Getting Organized in FamilySearch Family Tree

Almost exactly one year ago, I posted about my initial excitement around being able to use FamilySearch’s Family Tree site. Here we are a year later and I am still very much a champion for the site and the model of collaborative genealogy that they are promoting. I’ve just finally gotten around to watching Ron Tanner’s 2014 RootsTech presentation about Family Tree and as usual I found it helpful and informative.  The past year has brought many changes to Family Tree and there are several upcoming features that I’m looking forward to seeing implemented.  James Tanner has a great recap on his site.  

I’m so happy with it that I’ve decided Family Tree will be a prominent part of my genealogical research preservation plan as I think about how my work and efforts will be available and shareable for others in the future.  I will actively use it to archive family photos, documents and other information. Whether it be my own family, or family of others even.  Earlier this week, my genea-colleague, George Geder, posted that he plans to use Family Tree himself moving forward to document his family history research. Kudos to him!  I do have my own website I use for documenting my family, and all the other trees I work on and I still plan to use it. However, now that Family Tree is available and it fulfills a desire I’ve had for so long for truly collaborative genealogy, I feel I must also leverage this platform.

So, this weekend, I decided to spend some time actively adding more info to my FamilySearch Family Tree profiles and make sure I had at least my direct line up to my 8 great-grandparents duly covered.  I made sure to “watch” all of their records so that I would receive notifications of any changes and I added pictures for everyone. 

My FamilySearch Family Tree Portrait Chart

Additionally, using my primary online genealogy tool, TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, I created a “source” record for Family Tree and will add it to every person for whom I have a corresponding profile. This will make it easier to track who’ve I’ve added and not added.  These are important first steps if I’m going to truly leverage Family Tree!

My Source list for Family Tree

And now that I have this done, I have a model in place as I help others add their information. For example, over the next few weeks, I am aiding Kalonji with his Intro to Africana Studies class he teaches for a local university and we’ve incorporated a family history assignment.  As I put the assignment together, I am planning to have the students register for the FamilySearch website and build a basic family tree as they work towards writing a biographical profile of one of their great-grandparents.  That’s well over 60 students to begin to engage in learning more about their past. I’m terribly excited and will post more about that experience at a later time.  

My next step is to get all of my 2nd-great grandparents similarly documented.

Have you done your chart in Family Tree yet? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

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 :-)

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. :-)

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-)

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. 

 

Come Browse My Genealogy Digital Bookshelf

Approximately two years ago, I created an online site to help me organize all the great books and resources I was finding on the Internet Archive’s website. I call it my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf. I have been posting to it sporadically, but have been using it pretty regularly as my genealogy research takes me from state to state. 

Recently, I decided to freshen-up the site and will start posting to it more regularly.   I updated the theme, and added several pictures of libraries – just to make it feel more “authentic.”    :-)

I encourage you to follow along – you never know what may turn out to be of interest.  There is an RSS Feed, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.  Visit the site – look on the right sidebar and choose. 

 

 

Mocavo’s New Yearbook Collection Not All Really Theirs?

Yesterday, Mocavo.com released a new collection of yearbooks.  I was so ecstatic to see this!  

 I enjoy looking through old yearbooks.  A couple of years ago I created a yearbook index for the NCGenWeb Project.  To date, I’ve indexed more than 30,000 names from close to 500 yearbooks.  And where did those yearbooks come from that I’ve indexed? Mostly, yearbooks digitized by the NC Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC).  The group has been very active in the past couple of years digitizing yearbooks from across the state.  The digitized yearbooks are hosted on the Internet Archive, and then also viewable on the DigitalNC website.  The 500 I’ve indexed are only a part of what they’ve done –  so, I am quite familiar with their collection.   

Thus, naturally, as I started to explore Mocavo’s yearbook collection, I began by looking to see what they had available from North Carolina (well, yesterday you could filter by state — that feature is interestingly enough missing today).

 

But then, my “inner librarian” started to get suspicious.

 

I quickly realized that many of the titles I was seeing were the same ones put on the Internet Archive by the NCDHC.  I also searched yearbooks from other states that I have listed on my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf website, and see the same – -many on that list (which are all from the Internet Archive) were also in Mocavo’s database. 

Here are the problems…

  • You wouldn’t know that the Internet Archive is the source of these yearbooks.  Mocavo’s statement on the front page of the collection is that they  (as in Mocavo) “put” the yearbooks online. There is no mention that the IA is the source for the material.
  • Each yearbook has a watermark imprint in the bottom left corner that reads “Hosted by Mocavo.”  Does this mean that Mocavo took the file and placed it on their servers? They may not have the right to do that.
  • Some of the yearbooks are still under copyright.  Their placement in the Internet Archive does not necessarily bypass that – the 1953 yearbook of Wake Forest University is just one such example.  The 1936 Kent State yearbook is another. Their copyright statements state that images and texts cannot be used without permission and/or proper citation and acknowledgement is requested.  Did Mocavo seek permission from all copyright holders before putting yearbook digital files on the Mocavo servers? 
I do not doubt that Mocavo has added their own original  yearbooks to this collection.  And, their solicitation for people to send in their yearbooks is great. However, to claim that they put all of these online, when they did not, and w/o any attribution to the Internet Archive or to the organizations/libraries that digitized the yearbooks, is something that needs to be corrected.  At the minimum, I would encourage the company to be more transparent as to the sources of the yearbooks from the Internet Archive.  Especially given the very recent post on copyright infringement on the Mocavo blog. 
I have tried to get in touch with a Mocavo reprsentative, but my contact request, email, and twitter messages have not been answered as of yet. 
I would love to hear from someone at the company about this.  I am hopeful someone can clear this up.  Perhaps they do have an agreement of sorts? I would love to know!  If not, then I hope they make some adjustments. 
Oh, and please bring back the ability to filter by state and city.  Location is paramount for genealogical research! 
Update 11/10/12 — I finally had the opportunity to exchange some emails with Mocavo about their collection.  They informed me that the yearbooks were purchased from a 3rd-party who has license agreements to provide the images.  I hope that this third party does indeed.  However,  I do still feel that the partnership with this company could have been made more transparent.  

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 :-). 

My First Ancestry 1940 Census Hint

Last week, soon after the release of the index for Delaware on the Ancestry.com website, I received my first green shaky leaf hint from the 1940 census!

The hint was for a person in my McNair family tree, Ms. Carrie Lucille McNair Griffin (1919-2004).  Carrie was a granddaughter of our family patriarch, Rufus Tannahill McNair, and  from Plymouth, NC – the homebase of the McNair family.  Before I received this hint, I did know Carrie lived in Delaware as this is where she was living when she passed. 

As I reviewed my notes, I saw that I had Carrie in the 1920 census, but I don’t have her in 1930.  Well, now, I have her in 1940 so I’ll have to go back and look for her. 

In 1940, she is living in Wilmington, Delaware, with her mom Annie Registers McNair and siblings Ellen, Gertie May, Vance, Leon, Anna Mae, & Charles.  The 1935 residence columns indicate they’d lived in the area in 1935.  Ellen worked as a nursemaid and Carrie as a bookkeeper in an accounting office. 

Annie McNair and family. 1940 Census. Wilmington, Delaware.

Now it’s off to try and fill in more of Carrie’s branch!

Statistics and the 1940 Census US Community Project Society Dashboard

This morning I was quite happy to see that the US Community Project has shared information from societies participating in the indexing on their Society Dashboard.

I am pleased that the group I’ve coordinated – the TNGenWeb Project, has placed 10th in the list of “large” societies! Our group currently has 36 members and they are all doing an awesome job.  However, my pleasure is seriously hampered by what appears to be methodological problems in how these numbers were calculated and posted.

1) the first list on the page reports the Top 10 Societies for the number of records indexed “per capita.”  Later in the page, there is another table showing the top societies for the highest number of records indexed on average. Per capita, is a measure of the average; it is not necessary to have both tables. This also holds true for the arbitration tables on the page.

2) FamilySearch is categorizing societies into “small” (less than 16 members) and “large” (16 or more members).  Thus, their tables showing highest numbers of records indexed on average is presented as two tables – one for the small societies, and one for the large societies.  However, the table shown for highest numbers of records indexed for small societies is the exact same table as the per capita list (the 1st one on the page).  This does not make sense since the “per capita” at the top (even if they really meant to have a per capita list) should include all societies, not just the small ones.  Essentially, that first list, the per capita list -is not needed; not only is it repetitive of a later table, but it omits the large societies.

3) Reporting the “average” number of records indexed assumes that when you plot the data in a histogram it has a normal distribution (which means it looks like a bell-shaped curve).  Without getting too technical, to tell someone what the “average” of the group is assumes that most people in the group are working at about the same level within a specific range, and that range is around the  middle of the data set values. I would be willing to bet that of all the thousands of indexers participating in this effort, we are not all working at the same productivity level.  There are probably many indexers who are transcribing very high numbers of names, and many, many more who are indexing far fewer.  This could produce a data set that is skewed (therefore NOT on a bell-shape curve).

Here is the curve for the 35 indexers from our group who have indexed records (one person has not) as of 4pm CST today:

What this graph shows is that there are many indexers who have transcribed less than about 1800 records and there are very few indexers who have transcribed more than 6,000 records.  The high point is off to the left, which means this data set is skewed.  Therefore, to better understand the “middle” of the data set (which is what an “average” is reporting) it is more accurate to report our median instead of our average.  Our group’s “average” is about 1,648 records indexed; our median is 1,016 indexed.  That is a big difference. I would love to know if the numbers of records done by all the indexers for the 1940 census are skewed or not. I would be willing to bet that it is just given the nature of the work we are doing.  If the data set is not following a bell-shaped curve, then FamilySearch should be reporting the medians.

4) FamilySearch is reporting these values as values for April 2012, but the month of April is not even over yet.  What was the cutoff date for this data set? They should have reported the dates covered by this report.

5) Do the “averages” reported also include the non-contributors in a group?  If the numbers reported do not include the non-contributors, then, I question the need to divide contests between small and large societies. Even with a median value reported, if the data set is limited only to those contributing,  then it could be entirely possible that a small society can be far more productive than a larger one – why make the division?

I would love to know more about how the data was analyzed and perhaps learn I am incorrect in some of my points, but from what I’ve seen today, I am can’t trust the data shown.  I understand that we are all in this to contribute to a worthwhile cause and I am thrilled to do so. However, if this is going to be contest, then FamilySearch should at the least report the data accurately.  Ideally, I would love to speak to whomever generated this posting so I can better understand the report was derived.

More to come as I learn it! :-)