Monthly Archives: February 2012

Tips and Tricks for Searching Ancestry.com

I have to say that between the new “Pennsylvania Church and Town Records, 1708-1985″ Collection on Ancestry.com and the “Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885-1950″ on FamilySearch.org I have been filling in so many “blanks” that I’ve lost count! I’ve been finding exact birth, marriage and death dates, names of parents and maiden names of spouses! I’ll probably blog about some of my specific finds soon, but for now I wanted to post a quick tip on searching the Church and Town Collection on Ancestry.

So, I started out doing a search for “Daniel Ecker.” The following is a screen shot of a portion of the results that were returned: (hint: if a screen shot is too small to read, click on it to see a larger view)

Search Results

I then click on the top result and view the image. It turns out to be Daniel’s marriage record in the church register of Christ Episcopal Church in Pottstown, Montgomery Co, PA. Now I’m thinking I want to see what else I can find in that particular church register. Unfortunately, there’s no direct way to search just that register – the best you can do is limit the search to the entire “Pennsylvania Church and Town” collection. But there is a way to get almost what you want by setting the search parameters appropriately.

First, limit the search to the “PA Church and Town” collection. You can do this through the card catalog feature, but I find it a lot easier to do by clicking on the banner as shown in the image below.

Now you will get the following search box:

The key thing here is to use the advanced search, then on the “Any Event” option, set the location of the church and “restrict to exact.” You could also set the year and range and click “Exact only” to further limit the scope of the query. As I have the query set up, Ancestry will only return results from Pottstown, PA.  This limits the number of churches to only those in Pottstown and greatly increases the chance that the results returned will be relevant.

Open Thursday Thread: What Did You Think of RootsTech?

Thomas MacEntee posted the following on his Geneabloggers blog:

“Last week’s RootsTech was an outstanding success on many levels based on blog posts, social media chatter and other feedback circulating on the Internets.

Whether you attended in person, watched the live streaming from home, followed the blog posts and tweets, or just downloaded videos and syllabus material, what did you think of RootsTech?  If possible, let us know your thoughts about:”

So here are my responses, interspersed with the quetions:

1. Did RootsTech live up to your expectations or the hype, especially if you were a first time attendee (in person or online)?

I was a first time at-home attendee. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was impressed by many of the online presentations. It is encouraging to see people with both vision and technological expertise driving the industry forward.

2. If you “played along at home” via the RootsTech website, how was the quality of the content? Were there any technical problems in watching the live stream?  Are video clips and handouts easy to find?

RootsTech did a superb job with the streaming videos. No lag time, no glitches watching with my FiOS connection. I thought the video was easy to find and was pleased that the conference syllabus was available to all.

3. What about the mix of genealogy and technology?  Was it too “techie” or perhaps not enough tech?

Personally, I would have liked to delve a little deeper into the technology, but given the diverse background of the at-home audience, I think they picked a good level.

4. If you attended in person, anything about the logistics or the facilities that you would change? Does RootsTech need a larger section of the Salt Palace Convention Center next year?

Not applicable.

5. If you were King or Queen of RootsTech and planning for 2013, what would you do differently?

This is a tough one. It might be nice to add a couple of webinars for the “home” attendees. With kids in school, it’s a hard time of year for some of us to travel. Webinars would allow a minimal amount of interaction with viewers being able to potentially ask questions.

6. What would your elevator speech be for RootsTech if someone unfamiliar with the event were to ask you “What’s RootsTech?”

Another tough one. I guess I would say that it’s the place to go to interact with the people who are driving the technology that makes it easier, faster and more convenient for genealogy researchers.

Click here to go to the original post on Geneabloggers [link].

Recording both Historical and Current Locations

There has been a lot of traffic on the Legacy Family Tree Users Group email list (aka the LUG) regarding recording historical vs.current locations for a given event. As several people have pointed out, genealogical best practice is to store the location as it was at the time of the event. But others have valid points when they state that this makes for confusion when reports are generated for non-genealogist family members, hinders mapping and makes for a “messed up” master location list. (If there are multiple entries that point to the same geo-location, is it really a “master” list? Guess it depends on your definition.)

To be honest, in my own Legacy database I’ve been a little wishy-washy and inconsistent with this. Wanting to do the “right” thing, I have in some cases recorded the historical location. Other times, I have just gone ahead and put in the current location, particularly when the source I’m using records the “current” location. (Like a book of records for a church in what is now Montgomery Co, Pennsylvania but was previously Philadelphia Co., in which case some of the earliest data recorded in the record book happened in the Philadelphia Co. time period)  I also have to admit that, although I have intermingled current and historical locations in the master location list, it really bothers me to do so. Why? Well there is no clear and highly visible way to distinguish historical from current. Nor is there a way to link historical to current other than adding a note – and that isn’t readily visible.

It seems to me a more logical implementation would be to allow both a current and historical location to be added to an event – and also to distinguish between historical and current locations. After all, an Historical Location is really a specialization of a Location. It has all the attributes of a Location, with the additional attributes of a date range and a pointer to the current. Of course, if Mellinnia Corp. (makers of Legacy Family Tree) were to provide something like this in the future, a user would have to go back and identify the historical locations already entered into the master list, add the relevant dates and identify the associated current location. Once that task was completed by the user, Millennia could probably provide an automated utility to go back and determine if the originally entered location was historical and if so find the associated current and make the appropriate updates in the event data record. Going forward, entering the current and historical locations (if necessary) would be up to the user.

Just tossing this out to maybe get some people thinking. It really does seem like a problem that could use a solution!

RootsTech observations from a Home Viewer

It seems that the whole genealogy community is buzzing about the recent RootsTech conference – and with good reason! I was one of the unfortunate many who could not attend the conference live, but was able to catch a bit of the excitement by watching several of the presentations that were streamed live on the internet. So here goes with some general observations.

Cloud computing was a huge topic in the sessions that I saw online. This included using the cloud for backups, synchronization, collaboration and storage of family trees. I’ve always been a little distrustful of “the cloud,” but I was convinced to take a few more steps in that direction – or at least check it out in more detail. As an example, I know that a lot of people use dropbox for their genealogy data, but I’ve been hesitant. Hearing all the conference talk, however, prompted me to do a google search which showed a product called SecretSync that encrypts files prior to uploading to dropbox. This gets around some of the concerns people are expressing with the dropbox privacy policy. It probably isn’t necessary to SecretSync every file before adding it to drop box, but I will probably do this for any information I consider personal or sensitive. On the other hand, I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about Geni. I still plan to keep my primary genealogy database on my PC and upload a subset to the various tree sites.

In viewing the presentations, I also realized that I’m under-utilizing some important resources – especially maps. LegacyFamilyTree has built-in mapping based on Bing. But I have been unable to get it to work on my relatively new Windows 7 computer. The LegacyFamilyTree website says that their mapping requires IE7. I don’t use IE, but have version 8 installed on my computer. I am reluctant to go back to version 7. After seeing some of the RootsTech presentations, I’m going to look into using GoogleEarth tours and possibly some basic mapping with GoogleMaps. It won’t be integrated with Legacy, but I guess you can’t have everything. :(

While I enjoyed each and every presentation that I saw, the topic that got me most excited was the Google presentation segment on Historical-data.org. In a nutshell, this is a way to add semantic information to a web page in order for the search engines to better assess it’s relevance to a “genealogy search.” I even went so far as to start to update one of my obituary web pages by defining my ancestor Augustus Bechtel as an HistoricalPerson. I did this after the Historical-data.org schema definitions were touched upon in the Day 1 keynote address. I wasn’t sure how to define the HistoricalDates and felt vindicated when watching the Google presentation on Day 2, when the speaker said even the large companies they were working with struggled with this. They  (Google, et al) are promising to add examples to the Historical-data.org blog, and you can just bet that I am now subscribed and waiting for that post! I even put in a product enhancement suggestion for LegacyFamilyTree to add this to the webpages that Legacy generates. (Crossing fingers that they at least consider.)

That’s about it for now. As I try out some of the software and concepts, I may post follow-ups!