Do RSS Feeds Puzzle You?

Then you need to sign up for my upcoming, free webinar – “Genealogy News at Your Fingertips: From RSS Feeds to Digital Magazine Platforms.”   I was honored to be selected to do this webinar as part of the Southern California Genealogical Society’s 2013 Jamboree Extension Series.

rss feed icon

The focus of the webinar is to guide you through the myriad of options you have for getting online genealogy news content delivered to you – with a specific emphasis on how to understand and take advantage of RSS feeds — you know, the mystery behind those orange icons you see all over the web.

It has been my experience that they are widely underused and I’d love the opportunity to explain just how great they are.  Google’s decision to kill Google Reader this summer helped make more people aware of what an RSS feed is but I think this will be a great opportunity to continue and help people understand them.

The official description for the webinar is below:

RSS feeds are powerful mechanisms for having online content delivered directly to you. With the plethora of genealogy sites available online, the information river can often seem overflowing. In this session, you will learn what RSS feeds are and how they are used, understand why they are beneficial to you as a web consumer and a web publisher, and survey the different types of RSS readers available – including the newest trends of magazine-style content delivery systems for aggregated news. Whether on your desktop or on-the-go, you can make online information work for you!

The presentation will be on Saturday, October 5th at 12pm central time. You can sign up at the SCGS website. It will be archived, but the archive is only available to SCGS members. Hope to *see* you there!

 

 

Another Successful Family Connection Thanks to Ancestry.com

Just last month I shared a successful connection story to a cousin of mine due to those Ancestry shaky leaves. Well, I’ve had another connection thanks to Ancestry and I’m so grateful!

One day when I logged online, I saw that someone had been working on my first stepfather’s family tree, Donald Garner, and the she too shared the last name. I contacted her and was pleased to know that she was indeed part of his family – a cousin.  Donald and my mother were not married long – not quite two years, but I do remember him. He also had a daughter whom would come and spend time with us from time to time.

the 4 of us in Charlotte, NC circa 1990

After Donald died, we lost connection with his family but after making contact with Donald’s cousin, who informed my stepsister that I was hoping to find her, today we became Facebook friends and had some time to catch up by phone – yeah!

picture of Donald

I am looking forward to getting to know her again and getting to know her family. :-)

Idea for Collaborative Genealogy – Easier Edit Options!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you may know that I am a huge proponent for collaborative genealogy – specifically, platforms for working on family trees and genealogical information via shared tools where multiple contributors work together.  Well, I recently stumbled across Wikipedia’s Visual Editor and it’s awesome! I have contributed to Wikipedia many times in the past, but have always abhorred having to use the Wiki markup language. However, their Visual Editor program is nice because it makes editing much more “WYSIWYG” or “what you see is what you get.”  As stated in the video below, it

..makes writing for Wikipedia like writing a paper for class or sending an email..

I am loving the Visual Editor and would love to see something like it implemented on the FamilySearch Wiki and at WeRelate. Other genealogy-based wiki’s would also benefit. I contribute to FamilySearch now as it is and they do have a visual editor option, but it works differently and I think Wikipedia’s Visual Editor approach is a great model for how FamilySearch Wiki could be improved to make it even easier for people to share what they know.

Do you contribute to FamilySearch or WeRelate? Do you think it would be great to have edits work like Wikipedia’s Visual Editor?

Those Shaky Leaves Really Work

Today has been a great day. I have been able to be in contact with a 2nd cousin of mine for a branch of my family for whom we have lost contact. And, she found me via those great Ancestry shaky leaves! Practically just like the commercial below: :-)

She shared with me that she was watching TV and an Ancestry commercial came on. She’d had a tree set up some time ago, but she’d not pursued it until the past couple of days after seeing the commercial. She logs on, checks out a leaf, and up pops my tree where she saw that I had her grand-father, Frank Robinson in it.  A few email exchanges later and we were chatting it up on the phone. And I am absolutely thrilled.  Her grandfather Frank, was a brother to my grandfather Herman, so we are 2nd cousins. Frank and Herman were the 2nd and 7th children respectively or our great-grandparents, Lewis Robinson and Lucinda Lennon Robinson.

I am hoping that from speaking with her, we can re-establish contact with some of the other family members. We’ll have to see. But at least we now have details on family my  mom hasn’t seen in close to 40 years. Yeah!  We are making plans to possibly meet in November.  Ancestry leaves FTW.  8-)

Did I Find Lovey’s Family?

Yeah – Another potential family tree revelation from a 23andMe match! A few days ago, I was looking at one of my matches family trees and noticed he had the Boston surname on his tree. Boston is a surname in my family – one of my 3rd great-grandmothers was named Lovey Boston.  To date, I don’t have a lot of information about Lovey  – she was born around 1821,  started cohabitating with Prince Walker about 1836 and they lived in Plymouth, Washington County, NC.   Lovey and Prince would go on to have at least 8 children – their son Anthony being my direct ancestor.

From 23anMe, I learned that my match (we’ll call him EW), and I share DNA of African origin. He matches my mother, my maternal uncle, and myself at the same segment.  He has a 2nd segment in common with my uncle.

EW matches me where it’s dark blue, my mom where it’s green and my uncle where it’s light blue.

EWis a descendant of David Boston and wife Elizabeth of the Free Union “Piney Woods” community of Martin & Washington counties in NC.  In fact, of EW’s ancestry, 3 of his 3rd-great-grandparents were children of David & Elizabeth. At first, I was not sure how Lovey could connect, but a cousin of EW’s (we’ll call her ER) spotted people in my Lovey Boston descendancy chart that she recognized and by looking at her tree, I could see connections more clearly. One of Lovey’s daughters was the second wife to a man named Peter Moore.  Peter Moore’s first wife, was a sister of ER’s 3rd-great-grandmothers.

I’m still working on how Lovey may fit into his family tree, but right now, my current theory is that Lovey may have been another one of David & Elizabeth’s children.  Given her approximate birth date, it makes sense for her to be positioned there generationally, and it is at about the right number of generations back for our match prediction of the 4th cousin range. If Lovey was indeed one of their children, EW and I are 4th cousins exactly.  Of course, Lovey could be a niece of David’s too. Who knows?

In fact, I found a picture of one of David & Elizabeth’s documented daughters, Elizabeth Boston Brooks on the Piney Woods Project blog. Martha would have been a grand-niece of Elizabeth’s if I figured this out correctly.

Do you think Elizabeth looks like my great-grandmother Martha?

If indeed Lovey is part of David’s family then she has quite an interesting family background.  According to the book “Disciple Assemblies of Eastern North Carolina” by William James Barber (1966), David was the founder of the Piney Woods Community.

I have much more research ahead of me! But, I am so pleased to have connected with this Boston family and their many descendants!

Anticipating the Next Generation PERSI

FindMyPast has recently announced their partnership with the Allen County Public Library to revolutionize the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)a database well known to many genealogists. PERSI is a fabulous resource in that the ACPL has, over the past 30 years, been indexing publications from genealogy society newsletters and journals.

However, as great as PERSI is, two years ago I blogged suggestions for further improving it and in general, thoughts for how the genealogy publishing industry could become more aligned with models used in science and medicine for online publishing. I am so glad to see this new partnership and believe it will be a great impetus for a start in this direction!

image from http://goo.gl/bdztj9

In my blog post, I listed several features I would love to see included in PERSI – perhaps FindMyPast can incorporate some of these elements — these included RSS feeds for each title, the ability to comment at the individual article level, the ability to share publication details via social media, and offering HTML and PDF versions of articles. Ideally, I would also like to see ways to purchase access to articles (with some older ones being provided for free).

I can anticipate that many genealogy societies may have reservations about how their content will be reflected and included in the new version of PERSI, since there are plans to include full-text content, but I would also hope that many will see this as an opportunity to be open-minded and reflect on the potential for new business models.

As it stands now, I as a user, remain highly frustrated by the publishing models of many genealogy societies and hope that this may open a path for widespread consideration. Far too few offer easy-access methods for true online subscriptions to current, much less, historical content. Do you know how inconvenient it is for me to have to send a check for print volumes, or even wait for a CD to be sent? Digital delivery is greatly needed by more genealogy societies

The Federation of Genealogical Societies would be an ideal organization to help with some of the transition so the fact that D. Joshua Taylor is FGS President and lead genealogist for FindMyPast is almost too perfect! :-)

As Curt Witcher is quoted in the FindMyPast press release

Having the ability to provide much more frequent updates and further, link index entries to serial issues, is a real game-changer…

and I eagerly anticipate seeing this come to fruition for us all to benefit even more than we have in the past!

 

 

I’m Featured on Treelines.com!

Have you used Treelines.com yet?  I would highly suggest checking it out – it’s a great site that allows you to create visually interesting stories.  I learned about the site after learning that the site developer, Tammy Hepps, had won the 2013 Rootsweb Developer Challenge.  Ever-so-ready to explore new tools, I quickly signed up for an account and created my first story – one about what sparked my interest in my Koonce ancestors.

From my early use, I knew right away that I would like this site.  Particularly, how it makes story-telling accessible.  After RootsTech’s emphasis on storytelling this year, I realized while I share information here on my blog, I wasn’t doing well in the “storytelling” aspect, so I appreciated being able to use Treelines to do so.

Then, last week, I was contacted by Tammy who asked if I’d be interested in being profiled – so of course I said yes!  You can check out the interview on the Treelines blog.

Perfect Picture for Memorial Day

My uncle Stanley Robinson passed away in July 2010.  Just 10 months later in May 2011, his mom, my grandmother Alice, also passed away. Stanley was my grandmother’s first born and they were always very close. Even though we lost them both so soon after each other, I relish in the fact that they are buried in the same cemetery – the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida.

Not only are they buried in the same cemetery, but their plots are in the same diagonal row. In the picture below, Stanley’s headstone is in the foreground, with the red flowers and if you look down the row diagonally grandma is where you see the yellow flowers. Click on the picture for a larger view.

I have been meaning to post this picture for two years and today seemed like the perfect day to do it. :-)

23andMe Match Confirms Suspected Relationship: Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a great connection I made through 23andMe with a new cousin. In that post, I talked about the match in 23andMe and why I was so excited to see her show up.  This time, I’ll share what I learned about our DNA match.

For some reason, when I viewed Cousin P in my Relative Finder, the M/P designation did not show for her.  This is the designation 23andMe uses to tell you on which side of your family your match and you are related. It only works if you have had at least one parent also tested with 23andMe. Well, both of my parents have tested and I have many other matches where the designation is shown, so I am at a loss why it didn’t show that day. Must have been a bug. It shows now though. But, on that day, my next step after realizing she is a person of interest was to find out which of my parents to which she is related.

That’s done easily enough using the Family Inheritance: Advanced feature. Doing that revealed that she is related to me (purple) and my mother (blue) on Chromosome 16. Our segment match length is 38cM.

I then wanted to compare Cousin P against my mom, and my uncle (mommy’s full brother). What was interesting here is that Cousin P hardly matches my uncle – their segment match is 6cM (green)


Since 6 cM is on the cusp of matches that might be excluded as not being significant enough to determine a match that is identical by descent vs. DNA just be identical by state. Though my mother and uncle have the same parents, if only one of them had tested, and it was the one with the small amount of matching DNA, we could have missed this match.  Lesson to be learned: try and get as many family members tested as possible. :-)

The next step is to then enter Cousin P into my spreadsheet I keep for sorting my matches. This is important to do for triangulation purposes as it allows me to see if those that match me and my family members, also match others who match us. While you can do some of this comparison on the 23andMe site, I keep the spreadsheet for better record-keeping and HIGHLY encourage everyone to do something similar if you aren’t already.

My Analysis Spreadsheet has a tab for my maternal matches, and a tab for my paternal matches. I then sort matches by Chromosome Number. My columns are Chromosome, Name, % Shared DNA, Start of Segment Match (Base Pair Position #), End of Segment Match (Base Pair Position #), Distance of Match (cM), # SNPs in common and Notes.  Below is a snapshot of my spreadsheet, the tab for my maternal matches, with the Name column removed for privacy.  As you can see, I’m not always diligent in filling it out uniformly, but I capture the essence of the info needed.

Where you see clusters of color represent cases of triangulation – cases where my matches not only match me/my family members, but other matches of mine/my family members. The purple cluster is where Cousin P lies. The first row of the cluster is Cousin P. She matches us from base pair number 11,000 – 51,000. The second two purple lines are another match of mine who I’ll call Cousin W.  Cousin W matches my mother and I from base pair number 17,000-24,000 and base pair 47,000-51,000.  Upon seeing Cousin W matching my mom and I in the same place, I then went back to 23andMe and used the Advanced Family Inheritance feature to compare all three of us — I wanted to see is Cousin P also matches Cousin W for it is possible that they wouldn’t.

I was pleased to see that all three of us match! In the figure below, the

a
The blue shows where Cousin W matches my mom; the green shows where Cousin W matches Cousin P., and the light blue shows where Cousin W matches my uncle. Sweet. Thus, I was able to color the three rows in my spreadsheet as one color and I now know that Cousin W, Cousin P, and my mother all share a common ancestor.

Now knowing this, I then took a closer look at Cousin P’s family tree – information she’d filled out in her 23andMe Profile. In the next post of the series, I’ll share I learned then!

FamilySearch’s FamilyTree: Oh How It Excites Me!

I’ve had great fun this weekend catching up with RootsTech activity. From the formal web streams, to blog posts, and videos produced by those on site, I’ve truly enjoyed it.  Among my favorite of the material I took in this weekend though was to hear the update from Ron Tanner on FamilySearch’s Family Tree.  After his talk last year on the FamilyTree, I was able to play around with it some and did like what I saw. But, the good news from this year is that FamilyTree is now open to the public and you don’t have to be an LDS member (which I’m not) to use it.  This excites me!

You want know why don’t you? The reason is because I do an extensive amount of work for others via my USGenWeb activities and have access to information about many people. To date I have indexed thousands of names from many different types of records (newspaper articles, yearbooks, wills, etc.) and sometimes I find myself looking up these people I’m indexing and/or reading about. I do post to various genweb sites and on my own personal websites/blogs but I find that I want to place this information as directly as I can into the hands of their relatives so that they can see it sooner, rather than them happening to stumble across it different places on the web. My goal is to match up this info to their families who may be looking for them.

Given my interests, I am a fan of collaborative genealogy and am in favor of the concept of a One World Tree approach — and this is exactly what FamilySearch FamilyTree is going after.

Now, I understand a “One World Tree” will never truly be a One World Tree. But, I do like the idea of one master page for a person that many people can contribute to and work on and monitor. For a long time, I’ve felt that such an approach is the best way for me to share what I come across.. My criteria for the perfect platform = free, one master record per person, lots of people in the database, and a way for changes to be pushed out to anyone “monitoring” for changes.

In the past, I’ve experimented with the following:

  • Ancestry Member Trees
    • Advantages:  large market share which equals lots of people. Putting my info there means it is probably going to eventually be seen by those interested in it. Especially with Ancesty’s record matching technology.
    • Disadvantages: the member trees are *individual* so if I have something to add, I have to create a new record for myself, attach the item and then hope it gets picked up for others to see. Or, else, I’m manually contacting others who have that person in their tree and sending them messages. Lots of work. But, this is what I have been doing up until now.
  • Geni.com
    • Advantages: None for me now. Since they changed their membership model at the end of summer in 2011
    • Disadvantages: with their membership model one cannot search their entire database of profiles unless you pay.  This is a major barrier for me as I’m seeking a free approach to sharing. It’s hard to contribut to records you can’t see. This is a barrier for many.
  • WeRelate
    • Advantages: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from WeRelate and admire what they are trying to do. Also, their partnership with the Allen County Public Library should definitely help with their longevity.
    • Disadvantages: person editing has gotten better over the years, but the wiki format will still be confusing and a barrier for many. And, though they have 2.4 million profiles in the database, when I can’t even find 5 randomly selected former North Carolina governors in the database, it tells me that there is still much room for growth and my contributions would likely not get the traction I’m seeking .
  • WikiTree 
    • Advantages: this is another company who I think is trying to do a great thing by fostering collaborative genealogy. But, I personally see no advantages to use them.
    • Disadvantages: ads appear as I navigate the site and I find them intrusively placed. I think it used to be the case that ads were only for users who are not logged in but that’s not so any more as I see them even when logged in. Also, in my test search for the same 5 NC governors, no results were found for any of them. Again, another sign that the database has more room for growth and may not be the best for my efforts.

FamilySearch Family Tree however, seems to meet all of my criteria!

  • It’s free to use.
  • They have a HUGE database of people (all 5 of those NC governors were easily located in my search).
  • Lots of people use it. It’s FamilySearch after all – a juggernaut in genealogy!
  • Each person can be “watched” and changes are emailed to you if you are watching someone
  • And, as a One World Tree concept – their goal is one record per person. Exactly what I want to be contributing to. 

Not that it’s perfect. I have some recommendations which I’ll share in a separate post, but I see myself investing my time in Family Tree for the forseeable future and promoting that for researchers with whom I interact. IMHO, I believe this is the best platform for me and my goals and thanks to FamilySearch for opening it up! :-)


Image credit: Networking from Flickr user jairoagua.