Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Keep Quiet About Your Research

Tell everyone in your family you are researching your family history: after all, it’s their history, too! Santa brought a very special gift to me this Christmas. My first cousin once removed – my mother’s first cousin, knew I was doing research so …. He took it upon himself to re-visit the cemetery in Pennsylvania where so much of our family was buried. I’m sure I met him a long time ago but do not remember where or when but he remembered that I was doing research. He had visited the cemetery previously but the office was closed, the gravestones and property were in deplorable condition and we gave up ever finding more information on any of our relatives there.

Well, surprise! The former cemetery owners repurchased the property, re-opened the office, weeded and mowed, and righted the stones! Bill spent quite a bit of time getting all the plot records and even sketched out the plots. Then, the biggest thing – he sent the information to me. I now have 13 burial cards from Montrose Cemetery that I never had before and lost hope of ever seeing.

So – Merry Christmas to me!

I write this to let you know that you, too, may have a relative who still lives in the area of your mutual ancestors and might be willing to do a little leg work for you, too.

The other “take away” is that cemeteries change hands and what might have once been a lost cause can suddenly be a treasure trove of information. So don’t write off any avenue of research forever. It would be wonderful if the same thing would happen in Cobb Creek Cemetery in Philadelphia but I’m not hopeful. Just the same – I’ll keep checking.

Happy New Year and Happy Hunting!

(Regular weekly blogs will now resume.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday gift giving

Sorry for the posting delay but we were out of town visiting the kids! Arizona was gorgeous this time of year and we visited some amazing historical sites and walked back in time through an old (circa 1000 A.D. cliff dwelling.) I bet there were some stories there!

I wanted to share some gift giving ideas with you – both for other genealogists and your own family. First, many subscription sites have sales this time of year. Either the annual subscriptions are discounted or the subscription terms are extended. Now that the free access for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is gone, if you are feeling particularly generous, how about giving a gift subscription to Ancestry.com? A six month US membership is $12.95 per month. You don’t have to give the whole world or even a whole year.

Worldvitalrecords.com (now a MyHeritage site) offers annual and monthly subscriptions for 89.99. The annual subscription includes free Family Tree Builder software CD. A month’s subscription is 16.25 so you don’t have to break the bank to give a month’s worth of searching before committing to a year. The 3 day trial is just not enough to figure out what databases you will want to use.

Fold3.com (now part of Ancestry.com) is 79.95 per year and includes the ability to upload your own information for sharing with other researchers. Fold3 refers to the third fold of a flag representing the veterans for the service and sacrifice.

Genealogy Bank is 69.95 for a year and has a lovely 30 day trial. This site is great for printed articles and has one of the most current SSDI’s I’ve seen.

Americanancestors.org (the old NEGHS.org) is great for those of us with New England, New York, and increasingly – just American Ancestors. They even have gift certificates!

OK – that’s enough for the websites, now onto what you can give from your own research. How about a family chart? It’s a little late to order the fancy ones but the office stores like FedEx office will print on large paper. We did a 30” by 6’ family tree roll for some relatives one year. The best thing you can do, though, is set the recipient as the “home” person before preparing the chart so the relationships are specific to that individual. I know that Family Tree Maker software accommodates this very well and won’t mess up your work. Just don’t forget to set it back before you start researching again.

You could also print some of the documents you have to make the family history come alive. If you’ve scanned photos into Picasa, then the movie and CD features can make the gift very special.

Have a great holiday season and Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We will always remember

For those of us in the United States, this is a memorable day. The attack on Pearl Harbor solidified the US’s involvement in World War II. This anniversary reminds me that our veterans and their spouses are getting old. If you have not taken the time to ask them where they were on Pearl Harbor Day – today’s the day. If you were alive for Pearl Harbor Day – it’s time to write down your remembrances.

Don’t forget that many served on the home front in volunteer capacities not just as enlisted personnel. Get the stories from the women! These are the stories we don’t read about. What jobs did the women hold until the men came home? How did this affect their lives and choices.

The Library of Congress has a Veteran’s History Project: http://www.loc.gov/vets/ for recording your stories. There are even forms and interview questions. Don’t wait. We are losing this opportunity. There are also Honor Flights from across the country to Washington, D.C. for veteran’s to visit the WWII memorial. I’ve read about some of the flights not being able to get enough WWII veterans and so they are filling the flights with Korean Conflict veterans. This is not to belittle the Korean Conflict service but to point out how precious the time is for the WWII stories.

If it were not for a stop by our home on his way to a reunion with his unit,  I never would have heard about my Uncle Jim’s two narrow escapes. The harrowing tale of being shot down behind enemy lines and living off raw rabbit meat for a month in a French cave might have died with him.

If I had not hung around my Dad while he was cleaning out desk drawers one day, I would never have seen and read (and since transcribed) his WWII strike journal which detailed each of his Air Corps missions. The patch below and photo were part of his collection. Dad - Clifford Ralston Beach Jr. is the young man on the left.

Enjoy your genealogy research but don’t forget to preserve the stories for future generations.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, November 28, 2011

YEAH - It's finally HERE!

Ancestry.com’s family tree browser for Android devices is here. It’s in BETA – which means it’s not fully ready for public use but it does what I want. Now I can connect to my family tree on Ancestry.com from my Android based smart phone and Samsung tablet. It downloads whatever tree you want and with just a swipe you can view prior generations. Tap on a person and that person’s data comes up. PERFECT

I bought a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet right after it came out and it’s still my favorite device for web browsing. I bought a stand for it, also. Now with this new application I can view my tree by my computer while I’m doing my online research. I know that is not what everyone would do but it’s perfect for me. I don’t have much room near my desk and switching back and forth between multiple websites and my PC based Family Tree software is just not elegant. Now, with just a glance, I can verify the data I have entered in my Family Tree on Ancestry.com.

Did I mention – IT’S FREE!

So – if you have a tree on Ancestry.com and an Android smart phone or tablet – check it out at the Android Marketplace.

iPad/iPhone users have had this app for a while already.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Those Who Served

I mentioned the website www.fold3.com in a previous post but this is not the only good place to find military records. If you know what branch of the service or what company your ancestor served with, there are many dedicated websites for service information.

One of my ancestors served for the Union in the Civil War with a Pennsylvania company. I found his pension index record on Ancestry.com and also on other websites but this index card does not tell me much.

Further searching using Google led me to the following website, though. http://www.angelfire.com/pa5/gettysburgpa/23rdpa.html

This website was specifically about his unit. This website includes many obituaries, service notes, soldier cards, battle lists, etc.

I’ve found similar websites for this regiment and another one is: http://www.pacivilwar.com/regiment/23rd.html 
This website includes links to articles and photos.  

Don’t just think it’s the Civil War that has websites for companies and regiments. My father served in WWII and there are websites for his Air Corps division, also. The best one includes pictures and transcribed strike journals! (I have my Dad’s strike journal and pictures but if I did not, this site would have been priceless)

The point is – we get tied up with looking for our ancestors information on generalized websites and don’t think about the possibility that the information might be on a special, dedicated, FREE website.

I’m sure there are sites for your ancestors who served, also.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Turn off the computer and go outside!

I live in beautiful South Carolina and this past weekend was just gorgeous outside. So … I turned off the computer and visited some heritage events for a taste of past generations. We spend so much time researching to find little tidbits of information about our ancestors and their lives that it is easy to forget about the circumstances they lived in. Their time in history shaped their lives, choices, and families.

Our first event was a sugar cane juicing and boiling celebration in Coward, SC. The Russ Brothers farm was opened to the public and on this crisp Saturday morning the smell of fresh sugar cane being boiled down in 100 gallon vats was intoxicating. They used a piece of equipment from 1905 to press the juice from the cane. It was a real treat to step back over 100 years to this early process for industrialized sugar production. We then were able to sample this syrup on free pancakes, biscuits, and sausage while marveling at how lucky we were to be a part of this local tradition. The day was so enjoyable we decided to venture on to a local living history farm for a full fall farm experience.

Many of my relatives lived on farms through the 18th, 19th, and into the early 20th centuries. I hadn’t been on a farm in years and it was nice to spend the rest of the day there without having to actually do all the work! It was easy to see the need for large families. The L.W.Paul Living History Farm has a sawmill, blacksmith, gristmill, smokehouse, tobacco barn, sugar cane pot (60 gallons), and other barns and out buildings. There is even a small chapel. Last Saturday was particularly active with sugaring, smoking, tool making, plowing, cotton picking, yarn dying, sawing, smoking, and various “putting up” activities. This work would have been vital activities to our ancestors. It was especially interesting listening to one grandmother explain each of these processes to her grandchildren.

I could not help but chuckle as the boys stood wide-eyed when she told them how they used corn cobs for toilet paper. They thought she was kidding until another older gentleman corroborated the story and said he still grabs corn cobs when he goes out hunting – just in case. When I called my mother later in the day she chuckled, too, and then said – Yes, of course, that’s what she used, too, as a child.

So – take some time to visit living history centers and heritage events and absorb some of the daily events your ancestors participated in as part of their daily life.

Happy Hunting!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why you need a G-mail account for genealogy

Why you need a G-mail account for genealogy.

It’s a free, secure, stable, powerful piece of programming. If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you will always have your contacts and e-mails. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you will have secure access to your e-mail and contacts anywhere there is a hot-spot. These reasons work for anyone not just genealogists. So why do genealogists need a G-mail account as opposed to other web-based e-mail accounts?

The answer is iGoogle. iGoogle is another free Google product that lets you create your own custom home page for when you open your browser. This page, combined with the Google toolbar means that your favorite genealogy websites and bookmarks are always with you on the Internet. This process takes three steps. First obtain a free GMail account from www.gmail.com. You don’t have to use this new e-mail account for e-mail at all! You could decide to use it just for genealogy, though, so that when you post to a message board or forum, your e-mail account doesn’t change, even if you move or change Internet service providers (ISP) in the future. It’s really frustrating when I see a post from someone in my family research and their e-mail address is no longer valid when I try to contact them with information they have requested. With a Gmail account, you have a stable address for these posts.

Next, (or first if you already have a Gmail account) go to www.google.com/ig. The “ig” on the end signifies that you want the personalized iGoogle home page. You may have to sign-in to customize and save this page as your own. If you don’t sign-in you can still create a page with gadgets of your choosing, but the personal page won’t be saved. 

Once you’ve designed your page and added the gadgets for your research, you’ll need to set this page as your home page in your browser. Each browser is a little different but the options for re-setting your home page are usually under the tools menu. You can have more than one “home page” on the Internet if you are using a “tabbed” browser. This means that you do not have to give up your current home page just add this one to the list.

Now when you open your Internet browser the iGoogle home page you designed is the first page you see! I have gadgets for weather, g-mail, various genealogy web-sites and blogs, etc. I’ve included some of those gadget choices here. Don’t forget to search for other words like “ancestry” and “family history.”

There is plenty of help for iGoogle on the iGoogle help screens so I won’t go into detail here on how to set-up your pages. The G-mail account and iGoogle make your Internet experience much more personal. Don't forget to test these gadgets. I've found that some gadgets are not as useful as I first though.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy All Saint’s Day!
Hooker Falls and morning mist,  near Brevard, NC
After spending much of last week photographing waterfalls in North Carolina, it’s time to get back to genealogy. I’ve included one of the photos I took, though, so you will know my time was well spent.
Did anyone out there purchase Family Tree Maker (FTM) 2012 with the bonus pack? I did and feel a bit ripped off. I’ve had FTM for many years and through those years have received bonus disks either as additional purchases or gifts. Well, I spent an additional $30 for the latest bonus disk and it’s nothing but a re-run of prior offerings. So don’t waste your money if you have bonus disks from prior years – check their contents, first. The prior disks were titled “Reference Library Deluxe” and “Resource Essentials.” The “new” bonus disk has the following texts and Photo Explosion Album software.
Note : If I make this insert smaller you could not read it at all

If you don’t already have these texts be aware that many of these texts are OLD. The Abbreviations book is from 2003 – probably not an issue. The Dictionary is from 1989 – also not an issue. Hidden Sources is from 2000. Printed Sources is from 1998. The Ancestry Guide is from 2007/2008 and the RootsWeb guide is from 2007. In all fairness, though, these seem to be the latest versions of the printed texts. Just don’t expect anything new from these .pdf files.

Just wanted you to be aware of what the extra money might actually cost you.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Was Footnote Now Fold3

Anyone been on the new version of Footnote lately? I've been a member of footnote.com since the beginning. I found a lot of military information there but was never happy with how long images took to load. Well .... Ancestry purchased Footnote earlier this year and recently re-launched www.footnote.com as www.fold3.com.

When I spoke with Ancestry personnel at the National Genealogical Society Convention in Charleston, SC in May, they confirmed what I expected. Fold3.com will focus on military records and original historical documents relating to government and national history. I was not surprised but I wasn't excited, either. I should have been, at the very least, more curious but I thought it was going to be a ho-hum.
It's not.

The new www.fold3.com has a much better image viewer. It's fast! No more cup of tea in between each mouse move. Search results are also faster. Another thing to remember - many of the records are free! Footnote was a joint project among many public archives and Footnote. Some of the original provisions required free views of the records since the records were archived with public monies, originally. You do need to register, though.

Brady's Civil war photos - free
Custer's court martial - free
Continental Congress papers - free
Civil War Maps (66% complete) - free
Lincoln assassination papers - free
Pennsylvania Archives - free
and more

The other thing that is great about Fold3, and was true about Footnote, is crowd sourcing. Members can annotate records, add information, and easily keep track of those records that they've contributed to.

So - if you haven't been to www.fold3.com, it may just hold the information you've been looking for.

Happy Hunting!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ok – so it’s not “tomorrow”

I taught on Tuesday and Wednesday and didn’t have time to write. I didn’t forget, though. This is the third Google thing I found this week. (Remember Google is a company not just a search tool.)

What I found was a “Love it” (with apologies to Stone Cold Creamery but fewer calories) tool in Google. So – open your browser and go to Google.com. Then Click on “more” and go all the way to the bottom and click on “even more.”

See – a new page with a heart next to the search bar. Now – this is the cool part – type in “genealogy” and click the heart; a whole page gets populated with genealogy “stuff.” Try different terms like “family history” (don’t forget to put quotes around phrases when you search) or “ancestry.”

What Google does is populate specific gadgets with these terms and lead you to places you may have never thought to look on in the Internet. The gray grid on the left shows you where you are on the page of gadgets.
Just in case genealogy isn't the only thing/person you love, try some other search terms. I even put my husband's name in just for fun!

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Using Google Chrome

I know I said 3 times a week but a week needs to have about 14 days for that to happen right now. Thanks for sticking with me. It’s not that I don’t think about what to write and I even have a backlog of ideas – it’s just that time thing! Anyway – I just discovered something on Google. Well – three somethings on Google.

First, if you open your browser and go to Google.com there is a microphone in the search bar (only in Google Chrome Browser.) If you click the microphone, you can use the embedded microphone in your laptop/tablet/phone, etc. to speak a search term or phrase. No typing needed!

Second, from that same search bar, click images so that your search looks for images, exclusively. The search bar will have a camera on the bar, now. This lets you drag an image or upload an image from your computer to the search bar. This works in Chrome and Firefox but did not work in Internet Explorer 9.

What’s so cool about this? Well, I have some “place” pictures in my genealogy folders and was not sure where they were taken. I dragged one to the search bar and waited. Guess what – GOOGLE search found similar pictures! Awesome! Now I know what the entrance to Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn looks like.

While the Google images results window was open, I clicked on Map and the picture then showed me where it was located. Very cool stuff.

So, play around with different browsers and the Google search bar. You may be surprised that there are different functions depending on which browser you use.

Oh, the third thing – well that’s for tomorrow.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Easier File Selection in Windows Explorer

There will come a time when you need to copy, move, or attach a bunch of files from your computer. Windows Explorer (the Windows file manager) lets you see your files but picking and choosing the files out of many in a list can require an arcane method of clicking on the first file and then while the CTRL (control) key is pressed down you must click on each successive file without clicking on the wrong file or letting go of the CTRL key. THERE IS AN EASIER WAY!
How to turn on check boxes in Windows Explorer to make file selecting SO MUCH EASIER!
These instructions work with Windows 7. I’ve not tested Windows Vista.
Open Windows Explorer from the taskbar (note – this is the file manager in Windows NOT Internet Explorer Browser)
Click on “Tools”
Click on “Folder Options”
Click on “View”
Then Click on “Use check boxes to select items” you may have to scroll down the list to find this box.
Then Click “OK”
Now when you open Windows explorer you can just click the check boxes to pick and choose files instead of using the “click” “control-click” key combinations that can be frustrating to get the hang of. See – so much easier for picking non-contiguous files from a folder for copying, moving, or attaching.
There is even a check box at the top of the filename column to let you select all the files in a folder if you are in “details” view. (ctrl-A still works, though) You may not see the check boxes until you move your mouse pointer over a filename, though. If you accidentally check a file by clicking on the filename, just click the filename a second time to toggle the check mark on or off.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tidbits and Hints

Today’s blog is little tidbits of information that don’t fit into their own full blog topics. They are just hints. Some I’ve picked up along the way from other people. Some are from my own experience. I wish I could have learned some of these from others instead of having to learn them the hard way. I’m hoping to save you some of the pain that experience can bring with it.

First, as was a topic of one of my earlier posts, backup your data. I have a bit more to add to that, though. I have multiple external hard drives and flash drives. I take care of my family’s computers and they expect me to protect their data and magically know which drive has the latest version of their files. They are woefully misguided. Most automatic backup software creates proprietary files that people cannot read by just opening them. You’ll have to know what software was used to create the backup, first, in order to figure out what is in the archive. You’ll also need to still have the software installed in order to read the files.

I recommend creating a text document with Word, WordPad, NotePad, etc. and put this file on the backup device. Make note of what you backed up, when, and what program was last used – even if you just dragged and dropped the files. Don’t forget to include which computer the data came from! This will become more important to you if you get a new computer and need data from the old one. That’s what I’m dealing with, today. See – I didn’t create that little text file and now I’m not sure which drive has the data I’m looking for. Paper sticky notes on the drives can also help but that does not work on flash drives and they fall off too easily, anyway.

The second hint for today is to use a digital camera, phone camera, or navigation unit to record the longitude and latitude of headstones, family homes, and other geographic landmarks that are pertinent to your family history trips. If you took the time to find a grave marker, make it easier for the next generation or even yourself, to find it again by recording its co-ordinates. Roads move, landmarks can be destroyed or moved, buildings get built. If you take the time to record the longitude and latitude in your records, then there will be no question about where the family burial plot is. This information is particularly useful in the mid-west when farmers buried headstones to preserve them. The burial yard is still there but without knowing where it is no one can find it again.  

The third hint for today requires that you still have older living relatives. Don’t assume that you know where people came from. Ask if they remember hearing any accents around their homes or at holiday gatherings. These accents may lead you to other parts of the world or even regions in your own country. Also, ask what foods were served. I have relatives with Irish surnames but all of the holiday foods were Hungarian.

The fourth hint for today goes along with the third one. Are there any colloquial expressions or sayings in your family? In my family I always remember hearing “Outen the light” – that’s pure Pennsylvania Dutch. Now that I’m in the South  - it’s “Cut off the light.” These regionalized idiomatic expressions can lead you to where a family might have originated.

Thank you for your time and Happy Hunting!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Family Tree Maker 2012

The New Family Tree Maker  (FTM) 2012 arrived today and I still took time to cook dinner!

First impressions – on the surface the program looks much like the 2011 version but “under the hood” there are a bunch of enhancements and new tools. These have been covered in other media, blogs, articles, and reviews. What I want to take some time with are the "Options" under the "Tools" Menu.
These Options found under the Tools menu at the bottom do not seem to have changed from 2011 to 2012 but …I never bothered to look at them before!

Options Screen in FTM 2012
So, even if you have an older version of Family Tree Maker you may want to check out these settings. It’s possible that you can personalize the software to suit your needs better. The first thing I’m playing with is the color theme! The classic theme gives a black and white tone to the borders and menus. The Windows theme changes the greens to blues. It’s the little things!

The other setting I was quick to change was the Internet speed. This helps optimize uploads and downloads. My broadband connection speed is considered “Corporate” in Family Tree Maker.

You’ll note that the other setting changes on the above screen include using large fonts and using captions instead of filenames for media.

The one setting I’d not noticed before is the “Exclude Ancestry Family Trees from automatic search.” Now, as much as I like the online trees, I hate when a leaf is waving at me and when I click on it – it’s my cousin’s online tree – AGAIN. So, now I can turn the online tree hints off until I’ve exhausted the documented links.

There will be more to come as I work with this new version of Family Tree Maker. The important thing to remember – the features you may want may be there in an older version if you check the tools menu.

Happy Hunting!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Picasa and Screen Captures

It’s another busy week and Mom is finally coming home from rehab after surgery. It’s wonderful that there are facilities to make sure she is ready to take care of herself safely. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers during this time.

All of this means that family history has taken a back seat to actual family but that’s how it is supposed to be. I also teach two days a week and prepare all my own materials and course content. It’s a wonderful opportunity but time consuming. The result is that I can’t blog daily – I imagine you’ve noticed. I will try to keep to three times a week, though.

Today’s post is about a program called Picasa. I have mentioned it before but most of us use it for pictures. Did you know you can use it to capture whole screen shots? If you have Windows Vista or Windows 7 or a Mac, you’ve been able to cut a piece from anywhere on your screen and do something else with it. All Windows programs have been able to capture screen shots but the next few steps to keep a copy of the screen shot are arcane.

Picasa to the rescue!

Open Picasa (a free download from http://www.Picasa.com  – a Google product) then minimize it. When you find a screen you want a copy of, click the “print screen” key on your computer. (Note: the “ALT-PrintScreen” key combination will capture just the active window.) You will see Picasa capture the screen and store it in a folder called “screen captures” inside the Picasa folder in the (my)Pictures folder on your computer. The best thing is that the screenshots are captured in sequence by time so they are always in the order in which you progresses through the original screens. Once they are in Picasa you can caption them, rename them, edit them, crop them, type text on them, e-mail them, or even create a slide show (with one click!!!), etc. Picasa lets you do anything to these screen shots that you can do to a picture.

OK, so why would you want to do this? It’s a slick way of creating a slide show from different source documents. It’s easy to use for teaching or demonstrating. You can add text to any slide and captions allow you to be precise with directions. Once you have a sequence of screen shots you can put them in an album in Picasa are re-arrange them in any order. You can make a gift CD or movie for someone with this free powerful piece of software. (Note: Family Tree Maker users can also run a slide show of their Family Tree Maker media files.) Picasa has so many uses that I’ll have to share more, later.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Browsing the Internet with Internet Explorer 9

I know that this is not strictly a genealogy issue but if you spend a lot of time on the Internet you may run into these issues. So I thought I could help.

Internet Explorer (IE) 9 is the latest version of Microsoft’s Internet browser. Many people have asked me about troubles they’ve been having with this new more secure version. Some pages don’t display at all, Adobe “Flash” keeps asking to be upgraded, some .pdf files never show up, some pages only show the advertising (how nasty is that!)

The big issue with IE9 is something called “ActiveX filtering” this is supposed to make the program much more secure but it ends up being a pain particularly with embedded .pdf files. If this filtering is actually the cause of your issue there will be a little blue circle with line in it in the address bar of IE 9 or sometimes even on the upper left of the page, itself. Click the little blue circle with the line in it and then select “turn off ActiveX filtering." This is also the fix for pages that say you need a new version of “Flash” and you know you just updated it (just being in the last 2 weeks, usually.)

This can happen on many pages or even a whole site – not just pdf embedded pages. If you have robust security software like Norton and McAfee you could just turn this feature off but I don’t recommend it. In any case, Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 is a lot more secure than prior versions and I use it for teaching but at home I use the Nuance products.

Another “gotcha” is when a page has not been updated to work with IE9 and sometimes even IE 8. Then there will be a torn page icon in the address bar. If you click that tool the page will revert to a compatible IE version to display the page. The browser will also keep track of the page for future use and when it has been updated then will display it without the compatibility settings - pretty cool.

Happy Hunting!

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Family Tree Maker with Discount

 I don’t usually promote specific pieces of software since this choice is very personal but the new version of Family Tree Maker (version 2012) will have some significant improvements.

For those of us with online Ancestry.com trees the new version offers 2-way synchronization! This is critical to those of us who have updated information on our home tree and updated different information online and now don’t know what is where. This will also help if you’ve been reluctant to store a copy of your tree online for your personal use or for sharing.

There are substantial benefits in storing your tree online, unshared, at Ancestry.com. The first one is automatic date fills on forms: you start to type a search and Ancestry.com references your tree and fills in the rest of the pertinent data. The second one is Ancestry.com hints about what records other members are saving to their own trees about the same people. The third one is the ability to quickly add data, records, and sources to the online tree when you are not using your home computer.

This last feature is where most of us got into trouble. I use Ancestry.com when I’m away from home. I’ve found and attached source data to my online tree that I want on my home tree. I’ve added people to my home tree since I uploaded my online tree. If I just upload a new gedcom , then the attached records used to be orphaned. NOW – YEAH, with Family Tree Maker 2012, I can synchronize the data both ways!

I was not a beta tester and will have to wait for the software but comments from beta testers have been very positive. I mention all of this now because there is a discount from Family Tree Maker if you pre-order the software. The discount expires on Monday the 26th because the software will be shipping that week. So there is very little time left to get this discount. More information is available at http://www.familytreemaker.com.

Happy Hunting!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Data is not Information

Do you think you have much of the data you need for your ancestors? Does your family tree have lots of names and dates? Mine does. In fact, when I look at a five generation chart there are very few blanks. This quick view of my ancestry gave me a false sense of my progress in pursuing my family’s history.

One way to discover where the gaps are is to turn a chart into a narrative. Think of your own life and how you answer the question posed by new friends: “So, tell me about yourself?” The basics – we usually have those – I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I have a younger brother. I was married in Dover, New Jersey. We’ve lived in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. I’m a technology instructor and former business owner. I have passions for photography and genealogy and also like to cook.

These simple, everyday questions and answers for our own lives are the ones we need to be able to answer for our ancestors. These are the building blocks of their lives and our history. We stand on their experiences and decisions. Take a look at one of your grandparents and see if you can “fill in the blanks.”

Hi, I’m Sophia Hoenig from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’m one of seven children. I have three sisters and three brothers. My youngest brother died when I was fifteen. His name was James. There was also a boy who only lived a week but I never knew him – that was before I was born – that was Thomas. Lewis my oldest brother went on to become an archbishop in the Episcopal Church. I remember visiting him in his home in California after he came back from missionary work in China. That’s where this vase comes from. Anyway…..

See – these are the stories of our ancestor’s lives. The births and deaths, comings and goings of their family members were events that shaped them. So even when you have the dates and names on a chart you don’t have all the information. Try putting the lives in context with a narrative. It may help you understand them better and may expose the gaps in your data. I had never thought about how old my grandmother was when she lost her “favorite” brother. I knew the chart but not the context. Just something to think about. 

Happy Hunting!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Census records hold lots of secrets

If you’ve looked at the census records since 1850 you will see a list of all the people in a residence with their ages and sex but there is a lot of inferred information that is not so direct, depending on the census year.

If there are more than 2 years between children, maybe one died. If there is a large gap between children there might have been a prior spouse or blended family. In my family, the 13 children listed with my great grandparents in the early 1930’s were not all theirs. The Great Depression was difficult for everyone and during those years the city relatives sent the children to the “farm.” This insured that there would be food for them and helped the farm because they could not afford to hire help. The parents may have split up temporarily, as my ancestors did, in order to find work or reduce expenses. So don’t assume that all children in the house are biological children.

I’ve also found that once a child reaches puberty, they are often listed as “boarders” instead of sons and daughters. I’ve also seen a 13 yr old girl listed at the bottom of a census family and she is not a daughter but a servant. Check the other households in the neighborhood for servants, also. Neighborhoods tend to be homogeneous – the old “keeping up with the Joneses.” If one family has a servant, it is likely that others on the same street will, also. So be careful when looking at these records and don’t apply 21st century family structures to 1850 households.

Happy Hunting!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Got the Picture?

If you have photos on your computer, then Picasa is for you. Picasa is a FREE small powerful program download from http://www.picasa.com (another Google site). It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

With this program installed with its default settings, (just click through the install screens accepting the standard replies) your computer will become your best genealogy companion. Since Picasa is built with Google technology, the tagging and search features are spectacular and the facial recognition feature will help sort out family photos.

I teach many classes on using this great program and one of the tools I use in genealogy is the facial recognition feature. As your program indexes all of your photos it finds the faces and creates a separate thumbnail of these faces. You can use these thumbnails to populate your family trees, create slide shows with the photos, help figure out who is related to whom, and in general, have some fun with your photos.

My collection of photos includes scans that date back over 100 years. When I tweaked the Picasa facial recognition feature to be LESS sensitive, the program thought my father, brother, and uncle were the same person! This can be very handy if you don’t know who someone is – the program can help.

The sensitivity setting is in the Tools menu and then select Options and then click on the Name Tags setting. As you slide the sliders to a higher number the program becomes more discerning and will help you separate siblings who the program thinks are the same person. As you slide the sliders to a lower number the program is less able to separate people giving you family groups. This facial recognition feature was able to find pictures of my nephews from age 18 months to 21 and figure out it was the same person! OK, I admit, that’s a little freaky but amazing none-the-less.

When you first install the software it will take some time for the face tagging to index the people so don’t close the program for a few hours. You can still use other programs during that time. Each time you open the program it will continue the indexing of the photos and people.

I use Picasa for so much more than photos and I’ll be sharing some of the best tips with you. Thank you for your time.

Happy Hunting.
9-11 Never Forget!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Be a Joiner

Sorry for the multi-day gap in posts. My Mom is in the hospital and I've been distracted to say the least.

I did receive an e-mail today that reminds me how much I value my local genealogy club. Through this club I've found other people who are researching not only in the same geographical areas but even the same surnames that I am.

Our club is not affiliated with any larger associations like the state or national societies but has some wonder, sharing, talented genealogists. We meet monthly at a local library. Our partnership with the library helps maintain there online subscriptions and supports genealogy book acquisition.

Our group donates materials to the library for genealogy research and now, when they are adding materials they ask for our input, too. Definitely a win-win.

So - join a local genealogy group and support your local library. Ours has online free on site access to Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest; maybe yours does, too.

Happy Hunting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tired of Typing?

Tired of typing? Is your typing too slow or inaccurate? Have lots of information to enter into the computer but dread the thought of typing it or scanning it in?

Speech recognition has come of age. It's in our voicemail, it's on our phones and it's even in our cars. Isn't it time to use it on our computers?

How long do you think usable speech recognition has been part of Microsoft products, I think you'd be surprised to know that it's been part of Microsoft Office since 1996. Microsoft Office '97 had speech recognition built in: most of us it turned off. 

Microsoft Vista had speech recognition built into the operating system in 2006 and most of us never turned it on. Speech recognition is also part of Windows 7. It's easy to use. It's already there and, best of all, it's free. It works inside programs. It works on the Internet. It does not require much training, although works better with it. It works with your built-in microphone but it works better with a headset microphone. Isn't it time that your computer started listening to you?

There are many ways to activate speech recognition in Windows Vista and Windows 7. For those of you who like to click on a lot of menu entries – Click the Start Button, then click “all programs,” then click “accessories,” then click “ease of use,” then click “speech recognition.”

For those of you who just want to get there … Click the Start Button and type speech into the search window that is right above the start button. This will bring up a mini-menu with the speech recognition menu options. You want the one that says "Windows speech recognition." The help screens will guide you through the process of using a microphone with your computer to enter typed data without having to type.

This technology is remarkably accurate and most of this document was created with this process.