A Night for FamilySearch Indexing

This evening, I’ve had the grandest time participating in FamilySearch’s Worldwide Indexing Event! Their goal was to have 50,000 indexers submit at least one batch of indexing during the 24-hour time period from 6pm MDT Sunday, July 20th – 6pm MDT Monday, July 21st.  As this event begins on a Sunday, my own time for participating is quite limited since I do have to go to work Monday morning.  Sunday night, I cleared my calendar to get all set to join in.

This is not my first time indexing for FamilySearch. I’ve been doing it for several years, and coordinated a group for TNGenWeb when the 1940 census was released, but I love these indexing events. They make the time go by so much more pleasantly:-)

Even more exciting is that DearMyrtle is hosting a GeneaSleepOver throughout the entire indexing event. The GeneaSleepOver – a 24 hours of non-stop Google Hangout full of genealogy news, information, interviews and demos. The lineup is excellent.

At 7pm my time, I settled on the computer to get started, only to be dismayed that the indexing system was moving so slowly. It’s hard to get too upset though because what it meant is that people were participating! So, I patiently waited and by around 10pm, the indexing system was working quite smoothly for me. 

So how was my indexing experience overall? Wonderful! I set a personal goal of 500 names and I was able to meet it by indexing 11 or 12 batches of obituaries from Tennessee and North Carolina. The obits ranged from the late 1980s – 2012. My NC batches have even already been arbitrated and I’m pleased to have a 94% agreement rate. I do know of some of my mishaps earlier on in the indexing process since I was not fully familiar with all the directions; I got better as I moved along.

By the time I stopped, FamilySearch announced that they had more than 17,000 indexers! Still short of the 50,000 goal, but this is only 6 hours into it. I can’t wait to see how many they report when I wake up in the morning.

And, as for DearMyrtle – that was an absolutely BRILLIANT idea! As stated during the hangout:

It was so nice to be able to hear/view the conversations and discussions while indexing. Spectacular Myrt and kudos to you and everyone joining you! It was wonderful and I’ll try to catch you all for a few minutes in the morning. Goodnight everyone!

 

 

Incorporating Genealogy in College Coursework

These past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a rather interesting experiment. The hubby teaches at a local HBCU and in his course, Introduction to Africana Studies, we had the students do a family tree assignment.  It was so interesting!

Specifically, it was the first time I’ve ever put together an “official” instruction on completing your family tree and getting started in genealogy research.  My goals for the classes were to keep it simple though. My outline was as follows:

  • Each student registered for a FamilySearch account (perfect platform b/c it’s free!)
  • I asked them to complete a basic 4-generation pedigree on paper first
  • then, document their family in FamilySearch Family Tree & submit a screenshot of the portrait view of their tree
  • and an important component of the process was for them to interview family members

One slide from my PPT presentation; shows where to go to build your tree on FamilySearch

Overall, many of the students reported the assignment was a rewarding experience. I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to read their reports about the exercise and how it helped them appreciate their families more.  Many students reported how excited their parents, grandparents, etc. were that they were asking. It made me smile on the inside each time. :-)

Of course, there were students who had more difficult experiences, such as not being close enough on one side of their family to be privy to any information and that was heartbreaking at times. But, all in all, even they did what the could and chose to focus on the part of their tree where they could do more.

Now that we are at the end of this exercise, there are more families now documented in Family Tree now ready for others to find and build upon. And, most importantly, perhaps one of them will truly be inspired to continue what they started.  Just trying to do my part!

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!

 

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. 

 

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 :-). 

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! :-)

My Census Day

This has been a fun day! With the release of the 1940 census there has been a lot of excitement among many to see the records.  Technical glitches abounded online as unexpected demand crashed the NARA website but there was still plenty to do.

What did I do?  I made a half-hearted attempt to locate my paternal grandfather in Manhattan by browsing the New York records on Ancestry.com but gave that up after an hour.  That was enough for me to realize I don’t even want to attempt to go through the census until it’s indexed; my family moved around too much. :-)

I am coordinating a group of indexers for FamilySearch for the TNGenWeb, so several of us spent the evening indexing.  Currently, we have 30 members and as of this writing we have indexed over 3500 records (about 1,000 of them are census records).  I myself only indexed two batches tonight so plan to do more tomorrow – I worked on Colorado.  My favorite name of the evening was Perfecto Chavis - he and his family lived in Pueblo County.

Then, after that, I did some indexing for another project – the NCGenWeb Yearbook Database.  I started this about two years ago and tonight crossed the 30,000 threshold for the number of names indexed.  Whoo hoo!

It’s been a good day.

 

Wearing my 1940 Census Ambassador Badge

I added a new icon to my sidebar this evening — the 1940 Census Ambassador Badge.  I joined last week as I am going to be contributing to the creation of the index.

So much has been made available online about the upcoming census that I will not rehash here.  In short, when the census images are released on April 2nd, there will not be an index.  The only way to find people will be to really have a good sense of where they were living.  An index would be far more useful so there is a multi-partner initiative that is encouraging us all to volunteer and help create the index.

More excitingly for me is that I created a group for the TNGenWeb Project so that we can work as individual indexers, but contribute “points” towards our group.  More information about that is on the TNGenWeb site, so if you would like to be on our team, just let me know. 

 

FamilySearch Just Rocks

Tonight while going onto the FamilySearch website to look for a death certificate in TN, I saw two new collections in their list of records.  Just added today, these browsable only collections are:

These collections are amazing! Even though they cannot yet be searched, just being able to browse them is a huge gain for TN researchers.  The second collection contains a lot more.  Just look at what is offered for the county I coordinate for the TNGenWeb – Blount County.

For a couple of years now I’ve been eyeing the Blount County will records at the Tennessee State Library & Archives.  They have been transcribed by workers of the Works Project Administration and I’ve been planning to put them online.  Well, looks like I only need to create a good index now!  HOW WONDERFUL!

There are so many goodies to be found in this collection.  If you have any Tennessee research interests, you MUST check these out.   FamilySearch – keep this up! :-)

 

Managing RootsTech Knowledge

For my professional work I am a knowledge management information specialist.  That means I help people manage and organize information.   It is clear to me that I was meant to do this for I LOVE to work with and organize information.  With the explosion that occurred this past weekend with RootsTech I saw an opportunity to get busy applying Knowledge Management.   The best way to do this? With FamilySearch’s very own Research Wiki.

The ResearchWiki is a site that anyone can contribute to and gives us all a platform for sharing what we know about genealogy.  Initially designed to describe FamilySearch information, it has a much greater potential.  I inquired via Twitter if the wiki was being used to collect course information from the conference and learned that it really had not.  I was *challenged* (in a good way) by the Wiki team to create a page if I wanted to see one on there.

So create one I did! It is at https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/RootsTech_2011.

RootsTech 2011 page on the FamilySearch Research Wiki

I was primarily interested in creating a page to help collate material related to all the conference courses.  Since I wasn’t there I can only hope that the presenters offer to share.  What a great resource it could be for archiving the experience.  So far, I’ve only seen one class that has a Wiki page for the class info – Tony Hansen’s of the Dallas Genealogy Society.

More information is needed for contribution when it comes to the classes. Did you present at RootsTech? Did you write a blog post about a specific class? If so, sign up and add to the page! If that’s too much for you, just send me an email and I’ll do it for you! :-)  Help me make this page the “go to” page for the history of what transpired.  Thanks to everyone for all the great information!