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Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Resolution Rules of Thumb for Scanning Old Family Photos and Documents
Posted by Diane
Anyone undertaking a genealogy scanning project, or just scanning a
single old picture for Throwback
Thursday, might have wondered what resolution is best for the
particular thing about to be scanned.
Wonder no more! Here are some quick resolution tips for scanning old
photos and documents from the Family
Tree University Digitize Your Family History online course,
which starts Monday, Nov. 23.
In general, the higher the resolution (measured in dpi, for dots per
inch), the more you can enlarge the image without getting that
grainy, pixilated look. But higher-resolution files also are bigger
and hog space on your computer or in your cloud storage, so you
don't want to scan everything at the highest-available dpi. Instead,
go with these rules of thumb:
- If you plan to post the digitized image to a blog or
website, the standard is 72 dpi.
- If you want to print the image at its original size,
scan at least 300 dpi.
- If you're scanning old letters and other documents
to archive, use 300 dpi. (But notes, receipts and papers
you're not intending to archive are fine at 72 dpi.)
- If you plan to view the scanned photos on your HDTV screen,
use a minimum of 300 dpi for 4x6-inch originals, and higher dpi
for smaller originals.
- If you want to enlarge the photo up to double in size
(for printing or on-screen zooming-in and examining), scan it at
least 600 dpi.
- If you'll want to more than double the size of the
original photo, go even higher with the dpi. At 900 dpi, a
4x6-inch printed photo turns into a 16x24-inch digital image.
- If the original photo is small, scan at 600 dpi or
higher. If you scan a 2x3-inch photo at 1200 dpi, for example, it
will become a 16x24-inch digital image without losing quality.
- If the original is a tintype or daguerreotype, scan at
Remember that you can always downsave a copy to a lower resolution,
but you can't add image quality without re-scanning the original.
- If you don't know how the digitized photo will be used or
you're scanning it to archive for posterity, scan at least
600 and up to 1200 dpi.
Family Tree University's Digitize
Your Family History four-week course, starting next Monday,
Nov. 23, has guidance from Denise Levenick (author of the book How
to Archive Family Keepsakes) on how to digitize your old
family photographs, precious documents and heirlooms.
This course will help you achieve the peace of mind that your
family's visual memories and their associated stories are
safeguarded against fire, weather damage, loss and family discord.
And you'll be easily able to share these mementos or publish them in
book form. Learn
more and register for the course at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Family Tree University | saving and sharing family history | Tech Advice
Wednesday, November 18, 2015 4:34:32 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
5 Everyday Uses for Evernote Tags
Posted by Diane
This guest post was written by Kerry Scott, blogger at Clue Wagon and also author of a new book on the Evernote software and its potential for genealogists, How to Use Evernote for Genealogy.
Stop me if you've heard this one: "Evernote. That's a note-taking app, right?”
Yes, Evernote is technically a note-taking app, but it also has a built-in secret weapon for genealogists: tags. Many people use tags to ensure that they can find stuff again, but they can also help you link things that might not otherwise go together. That allows you to see your data in a new light, which can reveal all kinds of clues. Here are five ways you can use Evernote tags to get more out of your data:
- Make research trips easier by tagging notes with the location of related repositories. If you need something at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, add a tag for that. If you've found that you need to pull a probate file in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, tag the related note. When you manage to convince your spouse that Salt Lake City (or Sheboygan) is a great place for a family vacation, you'll be ready to go. Just gather everything with that tag, and your research plan creates itself. You can also tag notes with the Family History Library microfilm number that you need, which makes prioritizing and ordering films much easier.
- Find never-before-seen ancestor photos by tagging your notes with the name of the high school or college they went to. Then, set up eBay alerts for yearbooks for those schools. When you get an alert for a particular yearbook, you can click on the tag to see all of the people who attended that school, and decide whether that volume might have a photo of your ancestor. Of course, eBay isn't the only place to find yearbooks; Ancestry.com, e-Yearbook.com, and a number of local libraries and historical societies have digitized yearbooks as well.
- Find the right county information by tagging it with the names of the other counties that use to be part of it. For example, if you have ancestors who lived in Sandoval County, New Mexico, from 1890-1922, you might have notes on that county. You'll want to tag it with Bernalillo County as well, since Sandoval was carved out of Bernalillo County in 1903. That way, you'll be able to find all of the relevant county records you need, without necessarily remembering the history of each county your ancestors lived in. You can often find old county histories on Google Books.
- Build a medical history for your family by scanning death records, then tagging them with the cause of death. You can search for the tag to see all of the people who had diabetes, heart disease, or other illnesses that run in families.
- Identify people in those group photos by looking for a house number in the background. Tag all of your other documents with their house numbers as well, and soon, you'll have a powerful tool to nail down who lived where and when. If you have photo, a city directory page, a census, a newspaper mention, a death certificate, and a tax record, you can pull them together with that single tag. By looking at every document that relates to that house, you'll have a much better sense of who lived there and how they might relate to each other.
Genealogists often look for things by surname or location. Using tags to group things in new ways allows us to see patterns that may not have been evident before. That new perspective can really help break down those brick walls.
Learn more about how to use tags in Evernote in How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, available on ShopFamilyTree.com.
Evernote | Tech Advice
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 9:30:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Expert Tips for Organizing Your Life in Evernote
Posted by Diane
Need a new way to organize your research life (or your life in general)? In this guest post, Kerry Scott, blogger at Clue Wagon and author of the new book How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, shares her Evernote organization scheme.
The first time I tried Evernote, I hated it.
I'd heard all the hype, and I thought I must be missing something. When I opened it, it looked like a plain word processor. Why would I want that?
It wasn't until I started using Evernote for absolutely everything that I began to appreciate its power. Once I began focusing on keeping everything in this one place, I understood how much easier that centralization made my life. Knowing that pretty much anything I could be looking for is in this one place made all the difference for me. I never have to remember where I filed something. Whatever the question, the answer is always, "Check Evernote." It's there, and my life is much simpler. That means I have more time for my dead people (and even a bit for my living ones as well).
Of course, keeping everything in Evernote means you need some kind of organizational strategy. Although Evernote's robust search feature means that you'll likely find what you need regardless, most of us still appreciate having some sort of organizational strategy to keep things neat. Here's how I organize my Evernote files:
- Stack One—Genealogy. This is where I keep anything related to my own family tree. Within this stack, I have notebooks for my my DNA, courses I've taken, genealogy magazines and journals, and maps I use frequently. This is also where I store notes I take when I do research, screenshots of things I find online, and photos of original documents like marriage certificates. I have my online genealogy newsletters automatically forwarded via email to a designated reading notebook in this stack, so that I can easily find them again.
- Stack Two—Clients. This is where stuff related to other peoples' genealogy goes (whether they're paying clients or not). Keeping them separate helps me ensure that I don't confuse someone else's Nelsons with my own. I often share a note or notebook with the client in question, so she can see what I've found, add her own notes, and track progress (often in real time, because Evernote is always syncing and updating). Shared notes and notebooks are great for collaborating, and they help keep my email inbox in check by putting the information exactly where it needs to be.
- Stack Three—Business. All of my notes related to income-producing activities go here. If I attend a genealogy conference, I take photos of my receipts with my smartphone, and store them in this stack for tax time (no more lost receipts!). Information related to my blog, my Family Tree University courses, and my non-genealogy clients are all in this stack.
- Stack Four—Personal. My entire household runs on this stack. This is where I keep our grocery list, our owners manuals, a list of home improvements we've made, and much more. Many of these notebooks are shared with my husband, so if I'm hit by a bus, he'll still know everything he needs to know to keep everything running smoothly.
I've found that the more I use Evernote, the more useful it is. It's so much more than just a genealogy tool, and using it for other things helped shorten my learning curve dramatically. If you're still thinking of Evernote as just a note-taking tool for your research, you're missing out.
Learn more about ways to use Evernote in your research in How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, available on ShopFamilyTree.com.
Evernote | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 10:15:23 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Cloud Genealogy: A Short Glossary
Posted by Diane
We were joking here in the office yesterday that "cloud genealogy," a
nebulous term (haha—see what I
did there?) you might've heard tossed around, is when
you're having bad luck in your genealogy life.
But what cloud genealogy really means is that your research is
stored online, so you can access it from anywhere using any device
(such as your laptop, desktop, smart phone or tablet), and you're
always working on the most-updated version of your research.
This also means your family tree, research notes, images and other
files are always backed up online and protected from a computer
crash or other tech disaster. Some types of cloud services you might use
for genealogy are:
- family tree building
- file backup
- file transfer
- photo storage
Genealogy Bootcamp workshop, coming up Aug. 24-31, has
classes and expert advice to get you started doing cloud genealogy,
help you find the best tools for the way you do research, and devise
an easy-to-use cloud genealogy workflow, and decipher nebulous terms
- the Cloud: basically, the internet, where you can store
information to access from anywhere, on any device that's
connected to the internet.
- app: an application (such as the Evernote app or the MyHeritage app)
you install on your smart phone, computer or other device; many
applications will let you connect to the internet and access
your files and data stored on cloud services
- sync: short for synchronize, this is the act of
updating a file or other data on all your devices, so you're
always working on the same, most-recently updated version; this
generally happens automatically on cloud services
- file transfer service: a service, such as Dropbox,
intended to help you share files between devices or users; these
sites aren't intended for long-term storage of file backups
Learn more about our Cloud
Genealogy Bootcamp and see the workshop program at
- backup service: an online service that helps you back
up files on your computer, either automatically (the backup just
happens on a regular schedule, or whenever you connect to the
internet) or manually (you must start the backup and designate
files to be backed up)
Family Tree University | Genealogy Apps | Tech Advice
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 9:51:44 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
A Genealogist's Must-Have Tool for Organizing & Archiving Digital Photos
Posted by Diane
This week, guest blogger Denise Levenick, author of the new How
To Archive Your Family Photos (Family Tree Books),
shares one of her favorite tools for organizing and archiving
A great photo management solution for mobile genealogists,
and one I use in my digital
asset management workflow, is the Eye-Fi Mobi SD Card.
It looks like any other removable SD storage card you might use in
your camera. But the Eyefi Mobi includes built-in
wi-fi connectivity to send your photos directly from the card to
your computer or other device.
The Eyefi Mobi SD card works like a standard SD card—you can use it
in your digital camera to store images and remove it to transfer images to your computer. But the real magic
happens when you configure the Eyefi Mobi to transfer images wirelessly
from your camera directly to your computer, smartphone or tablet.
You don’t even need to remove the card from your camera.
Here's how I use it:
- I keep an Eyefi Mobi card in my FlipPal
Mobile Scanner, where it’s configured to transfer images
to my desktop computer as I scan them.
The Eyefi Mobi cards work with PC and Mac computers, and with
virtually any device that uses an SD card for storage of JPG images and popular video formats. The higher-capacity Eyefi Mobi Pro
card also allows transfer of RAW files, as well as selective photo
- I keep a second Eyefi Mobi card in my digital camera, where
it’s handy for digitizing oversize items like scrapbook and
photo album pages.
- When the card’s storage capacity is full, I
confirm that the photo transfer is complete before deleting the
A lot has changed since I
reviewed the original Eye-Fi Card card on my blog in 2009. I noted then that the slow
speed was a disadvantage for transferring hundreds of photos. This
is no longer true. The new generation of Eyefi cards is fast, and
easier to configure than the original cards.
New features like the optional Eyefi Cloud service also add functionality. This cloud service works in the background to
synchronize all your images on all your devices by hosting
full-resolution copies on Eyefi’s Cloud storage website. You can use
Eyefi wireless transfer without the Eyefi Cloud, but your
images will be located only in the original download location.
With Eyefi Mobi cards in my camera and portable scanner, I know
that my images exist in two locations shortly after they’re
digitized, and I have quick access to the photos without physically
removing the SD card.
Learn about other tools and strategies for managing your collection
of digital photos and scans in my book How
to Archive Family Photos and on my blog, TheFamilyCurator.com.
Want a chance to win your very own copy of How To Archive Family Photos? Read this post over on the Heirloom Registry Houstory blog to find out how to enter the Heirloom Registry's drawing. The deadline is May 31, 2015.
Genealogy books | Photos | Tech Advice
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 2:56:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
A Simple Four-Part System for Naming Digital Photo Files
Posted by Diane
Guest blogger Denise Levenick, who helps you manage your digital
photo collection in the new book How
To Archive Family Photos, is sharing these file-naming tips this week:
The key to organizing your photo collection is a simple and
logical naming system. Start with simple file names that don't require a key to
abbreviations. And make it a habit to import and rename images soon after a photo shoot or scanning session.
Long, complicated file naming schemes are difficult to maintain and
cumbersome to use. The end of the name may be cut off in your
computer folder view or printout. More words give more opportunity
for misspellings or inconsistency.
As you develop your file-naming scheme, create a
File-naming Cheat Sheet and post it next to your computer to help
you maintain consistency. Here's a cheat sheet for my four-part
The four parts of my digital photo file names are
I separate the parts with an underscore, and use a dash to separate
words in each part. The names are short and consistent, with all
lowercase characters. Here's an example:
Location: from largest to smallest with two letter abbreviation
used for states
Event: obit, birth-cert, etc.
Whatever file-naming scheme you adopt, your files will be easier to
organize and access if it’s simple and consistent for all your
Learn more about working with scanned and newly captured digital
images in How
to Archive Family Photos and at my blog, The Family Curator.
Genealogy books | Photos | Tech Advice
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 4:07:58 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, May 11, 2015
Why You Really Need a Digital Asset Management Workflow
Posted by Diane
This guest post with important tips for managing
your growing digital image collection is from Denise May Levenick,
author of the new book How
to Archive Family Photos:
Genealogists who juggle hundreds of digital images can learn a few
things from professional photographers.
When pros moved from film photography to digital media, they needed
a comprehensive system to manage all those photo files. They developed a
strategy called Digital Asset Management (DAM).
Like pro photographers, genealogists need different versions of
their digital files—for sharing via email, archiving for the long
term, and posting on the web. Also like the pros, genealogists need
to add file names and organization that allows for easy access in
In my new book How
to Archive Family Photos, you’ll learn how to set up a
system that suits your needs and helps you easily accomplish the
seven basic steps of Digital Photo Management for genealogists:
1. Capture photos on your phone, digital camera, scanner or
2. Import image files from your capture devices to one
3. Rename image files from the generic device-generated names
to something related to the image content
4. Back up files to your digital Image Library
5. Add content-related tags and keywords to your
6. Archive your images in a permanent, off-site location
7. Edit, export, and share select photos for others to enjoy.
Each step moves you toward curating, organizing, and identifying
your digital files for long-term archiving and access. My
book offers specific workflow strategies and tools for the
Mobile Genealogist, the Family Photographer, the Vacation Shutterbug
You’ll find inspiration and practical guidance in How
to Archive Family Photos to help you get control of your
digital photo chaos and become a more efficient family historian.
Genealogy books | Photos | saving and sharing family history | Tech Advice
Monday, May 11, 2015 11:25:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
10 Types of Apps Every Genealogist Should Have
Posted by Diane
When I first got my Android tablet, I thought I'd be able to use it
like a computer, and I was disappointed when I couldn't. Although my
tablet is a lot easier to carry around than my bulky laptop, it
spent a few genealogy conferences at home.
I just didn't know what a handy genealogy assistant a tablet (or
iPad) could be. In our upcoming Maximize
Your iPad (or Tablet) for Genealogy online workshop, you'll
learn how to take advantage of your tablet's tools and convenience
to—as tech wizard Lisa Louise Cooke would say—turn your device into
a "genealogy powerhouse."
Powerful apps optimized for mobile devices are a big part of what
can make your tablet or iPad an essential genealogy tool, so they'll
be covered thoroughly in the workshop.
Here's a sneak peek: 10 types of apps every genealogist should have on his or her mobile
device, along with suggestions for each:
- Note-taking: Evernote
is highly popular with genealogists for taking and organizing
notes (which can include record images), and it includes a web
clipper. Microsoft One-note
also is popular.
- File storage and transfer: When you use your device
to photograph records or microfilm at a library, you'll want a
way to easily transfer those images to your computer at home. Dropbox and File
are two options.
- Library searching: WorldCat
has a mobile app available in beta for iPad/Phone and
Android. See if libraries in your ancestral locales have mobile
apps, too, which might let you search the catalog and find your way
around the library.
- Recording: Interviewy
(iPad/Phone) is a good app for recording oral history
- Blog reading: Feedly is great for keeping up with
genealogy blogs, as is Flipboard.
- Storytelling/keeping: FamilySearch
Memories lets you take photos, record memories and
interviews, write stories, and add them to your FamilySearch
family tree. Storypress
(for the iPad/Phone) and Keepy
let you take a picture and record audio or video to go with it.
Your iPad (or Tablet) for Genealogy online workshop starts Friday, May 22, and runs for a week. It includes six video classes, advice from Lisa Louise Cooke, and an exclusive workshop message board. View the workshop program and get registered at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Family Tree University | Genealogy Apps | Tech Advice
Monday, May 11, 2015 10:49:04 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
How to Create a Research Plan in Evernote
Posted by Diane
A genealogy research plan can help you identify the genealogy
information and resources you need to answer a family history
question. You know, one like "When and why between 1894 and 1900 did my
third-great-grandmother drop off the face of the earth?"
Not that I
would know anything about this particular problem or anything.
Having your research plan handy on your phone or laptop can help you
stay focused and let you check it when you're not at home. Keeping it on Evernote is a great way to do that, as you'll learn in
our webinar Enhance
Your Genealogy With Evernote: 10 Projects to Boost Your Family
History, happening Thursday, May 7, with Lisa
Evernote also lets you organize your notes, upload record images to
the cloud for later analysis, and more.
Here's a sneak peek at how to set up a research plan in Evernote,
one of the projects Lisa will show you during the webinar:
- Set up a notebook in Evernote and give it a name related to
the question you're trying to answer.
- Click to select the notebook in the left-hand column, then
create a note for each of the five components of your research
plan. Each note will include information specific to your
- Objective: What do you want to accomplish? Be
specific, such as “Identify Hiram Hornhoffer’s parents.”
- Known facts: What have you already learned about
your ancestors? Include relationships, dates and places.
- Working hypothesis: Note the probable conclusions
that you hope to prove or disprove.
- Identified sources: Which records are most likely to
provide information about your hypothesis? Create a list of
possible sources and note where to find each source.
- Research strategy: This is your plan of action.
Determine the order in which you’ll locate each source.
When you're finished, you'll have something that looks like this:
- Create a tag for the project and tag any related notes.
Visit ShopFamilyTree.com to see what other Evernote genealogy
projects you'll learn in the Enhance
Your Genealogy With Evernote webinar, and to register.
Research Tips | Tech Advice | Webinars
Wednesday, April 29, 2015 2:05:29 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Keys to Creating a Great Family Tree Website
Posted by Diane
Do you want to share your genealogy research and connect with
cousins through a family history website? Or maybe you want to
improve the genealogy website you already have.
The best family tree websites share these key elements, says Nancy
Henrickson, adviser for Family Tree University's Make
a Free Family Website in One Week online workshop:
To make sure your site is on track in these areas, Nancy suggests
asking yourself these questions:
- Adherence to best practices
- Consistent updating
- Is the site about a single surname or everyone you're
Will you include images?
- Is it clear to site visitors what the site is about?
- Is this a research-based site?
Do you know the goal of this site?
Have you created logical categories for your posts?
Is the site easy to navigate?
- Have you made it easy for people find out how to contact you?
- Have you thought about how to organize data?
Will you have a photo gallery?
Is information presented in small bites vs. large areas of text?
- Have you added ALT tags to your images?
- Have you clearly titled each post?
- Have you selected well-defined tags for each post?
In the Make
a Free Family Website in One Week online workshop (July
24-31), you'll watch video classes and receive guidance from Nancy.
By the end of the workshop, you'll have built a basic genealogy
out more on FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Do you update your site at least once a week?
Do you have a plan for what you'll post?
- Are your images resized at 72dpi?
- Are your images in .jpg format?
Have you cropped images to highlight the important areas?
Editor's Pick | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Tuesday, July 09, 2013 12:52:45 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
FTU Virtual Genealogy Conference: Things You Didn’t Know Your Genealogy Software Could Do + Using Irish Censuses
Posted by Diane
Here's another inside look at a class available during our Winter
2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference—courtesy of the instructor himself. Take it away, Rick
The most popular genealogy programs have tools to help you
record your family history efficiently, plan your research and
search online databases. But if you’re a typical genealogy
software user, you don’t take advantage of all of those
You’ve probably mastered entering birth, marriage and death
information in your genealogy software, but have you customized
your program to fit your unique needs?
You're doing better than
most genealogists if you document your sources, but are you
taking advantage of timesaving techniques for this crucial, but
mundane, task? And are you exploiting your program’s tools for
searching within your family file and in online databases?
In my class 10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With
Your Genealogy Software, I'll show you how to use these
and other features in Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree and
I'm also teaching a class on Identifying Ancestors in Irish
Census Records. Because so many Irish census records have
been lost over the years, you might assume they're of no use in
your genealogy research. In fact, it’s well worth checking Irish
censuses, especially now that most of the existing ones are
online and easy to search.
Most 19th-century Irish census records have been lost, but the
ones you need just could have survived. (Mine did!) And
fortunately, the 1901 and 1911 censuses of Ireland survive and
are easily accessible online for free. I'll show you several
tips for searching them and suggest how they can be useful to
your research even if your ancestors left Ireland before 1901.
Family Tree University's Winter
2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference, Feb. 22-24, gives you an all-access pass to 15 half-hour video
classes, live chats with genealogy experts, and exclusive message
board to network with instructors and attendees, and a
ShopFamilyTree.com swag bag of freebies. Click
here for more details on the conference.
See these guest posts from other Winter 2013 Virtual Genealogy
Conference is sponsored by
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Software | Tech Advice | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 2:10:03 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Editors' Pick: Organize Your Way to Your Best Genealogy Year
Posted by Beth
Effective family history researchers know that organization is the key to productivity. Are you as organized as you'd like to be—or could be? If your new year's resolution is to cut through your genealogy clutter, check out this trio of PDF book downloads by Denise May Levenick, the Family Curator that provides practical step-by-step solutions for organizing physical and digital materials, once and for all.
How to Organize Inherited Items
Are you the lucky recipient of Mom and Dad's "stuff"—a lifetime's worth of family photos, papers, and memorabilia packed into boxes? Learn how to organize inherited items in a way that honors them while bringing peace to the rest of the family. You'll learn how to:
• Effectively sort and purge boxes that you inherited
• Decide which family heirlooms to keep
• Donate items to museums, societies, and charities
• Protect and pass on keepsakes
People who inherit family archives often take on one of three roles: Curator, Creator or Caretaker (or perhaps a combination). Once you identify why you've inherited the family archive, it's easier for you to determine what to do with it.
Curator: understands the responsibilities involved in caring for a family archive, from organizing to preserving; knows enough to recognize significant objects and suggest and implement ways to care for, display and preserve them
Creator: finds ways to use a family archive materials—whether it be inspiration, raw materials or information sources—in his own creative projects, such as completing a family pedigree, writing a biography, assembling a scrapbook or compiling a family medical history
Caretaker: serves as the temporary family archive "holder" until the next person in line takes it over
How to Organize Family History Paperwork
Family history research can quickly create mountains of paperwork. This download give you step-by-step instruction to effectively organize and digitize your genealogy research papers. You'll learn how to:
• create a personalized filing system to suit your genealogy research style and experience
• turn your computer into a filing clerk and research assistant by establishing a clear, consistent naming pattern for files and folders
• Scan old paper records and store them electronically to save space and make them easier to find
• make digital copies of original source documents
• organize your family history research for future generations
Think about your genealogy files as two different record types—original documents that you want to physically preserve and store, and working documents used every day that are more temporary in nature. A different digital routine is needed for each record type.
Use a consistent file-naming scheme for your digital documents. Some genealogists find that a combination of Surname, Date and File ID work well for digital files; others use a numerical reference number that corresponds to their paper files.
Organization Strategies for Genealogy Success
Effective family history researchers know that organization is the key to productivity. You'll learn how to:
• Organize your genealogy research methods
• Organize your family history source citations
• Select the best software for efficient and effective research
• Connect with fellow researchers online to help find answers to your genealogy brick walls
Research success begins even before the first internet query box is completed or the first reel of microfilm is loaded. You have a research goal—to find your ancestor. What you need is a research strategy—a written, step-by-step proposal to achieve your goal. An effective research strategy includes at least 4 major steps:
1. Set a goal.
a. Identify the problem or goal.
b. Break down the goal into smaller, focused mini-goals.
2. Decide what sources to search.
a. List record groups that may provide a solution.
b. List specific sources to search.
c. Locate repositories holding the sources you need.
3. Search the source.
a. Note the results of your search, positive or negative.
b. Copy the raw information.
c. Record the source citation data.
4. Analyze the information.
a. Evaluate the information.
b. Record your findings in your notes and database program.
c. Determine your next step.
5. Repeat from Step 1.
You can achieve your genealogy research goals this year with these and other new and recommended books, CDs, downloads, and all-inclusive research kits that will show you how to research your heritage, both online and off. PLUS: Get organized and save, too! Spend $30 on any of these recommended products in January and get the Organize Your Genealogy Life! CD for 50% off; just enter code ACHIEVE2013 at checkout to save on this essential CD.
Editor's Pick | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Tech Advice
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 12:54:13 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Editors' Pick: New Google for Genealogy Course
Posted by Beth
Whether you're just beginning to tap into popular search engine Google or are an experienced user looking to leverage tools like Google Reader and the Google News Archive, we can help.
Google for Genealogy, Family Tree University's new 4-week class, from Monday, Dec. 10 through Sunday, Jan. 13, will teach you how to effectively use Google to power to your genealogical research.
Here are four keys to success for Google searching:
- Keep it simple. Less is more when it comes to search. Start simple and then revise your search to follow the right path.
- Use your imagination. Think like someone who would post a web page with the kind of information you're looking for. Think like a genealogist for charts and reports; think like a railroad historian for background information on the railroad your grandfather worked for; and think like a librarian when searching for books.
- Use focused, descriptive words. Each word should pack a search punch!
- Try a variety of search options. Remember: “Search strategies” is a plural phrase and implies that a number of searches be conducted to get the best results.
Learn much more in Google for Genealogy, including:
Ready to amp up your search capabilities in 2013? Click here to register.
- Google search essentials
- Advanced searching strategies
- Navigating Gmail, Google+ and Google Reader
- How and why to use Google Books and the Google News Archive
- Translating websites, documents and plain text with Google Translate
- Creating and managing Google Alerts
- Sharing documents with Google Drive (formerly Google Docs)
- Preview of Google Earth
Family Tree University | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 11:54:51 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Research Logs Tips from the Virtual Genealogy Conference
Posted by Tyler
Detailed logs are an important tool in organizing your genealogy research.
These Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference tips come from the video session "Research Logs for the Rest of Us," hosted by Thomas MacEntee.
- It's important to understand the "why" of using a research log. If you're using a log only because you know other people who are doing so, then you're wasting your time. Understand the benefits of tracking your research journey.
- Select a format that you will continue to use. For instance, it is a poor idea to start your research log in Excel if you don't like using spreadsheets. Use a format you are comfortable with. Otherwise you'll only frustrate yourself and abandon the log.
- Spend time setting up headings or categories. When you use a spreadsheet or table, take time to consider which headings to use. Don't be afraid to add or remove headings over time. It's only through constant use of the research log that you'll figure out the best headings for your research.
- Shoot for a "one pass" goal. When you find a record or piece of information, note all of the information as if you might never find it again. This means noting the date you found it, the type of record, and even whether you are transcribing or abstracting it. You're only kidding yourself if you say that you'll come back to it later.
- Maintaining a research log is a discipline. A discipline created through handwork, dedication and repetition until it becomes habit. Realize that you will make mistakes the first few entries, then you'll become better at entering information accurately and quickly.
- Source citations matter, but take a shortcut! Create a cheat sheet--a document or spreadsheet tab where you can keep the most commonly used source citation formats. Then you can copy and paste them over to your research log to fill in the blanks.
Ready to start your own research log? Click here to buy this video session and get started documenting your research today.
Video classes from our Virtual Genealogy Conferences are available in ShopFamilyTree.com. And mark your calendar now for our Winter 2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference, Feb. 22-24.
Research Tips | Tech Advice
Wednesday, October 03, 2012 10:27:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Genealogy Apps for Your Tablet
Posted by Diane
Last weekend's Family Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference
was a great chance to learn from professional genealogy experts and
from other researchers like me via video classes, message boards and
Mark your calendar now for our Winter 2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference, Feb. 22-24.
I'll bring you a few of my favorite conference tips and tidbits over the next
few weeks, starting with great apps from our Best Genealogy Tablet
Apps chat. Interestingly, they're not all expressly for doing
genealogy. These are some of the apps chat host Kerry Scott
and other participants use to track their trees, manage time,
digitize documents, search websites and more:
classes from the Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference will be
available soon in ShopFamilyTree.com (and you can check
out classes from past Virtual Conferences now).
- 30/30 for time management—you work for 30 minutes or
another set length of time, then take a break (iPad)
- Ancestry for displaying your Ancestry member tree and doing quick record lookups, though the
search capabilities are limited compared to the full version
of the site (Android and iPad)
- AroundMe for finding gas stations and food in
- CamScanner for digitizing documents and turning them
into PDFs (iPad and Android)
- Civil War Today for newspaper
accounts, diaries, letters and more from this day 150 years
- CousinCalc for figuring out exactly how you're related
- DropBox for sharing and accessing files across devices
(iPad and Android)
- Evernote for taking notes and making them searchable
and accessible across devices—you can get
Kerry's video class on using Evernote for $10 off in
ShopFamilyTree.com (iPad and Android)
- Find A Grave for searching the cemetery
transcriptions and info on Find A Grave (Android)
- Focus Time for time management; you
work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break, with a longer
break after four cycles (iPad)
- GoodReader for reading PDF files (iPad)
- Google Translate (iPhone and Android)
- LastPass for keeping and generating passwords (IPad and Android)
- MyHeritage for displaying your
MyHeritage family tree and searching the site (iPad and
- PrinterPro for printing wirelessly from iPad to printer
- Reeder for managing blog RSS feeds (iPad)
- RestingSpot for adding
your ancestor's burial location GPS coordinates to the
RestingSpot database (iPhone and Android)
- Scanner Pro for digitizing documents and turning them
into PDFs (iPad)
- Symbaloo.com as an iGoogle replacement (iPad and
- Wikipanion (iPad) or Wapedia
(Android) for using Wikipedia
- Wolfram Genealogy & History Research Assistant for
a variety of tools including historical weather to an inflation
- Zite for finding news stories and blog posts about your
pet topics, such as genealogy (iPad and Android)
And if you're hungry for more ways to use your iPad for genealogy,
you'll find them in the new book Turn
Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse by Lisa Louise Cooke—click
here to learn more.
Genealogy Apps | Genealogy Events | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 12:34:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Take the Course, Luke: Tech Tips from a Genealogy Jedi
Posted by Tyler
For our final Guest Blog in our ‘Meet the Presenter’ series, we have a piece by genealogy Jedi Thomas MacEntee. Here’s what he has to say:
Welcome to the Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference at Family Tree University. Once again, I’m pleased to be a part of this unique, on-line event that provides important educational content to the genealogy community.
What’s So Great about a Virtual Genealogy Conference?
A virtual genealogy conference is just like a conference you attend in-person but with more flexibility and just as many opportunities to network with other genealogy researchers. At the Fall Virtual Genealogy Conference you’ll find pre-recorded webinars (a total of 15!), scheduled chats where you can ask the experts various questions, a message board and even a virtual gift bag filled with genealogy goodies!
The upcoming conference is a great alternative for busy genealogists as well as those that can’t travel long distances to attend genealogy conferences.
Why Technology Should Matter To Genealogists
I’m of an age where I remember the introduction of the personal computer and its impact on not just genealogy, but life in general. I don’t consider myself a “techie” especially since my academic background is more in the arts, language and literature. However, I’ve come to realize that if I don’t keep on top of technology that I risk being left behind. So even though it can be similar to “homework” in school, I make it a point to stay informed and to try out different apps, websites and other technologies. I may not incorporate them as part of my genealogy research, but knowing is better than not knowing.
That’s why I try to ensure that several of my presentations focus on how genealogists can use specific technologies to advance their own research. My goal is to present these new sites and apps in an easy-to-learn atmosphere where you’ll feel comfortable asking questions and making your own decisions as to what technology is best for your own situation.
My Presentations and Chats
During the conference I’ll be offering three new presentations covering tips for working with search engines, how to get what you want from the FamilySearch website, and easy ways to use a research log for your genealogy. In addition, there will be a live, on-line chat session covering cloud computing and genealogy where you’ll get to “pick my brain” on various programs and which program is best for you.Power Up Your Web Searches: Feel like your Google and website searches are going nowhere? Learn to pull those elusive ancestors out from the depths of search engines and genealogy websites with this session on how to sharpen your search skills. We’ll cover Google’s Search Tools and specialty search engines including Mocavo and others. (Recorded session)
Tips for Using FamilySearch.org: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ free genealogy website offers a plethora of searchable family trees, historical records and resources—but how do you find what you’re looking for? This class will show you how to become a seasoned and savvy FamilySearch navigator. (Recorded session)
Research Logs for the Rest of Us: From Captain Cook to Christopher Columbus, numerous noteworthy explorers kept comprehensive journals to document their adventures, so why should your genealogical expedition be any different? In this class, you’ll learn why you need a research log and how it can help you make genealogical discoveries more effectively and efficiently. (Recorded session)
Choosing a Cloud Genealogy Program: Working in the “cloud” can be confusing and the concept of working with data stored on a remote server is just catching on with the genealogy community. If you are tired of keeping your genealogy research data on multiple CDs, DVDs, flash drives, hard drives and in different locations then you owe it to yourself to learn more about cloud computing. During this chat you’ll learn not only how cloud computing works, but also the latest cloud programs and how to keep your data secure and private. (Live on-line chat session)
Stay In Touch
For me, the best part of any conference is making new genealogy friends and staying in touch with them. Sometimes we meet up again in person, or we stay in touch on-line. Either way, it always helps to network with other genealogists. Feel free to keep tabs on what I’m up to by following my websites GeneaBloggers and High-Definition Genealogy , or email me at email@example.com.
The conference starts TOMORROW! But there is still time to register--click here and use the code FRIENDSOFTHOMAS at checkout to save $40.
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Thursday, September 13, 2012 12:53:07 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, August 20, 2012
Genealogy on the Go and More in the Newest (Free) Family Tree Magazine Podcast
Posted by Diane
The newest episode of the free Family Tree Magazine Podcast, hosted
by Lisa Louise Cooke of
Genealogy Gems, is all about doing genealogy on the go. This
month, we're talking about:
- mobile genealogy apps and tools with yours truly
- tips and tricks for family history travel from Family Curator
blogger Denise Levenick
- the best mobile genealogy websites from our list of 101 Best
Genealogy websites with Family Tree Magazine
contributing editor David A. Fryxell
You can listen to the Free FamilyTreeMagazine Podcast in iTunes
here to see the show notes.
Podcasts | Research Tips | Tech Advice | Genealogy Apps
Monday, August 20, 2012 4:37:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 16, 2012
Finding Female Ancestors, Cloud Back-ups and Going to the Library: Tips From Our Online Genealogy Records Workshop
Posted by Diane
Participants in last week's How to
Research in Genealogy Records online workshop shared tips and
asked questions in daily chats about everything from researching
in libraries to backing up genealogy data.
Just for you, I smuggled out a bunch of tips on finding women ancestors, backing up your data in the cloud and preparing for a library research trip:
Finding female ancestors
For a hard-to-find female ancestor, go sideways by researching her children, husband, siblings and
Family Tree Magazine editor Allison Dolan
DeBartolo Carmack's advice from way back in our April 2001 issue:
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese said that the 'history of women cannot be
written without attention to women's relations with men in
general and with 'their' men in particular, nor without
attention to the other women of their society.' ... Those who successfully find the maiden
names and parents' names of female ancestors aren't focusing
their research efforts on just the woman in question."
Allison also shared her favorite
websites about women's history and genealogy:
Backing up your computer "in the cloud"
Online community editor Tyler Moss and Sunday chatters exchanged
ideas for cloud back-ups. He uses Dropbox, which offers 2GB of
free storeage plus more if you can get others to join the service.
Subscriptions start at 100GB for $9.99 per
To use Carbonite,
you pay a subscription fee (starting at $59
per year per computer) to have your computer automatically sync
with your backup on the cloud.
is a backup service that lets you start with a free 5GB account.
Google has some
storage options starting with 5GB of free space.
Tyler also shared this
on cloud storage systems from tech site Gizmodo.
Preparing for library research
In the chat I facilitated on genealogy research at
libraries and archives, folks shared what they bring with them to the
change for copiers, $1s or $5s in case I need to buy copy cards, a flash drive
for saving digital images if the library is
so equipped, notepad, pen, a snack (to be consumed
where permitted), catalog printouts for materials I want and any necessary
family tree info.
Others recommend a personal scanner or phone with a camera, laptop, sweater and sticky notes. Tyler even comes
prepared for long research sessions with a chair cushion.
Some libraries don't permit scanners, cameras, sticky notes or other items, so check the website or call ahead.
We were all impressed with one chatter's description of her master
genealogy to-do list: She keeps a spreadsheet with columns for
... and more. She can easily sort the list by library
name and priority. I need to try this!
- title of the item needed
- holding library
- catalog number
- format (book, microfilm, etc.)
- priority level
(high, medium, low)
Fall 2012 Virtual Conference
You, too, can take online genealogy classes from experts and be part of exclusive chats and message board discussions with other researchers—it'll all be part of Family Tree University’s Fall 2012 Virtual Conference, Sept. 14-16.
Learn more about the Virtual Conference on FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Female ancestors | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Monday, July 16, 2012 3:34:38 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
iPhone App Helps You Record Family Stories
Posted by Diane
Here's a new smartphone app to consider grabbing before holiday gatherings: Record Their Stories for the iPhone has a built-in edit suite (stop, start, join and trim conversations) and more than 100 questions to help you capture relatives' stories. Use it with the phone's built-in audio recording capabilities.
Keep the recording on your phone or computer. You also can upload it to the Record Their Stories website and order a professionally mixed version of the recording, complete with music and sound effects.
You can get the Record Their Stories iPhone app for 99 cents from the iTunes app store. Learn more at the Record Their Stories website.
Get more help preparing for oral history conversations (learn everything from what to ask to what you should bring) with expert articles on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.
The January 2012 Family Tree Magazine has Lisa Louise Cooke's roundup of favorite apps for family history researchers.
Oral History | saving and sharing family history | Tech Advice
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 12:54:07 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, October 13, 2011
How to Use Google+ for Genealogy
Posted by Allison
Google has given genealogists some very helpful tools—Google Earth, Book Search and News Archive to name three—but maybe you’re nonplussed by Google+.
This new social networking tool has taken the genealogy world by storm, and we won’t let you be left out if we can help it. Our next webinar, Genealogist's Guide to Google+, will show you how to use Google+. Your registration for the live event even includes 30 days of one-on-one tech support from instructor Kerry Scott.
You’ll learn how to get started, set up your “circles,” and take advantage of the genealogical possibilities on Google+. Here’s a sampling of tips Kerry will share:
- Fill out your profile and upload a picture before you start adding friends. If you don't, people may mistake you for a spammer.
- Most genealogists will add you to their circles even if you're a complete stranger … but only if your profile indicates that you're into family history.
- You can have people in multiple circles. Is Aunt Millie into genealogy? Add her to your Family and Genealogy circles, so she sees the cute kid pictures and the big research breakthrough you had at the library last weekend.
- If you're posting something to a specific circle to keep it from being public, make sure you use the "lock this post" feature to prevent others from sharing it. Otherwise, one of your carefully selected circle members can share it with anyone.
The hour-long webinar takes place Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. Eastern (that’s 7 Central, 6 Mountain, 5 Pacific).
In addition to the month of tech support, attendees will get access to the webinar recording to view again as many times as they want,plus a PDF of the presentation slides.
Learn more and register for the Genealogist's Guide to Google+ webinar at ShopFamilyTree.com (for a limited time, our Early Bird registration special saves you 20 percent!).
Editor's Pick | Social Networking | Tech Advice | Webinars
Thursday, October 13, 2011 9:23:10 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
New Genealogy Tech Products Roll Out at NGS Conference
Posted by Diane
Two new products being introduced at the National Genealogical Society's annual Family History conference, getting underway today in Charleston, SC, include:
- GenDetective software, a release from RumbleSoft Inc., analyzes your genealogical data and makes research recommendations based on missing or incomplete data. You can generate reports based on a location, time period, family line or individual, and print or view them on an iPad, iPhone, PDA, Droid smart phone or tablet (Xoom), Kindle, eBook reader, net book (mini), or laptop.
A feature I think looks especially useful: If you’re visiting somewhere for business, vacation or genealogy, you can create a research itinerary for that locale.
- Many genealogists have family information in their genealogy software and online, and don't want to update their trees in both places. If that's you, AncestorSync could be what you need.
This utility, from Orem, Utah-based Real-Time Collaboration, lets you synchronize your family tree, source documents, citations and notes across all your computers and your online tree (the developers have partnerships with online tree sites FamilySearch, Geni and ourFamilyology). You can download, upload, or synchronize your tree “without anyone or anything getting lost in the process,” according to the announcement.
AncestorSync supports program formats including Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree, Personal Ancestral File and RootsMagic, and will soon support The Master Genealogist and MacFamilyTree. It’ll be available in June for a $15 annual fee, and is PC- and Mac-compatible
Genealogy Events | Genealogy Software | Tech Advice
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 9:24:54 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cooke: Online Family History Books
Posted by Lisa
Canadian author and genealogist Dave Obee
recently opined on his Facebook page, “I've been hearing about the pending death of the book for several years now. One of these days, the prediction might turn out to be true.”
Obee’s comment kicked off an interesting online conversation. For many genealogists, the surge in online books can sound like a threat to the paper tome. But, as with all things, the market drives business and innovation, and the convenience and flexibility of digital books is very appealing. Here are some Tech Tips to help you dive in and reap the benefits of this growing phenomenon:
Allison Stacy, editor of Family Tree Magazine, made this great video for getting started with Google Books.
See How Other Genealogists Use Google Books
Miriam Robbins Midkiff, author of the popular genealogy blog AnceStories: The Story of My Ancestors was featured in this video produced by Google.
Search Within a Book
After conducting your initial search and selecting a particular book, you can search within that book by simply typing specific keywords in the search box found in the column on the left side of the book’s page. This box searches only the book currently being viewed and makes quick work of finding a desired surname on individual pages of a large volume. (Find this tip in my new book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.)
Keep Up To Date
The Inside Google Books blog is a great way to keep up to date on the latest news at Google Books. Add the RSS feed to your iGoogle page or favorite reader by simply clicking the Feedburner button found in the column on the right.
Have you noticed that the Google Books homepage looks different these days? That’s because they have introduced the Google eBookstore to the offering. Here’s a terrific little video that explains the benefits of online books in a fun and simple way:
Don’t skip Google eBooks just because they offer books for sale. Try this handy tip to unearth free gems:
1. Go to Google Books.
2. Click blue Go to the Google eBookstore Now button
3. Type family history in the search box and click the Search All Google eBooks button.
4. Click the Free Only link in the light blue box at the top of the page.
5. You’ll get a results list full of free books, many hard to find self-published family histories.
When it comes to digital family history books, Google Books isn’t the only game in town Check out the Family History Archive, then watch the video below to learn more about how to use this robust resource.
I've had such a great time sharing Tech Tips with you these last 2 months. Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll join me at the free Family Tree Magazine podcast and Genealogy Gems podcast
for more lively conversation about genealogy!
—Lisa Louise Cooke
Genealogy books | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice | Videos
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:12:39 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cooke: WDYTYA Revisited & Photo Gems
Posted by Lisa
When I got back from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in London at the end of February, I not only had a bag full of dirty laundry, but a slew of recorded interviews with fascinating genealogy experts, exhibit hall brochures, treasured purchases and a mountain of digital photographs.
After firing up the washing machine, I sat down at my desk and wondered what I would do with all those JPEG jewels. Photographs capture once-in-a-lifetime moments and treasured family memories that we certainly don’t want to forget. But assembling them in a way that can be enjoyed for years to come is not as simple as it was in the old days when we sat down to our scrapbooks and prints.
Here are three tips for assembling your precious pics in a way that will delight you and those you share them with:
Genealogy Blogger Mark Tucker recently emailed me a link to one of his posts on Zoom.it, a website that allows you to create interactive displays of your favorite photos. This is really slick for high-resolution shots that you want your audience to explore more in depth.
Here’s a Zoom.it of Hinchingbrooke House just north of London. If you’re a regular listener of my Genealogy Gems podcast, then you will not only know the significance of this house to the Cooke family, but also how incredible it is that I have any photographs of this part of our trip at all! (Hear the full story in episode 106.)
To learn more about how to use Zoom.it yourself and to see a great example of how it can be used with your own family history photos, check out Mark’s post Interactive Online Family History Photos.
Create a Photo Collage
When assembling a presentation of photos, sometimes less is more. By picking out the cream of the crop, you’ll ensure that your audience will stay enthralled.
But when it comes to creating a photograph collage with ShapeCollage.com, more is better After downloading all of my photos to my hard drive, I just went to ShapeCollage.com and downloaded the free software, navigated to the folder of photos on my hard drive and added them. By selecting Text and typing "WDYTYA” my photos assembled themselves in a creative way to tell the viewer what they were all about.
Video production software can also do a nice job of showing off your pics. Here’s my collection spanning the three days of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011. It’s the next best thing to being there!
Photos | Tech Advice
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 8:38:29 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, March 14, 2011
Tech Tips by Lisa Louise Cooke: How to Dig for Genealogy Gold
Posted by Lisa
The other day I was flipping through TV channels when I stumbled upon the reality TV show “Gold Rush Alaska.” As I got lured into watching a couple of episodes (they were running a marathon that day), it all looked very familiar:
Huge excavators were pulling up great bucketfuls of material from the ground. The huge volume of earth would then tumble its way down sifting machines, eventually run across a wave table. The ultimate goal was to sift out the gold nuggets.
Then it hit me: That’s what we do with Google!
Yes, more than once after doing a simple search I have felt like a huge bucket full of earth had been dropped on me. I would stare at the hundreds of thousands of results and wonder, “How am I ever going to sift through all this to find my genealogy gems?” (This concept goes right back to the early days when I began the Genealogy Gems Podcast in 2007. My first gem was on Google, and I have frequently featured the search powerhouse on the show ever since.)
On the show, newbie miners were struggling to figure out which specialized tools they needed to sift immense quantities of dirt and rocks down to the type of material that carries the gold -- the fine black dirt. Then they had to use another set of unique tools to sift the fine black dirt in hopes of finding gold nuggets.
So what are the right tools for the job of sifting through the seemingly endless material on the Internet? And how do we get that unwanted material out of the way so we can get down to the good stuff where our genealogy gems may be hidden?
In the first installment of this Tech Tips Blog Series I shared with you one of my favorite “sifters” –- the dot dot dot (…) technique. But that is just one of a cache of search sifting tools -- known in the search world as operators -- available to family history researchers. Let me share a few more favorites from my new book The Genealogist's Google Toolbox (Genealogy Gems Publications)
Understand the underlying concept:
Search is art, not a science!
While search operators behave scientifically and logically, we must construct our search queries artfully. Sometimes it’s what you add in, and sometimes it’s what you leave out, that determines the quality of your results.
Exact phrase sifter
When you want to find an exact phrase in a website, enclose the phrase in quotation marks. For example, “U.S. federal census” will bring up websites with that exact phrase and eliminate all other variations.
Words apart search
While quotation marks can help you zero in, in some cases they may actually prevent the ideal results. (There’s that “art” thing again.)
We have to keep in mind that sometimes the words that we are looking for won’t appear next to each other even though they normally do. For example, you may be looking for a city directory, and normally you would expect to see the two words together as a phrase: city directory. But by using an asterisk to set them apart, you may find the perfect result that searching for them together may have missed.
city * directory
Results could include:
city phone directory
city telephone directory
city and county directory
For this little gem, watch my video from the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel.
I hope these gems bring you a family history strike! Good luck!
Genealogy books | Podcasts | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Monday, March 14, 2011 11:24:56 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
More From RootsTech With Lisa Louise Cooke
Posted by jamie
With all the anticipation of the first ever RootsTech
conference, it’s hard to believe it’s already come and gone. Here are some highlights from
this year’s conference that I hope inspire you to attend next year. (Block out
February 2-4, 2012 on your calendar!)
As a member of the media, I had the rare opportunity to see how hundreds of
thousands of microfilm rolls make their way around the world each year. The Family History Library distribution center is
the size of 19 football fields and stores 725,000 film copies, each copy averaging
100 feet in length. Films
are stored in huge automated shelving systems holding trays of film that are
tracked and accessed by computer. Even though there is a goal to digitize all microfilms held by the
FHL, there will always be a need for microfilm distribution because of copyright restrictions.
Inside the microfilm distribution center at the Family History Library.
Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner: One of the winners at this year’s conference was the Flip-Pal Mobile
Scanner. Many a happy genealogist
clutched their new portable workhorse, and those that didn’t already have one were muttering
quietly that they really needed one. Having acquired a Flip-Pal scanner myself not long
ago, I can say that the buzz was warranted. Look for the Family Tree Magazine review of the Flip-Pal scanner in our May issue, on newsstands March 8.
The Media Center: I felt a bit like Maxwell Smart
in the Cone of Silence from "Get Smart," as I conducted interviews in the glass cubicles at
the center of the exhibit hall. The cubicles weren't sound proof, but they provided a convenient place to record
audio and video while still capturing the ambiance of the place. One of my first interviews was with
Patricia Van Skaik of the Cincinnati Public Library, who won the Most
Distinguished Presenter award for her Saturday presentations. The media center was a stroke of genius
on the part of the organizers. It
gave podcasters and bloggers the room and tools we needed to get the word out.
Lisa interviewing Patricia Van Skaik in the media center.
Witcher, manager of the genealogy deptartment at the Allen County Public Library in
Fort Wayne, Ind., also sat down with me for an in depth interview. He
sees technology converging with genealogy, and his keynote address was quite a hit from sounds of
between-session banter. Watch our conversation below:
You can see more from RootsTech at the Genealogy Gems
Click subscribe while there and you can receive email notification as they are
Virtual Presentations Roundtable: I wrapped up the whirlwind three-day conference
as a panelist in the Virtual Presentations Roundtable. Thomas MacEntee pulled together a panel of experienced webinar
presenters, including editor of Family Tree Magazine Allison Stacy,
Photo Detective Maureen Taylor, DearMYRTLE, Geoff Rasmussen
and Marian Pierre-Louis. Not only
did we provide tips on how societies can hold their own virtual presentations,
but the session itself was a virtual webinar. And to top it off, the RootsTech folks streamed the session
live on the RootsTech website!
RootsTech made a bold leap onto the conference scene, and
from every indication, it’s here to stay.
FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun | Tech Advice
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 11:13:43 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cooke
Posted by jamie
If "Who Do You Think You Are?" had aired 20 years ago, I probably would have missed half the episodes because I never did figure out how to set the clock and timer on my VCR!
Technology can sometimes be as frustrating as it is helpful. But one thing is for sure—technology will continue to change. For the next eight weeks I guest blog for new mommy Diane Haddad, bringing you Tech Tips that I hope will keep you from pulling out your hair in frustration and lead you to more ancestors.
The technology bug bit me about 10 years ago, much the same way the genealogy bug did years before—hard. An online search delivered up a database that held the answers to years of questions about my Prussian ancestors, and I was hooked. There’s nothing like having a need and seeing the direct application of technology to meet that need to give you “gumption,” as Grandma used to say, to pursue it further.
The Pursuit of Answers
In the end it’s not really technology we are pursuing, but rather answers to questions and problems that plague our family history research. In my keynote presentation at the recent Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ, I tried to drive home the concept that if you focus on your needs, and then look for and find answers in the technology arena, you will also find the motivation to learn how to use that technology. And as you learn what is technologically possible, you can pursue it when a need arises.
That’s sort of how I fell into podcasting. In 2006, I visited my local Family History Center and shared a discovery I made. The center’s director was so excited she took a photocopy of the pages in my hand and posted them on the office bulletin board. “What a genealogy gem that is!” she squealed. I stood there looking at the paper held in place with a pushpin and thought to myself: There’s got to be a better way to share something like this. It could help so many more people than just those who visit this center.
Fast forward to February 2007, when I received an iPod from my daughters for a birthday present. I immediately went snooping around the iTunes store to see if there was anything free I could download and quickly came across podcasts, which had only come in to being about a year and a half before—talk about new technology! I downloaded a couple of podcasts on a variety of topics and really enjoyed them. Then I remembered that paper stuck to the bulletin board. A quick search for “how to podcast” led me to a great little show, and a month later the Genealogy Gems Podcast was born. I’ve been posting genealogy gems ever since for listeners around the world in over 80 countries.
Not long after I began hosting the Family Tree Magazine Podcast. The budding new RSS technology filled a need and solved a problem. I wondered what else might be out there that could help the genealogist.
A prime example of technology power boosting the family historian’s research is the big daddy of them all—Google. Let’s wrap up this first installment of Tech Tips with a search tip from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (Lulu Press, 2011) that consistently delivers excellent results: the suspension point better known as “dot dot dot.” (...)
In search terms, a suspension point is used to indicate a range of numbers.
Problem: When did my ancestor die? I know it was sometime between 1790 and 1830.
Answer: The suspension point
Search Query: “Jehu Burkhart” 1790...1830
Here’s the results page:
The beauty of the suspension point (...) is that it tells the search engine to retrieve webpages that mention Jehu Burkhart (the quotation marks indicate we want the exact phrase) between the years of 1790 and 1830. And Google takes the added step of bolding the year mentioned on the webpage so that you can quickly assess from the results list if the page is the result you need. This tip has limitless genealogical search applications, and can thin that massive list of results you often get saddled with down to a manageable lot.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more tips with you as well as bringing you the latest from such conferences as "Who Do You Think You Are?" LIVE in London, and the brand new Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City. It’s an exciting time for genealogists as technology and family history merge!
—Lisa Louise Cook
Thursday, February 03, 2011 2:28:34 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Cyber Monday Genealogy Deals
Posted by Diane
Today, Nov. 29, is Cyber Monday, a day known for the last several years as a great time to shop online. You can get deals on genealogy stuff, too. A few we found:
- Today at our own ShopFamilyTree.com, offer code SFT133 gets you 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order (some exclusions apply, including VIP membership, subscriptions, and products that ship directly from our retail partners). You also can choose a FREE digital download with your purchase. Choose from:
1. Beginner's Guide to Genealogy download
2. Discover Your Roots download
3. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges download
- Subscription records site Footnote is offering 50 percent off an annual all-access membership today only, for a total of $39.95. Click here to get started.
- Genetic testing service 23andMe is offering a $99 DNA test sale (normally $499) that ends today. Details at 23andMe.com.
- Through tomorrow, Nov. 30, the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) is giving a free UGA membership to registrants for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (taking place Jan. 10-14). Learn more on Renee’s Genealogy Blog.
- On Cyber Monday, you’ll receive 15 percent off Elyse Doerflinger’s e-books Conquering The Paper Monster Once and For All and A Mini-Guide to Being a Part-Time Genealogist. Details at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog.
Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Tech Advice
Monday, November 29, 2010 9:20:04 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Genealogists Join to Build a Better GEDCOM
Posted by Diane
In an effort to “build a better GEDCOM,” a group of genealogists and programmers have established a wiki workspace called BetterGEDCOM.
GEDCOM (for GEnealogy Data COMmunication) is the language genealogy software programs use to communicate with each other—when you export family data from your genealogy software, you create either a file native to that program or a GEDCOM file that other genealogy programs and websites can read.
(Get help creating a GEDCOM from FamilyTreeMagazine.com's free GEDCOM Basics article.)
But the GEDCOM file format has some shortcomings—one being that it hasn’t been updated in 14 years.
“In the meantime, genealogists have incorporated tools with expanded capabilities reflecting changing technology," says Russ Worthington, a genealogy lecturer and software “power user.”
GEDCOM files you export from your genealogy software may leave out some of your research. “The current GEDCOM file exchange strips out much of my hard work, leaving only some of the data I've typed and attached to each well-documented ancestor,” says genealogy blogger DearMYRTLE. “We experience similar problems when uploading and downloading our genealogy data with popular genealogy websites."
More GEDCOM problems are pointed out in this DearMYRTLE blog post.
The BetterGEDCOM wiki allows genealogy software programmers, website developers and end users to collaborate on developing better data exchange standards. Organizers hope this will facilitate sharing between researchers who use a variety of technology platforms, genealogy products and services.
"We also seek to account for language and cultural differences as we develop data standards for recording family history information." says Greg Lamberson, the technician who developed the wiki’s initial pages.
"Input from BetterGEDCOM participants the world over is a vital component."
BetterGEDCOM plans to codify standards, giving genealogy software developers a framework to resolve problems, and will seek recognition by international standards organizations.
Click here to visit the BetterGEDCOM wiki; the “Where do I start?” section on the home page and the “What is BetterGEDCOM?” link on the left are good places to begin. Anyone can join the effort—just click Join at the top to register.
Confused by computer file formats? Consult our free computer file format glossary on FamilyTreeMagazine.com to learn what your mystery file is.
Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 9:35:46 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Free Genealogy Backup Service Launches Today
Posted by Diane
BackUpMyTree, a free online backup service for your genealogy files, launched today.
After you install BackupMyTree software, created by the team behind Pearl Street Software and its Family Tree Legends genealogy program (purchased by MyHeritage in 2007), the software will automatically find family tree files on your computer. It creates a remote, off-site backup you can restore if necessary, and maintains multiple previous versions of your files.
You also can opt to manually upload files through your browser, rather than install the BackupMyTree software.
The service is free. “In the future, we will offer a Pro version of our service for a small yearly fee,” says creator Cliff Shaw. “This version will offer more features, but we will always keep the free version the way it is.”
In addition, there’s no limit on the file size you can store—yet. “If we impose some sort of limit in the future, it will be a very high limit, and we will let all our users know,” Shaw says.
Note that photos and other media included in your tree aren’t yet backed up. According to the site’s FAQ: “We plan on adding this in the near future. Family Tree Maker [genealogy software] often stores photos inside the file, so these photos are backed up as a function of being included in the file.”
BackupMyTree software works on Windows systems. The service supports the genealogy applications Family Tree Maker, Personal Ancestral File, RootsMagic 4, Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Legends, Family Tree Builder, and GenoPro.
Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Monday, September 13, 2010 11:31:45 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, August 13, 2010
New in Store: Family Tree Magazine Web Guides CD
Posted by Diane
Our new Web Guides CD, which delivers user guides to 11 of the most popular genealogy sites on the internet, is available for pre-order from ShopFamilyTree.com.
Each guide has a how-to article, screen-by-screen search techniques, and a cheat sheet with quick links, hints and hacks from online genealogy experts.
The CD is a great way to catch up on guides in the magazine you may have missed, or just keep them handy in an easy-to-store, searchable format with clickable links.
With the CD, you also get a bonus guide to Google, a handy web search tracker, and free access to new or updated Web Guides for one year. Click here to learn more and to order.
Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Friday, August 13, 2010 8:58:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
March 2010 Family Tree Magazine and Your Genealogy Resolutions
Posted by Diane
The March 2010 Family Tree Magazine hit newsstands Jan. 5 with articles I think will mesh nicely with 2010 genealogy resolutions you may be formulating. For example:
Resolution: Polish your genealogy research skills.
Article: Assess your genealogical fitness level with the survey in “Shaping Up,” then read how to brush up in areas where you need more knowledge. Links direct you to a range of classes (with plenty of free options), websites, books and organizations that can help researchers from beginners to experts learn a thing or two.
Resolution: Enhance your family’s story with social history
Article: Learn how ancestors came into the world in “We Deliver for You,” an overview of childbirth practices in your grandmothers’ and great-mothers’ days. You’ll also find out about birth, hospital and midwives’ records.
Resolution: Break through your brick wall and figure out whatever happened to Great-great-grandpa.
Article: Maybe a weather event, epidemic, workplace accident or other disaster befell your forebear. “Flirting With Disaster” helps you find death records, newspapers and other sources that may name victims of unfortunate occurrences.
Resolution: Get with the times and equip yourself to digitize photos, record oral histories, back up your hard drive and more.
Article: “Go Go Gadgets” (my favorite title in the issue) explains what to look for in seven tech tools: an Internet connection, all-in-one printer/scanner/copier, digital camera, external hard drive, digital voice recorder, GPS unit and USB flash drive. For each device, we include a chart comparing popular models.
Resolution: Get with the times and figure out Twitter.
Article: Our Toolkit Tutorial illustrates the anatomy of a Tweet, defines Twitter terminology (such as tweep and hashtag) and gets you started on this fast-paced social network.
Resolution: Keep your family connected.
Article: A family website is one way to stay in touch. Our MyHeritage Web Guide outlines how to use a tree on MyHeritage to do research and connect with kin.
The March 2010 Family Tree Magazine has even more articles, including a guide to tracing Puerto Rican roots, facts about color photography and new sources helping African-American genealogists overcome research obstacles.
Look for the issue in your favorite bookstore, or visit ShopFamilyTree.com to purchase a digital download or order a print copy.
African-American roots | Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Social History | Social Networking | Tech Advice | Vital Records
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 2:54:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Genealogy Browser Toolbars
Posted by Diane
Want to save time surfing for genealogy information? A free genealogy web browser toolbar might do the trick.
Your browser toolbar is the thingie at the top of your Web browser window with buttons that let you go to the last Web page you were on, bookmark pages, see recently viewed pages, etc.
Web sites can create their own toolbars for frequent users; you can download one and add it it to your browser to easily link to the site’s main pages or use certain features of the site without actually having to go there.
You can download a toolbar for just about anything, including using Facebook, searching Google and generating Mapquest maps. A genealogy toolbar might have search boxes for one or more search engines, menus of bookmarked genealogy Web sites, and other shortcuts. You might be able to customize the toolbar’s appearance and settings.
Sometimes toolbars come with spyware or adware, so before you download one, look for an online review or check the developer’s Web site for a reassurance that you won't get these nasty surprises. Also, make sure the toolbar works with your favorite Web browser (Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.) and that it’s easy to uninstall if you change your mind.
Here are some genealogy toolbars we've learned about:
- The My Genealogy toolbar has dropdown menus of categorized links to genealogy websites. Download it from here or here. It works with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
- The Malhamdale Local History Group of Yorkshire, England, created a toolbar with links to the group’s site and other genealogy websites. It works with Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox (though Firefox users are directed to a help page).
- The Manchester and Lancashire (England) Family History Society launched a genealogy toolbar that provides links to more than 200 useful British genealogy sites. It’s regularly updated, and you can configure settings such as which web site categories to display.
- The Family Genie toolbar works with Firefox (it’s supposed to work in Internet Explorer, but CNET reviewers couldn’t get it to). It has first- and last-name search boxes and a single dropdown menu of search engines, as well as a menu of bookmarked genealogy sites.
- If you’re an Ancestry.com member, you can download the Ancestry.com toolbar for quick access to links on Ancestry.com. It also lets you easily save links and add photos and text from any web page to your Ancestry tree.
If you know of a genealogy toolbar not mentioned here, click Comments and tell us about it.
- Google is a handy genealogy tool for searching on ancestors’ names, getting language translations, locating addresses and more; and you can make more use of it than ever with help from resources such as our Googling Your Genealogy webinar and the book Google Your Family Tree by Daniel M. Lynch. The Google toolbar isn't just for genealogists, but you'll appreciate the shortcuts to the search engine’s features.
Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 9:35:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 10, 2009
The Cure for Hard-to-Read Web Sites
Posted by Grace
Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist
, shared this amazing Web tool today: Readability
, which boils down horribly busy Web sites to the basic text.
You simply visit the Readability Web site
, select the format you'd like to read in (including how large you'd like the text), and drag the link to your browser's bookmarks toolbar.
Then, when you encounter a site that makes you want to spork your eyes out, just click the link in your toolbar, and the site's content is miraculously legible!
Here's a before and after with our local news site, which can be a trainwreck of ads and popups, with the actual story barely beginning before the end of the my screen.
Amazing, huh? Click here
to try out Readability for yourself.
Genealogy for kids | Tech Advice
Friday, April 10, 2009 12:58:34 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
26 Basic Computer Tips
Posted by Grace
In the September 2008 issue
's Toolkit, we revealed the answers to our readers' most common desktop dilemmas—answering questions such as how to print sideways, how to safely shop online and how to enlarge text on Web sites.
David Pogue of The New York Times recently posted in his blog
26 more basic tech tips—for using computers, cameras and the Internet—including gems like these:
- You can double-click a word to highlight it in any document, e-mail or Web page.
- You don’t have to type http://www into your Web browser. Just type the remainder: nytimes.com or dilbert.com, for example. (In the Safari browser, you can even leave off the .com part.)
- You can switch from one open program to the next by pressing Alt+Tab (Windows) or Command+Tab (Mac).
If you want even more pointers, browse through the comments
—as of this morning there were more than 1,100 posts, many with more great tech tips.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008 9:59:39 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)