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.

RootsTech 2014 Can a Complex Research Problem be Solved Solely Online? presented by Tom Jones

My first class RT1911 for Thursday February 6, 2014 was taught by Thomas Jones entitled Can a Complex Research Problem be Solved Solely Online? The short answer was "Yes, but...."
This class was an interactive case study of one George W. Edison 1860-1940. Tom Jones took suggestions from the group and then showed what he had done step-by-step. (The room was completely full and I am sure that there were some who were not able to attend.) He led us through the sources and the evidence for the life of George W. Edison. Eventually he resolved all the conflicts. George had four wives and five marriages and lived in three or four states, so it really was a complex research problem. Most of the evidence was available online, but Jones did some on site research as well. In one case, he had hired two different researchers to do a search at a court house and neither had found any results. He visited the court house himself and within 40 minutes he had the information he needed. He advised us to not trust what someone tells you, do your own research.
I was very impressed with Tom Jones's scholarship. I have heard him speak before. This is one class that I was not going to miss.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

RootsTech 2014 Keynote Speaker Ree Drummond Thursday February 6, 2014

Ree Drummond is famous for her blog The Pioneer Woman. I had never heard of her, but when I heard that she was going to be a keynote speaker I looked her up online. I liked her on Facebook and have really enjoyed her posts. However I really wanted to win a pair of cowgirl boots. :(  I entered the contest every day, but did not win. It was fun to see all the designer boots though
I didn't take any notes during her presentation. I just sat there being fascinated by her story. She is not really a genealogist, but she is an example of someone who is connecting with the rest of the world. She can teach us "genealogists" how to be more interesting and how to involve our families. I got some ideas of how photos can be used to build self-esteem and a sense of belonging in children.
I was amazed that Ree Drummond lives on a ranch in Oklahoma in a remote location and yet she can have a hugely popular blog, a fantastic Facebook page and a cooking show on the Food Network.

RootsTech 2014 Keynote Speaker Annelies van den Belt Thursday February 6, 2014

Annilies van den Belt is the head of DC Thomson Family History (formerly BrightSolid). DC Thomson Family History is a family of online companies with collections of 1.8 billion genealogical records. Find My Past is part of DC Thomson Family History.
Ms. van den Belt is a native of the Netherlands but she has worldwide administrative experience in media broadcasting and digital publishing.
I was very impressed with her knowledge and with her sincere belief in the value of preserving and sharing history.
She told about an extensive project in the United Kingdom, the Imperial War Memorial, which is dedicated to documenting and sharing the lives of those involved in World War I. Here is the link to the  Imperial War Museum. It has been one hundred years since World War I began.

RootsTech 2014 Keynote Speaker Dennis Brimhall Thursday February 6, 2014

Dennis Brimhall is the current President and CEO of FamilySearch International, the family history arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since FamilySearch International is the main sponsor of RootsTech it was very natural that Elder Brimhall would be the first keynote speaker and introduce all the events and speakers to follow.
Elder Brimhall covered many significant changes and coming events in the world of family history. He spoke about how stories are very significant. It is stories that attract more people to the field of family history. Specifically he talked about the new feature to FamilySearch Family Tree where photos, documents and stories can be uploaded to Family Tree. It is called Memories. He said that 150,000 patrons have uploaded 2 million memories and 12 million sources to Family Tree. There are 500 stories being added every day and some of them are even true. (This was a joke and a disclaimer, I think.)
He told about the new LDS church booklet (1.7 million copies) about families which is for those who are doing family history without access to a computer. He said that a cell phone app is being developed and told about many teenagers in South America who do not have computers, but they do have cell phones.
Captain Jack Starling (a FamilySearch employee dressed up as a pirate) joined Elder Brimhall on stage to talk about indexing and specifically about the new obituary indexing project. See some previous posts I have made about Captain Jack.
Probably the most exciting announcement was of a partnership with, and which will get the contents of the Granite Mountain Vaults online within a generation instead of within 200 years. I was excited to learn that eventually members of the LDS Church will have free access to these other websites. But I didn't learn this from Elder Brimhall's talk, it was in the Deseret News for that day.
Elder Brimhall also told us about the Puzzilla feature of FamilySearch and what a great aid it is to performing descendancy research. Elder Brimhall introduced the next two speakers for Thursday morning, Annelies van den Belt and Ree Drummond.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

RootsTech 2014 Innovator Summit Day February 5, 2014

When I first registered for RootsTech 2014 I thought that I would not attend "Developer Day" because after all I am not a computer programmer and I thought it was just for those who are creating software products to help with family history. But I did purchase a full access pass. Then I got an email advertising this pre-conference event that sold me on going. It would not cost me extra, so I looked at the class options and registered for the ones that looked interesting. RootsTech renamed this day "Innovator Summit" Day.

The keynote speaker was Chris Dancy, "the most quantified human." I attended a funeral that morning, so I was not able to hear Mr. Dancy. But I heard reports that it was a very interesting presentation. It is supposedly online at the RootsTech website, but I have not been able to access it. Maybe I will write another blog post when I finally get to view it.

The first class that I chose was DEV1130 Getting Started with FamilySearch API taught by David Hale and Vaughn Hepworth. These gentlemen are employees of FamilySearch and I was very impressed with their knowledge and expertise and their sincere desire to share with all the RootsTech attendees. In fact, I could write this about all the presenters at RootsTech. There were no presenters that I did not like!
The first thing that I learned from the class was that API stands for application program interface. So the class was about writing programs or applications that will interface with FamilySearch. I do not see myself ever doing this, but it was interesting to learn a few things about the process and about authentication, access, certification levels, SCOE (source centric open edit), etc.

My second class for this day was DEV1283 Tap into Billions of Historical Records and Family Tree Profiles with the MyHeritage Matching API taught by Richard Stauffer, the lead software architect at My He talked about smart matches and record matches and the way that MyHeritage software can find matches for individuals in your online family tree. I resolved to look more closely at the record matches for the individuals in the GEDCOM file that I uploaded to My last year.

My third class was DEV1981 Customer and Mobile First taught by Andrew Fox of  Find My He emphasized that it is important for developers to understand their users. He gave impressive statistics showing that more and more Internet users are using from mobile devices. So it is imperative that applications be optimized for mobile devices. One of his themes was "Utility beats Aesthetics."
He also talked about coming developments in gaming and visual realities in family history applications. He believes that family history is closer to a game than traditional web service.

While I was riding Trax back home I chatted with another RootsTech attendee who works for Kinpoint, Inc. a Utah-based company that is developing video games related to family history.

It was a "mind-blowing" day, just filled with new ideas and glimpses of technology advances for the future. A lot of the classes were really over my head though. I am not sure if anything I learned will have direct application for me, at least not direct application for my immediate goals.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SLCC Genealogy Course -- Blogging Project

Tonight I started on my Blogging Project. First I went to the Utah Genealogical Society web site. I logged in, because I am a member, and went to the archives of the virtual chapter meetings. I watched the February virtual chapter meeting (webinar) called Using Tools and Organization for Creating a Valuable Family History Blog presented by James L. Tanner, author of the Genealogy's Star blog. He gave this same presentation at RootsTech 2014 a few weeks before the UGA Virtual Chapter meeting on Thursday February 6, 2014. I attended the RootsTech presentation and was very impressed. I wanted to hear it again and I am glad that I did. It "used up" 1 1/2 hours of my 6 hours. :) There was an excellent syllabus for the RootsTech presentation which I downloaded and printed from the RootsTech 2014 web site. The presentation was number RT 1061.
Here are some things I considered as I watched the presentation tonight. 
Why do I want to have a blog? It is a rather major time commitment, so I need to know why. What are my goals? I want to share my research and information. I want to preserve my family history. I want to preserve my research methodology and sources and citations for those who will come after me. I want to create a valuable resource that I can use. All these things are important to me, so that is why I want to create a better blog.
I considered adding more ways to share my blog and several add-ins and gadgets that I can implement on my blog. I definitely want to have a Google search function. And I definitely want to have the index function. I want to look for a newer more attractive template.
Before I heard James Tanner's presentation I was considering switching to WordPress and a paid site. I thought it would be more professional. But now I can see that he is doing a wonderful job with Blogger and so are several other top 40 Genealogy blogs. Blogger is quite a bit easier for me to use, because I am familiar with it. I have also used WordPress, but I have much more to learn about it. And Blogger is free!
James Tanner also made the point that if you write your blog posts in Microsoft Word there is a lot more formatting. Writing in the blog itself is simpler and even easier to make into a book. In fact, James Tanner recommends a blog as a good first step to writing a book. 

SLCC Genealogy 1000 Course: Preserving the Past and Present Project Approval

For my Midterm Project for the Preserving the Past and Present Module I was required to submit a proposal for a six-hour(at least) project that will be something I really want to do for my family. 
Here is what I wrote for the proposal. Ihave identified three things that I could do for this six-hour project that I am going to do any way. The unit Preserving the Past and Present has been very stimulating!

  1. Interview my 92-year-old mother. However, she has been in the hospital the last week , so I need to take interviewing her more slowly than I could do for an assignment for this class. But I have already approached her and started an outline of what we need to do to help her write her personal history.
  2. Organize my photographs. I purchased a guide book for Picasa from Geeks on Tour and am going to learn how to use the program. The author Chris Guld has lots of online videos about using Picasa that I want to study.
  3. This is the one that I want to do first for this class. I want to work on my family history blog. I created the blog in 2008. Ironically I started it (and then backed off of it) when I was called to be ward family history consultant. I thought it would be a good place to share family history information and instruction with ward members. But when I advertised it, I was instructed by the bishopric that we were to have no blogs or websites other than official church websites. (In the meantime members of the church have been encouraged to establish an online presence in multiple ways. That is the ironic part.)

When I attended RootsTech 2014 I went to the session about blogs by James Tanner and was motivated to start writing more. I have been following his blog Genealogy Star and am amazed by how prolific a writer he is. I plan on watching the UGA video of his presentation on the same subject for more ideas on blogging. (I am a UGA member, so I have access to the archives.) He stressed that if you insist on perfection, you will not be writing very much. So I need to lower my standards and write more frequently. I am also impressed with ReNee Zamora’s blog and how she writes about her genealogy class assignments. I am thinking that if I do the same, my research processes will be well-documented for those researchers in my family who come after me.
 I also like the idea of a blog just because I can save the instructional things I learn from classes, from books, from webinars and from Internet sources in a place where I can find them. So, this is my proposal. Spend at least six hours writing posts for Use my notes from RootsTech 2014 and share what I learned, include links to online resources for many of these classes. I think I can write at least 12 posts on the subject of RootsTech. Then I want to start writing about class assignments, like Renee. I am probably not going to write about past assignments. I will just start where I am.

My Instructor approved my project proposal. One of her comments was "It will become kind of a "notebook" of sorts for you to keep track of genealogy resources. Make sure you add the box that makes it searchable." What a good suggestion! I am thinking of lots of improvements that I can make to this blog. I am excited to get started on this project.

Ancestry Insider Writes about Migration of Sources from New Family Search to Family Tree

Yesterday on the Ancestry Insider blog there was more information about the migration of sources from New Family Search to Family Tree. This is another perspective on what the The Ancestor Files blog reported about this. Apparently the sources data is "corrupted" because there are ten fields for sources in New Family Search and three fields in Family Tree. Also, the sources are being placed in user source boxes. I will have to check my source box and see if there is any thing there that I need to attach to my people in Family Tree.
I was encouraged to read that this is a new round of migration which started in February and was expected to last about six weeks. So maybe it is almost over now. Regardless of what FamilySearch is doing it is incumbent upon me to add sources to my people in Family Tree and to have good citations for these sources.