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.

Tombstone Tuesday: Domenico Aita

On Saturday afternoon, the hubby kidnapped us and decided that we were going to drive around aimlessly for awhile before getting something to eat.  Our driving led us north of Nashville and in nearby Joelton.   Well,  guess what we saw along the way? A church cemetery!   Being the good genealogist that I am, I of course felt compelled to stop and take pictures.

The church is St. Lawrence Catholic Church and as I looked at the tombstones, I saw several with Italian names.  Many of the headstones were beautifully done and dated back to the early-mid 1800s. We were at the cemetery for about 20 minutes, during which time I took about 100 photos! I’m still in the process of transcribing them all to submit to the Davidson County, TNGenWeb site, as well as Find-A-Grave.

However, I wanted to post today about one tombstone in particular – that of Domenico Aita.  There were several Aita family tombstones in the cemetery and he looks to be the progenitor?  Further research will need to be done, but I liked his headstone for it had the name of the city in which he was born – Buja, Italy.  Buja is in the Udine Province region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Domenico Aita (1869-1921) of Buja, Italy

I wonder if his family descendants know where he is buried and/or are familiar with their homeland?  I wonder if he has remaining family over in Italy?

I Created an iPhone App!

I just can’t do anything with it.

Inspired by RootsTech I finally decided to further investigate something I’ve been curious about – how to go about creating apps for Android & iPhone.   I am so not a programmer/developer but I’ve heard of programs that allow non-developers to create apps and tried a few of them.   What type of app was I going for? An app to consolidate the feeds I have listed for the NCGenWeb Project on blogs/twitter/facebook accounts relative to North Carolina genealogy – the NCGenealogy 2.0 page.

Round 1:  Android App Inventor

As much as I love Android/Google, even their App Inventor program built for non-developers is not the easiest thing to get going with.   After spending an hour trying to get set-up, I still couldn’t use it – seems I am getting an error code for something going wrong with my computer.  I may try again later.

Round 2: iSites

After reviewing a list of potential sites for app development, I created an account with iSites.  For their most basic account they offer a 30 day free trial. I had to give my credit card info for the trial.  The process to create the app is done via a nice web interface and it was easy to add to it.  It turns out though that with the basic plan, only one RSS feed can be pulled into the app.  I’m aiming for multiple feeds.  Also, despite the site saying I could preview the Android version of the app, I could not figure it out. Also, iSites apps don’t work on the iPad and since I don’t have an iPhone, I couldn’t try it in real life.

Here are some screenshots of the app I made with iSites.  It shows only the feeds from the NCGenWeb Blog.

Front page of the NCGenWeb Blog feed

one blog entry from the NCGenWeb blog

ability to post to social network

Overall, I like this, but I really needed to be able to integrate multiple feeds and I was not willing to pay the $100 or so just for playing around.  I will be canceling my iSites trial tomorrow.

Round 3: appMakr

AppMakr looked promising b/c the market their app development as free.  This is good since many other companies charge anywhere from $100-$1000 and possibly monthly hosting fees.  Their website was also easy to use – they offered many more customization options than iSites.  Also, their app for the iOS operating system also works on iPads (just have to use the 2x magnification setting).

To my joy I could also integrate multiple RSS feeds! I could also create an app icon, a welcome splash screen, a custom header, and navigation icons across the bottom of the app.  I was impressed by all the options.  At the end of the app development process, AppMakr also rates the quality of your app and tells you how likely it is to be (or not to be) accepted by the Apple Store.  All this with no charges by AppMakr.  Here are screenshots from the app I created with them:

app icon

splash screen i created

feeds from county site category. i was able to create 5 different categories.

a specific blog post. notice the topic!

sharing options

I was very pleased with this and was now ready to figure out how to test it out.  Well, turns out the part that is not free in all this is the registration with Apple in order to develop apps; $99 fee.  This is not a requirement of AppMakr, but a requirement by Apple.  Again, I was not willing to pay this just to play around.  I did like the process though — and AppMakr provides some ability to test the app interactively online – you can do so at

If I were developing an app for real, I would probably go with AppMakr.  Despite the fact that I can’t offer it for *real,* I am excited by the possibilities.  $100 and any organization/website/etc. could have an iOS app.  I do hope to further explore the Android development later on.  This is clearly a case where I could have benefited from a RootsTech class; perhaps Rob Fotheringham’s class on mobile development (TC 068)?

Any takers on creating apps like this??  As I worked through this example, a perfect example came to mind of an app I’d love to see — one for Geneabloggers.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Saturday Night Wiki Fest

Over the past few months I have been contributing to FamilySearch’s Research Wiki.  In August I did a post describing my overall & positive impressions of the site.  Essentially, it could become the Wikipedia for Genealogy if enough of us contribute to it.  FamilySearch already has an impressive number of volunteers contributing to the Indexing initiative and it would be nice to see momentum gather around the Wiki.

The Wiki team has pursued collaborations with genealogy projects and societies as one method to increase contributions.  It is in these efforts that I’ve been involved,  for all three of the state USGenWeb projects in which I participate have “adopted” the corresponding wiki sites.   The TNGenWeb, NCGenWeb and FLGenWeb have all signed on to help add resources and information.

The Wiki is easy to add to – very much “what you see is what you get” with the option to add using wiki code if you’re comfortable with that syntax.  Tonight, I focused on adding links to the North Carolina counties I either host or am temporarily taking care of – Craven,  Jones, Lenoir,  Martin,  Onslow, Wake, and Washington.  A friend of mine sent me a template she uses for county sites and after viewing it, I created an outline for myself.  Though not as easy to use as a “template,” with my outline I can get a bare bones page up in less than 30 minutes.  The pages can always be enhanced, but at least if someone lands on them it won’t be blank :-).

If you have knowledge to share about any genealogy resources, consider adding to the Wiki.  Registration is easy and you’ll be going in no time at all.  I am trying to condition myself to use it as my own personal research tool – adding links to resources as I come across them from the appropriate page. So far, there’s only one drawback — I can’t seem to login with Google Chrome and need to use Firefox instead.  Hopefully they’ll fix that issue soon!

Catching Up

Seems I have been remiss in posting here on my genealogy blog.   In the past month we have moved so I am busy with that, plus I took a little time away from genealogy to get some cross-stitching time in.

As for genealogy specifically, I did have another distant cousin find me on Facebook! I have also been making refinements and additions for a couple of projects I have for the NCGenWeb site.

Let me also mention something that I am particularly proud of – in the December 2010 issue, Family Tree Magazine includes NCGenWeb as one of their “75 Best State Websites.” I was particularly pleased to see a special mention made about our Digital Bookshelf section.   I developed this section as a way to broadly categorize digitized books by county and really hoped it would be useful to others.   I was glad to see it mentioned!

I’ll try to get back in the swing of things soon.   Meanwhile, I do continue to read other blogs which helps me stay motivated.

2010 NCGenWeb in Review

Just a quick post to share our year in review highlight on the North Carolina USGenWeb project website.  I’ve now been webmaster for almost exactly one year!  The year-in-review highlights some of the milestones in the project this year and should we continue to keep it up, would be a great way to document some of the project history.

In other USGenWeb news:

  • for the NCGenWeb I created a database of more than 17,000 college graduates throughout North Carolina that focuses on 1930 and earlier. This summer I’ll be expanding it to up to 1940.
  • I’ve started a college graduate database for TNGenWeb too – hope to have that one publicly available by summers’ end
  • I’m the new assistant county coordinator for Hillsborough County, Florida
  • I am in the process of collaborating with another county coordinator on a site that is designed to promote the USGenWeb project and leverage social networking tools and applications.

My personal family history research has been on hiatus as I’ve been dedicating more efforts to the NCGenWeb project, but I have plans to remedy this soon enough.  I’ve had some exciting leads lately that I need to get around to fully documenting and blogging about.

I’m a USGenWeb cheerleader so remember, if you have family data that you’re blogging about – consider also contributing it to the appropriate USGenWeb county.

Vacation Day 3 – Can’t Get Enough Yearbooks

After learning yesterday that the Nashville Metropolitan Archives had a strong yearbook collection, I decided to spend my afternoon there today.

I wrote to the email reference of the Archives last night and received a response that they had a print listing of the yearbooks they have available, so I requested this list upon my arrival.  They have a few hundred yearbooks from area schools & colleges.

I first wanted to look at any yearbooks they had for African-American schools.  Since their yearbook collection is established mostly via donations, they had only a few available.  I scanned the senior class listings from them so I can transcribe them for the Davidson County TNGenWeb site.  The ones I captured were  Pearl High School from 1955, 1965, 1975 and a school publication from 1942.

Then it was on to my obsession, Vanderbilt! They have many years of Vanderbilt yearbooks, so I captured the graduating classes of many years up to 1919; specifically – 1908, 1911, 1912, 1916, 1917, 1918 & 1919

All in all, a good few hours spent this afternoon!

Caption: As he feels on graduation. From the 1908 Vanderbilt University yearbook.

Vacation Day 2 – Nashville Public Library

The genealogy vacation extravaganza continues! Today I spent my time at the Nashville Public Library in their Nashville Room.  I came to realized I’d seriously underappreciated the resources in the Nashville Room for I learned today much more about their holdings.  As with yesterday, everything I gathered today will eventually go to the TNGenWeb & NCGenWeb projects to aid others doing family history research.

The reason I went to NPL was to capture digital images off of a couple of microfilm rolls I ordered years ago from the NC State Library & Archives.   In the past I’d paid to have two rolls scanned by a professional microfilm company, but I keep trying out different ways to do it myself.  Our public library has two microfilm machines hooked up to computers and this makes scanning quite easy to do.

I captured key information from:

  • Roanoke Beacon of Plymouth, NC from April – June of 1890.  This is a weekly paper.
  • Kinston Free Press of Kinston, NC from a couple of weeks in January 1910 and a couple of weeks in Aug/Sep 1910.  This is a daily paper.

One of my recreational blogs is Black Nashville History & Genealogy.  Most of the info for the site comes from the Nashville Globe, an African-American newspaper that ran in the early-mid 1900s.   Today, I captured:

  • Nashville Globe-Independent — death notices & obituaries from Jan – Jun 1960.

Then, I discovered that the public library has quite a number of yearbooks.  I’ve been in yearbook deluge lately so I had to continue and look at those.  I even had to take a picture.

yearbooks at the Nashville Public Library

Today I captured the senior class listings for:

  • Vanderbilt University – 1896, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905,
  • Ward Seminary for Young Women –  a girl’s high school.  I got the names of the 1902 seniors.
  • University of Tennessee – 1897, 1914, 1915 – these are all online already having been digitized by the University of Tennessee, but I took a few pictures anyway
  • Hume Fogg High School – 1919, 1921

I also learned that the Nashville Metro Archives has a large yearbook collection so I will need to plan a visit there one day to look at them.  Another very productive day! Unfortunately, tomorrow I need to run errands so no genealogy for me, but these past couple of days have been stellar.  I now need to start my genealogy project Works-In-Progress List so I can keep track of my status with each of these.

Ward Seminary For Young Women - 1902

Researching While On Vacation

Today was the start of my 2 week vacation and you know how I spent it? Like any true genealogist – in the library :-).  I visited the Tennessee State Library & Archives to gather information to share on the TNGenWeb & NCGenWeb sites in which I participate/ccordinate.  I also pulled a couple of obituaries for researchers who have contacted me during the past month.

I captured a lot of information today and this was the first time I really put my new handheld, portable scanner to use (see my blog post about it here) and it was great! I captured hundreds of images today between it and my camera.  I used it on books and even the microfilm reader to capture newspaper images.  I still need to learn to tweak the microfilm machine for best capture, but for my purposes, what I was able to obtain today will go a long way.

Here is an example of a capture I was able to get by using it on the microfilm machine screen.  It’s not perfect, but it is good enough for me to the abstract decedent, date of death, & cemetery info that I am planning to use.

Here is my list of what I gathered today:

  • Index pages to Blount  County Court Minutes 1795-1804, 1804-1807, and 1808-1811.   I plan to turn these pages into an online listing to assist county researchers for my Blount County TNGenWeb site.  These were compiled in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.
  • Deaths in the Maryville Enterprise newspaper (Blount County, TN) from January – June 1961.  A Blount County researcher has done an amazing job indexing obituaries from 1867-1960 so I’d like to begin to expand upon what he’s done.   Using the handheld scanner makes this a more feasible project.   Photocopies using the microfilm readers are .25 each.  My method is free.
  • Index to Martin County Madison County Circuit Court Minutes 1821-1828 – for the Madison County TNGenWeb project.
  • Davidson County Wills & Inventories 1795-1804 pt. 1 – I scanned in half of this volume so that I can submit them to the Davidson County TNGenWeb project.  These too were compiled in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration.
  • Vanderbilt University Yearbooks  for 1909, 1910, 1913, 1914, & 1915.  I am currently indexing hundreds of North Carolina yearbooks so am interested in yearbooks these days.  I want to start indexing those from the Nashville area, so what better university to start with than my new alma mater (and place of employment for the past 10 years!).   I focused on capturing the senior class members only for now.   The next school I’d like to do is Fisk so that I can get some much needed African-American representation as well.   This too will be contributed to the Davidson County TNGenWeb project.

I’ve had a busy day don’t ya think?  :-)  This is going to be great material to keep me busy for awhile, but I am trying to get back tomorrow to gather more.

Vanderbilt 1910 Girls Basketball Team - Lamar Ryals (mascot), Eleanor Richardson, Mattie Stocks, Ada Raines (Captain), Rebecca Young, & Stella Katherine Vaughn