September 1, 2015

About Lisa

Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show at www.GenealogyGems.com. She is the author of the books Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies and The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, and the Google Earth for Genealogy DVD series, an international conference speaker, and writer for Family Tree Magazine.

Compare Look-Alikes in Your Family with Free Facial Recognition Tool

Who are the look-alikes in your family? A new free facial recognition web app compares your pictures to see just how strong those family resemblances are!

family look alikes

Recently I saw an article online that practically begged me to read it: “22 Photos Which Prove That Your Genes are Amazing.” It shows a series of “photographs of people who, despite belonging to different generations within their families, are as alike as two peas in a pod.” (Take a look! Those photos are pretty cool!)

lookalikes grouped togetherOf course, that got me thinking about the look-alikes in my own family, and I had to find and compare their pictures. I came across these two sets of look-alikes. Unfortunately, their faces are not posed or angled the same direction, but when I look at those faces, I am struck by their physical resemblance to each other.

That got me wondering…is there a free online tool that will let us use facial recognition technology to compare two faces? I got Googling…and there is!

Microsoft’s Twins or Not facial comparison web app recently launched. It’s so new they’re still refining it. But it works and it’s super easy to use. I fed in my first two lookalikes and the results came up as a 58% match: pretty astounding for a three-degree difference in blood relation (from a grand-daughter two generations up to her grandmother, then one person over to her sister). The second match wasn’t quite as strong: just 39%. That’s still pretty striking for four degrees of difference on the family tree!

I was curious about how the look-alike relatives shown in that article would rank in Twins or Not. So I clipped a couple of photos from there and ran them through. Below is the stunning result: a 100% match (which is no surprise–these babies are SO alike).

This kind of service is trending in mobile apps too (even for your pets!), though most of the available apps help you find your celebrity look-alike.twins or not test

Who are the look-alikes in your family? Why not take a screenshot of your results at Twins or Not and share it with us–and on your favorite social media site?

Resources

Tools to Highlight Your Great Genealogy Finds

“My Name is Jane:” Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Use Forensic Genealogy Tools: New Technology Sheds Light on History

thanks for sharing ancestorI think this would be a really fun post to share with friends and loved ones! Will you share it by email or on social media? Thanks!

 

4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy

The Library of Congress (LOC) is a dream destination for many U.S. genealogy researchers, but most of us can’t get there in person. Here are 4 ways–all online–to access the mega-resources of the Library of Congress for genealogy.

library of congress genealogy

 

 

digital archive, world digital library

1. World Digital Library: for the bigger picture

The Library of Congress is home to the World Digital Library, “a collaborative international project led by the Library of Congress. It now includes more than 10,000 manuscripts, maps and atlases, books, prints and photographs, films, sound recordings, and other cultural treasures.

What can be useful to genealogists? The World Digital Library’s Timelines of U.S. History and World History work together with interactive maps on the same topics. The worldwide and historically deep scope of digital content can help you explore your deep cultural roots in another place. The History and Geography Section offers great visuals and includes (small but growing) sections on biography and genealogy.

 

2. Chronicling America: for finding ancestors in the news

The Chronicling America newspaper site, hosted by the Library of Congress, catalogs U.S. newspapers and provides free access to more than six million digital newspaper pages (1836-1922) in multiple languages. Run searches on the people, places and events that shaped your ancestors’ lives. Results may include:

  • Advertising: classifieds, companies your ancestor worked for or owned, store ads, runaway slaves searches and rewards and ship arrivals or departures.
  • Births & deaths: birth announcements, cards of thanks printed by the family, obituaries and death notices, funeral notices, reporting of events that led to the death, etc.
  • Legal notices and public announcements: auctions, bankruptcies, city council meetings, divorce filings, estate sales, executions and punishments, lawsuits, marriage licenses, probate notices, tax seizures, sheriff’s sale lists.
  • Lists: disaster victims, hotel registrations, juror’s and judicial reporting, letters left in the post office, military lists, newly naturalized citizens, passenger lists (immigrants and travelers), unclaimed mail notices.
  • News articles: accidents, fires, etc. featuring your ancestor; front page (for the big picture); industry news (related to occupations); natural disasters in the area; shipping news; social history articles.
  • Community and social events like school graduations, honor rolls, sporting and theater events; social news like anniversaries, church events, clubs, engagements, family reunions, visiting relatives, parties, travel, gossip columns, illnesses, weddings and marriage announcements.

With Chronicling America, you can also subscribe to receive “old news” on many of your favorite historical topics. Sign up for weekly notifications that highlight interesting and newly-added content on topics that were widely covered in the U.S. press at the time. (Click here to see a list of topics.) To subscribe, just use the icons at the bottom of the Chronicling America home page.

3. Flickr Creative Commons  – Library of Congress Photostream for old pictures

LOC ElectionFlickr Creative Commons describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.” Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others. The (U.S.) Library of Congress photostream has thousands of photos and a growing collection of front pages of newspapers.

Tip: The Library of Congress isn’t the only library posting cool images on Flickr Creative Commons. Look for photostreams from your other favorite libraries and historical societies. (Use the main search box with words like “Ohio library” and limit results to groups. You’ll see who’s posting images you care about and you can even follow them!)

4. Preserving Your History video for archiving your family history

LOC scrapbook videoThe Library of Congress has a FREE video about how to create and properly preserve digital or print archival scrapbooks.

It’s a 72-minute video by various experts with a downloadable transcript on these topics:

  • Basic preservation measures one can do at home for long-lasting albums and scrapbooks
  • Pros and cons of dismantling old scrapbooks and albums in poor condition
  • How to address condition problems
  • Preservation considerations for digital scrapbooks and albums
  • How to participate in the Library’s Veterans History Project.

Also check this out: the Preserving Your Family Treasures webpage on working with originals at the Library of Congress website.

More Resources

The Library of Congress is Your Library, a four-minute video introduces the Library of Congress and gives a brief history.

VIDEO: Exploring LOC.gov, a three-minute video highlighting the Library’s online collections and providing searching techniques.

How to Find Stuff at the Largest Library in the World, a 5-minute introductory video showing how to use subject headings, research databases and other helpful tools to find books, photos, sheet music, manuscripts and more at the Library of Congress or other locations.

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Tools to Highlight Your Great Genealogy Finds

Snagit and Skitch can help you highlight screenshots and other digital images you capture for genealogy. Here’s how!

snagit skitch great genealogy finds

genealogy gems podcast mailboxRecently Diane from Alberta, CA sent in this question:

“I am trying to find how to highlight a portion of a document such as a birth certificate. The document has three people listed for the county and prior to adding it to my tree on Ancestry, I would like to highlight my ancestor so he will stand out. Can you offer any suggestions. I tried Evernote without success, also my family tree program.  What am I missing?”

I suggested Diane use Snagit 12 for Mac  software to highlight her documents. In fact, I use it constantly for a variety of genealogical projects, though I use Snagit 12 for Windows. The full-blown software has loads of cool features!

You can also download the free Snagit Chrome extension here. After you install Snagit, you’ll see it show up on your browser page. Here’s what it looks like on Google Chrome (the blue “s” button):
Snagit icon on browser page

 

 

Snagit Sample Thomas Hall census When you see something on your screen you want to capture, just click on the blue “S” icon. You’ll be asked at the outset to give Snagit access to various cloud storage options so it can store the image for you. Once you allow it access, then you’ll be able to name your file and add your own shapes, arrows and text. Use these to call attention to part of a record; annotate what you learned from it or even mark your ancestor’s face in a group photo.

As far as doing something similar in Evernote: Evernote only allows you to highlight typed text, not portions of an image. However, you can download Skitch and drag and drop the document from Evernote into Skitch. Then you can highlight an image to your hearts content. When you’re done you can Save to Evernote in the menu (SKITCH > SAVE TO EVERNOTE).

Share BoldThanks to Diane for a great question! I hope you’ll all share this post: Snagit is free and makes it so easy to take notes on your digital images, for your own use or to share with others!

Resources

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Should Evernote Be My Digital Archive?

Annotating and Transcribing Documents in Evernote (What Evernote Can and Can’t Do for Family History)

Find Your WWII Ancestors with these Military Research Gems

find your WWII ancestorsReady to research your WWII ancestors? We recommend these resources–and give you more from WWII author Rick Beyer, who recently appeared on the Genealogy Gems podcast. 

Recently author Rick Beyer joined me on the free Genealogy Gems podcast (episode 182) to talk about his fascinating book and PBS companion documentary, The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery. His stories have stayed in my mind ever since. I find myself wanting to learn more about my own family’s involvement in World War II–and wanting to hear more from Rick Beyer.

I did a little digging and found these titles:

finding your fathers war

Finding Your Father’s War Revised Edition: A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army by Jonathan Gawne. Now on its third printing, this popular guide helps readers navigate the records and repositories that can shed light on your Greatest Generation ancestors.

i thought my father was god

I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project, edited by Paul Auster. This collection of 180 personal stories ranks close to 5 stars by Amazon readers. It includes Rick Beyer’s story, “A Plate of Peas,” which he reads for us on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel (watch it below).

 

More Resources

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 165 (listen for free!), about WWII records at the U.S. National Archives and tips for finding soldiers’ overseas travels.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online, which spotlights several European databases that have recently come online, including records that may mention your WWII ancestors.

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 46 (Premium membership required to access), which includes several online resources for color photographs from WWII.

genealogy book club genealogy gemsKnow anyone else who would love to know about these resources? Please share this post with them! And if you enjoy reading about history and family themes, check out the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We regularly interview best-selling and critically-acclaimed authors on our show: see why these are some of our most popular episodes!

Write Your Family History: A Printed Book or Digital Archive?

print v digital archive write your family historyIt’s time (maybe past time!) to write your family history. Should you write a book or throw everything into a digital archive?

Recently Joyce attended a genealogy conference I taught that was sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System. She wrote to us that she went home with a newly-resolved plan for how to write her family history:

“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak. I learned a lot also. There was a question asked at the conference that I had also thought a lot about: how to leave your legacy to your family. With technology changing every day, I have decided that the old-fashioned way is probably the best. Technology will not change the fact that we can sit down to a paper book. So I will keep my CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; however, I will print out books for my family to have, whether they have access to the computer or not.

 

A Combination Approach

I certainly agree that paper and books are certainly a solution for genealogical information being accessible for generations to come. I like a combination approach. Since paper can deteriorate and become damaged like anything else, having a cloud back up service (I use Backblaze) and digital items like flash drives is also a good plan.

Part of leaving a legacy also involves finding ways to share that help the next generations (particularly those not interested in research) understand the value of the family tree. That’s where a Google Earth “family history tour” or other innovative sharing comes into play. If you can click click, copy, and paste, you can create an exciting multi-media story that looks like a video game that will captivate the next generation!  (Learn how to create a Google Earth family history tour in my 2-volume Google Earth for Genealogy CD). The combination of sharing the info in fascinating ways and preserving the info in reliable multiple formats is a comprehensive strategy for the future!

Resources

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-Free Life

Recommended File Formats for Long-Term Digital Preservation

Why I Use and Recommend Backblaze Cloud-based Computer Backup Service

email thisReady to make your own plan to write your family history and preserve it digitally? Share your resolve–along with this post–with someone else! Use the handy icons at the top of the page to share on Facebook, Pinterest or your favorite social media site, or email the link to this article to a friend. Thanks!

Dropbox vs. Backblaze: Does Cloud Storage for Genealogy Replace Computer Backup?

cloud storage computer backup serviceDoes using cloud storage for genealogy (like Dropbox) replace having a computer backup service like Backblaze?

Recently I heard from Jim in Midland, Texas, USA, who is a little perplexed:

“Hi Lisa, I’ve heard all your podcasts, some more than once, and I appreciate your tutelege of five years.  I’m nearly 80 and some of the techie stuff is frustrating, but I’m still working at it.

You recommend Backblaze for cloud storage now. Does this mean that Backblaze is a replacement for Dropbox or do they serve different functions? I haven’t used either, but I am looking for a means of storing my information in a safe and retrievable place.”

Jim asks a great question! Dropbox and Backblaze are indeed different animals.

Dropbox quote boxDropbox is a temporary place to put active files you want to access from a variety of computing devices (such as a  smartphone, iPad, your spouse’s computer, etc.) I think of it as Grand Central station for the files I’m actively working with.

You can install Dropbox on multiple computers and download the app to your various mobile devices so that any file stored there is accessible and synchronized. Many apps and devices build connection to Dropbox right in to their own service or device, making it super easy to access files.

Cloud storage for genealogy research makes it easier to collaborate, research while traveling and access your files from different devices or locations. However, I don’t know anyone who only uses Dropbox for ALL of their files. Typically we also save files to our computer’s hard drive, particularly more archival types of files. So while you would be able to retrieve files stored on Dropbox if your computer crashed, and files that are on that computer would be lost. Dropbox also makes it easy to share folders and files with others. Again, think Grand Central Station for active files. Dropbox does have limitations regarding the amount of storage and sharing.

Backblaze quote boxBackblaze is a cloud-based backup service for your entire computer. Once you activate Backblaze, you can just forget about it. It constantly is backing up EVERY file on that computer. If that computer crashed all of your files would be retrievable from Backblaze. You have the added convenience of being able to also access your files from Backblaze.com or the Backblaze app, and in that way it overlaps Dropbox. But that’s not usually how you would access your files. Usually, you would just turn on the backup, and forget about it. There is no limit to how many of your computer files you can back up with a cloud-based backup service like Backblaze.

My Bottom Line: Dropbox is short term storage for active projects, and Backblaze is long term, automatic, secure storage.

Files I’m currently working on (like projects, articles, etc.) I store in Dropbox, making it easy to work on the file from different computing devices and making it easy to share with others. While they are in Dropbox they are “on the Cloud” on the Dropbox servers. Once the project or item is done, I move the file(s) to my main computer. This keeps me from going over my Dropbox limits, and ensures the files are still accessible AND fully backed up and secure in case something happens to my computer. I can full restore my files to a new computer in one swoop if need be.

backblaze genealogy gems handshakeI have chosen Backblaze as the official cloud backup for Genealogy Gems. Backblaze is also a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast. For only $4.99 a month Backblaze can back up your computer files, too. Why not check them out and see if their service is right for you? Click here to learn more about Backblaze.

 

I’m Sha-Sha: What are the Grandparent Nicknames in Your Family?

What are the grandparent nicknames in your family? sha shaHow do they compare to other traditional, trendy and international grandmother and grandfather nicknames?

Recently I got this cute email question from Premium member Kathy from Northridge, CA: “I am curious as to how you got your Grandma name of “Sha-Sha.” In my family both my grandmothers had special names.  My maternal grandmother’s name was Marian. She had a cat named Kitty Mit. According to family lore my grandmother would always say to my oldest cousin, “You’re my little Kitty mitty,” and my cousin ended up calling her “Minnie” because of that. My paternal grandmother had the initials MD (she too was a Marion). Her friends gave her the nickname of Doc so my brother and I called her Grandma Doc.

I only had one grandfather (my paternal grandfather died at 59 when my dad was 17) so he just got the name Grandpa. Now when my nephew was a toddler he started out by identifying my parents as Big Grandma and Little Grandma. He didn’t quite get the gender reference straight. My father was 6-4 feet tall; hence he was “big” and my mom was 5 foot 3 so she was “little.”  Now my nephew is a father himself and my great-nephew calls his grandmas “LaLa (whose name is Linda) and YaYa (whose name is Cathy..and no we are not Greek!). We don’t know how he came up with those names but they are stuck with them! LOL The Grandpas are Papa Ted & Mike.”

Well, since you asked….Davy started calling me Sha Sha as soon as he learned to talk, and like so many grandparent names, it stuck. (I fully admit I was SO anxious for him to call me anything that I took the first name he offered.) Now if anyone tries to refer to me as Grandma he scowls at them and asks why in the world they are calling me some foreign name.

I discussed this on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 118, and on the next Episode #119 I shared lots of wonderful stories from listeners about their terms of endearment. Kathy’s is right up there in being adorable! I LOVE Big Grandma and Little Grandma. Kids know what they see!

Kathy’s question got me Googling, of course. Guess what I found? The Ultimate Guide to Grandparent Names. This free webpage lists out common traditional and trendy nicknames for both grandmothers and grandfathers. You’ll also find a list of grandparent nicknames from other languages, too (I see that “Ya-Ya” is a Greek nickname for grandmother, as Kathy said).

Share this message with your favorite or fellow grandparent!

Don’t Lose Control When You Post Your Family Tree Online

Online tree out of controlWhen you post your family tree online at multiple websites, it’s easy to lose track of changes you make at each one. Maintaining a master family tree on your own computer can help solve that problem.

Recently Gems podcast listener Louis wrote in with a question many of us face. He recently purchased RootsMagic 7 software to keep track of his family tree, but he’s still finding it difficult to corral all his data in one place. Here’s the problem, he says:

“I have my family tree splattered everywhere: FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Ancestry. I’m afraid of losing control of my tree and would like some advice on keeping things straight. Each of the sites I go on seem to offer different information, so I started posting tree information on different sites. Can you offer any suggestions that I can use to centralize my data across different sites?”

I can fully appreciate Louis’ situation. Here’s a quick summary of how I keep my family tree organized all in one place.

Websites come and go, as we know, so I look at my RootsMagic database on my computer as my MASTER database and tree. This kind of approach lets you post your family tree online but not lose control of it!

When I post GEDCOM files of my family tree on other websites (what’s a GEDCOM?), I do so to try and connect with cousins and gain research leads. With that in mind, I upload only the portion of the tree for which I want to generate those connections and leads. In other words, I don’t put my entire GEDCOM on each site (MyHeritage, Ancestry, etc.) because I don’t want to get bogged down with requests and alerts for far flung branches that I’m not focused on researching right now. To do this I make a copy of my database, edit it to fit my research, and then upload it.

As I find documents and data on these websites, I may “attach” them to the tree on that site, but I always download a copy and retain that on my computer and make note of it in RootsMagic. That way I retain control of my tree and my sources.

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyAnd of course the final step is to back up my computer so everything is safe and secure. I do that with Backblaze (the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast) and you can click here to learn more about their service for my listeners.

In the end, it is my family tree and history. I want to keep ownership of it on my own computer, even when I share parts of it online.

Resources

RootsMagic the Master GenealogistBest Genealogy Software: Which You Should Choose and Why

RootsMagic Update for FamilySearch Compatibility

Free RootsMagic Guides

Family Tree Builder for Mac

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(Full Disclosure: Some of the websites mentioned and links provided in our articles are for sponsors of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. They are sponsors because we think they are terrific and use the products ourselves. We include affiliate links for your convenience and appreciate when you use them because they help keep The Genealogy Gems Podcast available for free. Thank you!) 

Family Reunion Ideas: Top 10 Ways to Incorporate Family History

Family Reunion Top 10Family reunions are the perfect place to share your family history with others. The trick is to keep things light and fun!

These top 10 family reunion ideas can sprinkle a healthy–and tasty– dose of heritage into your next family gathering.

1. Family Tree Hopscotch. This life-sized bean bag toss/hopscotch game quizzes family members on the names of ancestors. It’s aimed at kids, but adults enjoy it, too!

2. Table Talk: If you’ll be seated at tables, provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity. Place a form at each place setting for guests to fill out. (Or a short list of questions for people to answer, if a videographer will make the rounds at each table) Include questions like, What’s your earliest childhood memory?  Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of? What are three things you remember about great-grandmother? Can you imagine how this Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest, a great place for collecting family reunion ideas) might be adapted this way?

3. Put Ancestors at the Center of Things: Centerpieces or displays that celebrate your heritage will attract curious relatives and may prompt memories and comments. One of our Premium members sent us a description of her conversation-starting centerpiece: click here to read about it. If guests won’t be seated at tables, set up a family history display table next to the refreshments table (where they’re most likely to walk by!). Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says, “I shared our family history: Have you?”

4. Sweet Memories: Create “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history. I write about these in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies. They are great conversation starters–and the candy is a definite incentive to get people talking.

5. Heritage Scrapbook: A mini, accordion-style scrapbook craft project makes a fun, meaningful activity for all ages. Relatives can work on these alone or in little groups. It’s the kind of project that would be easy to adapt for any family’s background.

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Family History: Make a holiday craft that celebrates your heritage. Click here for a free PDF with directions on making a heritage Christmas stocking. Or make a family history-themed wreath, following these instructions I posted on YouTube.

7. Games: Try a heritage twist on the classic wedding or baby shower games. Create a crossword puzzle or word search with family surnames, hometowns, favorites and more. (Here’s a link to one website that creates a puzzle for you for free.) Or invite guests to bring their own baby pictures. Post them for all to see and let your guests guess who each baby is.

8. Cook up some Conversation: When I was looking for family reunion ideas a while back it occurred to me that my family’s love of food was a great angle to tap into. Heritage cookbooks are a time-honored way to share family recipes, and they can double as a reunion fund-raiser if you like. Ask family members to submit recipes. Add recipes from ancestors. Share them with each family or guest who attends. Remember, it’s not hard to create an e-book of recipes that you can’t share by email or on Facebook. An easy version of this idea: Snapfish offers a really cute way to share individual recipes on pre-printed cards. Only one or two recipes required to make this a success!

9. The Amazing Family History Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of questions that will require some scavenger-hunt type searching among your relatives. Questions might include finding someone who has at least 10 grandchildren, was born in California, is about to start kindergarten, likes the Beatles, etc. Research ahead of time so that questions all apply. This activity gets people talking!

10. DNA Day. Purchase a few DNA kits for genealogy. Have them on hand in case family members want or are willing to have their DNA swabs done. This is especially great if older relatives are coming, but might not complete the swabs if you mailed them to them.

BONUS FAMILY REUNION TIP: Did you know you can organize a great family reunion on Facebook–even if not everyone is ON Facebook? Click here to read a post with great tips about using Facebook to keep everyone in the loop and share the good times with those who can’t attend.

sharingBe sure to share this article on family reunion ideas with the family reunion planners you know! It can be so helpful to get a fresh burst of ideas when planning big family gatherings.

 

How to See Your Favorite People First on Facebook

Facebook favorite peopleNow you can choose whose Facebook activity shows up at the top of your news feed. We hope the Genealogy Gems Facebook page is on your See First list!

Facebook now has a new feature to allow you to select which friends and pages you want to see at the top of your news feed. Along with your close friends and relatives, we hope you’ll include the Genealogy Gems Facebook page on your See First list.

Here’s how to do it:

See First facebook cropped1. Go to the Facebook friend or fan page you want to add to your See First list.

2. Look for the “Following” (for friends) or “Liked” (for fan pages) button on that profile picture.

3. Click it, then select “See First.”

It’s that easy! You can choose up to 30 people to see first in your feed.

Why bother? In the past, even if you “Like” a fan page like our Genealogy Gems page, it didn’t necessarily show up in your feed. And it could be easy to miss posts from the people you care most about (especially if they don’t post very often). Now you won’t have to chance missing updates from your “besties,” kids or grandkids, or favorite online groups.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Add the Genealogy Gems Facebook page to your Facebook See First list,  and you won’t miss any of our gems. Like our recent scoop about the new Social Security Application index: we’ve heard from SO many of you (on and off Facebook) how helpful this new database is. It just takes a second. Will you try it now?