30    Sep 20093 comments

Confucius: Only 2 million descendants

ConfuciusHappy 2560th birthday to famed Chinese philosopher Confucius, and his more than 2 million descendants. About 1,000 people attended the presentation this week of the latest revision of the family tree in his ancestral town of Qufu.

The family tree covers 43,000 pages in 80 volumes and, for the first time, women, minorities and foreigners have been included. The family genealogy has been maintained for some 2,000 years.

The Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee headed by Kong Deyong (who also heads the International Confucius Association), is supposed to revise the family tree every 60 years but political events precluded the last scheduled revision. The previously published edition was in 1937, when there were only some 600,000 descendants.

The association believes that this genealogy is a unique branch of Chinese traditional culture and that it has great value in research on anthropology, demographics, clan and genealogical studies.

Some 500 worldwide branches assisted the Hong Kong-based committe to gather information.

Also for the first time, descendants who converted to Islam are also included. They live in communities in the eastern Qinghai Province and converted in the Yuan Dynasty. During the project, branches in Shanxi and Henan provinces lost for more than 1,000 years were rediscovered.

On September 29, a 77th-generation descendant presented the family tree to the National Library of China, Taipei's National Central Library and Qufu municipal government. Qufu is the ancestral town of Confucius.

More than 40,000 overseas descendants were added; 34,000 of them from the Republic of Korea, who descend from a 54th-generation descendant who went there during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). Some 900 descendants were discovered in Taiwan, and there are also descendants in the US, UK and other countries.

This fifth revision project took 10 years to complete and cost the descendants about $1.5 million. Each new member paid an official registration fee of about 70 US cents, and their deceased members were added free. For the first time ever, the revision was funded by private donations.

The update, available in digital format, includes the name of the spouse, educational background and posts held by descendants. For female descendants, the names of their spouses will be written in smaller characters.

The inclusion of female descendants represents, says the committee, social progress and women's rights, and affected more than 200,000 Chinese women living today.

According to Confucius, individuals are a link in the chain of existence from the past to the future, and he believed that everyone should have descendants to continue the family tree. Not having children is considered inexcusable and male children were important to continue the family name.

Although this project greatly increased the numbers of descendants, others were still left out as they did not know the names of their grandfathers or present evidence to support their own family trees.

Many genealogists today will ask why DNA and genetic genealogy hasn't been used for those people. However, although the committee did accept women and minorities, it did not accept DNA evidence.

Blaine Bettinger's The Genetic Genealogist blog, included a quote from Seed Magazine's "Inheriting Confucius," indicating "Given the potential implications of genetic knowledge for long-presumed members of the family, they think it is better not to know."

However, the Beijing Institute of Genomics has a Confucius DNA Project, and descendants can submit a sample for analysis for $125.

More Resources:

Newspaper articles about the project:






Learn more about Confucianism here.

24    Sep 20091 comment

Family history: Budget cut problems

LibraryLibraries are a major source of information for genealogists and family historians. In addition to nurturing the love of books in children and young people, they provide wide-ranging sources of information and community services for all library patrons and their neighborhoods.

In fact, 10 New York City Public Library branches in three boroughs (Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island) have been open - since September 14 - for expanded hours from early morning through late night, for an average of 52.5 hours weekly. Some branches are open 8am-11pm, others from 10am-9pm. People who work during the day will now have an opportunity to access major free resources.

While New York's famed libraries - where I spent many hours from elementary school through college - are expanding hours, other libraries are either closing or - horror of horrors - giving away their books, such as this school in Massachusetts is getting rid of its books in favor of technology. Personally, I think it is short-sighted, given the fact that information recorded only a few years ago on such technology as 4-inch floppies cannot be read today, but a book printed five centuries ago can still be read. Do read the comments to this story; there were more than 500 the last time I checked.

However, for many US libraries, the economic situation has caused a major kick to the chest and reduced hours and service cuts are in the news for libraries across the United States.

Indeed, we were shocked to hear that the Free Library of Philadelphia's entire system might be closed as of October 2, 2009, unless Pennsylvania legislators reached a budget agreement.

The closure would have cancelled all programming for children and adults, InterLibrary Loan, circulation of materials, computer classes, afterschool programs and community meetings. This is serious business, not only for genealogists, but for all residents whose neighborhood libraries would close.

However, in Philadelphia, the outcome was a happy one. The Free Library's website reported on Thursday, September 17, that the Pennsylvania State Senate had passed the bill needed to avoid closings. State legislators received more than 2,000 letters (in addition to phone calls and emails) in support of the libraries.
Continue reading "Family history: Budget cut problems" »

20    Sep 20091 comment

Search Engines: Comparing the new ones

Each search engine seems to produce different results. Google, Bing, Yahoo.

I tried a quick search recently using all three. The goal of my search was Vorotinschtina, a small agricultural colony established in the 1830s, adjacent to the hamlet of Zaverezhye, about 12 miles southwest of Mogilev, Belarus.

Vorotinshtina, Belarus
53' 50" N 30'03" E
101 mi E of Minsk
Vorotinshtina [Yid], Vorotinschtina, Worotyńszczyzna [Pol], Vorotinschtina-Zaverezhye

Zaverezh'ye, Belarus
53'50" N 30'03" E
101 mi E of Minsk
Zaverezh'ye [Rus], Zaverezhye

Results for each set of results pulled items from FamilyTreeDNA.com, JewishGen, blog posts from MyHeritage Genealogy Blog and Tracing the Tribe blog, YNetNews, Jerusalem Post.


Bing produced 14 results. and did not seem to pick up on many blog posts.


Google returned 102 hits, many were duplicates, leaving 28 "real" ones, and one in Spanish.


Yahoo offered 42.

As another simple test of all three, I decided to search for myself to see what numbers each would pick up. I used "schelly talalay dardashti" as the search parameter to limit it to myself and skip mentions of cousins in both families, etc.

Bing 4,520 (but could not click on results higher than 450).
Google 7,940
Yahoo: 7,340, including Facebook

Closer to home, decided to see where and how MyHeritage.com's new Family Tree Builder 4 fared. Here are the results for "MyHeritage.com Family Tree Builder 4.0" -

Bing: 1,970
Google: 66,400
Yahoo: 17,800

Results for "MyHeritage.com" without FTB 4.0:

Bing: 88,700
Google: 2,670,000
Yahoo: 75,800

There are some other sites coming down the road, such as Yebul/Yabul and Kosmix.
Continue reading "Search Engines: Comparing the new ones" »

16    Sep 20093 comments

Family history, health history

Family Health HistoryWhy do so many people get involved with tracing their family's ancestry and roots?

Genealogists and family historians will say that there are many reasons including:

- Unraveling history's mysteries
- Learning where, how and why and how our ancestors lived
- Discovering famous ancestors
- Digging up skeletons in our closets
- Leaving our legacy to future generations
- Tracking genetic traits along with genealogy

That last point will help future generations understand their family's health history. Certain genetic conditions run in various ethnic or religious groups.

What's in your family? High cholesterol or blood pressure, heart disease or cancer, Alzeimer's or diabetes? Do you know? Have you investigated death certificates and the causes of death?

Certain genetic conditions are found frequently in different groups such as sickle cell disorder in African Americans, Tay-Sachs in Ashkenazi Jews and Cajuns and a host of other conditions. Great strides have been made in genetic testing for a long list of conditions such as: Vietnamese, thalassemia; Finns, congenital nephrosis; and Northern Europeans, cystic fibrosis.

How can you collect this information? The best way is to talk to your family at lifecycle events or at holiday gatherings. Gather information on the family's ethnicity, race and origins, health history of each branch (was there diabetes, cancer, heart disease?) and lifestyle questions (smoking, medical care, etc.)

Listed below are various online resources you can use to help answer some of these questions. When you have collected this information, bring it to your doctor or other healthcare professional. You might be referred to a genetics specialist or your doctor might advise making changes to your lifestyle and diet. Share the information with your family so they will also know of the possibility of risks.

There is also a bioethics component to this area of genealogical research. Some important questions may be: Do you really want to know about your risk or a family trait? What should you share with your family? There is more information on this component in the resource list below.

How to start

How can you start working on this important aspect of your family's health history? Family Tree Magazine's "nine steps to a family health history" may help:

- Interview family
- Find death certificates
- Search for obituaries
- Examine cemetery and funeral records
- Check mortality schedules
- Look for insurance records
- Find military service and pension records
- Research hospital and other medical records
- Learn about previous genetic testing in your family

Documents and records to search

Here's a list of record types that can help you compile this information: Cemetery records, censuses, civil registers (vital records), funeral home records, hospital records, mental institution records, military records, newspaper notices and physicians’ accounts.

A source not usually listed are historic photographs that may contain hints of a medical condition. One could look for swollen hands or legs (that could indicate possible heart disease or arthritis or a number of other conditions), drooping eyelids, differences in right and left sides of a body (perhaps indicating a past stroke or other paralysis), If you have a photo of someone that may raise questions as to the subject's health, ask a doctor to look at it.

Your ancestors' journals and diaries may also contain health information, if you are fortunate enough to have some of these to look at.

What questions to ask

What kinds of questions should you ask relatives during your interviews? An article by Barbara Krasner-Khait in Family Tree Magazine a few years ago covered just that:

- Are there any unusual traits?
- Were there miscarriages or stillbirths?
- Was anyone extremely obese or thin?
- Who suffered from major diseases?
- Did anyone have reconstructive surgery?
- Who was hospitalized, for what and how long?
- Did cousins marry cousins? (Common just a generation or two ago in some groups)
- Did anyone abuse alcohol or drugs?
- Did anyone suffer from recurring maladies, such as allergies (and to what), headaches and others?

When to ask these questions?

A good time to ask these questions is when families gather at important civil and religious holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, July 4th or others. For the past few years, the US Surgeon-General has asked the public to do this during the Thanksgiving Weekend (end of November) family gatherings.

Find the Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" online to complete and print it out to show your doctor. The internet-based tool makes it easy to record your family health history. It assembles the information and makes a family tree you can download. Your information is not kept online, but the printout gives you a health history to share with your family or your doctor.
Continue reading "Family history, health history" »

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