Tag Archives: Genealogy

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!


Rootsmagic – free public beta

I know I haven’t been posting much, and I’m behind on my emails as well. :( The reason is that I am working on the yearbook for my youngest’s elementary school. The deadline is fast approaching, so I’ve had to spend a lot of my time on that. But I did want to make a quick post about Rootsmagic 4. It is currently in public beta — meaning it’s free for anyone to download and try out until March 31.

Now I have been a long-time user of Legacy Family Tree. I’m mostly happy with it, but I’m getting a little disappointed with the lingering bugs in reports with regards to printing sources. So I downloaded Rootsmagic earlier today to give it a try. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I don’t have a whole lot of time to really play with it right now, but I am hoping to test it out more during the free trial.

I’ll likely post more about this in the future. I’d also be interested to hear what other people think of the new Rootsmagic.

Chester County PA Archives and Records

I added another website to my Free Genealogy Resources page. This is for the Chester County PA Archives and Records site. Chester County is one of those counties who have moved their historic records out of the courthouse and into an off-site government building. This one is located on Westtown Road (see the exact address on their website). It is outside of the downtown area and there is free parking available in the on-site lot.

If you are planning a visit, you can make the most of your time there by first checking the online indexes on their website. If you have never visited the website, you will probably be surprised by how much information they have online. If you are planning a visit, going to the website in advance will allow to check through most of their collections for records of interest. Just record the appropriate call-numbers so you can request them when you get there.

The building on Westtown Road houses more than just the archives, so you will have to go through a security check point when you enter. The archives are in basement level, but everything is very clean and well organized. There are several microreaders available, as many records have been filmed and are self-serve. The staff has always been very helpful the times I have been there.

Geotagging Tombstone Photos – I wish I would have!

A while back I was going through some cemetery tombstone photos that I took a couple of years ago. I had found out the married name of one of the daughters in a family I research and was hoping that I might have a picture of her tombstone in the background of another photo. I guess I should back up here and mention that the first couple of times I photographed tombstones, I zoomed in on the individual stone – but then I learned to stand back and get a bit of the general area so that I could later go back and see the surrounding graves.  This way if there were many extended family members in a cemetery, it became easier to figure out who’s who when I got back to my computer to look at the photos. I just need to crop and reduce the photos so that just the relevant tombstone is showing for sites like findagrave. I then save the cropped version and also keep the original one for reference.

Anyway, I was going through the original photos, looking at the backgrounds, when I noticed a partly obscured one that related to yet another family I research. Unfortunately, I needed to get back to the cemetery and get another look and another photo because some of  the dates weren’t visible. Oh how I wish I would have had those original photos geotagged!! (See my previous post about this.) Had it been geotagged, the location (lat-long) of where I was standing when I took the original photo would have been stored and available for me to see. Since it was not geotagged it quite literally took me forever to find the obscured tombstone in the background. This pretty much convinced me I need to start geotagging. Even if the location was off by several feet, it would have gotten me to the right vicinity so much sooner!

I bring this up now because I am hoping to get back out to take some more cemetery photographs soon – as soon as the weather warms up. I am sooo tired of winter!

Find-a-grave’s New Feature

Well, folks, findagrave.com just keeps getting better and better for the genealogist! I went to the site today after not logging on to it for a while and I noticed a new twist to the family links option that they added a while back. I guess I should back up here a bit. When I first started using find-a-grave, if you wanted to have a link from one memorial to another (say husband to wife or child to parent), you needed to embed html-style links in the bio. A visitor to the site would then be able to click on the link and go directly to the other memorial. This worked, but it took some effort to add the html tags.

Then a little while ago, they added a unique id number that prints out on the bottom of each memorial page. You could then cut and paste the id number to a new field called ‘parent links’ and hot-link to the parents memorials. Well, now they’ve expanded and improved upon the linking. Not only can you link to parents, but also to spouse(s). In addition, the new family link also does link-back. What this means, is that if from the husband’s memorial you add a link to the wife’s, her memorial automatically gets a link back to the husband. Very nice and quite a time-saver! In addition, if you link to a parent’s memorial, the parent’s page now puts a link-back to the child! Currently it only works in one direction, meaning you have to add a parent link to the child – you cannot add children links to parents, they can only be generated. But that’s okay. All in all, it’s a great way to click around through relatives without having to do searches. This is such a great feature that as time permits, I think I will go back and update my memorials with the family links!!