FamilySearch Just Rocks

Tonight while going onto the FamilySearch website to look for a death certificate in TN, I saw two new collections in their list of records.  Just added today, these browsable only collections are:

These collections are amazing! Even though they cannot yet be searched, just being able to browse them is a huge gain for TN researchers.  The second collection contains a lot more.  Just look at what is offered for the county I coordinate for the TNGenWeb – Blount County.

For a couple of years now I’ve been eyeing the Blount County will records at the Tennessee State Library & Archives.  They have been transcribed by workers of the Works Project Administration and I’ve been planning to put them online.  Well, looks like I only need to create a good index now!  HOW WONDERFUL!

There are so many goodies to be found in this collection.  If you have any Tennessee research interests, you MUST check these out.   FamilySearch – keep this up! :-)

 

I’m Finally Using BillionGraves

When BillionGraves launched just prior to Memorial Day I was quite excited at its availability.  Though it was initially offered as an iOS app and I don’t have an iPhone, I enjoyed perusing the website and using what was available there.  I wrote a blog post outlining my initial impressions.  I am a power techie user and their model fits nicely within my paradigm for how I like to operate.  Well, this week, they made the Android app available and I could not wait to try it out!

Earlier this afternoon I took a trip to a nearby cemetery to see how it works.  I am in love.

Getting Ready

  • Android is notorious for all the different phone models, so the app does not work on all Android phones. I appreciated the developers taking the time to present a list of phones in their blog post that they know it works on, phones they know that it does not, and phones they were unsure about. My phone is on the “know it works on list” – yeah!
  • The download went without hitch and it was easy to login. I do wish my avatar would have downloaded when I logged into my account  - but that’s a vanity thing. :-)

Taking Pictures

I went to Calvary Cemetery – a Catholic cemetery here in Nashville.  I’ve only been here once and this was an opportunity to further explore it.  I was concerned about my GPS because my phone is awful for GPS, but this app is right on target as far as the section of the cemetery that I was in!  Here is my photo map of the pictures I took and it is an excellent tool for location purposes. The headstones marked are not exactly in place, but close enough for someone who may wish to follow-up and find them for themselves.  I like this view too because it makes it easy to remember where to pick up when I go back to the cemetery.  In fact, I’m going back in the morning and am going to try and finish this section.

The app is very easy to use. In fact, the camera on it works faster than when I use the regular camera feature on the phone. I did have a few delays between pictures at times but it could have just been my phone -it has been acting up for weeks now.  The GPS signal on my phone was strong and I was able to take around 150 pictures in about 30 minutes.  Not bad!  I had the kids with me, so purposefully did not stay long – just wanted to test it out.

Uploading Pictures

One touch upload.  Perfect! I don’t know how long it took for my pictures to upload because I did it and left my phone to charge back up and didn’t come back to my phone until about an hour later.  After the pictures are uploaded, the numbers show up on my online dashboard.  For some reason, one of the pictures was attached to the cemetery next door, so I’ll have to try and fix that.

From here, the transcription process is just like all other photos on the website after you click on the “My Photos” tab.  After having used the site for the past month, I can conclusively state that I prefer their transcription process to FindAGrave – I can move more quickly through it.

On an interesting note I see that some of my pictures have already even been transcribed by others. How cool!!!

I am very pleased with my app experience.  Thank you to BillionGraves for providing this app.  I may even go back and redo past pictures I’ve taken so I can further contribute to the site.

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.