23andMe Part 1: Kit Completed!

On July 26th, 23andMe announced a research project called Roots Into the Future.  One of my coworkers sent me the announcement and I was quite excited.  The program is giving away 10,00 free DNA kits to African-Americans so that they can enhance their database.  I quickly signed up and yesterday received my notice to go ahead an order my free kit.   They are offering both health & ancestry testing.

To my delight, the box arrived today!  Since my sister also got a free kit, I am using mine for my husband.  For years he has wanted to have a clearer understanding of his African-ancestry and we are going to keep our fingers crossed that the testing will be able to tell us more.

We’ve done his saliva sample and am sending the kit back tomorrow. Hopefully, within the next 8 weeks, we’ll have more to share.  For now, I will spend the time before then prepping and looking for others to connect with online who may be part of this initiative.

More Digitized Newspapers Coming

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced their latest round of funding today.  Included in the awards are several to institutions who participate in the National Digital Newspaper Program who will be contributing material to the Chronicling America website – yeah! more digital newspapers!

Papers included will have been published between 1836-1922 and will be added to the website beginning in mid-2012.

States that will have more papers:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
The full announcement is on the NEH website.  For a newspaper freak like me, this is great news!

Site Engagement or Big Brother-ish Stalking?

Today I learned of a website analytics software package called Woopra that is a very interesting application for sure!  The premise of it is that you install a tracking script on your site, and you are then able to view your site visitors “in real time” as they navigate around.   As a test, I set it up on the NCGenWeb site since Weepro rocks and offers a WordPress plugin.  If I were not using WordPress, like Google Analytics code, it would need to be placed on each page I wanted to track.

Upon installation, I can then log into the Dashboard where I see the number of current visitors; the number of visitors over the past several hours; find out if those visitors are just reading or potentially writing, or are idle; what pages are currently being viewed, recent search queries that landed them on the site, which sites they just left to come to NCGenWeb, and what countries they are from.  I sent out a test call to my G+ & Twitter community and had a terrific response!

Dashboard of site visitors.

There is a nifty World Map that plots visitors on the map

site visitors plotted on a map

I can see repeat activity too. Here is Visitor #47 who at the time I captured this screen shot, had visited the site 4 times within an hour.  Visitor 47 is from the Knoxville area and is a Comcast customer who uses Firefox as their web browser.

repeat visitor info

In the ultimate of coolness, I can also prompt a chat session with any specific visitor(s).  I sent out several chat requests during the test and had some fun exchanges.  This is what the chat request looks like

my initiation of a chat to a site visitor

And this is an example chat I did with Fran

chat from the user's perspective

Thanks to Fran’s retweet, I also had a brief chat with Mary who even complimented the NCGenWeb site – aww.. thanks Mary!

Mary's kind comment re NCGenWeb

Is all this cool or what?  Now, how might I use this for genealogical advantage?

Well, within the first 10 minutes of my use, I saw that one visitor was receiving a 404 message for a site they tried to access twice, so I set up a redirect from it to the new location of that page – it was one I’d missed the last time I moved things around so I was able to see that and fix it. Also, for the TNGenWeb project we are about to do a site redesign, so it may be interesting to use this as a way to survey site visitors.

There’s a lot of potential here. It is one thing to see your stats in various software packages, but completely another to see it LIVE!

Is that the ultimate in site engagement? Or is it big-brotherish?? 

My New Responsibilities with the USGenWeb Project

The month of July has gone by in a whirlwind for me due to some new responsibilities.   Effective July 1, I became the new  statewide coordinator for the Tennessee component of the USGenWeb project, the TNGenWeb!  I have been extensively involved with the NCGenWeb Project for several years now and have enjoyed every moment and when the opportunity arose to become more involved with TNGenWeb, I could not turn it down.  As State Coordinator, I’ll work with others in the project to provide what we can in free genealogical resources for your family history research.

There is a lot to do in TNGenWeb but I am excited.  For example, this weekend, we moved the whole project from one server to another so that we could take advantage of additional features.  This in turn, allowed me to finally realize my dream of converting my Blount County, TN site from regular HTML into WordPress (yeah, I’m a WordPress fanatic).

New Blount County, TNGenWeb site

Next on the agenda is to clean up some old files here and there and make sure our pages are as up to date as we can make them.   Then, we have a site redesign coming in the next few months.  If you have research interests in Tennessee, you’ll want to stay tuned!  With news such as historical Tennessee newspapers coming online with the Chronicling America website, there are many tidbits we can pass along to help keep you informed.

Do you use TNGenWeb? If so, leave me a comment about what you like & don’t like.  It will only help us make your experience better.

A Paradise for Tennessee Researchers

…is on the way!  The University of Tennessee and  the Tennessee State Library & Archives have received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historical newspapers for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America newspaper portal.

The goal of the project is to digitize 100,000 pages from 1836-1922 with representation from all three of the state’s grand divisions.  Last week, we, the members of the Advisory Board, received an update on titles that have been digitized and sent to the Library of Congress for quality review.  The first 4,000 pages are coming online soon so keep an eye out!

These are the papers that will be added arranged by county, along with the years to be digitized:

  • Bradley County — Weekly Herald (1876-1879)
  • Davidson County — Daily Nashville Patriot (1855-1861), Nashville Union & American (1853-1875)
  • Franklin County — Home Journal (1857-1880)
  • Giles County — Pulaski Citizen (1866-1880)
  • Gibson County — Milan Exchange (1874-1882)
  • Greene County — Union & American (1875-1877)
  • Hardeman County — Bolivar Bulletin (1865-1881)
  • Hamilton County – Chattanooga Daily Rebel (1862-1864), Daily Republican (1867-1869)
  • Knox County — Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig (1855-1869), Knoxville Weekly Chronicle (1870-1875)
  • Lincoln County – Fayetteville Observer (1850-1877)
  • Loudon County — Loudon Free Press (1852-1855)
  • Madison County – Whig & Tribune (1871-1876)
  • Maury County — Columbia Herald (1869-1873)
  • McMinn County — Athens Post (1857-1882)
  • Monroe County — Sweetwater Enterprise (1869-1871)
  • Montgomery County — Clarksville Weekly Chronicle (1855-1874)
  • Shelby County — Memphis Daily Appeal (1857-1876),  Public Ledger (1866-1883)
  • Sullivan County — Bristol News (1869-1882)
  • Washington County — Herald & Tribune (1871-1875)
Given title changes there may be slight alterations, and years may not always be entirely sequential, but still – this will be an incredible collection when all is said and done.  Stay tuned for more news as it develops!

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.