Thursday, July 07, 2016

Last night's Wacky Wednesday

Thanks again to Pat and Russ for making this happen!

Wacky Wednesday with guest Drew Smith

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Upcoming Research Trip and Viewing Hometown Newspapers

Not very long from now, I'll be going on a trip that will include some time for genealogical research. To make the most of it, I have to think about where I am going, what repositories will be available, and what I might need from those repositories that I don't already have.

One of the things that I can't access from home is my hometown newspaper for years starting in 1923.   (Earlier years are available online via Chronicling America.) Although some issues are actually scanned and online via the Google News Newspaper archive, there are gaps. For example, the issue containing my parents' wedding announcement is not online. So my best bet will be to visit the local public library in my hometown, which has the microfilm.

To save some time, I'm going to use my genealogy database's feature of displaying all events in a given location during a certain time period. This will give me a chronological list of dates that I can use to process the newspapers in an efficient way.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Time to Organize Your Genealogy

I think a lot about organizing stuff, especially information. Books, magazines, papers, digital files. The stuff that piles up in tubs and boxes in my home office and my work office. The stuff that piles up in folders on my desktop computers and the many apps on my tablet and smartphone.

And it's not just the information that needs organizing. It's also my schedule, my to-do list, my goals and projects and tasks.  Sometimes I amaze myself that I was able to write a book last year, which just became available on Kindle today. No doubt if I had been even better organized and less stressed, the book could have been produced even sooner.  (And what about future books?)

But if you're reading this, you're probably more interested in your own organizational and productivity issues. I do like to talk about technology and methodology as they apply to genealogical research, but a big part of that now has to do with using technology to organize, and creating methods to organize.

I don't believe in New Year's Day resolutions, mainly for two reasons: You have to wait each year until January 1 to start them, and the idea is that you're going to do something for an entire year. I don't want to wait. And I can only work on small things at a time. 3 months, maybe?

So how will I be spending my time during the next 3 months? There's a research trip somewhere in there, which means getting ready for that. There's a bunch of new podcasts to prepare (The Genealogy Guys Podcast continues, and in between, new episodes of Genealogy Connection).  There's a new Patreon site to finish and promote. There's ongoing book promotion.

But I would really like to get back to my researching my own family (not just with the research trip). And I want to make better use of my DNA matches.

Let me leave you with an idea to help your own information overload, a clever little experiment I participated in during the past 5 days, and which I found fun and productive: Infomagical.  You can sign up at pretty much any time, and it begins the Monday after you sign up. Here's the link:


Go do it, and a week from now, tell me what you thought about it.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

How Time Flies: Reflections on 9 Years as Local Society President

This morning I was honored to turn over the reins of the Florida Genealogical Society of Tampa to its new president, Tammy Patascher. I made sure to give her the "official" presidential gavel, and the box in which to store it until the next turnover. (I don't recall my even using it during the time I was president.)

Can it really have been 9 years since I first became president of my local society? The time seems to have flown by, but I am very proud to say that during those 9 years the society accomplished some major projects:

  • the copying of 8 printed volumes of cemetery surveys into Find A Grave
  • the scanning of all Hillsborough County marriage records in the holdings of the USF Tampa Library Special Collections
  • the establishment of the Hillsborough County Century Families program
  • and a long list of nationally known speakers for our annual Fall Seminar, all of whom I count as friends: Amy Johnson Crow, Paula Stuart-Warren, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Curt Witcher, John Philip Colletta, D. Joshua Taylor, J. Mark Lowe, Thomas W. Jones, and Cyndi Ingle (and 2 more lined up for 2016 and 2017: Judy G. Russell and David Rencher)

I could not have led the society without the support of a wonderful Board, and I am exceedingly confident that they shall go on to do amazing things in the coming years.

Thank you, FGS Tampa, for electing me and for allowing me to serve you.

And now I challenge all of you reading this to take the appropriate next step:

  1. If you have never attended a meeting of your local genealogy society, attend.
  2. If you have attended a meeting of your local genealogy but are not yet a member, join.
  3. If you are already a member of your local genealogy society, volunteer.
  4. If you have been a volunteer for your local genealogy society, run for office.
  5. And if you have served as an officer of your local genealogy society, repeat the entire process for your state genealogy society and again for a national genealogy society.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

In support of Wikipedia

When speaking to others about Wikipedia, I often get reactions not unlike the attitudes toward the public family trees found all over the Web (but predominantly on, namely, that you should never trust it, because it is nothing but errors.

Of course, one major difference between Wikipedia and public family trees is that each tree is normally the work of an individual, while a Wikipedia article can be the work of dozens if not hundreds of individuals. I suppose one could more reasonably compare Wikipedia to the unified family trees found on such sites as FamilySearch (to name the best-known example). And yes, even there, there are errors too.

The problem with the nay-saying on Wikipedia is that it seems to deify information found in print, as if one could leave critical thinking at the door and embrace whatever one finds in black-and-white on paper. Maybe genealogists have forgotten that printed family histories can be just as prone to error as anything one might find online. And the same can be said for non-genealogical print works. We imagine that there are armies of editors fact-checking anything that ends up in print, but the reality is, errors are printed and they *may* be caught and corrected in future printings or future editions. Or may not.

I'm not alone in these thoughts. I just discovered the following article, which expresses the same idea: "Why It's Time the World Embraced Wikipedia".

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A few tech/genealogy words you may be typing/using incorrectly

Genealogical research is one of those activities that requires crystal-clear communication between researchers, in order to prevent misunderstandings and to facilitate searching for needed information.

Unfortunately, our hobby and profession that requires very close attention to detail nonetheless often suffers from sloppy language usage.  So let me lay out a few terms that could be more carefully written (the company and product names below are typically trademarked):

  • Upload/download.  In a general sense, you upload *from* your own device (usually a desktop or laptop computer, but increasingly a tablet or smartphone) and upload *to* an online server, usually using a website.  For example, you might upload a photo from your tablet to a photo-sharing website, or a GEDCOM-format file from your desktop computer to a website that lets you share family trees with others.  The opposite, then, is that you download *from* a cloud-based server, and download *to* your own device.  You might download a census image from a records-hosting service to your smartphone, or download a set of DNA test results from a DNA testing company to your laptop.  (If it helps, think of your own devices as "down" and all those Web-based services, increasingly referred to as "cloud-based", as "up".)
  • FamilySearch,, Findmypast, and MyHeritage. FamilySearch is one word, with the S capitalized. does not have the "C" capitalized.  Findmypast, which is one word, is a bit tricky, since it "styles" its logo as "findmypast", but unless you're using its actual logo, capitalize it (and no other letter in its name).  MyHeritage is one word, with the "H" capitalized.
  • GEDCOM and GEDmatch. As more and more people have begun using GEDmatch, these two similar sounding terms have caused some confusion.  GEDCOM is an LDS-supported file format more than 30 years old, allowing the communication of genealogical data (ergo its name, GEnealogical Data COMmunication, or GEDCOM) between one genealogy database program or online family tree server and another.  GEDmatch is a website allowing the comparison of autosomal DNA test results from any of the 3 major U.S. testing companies. Things get a bit confused not just because of the somewhat similar names but also because you can upload a GEDCOM file to GEDmatch (aren't you glad we already covered "upload to"?).  
  • HeritageQuest Online. The HeritageQuest part is one word, with the "Q" capitalized, and is written that way with the intention of reflecting the name of its owner, ProQuest (also one word with the "Q" capitalized).  "Online" is part of the name, so include it if you write about it.
  • RootsWeb, RootsMagic, and RootsTech.  Each of those are one word, with the second part capitalized. They aren't related to each other, unless you count the RootsMagic-Users mailing list, which is hosted at RootsWeb (along with more than 30,000 other genealogy mailing lists). RootsMagic users often abbreviate their product as RM.  The RootsTech logo is styled as "rootstech", but unless you're using the actual logo, write it as RootsTech.  
  • Family Tree DNA, Family Tree Maker, and Family Tree Builder.  First, they are unrelated. Second, Family Tree DNA is three words, but its logo styles it as one word.  (The company and its users frequently use the shorter form of FTDNA.)  Family Tree Maker and Family Tree Builder, competitor family tree software programs, are three words each, but Family Tree Maker users often abbreviate their product as FTM.  
  • GenealogyBank and The former is owned by NewsBank, so its name reflects that relationship (one word, the second part capitalized). The latter's own website sometimes writes its name as "NewspaperARCHIVE" and sometimes as "NewspaperArchive", so I'm not sure what to recommend there. I suppose you'll be correct no matter which one you choose to write.
Did I overlook a genealogy-related term that you frequently see mistyped or misused?  Let me know.