Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RootsTech 2014 Information Overload: Managing Online Searches and Their Results

D. Joshua Taylor taught the class on Information Overload: Managing Online Searches and Their Results GS1375. He is the lead genealogist for He is also the current president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), I have seen him on the NBC TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" And I have heard him lecture at other conferences. He is very organized and his presentations are always wonderful. He has very helpful syllabuses also.

I attended only part of this session. I was really overloaded with information by Saturday February 8, 2014 at 1:00 PM. I was doing something in the RootsTech Exhibit Hall and got to class late and it was packed.  It is usual for D. Joshua Taylor's classes to be packed.  But later I watched the entire session online at the rootstech 2014 web site. I gained many good insights to researching online.

I had never heard of before. But I think I will enjoy the expand and cluster approach to searching once I learn how to do it. It should be a helpful search engine to use.

Here are the five main points of the presentation:
1. Keep a family history "golden rule." This means that for every one hour spent researching you will spend approximately two hours planning the research and two hours following through. That seems like a long time, but it is probably worth it in order to save time in the long run.
2. Keep an updated research plan for websites. Mr. Taylor recommends electronic lists so they are always handy for whenever you have some time to research.
3. Organize your digital life. I really need to do this. I have a messy desktop on my computer and though I have started organizing my genealogy files, I have a lot more I can do.
4. Develop an "after research" system. This reminds me of David Dilts and his "Nine before You Recline" list, except Dilts wrote his system for paper research. Taylor recommends that you develop your own system to name, store and organize your files. It is critical to do the organizing right after each research session.
5. Prioritize your research. Taylor uses As, Bs, Cs, Ds. I think he must have read Alan Lakein's book on time management. He also suggested only working on researching two or three families at a time. Since everything you discover in research typically leads to two or three more places to search, it is important to limit the number of families you are working on or things can really get out of hand.

This was a very informative class. I would like to go back and view it again after about a year of genealogical research. I am sure that as I do more research the suggestions will make more sense and be even more valuable. I am glad that it is available online.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

RootsTech 2014 The New FamilySearch Indexing Program

On Friday February 7, 2014 I attended class RT1193 taught by Scott Flinders about the new FamilySearch Indexing Program. Scott Flinders is the product manager for FamilySearch Indexing. This was very interesting. There are some exciting changes coming. Some of the things that I remember that were exciting were:

  • The new program will be browser-based. It will not be necessary to download the indexing program to your computer. This will be great for a few people I know who use their employer's computers and are allowed to use these computers for personal use but are not allowed to download programs. At least that is the excuse they give me when I invite them to do indexing. 
  • There will be an indexer and a reviewer and this should save a lot of time. If the indexer and reviewer have different opinions, both opinions will be saved and be searchable. I am not sure if the arbitrator role will disappear entirely.
  • Researchers who find information because it was indexed will be able to send a thank-you email to the person who indexed the record.
  • Volunteers will be able to perform other roles such as setting up projects. This should reduce those images with "no extractable data" and "duplicate images." And the images should be easier to read if someone can adjust the readability of the images as they are being set up.
  • Indexers will be able to see a series of images in a project which will give more context to what they are working on. 
  • The program will suggest projects for the indexers to work on, based on their previous experiences and interests.
  • There will be gradual changes in colors, fonts, layout, etc. Some of these have happened since I attended RootsTech.
  • We do not know exactly when the new program will be fully operational. It will be later in the year, probably in August 2014 or after August 2014.
The Ancestry Insider blog has done a far better job than I have done of reviewing this class. Here is the link to the Ancestry Insider Review.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Every Family Has a Story, Discover Yours

I really enjoyed this short little video shown at RootsTech 2014.

Every Family Has a Story, Discover Yours

I shared it in my ward with the Relief Society and with my family.

RootsTech 2014 Keynote Speaker Judy Russell

Judy Russell is a lawyer and a certified genealogist. Her blog is called The Legal Genealogist. She teaches at several genealogy institutes and many conferences.

She was the first keynote speaker on Friday February 7, 2014. Her topic was something like Every Family Has a Story, What's Yours? She emphasized that pieces of oral family history can be lost in just three generations. It must be "purposely and accurately passed down from generation to generation." She used examples from her own family history.

I was so impressed with her presentation that I volunteered to give a lesson on this topic in our ward Relief Society on Tuesday March 4, 2014. I showed part of her presentation which was online at the RootsTech web site to the sisters and led a discussion about how to preserve our family history. Some of the sisters brought scrapbooks and journals and books that they had prepared and they told about them.
Judy Russell is very active in using and promoting DNA testing in genealogical research.

I really liked her story of how she discovered that her family was not descended from Alexander Baker of Massachusetts and how she broke the news at a family reunion. See The Cousin Who Isn't.

RootsTech 2014 Old World, New Records: as Key Resource for Tracing British Ancestry presented by Elaine Collins

Elaine Collins is Director of Global Partnerships and head of content acquisition for DC Thompson Family History. She talked about the core records that are part of the Find My Past collections and also about some new records that are becoming available. Some of the core records are census and BMD (birth, marriage and death) records as well as international passenger lists. Some new records are 19 million British rate books which predate census records.
There is a section of Find My Past called My Records which can serve as a research log. There are places for timelines, facts and events, included LDS ordinances. There is a Find My Past capture app for iPhone which will record interviews and take photos.
Parish register collections are being linked to the IGI or the International Genealogical Index.
More military records are being added, especially with the Imperial War Museums being established.
Actually they have more U.S. records than U.K. records just because there are more Americans than Britains. They have a very good Civil War collection.
Find My Past has partnered with Allen County Public Library to enhance PERSI or Periodical Source Index and make more original sources available digitally. See the news at Persi Finds New Home at Find My Past.
I do not know a lot about using Find My Past. I would like to spend four days at a conference or workshop just learning about it.

RootsTech 2014 What I Learned about DNA Testing and Family History Research

The second class that I attended on Thursday February 6, 2014 was RT1374 Advanced Techniques for Use of Autosomal DNA Tests to Break through Genealogical Brick Walls presented by Tim Janzen, M.D. Tim Janzen is a family practice doctor in Portland, Oregon. He has been interested in genealogy for many years. He is the co-administrator of the Mennonite DNA project and an advisor to the company 23andMe.

This was a very technical class. Dr. Janzen prepared a detailed syllabus for both of his presentations at RootsTech. (I only attended this one.) He gave urls to more online information including a link to the Power Point presentation that he used. The Power Point presentation covered a lot more information than he was able to present in the hour class.

I had not intended going to any of the presentations about DNA testing, but then my sister got her results from her testing at 23andMe just one week before RootsTech and she shared her results with me.
I was fascinated! I knew that genetics is a rather complicated discipline and had decided to focus on RootsTech classes that would be immediately helpful in my research. But after seeing her results I wanted to learn more. This is a subject that I could really delve into. It would be fun to go to the Institute for Genetic Genealogy First Annual Conference  next August 16 and 17 at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Washington D.C. This is going to be one geeky conference! If I were a younger person I might consider making a career of being a genetic genealogy researcher and learning how to do chromosome mapping and triangulation. I think there is a great future for DNA testing in genealogy.

I did not attend any of the other DNA classes, but I did visit all the related booths in the exhibit hall.
At the very last minute I purchased an Ancestry DNA test kit for the conference special price of $89. I collected a saliva sample from my mother and submitted it. Her genealogy paper trail has been completed for 5-6 generations back, so we did not find any new information yet. But there are at least a dozen family trees in that relate to her family tree. There are connections on the Rollins, Whitaker, Robinson and Bybee lines.

Monday, April 7, 2014

RootsTech 2014 Will Your Family History Have Lasting Value? presented by Thomas Jones

On Friday February 7, 2014 I attended the second class taught by Tom Jones. It was RT1933 Will Your Family History Have Lasting Value? 
This was a very motivating class with great personal application for me. I think that all genealogists want to create a family history that their descendants will cherish and that has irreplaceable value. That is our goal.

Tom Jones began the class with a very specific challenge: "Consistently make your first genealogical priority to do today what future generations cannot do tomorrow." He elaborated saying that because of advances in technology and availability of records and DNA results that future generations will be able do some research much easier and more quickly than we can do today. But they will not have access to older members of our families. So our first genealogical priority needs to be to get information from these older family members and from our own memories before it is gone. He advised us to gather our family's oral history systematically and then to share it widely. He said not to interpret it. Do not present it as fact or fiction. Collect photographs and artifacts and share them on paper and electronically. Collect as many DNA samples as you can afford.

After this challenge, he urged us to acquire skills. He shared his personal history with us. He became interested in genealogy as a teenager in Lubbock, Texas. He learned by subscribing to genealogy magazines and getting books from the New England Genealogy Historical Society on loan. He said that he believes that his first twenty years of research was almost a total waste. It took him a long time to become a competent genealogist. He said genealogy research is hard, complex and requires an advanced skill set. Some of his suggestions were:
Plan your research.
Learn state by state and country by country about the records available.
Use FamilySearch Wiki.
Read the original handwriting and language.
Interpret the records.
Learn to follow a trail of records.
Use the information you have to get more information.
Use an evidence approach rather than an information approach.
Read a lot and write a lot. (Hmm, this is another reason for me to keep up with this blog.)
Study Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
Take courses.
Read genealogy periodicals and study the case histories.

The next section of his presentation was about creating a genealogy of enduring value. There are four essentials. (BEAD)
A is accuracy. Accuracy is invisible.
B is biography. This is the meaning or the uniqueness of a person.
D is documentation.
E is explanation.
There is very little online that meets these standards, unless it was first in print.

After this class I went to the Exhibit Hall and purchased Genealogy Standards: 50th Anniversary Edition by the Board for Certification of Genealogists edited by Thomas Jones.