Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buy Your Genealogy Supplies Now

It's back to school season. Which is bad because it means I have to go back to work and not work on genealogy all day long. But it's also one of my favorite times of year because of all the deals on office supplies. I love office supplies. I try to convince my husband that I need more Post-It notes and binders and pens at least once a month (probably more like weekly). Of course he has to ask what I need them for and "because" isn't a good enough answer for him.

Anyway, back to the deals. Now is the time to buy your binders, pens, pencils, Post-It notes, notebooks, dividers, paper and more. I check the ads in the paper every Sunday to find out what I can get for cheap to replenish my office supply stash. And this is the time of year to find the best deals. Wait another month or two and you'll have to pay $2 for a spiral notebook that you can get for 25 cents right now.

Plan out what you think you will need for the next year of genealogy research and see what is on sale now. What do you need to organize you files? What do you need to take with you to conferences to take notes? Are you running low on pens and pencils? Do you need more Post-It notes? (I do.)

Dealnews did a study on computer deals and found that August and September are the best times to buy a laptop. I follow the Dealnews RSS feed to check all kinds of deals daily. Its great for deals on all kinds of products online and off, but you have to have self-control. Otherwise you want to buy SD cards every time you see them for sale (like my husband).

If something isn't on sale, try waiting another week. Just try to keep your office supplies containable so that you don't get injured when you open up a closet. You don't want to have to stop working on your genealogy because of a Post-It note attack.

If you find a good deal, leave a comment and share it with the rest of us.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bonuses in the Canadian Census Records on Ancestry

I've been busy working on organizing my genealogical digital media. I decided to start with my Canadian ancestors because I hadn't searched through all the new censuses that were added to Ancestry in June. I had previously searched the censuses at the Allen County Public Library for my direct ancestor and any collateral relatives that I happened to find. This left me with many blanks in my research.

In searching the Censuses of Canada, I have found a couple interesting additions:

The first thing I found was that the 1861 Census of Canada includes the agricultural census. I love using the agricultural census to help tell the story of my ancestors. With lots of farmers in my direct lines, I want to know how much land they had, what they grew, the types of animals they raised and how much money they were making.

The 1861 Agricultural census is indexed by county/district. Instead of a township or town, it will tell you "All Places (agricultural)". I actually missed these when I started searching, because I was narrowing my search by the township. Now I need to go back and collect all of the agricultural censuses.

The 1861 Census also includes 2 pages, so make sure you click for the next image and save that as well. The second page seems to be a mini-agricultural census for non-farmers.

The second things I found was that the 1871 Census of Canada includes a schedule for deaths in the last 12 months (a mortality schedule). This schedule is also indexed, but it does not distinguish deaths in the index. So if you find a person with the same surname in the index in a certain location, but not in your family you may want to check each of them. You can also find these deaths on the last page of the images for a selected location.

I wish that all of the agricultural and mortality schedules were available for all of the census years. I believe that the reason these are available has to do with the way the census was microfilmed. When microfilming the 1861 census, they must have included the agricultural census at the end of the county's population schedule. This did not happen in other census years it would seem.

I hope this information help to add you your search for your ancestors. Leave a comment if it did.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

National Genealogical Society Member Only Benefits

Tonight I went to the National Genealogical Society's website to download another batch of NGSQ (their quarterly periodical) to read. I became a member of NGS in January and am interested in reading these past issues to learn new methods for my own research.

I already knew that a benefit of membership in NGS included the ability to access the NGSQ issues from 2002 to present. I discovered tonight that the NGS Magazine has some issues available online as well. These issues include 2005 to present.

I also discovered that the 2010 NGS Conference in Salt Lake City has a blog. The blog currently has no entries but I am happy to see that NGS is going to use some web 2.0 tools to promote their conference. I hope that they use the blog in a similar fashion to the ones currently used for the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2009 Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Southern California Jamboree, and the Family History Expos blog. I like how these blogs use a mixture of courses offered, experts teaching, vendors on site, restaurants and attractions in the area, and more. It makes me want to attend them all, but since I can't, it lets me get a taste of what I will be missing.

NGS also recently added an online course for members called "Family History Skills." This seems like a great course to get people started in learning genealogical research techniques.

I am glad that NGS is adding more content available for members and also starting to get into the Web 2.0 revolution that is getting more genealogists together, excited, and involved. I hope that the society continues to move in this direction.

What are your thoughts? What else should NGS add to their member only offerings? What should they do to increase their involvement online? Leave a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What are Family Link's REAL Goals?

Since the launch of Genealogy Wise by Family Link, the genealogy blogosphere has been moving back and forth between it being the best thing ever for genealogy and the worst thing. What I haven't seen much of is whether Family Link is the best or worst thing for genealogy. Family Link is growing rapidly, but do they know what they are doing? They are trying to take over the genealogy social networking scene, but should they? Do they understand it? What is their real goal?

Genealogy Wise has some great potential. But it also has LOTS of problems. I won't go into great detail about these because others have done a better job of it already. But here is a quick list of what I would like to see improved:
  • No more contests about increasing the number of people or content on the site. If you want to do a contest, do a random drawing of members, group creators, or bloggers. Don't make it a numbers game.
  • The administrators need to be easily identifiable. Something on their pages needs to tell you that they work for Family Link.
  • Administrators need to stop sending out constant emails to their "friends" about adding more content, joining groups the admins created, etc. I removed an admin from my friends list because it was annoying to have someone pester me to do more on the site.
  • Blogs written by bloggers being paid by Family Link need to be identified. I want to see what content Family Link is paying for and what is community created. I think that it is great the genealogy bloggers are getting paid for their content, but I think Family Link should create a separate blog to post this content. I would probably read these blogs if I could read them in my Google Reader instead of having to check Genealogy Wise for new content that can quickly become hidden.
  • Genealogy Twitter feed should include who wrote the post. It looks like Family Link is just twittering everything in that feed without usernames attached to the posts. This is especially confusing to those who don't use Twitter already.
  • Organize the groups by type. Search groups by name, not by what has been written in them. If you want both, then add some advanced search features.
  • Too many emails by default. I've unfollowed many groups so as not to get all of their messages, but then I feel like I am missing out on their content. I don't want to stop all emails, because their is no alert on the site to tell me when a group has been updated. The only notifications available on the site are for when you need to add a friend, join a group or have a message from someone else.
  • Friends on the site are just there. There is not a lot of things you can do with your friends. Since the site is very open, everything everyone does you can see. So why have friends? On Facebook, I can see when my friends add a blog post or make a new discovery. I'd have to go to each friend's page to find this out on Genealogy Wise.
  • I got my first SPAM message from Genealogy Wise last night. Someone sent a message to one of the groups created by one of the admins at the beginning. This does not make me happy. I immediately removed myself from the group, that wasn't producing any worthwhile content anyway.
The thing that really is bothering me about Family Link is their use of Facebook. First they have an application (We're Related) that does little for genealogists. Randy Seaver wrote about these issues again yesterday. They have also made fan pages for Genealogy and Family History that are really fan pages for World Vital Records and Genseek. Family Link does not "own" genealogy. They have no claim to the hobby, so why do they "own" the fan pages. I love genealogy, but I'm not a fan of it on Facebook because I don't want to have to be a fan of a company to like genealogy. That doesn't make any sense. They also have a page for Genseek which makes sense as a fan page. If only they would get around to releasing it instead of just saying that it's coming "very soon." (Saying very soon since April makes me think it is never coming.)

Randy Seaver is correct in describing Family Link as a soap opera. Lisa Louise Cooke asked the perfect question in her lastest podcast: "What are they doing for genealogists?" Family Link seems to be doing a lot to grow their company, but what are they REALLY doing for genealogists? Do they want a community for genealogists to work together or are they just looking for numbers to say they are the best?

Family Link needs to focus on one thing and when they get it to work, then they can move to something different. Stretching themselves across so many different projects will only hurt the company overall and create lots of projects with great potential that was never realized. Let's start by adding some better content to World Vital Records, then fix the We're Related Facebook application, then work on taking over social networking for genealogists.

Genealogists will continue to look for something that meets their needs, not a company's. Leave me a comment with your thoughts or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Using Call Numbers to Get Source Information

Here's a quick tip I use when at the library:

When I need to source a book, instead of writing down all the information (title, author, publisher, date, etc), I just write down the call number. This works very well for me when I go to the Allen County Public Library. When I come home, I just enter the call number into the online catalog and all the information I need about the book pops right up. I don't need to go searching through the book trying to find all the pieces or worry about forgetting something.

If you are going to do this, there are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Make sure the library has an online catalog.
  • Check the online catalog and make sure it has all the information you need to make a complete source.
  • Make sure you write down the call number when you are at the library. I also write down the title of the book to cross check that I wrote down the correct number when I get home.
  • Make sure that the material you are sourcing is in the catalog. If the microfilm isn't sourced in the catalog, then you can't just use a call number to retrieve the information.
Hope this helps you improve your source citations and makes it easier too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Using Roots Magic 4 to Create Custom Source Templates

In my post about switching from Family Tree Maker 2009 to Roots Magic 4 (RM4), I mentioned how much I liked the custom templates in RM4. Today I will go into more detail about how I use them.

The first time I tried to add a census record into RM4 I found many options for census record templates. There are 24 templates for federal census records in RM4. Since I get all of my census records (so far) from Ancestry.com, I chose the "Census, U.S. Federal (Online Images)" template. Here is what it looks like when I go to add a new census master source:

Note: Click image for larger view.

Right away I saw something that bothered me. Even though RM4 seems to follow Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained very well, I don't like how it works for this example. The master source includes not only the year of the census, type of census, website, and credit for images (microfilm), it ALSO includes the jurisdiction (state and county). This means for every county that I have a census record in I need a separate source for it. That may not be so bad if my ancestors all lived in a few counties and never moved. But I have ancestors and relatives moving all over the country. I realized the first time I made a master source that this was not going to work for me. I don't want hundreds of master sources for each census year.

So I decided to use RM4's ability to create custom source templates. It was relatively easy once you understand how it works. In RM4, click on LISTS in the menu bar. Then click SOURCE TEMPLATES. A list of all the templates currently available will pop up. Click ADD at the top.

Now you create your own template. Click ADD FIELD to add a field to enter data into your sources. It will look like this:
Field name is what RM4 will use to make the footnotes. Display name is what you will see when creating a new source. Brief hint is what will be displayed in the box before you start typing. Long hint is available in the question mark to the right of the field to tell you more, such as examples.

You can change the order of the fields by using the arrow buttons.

Then you write up a footnote, short footnote and bibliography for your source. For this you just need to drag and drop the fields you created into the footnote boxes to the right. The FIELD NAME will be show within square brackets. Then you also add in any text that is not part of what you will enter with the source.

Here is how I created my own template for online images of U.S. census records, from 1790-1840:
  • Fields added for master source: year, website name, URL, copyright year, and NARA microfilm publication number.
  • Fields for source detail: jurisdiction (county, state), civil division (township, city), page, line, person of interest and date accessed online.
  • Here is what my Footnote Template looks like: [Year] U.S. Census, [CivilDivision], [Jurisdiction], [Page], [Line], [Person]; digital image, [Website] ([URL]: accessed [accessed]); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm [Microfilm].
  • My short footnote: [Year] U.S. census, [CivilDivision], [Jurisdiction], [Page], [Person].
  • My bibliography: [Year] U.S. Census. Digital images. [Website]. [URL]: [Copyright].
I also created a source template for the later census years that includes enumeration district, dwelling and family number instead of line number.

Here is an example of what they look like (taken from my grandfather's family in the 1930 census:

Footnote: 1930 U.S. census, Kalamazoo county, Michigan, Population schedule, Kalamazoo county, enumeration district 44, sheet 23A, dwelling 515, family 564, Household of William E Suckling; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 Jul 2009), citing National Archives microfilm publication T626.

Short Footnote: 1930 U.S. census, Kalamazoo county, Michigan, Population schedule, Kalamazoo county, ED 44, sheet 23A, dwelling 515, family 564, Household of William E Suckling.

Bibliography: 1930 U.S. census, Population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com: 2009.

Obviously, I did not follow Evidence Explained exactly. My bibliography shows each census year as one source. I think this makes sense because they are all coming from the Ancestry databases separated by year. I also got rid of the microfilm roll number because I feel that most people are not going to look up the source on microfilm and if they do, they can look up the roll number themselves. (Can you tell I love the internet for genealogy?) I did try to follow Evidence Explained for the rest of the information. I think that anyone should be able to find my citations on their own and that is the most important thing.

Hopefully I didn't confuse too many of you. I think that once you start making your own templates, you will see how easy it is. It takes a little time to get it right, but hopefully it will save you time later. Feel free to use my templates or create better ones.

What do you think of my custom source templates? Leave a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why We Need a Better Identification System

Earlier this month the genealogy community was talking about the new study by Carnegie Mellon University about its ability to guess people's social security numbers. Dick Eastman wrote about it being a non-issue.

People are very concerned about identity theft nowadays. And they should be. But at the same time people do many things to increase their odds of being a victim.

The first 5 digits of a person's social security number can be obtained through government websites. It is very hard to guess the last 4 numbers, but they are often given out freely. How many times have you been asked the last 4 numbers of your social security number by a company or website? How often are the last 4 digits of your social security number not blocked out on documents? If you have the last 4 digits, how hard is it to figure out the rest?

Websites often ask a "secret" question in order to retrieve your password if you forget it. How many times have you given your mother's maiden name as the answer? If you give your place of birth, doesn't that help solve the rest of your social security number? Sarah Palin was a victim of someone hacking into her Yahoo email account because the answer to her "secret" question was public information.

So why are we still using secret questions and social security numbers as identification when others can sometimes easily figure them out?

This week, Slate had a great article called "No, You Can't Have My Social Security Number: Why Using SSNs for identification is risky and stupid." Social security numbers were never meant to be used for identification. Only for collecting and doling out social security money. So why do I need it to get my driver's license? Slate also had a take on Sarah Palin's email hack and how easy it has become. With the proliferation of personal information on sites like Facebook and Myspace, it is becoming easier.

I absolutely DO NOT think that records should be closed. I DO NOT think that the social security death index should be closed to the public. I DO think that we need to find better ways as a society to keep our identities secure. I may not know what that is, but there has to be a better way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Digitizing Granfather's WWII Collection

I spent the day today digitizing my grandfather, Roy SUCKLING's collection of WWII documentation. I wish he had been a genealogist because he kept everything. I would have so much stuff now if he had gotten the genealogy bug. But lucky for me he was an avid photographer. He has lots of photos from his time spent in Shemya, Alaska during the war. Today I focused on all the newsletters from veteran associations and history articles that he had kept. I also scanned letters that he had received from other veterans. He passed his photo collection around the country and another veteran made copies of any photos that someone else wanted.

I used the option on my scanner to produce a PDF after I had scanned all of the pages in one item (newsletter, article, etc.) It's nice to not have ten files for one thing. I hadn't done this before, but was very happy with the results.

The best part of this process was reading through the history of Shemya, Alaska. They never teach you about the Alaskan front in WWII in history class. I still have a lot of reading to do, but I feel like I know have a much better understanding of my grandfather's experiences during the war. I also found out that he made an audio tape of his experiences during the war. Now I have to see if my grandmother still has a copy or find someone who does. I'm inspired to write up a biography about him and make it into a video with all of his photos. It would be great if I had his voice to add to it along with all his photos.

My next project will be to scan all of his WWII photos. I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Was Updated in the City Directories on Ancestry?

Every morning I check the genealogy databases for new content. I wish they all had an RSS feed so that I didn't have to manually check them all. I'm not sure why they haven't used this technology to their benefit. I do use the Live Roots RSS feed for new content that it has found through other databases (Ancestry, Footnote, World Vital Records, etc.) But I would prefer to have an RSS to the main database (One for Ancestry, one for World Vital Records, one for Genealogy Bank, etc.) Footnote does offer an RSS feed, but I think it only lets you know about new content and not when they finish a project. But I can't seem to find it on the homepage. (Here is the link.)

Today when checking I noticed that the U.S. City Directories on Ancestry were updated. I love using the city directories to find where my ancestors were and what they were doing. (Of course most of mine lived in the same home with the same occupation their entire lives and it's kind of boring.)

Here is what I hate about this update: I have no idea what was updated or added.

Why can't this be broken up? Why can't they make a blog post to explain exactly what was changed? I barely know what was in the collection before the update. How am I supposed to know what is new?

I know that the Williamsport city directories on Ancestry cover the late 1800s. So I always check those for more directories. But other cities that I have ancestors in are more complicated. I just want a simple way to know everything new. Why does Ancestry make this so hard? You would think they would want to publicize the details of their new content to get more people excited about it.

Another pet peeve with Ancetry's "Recent Genealogy Databases" page is that they add only the book title. Some authors know how to title a book so that other people can find it. But it seems that most just make a cute title. How am I supposed to know who and what the book "My Diary, North and South, Vol 1-2" is about? Can we at least have a location added to these entries? The location is probably already tagged on them for the card catalog anyway.

What else annoys you about finding updated databases? What should these companies be doing to make their new content known and accessible? Leave a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Watching History Detectives Online

As I mentioned in my post about Roots Television, I was inspired to start watching History Detectives after watching Dick Eastman's interview with Tukufu Zuberi.

I was happy to discover that PBS has the episodes of History Detectives available online for free. This is great for everyone who is like me and doesn't watch television on television. (I never watch live television. I hate all the commercials.) It is also great if you have missed an episode. All of season 3 and the latest episodes from season 4 are all available for viewing.

I also watched the premiere episode of Time Team America. This show is about archeology and trying to find historical locations and more in a short time span. The first episode focused on trying to find the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

I have a lot of catching up to do on History Detectives. I have only watched the first few episodes from season 3, but I love it and will continue to watch it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Much Would You Pay for a Genealogy Webinar?

I was really excited a few months back when Family Tree Magazine began offering webinars. I found that the topics sounded great and I really wanted to attend.

And then I saw the price. $49.99. Seriously? $50 for one hour?

Then there were coupon codes to save $10. But $40 for one hour?

The latest webinar called "Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers" and will be hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke on July 29th. They have lowered the price for this one to $29.99. Lisa said on her lastest Genealogy Gems podcast that this was a deal. But is $30 for a one hour session worth it?

The webinars include:
  • The live presentation and questions
  • Access to the recorded session after the event
  • PDF of the presentation slides
I notice that the next two webinars listed on the website will cost $50 again with the same benefits.

So am I being stingy or does this sound way overpriced?

I don't know how much it costs to run a webinar. I would assume that the more people involved the more it costs. But you aren't paying the presenter for travel and hotel. Most of the presenters are Family Tree Magazine staff. So why does it cost so much? How many people are attending? They also sell the archived webinars through their store for around $30.

I have to compare this to other events that I have attended to compare.
  • Mini-courses at ACPL cost me $50. This includes 6 lectures by ACPL staff and Allen County Genealogical Society members. It also includes research assistance in the library. Plus it includes snacks.
  • Military Symposium at ACPL cost me $50. This included 4 lectures and dinner over 2 days. It also had individual consultations for 30 minutes each.
  • Tree Talks and Family History month talks are about an hour each and free. Presented by ACPL staff usually.
  • Climbing Your DNA workshop at ACPL was $30 and included 6 lectures by Roberta Estes. (This was filmed for Roots Television so I could have just waited until it came online and watched it for free.)
  • DNA workshop with Megan Smolenyak Smolyenak in Marion was $65. It included 4 lectures and a mini-film festival (Roots Television videos). Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were also included in the price.
So back to the question: Is $30 or $50 dollars worth an online webinar? I don't think so. The price just seems way too high to me. All of the events that I listed were for comparable prices and were at least one day long. I didn't have to pay for a hotel to any of these events because they were nearby my home. Maybe if you add in hotel costs, the webinars sound cheaper. But still.

Ancestry offers their webinars for free. I figure its all built into my subscription. But you can attend or view the archive of the event even without a subscription. Obviously they are promoting their website, but isn't Family Tree Magazine going to try to make you subscribe?

I don't expect everything to be free. I would be willing to pay a fair price for these events. But I'm thinking $5 or $10 would be the maximum that I would pay.

What do you think? Is the price fair or inflated for these webinars? Leave a comment or send me an email to genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Using Location Search in PERSI

When I was at the Allen County Public Library yesterday, I started putting together a file for my Switzerland and Ohio county, Indiana research. There are not very many books on the shelves of ACPL on these two counties. Last month when I was at the library I found a naturalization abstract for Robert Bovard that listed his children, including my ancestor Isaac. This was a link that I was missing to further my research. I also found a will abstract of Nathan RICKETTS that listed his daughter, Jane SHEPHERD. Again I found a link to the next generation. Neither of these discoveries were found in books on the counties. I found these using PERSI and searching for Switzerland county and Ohio county.

What is PERSI? It's the Periodical Source Index created by ACPL to index surnames, locations, subjects and more from many genealogical and historical publications. PERSI is available to search through Heritage Quest Ancestry.com. Note that the index on Ancestry.com is not updated as often as the one on Heritage Quest. When you find an article that interests you, you can find the journal yourself or order a copy from ACPL for a fee. Since I live in Fort Wayne, I just go look up whatever I want and don't worry about the cost of finding irrelevant articles.

I had used PERSI before to search on surnames. For some reason I had never thought to look by place until I found a record for the surname BASCOM in a journal called "Hoosier Journal of Ancestry." I had never heard of this publication before and found that there were many other articles about Switzerland county inside. So I searched PERSI for my two counties of interest and found 114 results for Switzerland county and 67 for Ohio county.

The articles that I found include:
  • History
  • Naturalization records
  • Land records
  • Court records
  • Estate and will records
  • Military records
  • Births, Marriages, Deaths and Cemetery records
  • Rosters for schools and societies
  • And more!
Since I do a lot of research in these counties, I have decided to track down all of the articles and put them in a binder organized by topic. Of course I could just do this digitally, but I have an office supply problem and wanted to use another binder and tabs. I printed off a list of all the articles from Heritage Quest on each county. As I obtain the articles, I am going to check it off the list, but it in the correct section of the binder, and index the names. Then I'll put my index onto my genealogy data website. I would put up the articles if they wouldn't infringe on copyright. Hopefully this will help more people doing research in Switzerland and Ohio counties break down their brick walls.

I also need to make a list/binder for Dearborn county because Ohio county was formed in 1844 from Dearborn county. Many early Ohio county records will be found in Dearborn county.

One of the reasons that I decided to do this is because I was inspired by the videos of Bernie Gracy on Youtube from the Family History Expos. I see a lot of value in searching one location and seeing all that is happening there.

I'm hoping that this will be a great tool for me in my research. I probably won't worry about the marriage records that are in book form already. But it will be nice to have everything in one place instead of spread across hundreds of journals. If it works well, I will probably work on creating PERSI resource binders for my other major counties.

Have you used PERSI before? Have you made a great find using it? Leave a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What I Take to the Library

Today I made a trip to the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to track down a two new lines that I had found on my last trip. I didn't make any real breakthroughs today, but I did find when a few people had died and where they were buried.

What I wanted to talk about today is what I bring with me to the library:
  • Netbook (for checking library catalog, database searches, and most importantly Twitter and Facebook breaks)
  • Flash Drive loaded with RootsMagic-To-Go (just finally installed this on a flash drive today and really liked how easy it was to run and take my existing database with me on the go)
  • 1-inch Binder including: genealogy files (family group sheets), list of resources to check, paper for notes, map of library, library resource sheets
  • Digital Camera for taking photos of books (haven't tried this on microfilm but ACPL has digital scanner that allow you to save to flash drives or email to yourself).
  • Change for copies (I don't copy much but if I have something that I want to write on, I'll make a copy. Ex: cemetery listings to check off who I found already)
  • Library Card to validate parking
I don't take much with me to the library. It helps that I can go whenever I want to ACPL and don't need to do 5 years of research in one weekend. Most of the things on my list I will blog about separately soon.

What do you take to libraries and archives? What else will help with a research trip? Leave a comment or send me an email to genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is GenealogyWise Worth Joining?

Last night I read Randy Seaver's post "Genealogywise = Facebook for Genealogists." I was interested in GenealogyWise so I thought "Why not?" and signed up.

I've seen a lot of Twitter and Facebook about people saying that they don't see the need for another social network. And while I do agree that we don't need it, that doesn't mean that I don't want it.

One of the reasons that I was interested in GenealogyWise is that I feel like my Facebook is too cluttered. I have friends from high school, friends from work, genealogy friends, family, etc. Although some of these people are entertained by my genealogy, most of them don't care. I also want to keep my news feed on Facebook manageable and if I go around adding every genealogist, it may get out of hand. Now if I was just using Facebook for genealogy, I wouldn't have a problem. But that's not how I'm using it. I'm using it to network for work and keep in touch with old friends. I have been thinking about making a separate Facebook profile for my genealogy side for a few months now. I want to collaborate with everyone and meet new people with the same research habits, but I don't know if Facebook if the right place to do that for me. (At least not with my current profile.) I also don't mind my friends knowing more about me than random strangers, even if they are awesome genealogists.

So I went ahead and signed up with GenealogyWise. Just as Randy said, this site will not work without lots of people joining and using it regularly. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

The Good:
  • Social network just for genealogy.
  • I like having a separate network for genealogy.
  • It's more like one big group instead of everyone being divided into who wants to be friends with who. It seems easy to find and communicate with people not on your friend list.
  • I like being able to see more than just what my "friends" are doing. Maybe I can discover someone new who shares my research interests.
  • So far, I haven't seen a bunch of quizzes being taken.
  • No one has told me what they had for breakfast (and then lunch, dinner, how they slept, etc.)
  • Many more groups focused on genealogy, including surnames, software, websites, etc. Although many more still need to be created, I haven't seen much of these "smaller" groups on Facebook. Maybe these groups will be more interactive than the groups I find on Facebook.
  • Listing of genealogy events. Although small, I can see lots being added to it by people who are interested. Nice to have them all in one space.
  • Doesn't collect a lot of private data (phone number, address, etc) like Facebook allows.

The Bad:
  • From what I have seen, GenealogyWise was created by FamilyLink. I'm not sure how I feel about a company owning the network. Although I think that someone would have to "own" it, I don't know that I want a company that has their hands in other areas taking over a social network. (I look at it this way, if Ancestry.com formed the group everyone would be freaking out. So why not do the same with FamilyLink?)
  • Why is FamilyLink trying to start another social network when they have been trying to build up a base on Facebook? Why not work on their We're Related App to make it work better instead of building a new site?
  • It's another site to join and maintain.
  • Another site to check for updates. It allows people to post blogs. Do we need another spot for this?
  • Small network, but that may change in time.
  • Not sure if it will last. Is it just a fad for a few days or does it have staying power? Is it worth building something and just waiting for it to fade away?
At some point, the genealogy community will have to decide which is better for staying in touch: Facebook or GenealogyWise.

If you want to try it out, please add me as your friend. Let me know what you think. Leave a comment or send me an email to genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Planning My 2010 Conference Schedule and Budget

One of the things that you will learn about me as you read this blog is that I like to plan ahead. Way ahead. I'm kind of obsessive compulsive about knowing what's going to happen way in advance.

Today I was working on a list of genealogy conferences for 2010. I am trying to figure out which ones I want to attend (all of them) and which ones I can afford and have time to attend (a few). It really annoys me when I read about a genealogy blogger going to attend a conference that I didn't even know about until the week of the event. "If I had only known about it, I would have gone." So I am making this list to help me and others stay on top of things and plan ahead to get the most out of the year.

Here is the list of "major" conferences and institutes that I have found for 2010:
Another conference is the New England Regional Genealogical Conference which is held in odd years. So it won't be held in 2010.

I know that there will be more Family History Expos announced for 2010.

My list is region specific since I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Right now I know for sure that I will attend the Indiana Genealogical Society Conference because it's in Fort Wayne. I will most likely attend Samford in June. I'll probably go to the Ohio conference on Saturday at least since Toledo is only 2 hours away. I want to attend FGS because it is in August and I won't have to take off work, but I might be out of budget by then.

I'll also attend some smaller workshops and seminars at ACPL that pop up over the year and others that are nearby that interest me.

What other genealogical conferences and events should I consider attending? Which ones should I put on my list so that I least I will know about them in 2011? Leave a comment or send me an email to genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Switch to RootsMagic 4

In my last post, I discussed how I am organizing my genealogy digital media. Besides trying to find the correct file on my computer, I am also reorganizing because I made the switch from Family Tree Maker 2009 (FTM) to Roots Magic 4 (RM4). Today I want to write about why I made the switch.

When I started doing my family history a year and a half ago, I started by building an online tree on Ancestry. I soon realized that I wanted a copy on my computer in case Ancestry's servers crashed without a backup or the site closed one day. So I went shopping for family tree software. I decided to use Family Tree Maker 2008 because I wanted to tie together what I found on Ancestry and my Ancestry online tree to what I had on my computer.

After I purchased the software, I started hearing more and more about people complaining about FTM08 when compared to FTM6. Since I had never used FTM6, I didn't know what the big problem was. I found that the software was slow to load and crashed, but since I had never used any other family tree software, I didn't know who much was FTM and how much was my computer. I was also disappointed that I couldn't synch my FTM to my online tree at Ancestry. But I also found that it helped me to organize my data and cite my sources. I liked being able to add my media and attach things that I found on Ancestry (until I realized that I should just do it manually to avoid odd file names and follow good source citations.)

When RootsMagic 4 was being released, I thought that I would give it a try. I heard very good reviews about it. One thing that I like about RM4 compared to FTM was that I shouldn't have to purchase a new version every year. I understand that FTM releases another version each year to keep it on store shelves, but I didn't want to pay for it every single year. I also wanted to get the updates for the software for more than just one year (I wanted software that was supported long term).

After using RM4 for a few months, I think that I will be staying with it. At least until I find something better.

Here are some of the reasons that I like RM4 more:
  • Faster load times
  • Haven't crashed it yet. FTM would crash when I would try to add media to it WAY too often.
  • Shared events. I love being able to add a census record once for an entire family. I use the "Residence (family)" fact and then share the fact with all of the children in a given household. If I would need to change this fact, I would only have to do it once. It also quickly shows me who an individual was living with when a census was taken.
  • More source templates. When FTM09 came out, it had many more source templates that correlated to Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained, but I find that RM4 has more.
  • Customizable source templates. These are also available in FTM09, but I find that RM4 has even more flexibility. I will write another blog post about how I am using this later.
Here is what I wish that RM4 had:
  • I wish the sources for each fact were listed to the side of the page as they are in FTM. I think that sources are so important that they shouldn't be hidden away. RM4 only tells me how many sources I have for each fact, I want to be able to quickly see what they are.
  • I wish that I didn't have to click around so much. I feel like it takes too many clicks to get to what I want. Once I'm on the person popup screen, I have to click on the fact, then click on sources, then click to add a source, then click text detail, just to add what was recorded in a source. I didn't feel that FTM took this long, but maybe I just was so used to it.
  • I wish that you could edit the source details (like adding text that you found) right on the source page instead of having to click to another screen.
  • I wish that it would give me more guesses when I typed in a place. In FTM, the software tries to guess what place you are typing. RM4 only gives you a guess to what you have already added. Although places change over time and FTM may try to guess a county that didn't exist yet, I like the feature for spelling purposes. I'll have to go through my places at a later time to check them instead of when I input them.
  • I don't like that it tries to make every photo I add the primary photo, I wish that I could turn off this check box.
Although I don't find RM4 perfect, I have made the switch. My number one reason for the switch is the ability to make customizable source templates (which as I said I will discuss at another time).

I do want to mention that I tried to use Legacy Family Tree when I got my netbook. This was right before RM4 was released and I was trying to decide what software I wanted to use. When I tried to open my GEDcom in the free version of Legacy 7, it would just crash. That was my first and only experience with Legacy and since I couldn't get it to work, I never tried it. I know that other people really enjoy using it, but if it can't even open my GEDcom, I won't be using it.

This is just a quick comparison list. I'm sure I could think of many more. Maybe I'll write a part 2 when I think of another list and after using it some more. What have you found in your own comparisons? What did I forget? Leave me a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Organizing My Digital Genealogy Files

When I started on my family tree a year and a half ago, I used Family Tree Maker 2008 (FTM) and was upgraded in the fall to 2009. When Roots Magic 4 (RM4) was released, I picked up a copy and started using it. RM4 is quicker and I have switched entirely to using it. (I'll post my thoughts on the differences another time.)

One of the things that I needed to do when I switched to RM4 was to reattach all the digital media that I had acquired back to my source citations. When I looked in my genealogy media folder, I knew that it was going to be a long process.

I had realized before the software switch that something needed to be done, but I hadn't tackled that huge organizational task yet. When I would try to find files to use in my ancestral blog, I would struggle to find what had happened to it. I knew exactly which census record I wanted, but what was it named? One of the reasons that my media was unorganized was because when using FTM I would use the Ancestry.com search feature and allow it to capture the media that I needed. Then it would label it any way that it wanted, usually with some odd number code. I also never developed a good labeling system when I would save files.

So I came up with a way to organize everything. It seems to be working so far, but I still have a long ways to go to complete catching up.

Here is what I have done:
  • I have a "Genealogy" folder in My Documents (yes, I use Windows). This folder contains everything that I have collected for my genealogy from source materials to ancestral photos to resources to forms to material that I have questions to answer before I can include it in my database.
  • In the "Genealogy" folder, I have a "Media" folder for all my digital sources.
I always had these folders, but the media folder just contained every jpeg image and pdf that I had acquired. They all had names but there wasn't a very good pattern to the naming structure.

So this is what I added inside the "media" folder:
  • A folder for each surname
  • Inside each surname folder I made a folder for each family group and numbered them. For example, my BASCOM folder contains these folders: "01 - Dewey Francis BASCOM", "02 - Willard Theodore BASCOM", "03 - Robert Bruce BASCOM", and "04 - Carley H BASCOM" (And as soon as I can get enough evidence of Carley's father, I'll add a 5th folder with his name)
  • I am matching up these folder names to my paper files and organizing my binders by surname and then by family group number.
  • The files I am labeling "SURNAME given name year type". For example a 1935 Florida census for Dewey is labeled "BASCOM Dewey 1935 Florida census."
  • The files for all of the brothers and sisters throughout their lives end up in a folder within their father's folder. So inside the folder "01 - Michael DUNNING", I have folders for his other children (besides my direct ancestor). "Andrew Jackson DUNNING" and "Eleanor DUNNING DRIVER" have their own folders.
Currently I am focusing my research on my direct ancestors and their brothers and sisters. I am not diving deeper into descendants unless I need them to make a connection (which is probably going to happen with most of my lines) to the next generation.

For the few "extra" people that I have, I have placed a separate folder inside my ancestor's folder. When I was trying to find the father of Thomas Russell MATTHEWS recently, I had to follow his daughter Lydia who lived with two cousins in two separate censuses. First she lived with Timothy Smith MATTHEWS and then Anselm Tupper HOLCOMB. I have separate folders for each of these men's families inside my folder for Thomas' father, Phineas MATTHEWS and then inside their parents (Phineas' children's folders).

As I add my "old" media to my database, I am also going to work on my source citations and make them match up to Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I've been good about sourcing everything in my database, but have not always used the best format so that others can also find my sources.

I know that this system will definitely be better than my old system. But as I go through files, I will probably need to refine it, especially as I start going deeper into the family lines.

How are you organizing your digital media? What do you think of my system. Leave me a comment or send me an email to genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Watching Roots Television's Conference Coverage

A new set of videos was released by The Og on Roots Television today. I am always excited when I find a post about new videos on Rootstelevision in my Google Reader (usually on Tuesdays).

For anyone who hasn't heard of Roots Television before, it's like YouTube for genealogy videos. It offers videos from interviews with leading genealogists and genealogical companies to DNA programs to cemetery research to lectures to so much more. You can select the Program Guide to find out what is new and featured. You can also use the drop down menu in the top right corner to select categories of videos to watch. Or just use the search box.

A few months ago I decided to watch a bunch of videos in the conference section (using the drop down menu). I found a variety of interviews conducted at various conferences and also quite a few lectures that were recorded. Check the tabs above the video description to find more conferences (this works with finding more topics in any area).

The interviews make me feel like I'm behind the scenes at the conferences. I get to hear from well know genealogists about what they are working on and some of the content of their lectures. Dick Eastman has been conducting many of these interviews recently and I always look forward to the new batch after he returns from a conference.

In the new batch of videos today, Dick interviewed Dr. Tukufu Zuberi from PBS's The History Detectives. Tukufu was the speaker at the banquet held at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree last weekend. It was nice to hear some of the highlights and learn more about this program even though I couldn't make the Jamboree. [Even though I knew about his program I had never watched it, but I intend to start after listening to this interview.]

Also under the conference tab, I was able to find several lectures given at past genealogical conferences. I felt that these videos gave me a taste of what to expect when I go to a conference and also teach me something that I had missed before.

A few of the lectures I viewed were:
Although these lectures are from a few years ago, they still had lots of relevant information. (And if you can't get to any conferences, you'll take whatever you can get.) You can find lots more lectures by searching for "lecture" or by browsing through the conference section of the site.

I wish that more genealogy lectures would be available on Roots Television. Although the interviews are wonderful, I like getting more in depth on topics through the lectures. It's another reason for me to want to go genealogy conferences. It inspires me to learn more. It also makes me feel like I am not missing out on everything from the conferences. I understand that there are copyright issues and that people don't want their lectures stolen, but there has to be an agreement that can be reached with more lecturers to share their information. I would much rather see the lectures with the visual aides. I'd even be willing to pay a reasonable price for it, since there would be high costs involved with recording many lectures. NGS charges $12 for each lecture you want and it's only an audio CD. How can we get more lectures available?

What do you like best about Roots Television? Why do you keep watching or why are you going to start? What videos do you recommend? Leave a comment or send me an email at genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why Twitter is Great for Genealogists

Last Friday, Dear Myrtle wrote about an email she received from a man, Hugh, who did not "get" social networking sites. I was glad that Myrt explained that Facebook is what you make of it. You don't have to be friends with everyone you have ever met. Use Facebook for what you want to make of it. If you want it to be about connecting with other genealogists, then don't add your old high school friends. You have the control, use it.

What I really want to talk about in this post is Twitter. In his message to Myrt, Hugh said that t "there isn't much serious communications that can fit within the 140 character limitation." First of all, does everything have to be so serious all of the time? Secondly, I think you can get a lot out of 140 characters. It really makes you think about what you are typing and get your point across quickly. I have heard other genealogists and friends say that they don't understand Twitter and would never use it. George G. Morgan, from The Genealogy Guys podcast, posted on Facebook that he thought Twitter was "trashy" and deleted his account.

Others have written about Twitter and the genealogy community before. For example, Thomas MacEntee wrote a column on why Twitter is great for genealogists. His Twitter cheat sheet should help you understand Twitter if you haven't used it before or want to get more out of it. He has also put together a list of genealogy companies and people on Twitter.

Even though others have done it, I still wanted to add my comments. Here are some of my tips and reasons why I think Twitter is great for genealogists:

1. Choose who you follow. Your personal twitter feed is made up of only the people who you decide to follow. You have control of it. If you aren't interested in a person's twitter, don't follow them. If you decide you don't like someone's postings later, unfollow them. Don't want to read about every single thing a person does, don't follow that person's twitter. Find people who interest and entertain you and create a twitter feed that is meaningful to you. I currently follow some genealogists, but not every single one, who tweets (tweet = twitter post) meaningful, fun content. I also follow a few friends who have Twitter accounts, some local news, writers ,and web comic creators who I enjoy. I try to keep my feed manageable so that I can read through all of the postings and not be overwhelmed by it every time I log in.

2. Don't follow everyone who follows you. It's okay if you aren't interested in what someone else says. But that doesn't mean that they wouldn't enjoy what you say. For example, a rubber mulch company follows my husband on Twitter, but my husband could care less about rubber mulch and doesn't follow them.

3. Search for content that you will like. The genealogy community uses the tag #genealogy for all posts that deal with genealogy. (Is genealogy 3 times in one sentence too much?) You don't have to follow everyone to still read their posts that may interest you. Use the search box on the right of your screen and type in "#genealogy" and find all the lastest posts with that tag. You don't even have to join Twitter to use the search feature.

4. Keeping up to date on conferences you couldn't attend. This is the most powerful thing that I have found on Twitter. Twitter was used wonderfully at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree this past weekend. I couldn't attend the Jamboree, but I got wonderful coverage and felt like I was right there. The Twitterers at the Jamboree used the hashtag #scgs09. I created and saved a search for that tag and kept refreshing it all weekend. Randy Seaver had wonderful coverage of the Son of Bloggers Summit. Others took the time to twitter some of what they learned in the lectures. I still wish that I had been there but it was great to know what was going on at the conference.

I really hope to see more bloggers and twitterers (not sure if that's the correct term, but I'll use it anyway) reporting from genealogy conferences. I think it is a great way to generate more interest in the conferences and get more people to attend. I may have felt like I was at the Jamboree, but I know that I missed a lot more excitement and learning.

4. Let people know about your new blog posts. Get more followers to your blog and hopefully find someone to help with your brick walls. Maybe you'll even find a cousin.

5. Announce new content. I currently working on a Vevay Newspaper Index. It is an index of births, marriages, and deaths from the Vevay, Switzerland county, Indiana newspapers from 1853-1901. Whenever I finish a year and put it online, I send out a tweet.

6. Meet more genealogists and collaborate. One of the best things about going to conferences is being able to meet other genealogists. Facebook and Twitter are helping us to do it outside of the conferences and whenever we have the time.

7. Communicate with genealogy companies. Let the companies know your opinions and what you want to see from them. Open up communication between corporations and users.

Twitter may not be for everyone. But if people know how to use it and are able to find a great content, then I think it will work for lots of genealogists.

What did I miss about Twitter? Leave a comment or send me an email at genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com. Or send me a tweet.