Connecting with Cuil

With all the fanfare around the launch of the Cuil.com search engine, I was planning to spend a little time exploring the site. In all of 5 minutes earlier today, I had formed my initial impressions of it – that I’m not sure I like it.  But, that could be me being hasty and not accepting something new, so I’ll spend some time later this week doing more investigations.

However, it has already done something for me. Today, I was contacted by a descendant of one of the family trees I am working on, that of James Carroll Napier.   We just spent an hour and half on the phone having the best conversation and just like other Napiers I’ve been contacted by, he’s declared me an honorary cousin!

His branch of the family has had a strong oral history and his uncle used to spend time at the house of JC & wife, Nettie. How cool!  DB (we’ll call him) found me as he was playing around with Cuil himself looking for any heretofore unknown JC Napier items and found the pictures I’d posted to Find A Grave of JC’s and family tombstones.

Here’s to Cuil for making me a new genealogy buddy!

Footnote Findings & Feature Friday

I haven’t been working on my own family genealogy much this past two weeks or so – we’ve been rather busy and I’ve been devoting quite a bit of time to a few other genealogy projects; but, tonight I took a few minutes to play around on Footnote’s website.  I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I have developed some blogging memes – one of them was to take a database a month and search/browse for content relative to my genealogy blogs. I call it “Feature Friday”.

  • Last week, I found something in Footnote for my Kinston Free Press blog of deceased soldiers from Kinston on the Vietnam Memorial
  • Tonight I found a UFO sighting that was reported in Plymouth, NC for my Roanoke Beacon Blog
  • And, I just blogged about a descendant of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt (namesake of my employing institution) who was approached to go in with a group of people to buy an island in France and make the American dollar the legal tender.

The time that I spend poking around gives me a better sense of the collections – as we know, much information continues to be frequently added.

For my own family tree however, back in May I found my grandmother’s brother listed on a crew list for the USS Neosho.  I already knew he was on this ship and let me tell you, that ship saw some crazy action – I leared a couple of years ago that about 80% of the crew was lost in action around the time of Pearl Harbor.  That is a story for another post – but my spotlight page is here.  I believe I have overcome my “battle with footnote”  :-)

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WorldCat.org adds “Lists”

Being a librarian, I have been using a resource called WorldCat for about 10 years now, since I was in library school.  In the past few years, the company that provides WorldCat has made it more open and available online for anyone to search and find out which libraries hold a book of particular interest.

Since getting into genealogy, I’ve realized how useful WorldCat can be for other genealogists and I try to promote it as much as possible and I use it myself quite extensively for this reason too.  I was using it last week and noticed they added a new feature, called “Lists.”  I was excited about this feature – it can be of great help for tracking collections.  I currently use DabbleDB  to keep track of some of the books I want to keep my eye on, but I am also experimenting with this.

To use WorldCat Lists, you must register for the site.  After you do a search for a book and bring up its record, there is an option to Save It.  You then have a drop down box to create a name for the list, or to add it to  pre-exisitng list. Pretty neat!

You could create a list to keep track of resources at

  • a specific library
  • a specific family surname
  • a specific library
  • a specific state

I use DabbleDB to do each of these options.  Currently, you can only add a book to a list one at a time, but you can add a book to multiple lists. It would be nice if you could add a book to more than one list at once and if there was some type of indication when looking at a WorldCat record if that item is already on one of your lists.

As an example of the feature, the book in the screenshot below was written by a descendant of Commodore Vanderbilt that I found while working on my Vanderbilt genealogy research.  In addition to adding this to my list of books for the Vanderbilt surname and I also added it to my list of books available here at Vanderbilt’s main library.

Once part of your list, you can go to that list and do quite a bit –

You can

  • get the URL to share the list with others
  • an RSS feed is available so others can keep track of what you are adding to your list
  • lists can be made public or private
  • can export to a spreadsheet
  • can print in a printer-friendly format
  • choose from multiple views to look at the items in your list, whether it be by the Worldcat record display, by book covers, or by citation view
  • can export reference list in one of five formats — as HTML, RSS, or in three different formats recognized by bibliographic management software
  • the format of the citation can be changed via a drop-down box to one of four formats – APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago, or Harvard

As part of your “lists,”  WorldCat provides 3 already established ones – Things to Check Out, Things I Recommend, and Things I Own.  If there a way as I mentioned above to look at a record and see who put it on their “Things I Own” list, this would be a great way for genealogists to see what others have and possibly help with Look-ups.  Methinks I will be writing to WorldCat about that! :-)

WorldCat has a number of other social features that are worth checking out too. They also have profiles, so I think I will go in and update mine.  You can also add a WorldCat app to your Facebook profile or to the Firefox browser. As a registered user of WorldCat, you can also add reviews to any book.

If you are interested in keeping up with all that WorldCat is doing, you can subscribe to their blog.

Am I Allowed to Curse?

Holy [EXPLETIVE DELTED]! :-)

Why am I four days late to seeing that Ancestry has added this database – NC Death Certificates 1909-1975! Original death certificates! The Ancestry blog says this is an update, so I wonder how long it’s been there?? Apparently long enough for Joe to have it added on his page. Oh, where have I been?

Oh my. We are taking Kaleya to go see Kung Fu Panda tonight, but guess who will be up half the night playing around with this one? A majority of my family research is in NC.

Ancestry Profiles

Last week Ancestry made changes to their member profiles pages – see announcement on their blog.  I’ve taken a few minutes to update my profile and after doing so, I think this is a good move. The comments on that blog post are filled with a lot of negative comments, but I’m pleased by what I see. Do I think it’s ideal? No. But I like!

The profile now has

  • the ability to add you surnames of interest and the counties they are linked to. Though, it seems you can only have one county per surname and I’d appreciate being able to attach multiple counties to one surname
  • links to all of your posts on the Ancestry message boards
  • can add you picture! Though, the picture box is way to big
  • shows the images and docs you’ve recently added
  • shows all of your public family trees and how many people, photos, and sources are attached to them
  • links to your favorite message boards
  • profile shows date of last login – i like that – lets me know if someone is active or not
  • you can also state how you can help others (looking up items at local repositories, take pictures at cemeteries, offer research assistance, etc.)

Here’s a screenshot of my profile page.

Ancestry states that by beefing up the profiles they will be better able to offer connection suggestions – to do so, you have to go to their Main Community Page once you are logged in.  I did so and based on the names and locations I put in, it showed me how many Ancestry members lived in that area, how many Ancestry members were also researching my surnames, and even of those, how many were researching that surname in the area that I am also researching. Very cool.

I did notice a discrepancy though in the connections.  The location field is not restricted to the county, state, country format I’m used to seeing. You can enter either a city or you can enter either a county.  Therefore, this can create issues when matching connections. A few of the surnames I entered are for Washington County, NC, but the connections page shows me people living in Washington City, North Carolina which is in a different county.  Methinks they should standardize this field better.

I wonder if Ancestry will continue to add to the profiles – like having “friends” and being able to send out messages to all either in your city, or all your friends, etc; in short – become more like Facebook.  You can find my profile here.

I have also explored FamilyLink in the past and while I was initially excited, everytime I go there I get frustrated because I don’t quite fill it lives up to my expectations. Hmm.. I’ll keep exploring though.  For now, you can find my Ancestry profile here.  I also have my Footnote profile here about which I’ve blogged about before.

Genealogy Social Networking – i love it!

Ancestry Boards RSS Feeds

For the past several months, I’d noticed that all the boards on Ancestry.com offered RSS feeds, but I have just recently started using them. It is way cool!

So far, I have subscribed to about 10 feeds for various counties and surnames and I am finding it to be a very convenient way to keep track of new posts. I much prefer to get them through my blog reader rather than having to visit each board. Honestly, RSS feeds are like the blessing of my internet life!

I think I’m the only one using them though :-) – well, at least for the boards I subscribe too. According to Bloglines & Google Reader, there is only 1 subscriber! I really do hope others take advantage of these feeds as it is a cool feature. Now, if only GenForum would do this…

In other news, this weekend I had a chance to do some cemetery walking. I went to one of the black cemeteries here in town to search for a particular grave site. Doing so was quite an experience. As I have been working on my Black Nashville Blog, I have been learning about the history of blacks in Nashville. So, as I was walking through the cemetery it was like a who’s who of Nashville! I’ll post more about it later, but it was quite a fulfilling experience for me at a very personal level.

Then, I also came up with a blogging schedule for myself too. With so many blogs, I want to make sure they get regular attention from me, so I started a schedule. As I begin to implement that schedule, I will share that here as well.

My Battle With FootNote

Since I first learned about FootNote a couple of years ago, I have been excited about the possibility of the site’s Genealogy 2.0 potential. However, I have found that for me personally, it has not been as useful as it ideally could be. Perhaps this is due to my lack of understanding the structure and content of the types of records they provide? Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with the NARA resources and some of the others they’ve added and I have not yet found much in the site that have provided a beneficial return on investment of my time and my money. However, that may soon change.

A recent blog post from Eastman about FootNote’s latest collection has intrigued me. He posted their announcement of an interactive 1860 census. Knowing the capabilities FootNote offers, I had to go look right away. This may be the point that gets me subscribing to FootNote’s content! Why? Because by adding census records, this may address a feature I only wish was available in Ancestry.

Consider this – wouldn’t it be cool to know what other researchers/family members may be associated with a specific person /familyin the census? You could look at the census record and see who had established themselves in some way to be “connected” with that particular family? From my limited experience thus far, there are a couple of ways that I know this can be done:

  • Ancestry – allows you to add comments to a particular person’s index entry for the census. However, when there are comments, it seems the only way to know this is to click on the “Comments and Corrections” link and then see if there is a link to “View Comments.” Thus, you do not know before you take action, if there is indeed a comment on a particular person’s record. Then, from there you can connect to the person that made the comment, and see their profile, but I find the ways to connect to be a bit removed from the overall interface of the site. Also, comments are not displayed right away when you make them.
  • Lost Cousins — allows you to indicate that person in the census is your ancestor. From my few trial runs of the site, I am rather put off by the fact that you have to go over to use the FamilySearch site to get the person’s info and then come back to Lost Cousins. This is too cumbersome for me personally. Then, when it’s time for me to mark my connection to that person in the census, you have to specify a specific relationship. Well, what if you are not related? What if you are just researching this person, have information about them, and others could benefit from knowing that? Their new features for Upstairs/Downstairs, and Neighbors offers some expansion, but I’m still not convinced.

So, I’ve just spent some time playing around in Footnote and like what I see so far. While not all of the 1860 census is there, I was able to play around with the site some and I like what I see so far.

  • I can browse to specific locations to find the person of interest, then I can contribute to the record once I find them – add images, notes, details, etc. Can also search by name. This is much better than having to input specific microfilm information like Lost Cousins requires.
  • I can connect to the person who made the comment, and the connection process is more integrated than at Ancestry.
  • Anything added to a record is easily displayed on the right side of the screen, so you know right away whether people have touched this record and made contributions
  • When I do add contributions, I get featured briefly on the front page as a recent contributor

Unfortunately:

  • cannot do annotations at this point – it looks like FootNote does not yet have these turned on
  • cannot attach a note to a family cluster -that would be cool
  • user profiles do not have as many fields as Ancestry – but, it is easy to see the history of that person’s contributions and the images, etc. they have
  • Would be even cooler to have feeds to track favorite users so you can keep an eye on what they are doing – think Facebook!

I will continue to play around with the site and see what I find. So much more transparent for this sort of activity than other sites I’m familiar with. But, perhaps I am missing other key resources. If you think I am, please let me know! Hmm.. I’ve just found something suitable for my Black Nashville History & Genealogy Blog. Will update again later! Here’s a link to my FootNote profile.

Update: I found something very moving on FootNote. You can read it here.

Where does the time go?

Over the past several days, I’ve not been online quite as much to work on genealogy. My sister graduated college this weekend from the University of Florida (see my main blog), so that obviously kept me offline.  :-)  In addition, I began a course on research ethics and now I’ve got plenty of reading to keep me busy at night for the next month. But, I sneak in a little genealogy here and there.

I have just sent off an article that will be published in a Alabama genealogy newsletter. More details to come once that is published. I’m quite excited about it!  Then, last week I received an email from Nita, one of my original blogging inspirations, about her Koonce ancestry.  She has an offhand feeling she may have connections to North Carolina where my Koonce’s are from, so we will see what happens there.  It would be so cool to have another connection with a geneablogger as I do with Jennifer.

Last night, I had about 45 minutes to play around with a new Ancestry database. I read over on Craig’s blog about the Tennessee State Marriages, 1765-2002 database.  I was glad to see this for two reasons:

  • one of the genealogies I work on is that of a friend of mine who has deep roots in east Tennessee.  I found many marriage certificate/bonds for people on her tree, including her parent’s marriage certificate. That was cool.  Also, by the information on the marriage detail, I was able to find the maiden name of one of her 2nd great-grandmothers, a Cordelia Fellers who married Henry V. Bolinger on January 18, 1898 in Campbell County, TN. Then, by working through census records, I was able to find her grandfather even and I think I have a suspicion of his father! Ooh the joy!
  • as county coordinator for Blount County, TN, I can now add this to marriage information resources.

Interestingly enough, Kalonji and I were married here in Davidson County in 2001 but we are not in the database.  The Davidson county records only go up to 1860 consistently, then after that, coverage is very sporadic.  Would have been cool to see me in there…

HBCU Digital Collection

Yesterday, I learned of a new digital collection being offered online. The HBCU Digital Collection was launched last month and is the beginning of a digital archive of materials from 10 historically black colleges and universities.  The information in the Digital Library contains a variety of items – including “campus charters, student yearbooks, early campus architectural drawings, graduating classes, famous alumni and churches” and more.  Currently, the institutions participating include:

  • Alabama State University
  • Atlanta University Center
  • Bennett College for Women
  • Fisk University
  • Grambling State University
  • Hampton University
  • Southern University
  •  Tuskegee University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Virginia State University

Given my interest in the history of blacks in Nashville, I was happy to see Fisk & TSU represented.  I went to the site to do some searching and found quite a bit of interesting material that would add a family tree if your ancestor was represented in those images. Fisk especially seems to have a concentration of yearbook materials. I definitely plan to spend some time looking through the site.

Library of Congress Goes to Flickr

I haven’t seen this yet posted to any genealogy blogs I read, but perhaps I missed it. This has been circulating in my professional blogsphere for a little while now and I finally was able to spend a few minutes looking around.

The Library of Congress has added (and will continue to add) photos from their vast collection into Flickr for the general community to tag. Their original post is here, but then they followed up with some very interesting data.  They added over 3,000 pictures to Flickr and people have been tagging away! If you get a chance to look, the pictures are all very good quality and many are just gorgeous.

As I was looking, I decided to look for Honus Wagner (I’ve posted before about how my friend’s genealogy intersects with him).  Sure enough, they have a few pictures.  There is one picture of him with some fellow players that was taken about 1912, and another picture of him with the whole team.   Interestingly enough, Honus’ name is a tag on this second picture, so someone out there knew he was on this team and tagged the photo. That is the wonderful premise behind this project.

I can’t wait to see what else LOC continues to add!