England snidely suggests that “city dwellers” don’t know where meat comes from, but really he destroys his claim to speak for rural America by treating “two wolves and a lamb” as the norm.

There are more than 5,000,000 sheep in America and fewer than 25,000 wolves. Lambs would be well off in a “one animal, one vote” democracy where sheep could easily outvote wolves. The only time wolves outnumber sheep is when they maneuver to create that situation for their own advantage. Likewise, politicians worried about losing fair votes manipulate electoral districts (gerrymandering) or cling to an old imbalanced system (the Electoral College).

Franklin never made that mistake about wolves and sheep because Franklin never said what England quotes him as saying. The line appears nowhere in the Franklin Papers at Founders Online. Wikiquote not only notes that lack of a credible source but also how the word “lunch” appeared well after Franklin’s lifetime. England’s phrase “a quote often attributed to” hints that he recognized how unreliable this attribution was but decided to use it anyway because it served his purposes.

Likewise, the present Electoral College system continues to serve the purposes of some Americans, so they’ll use any argument to make it appear to be fair, logical, or beneficial. But those arguments melt on scrutiny.

Human pigmentation mega-study

A great new study on the genetics of human (including African) pigmentation. I would love to see a future study that would reconstruct what ancestral modern humans looked like pigmentation-wise, as this trait is tightly correlated with sun exposure (and thus latitude), and may thus pinpoint a narrow latitudinal zone where ancestral modern humans may have lived.

From a related story:

The most dramatic discovery concerned a gene known as MFSD12. Two mutations that decrease expression of this gene were found in high frequencies in people with the darkest skin. These variants arose about a half-million years ago, suggesting that human ancestors before that time may have had moderately dark skin, rather than the deep black hue created today by these mutations.

Science 12 Oct 2017: eaan8433 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8433

Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations

Nicholas G. Crawford et al.

Despite the wide range of skin pigmentation in humans, little is known about its genetic basis in global populations. Examining ethnically diverse African genomes, we identify variants in or near SLC24A5, MFSD12, DDB1, TMEM138, OCA2 and HERC2 that are significantly associated with skin pigmentation. Genetic evidence indicates that the light pigmentation variant at SLC24A5 was introduced into East Africa by gene flow from non-Africans. At all other loci, variants associated with dark pigmentation in Africans are identical by descent in southern Asian and Australo-Melanesian populations. Functional analyses indicate that MFSD12 encodes a lysosomal protein that affects melanogenesis in zebrafish and mice, and that mutations in melanocyte-specific regulatory regions near DDB1/TMEM138 correlate with expression of UV response genes under selection in Eurasians.


Reader Query: Danish Emigration 1879 | Copenhagen to New York to Chicago

Genea-Musings reader Judi Burton asked me to post this query on Genea-Musings, in hopes that the readers can contribute more information than the editor (who had no clue):

Danish Emigration 1879 | Copenhagen to New York to Chicago

I am researching information on HOW a Danish immigrant would have traveled from Castle Garden, New York to Chicago, Illinois in 1879. 

My grandmother [age 22] arrived in New York with some family members in November 1879 on the Ship Thingvalla, according to the passenger list.  Her travel record does include destination: Chicago. 
I am not able to find a direct link from Castle Garden, New York to Chicago.  Here is the emigration information:
How did they get from New York City to Chicago?

Hopefully, someone may have information or a similar story.  

Judi Burton Design 
cell | 832 687 9898


NOTE:  Please respond directly to Judi if you have suggestions or information.  I will pass comments to this post, or emails I receive about it, to Judi.

If you have a Query you would like answered by me and/or Genea-Musings readers, please email me with the query at  I will post them as time permits.  The blog space available is virtually unlimited!

Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the “Comments” link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at

Genealogy News Bytes – 21 May 2019

Some of the genealogy news items across my desktop the last four days include:

1)  News Articles:

Ancestry® Surpasses 15 Million Members in its DNA Network, Powering Unparalleled Connections and Insights

3)  Genealogy Education – Webinars:

 GeneaWebinars Calendar

*  Upcoming Family Tree Webinar – Tuesday, 21 May, 5 p.m. PDT:  Valid and Unsound Assumptions: What Was She Thinking?, by Jeanne Bloom

*  Upcoming Family Tree Webinar – Wednesday, 22 May, 11 a.m. PDT:  Google Drive: an Office in the Cloud, by DearMYRTLE and Russ Worthington

*  Upcoming Family Tree Webinar – Friday, 24 May, 11 a.m. PDT:  Compiling a Military Service Record, by Craig R. Scott

4)  Genealogy Education – Podcasts:

*  Fisher’s Top Tips Podcast:  #72: What Will Happen to Your Stuff?

*  Research Like a Pro Podcast:  RLP 45 – Three Reasons to Revisit Your Research

5)  Genealogy Videos:

*  DearMYRTLE YouTube:  What is “Art Glitter Glue?”
*  Family History Fanatics YouTube:  Your DNA Can Help Law Enforcement – A Segment of DNA
*  DNA Family Trees YouTube:  What’s New This Week on Ancestry?
*  Genealogy TV YouTube:  Find A Grave – Top 5 Tips

8)  Did you miss the last Genealogy News Bytes – 17 May 2019?


Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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EU Elections, Baidu, Fake News, More: Friday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, May 17, 2019

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European Interest: Votul Meu: A new tool lunched in Romania. “The Center for the Study of Democracy in Romania has launched the independent vote matching tool, Votul Meu, ahead of the European elections. The interactive tool aims to match political preferences between parties and potential voters for the European elections, based on political parties’ campaign messages.”


Washington Post: White House declines to back Christchurch call to stamp out online extremism amid free speech concerns. “The United States broke with 18 governments and five top American tech firms Wednesday by declining to endorse a New Zealand-led effort to curb extremism online, a response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques that killed 51. White House officials said free-speech concerns prevented them from formally signing onto the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online. But it was another example of the United States standing at odds to some its closest allies.”

Reuters: Baidu swings to net loss for first time since listing, shares fall. “Chinese search engine operator Baidu Inc booked its first quarterly loss since at listing in 2005 and forecast quarterly revenue below market estimates, saying a ‘challenging marketing environment’ is sapping income from advertisers.”

The Moscow Times: Russia to Set Up ‘Fake News Database’. “Alexander Zharov’s regulatory agency, known by the acronym Roskomnadzor, has successfully blocked LinkedIn in Russia and is currently engaged in a yearlong battle to ban access to the popular Telegram messaging app. Roskomnadzor has also ordered news websites to delete content under a Russian law that bans ‘blatant disrespect’ toward the authorities.”


Make Tech Easier: How to Create a Useful Daily Digest List with Google Assistant. “On its own, Google Assistant has an incredible amount of features that make your life more functional, but when you pair it with other programs, you increase its value exponentially. And that’s what we’re going to do here, provide those who are just a bit scattered with an even better way to make sure we accomplish those tasks.”


Stuff NZ: Online advertising: NZ Government spends millions with Facebook, Google and other social media platforms. “Government departments have invested hundreds of millions in advertising on social media platforms in the past five years in order to reach the precise and captive audiences offered only in those online spaces. However, the ethics of public bodies capitalising on the algorithmic models offered by the likes of Facebook and Google is being called into question in a post-Christchurch terror attack world.”

Huffington Post: Bureau Of Land Management Scrubs Stewardship Language From News Releases . “The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that oversees more than 245 million acres of public land, has stripped its conservation-focused mission statement from agency news releases.”

The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy: “So You Want to Build a Digital Archive?” A Dialogue on Critical Digital Humanities Graduate Pedagogy. “This article presents conversations between an Assistant Professor and graduate student as they negotiate various methods and approaches to designing a digital archive. The authors describe their processes for deciding to develop a digital archive of street art in Kathmandu, Nepal through an anticolonial, feminist perspective that highlights community knowledge-making practices while also leveraging the affordances of digital representation. Written in the style of a dialogue, this article illustrates the various tensions and negotiations that interdisciplinary student-instructor teams may encounter when deciding how to design a digital archive through critical frameworks.”


The Verge: AI translation boosted eBay sales more than 10 percent. “We often hear that artificial intelligence is important for economic growth, and while that claim makes intuitive sense, there isn’t a lot of hard data to back it up. A recent study from economists at MIT and Washington University in St. Louis offers some proof, though, showing how AI tools boost trade by allowing sellers to cross the language barrier.”

Ars Technica: No, someone hasn’t cracked the code of the mysterious Voynich manuscript. “There are so many competing theories about what the Voynich manuscript is—most likely a compendium of herbal remedies and astrological readings, based on the bits reliably decoded thus far—and so many claims to have deciphered the text, that it’s practically its own subfield of medieval studies. Both professional and amateur cryptographers (including codebreakers in both World Wars) have pored over the text, hoping to crack the puzzle.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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Merry Christmas

NGS Announces Tom Jones Documentation Book at #NGS2017GEN

Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas W. JonesToday marks the opening of the 2017 National Genealogical Society Conference. At the conference NGS is announcing Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas W. Jones. Tom is considered one of the top educators in the genealogical community. He is a PhD, Certified Genealogist, Certified Genealogical Lecturer, Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, Fellow of the National Genealogical Society, and Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association. He is the author of Mastering Genealogical Proof, another in the NGS Special Topics Series.

According to NGS, “Mastering Genealogical Documentation teaches genealogists how to describe and cite their sources—including sources for which no model citation exists. … In this new step-by-step guidebook, Dr. Thomas W. Jones provides a foundation in the principles, logic, and decisions that underpin genealogical documentation. Exercises are provided at the end of each chapter (with answers at the back of the book) to reinforce concepts and provide opportunities for practice.”

You can order the book in the store on the NGS website.

It’s true that I’m prejudiced (I volunteer for the NGS), but I’m genuinely excited to get this book. I’ve attended Tom’s lectures on documentation at national institutes and they have been most helpful.

Speaking of the NGS Conference, it’s not too late to attend. You can register onsite. For more information, visit the National Genealogical Society Conference website.

Monday Genea-Pourri – 13 May 2019

Here are the highlights of my family history and genealogy related activities over the past week:

1)  Moderated the Chula Vista Genealogical Society Research Group on Wednesday with 12 in attendance.  Discussed my Forever experience, including my YouTube movies, the “Who Do You Think You Are?” show to be on NBC this year (when?), Finnish and Danish records on MyHeritage, and the SDGS meeting.  In the second hour, the attendees discussed their research challenges and successes.

2)  Attended the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting on Saturday.  In the first session, Anne Turhollow presented “Putting Flesh on the Bones: Newspaper Research.”  In the second second, I moderated one of the 13 Group discussion tables; mine was on “Colonial New England.”  There were four others in the group.  I provided an updated 4 page handout for reference purposes.  After the session, I talked for 15 minutes with Jenny Lynn, my Forever ambassador, who encouraged me to sign up for a Storage plan on Forever.

3)  I signed up for a Free 2 gb Storage plan on Forever on Saturday afternoon.  My movies were there, and I made several albums for my photographs, and I added photos to the Charles Auble Family album, and captioned them.  I may sign up later for the 10 gB plan so that future digitized movies and many more family photos can be added to my Forever account.

4)  I signed up for the 100 gB Google Drive plan because I was maxed out on the Free Google Drive plan.  On Saturday night, I added 30 gB of my Genealogy files to Google Drive.  

6)  Wrote and posted a biography of 6th great-grandfather #454 Johann Leonhard Nachbar (1698-1766) of Germany and New Jersey for my 52 Ancestors post on Friday.  

7)  Watched one DNA Central Webinar – “So You Wanna Be a Search Angel” by McKell KeeneyExcellent webinar (behind paywall), with description of tools to solve adoption and other thorny problems, and a cast study. 

8)  Participated in today’s Mondays With Myrt on Zoom (which will go on YouTube later).  Today’s webinar discussed Pat Kuhn’s granddaughter’s wedding, Hilary’s nephew’s wedding in England, an article about genealogy blogs in an English magazine, use of social media vs. blogs, and why fewer people are blogging; use of YouTube; the 150th anniversary of the “golden spike” on transcontinental railroad in Utah; Liv highlighted the Oslo 1798 interactive video; use of Flickr to store photos; I showed my 2014 Flickr album of Myrt’s RootsTech after-party.

9) There were several sessions working in the RootsMagic software program to update FamilySearch Family Tree profiles for Seaver families and other ancestral families, with occasional additions to the RootsMagic profiles. I have matched 30,855 of my RootsMagic persons with FSFT.

10)  I continue to use Web Hints and Record Matches from Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast and FamilySearch to add content and sources to my RootsMagic profiles.  I now have 53,610 persons in my RootsMagic file, and 104,627 source citations.   I TreeShared once this week updating 111 profiles, and I resolved about 763 Ancestry Hints.  I’ve fallen behind on the Ancestry Record Hints with 109,839 to be resolved, but I work on them weekly.

11) Wrote 18 Genea-Musings blog posts last week, of which one was a press release.  The most popular post last week was 
Where Are the Morris County, New Jersey Probate Records in the Family History Library Catalog – UPDATED with over 505 views.


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Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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