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

Lossie Attended Winston-Salem State University

While indexing some old issues of Winston-Salem State University’s yearbooks tonight for the NCGenWeb Yearbook Index, I found another relative!

Lossie’s 1946 graduation photo

This time, I found Lossie Viola McNair (1923-2008).  Lossie is a member of the 1946 graduating class and the yearbook shows that her nickname was “Mae.”    Later on in the yearbook, in the “Who’s Who” section, it’s noted that she aids a Kindergarten classroom.  And, as it turns out, she did indeed become a teacher.  :-)  

How is Lossie related to me? She is the half-sister of my 2nd-great grandfather, Abraham McNair.   She was the daughter of Andrew D.  McNair & Bennie Slade.   Bennie was Andrew’s 2nd wife; I’m descended from Andrew and his first wife, Gracy Bullock. 

I love finding these little nuggets of info! 

Coordinating a 1940 Census Indexing Group

When the 1940 US Community Census Project was announced, I wondered if I’d even take the time to participate.  However, I quickly realized this would be a great opportunity to become more familiar with the FamilySearch Indexing software and give back at the same time.  Soon after signing up, I decided to go ahead and coordinate an indexing group on behalf of the TNGenWeb

I wondered if people would sign up, and sure enough they did! While I would have been happy with just a handful, we had more than 50 people sign up to index and arbitrate for the TNGenWeb. Wow. 

I’ve blogged about our group’s efforts on the TNGenWeb blog and am hopeful we can keep the volunteers engaged as we move on to additional indexing projects, both with FamilySearch and internal to the TNGenWeb. I am so happy to have been part of this effort :-). 

Additions to my Genealogy Collection

If I never felt like a genealogist, boy, I sure do now! It all started simply enough.  An email from my friend Kay Lynn, who volunteers with me in the NCGenWeb project:

…while cleaning out and going thru all my genealogy books I came upon a few Washington County cemeteries that were surveyed in 1936.. would you be interested in these? 

I maintain the Washington County, NCGenWeb page and I of course had to take her up on the offer! Then, as we exchanged emails, it turned out she had some other Washington County items as well.  Since Kay Lynn only lives about 20 minutes away from me, I decided to just go up and visit yesterday. 

And what a pleasant visit we had.  Her land has a few buildings on it, so she has a vehicle to get around. Here are Jihad and Kaleya with her “mule” as she calls it :-). 

Kay Lynn was cleaning out her research room of material that she doesn’t use often for the sites she maintains. It was my lucky day that she had things relevant for counties that I work on or contribute to for both NC and the  TNGenWeb Project. Thus, I came home with waaaaay more than I knew I was going to get! :-)

And, I had to clear out space on my bookshelves for it – see the one that’s just about empty 2nd from the right? This is to be their new home.

The collection of material includes:

  • Onslow County, North Carolina marriage records 1764-1867 by Frances T. Ingmire (1983)
  • Onslow County, North Carolina 1860 Census – compiled by Michael Whaley & Bob Jenkins in 1989
  • Onslow County, North Carolina Voter Registration Records: 1902, 1904, 1906, 1908 – by Delmas D. Haskett, Jo Ann Galloway & Helen Moore Sammons (1995)
  • Abstracts of Land Entries, Onslow County, NC 1778-1796 and Jones County, NC 1795-1797 – by Dr. A. B. Pruitt (1990)
  • Onslow County, North Carolina Cemetery Records – an 11 volume set compiled and indexed by Michael Whaley in 1996
  • Washington County Genealogical Society Newsletters & Quarterlies from their very first issue in March 1990 – November 1994 
  • Transcripts of Washington County North Carolina Marriages from “Index to  Marriages, Vol. 1″ 1851-1872 published in 1993
  • Washington County 1850 US Census
  • the above-stated 1936 Survey of a few Washington County cemeteries
  • “Family Findings” – monthly newsletter of the Mid-West TN Genealogical Society from their very first issue in April 1969-1992!
  • quarterly publication of the Middle TN Genealogical Society from 1988-1997
  • “Ansearchin” News – publication of the TN Genealogical Society, 1989-1991
  • 2 big binders of records from a funeral home in Lauderdale County, TN that cover 1923-1986 and 1989-1991

Of this list, some items are already available online, some are not.  Some have copyright, some do not.  Thus, the extent of what I can put online will vary for each of them. Some are very hard to come by – for example, the Washington County Genealogical Society doesn’t even have in their own library their issues going back to the beginning. And, they’ve given me permission to put old issues online already so you can guess what’s going to happen with these!

However, in each case, no matter what I can or cannot do with them online, there is a distinct benefit to actually owning a physical copy and I am quite delirious! Look at them in their new location.

What exactly am I going to do with all my new-found bounty?

  • figure out the best way to make sure researchers in the counties these are most relevant to know that I have them so I can offer lookups
  • get at least the indexes posted online when possible
  • in a few cases, the whole document can be put online so work on that
  • digitize it all (for my own personal use if it is still under copyright)
  • catalog it all – as well as the rest of my book (physical & electronic) collection 

Thank you so much Kay Lynn! You truly made me a very happy gal.  And, of course, I still left room for anything else you may wish to pass along as you finish your cleaning. :-)  What a great start to my Memorial Day Weekend this has been.  Today is going to be equally exciting.  I’ll post about that later so stay tuned….

Made the Newspaper Today

In light of the volunteer work I do with the TNGenWeb Project. A reporter in nearby Clarksville called me earlier this week and wanted to know more about our group.  It was a great opportunity to further explain the project and our mission and I’m happy to have aided in some PR for us.  You can read more on the TNGenWeb blog

Jihad holds the article

Meanwhile, the paper’s timing was perfect! Clarksville is about 45 minutes away from me and as it happens, I travelled through there today as we took my youngest stepson back to his mom after a weekend visit. So… I stopped on the way home and found the paper in print! I don’t have to rely on just having it online – yeah!  My name, however, is spelled incorrectly. Ah well. 

 

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy – Week #3 – Free Online Genealogy Tools

With the new year, I am planning to do more blog posts for Amy Coffin’s 52 Weeks series.  This is now week #3 and the topic is “Free Online Genealogy Tools.”  Specifically,

Free online genealogy tools are like gifts from above. Which one are you most thankful for? How has it helped your family history experience?

 

My favorite free online genealogy tool is the USGenWeb Project, hands down.  When I started my genealogy research in 2006, the USGenWeb was a fundamental component of the early successes that I was able to achieve.   The Washington County, NC page contained a very comprehensive listing of deaths from the county that had been compiled by local volunteers.  Due to the extensive coverage (from 1913-1980) and the wealth of information included in the index (names of parents for example), I was able to connect many families together in my tree and obtain vital records information.  Then, as a result of gathering those details, I ordered certificates galore.

Then, because of the benefit I’d gained from the volunteer works of others, I knew I had to find a way to give back and I sought out a way to join the USGenWeb Project myself.  I started by becoming the site coordinator for Blount County, Tennessee.  Though I had no personal research connections with the area, I planned to use my proximity to the Tennessee State Library and Archives as a source of material.   Soon after, I became webmaster for the NCGenWeb, took on several counties with them (including Washington County!) and this summer, became the State Coordinator of the TNGenWeb Project.

I value the USGenWeb’s efforts because in many cases, the site coordinators just wish to provide resources to help others.  One of my fellow coordinators in the NCGenWeb, Lisa Frank,  recently wrote a fantastic blog post about the USGenWeb that is a must read.  Each county is unique and you never know what you may find — this makes it all that much more interesting to peruse.

I am extremely passionate about the mission of the USGenWeb, wish to see it continue to grow as a resource to all, and am proud to be a part of it.  I love browsing and searching pages across the site looking for tidbits about those I research.

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.