Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vetting Family Trees's interactive family tree database is a nice idea in principle but full of landmines. Researchers make the worst connections, sometimes connecting people born over a hundred years apart and merging children of different families.

I had an email query seeking more information about a listing in my Carr database at Rootsweb for Thomas Story who married Margaret Carr 25 October 1739 in New Jersey.

My information was from this source:
Title: Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey Vol22
Author: William Nelson
Call Number: F133.N42
This book contains the marriage records of New Jersey.
Bibliographic Information: Nelson, William. Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey Vol.22. The Press Pringitn and Publishing Co. New Jersey. 1900.

(Links below are for those with Ancestry memberships.)

I really had nothing but a marriage record, so to find more info on Thomas Story, I tried Ancestry's main search engine, which took me to a matching listing in their family tree collection. It showed Thomas Story and Margaret Carr, both born in 1722, with a daughter Elizabeth Story born 1746 died 13 May 1807 in Cranbury, NJ (Middlesex Co). Elizabeth married William Covenhoven, born 2 March 1742 died 9 May 1803 in Monmouth Co NJ. The database lists a bunch of kids, but Elizabeth, Margaret and Anne, born 1764, 1766, and 1770, respectively, seem most promising as their children.

The Ancestry collection is fraught with perils, though, so caution is warranted. The same database that shows Thomas Story born in 1722 says he died in 1873 (at the impressive age of 152) and that he had a second marriage to a Margaret Storie who died in 1873 in Scotland. Also, Elizabeth's children include both Covenhovens and Conovers for some reason. I picked the Covenhoven girls born in the 1760s (listed above) as likely offspring, but there were also children listed who were born in the 1780s, not to mention a bunch of Conover children.

People make odd connections in that database, so pick through it for possible clues and don't accept the data at face value. You'll have to vet your sources. Proceed carefully.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Time Covers Intellipedia, A-Space

Time magazine has an article in its current issue that praises Intellipedia and looks down its nose at A-Space, two of the more innovative tools of the US Intelligence Community. Wikipedia for Spies: The CIA Discovers Web 2.0 overemphasizes the value of Intellipedia, IMHO, and underplays the true importance of A-Space, the Facebook for intelligence analysts. Both are quite important as collaboration tools and could each rock the foundations of intelligence analysis, but A-Space is the greater revolution and offers the bigger potential for fundamental change.

Friday, March 20, 2009

GPS Tom-Tomfoolery

My wife and I recently stayed at the Marriott Towne Place Suites hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania. This comfortable and convenient hotel is situated on the extended property of a major shopping mall, causing all sorts of problems for today's GPS devices. People use GPS devices to find hotels when they're traveling to unfamiliar places, but sometimes these new gizmos take them on a wild ride to nowhere. Luckily I knew where I was going, so I had the opportunity to just play along with dearest Tom Tom. He's led me astray before, so I've learned to relax and enjoy the insanity.

Here's a map of where the hotel is, at least according to Google Maps. You'll note that the marker points to the entrance of Millcreek Mall, while the hotel is in the far northwest corner of the shopping center lot near Zimmerly Road and I-79.

View Larger Map

On this recent trip, Tom Tom took us off I-79 North at Interchange Road and told us to make a right turn. We should have entered directly into the mall at that point, but so be it. As soon as we made the turn, it began trying to figure out how to get us back to that entrance, suggesting a U-turn on a divided highway, then directing us to make our way over poorly paved roads to get back to the divided highway and make an impossible left turn across the divider on a four-lane highway.

We could laugh because I was familiar with the area, but others weren't so lucky. There was a state wrestling competition in town that weekend, so parents with their children were packed in vans and driving across the state and only wanted to get to the hotel and rest for the next day's festivities. And they were also being directed hither and yon by their GPS devices. The clerk at the hotel apologized for what has become a familiar struggle for her customers. The man in line behind me had a slew of wrestlers and family members, all frustrated at the last leg of their journey to this hotel.

So, what's the story here? GPS looks at an address by marking the entrance from a public roadway. Private lands are unfamiliar territory to Tom Tom. If the hotel is deep in private lands, the hotel gets an address based on the nearby road -- in this case Interchange Road -- and the devil is in the details.

Some day the mapping coordinates for these places will be added to the software. But for now you should expect to drive aimlessly about unfamiliar lands on occasion. You can mitigate your frustrations by going the extra step of looking at the satellite imagery of your destination to see if the lay of the land meshes with what Google and Tom Tom have labeled as the final point of your journey.

My daughter successfully overcame this sort of Tom-Tomfoolery the other day while going to visit our sick cat at Sayrebrook Veterinary Hospital in Sayreville, NJ. She happened to recall my blog article some months ago on how very far off the GPS was on the hospital's actual location, so she was undeterred when she was directed at least a mile off course. Somehow Google Maps thinks that 1400 Main Street is 990 Main Street. You can see the hospital in Google Map's street view below. Then look at the street view at bottom to see the jungle where Google Maps and Tom Tom sent my daughter.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Web 2.0 Videos

Here's some videos related to Web 2.0

Web 2.0 - An Intro in 5 Minutes

Web 2.0

Business and the Future of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 Filter Failure

US Intelligence and Web 2.0 - Intellipedia and A-Space

Web 2.0 Collaboration Using Wikis Instead of Email

Web 3.0

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Old Phones, Encore Une Fois

I wrote a blog post back in December discussing the problems of doing research in old phone numbers. I heard from the manager of, who read my post and decided to take on the challenge of determining the location associated with old area codes, exchanges, and/or phone numbers. He added a search engine to his site allowing research into old area codes and exchanges.

Here's how his database works:

If you search the New Jersey area code 201, the search result suggests that the area code could now be 551, 908, 732, 848, 973, or 862. My first phone number in the Matawan area in 1978 had the area code and exchange 201-566. Scott's database suggests four places I might have lived, including Matawan.

Using a New York example, a 212-549 number from the Bronx in the 1970s would now be 718-549. The database results yield five possibilities, most in Manhattan but one in the Bronx.

A search of the oldest area codes for Boston (617), New Jersey (201), Maryland (301), and NYC (212) can yield up to half a dozen possible current locations, but more recent iterations like 908-566 can narrow the search significantly.

What is still lacking is a chronological aspect to the data. I would hope that eventually a search of the area code/exchange 212-549 could be paired with the year 1985 to yield the location Bronx, NY and 201-566 in 1979 could result in the location Matawan, NJ. Or a search of 201 area code might generate a list of the area codes it spawned and when those area codes came into existence. Another challenge?

Monday, February 16, 2009

2009 Anniversaries - Follow Up

As a follow up to my blog article on 2009 anniversaries, I should point out a few anniversaries that I missed at the time.
  • 50th anniversary of the Day the Music Died. While the anniversary, strictly speaking, memorializes the day Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash, some say that it was the beginning of the end of early rock and roll.
  • 50th anniversary of statehood for Hawaii.
  • 50th anniversary of statehood for Alaska.
  • 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.
  • 25th anniversary of overcoming the Orwellian destiny foretold in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Or did we?

Darkness Shall Not Prevail

It seems that life has allocated this week as a time to be reminded of the dark underbelly of the Internet. A friend wrote this week, for example, to advise me that he'd gone through the early stages of getting a Facebook account but got scared off by all the privacy warnings FB put before him during the registration process. He thought he remembered that I have such an account and he just wanted me to know that he'd decided against signing up. I guess we won't be friending one another anytime soon.

Then today I got an email from some folks who've written an article about Wiki hoaxes against the rich and famous. They characterize cyber criminal activity as "blunders" that make Wiki less reliable, less trustworthy. And they are quick to advise the reader that professors don't allow you to quote Wiki because it is so rife with errors. They thought I'd like to share that message with you.

I advocate for FB and Wiki because I believe these technologies advance civilization. I'm sure it is somehow helpful to be reminded of their weaknesses, but such cannot be the whole message. Who is edified by that?