A Whiteboard Animation for the TNGenWeb Project

I’m a huge fan of the work that is done by the CommonCraft team – Lee and Sachi.  For several years now, they’ve blessed the internetz with fabulous explanation videos. As their tagline says – their product is “explanation.”  Their whiteboard animation process really sparked a movement and we now see these types of videos popping up all over the place.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to learn how to do videos like they do, and I’ve finally had a chance to learn as yesterday I started reading their book, The Art of Explanation. In the book, they describe their approach, provide concrete examples of how they develop their videos, and I found it all quite interesting.  So, I decided to give it a try. :-)

Using VideoScribe, I was able to put together my first attempt at an explainer video today – this one is for the Who’s Who in TN website I created for the TNGenWeb Project.  The site has had fabulous coverage in the genealogy community and I continue to try and think of ways to further express how it can help a family researcher.  I may be biased, but I think the video helps get the point across. :-)

There are a couple of minor things in the video I wish I could have figured out how to correct, but, overall, I’m pleased with how it’s turned out and I have decided to let it be.

Take a look and let me know what you think. I just may have to upgrade to the Pro version of VideoScribe so I can refine the video and create more of them.  How fun!  Wouldn’t it be great to see more of these types of videos used to promote genealogy resources! Make it even more interesting for all?


Photo credit: https://exploreb2b.com/articles/5-reasons-your-brand-needs-an-explainer-video

Place Pinning My Genealogy Books

Genealogy is all about location right? Well, what better way to map out the coverage of my genealogy book collection than to try and use Pinterest’s new Place Pins feature announced earlier this week. While, I could of course, use Google Maps to do this, Pinterest has a strong visual component that I believe makes it more appealing than creating a custom Google Map.

The Place Pins feature allows you to assign a specific geographic location to any of your Pinterest pins. For my 1st test case, I knew right away what I would use for my experiment. You see, I have a fascination with the books published by Arcadia Publishing – especially their Images of America and Black America Series. The books in the series emphasize pictures to help tell the stories of many locales around the country.  In the past few months I’ve decided to start collecting them and have been planning to make a more concerted effort to keep better track of the ones I have.  Since the books are location-specific, a map makes perfect sense.

This afternoon I created a new board and began pinning my books. Here is my new map! Click on the picture to visit the live version. 

As my collection continues to grow, I will keep adding pins. And, I also have plans for additional boards that could make good use of map, including a series of blog posts I’ll be doing focused on places I’ve lived throughout my childhood.

Let me tell you what I like about the new feature:

  • I appreciate that the map automatically includes the full geographic region covered by my pins.
  • The pinning process is easy — though it did take me a couple of tries to realize that I’m supposed to enter the pin description before I actually upload the pin
  • as you rollover a number on the map, the corresponding pin is highlighted; and vice-versa

What could be improved?

  • when more than one pin is in the same city, the overall map you doesn’t show multiple numbers if zoomed out to far, only one number
  • it would be nice if the map zoom function would work by mouse scroll (like Google Maps)
  • The feature leverages FourSquare maps, so locations have to be in the FourSquare database; that could potentially be limiting. Perhaps there could be some integration of Google Maps

I’m going to have fun with this. Thanks to the Pinterest team for adding the ability to do this!  Interested in other ways genealogists are using the new feature? Here are just a few other examples I’ve seen in the geneasphere so far:

I would enjoy seeing other’s pin maps, so if you have one, let me know!

New Cousin Connection x 2!

I love it when I have cousin connections! My most recent one has come via Facebook.  Earlier this week, I received a Facebook friend request from (whom I’ll call JS).  I looked at his profile and noticed we had three mutual friends in common.  Two of the mutual friends were cousins of my father.  The 3rd mutual cousin was a cousin of my mothers.

So, I friended JS and sent a message inquiring how he knew my father’s cousins. He replied that his wife was related to them – thus, his wife was my cousin.  Of course I was happy about that. But then, he asked me how I knew our 3rd mutual friend and told me that she was his cousin. Wait? His cousin was my mom’s cousin? After further discussion, I learned that indeed, we were both cousins to each other!

Therefore, I gained two cousins for the price of one! I am related to him AND his wife. Crazy right?  Our relationship is as follows:

  • JS’s great-grandfather, David Elijah Walker, was a brother to my mother’s grandmother, Martha Jane (Walker) McNair.
  • JS’s wife’s grandfather, Samuel Valentine Lawhorn, was a brother to my father’s grandfather, William Lahworn.

And today, JS started sending me family pictures. I’m so tickled. :-)

Hattie Godrey Walker, on far right, was married to my great-grandmother’s sister-in-law. Hattie was married to Mattie’s brother David.

Using Evernote and Trello

Approximately 18 months ago I started using Evernote; that is, seriously using it. It took me awhile to jump on the bandwagon because I am a Google Drive user and I found GDrive to be meeting my needs. At the same time though, I wanted to make sure I knew how to use Evernote and use it well.

I am happy to say that the experiment has been quite successful! I use Evernote now religiously for capturing all notes at work. The ability to search past notes had been a value for sure. I also use it for our homeschooling and extra educational activities for the kids. And of course, I use it for my genealogy. I have many notebook stacks that help me keep my material organized, and I appreciate being able to access it from the web as well as all my computing devices. When Evernote added automatic syncing across devices, it made life all the easier! Next year, I may look more closely into the Penultimate feature and explore using a stylus, but my concern with that is having a mix of handwritten vs. typed notes. Not sure I want the two to mix. The Smart Notebook also intrigues me.

Trello – example board

During my time with Evernote I have had an increasing need for more complex project management and while bulleted lists and checklists are great, I have found myself wanting more. More visual ways to see what I have coming up to do, and better ways to keep track of when I did them.

I have tried using several different “to-do list” apps but not stuck with them for I have not been able to establish a flow. I have now decided to look into Trello for my project management needs as it looks more sophisticated than some of what I have tried. I already have an account and have started to list my projects. I am excited by the potential and really hopes that it does work for me as well as Evernote has. I will post later and let you know how it turns out. :-)

If you are using it I would love to hear your feedback.

I’m Featured in A Major Genealogical Magazine


This is so cool – I’m featured in the cover article of a national genealogy magazine – FGS Forum!  FORUM is a publication of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and in their latest issue one of my projects for the TNGenWeb is highlighted. The article is based on an interview I did with Thomas MacEntee for Hack Genealogy where I discuss how I’ve used WordPress to build an site that houses hundreds of biographical profiles of individuals with Tennessee connections. Learn more over on the TNGenWeb blog.

Then, on top of that, as I continued to read through the rest of the issue, I saw that in her article “Blogging Tutorials and Resources,” Amy Coffin includes a nice summary of my WordPress webinar series I did last year with DearMyrtle and mentions my Using WordPress page (which has links to the webinar series). Thanks Amy for the inclusion!

I am really pleased to be able to share this project, and that Amy has shared my WordPress learning resources. I love using technology for my hobbies, and hopefully, others can learn from some of what I’m doing and sharing. I’m tickled pink about being all in this issue :-)

AAHGS 2013 National Conference – Day 2

Had another great day at the Annual Conference of the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society today! This morning I did my 2nd presentation – one that discusses the potential of using WordPress for genealogy.  If you know me, you know I love WordPress, so I was more than pleased to spend the time sharing it with attendees and answering many questions.  I have uploaded my slides and my handout for your reference if interested.

After my presentation the family and I attended the lunch session and had the opportunity to hear Ms. Ashley Bouknight speak. She is the Assistant Curator at the Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson, and gave a presentation about the former enslaved persons of the estate and what is known about them.  Some very interesting information. I visited the Hermitage in January with the kids and learned a lot then. I still have some follow-up I want to do about one of the former enslaved in particular, so I’ll need to reach out to Ashley!

Ashely discusses the Hermitage

Lunch was a serving of crusted salmon, chicken, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Quite tasty.

yummy lunch

meeting Marsha – she too has family connections to Craven County NC!

The conference planning was done in large part by our Nashville AAHGS Chapter officers Chajuan and Pamela. They did a wonderful job and were acknowledged for their efforts by AAHGS President Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis.  They definitely deserved it!

Chajuan and Pamela receive much deserved acknowledgement

And, look who had her picture taken with Mrs. Carrie Gentry!  Mrs. Gentry is celebrating a birthday tomorrow and Kaleya’s is Wednesday.  Everyone sang happy birthday to Mrs. Gentry and Tamela asked everyone to also wish Kaleya a happy birthday – how kind!

I had such a great time overall. As my first genealogy conference I really enjoyed getting to meet everyone. Perhaps next year I will actually be able to go and attend sessions!  Thanks everyone. :-)

AAHGS 2013 National Conference – Day 1

Today has been a great day – I attended my 1st genealogy conference! Well, my first physical attendance at one. I’ve been doing my family history research for about 8-9 years now and have not had the fortune of ever attending a conference in person. My family and work schedule is quite demanding so I don’t often get away. :-)

But, the 34th National Conference of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society is being held here in Nashville this weekend and I have two presentations on the roster.

Today, I presented on using RSS Feeds for Genealogy – and it was a great turnout! There were lots of great questions – and, I know the material was new for a lot of the attendees so I tried diligently to be as explicit as I could be in defining RSS feeds, how they work, and how you can use a feed reader to cull information from multiple sources online.  My slides are available below (note – if you can’t see the embedded document, click here).  I also have a handout you can download.

RSS Feeds for Genealogy: News & Information Brought Directly To You by Taneya

I also had the opportunity to meet several people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know from online blogging and that was surreal! Renate, Shelly, Nicka, Angela, & Toni – it was so nice to meet you all!

Taneya, Shelly & Renate

Toni, Angela, Nicka & Taneya

And, on top of that, I even met a DNA cousin to BOTH Kalonj and I. Margie has DNA matches to both of us so we are double special. :-) Margie and I still have work to do to see if we can find our common connections, but the hunt is most of the fun now isn’t it! Notably – Nicka is also a DNA cousin to Kalonji.

Margie & Taneya

All in all, a great few hours this afternoon. I’m headed back tomorrow to present about using WordPress for Genealogy and I am very much looking forward to that session as well.

How to Get on Genealogy Roadshow (Or Not)


Last night, PBS aired the 1st episode of their new series, “Genealogy Roadshow.”  The first episode is now online for viewing if you missed it. The first episode was filmed here in my hometown of Nashville, TN and my husband and I actually auditioned for the show, though we didn’t end up making it on. Throughout the favorable response I’ve seen online since the show aired, I thought I would share our experience as it may shed some light on the process. Of course, others may have insight too!

Being Approached

Back in April, I received an email from one of the show producers who found me through my blogging.  She introduced the premise of the show and asked if I would be interested in submitting a genealogical case for the show. I was flattered and thought it would be cool so contacted her for more info.

The Genealogical Mystery

From the very outset, the show casting calls made it clear that they were interested in solving genealogical mysteries – particularly ones that were compelling. I get it of course – it’s a television show after all! I don’t happen to have any big “mysteries” in my family tree that I felt would be particularly newsworthy, but there were a couple in Kalonji’s.  We presented two different stories – 1) seeking the father of Kalonji’s bi-racial great-grandfather Champ McClellan and 2) investigating the potential that one of Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmothers was related to Meriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark.  The producer asked me several questions about the family tree – wanting details, dates, and names for these people.  Easy enough to do since I keep all of our family tree data online on our website.

The Audition

Within a week or two, Kalonji and I were doing a video audition for the show via Skype! That was way cool. The producer recorded us telling our stories and why were were interested in seeking out the answers to these genealogical mysteries. With lots of prompting to be animated (remember, this is television) :-). I guess they wanted to make sure they had people who were interesting to see and not going to be deadpan throughout filming. Can’t blame them for that! Our video was then shared with show producers.

Genealogist Contact

A week or so after the audition, I was then contacted by a professional genealogist who was hired to investigate. By this point, it became quite apparent to me that Genealogy Roadshow was interested in pursuing the Meriweather Lewis connection as all her questions were about this story.  We spoke for about 20 minutes while she confirmed the details she’s received from the show and I sent her the link to our family tree website.  Great!

Filming

Belmont Mansion

The Nashville episode of the show was filmed here in town on June 30th at the Belmont Mansion.  Unfortunately, we were not selected for the show but I never received confirmation one way or another until I just never heard from them by the time filming started. I guess this was just miscommunication from the show producers, which honestly left me a bit disappointed, but I’ll chalk it up to the way things work in television. Social media was all abuzz the day of filming about them being in town.

After filming, the show producers confirmed that I should be getting a packet of what research they did compile – they explained that they were not able to find enough prior to the show. So, I am hopeful that in that research there may be things that even I didn’t know.  As for being on the show – “c’est la vie” – it wasn’t meant to be, However, in these past few weeks as the show has been nearing air date, I had become increasingly excited about it and seeing the stories of those that did make it onto the show. I was able to watch it online last night and thoroughly enjoyed it! I am very much looking forward to seeing the rest as well. I am truly excited for all those that did learn more about the mystery stories in their families. :-)