FamilySearch

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!


Like this post? Sign up for email delivery at http://eepurl.com/bYf165.

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 🙂

 

 

Genealogy Do-Over Update Video

Instead of doing a written blog post, I decided to do a video to give my update on the Genealogy Do-Over this past year. Read about it on my blog post from last year for the background.  My focus has been a bit different than most, as my goals are to use the Do-Over as an opportunity to help me as I ensure all of my research is on the FamilySearch Family Tree.  RootsMagic is an important part of the strategy so as I share the update, I’m also sharing my process.

There are a few technical glitches in the video, but I’m rolling with the flow! I hope you find it of interest!  🙂

Finding A Cohabitation Record

Last month over the Memorial Day weekend, I attended the 45th annual reunion of my McNair family in Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina. I was honored to be asked to speak to the family during the family church service on that Sunday.  It was such a great experience! I put together a presentation to distribute to family.

As I was preparing, I did additional clean-up on my family tree. Now, over the past several months, I’ve been adding info to FamilySearch Family Tree in my goal to ensure my research lives beyond me. Well, I was so pleased the week prior to the reunion to see an FamilySearch alert for my ancestor, Mariah Wimberly, in a collection of North Carolina marriage records.

So, I click to see the image and lo and behold, her cohabitation record to Rufus Tannahill pops up! I’d known about the existence of the cohabitation record for many years but had not seen the actual image.  In 1995, Dr. Barnetta McGhee White published a 3-volume index of the extant cohabitation records from across the state, and that is where I originally learned of the entry.  But, to actually see the record and be able to read it in it’s entirety is amazing!

It reads: “Before me, E.D. MacNair, Justice of the Peace for said county this 24th day of April AD 1866 appears Rufus Tannahill and Mariah Wimberly the said Rufus and Mariah having been lately slaves but now emancipating and acknowledge that they cohabitate together as man and wife and that such cohabitation commenced on the 11th day of Dec AD, 1859 given under my hand this day and year above written.” — E.D. MacNair (JP)

Rufus’ name in this record is Tannahill, but he would later change it to McNair. The Justice of the Peace is Edmund Duncan McNair Jr. and I suspect his father to have been Rufus’ slaveholder. This is a great record to have found indeed!  If you’re interested in searching for cohabitation records, they are part of the North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 collection at FamilySearch.

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/.

 

 

My Genealogy Do-Over

Late last year, Thomas MacEntee announced his new genealogy journey for the year, a genealogy do-over, and I loved the idea! The Genealogy Do-Over is an opportunity to re-visit your research processes and work diligently to improve upon the foundation you’ve created. So, as I enter my 10th year of serious genealogical research, I too think it’s time for a genealogy do-over. However, I’m taking a very decided focus to my do-over. 

What is that focus you ask? Well, in my do-over, I am specifically interested in making sure that my work is preserved in FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT). I’m a huge FSFT fan. The model of having one profile for each person is one find extremely appealing given the amount of genealogy research I do for others and for people I encounter in my volunteer work with the USGenWeb project. I’ve blogged about my rationale for why I like FSFT before and my philosophy remains the same.  

Last year, I ensured a few generations of my direct ancestors were represented in FSFT, but as I want to broaden that to all of my researched individuals, I realized I needed a more efficient approach for comparing my research against FSFT. To do this, I’ll be using RootsMagic (RM) to work in tandem with FSFT and taking advantage of the fact that RM has great options for matching and syncing individuals in your genealogy database to FSFT. While I’ve used RM off-an-on since I started doing genealogy, I’ve not steadily used it, nor had I ever learned how to use it with FSFT. Now I know. 🙂

Now, my primary genealogy database is a web-hosted one for which I use TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building and I’ll continue to have that be my primary database. My RM database will be used solely for syncing with FSFT.

Thus, my route for my genealogy do-over will consist of the following:

  • download my gedcoms from my TNG site for import into RM
  • use RM’s “groups” to tag everyone as “not reconciled” with my website
  • as I match & sync with FSFT, ensure that photos & documents I have for each person are added to FSFT, and then use RM groups to tag person as “reconciled with my website”
  • from this date forward, any research will be noted in my TNG database and additionally added to my RM database for syncing with FSFT

Undoubtedly, this new process will take awhile to complete, but I feel this is necessary step for ensuring the research I do is shared with others and preserved for long-term access. Plus, along the way, I get the added benefit of reviewing my research and making updates and corrections as needed. 

Thanks Thomas for the inspiration! 

 

 

 

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.