February 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.

Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader–From 1895?

School genealogy recordsIn years past, a five-hour graduation exam was required for eighth graders (around 13 years old) in many U.S. states. It made me wonder: are questions they asked still relevant today? How well would we score? Are we smarter than an 8th grader from 120 years ago?

A copy of an 1895 graduation exam from Kansas has become famous since being circulated online. We tracked down the original exam at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society in Salina, Kansas.

Here’s the Geography part of the exam, which took an hour (taken from a transcription at the above website):

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A. [presumably North America]
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

The Smoky Valley Genealogical Society has posted a copy of the original exam, along with links to the answers, at the above link. Their site also comments, “Many people forget that Kansas is an agricultural state. 8th grade was as far as many children went in school at that time. It was unusual for children to attend either a high school or a normal school because they were needed on the family farms.”

Wonder how each of our forebears would do on it? Consider following up on an ancestor’s level of education (like from a census entry) by finding a copy of a textbook, exam or another document showing the kinds of things they would have learned? The free Google Books is a great place to start! I devote an entire chapter to Google Books in the brand new Second Edition of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

Learn more about researching your ancestor’s education here at Genealogy Gems:

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 98 answers a listener’s question about finding Yearbooks. Sign in to your membership to listen, or become a member today.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

You’ll never look at “8th Grade Education” in a genealogical document the same way again!

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Will Your Descendants Want, and Expect this from You?

If you’ve ever watched the television show Forensic Files now on HLN, you’ve probably seen forensic anthropologists create a bust of clay from skeletal remains. The time-consuming process provides a way to visualize what the person may have looked like. It’s a tedious task, with a keen understanding of anatomy intertwining with artistic skill.

One episode stands out in my memory. A woman’s remains were found months if not years after her demise. A bust was created and photographs were taken to be distributed as a sort of mug shot. “Do you know this woman” was posted in the newspaper along with the photo, and sure enough a good friend of the woman identified her immediately.

maureen and lisaSo why talk about this on a genealogy blog? Well, in the most recent episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast (#119) published this week, Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, and I discuss the future of technology and genealogy, which lead to a conversation on 3D printing. Maureen described how she had a bust of herself printed 3D (which I’m sure her long-into-the-future descendants will appreciate! You can see it on the episode show notes page.) and that got me to thinking about the work of the forensic anthropologists. Shortly after our conversation, Maureen sent me a link on Facebook called History’s Mysteries posted by the carrier company UPS.

The UPS Compass webpage features a video documenting the efforts of the Maritime Heritage National Marine Sanctuaries, with the help of UPS, to identify the remains of two sailors from the USS Monitor that sank in 1862 during a storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. Sure enough, they had clay busts created from the skeletal remains in an effort to make the identification.monitor(Click the link above to watch the video. Then put your genealogy skills to work and see if you can help them identify the two sailors.)

What role did UPS play? They had the task of transporting the busts from the lab to the unveiling at the military ceremony. Any disruption of the soft clay would dent and alter the bust. I couldn’t help but wonder if 3D printing could have made the task of moving and distributing copies of the busts easier. It’s a fascinating technology. And who knows, perhaps 3D busts of ancestors will be as common place as our old photos are today. Do you think your descendants will want, perhaps even expect, to have 3D printings of you? Share your thoughts on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page.

3dYou can learn more about 3D printing here in the article called A New Industrial Revolution: The Brave New World of 3D Printing.

 

 

 

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Evernote for Genealogy: Use a Research Checklist Template Like This One for Australian Family History

australia_400_wht_12238Do you use Evernote for genealogy, or are you planning to?

Genealogy Gems listener Michelle Patient sent us a link to her Evernote template for family history research in Australia and New Zealand. Better yet, she gave us permission to share it with all of you!

This template is a blank checklist you can use for every ancestor you research. On the checklist are all the different record types you might check: each type of vital record, census, land record, electoral roll, etc.l, along with the various repositories that should be visited or contacted. Why not create a similar temple for the countries you research, if you don’t have Aussie or Kiwi roots?

This is just one way Evernote helps you track your family history research. Learn more with my get-started-fast Evernote for Genealogy “cheat sheet” quick guide (click here to order for Windows or Mac).

Genealogy Gems Premium members can also enjoy a year’s worth of unlimited access to my complete series of genealogy how-to videos, which now includes a mini-series on specific Evernote tasks for genealogists as well as these full-length classes:

  • Making Evernote effortlessHow the Genealogist can Remember Everything with Evernote (Beginner)
  • How to Organize Your Research with Evernote (Intermediate)
  • Making Evernote Effortless (Intermediate)
  • Collaborative Genealogy with Evernote
    (Intermediate) 
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan
    (Advanced)

That’s just a peek at what Genealogy Gems Premium membership offers: click here to learn more!

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Which are the Best Genealogy Websites for YOU??

money_tree_PA_500_wht_3903Bill Johnson in Manassas, Virginia, USA, wrote to me with this question–and I know he’s not the only one asking it!

“It’s difficult to know what genealogical resources to spend your money on. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com (world package) for years. But, there is FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc. Your books identify dozens of other resources that all sound good — and cost money. Then there are some of the free resources like the National Archives and the LDS resources [FamilySearch].  Where should you spend your time and money?  While money is always a factor, I find that my time is a more precious resource.  If I have Ancestry.com, would I gain anything by subscribing to FindMyPast? MyHeritage? FamilySearch? The National Archives or the BLM sites?  I am concerned about wasting money on redundancy.  Why visit a site that only offers a select subset of the data that I access through Ancestry?

Which paid sites do you regularly use?  Which free sites do you use?  Your books have a plethora of suggestions but the pool of resources is increasing by the day.  It is really getting rather confusing.”

What a great question!!! Here’s my answer:

“I agree, it’s gotten more complicated selecting the best genealogy websites for your own needs. I will take a look at covering this more in depth in a future podcast episode. I do have a few ideas for you right now.

It’s really about accessing the right website (or tool) for the task.

  • For general depth of records I turn first to Ancestry.com (you only need the world edition if you need records outside of the U.S.), and then FamilySearch.org. With Ancestry.com, I make sure I use the card catalog and search by location tool (scroll down to the map) so I’m not missing all the record sets that don’t automatically jump to the top of the general search results. FamilySearch is free, so I check its online resources EVERY TIME I have a question. I check both browsable and indexed content (from the main screen, click Search, then Records, then scroll down and click Browse all Published Collections (or click to that screen here). You’ll be able to choose a location and see all content they have and whether it’s been indexed or you just have to browse through it (like reading microfilm, only online).
  • For me personally, I was slow to warm up to MyHeritage because I just wasn’t sure how it would best help me. Once I embraced it and posted my tree, its strength in my research became clear: for the first time ever I connected with a distant cousin in the “old country” (Germany)! The international user base of MyHeritage stands above other sites. And the fact that you can create your own family site on MyHeritage makes it a great ongoing resource for staying connected. (Disclosure: MyHeritage is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. However, that is because of the value I came to experience in my own research as I just mentioned.)
  • When I am focused on my husband’s British roots I head to FindMyPast and pay as I go as needed.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistOur mission here at Genealogy Gems is to reveal innovative ways of using the myriad of tech tools so you’ll know you can turn to them only when you need them. Think of it as a toolbelt. The right tool for the right job! But I also only bring tech tools and websites to the podcast and my website that I believe are worthwhile. Believe it or not, I weed a lot of them out!

I hope that helps, and I wish you great genealogical success!”  Lisa

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Google Earth for Canada and Genealogy

canada_flag_perspective_anim_150_clr_2301Awhile back, Barbara from Courtenay, British Columbia, sent me an excellent question about using Google Earth for Canadian genealogy. Then she sent me an excellent answer before I had a chance to answer it myself! Here’s what they were:

Question: “I live in Canada and a lot of the Google Earth articles involving land plats can’t be applied in Canada. The prairie provinces do have a similar land survey system, with townships, ranges and meridians. I found a website where these can be converted to coordinates that Google Earth will recognize.  However, this particular website would like to be paid for providing this information (legallandconverter.com). Do you know of any way these numbers can be converted without paying?”

Answer: “I have some good news!  My very smart son found a free website, prairielocator.com, which will give you the coordinates of Section, Township, Range and Meridian for the Canadian prairie provinces. It doesn’t cover quarter sections, but that’s okay if you know which one your ancestor was on. Please pass this along to your Canadian fans or Americans who have Canadian ancestors (there are many, I know).”
Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistThank you, Barbara–and a special shout-out to your son for finding that resource to help genealogists use Google Earth for Canada research! Here’s my two-cent’s worth: I just peeked at PrairieLocator.com and I see the site also has an app for the iPhone: Prairie Locator Mobile – for iPhone,
and an app for the iPad Prairie Locator Mobile – for iPad
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These 1939 Dress Designs Survived the Holocaust. Their Designer Didn’t.

dresses compressedA new exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee tells the story of some 1939 dress designs that made it out of Nazi-occupied territory–and pays tribute to their designer, who didn’t.

“When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, tens of thousands of Jews applied for visas to anywhere,” explains the caption to a YouTube video about the exhibit (see below). “Among them, Paul Strnad and his wife Hedy, a dress designer. Ultimately, neither would get a visa to leave Czechoslovakia.”

Years later, their story was literally stitched together by descendants and local historians. The couple sent her dress designs to a cousin in Milwaukee in a desperate attempt to get work visas to leave. It never happened. Paul was killed. Hedy’s fate is unknown.

A few years ago, the designs were rediscovered along with letters that told their story. Now the design drawings–and dresses newly created from them–are the centerpiece of “Stitching History from the Holocaust,” an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. Read more about the exhibit here, or click below to watch this video about it. I think you will be as moved as I am to hear this story.

 

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What to Do When Genealogy Records Were Burned

flames_300_wht_8629Recently Sue from Elk Grove, Illinois wrote in with a question about what to do when records were lost due to fire (or war, or disasters, etc.):

“We have been trying to locate information on my great great grandparents Hugh and Mae Sullivan. I have never been able to find marriage or birth records and have realized that it was mainly due to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Interestingly, through a directory from 1866, they may have lived only blocks from the origin of the fire. I have them in 1880 with 4 sons, the first of which was born just 10 months following the fire.

“I suspect that they may have lost other children in the tragedy. I am unsure which direction to go to find more of their story and any suggestions would be helpful. Several newspapers are reported to have lists of the missing but I have either been unable to read them or to locate them. Sam Fink’s list [an index of Cook County marriages and deaths] did not provide any information. I suspect that my ancestors were among the very poor immigrants that flooded into Chicago. There were relief societies and I have wondered if records were kept of those who were rehoused.”

Here’s my response to Sue:

genealogy gems podcast mailboxI think you are on the right track with newspapers. Newspapers.com (owned by Ancestry) carries the Chicago Daily from 1871. Here is a screen shot of the List of Missing from Oct. 11, 1871.  It might be worth a subscription to Newspapers.com to be able to really comb through all the issues.

newspapers com missing clipHere’s a tip on working with less-than-the best digital images of historical newspapers. You can “invert” the actual image (have it read white-on-black instead of black-on-white), then darken it and add a little more contrast to get the most readable copy possible. This can be done right from the Newpapers.com viewer.

Also, in Family History podcast episode #37 I discussed a book specifically on Chicago research: Finding Your Chicago Ancestors: A Beginners Guide To Family History In The City Of Chicago by Grace DuMelle. As I recall, it was a very comprehensive book and could give you good leads on where to look.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

 

For more tips like these, read my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. Inside you’ll find:

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Worksheets and Checklists
  • Tech Tools You Probably Aren’t Using But Should
  • A Massive Amount of Location Specific Websites  and a Case Study that Puts It Al Together
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Are You Going to RootsTech 2015? So is Laura Bush

Bush_Laura_PROMOPIC copyRootsTech 2015 is just over a month away! Are you going? Genealogy Gems will be there in booth 1242 and we look forward to meeting you!

And, as recently announced, former First Lady Laura Bush will be at RootsTech, as she joins an already-impressive who’s-who list of this year’s keynote speakers and entertainers.

Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager will keynote the Friday morning general session on February 13. According to a FamilySearch press release, “The former First Lady will talk about life in the White House and the importance of family during those eight years, as well as reflect on the difficult days following September 11th. Jenna Bush Hager will join her mother onstage for a fireside chat where they will share family stories as a new mother and grandmother.”

Last year, over 9000 people from 31 countries attended this forward-thinking gen-tech conference in person. An estimated 150,000 viewed live-streaming sessions around the world. It’s tough to argue with RootsTech’s claim as “the largest family history conference in the world.” Visit us at the Genealogy Gems booth in the Expo Hall!

rootstech 2015 ambassador badgeStill need to register, or need more information? Head over to the RootsTech website.

 

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Here’s a Cool Way to Export a Web Clipping Note from Evernote

export notes and filesRecently I posted on How to Solve a Pesky Evernote Web Clipper Problem. In that post I explained how to save an Evernote web clipping as an image file.

Genealogy Gem reader Pat wrote in about how she likes to extract notes. She writes:

Hi Lisa,
I just ready your post about getting a note in Evernote out of the program and into another format on your hard drive.  To get a text note out just open up the note and print it, to a pdf printer like Cute PDF.  The only problem I see so far with this, is that CutePDF wants to call (everything)”printed” this way (as) Evernote.pdf, so you have to change the file name to avoid writing over the previous file. And, although I’m not a Word user I think it will allow you to import or open a pdf file and then save it as a doc file.

Thanks for all your information.  I love listening to your podcast during my commute. – Pat

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastThis is a great tip. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can hear more about CutePDF in Premium Podcast episode 77. (Not a member yet? Become one here.) I’m also a fan of Primo PDF. Let me show you how the process Pat describes works.

How to Export a Web Clipping Note from Evernote to PDF:

1. Install a free PDF creator program (for example: CutePDF or PrimoPDF.)
2. In Evernote’s menu click File > Print.
3. Select PrimoPDF from the General tab.
4. Click the Print button.

Export Evernote note as PDF

5. In the pop-up window select ebook (select Prepress if you want a higher quality document.)
6. Click the Create PDF button.

Using PrimoPDF to export a note from Evernote as a PDF
7. In the Save As window select where you want to save the file.
8. Rename the file.
9. Click the Save button.

Save an Evernote note as PDF

10. And there you have it, your note as a PDF file!

Newspaper note from Evernote in PDF

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideNeed more Evernote help? My Evernote for Genealogists quick reference guide (image right) is available for both Mac and Windows users (pick up the one that goes with your computer’s operating system, not your mobile device).

Click here for digital download pdf guide.
Click here for laminated printed guide.

 

Read next:
Free: How to Save & Open Genealogy eBooks & PDFs to Your Mobile Devices
Premium Content: Premium Podcast episode 74 PDF Pandemonium

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Genealogy Blogging Tips: Dictation App and More

how to start a genealogy blogAre you ready to start a genealogy blog (or improve one you already write)? Here’s a quick Q&A for you, prompted by questions by Genealogy Gems Premium member Kevin:

Q: “I am ready to start writing a blog but my typing is slow. Is there a dictation app (iOS) or software (Windows) that I could use to dictate my first drafts of my blog posts?

A: If you go to www.genealogygems.com and scroll down and enter “Dragon software” into the Amazon box and click “Go” it will pull up a great dictation program that might be just what you are looking for. (Using our Amazon box supports the free podcast – thank you!)

Q: Which blog site do you use and why did you select it?

A: I use Word Press for my website and blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.  Google also has Blogger which is free. I have a free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel about how to set it up. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea.

Q: Do you compose your blog posts directly on your site or do you type them in Word or some other word processing program then cut and paste them into your blog?

A: It’s best to compose them directly into a new post on Word Press or Blogger. Cutting and pasting out of Word will likely carry over unwanted formatting which can cause headaches.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastReady to get inspired and tutored on genealogy blogging? Check out my FREE podcast series on how to start a genealogy blog. Click here to reach my Family History Made Easy podcast landing page, then start with episode 38 and continue through episode 42. You’ll learn step-by-step how-tos and you’ll be introduced to some inspiring blogs that WORK. We often hear about success stories from listeners who started a blog after hearing these episodes. (We’d love to hear YOUR success story, too!)

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