Data Surfer

Sites you need to see

You don't have to be a genealogy maven to appreciate the recent expansion of online information available through FamilySearch, the free research service provided by the Mormon Church. Some 300 million new records have been added to the web site. These will eventually be integrated into the existing database of a few hundred million indexed names. But for now you can access them through a new "beta" search engine.

This new resource is easy to search. Just type in the ancestor's name to call up indexed data derived from birth certificates, marriage licenses, census lists and other documents. You can also refine searches by birth, death or marriage year; place of birth, death or marriage; father's or mother's name. In some cases, a digital image of the actual document will accompany the indexing.

FamilySearch intends to index all of the 3.5 billion records currently preserved on microfilm in its Salt Lake City vault. The effort will take about ten years.

Recent news of the recovery, identification and burial of an American airman missing in action over Laos in 1972 reminds us of the many men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in U.S. wars.

Last month, "in response to numerous requests for war casualty statistics and lists of war dead," the Congressional Research Service published a report which compiles hard-to-find statistics about principal wars and combat actions from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict. The data is broken out by branch of service, combat vs other types of deaths, reserve vs regular military, rank, gender, missing/presumed dead and other factors. In all a sobering, but essential, historical document.

"Covering the Decade in Magazine Covers" is the print media's answer to CNN's "The Decade in 7 Minutes". Prepared by the Magazine Publishers Association and the American Society of Magazine Editors, the former video is a two-minute survey of the Naughts as documented by 92 iconic images. You'll see many of the same events that defined the decade: terrorism, war, scandal, etc.

As the year 2009 comes to a close, The Bee has asked writers and public figures to comment on the events and trends that defined the Oh Decade in California. For many people, these past ten years are permanently scarred by big tragedies: war, hurricanes, recession, etc. That's reflected in a recent Pew Research Center survey which found only 27 percent of respondents had a positive view of the 2000s (50 percent had a negative one). Compare that to the 57 percent who liked the 1990s. By far, the most important event characterizing the decade, says the survey, are the Sept. 11 attacks (53 percent vs 16 percent for the election of Barack Obama).

If you'd like to be reminded of what happened from 2000-09, but don't have time to plow through a long chronology, check out Newsweek's "The Decade in 7 Minutes": 

December 24, 2009
Happy Holidays!


[Night view of K Street with Christmas decorations, 1947. Eugene Hepting Collection. See the Center for Sacramento History for more vintage photographs and other materials.]

beaches.jpgThe California State Library has a new exhibit, "California Calls You: The Art of Promoting the Golden State, 1870-1940." It showcases colorful posters, booklets, brochures, postcards and other materials that once promoted the state to prospective travelers and residents. The collection may be viewed at the Mead B. Kibbey Gallery, located in the rotunda outside the California History Room, Room 200, 900 N Street, Sacramento. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.

To get a flavor of the exhibit, check out the historic posters displayed on the State Library's Facebook page.



obama.jpg Today we are all witnesses to history as the first African American is sworn in as President of the United States. Timelines help us grasp the many struggles and triumphs that led to this moment. Here are just a few of the fine chronologies found on the Internet:

Looking Backward (National Museum of African American History and Culture). Starting in 1525 with African slaves who accompanied the Spanish in the New World, this detailed timeline ends with the election of Barark Obama.

Time Line of African American History, 1852-1925 (Library of Congress American Memory). This one covers the important political and legal events and includes some statistics from the decennial censuses.

African-American History Timeline (Infoplease). Beginning in 1619, this chronology of black history stretches from the early slave trade through Affirmative Action.

About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at

June 2010

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