Microfilm Scanners at Tennessee State Library

I heart the Tennessee State Library & Archives :-)

This week they announced on their blog the new availability of two microfilm scanners attached to computers to allow for digital capture.  I was quite happy to hear the news because I have been wanting this for years now.   The Nashville Public Library has two stations that I use from time to time, but I go to TSLA more than NPL for genealogy research.  Besides, the TSLA has so many microfilm holdings just waiting to be explored and printouts cost .25cents/page.  I’ve tried to capture images using my digital camera and my wand scanner, but neither has given me the kind of results I ideally desired.

The systems in place are the ScanPro2000 machines.  They offer many features and the best way to get acquainted is to watch their YouTube video. Ultimately, you just need to know that this machine rocks! I kept telling the staff how pleased I was with it and how grateful I was to TSLA for having purchased them.

Here is my picture of the setup at TSLA

Microfilm scanning machine at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

In the few hours I used it, I captured around 250 digital images of old newspaper issues.  I was in heaven.

Since the installation is new, there are some features that are not enabled and I wonder if there are plans to?  For example, I noticed that this machine allows remote microfilm viewing.  With this feature, someone at TSLA could load microfilm and I could look at it and navigate it from home.  I would pass out if they implemented this  –give me access to a roll of microfilm that has a couple of hundred newspapers issues on it? Wow.  Maybe they will get to that?

Better yet – maybe the North Carolina State Library should get one, enable remote viewing, and then I could get to all those newspapers I’ve been longing to get my hands on!  Dick Eastman blogged about the machine last summer and by reading the comments I learned of several other libraries (including FHL in Salt Lake City) that have them, and even one that allows remote viewing overnight while their facility is closed.

I am still overjoyed.  Thank you so much TSLA.  You will definitely see me using these on a regular basis.

 

 

 

A Glimpse at BillionGraves.com

Today I learned of a new iPhone app and service called BillionGraves.com.  I don’t have an iPhone, but I am excited by the potential.  My first reaction was “oh no – we already have Find-A-Grave. Why would they compete with them?”  But, in looking at the BillionGraves site, the function is quite different and is really meant to cater to smartphone users – something that Find-A-Grave has not yet aggressively done.

Almost a year ago I blogged a wishlist for what I wanted in a potential Find-A-Grave smartphone app. And, there is already an independently developed app to access Find-A-Grave data.  From the looks of it, BillionGraves is meant to make it easy to take a picture when in a cemetery and upload it.  Find-A-Grave does not support this and the app is okay, but doesn’t quite meet my interests.

What I like about BillionGraves:

  • even w/o the app, I can go online and transcribe photos that others have uploaded. can you say crowdsourcing?  the transcription process is very easy
  • each tombstone picture can be edited by anyone. i like this though I can also see potential problems.
  • automatic GPS integration from phone coordinates.  my problem is my Samsung Fascinate phone is notorious for incorrect GPS.
  • the interface is simple – easy to click around

What could be better:

  • looks like you have to physically be in a cemetery to upload pics; can’t upload pics you already have or someone else may send you for posting
  • because the images can be edited by anyone a revision history and the ability to see who worked on a record would be nice
  • a dashboard is offered for you when you login, but no one else can see your dashboard
  • info is JUST the picture. can’t add supplemental info like you can at Find-A-Grave or link family relationships
  • search options should be enhanced to provide more refined combinations (like person + location)
  • city names are provided for cemetery info, but not the counties – major omission if you ask me. In a Search you can specify county, but if you end up on the cemetery page in another way you won’t immediately know the county
  • it’s not clear to me how they will avoid duplicate entries. this will be important to do.
  • the company does not have a social media presence? they do have a blog, but it’s not linked to the BillionGraves site — both of these issues need to be remedied soon
  • they could take a few more suggestions from my blog post aforementioned about features in incorporate :-)

This endeavor is of course new so I do expect they will continue to develop it.   However, even as is, it will be a useful complement to Find-A-Grave and I can see myself using both on a regular basis.   Very cool.

A.C. Ivory posted on his blog about it and mentioned he would post more for his Mobile Monday posts. I hope he shares his experience actually using the app in the field!

 

Tombstone Tuesday: Filling in Our Find-A-Grave Entries

Sunday afternoon I was reading Susan Petersen’s post on her Long Lost Relatives blog about how to make the most use of Find-A-Grave.  It’s a useful article and while I do most of what she discusses, as I read it, I was inspired to create the memorial for my grandmother that just passed away on Mother’s Day.

So, I went ahead and created hers, then realized I did not have memorials for her mother, nor three of her brothers – all have predeceased her.  I was busy Sunday afternoon creating them, then linking the family together.

Now, she and all her brothers are there and linked to their parents, Abraham Lincoln McNair Sr. and Martha Jane Walker McNair and each has pictures added.

I am so glad I’ve done this.   I have more family members to add of course, but it was important that I do her family cluster right away.  With her passing, all of their children have now died.

Part II – There is another part I need to add onto my original post.  I wrote this Sunday, but Monday morning when I logged onto my email I had another tombstone treasure — someone was nice enough to send me a picture of my 2nd great-grandmother’s headstone that he’d taken! This is the headstone for Polly Hood Holloway.  I was tickled pink!

 

I then went over to Find-A-Grave to see if she had a memorial and sure enough someone else had added it and an picture back in November.  See, Susan is right – you must go back to review regularly! Thank you Susan for the inspiration.

Facebook Comments

Can my friends help me out?? I have added a plugin that allows you to comment on my blog using the Facebook Comments API.

This is a short-term test and I may not keep it. But, the only way to get a feel for how it works is to have some test users.  Won’t you help?

Click on the “Comments” on the sidebar to the left to leave a comment.  (Ignore the fact that the whole comments section is flush left. I’ll figure that out later if I decide to keep it).

Found a Cousin In An Old Yearbook

I love when I come across small gems.  One of my side projects is to index names from the North Carolina college yearbooks that the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has been actively adding online.  I do this to put them in a searchable database for the NCGenWeb Project.   Along the way, I find people of interest (including the father of a work colleague) and tonight I’ve found a cousin!

I won’t put her name on the photos but check it out.

Cousin in 1947.  From her yearbook photo I see that she has the characteristic “long hair” that ran in the family due to her great-grandmother being Native American with hair down her back (as described by a descendant that knew her).   I’ve not met my cousin whose pictures are below, but she lives only 4 hours away from me and I do hope I have the chance to meet her one day.

and in 2002.

Rest in Peace Grandma

Sadly,  yesterday morning, Mother’s Day, my maternal grandmother, Alice Elizabeth McNair Robinson, passed away. She was 86 years old.   Affected by Alzheimers these past several years, she fell ill a few weeks ago from an infection and never fully recovered.  She was the last one of all her parent’s children and my last biological grandparent.

Alice is truly the inspiration for my family research.  While the grave of my father’s grandfather Barfield was my initial hook into wanting to know my family; Alice was very much my line and sinker. :-).  Alice always knew what was going on with her many family members and always kept in touch with everyone.  I was fortunate enough to have learned many details from her one day when I was in college from an oral interview I conducted and when I picked up genealogy in 2006,  my notes from that interview were the basis of my family tree.   From there, I began to actively seek out additional sources, information, and family members.

I have to share an amazing story though.  My mother often said that Grandma would find a cousin wherever she went. She was naturally outgoing, so would talk to people all the time and invariably find some connection.   Grandma passed away at 5am EST, but I had a Grandma “moment” yesterday afternoon that I undoubtedly know was her doing.

I am in DC right now on a business trip. The hotel agent who checked me in had excellent customer service skills.  I was impressed by it,  so planned on letting management know and I wanted to be sure I had her name.  I did a double-take when I saw that her last name was McNair, same as my grandmother’s maiden name!  It’s hard for me to pass up the opportunity to ask about a surname I know, so I asked her about it and it turns out her husband’s family is also from NC; as my own McNair ancestors and cousins. We spoke for awhile and she indicated that his family was related to football player Steve McNair.  I’ve heard from extended cousins that we are also, though right now I don’t know exactly how.  If true, I came all the way to DC and found a cousin – a total Grandma moment indeed.

Rest in peace Grandma. We love you and miss you and I will do my best to fill your family history shoes.

Meet George Fortman – A Brickwall Bust

George Fortman Sr. (abt. 1852 – d. unknown) is the last known patriarch of my husband’s aunt, J.  He was born in Kentucky as a slave around 1852, lived in Illinois for awhile, and his son, George Fortman Jr. (1878-1934) married Martha Sanders and had 11 children, one of whom was J’s father.  George Jr. too was born in Kentucky,  had a career with the Illinois Railroad and lived there before moving the family to Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana.  In Evansville, George Sr. worked as a janitor.

Let’s look at some curiosities regarding George Sr.’s name — it seems there is some variation in the documentation.

In the 1930 census here is at 78 years old living with George Jr. and family, but his name is George Ford here. Even more curious, it looks like the census taker made a mistake – the name originally in the surname position had a “ge” at the end and then was written over with the word “Ford.” hmm…

In another oddity, on the death certificate of George Jr.’s wife Martha, in the “father” space is the name “Forte George.”  This is very likely a reference to her father-in-law, not father.

Almost two years ago I happened across a slave narrative of a former slave named George Fortman aka Ford George aka George Ford.  This interviewee was born in Kentucky, worked for the Illinois Railroad, moved to Evansville later in life and was a janitor, and lived in the same neighborhood as J’s family.  Just how much of a coincidence could this be?  The interviewee describes life in detail living in the Caldwell County, Kentucky area.  So, I hypothesized that the two men were one and the same and began to try and collect more information to help document it but I did put it away for awhile.

Last week J emailed me to ask for help on her family tree again and as I searched, I found a tree in Ancestry Member Trees of a person who seemed to be related to her.  I sent a message right away and the next day was talking on the phone with J’s 80 years young cousin who’s been researching the family for 30 years.  The cousin (we’ll call him W), did not have much information about George Sr., but guess what he did have — him having lived in Caldwell County, Kentucky!!!!

Brickwall busted! I am fairly sure, now having had independent verification of the specific locale in Kentucky, that the two men are the same man. Besides, the name variation as I found in the records matches the name variation reported in the slave narrative and the life details are so strikingly similar.

With the info in the narrative,  3 more maternal generations and 2 paternal generations are added to the family tree.  I now feel confident enough to add it to my online tree for this family and am excited to see where this takes me.  I still plan to search for additional records of course but this is a great enhancement.

My Genea-Wish List

This week Randy’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is one I could do quite easily without a second thought.  Here’s the task:

1)  Think of the genealogy related wishes you have – what education, database, or information would make your genealogy research dreams come true?  Be specific – as many wishes as you want to list!

2)  Tell us about some of your genea-wishes in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a status or comment on Facebook.

I have one wish:

that every issue of every extant newspaper was fully name-indexed and searchable at the county level

See how easy that was? :-)

I hope genealogy database vendors are paying attention to this week’s topic – there are some excellent suggestions circulating the blogsphere!