October 24, 2014

Prison Inmate Photos: “The Eyes Are Everything”

Prison MemoryMatt from Omaha, Nebraska (U.S.) recently told me about a project his cousin is working on that is so cool the story was picked up by U.S.A. Today.

While poking around at an 1800s-era Iowa prison about to be torn down, Mark Fullenkamp came across boxes of old glass negatives. Upon closer inspection, he found they were intake photos of the inmates. Some were 150 years old!

Mark first set out to digitize and reverse the negative images of over 11,000 prison inmate photos. Others gradually became involved, like scholars at University of Iowa where he works and even inmates at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. A doctoral candidate who was interviewed by U.S.A. Today says she’s struck by the moment these photos were taken: when their lives were about to change forever. Though many look tough for the camera (and presumably the other inmates), she sees a lot of emotion in their expressions: “The eyes are everything.”

Now Fullekamp’s team is trying to connect names and stories with the photos. It’s not easy, but many of the pictures have inmate numbers on them. Some files have surfaced with inmate numbers and names in them. Others are stepping forward with memories.

Read more about the project on Matt’s blog.

Got a digital photo archiving project of your own? Click here to learn about a free ebook published by the Library of Congress on digital archiving.

GenBiz Guides: How to Become a Professional Genealogist

how to become a professional genealogist quick reference guidesIf you’re a professional genealogist (or have considered becoming one), you probably have come to discover that you need to know more than how to research. You also have to know how to run a business!

A new series of quick reference guides can help you. So far, the GenBiz Solutions guides include:

  • Starting a Genealogy Business
  • Creating a Marketing Plan
  • Building a Business Blog
  • Building Media Relationships
  • Creating a Sales Process

The first guide, Starting a Genealogy Business, really gets you thinking about your business goals. Is there a particular niche you can carve out in the genealogy world? What further education or credentialing should you get? Should you work for yourself or someone else? For the beginner, I find relevant the brief introductions to legal issues, finances, taxes and budgeting. Where this guide really shines, though, are the many creative product ideas and a short intro to marketing and growing your business.

how to become a professional genealogistConsider this first guide the equivalent of taking a seasoned genealogy professional out for coffee and picking his or her brain. (Depending on where you’d go for coffee, this guide is probably cheaper!) And you don’t even have to write down all the websites and other resources on a napkin: Thomas MacEntee provides a full page of links to additional resources on every topic he addresses.

The entire series makes for great reading and reference for someone who has never started a business before and wonders how to become a professional genealogist. Click here to check out the GenBiz Solutions Guides.

Want to hear more ideas? Check out Marian Pierre-Louis interviewed me for her Genealogy Professional Podcast Episode 29 (listen here) and Gen Biz author Thomas MacEntee in episode 26 (listen here.)

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 172: NEW Book Club

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryEpisode 172 of the free Genealogy Gems podcast is now available for your listening pleasure!

This is a big episode you won’t want to miss! Here are the highlights:

  • The top story is the launch of our NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club. I join Lisa on the podcast with some appetite-whetting description of the first featured book.
  • A listener writes in with a great success story on finding newspaper articles on her Australian ancestors.
  • A free interactive boundary map for British parishes and using Google Translate in your genealogy research.
  • What’s replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK)? Lisa’s creative answer!
  • Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard tells us about a very cool DNA party in New Zealand hosted by the National Genographic Project.
  • A unique Star Trek-like journey into innovations of yesteryear!

Click here to listen to Episode 172. You can also listen and subscribe through iTunes and there’s even a Genealogy Gems app that gives your listening experience all kinds of extras. Click here to learn more about the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast and how to listen.

NEW Genealogy Book Club: Here’s a Gem Inspired by You!

genealogy book club genealogy gemsWe’ve heard from you, our readers and listeners that you LOVE to read! Well, we’ve just launched a great new FREE program for you: the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

This is an idea we have been percolating on for quite a while with your encouragement. You regularly send me the names of books you love. I also hear from publishers and the authors themselves. Now we can all come together as a genealogy book club community!

The Genealogy Gems Book Club is a virtual, no-commitment option that features a book every three months that I consider a genealogy gem. We will focus on mainstream nonfiction and fiction titles that explore themes you care about, like family ties, heritage and history. These are books you will want to read for pleasure and recommend to anyone, not just other genealogy lovers.

My favorite part of the Genealogy Gems Book Club is the exclusive author interviews that will appear on the Genealogy Gems free and Premium podcasts in the third month of the featured book (after people have had time to read it). After all, podcasts are all about conversation! I’ve learned in the past that you love interviews with authors, whether you have read the book or not.

genealogy book clubThe FIRST FEATURED BOOK is She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by award-winning U.K. journalist Emma Brockes. It recounts the author’s discovery of her mother’s traumatic childhood in South Africa. Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor and Book Club Guru Sunny Morton loves this book: This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. It’s also about learning the past from living relatives. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done.”

Here’s how the three-month cycle works for this new genealogy book club:

  • genealogy book club guru

    Sunny Morton, Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor and Genealogy Book Lovers Group Guru

    In the first month, Sunny Morton, our Genealogy Book Club Guru will introduce us to a new title on the Genealogy Gems free podcast, the Premium Podcast and on the Genealogy Gems blog. She will share a quick run-down on the book and why she recommends it.

  • In the second month, Sunny and I will discuss a gem from the book, and recommend additional titles in case you are looking for something more to read.
  • In the third month, our featured author will join the Genealogy Gems podcast for an exclusive interview. Excerpts from the interview will run on the free podcast and the entire interview will air on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast.

To follow the Genealogy Gems Book Club, go to our home page and sign up to receive our FREE monthly newsletter (you’ll receive my Google Search ebook too as a welcome gift!) Then check in periodically at the Genealogy Gems Book Club webpage, which summarizes all books covered to date and includes additional recommendations. And of course, subscribe to the Genealogy Gems Podcast in iTunes.

Ready to become a Premium member so you’ll catch the full author interviews as well as all the other in-depth coverage on the Genealogy Gems Premium Genealogy Gems book clubpodcast? Click here to learn more.

Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 172 for more details.

See you at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

Here’s How AncestryDNA is Improving Autosomal Testing

AncestryDNA product image new_1f_screens2You may recall from our recent DNA discussion on the Genealogy Gems podcast (Episode 168) that Ancestry.com recently discontinued their mtDNA and YDNA tests (the two that trace our direct maternal and direct paternal lines) to focus on autosomal DNA (which delivers information about both your mother’s and your father’s side of your ancestral tree).

Well, recently I attended an all-day meeting hosted by Ancestry.com: a summit to talk about current trends and accomplishments at Ancestry DNA, and ideas about the future of DNA testing at Ancestry.com.

The meeting included a diverse group of Ancestry representatives, from CEO Tim Sullivan to members of the marketing, scientific, communications, and even computer science departments, as well as some of the top voices in genetic genealogy. It was an open and lively discussion, and I walked away with a few gems I want to share with you today.

More Powerful DNA Hints Coming

In AncestryDNA, the ‘shaky leaf” hints are meant to help you find a common ancestor between you and your DNA matches. The computer code behind the old hints was not very efficient. Lazy, in fact. It started at the bottom of your tree—and the bottom of your match’s tree—and slapped on a shaky leaf at the first sign of a shared common ancestor.

AncestryDNA shared hintWhile this method worked for a large number of cases, it was leaving a lot of stones unturned. But the IT guys at Ancestry have beefed up the computer power, allowing them to cover a much greater distance through our trees and the trees of our matches before making a judgment about the best place to assign that shaky leaf.

The result? Better hints about how you and your match COULD be related. Remember, the leaf is still just a SUGGESTION on how you and your match might be related. It is not a crystal ball.

 

Did You Know?

  • Ancestry DOES store your DNA samples in a secure location.
  • Ancestry spent months designing their own DNA collection kit.
  • Ancestry was able to attract some of the brightest scientists in the field of population genetics because of YOU. You with your documented pedigree charts and your willingness to help move this science of discovering our ancestors forward.

Looking Ahead

There is no question that the genetic genealogy industry is rapidly advancing, and our discussion with Ancestry certainly didn’t disappoint. While I will be sharing with you in future posts about some of the exciting changes, I do want you to be ready for one that will be coming online fairly soon.

It has to do with your matches. If you have been tested by AncestryDNA, you may have been initially excited, then nearly immediately overwhelmed, by the number of individuals listed in your match page, all claiming to have some kind of connection to you and your family tree.

All three major genetic genealogy testing companies (AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23andMe) are using basically the same laboratory methods to glean information from your DNA. What differs is how they use that data to draw conclusions about your ethnic heritage and about your relationships to other individuals. As it turns out, AncestryDNA has been reporting far more individuals as your relatives than it should have.

Autosomal DNA Ancestry You can think of it like this: You have sent out tickets, in the form of your genetic code, to an exclusive party where you (of course!) are the star. However, you have lost the guest list and you are counting on the testing company to check the ticket of each guest before they enter your party to be sure they were really invited.

AncestryDNA was relatively new in the role of party bouncer, and in the interest of not turning away any VIP guests, they initially allowed guests into your party who had (gasp!) forged tickets!! But as AncestryDNA admits more guests, the experience it’s gained in party monitoring is starting to show.

AncestryDNA forged party ticketsYou see, each of the forged tickets has some unique qualities that have started to send up red flags to the team of scientists at AncestryDNA. They are now in the process of carefully documenting what each forged ticket looks like and tossing those unwanted guests out on their ear.

The short of it: in the near future your match list at Ancestry will be much shorter. Which is good news to you, as it means only those invited genetic cousins will be around eating hors d’ oeuvres and ready to talk about your shared common ancestry.

Each testing company has its strengths and weaknesses. It was good to have a bit of insight into this one company and come to a greater understanding about why it is they do what they do. It is a great time to be in this young genetic genealogy industry, with so much room to grow and change. I will let you know when I find the next genetic gem.

Hard Drive v. Evernote for Genealogy: Which Should I Use?

organize genealogy with EvernoteRecently I heard from Genealogy Gems Premium member Barbara with this question ab0ut using Evernote for genealogy: “I’m a fairly experienced general researcher but am just starting to get serious about genealogy. I plan to use Evernote. I have a number of scanned pictures on my hard drive and plan to establish surname structure as you recommended [in your Premium videos]. What is the relationship between what you keep on your hard drive and what is on Evernote? Is there a podcast on this or could you just reply with a few sentences that can guide me in my early setup? Or point me to some ideas?” Barbara says she has already listened to my Premium videos on Hard Drive Organization (Parts 1 and 2) and Evernote, which are available on this website to Premium members. This is exactly where I would tell anyone else to start. Here’s more advice for Barbara and other Evernote users: Mailbox question from Beginning Genealogist I use both Evernote and my hard drive, although the hard drive is mostly just for photos now since they are larger files that gobble up the allotted Evernote upload. Just about everything else just goes to Evernote. Evernote is quite a different animal from a hard drive, though both are storage facilities for our research. Evernote has such a powerful search engine that we don’t have to rely as much on “containers” such as folders like we do on our hard drive. The reason for the detailed hard drive organizational system I recommend is so that we can find things quickly because our computers aren’t as powerful in that regard. And our computer doesn’t apply OCR to our images, which Evernote does making those notes so easily searchable. While there are notebooks in Evernote, I use them sparingly, mostly for projects and top-level categories of organization. Tags are the really defining element of Evernote notes, and I have lots of those. Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideFor more on using Evernote for genealogy, check out my Quick Reference Guides: Evernote for Windows for Genealogists and Evernote for Mac for Genealogists. You can get these as PDF downloads or (in the U.S.) as laminated guides. Also, check out the “How to Organize Your Research with Evernote” Premium video for more specifics. (Not a Premium member yet? Click here to join.) Good question! Thanks for being a Premium member, Barbara!

English Parish Boundaries: A Little-Known Online Tool

English parish map from FamilySearch.org.

English parish boundaries: map on FamilySearch.org.

Did you know that FamilySearch has an interactive map to help you find English parish boundaries in 1851?

Daniel Poffenberger, who works at the British desk at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showed me this map gem. He says this map was about 7 years in the making!

Before you click through to the map, you should know:

  • Use the main Search interface to search by a specific location.
  • Click on layers to indicate whether you want the map to show you boundaries to parishes, counties, civil registration districts, dioceses and more.
  • Click and drag the map itself to explore it.
  • Wales is also included here but the Welsh data doesn’t appear to be entirely complete (try it anyway–it might have what you need).
  • The map isn’t yet permanently operational. It does go down sometimes, possibly because they’re still working on it.  It doesn’t print easily. It’s suggested that if you want to print, you hit “Ctrl-Print Screen” and then paste it into Word or another program that accepts images.

Click here to see the FamilySearch England & Wales 1851 Parish map.

Genealogy Video

Want to learn more about using maps? Premium members can check out my video, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more.

WWI-Era Orphaned Heirloom Looking for Its Family

looking_though_binoculars_pc_400_wht_2823

A U.K. news site recently reported a story about an orphaned heirloom World War I medal that is trying to get back home–with help from a retired postal worker.

Terry Lane is a member of a group that searches people’s properties for old artifacts (they get permission!). He discovered the medal in a trash bin in the woods. He cleaned it up enough to tell that it’s a WWI British silver medal with an inscription: “PTE A J Stedman ASC” and a notation that meant he was a supply specialist for Kitchener’s New Army.

Lane contacted an expert researcher who has worked on Who Do You Think You Are? for help. They have determined that the man was likely an Albert J Stedman, who lived in that locale. Lane hopes to track down a descendant to whom he can return the medal.

Do you have any stories of orphaned heirlooms, lost or found? Let us know!

If you like this post….

  • Check out this post with advice on how to track down a family to return something.
  • Interested in genealogy volunteerism? Click here to read a post on what has replaced that classic do-gooder organization, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

The Google Search Operator That Got Away

One of my favorite Google Search Operators is the Tilde (`) which is Google lingo means Synonym. In the past you could add~genealogy to your searches and Google would look for ‘genealogy’, ‘family history’, ‘ancestry’ etc. Unfortunately, it is no more.

Google Search Operator Tilde synonym

Google explained the decision to do away with synonym search this way: “Why? Because too few people were using it to make it worth the time, money, and energy to maintain…Maintaining ALL of the synonyms takes real time and costs us real money. Supporting this operator also increases the complexity of the code base.”

So now, more than ever, it’s important to choose your keywords wisely and think like the person who may be posting information you are looking for. You may think train history, but experts on the subject may be using railroad or locomotive as they write on their website. The good news is you can include all the options in your search query.

Recommended Viewing:
Genealogy Gems Premium Video: Ultimate Google Search Strategies

Recommended Reading:
Things may change online, 
but Genealogy Gems will never change: 
We’re here to help!
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What Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness?

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness RAOGKWhat Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? It’s a question on many family historians minds, include Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Richard who wrote in with this question:

“Many years ago Bridgett Schneider hosted the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website (RAOGK). This was one of the best sites to get assistance from people willing to give back at a free or very nominal cost (reimbursement). I know someone has attempted to create the same type of page using Wikia (RAOGK wiki) and I have just started working with it, but there are not many volunteers for this site yet.

I was a volunteer for the original RAOGK and will attempt to do the same with the wiki page, but I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for any other types of pages like this. I depend on others so much because my parents’ families are from all over the U.S. My father was career Navy, joining in Minnesota going to Colorado, where my parents met, then moving to Washington DC area, Florida and back to DC. My mom’s family are all from the Minnesota and Oregon areas, so traveling to find information is not always easy. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.”

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistHere’s the scoop on RAOGK:

You’re right, no other website has really taken hold to replace RAOGK. And that’s because Facebook has filled the bill. Genealogists are joining in droves, and many create Facebook accounts strictly for their genealogy efforts. You certainly don’t have to have personal information posted in order to take advantage of the “genealogical crowd sourcing” ability of Facebook.

By “friending” other genealogists you start to build a group of ‘genealogy friends’ you can turn to with questions. But when it comes to specific areas, I go to the Facebook search box and search for Facebook groups on the topic I’m interested in.

For example, I am researching the Munns, Bax and Dixon families of Margate, Kent, England. A search or “Margate History” brought up a fantastic group devoted to the history of Margate. They have amassed an unbelievable amount of shared info, photos, postcards and documents. Not everyone is a genealogist, but everyone is interested in the history of Margate. It’s the first place I would go to post a question or request for help, and inevitably someone will have the answer or be in a location where they can help me.

create facebook groupAlthough the Margate group is “history” focused, you can also search adding the word Genealogy to your location search for a group.And if you don’t see a group that meets your needs, create one! From your Facebook account:

1. on the left side of the page under GROUPS click “Find New Groups”

2. Here you can join groups (Facebook will likely recommend some based on your profile interests)

3. In the upper right corner click the green + CREATE GROUP button

4. Give your group a name and select whether it is public or private

5. Start posting content to your group page

6. Start promoting the page on your profile page while also friending other genealogists and soon you will likely have a vibrant group that can assist each other based on a shared interest.

Bottom line: Facebook is the new RAOGK. And the upside is that Facebook expands the resources to folks who may be in a position to help through a shared interest while not necessarily being a genealogist.

I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Gems community.