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. 

 

Veteran’s Weekend Trip to the Nashville National Cemetery

This Veteran’s day I did not have a chance to blog about any veterans in my family, so I decided to honor the holiday differently.  I visited the Nashville National Cemetery yesterday and took pictures using the BillionGraves app.

In two hours I was able to take more than 800 photos – amazing.  Now, my work is done – the images are uploaded to the site and others are already transcribing them.  This is why I love BillionGraves – it is just too easy to be a contributor.  I even had the kids helping again :-)

Kaleya clears leaves in preparation for Jihad's photo-taking

Kaleya takes a picture

I wish I could share the map of the cemetery too and where I took pictures, but I had to add it to the BillionGraves database and it has not yet been added to the website.  However, here is a snapshot of my dashboard as of the end of the day today.  My next goal will be to hit 2000 pictures before the year is out.

My BillionGraves Dashboard as of 11/13/11

 

Upcoming History/Genealogy Projects from the IMLS

At my job, one of my primary responsibilities involves a grant project we have that is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Just this week, they announced a new round of funded projects.  Some of them caught my genealogy eye as they have potential to be of benefit for family history researchers.

The full list of funded projects can be found here but the following are of interest:

  • Florida – Orange County Library System(Orlando) — the library is planning to work with community partners to prototype and evaluate the feasibility of a new type of library service geared towards creating openly accessible online databases of obituaries.  The online obits will be places where family and friends can submit detailed tributes and in doing so, help build a meaningful history of the residents of the community.  This is a planning project, so the database will not be built in this round of funding, but concepts surrounding it will be explored.
  • Chicago – American Library Association – another planning grant; in this project, the ALA will begin a collaboration with StoryCorps to make the service accessible to public libraries across the country.  The StoryCorps program is an important one for capturing oral histories, so the more that we can capture now, the better off we will be in the future.
  • Southeastern New York Library Resources Council – to increase awareness of oral histories, the organization will work with libraries, museums, community organizations and others to digitize oral histories from several repositories. They will create radio broadcasts, create linked and dynamic websites to showcase the collections and create mobile apps. Sweet.

 


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! :-)

 

I’m Finally Using BillionGraves

When BillionGraves launched just prior to Memorial Day I was quite excited at its availability.  Though it was initially offered as an iOS app and I don’t have an iPhone, I enjoyed perusing the website and using what was available there.  I wrote a blog post outlining my initial impressions.  I am a power techie user and their model fits nicely within my paradigm for how I like to operate.  Well, this week, they made the Android app available and I could not wait to try it out!

Earlier this afternoon I took a trip to a nearby cemetery to see how it works.  I am in love.

Getting Ready

  • Android is notorious for all the different phone models, so the app does not work on all Android phones. I appreciated the developers taking the time to present a list of phones in their blog post that they know it works on, phones they know that it does not, and phones they were unsure about. My phone is on the “know it works on list” – yeah!
  • The download went without hitch and it was easy to login. I do wish my avatar would have downloaded when I logged into my account  - but that’s a vanity thing. :-)

Taking Pictures

I went to Calvary Cemetery – a Catholic cemetery here in Nashville.  I’ve only been here once and this was an opportunity to further explore it.  I was concerned about my GPS because my phone is awful for GPS, but this app is right on target as far as the section of the cemetery that I was in!  Here is my photo map of the pictures I took and it is an excellent tool for location purposes. The headstones marked are not exactly in place, but close enough for someone who may wish to follow-up and find them for themselves.  I like this view too because it makes it easy to remember where to pick up when I go back to the cemetery.  In fact, I’m going back in the morning and am going to try and finish this section.

The app is very easy to use. In fact, the camera on it works faster than when I use the regular camera feature on the phone. I did have a few delays between pictures at times but it could have just been my phone -it has been acting up for weeks now.  The GPS signal on my phone was strong and I was able to take around 150 pictures in about 30 minutes.  Not bad!  I had the kids with me, so purposefully did not stay long – just wanted to test it out.

Uploading Pictures

One touch upload.  Perfect! I don’t know how long it took for my pictures to upload because I did it and left my phone to charge back up and didn’t come back to my phone until about an hour later.  After the pictures are uploaded, the numbers show up on my online dashboard.  For some reason, one of the pictures was attached to the cemetery next door, so I’ll have to try and fix that.

From here, the transcription process is just like all other photos on the website after you click on the “My Photos” tab.  After having used the site for the past month, I can conclusively state that I prefer their transcription process to FindAGrave – I can move more quickly through it.

On an interesting note I see that some of my pictures have already even been transcribed by others. How cool!!!

I am very pleased with my app experience.  Thank you to BillionGraves for providing this app.  I may even go back and redo past pictures I’ve taken so I can further contribute to the site.

A Glimpse at BillionGraves.com

Today I learned of a new iPhone app and service called BillionGraves.com.  I don’t have an iPhone, but I am excited by the potential.  My first reaction was “oh no – we already have Find-A-Grave. Why would they compete with them?”  But, in looking at the BillionGraves site, the function is quite different and is really meant to cater to smartphone users – something that Find-A-Grave has not yet aggressively done.

Almost a year ago I blogged a wishlist for what I wanted in a potential Find-A-Grave smartphone app. And, there is already an independently developed app to access Find-A-Grave data.  From the looks of it, BillionGraves is meant to make it easy to take a picture when in a cemetery and upload it.  Find-A-Grave does not support this and the app is okay, but doesn’t quite meet my interests.

What I like about BillionGraves:

  • even w/o the app, I can go online and transcribe photos that others have uploaded. can you say crowdsourcing?  the transcription process is very easy
  • each tombstone picture can be edited by anyone. i like this though I can also see potential problems.
  • automatic GPS integration from phone coordinates.  my problem is my Samsung Fascinate phone is notorious for incorrect GPS.
  • the interface is simple – easy to click around

What could be better:

  • looks like you have to physically be in a cemetery to upload pics; can’t upload pics you already have or someone else may send you for posting
  • because the images can be edited by anyone a revision history and the ability to see who worked on a record would be nice
  • a dashboard is offered for you when you login, but no one else can see your dashboard
  • info is JUST the picture. can’t add supplemental info like you can at Find-A-Grave or link family relationships
  • search options should be enhanced to provide more refined combinations (like person + location)
  • city names are provided for cemetery info, but not the counties – major omission if you ask me. In a Search you can specify county, but if you end up on the cemetery page in another way you won’t immediately know the county
  • it’s not clear to me how they will avoid duplicate entries. this will be important to do.
  • the company does not have a social media presence? they do have a blog, but it’s not linked to the BillionGraves site — both of these issues need to be remedied soon
  • they could take a few more suggestions from my blog post aforementioned about features in incorporate :-)

This endeavor is of course new so I do expect they will continue to develop it.   However, even as is, it will be a useful complement to Find-A-Grave and I can see myself using both on a regular basis.   Very cool.

A.C. Ivory posted on his blog about it and mentioned he would post more for his Mobile Monday posts. I hope he shares his experience actually using the app in the field!

 

The Genealogy Digital Bookshelf

How familiar really are genealogists with the wealth of materials available on the Internet Archive (IA)?  Since RootsTech, I’ve seen more discussion and awareness than I’d seen before then as the IA’s founder, Brewster Kahle was a keynote speaker, but the site is still, in my opinion, vastly under-appreciated.  I’ve been using IA extensively for several years now and only continue to be amazed by the books that are added on an ongoing basis.

As a user, I faced a big challenge though – how was I going to keep up with all the books! What if I saw a book/item that I wanted to be sure I did not lose sight? In the past I’ve used bookmarks, spreadsheets, and other conventions, but was never truly happy.  I wanted to be able to share what I was finding, promote the material, and try to get it in the eyes of people who could really use it.  Unfortunately, the native IA and Open Library interfaces don’t make it the easiest to find resources by geographic location nor formats (two key considerations for genealogists), as their keyword & subject terminology is not standardized.

So, using my favorite content management system, WordPress, I started my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf (GDB) website.  I formally made it in December, but over the past few months have been tweaking it & debating with myself if others would find it useful.  But you know what? I find it useful, so I’m sure someone else will!  I set up one for the NCGenWeb Project, the NC Digital Bookshelf,  exactly a year ago and that has been well-received.  Thus, the GDB does not have NC materials, but you’ll find items relevant to other states.

Genealogy Digital Bookshelf Website

 

Books are organized by format first, then by geographic location and added as I have time to do.  I started monitoring additions to the site in late 2009, so most books will have been added since then.  I am a big fan of the FamilySearch Research Wiki so will add links to books I find at IA to the appropriate wiki page too, but I find value in the grouping by format that I’ve established so will do both as I can.  Let me know what you think of the site!

P.S.  I have to say that I was inspired by several others in the geneasphere.  I rely on each of them to help me locate pertinent materials!

 

 

 

 

Free Newspapers through April 24th!

I’m a newspaper freak and I am loving Gale Cengage company right now.  From now until April 24th they are offering free access to several databases in honor of National Library Week.  This is just a quick post to send you over to the NCGenWeb Blog for more details and the link to access it.

If you’re doing non-NC research, be sure to download the title list to see what papers they have for other states.  This is not to be passed up!

 

 

 

Test a Website, Win A Prize!

Would you like to help me test a website I’m working on? If so, you could win a prize!

What You Could Win: A 12-month Geni.com PRO account

Geni.com is a collaborative genealogy website with more than 100 million individual profiles.  The free account gives you the ability to create an online family tree w/ unlimited storage space for photos & documents.  Your family members can sign-up, also for free, to collaborate and help build family trees.  The PRO account provides additional features.

How To Enter:  Share your feedback on a genealogy website I’m working on

I have been working on a site for the NCGenWeb Project – a database of extracts from historical newspapers.  Most of the content comes from an amazing collection of abstracts from the Raleigh Register newspaper (1799-1893) that was created in the 1940s-1950s by the then State Librarian, Carrie Broughton.  I’ve only so far worked my way through the deaths from 1799-1830 years but that alone is more than 3,600 names.  The rest of the content has come from my indexing efforts of a few town newspapers, plus various extracts here and there, and a few contributions from others.

I’m still in the early stages of building the site and I’m eager to have user feedback and learning if information can be found as easily as I envisioned it.  Therefore, I’ve created a list of 5 tasks and invite you to answer the questions and then provide me with your overall thoughts on your experiences.

Click here to grab the questions. Once you email them back to me, along with a link to your Geni.com profile,  you’re entered!

Rules:

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Winner will be chosen at random.
  • Odds of winning are directly related to how many people enter the contest.
  • You can enter anytime between 9am EST March 29, 2011 and April 4th, 2011.
  • You are responsible for anything in regards to the legality of entering a contest in the area in which you live.
  • Rules can be updated at any time without notice.
  • The winner will be notified via their provided contact information the week following the end of the contest.
  • The winner will have seven days to claim their prize.
  • One entry per person.
  • You must have a free Geni.com account.

 

DISCLAIMER: I myself won a 3-month PRO subscription a couple of weeks ago, and in exchange for my continued use of the site and occasional blogging about my experiences, the Geni team upgraded my PRO subscription to 12 months.  They may come to regret that! Just yesterday I sent in 4 items to the help desk w/ comments about things I encountered on the site — to say I’m an engaged user can be an understatement! In any case, I do think Geni has a great concept and I would love for others to explore what it has to offer also! See an earlier blog post of mine about it.