Technology

Our Very Own MTGS Genealogy Roadshow

This weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to present as part of a special programming event of the Middle Tennessee Genealogy Society. We had a session yesterday afternoon loosely based on the concept of a roadshow/roundtable. Our session featured 4 major concepts; presenters were at 4 tables covering the following subjects:

  • Computers in Genealogy
  • Beginning Genealogy
  • Reliable Research Records
  • DNA

Attendees then moved from station to station (30 minutes each) during our meeting time. I was asked to co-present on the Reliable Research Records topic. However, the evening before the event I was asked if I could do the Computers in Genealogy session due to the planned presenters’ illnesses. As I love technology, I was happy to do i!t Given the short notice, I pondered on what I’d present – I decided I would just share some of the ways I use not just computers, but technology in general, to further my genealogy workflows and research. I came up with a list of 10 examples to share. 

  1. Genealogy Software – talked about the use of programs like RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, and Family Tree Maker for electronic management of your family tree. I personally use RootsMagic as part of my genealogy workflow, but there are many, many other options out there! I am especially a fan of RootsMagic’s integration with both FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees. 
  2. Genealogy File Organization – this year, I became serious about organizing my digital files. I set up what I like to refer to as my own “personal genealogy archive” and organize my material by format within three main divisions – my own family, my husband’s family, and our combined family. Again, there are multiple options. Anyone looking for tips and additional suggestions should check out The Organized Genealogist Facebook group. 
  3. Writing on Digital Photos – As part of my organization plan, I now regularly add descriptions/captions to each of my digital photos by editing the IPTC metadata. This allows my captions to stay with the digital photo even when shared with others. Alison Taylor has great information on her website about what this process can entail. I also personally use XnViewMP software to do my metadata editing (hat tip to Tony Hanson of the Dallas Genealogical Society for the software suggestion – see YouTube video). 
  4. Using the Cloud – I use Google Drive to store all of my files. The benefit of using cloud storage is that I’m not dependent upon any one particular device – I can access my files from any device with an internet connection. This flexibility has been important to me for many years now so I’m grateful for the software platforms that allow me to do it. I even save my RootsMagic database in Google Drive. There are other services of course, like Dropbox, but I’m a Google fangirl 🙂
  5. Push Notifications – you know those buttons you see on websites that say “sign up for email updates”? – I use those liberally! I love the idea of information coming directly to my inbox, rather than me having to remember to go to the site to see what’s new. I personally have a LOT of sites I monitor, so Feedly, with its aggregation service, is great for collecting this new info for me so that it is ready for me when I want it. 
  6. Genealogy Blogging – I’ve been blogging since 2008 and thoroughly enjoy it. It is a great way to document my research progress and to share my findings. With the way blog posts are readily picked up by search engines, posts also serve as great cousin bait. I’ve had many instances of relatives finding me via the information I’ve shared online here in my blog – from pictures to family stories, and more. I personally prefer WordPress as my platform of choice, but there are others, like Google’s Blogger
  7. Digital Notebooks – I’ve always been a copious note-taker and I love that I’m able to do so digitally through EverNote. Through EverNote, I can capture notes, pictures, and all kinds of other info electronically with 24/7 access to it across multiple devices. The hierarchy options are helpful for organizing information. The Evernote Genealogists Facebook group is a helpful resource for tips/suggestions. 
  8. Cemetery ResearchFind-A-Grave and BillionGraves are both sites I use often. I have their mobile apps installed on my phone so that I can take advantage of options such as adding pictures to memorials while in the cemetery (Find-A-Grave) or uploading all the pictures I take in a cemetery for automatic geomapping (BillionGraves). Love them both!
  9. Scanning Photos – from wand scanners, flatbed scanners, and mobile scanners such as the Flip-Pal, there are many ways to scan a photo to create a digital file. My favorite scanner? My cell phone. And with the availability of apps like Google’s PhotoScan, I maximize the quality of the images I take. 
  10. StoryTelling/Oral Histories – StoryCorps has established quite the legacy for the many stories they help people capture around the country. On my wishlist to try at my next family reunion is their mobile app which makes it easy to record stories of your family members. I’ll certainly share my experiences with it in a future blog post. 

Overall, the session went well and we had a great turnout! Many questions were asked by participants and I enjoyed speaking and learning from others also. Check out the Technology for Genealogy Facebook group for more discussion and information. 

My next speaking event is a local family reunion in October, so until then!


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My Genealogy Software Workflow

Back in 2015, I started the Genealogy Do-Over process. It was an opportune time to revisit my research & documentation procedures as it had been about 10 years since I’d started doing genealogy. At this time, I used it as a way to begin ensuring that I recorded my family tree info in FamilySearch Family Tree. In that blog post, I describe how I would use a combination of TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building, RootsMagic, and FamilySearch Family Tree.

That process has gone well! About 18 months ago, I created a video update to share specifics of how I use the 3 platforms in tandem and to give insight into my process. And, it is a process I continue to use. But, I’ve recently made a change.

For years I had  trees on Ancestry but I did not spend time caring for them or updating them with any regularity. Now that RootsMagic has the ability to sync with Ancestry Member Trees, I will be updating those trees on a regular basis too. With the recent release of RootsMagic’s Ancestry Tree Share, I am now integrating Ancestry Member Trees into my documentation & sharing process and over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken some time to consider what processes to be most efficient.  It’s funny because last year while giving a presentation about online collaborative family trees, an audience member stopped me and asked: “So you do everything in triplicate?” To which I answered “Yes.”  – Wait ’til I tell him I now do everything in quadruplicate! 🙂  Because yes, now that RootsMagic has the sync with Ancestry, edits I make on my family tree are done 4 times over.

I thus decided to do this blog post to document what I do and why I do it, in the case that others find it helpful! So, here is a graphic representation of my genealogy software workflow.

Quick Overview:  My online TNG-based website is my primary software, then I also edit my RootsMagic database. Then I sync from RootsMagic to FamilySearch Family Tree and then sync to Ancestry Member Trees. This is now what I do for any person on which I am working. Here are some highlights of what I do with each/why I use each.

TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy SiteBuilding

  • This is my primary database. I make all edits here first.
  • TNG offers some unique features and the fact that it is online is advantageous for easy sharing with my family and for cousin bait.
  • My TNG records have links to the corresponding FamilySearch Family Tree profile.

RootsMagic

  • I use this primarily because I can sync to FamilySearch Family Tree
  • My RootsMagic databases are stored in my Google Drive account, which means I can update my databases from any computer on which I have RootsMagic installed
  • I usually tend not to link media to my RootsMagic databases as this is one part of the software that I find a bit cumbersome.

FamilySearch Family Tree

  • I use because I am a believer in the shared collaborative model for genealogy research, so the open edit model is one that I gladly welcome.
  • I use FamilySearch Tree formatting for sources; I enter my sources here then copy and paste the citation into my TNG database and sync that citation to my RootsMagic database
  • I love the apps!
  • I do not sync living people yet; I’m waiting for FamilySearch Family Tree to develop better collaborative tools for profiles of living people.

Ancestry Member Trees

  • Because of Ancestry’s market share, having my family tree here gives it lots of exposure and opportunities to establish connections with others
  • I do not sync sources & media from RootsMagic; I do it natively in Ancestry Member Trees
  • I sync both living and deceased people because living people do stay private.

So, you can see – even though I use all 4, my most “complete” record is my online TNG database as it has my facts, events, media, and sources. But, syncing with FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees, allows me to get my research and findings more broadly disseminated. To make another note, because I do work in quadruplicate, I do not do genealogy “on the go.” I only work on my family tree when I have access to my laptop/desktop and can spend dedicated time and ensure I can make my updates in all 4 places. This means I can be purposeful and careful as I analyze what I am finding. I should plan another video update to show my process again 🙂

 

 

Related to President Harry Truman?

Hat tip to DearMyrtle who shared news of Ancestry’s new app – We’re Related. The announcement stated that the app tells you what famous people you are related to – currently there are about 2,000 famous people in the database. Well, a very quick download later, the app told me I am related to President Harry Truman — what!!! 

So, I look to see why they are suggesting him and the connection comes up my Koonce lineage through one of my 3rd great-grandmothers, Isariah Wood. We know from family oral history that her father may have been a white man. Her death certificate says her father’s name was Lewis Waters. One of my cousins has been actively researching this line and if the “Lewis Waters” named on Isariah’s death certificate is the same white Lewis Waters that is related to President Truman then I just may be related to President Truman after all. 

This warrants further investigation because of course, because this is all based on user family tree data – and the records people attach – but how interesting! I must do some research and if this bears out the potential. If so, I may have to plan some targeted DNA studies. Stay tuned!

My WordPress Article Published in FGS Forum

Yay! I’ve got another article published in FGS Forum on using WordPress for genealogical society websites. If you are an FGS member or subscribe to the journal, be sure to go check it out! 

In the article, I’ve focused on providing real-life examples of how I’ve used WordPress across the many USGenWeb websites I’ve worked on/with over the years. One example I provide in the article is the use of the TablePress plugin to create indexes.  On my Blount County TNGenWeb site I use this plugin to post an index of more than 28,000 obituaries published in local papers from 1867-1920. 

If you are interested in learning more about WordPress, I also encourage you to sign up for the next FGS Webinar – “WordPress for Societies: No Blogging Required” to be presented by Rory Cathcart.  The webinar will be presented July 22nd at 8pm EDT. Visit the FGS Voice Blog for more details.

Sneak Peek of New FamilySearch Pilot Tool

I have to share this cool news! For the TNGenWeb project I’ve done a blog post about a new beta version of a tool that FamilySearch is making available. The new tool (once it is out of beta) will make it easy to index their image-only collections “on-demand,” as well as creating an opportunity for online data collections to be indexed in FamilySearch.  You have to check out the blog post! I’ve also done a short video demo (using Google Hangouts on Air) to show how it’s used.

Learn more at http://tngenweb.org/blog/familysearch-pilot-indexing-extension/.

 

 

Lessons Learned from my 1st Google Hangout On Air

I am so pleased to share that yesterday I held my very first Google Hangout on Air! I presented a webinar demonstrating how to contribute to an indexing initiative for student newspapers of historically black colleges and universities on behalf of my local chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.  If you happen to be interested in this topic, please check out our page and view the webinar. But, I wanted to focus this blog post on my overall experience using Hangout on Air as a platform.

Making the Decision: I’ve done several webinars over the past few years; all have been done with GoToWebinar. However, as I began to consider hosting more webinars myself, I knew I wanted to try and leverage Google Hangouts on Air (HOA). When DearMyrtle starting using it as her preferred platform of choice, I particularly paid attention. A long-time fan, and even participant, of her webinars, it did not go unnoticed by me when she made the switch to HOAs; I’ve observed that she’s had great success since she started using it about 18 months ago. She’s been a great inspiration for me as I decided I would finally learn how to use HOA effectively. The benefits of using HOA as a platform are exactly as Myrt describes in one of her early experimentation HOAs – there are no “attendance” limits, the session is automatically archived on YouTube for later viewing, and it is FREE to use. It really doesn’t get much better than that does it?

Learning HOA: I have to admit, even as technically savvy as I consider myself to be, I found (an am still finding) the process of learning how to run HOA’s less than straightforward. The information on how to run them seems to be fragmented across personal blog posts and websites. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time Googling for information.  To that end, there are some that have businesses around teaching HOAs, a prominent one being Ronnie Bincer, whom I learned about from DearMyrtle. I have not yet subscribed to his materials, but with the free information he has, plus others, I pieced together enough information to get a basic understanding.  I have also practiced HOAs with friends.

Day Zero: So, the big day came and all went well! I don’t have time in this post to describe everything fully, but let me highlight what I feel were my biggest successes, and what I feel were my biggest challenges.

  • Successes#1: it worked! Just the fact that I managed to carry it off was a big win. I was able to switch back and forth effectively between the PowerPoint presentation and the internet browser. It took a lot of practice and troubleshooting, but it worked. #2 – we have viewers! We had about 10 people watching live and since then we are up to more than 50 views. While I did some publicity before the event, I didn’t do as much as I wanted. I will be doing more though because the webinar was on a project that is ongoing. #3 – I am happy with the outcome. The session went so very well! And, I am especially pleased to have the archived version on YouTube.
  • Challenges#1 My checklist was incomplete. There are SO MANY STEPS to take into account to get set up effectively and while I had a partial checklist, I need to make sure I do a complete and extensive checklist as there were things I just forgot to do. And having your checklist as part of timeline countdown to going live is important too.  #2 Comments – I failed at getting the viewer comments integrated into the HOA Control Room. So, I had to keep manually checking all the places could leave comments as I was doing the session. #3 Screen Resolution – when sharing my PowerPoint file and my internet browser, the screen resolution for the viewer was definitely less than optimal. I still haven’t figured out how I will correct this. The typical information you hear about HOAs is that it is important to be on a wired internet connection instead of a wireless connection. I tested two different high quality wired connection options and neither one improved the screen resolution to what I would have preferred. I will be doing more investigation. #4 – I am still not ready for JOINers – this webinar was screen share only; I still have to work my way up to having people join in as presenters.

Overall though, it was a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to doing more. You can definitely stay tuned as I make that happen. I am eager though because I see so much potential for more use of this for genealogical organizations and societies.

Have you used HOAs yet for your genealogy gatherings? Please comment if you have – I’d love to know about your experiences too.

 

 

 

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

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.

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!

 

 

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.