September 17, 2014

Get the Most out of Ancestry.com Shaky Leaf Hints

Ancestry Shaky LeafIf you’re an Ancestry.com user, you’ve seen those “shaky leaves.” They are automated hints generated when Ancestry.com thinks a historical record or tree matches an individual on yours.

Are you getting the most out of your Ancestry.com shaky leaf hints? Check out this video on YouTube–then keep reading!

In a nutshell: look at all the hints. Then keep searching.

According to the Ancestry Insider blogger, hints are only provided for the top 10% of Ancestry records. I asked our Genealogy Gems source at Ancestry.com about this. He did clarify that this means the most popular 10% of collections, which accounts for “a majority of the records.” But he also comments, “Hints are not meant to be an exhaustive method to flesh out all of the records for your ancestors. People should always search as well as use hints.”

After checking all the hints, I routinely find a LOT more by then searching records from an individual’s profile. Search from the profile rather than the main search screen so some of the other data you’ve already found (like dates and relationships and locations) will be included automatically in the search parameters. I think searching from the individual profile also makes it faster to attach records to your person once you’ve found them.

Click here to hear how one woman used Ancestry.com hints to discover a tree for the biological mother who abandoned her when she was five. You’ll also learn her inspiring message about how moving past her mother on her family tree has helped her move on with her life.

Family History Episode 44: Family Secrets in Genealogy

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 44: Family Secrets in Genealogy Records

Today’s episode is unlike any other I’ve done on the podcast. Today we are going to tackle some difficult subject matter: family secrets in genealogy. You know, none of us have a perfect family tree. In fact, I would venture to guess that at some point each one of us who are delving into our family’s past will come across some sad and painful stories. An ancestor abandoned at an asylum, incarcerated for acts of violence, or perhaps who committed suicide.

For Crystal Bell, my guest on today’s show, that sad and painful story was very close to her branch of the tree. In fact, the troubles lay at her parents’ door, and she bore the brunt of the chaos that was created. And yet there is tremendous hope that comes from Crystal’s story. She is a wonderful example of the freedom that can come from facing your fears and breaking down the mystery of a troubled past. It’s what I call the redemptive gifts of family history.

Crystal also shares some of the research strategies that her co-workers at Ancestry.com gave her for taking the next steps in finding her mother, who passed away under an assumed name.

Thoughts from Crystal on responding to the family secrets in your own tree:

“Hatred and resentment only make you look older. They have a great toll on your health. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t hate my mother and father because I don’t know their circumstances were. I can only try to determine their ancestors. I want to know who were my ancestors. Where did they come from?

I feel badly when people…just don’t want to know. I don’t want to die with that sense of abandonment. I want to move on, I want to get past the grief. I want to know who my people were. I just, for the first time in my life, want to experience a feeling of joy and happiness that I feel like I deserve.” 

Ancestry.com “Shaky Leaf” Technology

Crystal made connections on her Ancestry.com family tree by reviewing the automated hints provided on the site, known popularly as “shaky leaves.” Learn more about using these in this video.

MyCanvas

The MyCanvas service mentioned by Crystal is no longer offered by Ancestry.com. But it is still around! Learn more in my blog post about it.

Here’s a final thought for today:

We are not just defined by one relative, or the product of a dysfunctional family or parental relationship. We come from all of our ancestors….

The ones who did amazing things,

The ones who did everyday things,

And the ones who did wrong.

You deserve to know them all, and as the saying goes, the truth will set you free.

Ancestry App Launches With “Solid New Features”

iPad_Landscape_ss2Ancestry.com just relaunched the Ancestry App (version 6.0) for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices.

“This isn’t just a re-launch on a new system,” explained the Ancestry Mobile Team in a recent email. “We’ve worked hard to add some solid new features that we think you’ll enjoy.”

It was only about 6 weeks ago that we reported the last updates to the Ancestry app, but these are worth a separate mention. Here they are as described by the folks at Ancestry.com:

Prioritized Hints View

We’ve added a new section to the application which allows you to view all the hints for a given tree from a single place. We’ve added a prioritized sort order to the hints in this section so that your very best hints automatically bubble up into view. In addition to a priority sort, we’ve made it possible to view hints based on recency, with the newest hints at the top of the list. Near the top of the new hints view you will find sort order controls titled “best” and “latest” which allow you to toggle between these two sort orders to meet your needs. We’ve also included some filtering capabilities for the hints in this section which will allow you to filter hints by the last name of the person the hint is for, or to filter hints by type (photo, story or record). When you see a hint that you’d like to learn more about, simply tap; the details of the hint will come into view and you will be able to accept or ignore the hint from right there.

Comments

Every day thousands of photos and stories are added to Ancestry by users of the website and the Ancestry App. When one of these pieces of great content might be associated with a  relative of yours you will get a photo or story hint and you get to share this content and benefit from the work of other Ancestry users. Now you will have the ability to comment on these shared pieces of content directly from the mobile app – just like you can on the website. When viewing a photo or story you will notice a new comment area within the mobile app, here you will see comments from others and be able to leave comments of your own.

Comments View

The new comments section provides a running history of the new comments that have been left on photos and stories I your tree,  making it easy for you to keep up to date on the latest comments. When you see a comment that you would like to see in full context or respond to, silly tap; you will be taken to the photo or story that the comment was made on and be able to review the entire comment thread associated with the content.

Badges

You may notice a new red badge with a number in it that shows up on the Ancestry app icon. This lets you know that you have new hints or comments to review. We have also included badges on the icons representing the hint and comment sections which allow you to know exactly where the new content can be found.

Notifications

If you have enabled the Ancestry App to send you push notifications you will now be notified when the very best new hints or comments are available. When you are ready to view the new hint or comment, simply tap; the app will open and you will be taken dirtily to the hint or comment.

Tree Viewer Enhancements

In addition to family and pedigree views, you can now view your family tree in a list view. From this view you can filter the list of tree persons by name or using a number of useful filters (Direct Ancestors, End of Line, Living Relatives, People with Hints, and People with Recent Hints). We’ve also added a dedicated person search within the pedigree and family views. Tapping on the search icon In the top left corner of the tree viewer will allow you to enter the name of the person you are looking for. When you see the person you are looking for, simply tap; the tree will be refocused on this person and you will be taken directly to his or her profile details.

Navigation

We’ve simplified and updated the navigation within app. You will notice prominent tabs along the bottom of the app for Hints, Comments, Tree, DNA, and Settings. Getting around the app will now be quicker and easier than ever.

In addition to the major updates highlighted above we have worked on smaller touches within the app that enhance the overall experience. As you use the app in more depth you will likely notice other changes like: quick links to web content, side-by-side comparisons between tree and record data, quick access to profile information from hints and updated colors and styling. We hope that the new version 6.0 app experience will be a good one, and that the Ancestry Mobile App will become an ever more integral part of your Ancestry experience. If you have ideas, thoughts or questions please feel free to submit feedback by tapping on the “Feedback” tab within the Settings section of the app.

MyCanvas Finds a New Home: Alexander’s

Alexander’s, the long time MyCanvas printer will be receiving ownership. Ancestry exec Eric Shoup issued this statement today explaining the transition.

“This past June, we announced that we were retiring the MyCanvas website and service in September 2014.

We’ve heard from many people who love MyCanvas and hate the idea of it going away. Well, we have some good news for you: It’s not going away after all. We listened and decided not to retire MyCanvas, but instead transfer the website to Alexander’s.

Founded 35 years ago, Alexander’s is a Utah-based printing production company that has been the long-term printer of MyCanvas products including its genealogy books, calendars, and other printed products. This makes the transition of MyCanvas to Alexander’s a natural fit.

It’s our hope that this agreement will not change the experience for MyCanvas customers. In fact, Alexander’s plans to make some exciting improvements we think you’ll love. Additionally, MyCanvas will continue to be available from the Ancestry.com website as we believe in the importance of sharing family history discoveries and see MyCanvas as a way to deliver this ability to our customers.

The transition of MyCanvas will take about six months. But in the meantime, all MyCanvas projects will remain accessible on Ancestry.com until it moves over to Alexander’s next year. We will continue to communicate details as the transition moves forward.

We want to thank our loyal MyCanvas customers for all the projects you have built and printed with us over the years. We’re excited about this new owner of MyCanvas—and we think you will be too.”

Alexanders According to Alexander’s website “more than 60 team members work full-time from Alexander’s 45,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Lindon, Utah.”

Genealogy Gems listeners have already started expressing their relief at the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Katharine says: “Maybe all the comments helped! I’m relieved.”

Insider Tips for Using Ancestry.com: Family Tree Magazine Podcast – July 2014

FTM podcast logoEvery month I host the Family Tree Magazine Podcast, where I check in with the editors and experts at Family Tree Magazine for a dose of genealogy fun and education.

I thought you would especially enjoy the July 2014 episode: it’s all about tips for using Ancestry.com! Highlights of what you’ll hear:


See what new tricks YOU can learn from this free podcast for maximizing your time on Ancestry.com!

5 Genealogy Resources to Look For at YOUR Public Library

genealogy at the public library

genealogy at the public library

This week, I’m researching at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which has one of the best public library genealogy collections in the United States. They’ve got more than half a million items on microfilm and fiche and 350,000 more in print. Among these items are nearly 50,00o city directories; 55,000 compiled family histories; most National Archives microfilmed military service and pension records….Okay, I’ll stop before you get jealous.

But in fact, MOST public libraries have some good genealogy resources. Have you checked out the library near you lately? OR the local history and genealogy collection in a public library near where your ancestors lived? You may likely find these 5 great resources:

  1. Access to paid subscription genealogy websites like Ancestry.com Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online, Fold3 and other genealogy databases.
  2. Local historical newspapers–or at least obituaries from them. ALSO access to historical newspaper websites like GenealogyBank.com which may have papers you’ll never travel to see in person.
  3. City directories, old maps and/or local histories for that town.
  4. Surname files. These aren’t at every public library, but you’ll often find them in libraries that have dedicated genealogy rooms. These likely won’t be neatly organized files with perfect family trees in them, but collections of documents, bibliographic references and correspondence relating to anyone with that surname.
  5. Other surprising local history resources. For example, my hometown library in Euclid, Ohio, has online collections of Euclid newspapers, history, yearbooks and oral histories!

Euclid LibraryWhat does your library have? Browse its website or call and ask about its local history and genealogy collections. You might even Google the name of the county with the phrases “public library” and “local history” or “genealogy.” Another branch of the same library system (not in your own or ancestor’s town but nearby) might have just what you need to find your family history!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastWant to learn more about doing genealogy at the public library? Check out two recently republished episodes of Lisa’s Family History Made Easy podcast:

 

 

Episode 34: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 1 Genealogy librarian Patricia VanSkaik talks to us about researching at public libraries. She shares what kinds of things may be at the library (including unique resources), how to prepare for a visit and lots of great tips for making the most of your research time there.

Episode 35: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 2 We go deeper into genealogy research at the public library. Genealogy librarian Patricia VanSkaik is back to talk about how to search an online library card catalog including advanced search methods, the unique collections that may be at public libraries, how to ask for exactly what we want, and the obstacles librarians face when it comes to cataloguing large and unique collections that may interest genealogists.

Remember the Sears Catalog? It’s on Ancestry.com

Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Back in “the day,” American consumers window-shopped by mail with the Sears catalog. From 1888-1993, the Sears catalog stocked millions of American households and fed the Christmas lists of men, women and children.

Wouldn’t pages from the Sears catalog make a lively addition to your family history posts, pins, pages and  conversations? Ancestry.com thinks so, too! They’ve digitized the catalogs and they’re keyword-searchable here. (Just a word of advice: browse a certain issue or search for a specific product. A keyword search for “bicycle” brings up over 5000 results through the OCR technology used to find matches.)

According to this brief history, the Sears catalog first launched as a mailer for watches and jewelry in 1888. “The time was right for mail order merchandise,” says the article. “Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.”

Here’s one more blast from the American consumer past: Sears kit houses. Have you heard of these? You used to be able to order pre-fabricated homes from Sears. You could customize one of many standard sets of plans, and all the materials would be pre-cut and delivered to your home, “some assembly required,” so to speak. Learn more about Sears kit houses and see images of several designs (1908-1940) here. Did your family ever live in a kit house? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

New or Improved Genealogy Apps! Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage

custom_smart_phone_categories_12848Have you downloaded the apps that go with your favorite genealogy websites? You should! And if it’s been awhile, you should do it again. Why? They just keep getting better!

Here’s a rundown of new or improved apps from

  • Ancestry.com,
  • FamilySearch.org, and
  • MyHeritage.com:

Updated Ancestry App: Now A Continuously Swiping Tree

The old version of  the Ancestry app was a great start, but didn’t actually have a tree interface on it. You could see lists of family members in your tree, but not in pedigree format. The new version (still FREE)  has a redesigned look that, at least for iOS users, includes what Ancestry calls a “continuously swiping tree.” (The way Ancestry programmers made this happen was unique enough they got a patent for the process–read about it on the Ancestry blog.)

Here’s a summary of what the iPhone and iPad apps can do (taken from the Ancestry site):

Ancestry app

  • New: Redesigned look for sleeker, more intuitive use
  • New: Build your tree faster by connecting to Facebook and your contact list
  • New: Read about the lives of your ancestors through story-like narrative
  • Preserve memories by scanning and adding photos to your tree
  • Explore high-res images of historical documents and records
  • Access the world’s largest online family resource with more than 12 billion records
  • Receive Hints to help reveal new family connections by finding records and photos for you
  • Fully redesigned for iOS7

Click here to download the Ancestry app for iPad, iPhone and Android.

New FamilySearch Apps: Tree and Memories

FS Mobile AppTwo new FREE mobile apps, FamilySearch Tree and FamilySearch Memories, help users add information to their FamilySearch.org trees. The folks at FamilySearch describe the apps this way:

FamilySearch Tree makes it easy to add photos, stories, and audio recordings to ancestors in FamilySearch trees.

  • Browse your family branches and see portraits of relatives you’ve never seen.
  • Discover facts, documents, stories, photos, and recordings about your ancestors.
  • Easily add memories and records about your relatives.
  • Preserve and share those old photos and documents that are hidden away in storage.
  • Adding or updating ancestor details like names, dates, and relationships will be available coming soon.
  • Available for iOS 7+ and Android 2.3+

Click here to download the FamilySearch Tree App from the Apple App Store (iOS)

Click here to download the FamilySearch Tree App from the Google Play App Store (Android)

FamilySearch Memories makes collecting, preserving, and sharing your favorite family memories (photos, stories, and spoken words) easy and convenient wherever you are.

  • Snap photos of any family event, or take photos of old photos and documents.
  • Record audio interviews with family members and capture details of their life stories and favorite memories.
  • Write family stories, jokes, and sayings with the keyboard, or use the mic key to capture what you say.
  • Enrich written stories by adding descriptive photos.
  • Identify and tag relatives within a memory to automatically add it to their collection in Family Tree.
  • Available for iOS 7+

Click here to download the FamilySearch Memories App from the Apple App Store (iOS)

Everything you add with either of these apps syncs with FamilySearch.org.

Updated MyHeritage App: Now Access Your Family Photos

MyHeritage appNow your MyHeritage family website can always be at your fingertips–along with all your family photos. Features of the newly-updated version of the MyHeritage app:

  • NEW: View all your photo albums and family tree photos;
  • Easily view and update your family tree anywhere you go;
  • Search 5.3 billion historical records;
  • Fully sync with your family site and Family Tree Builder software;
  • Supports 32 languages.

Click here to download or upgrade Family Tree Builder 7.0 so you’ll be ready to view and edit your tree with the free mobile app.

Click here to download the MyHeritage app from the App store.

Click here to download the MyHeritage app from Google Play.

So…doublecheck your mobile devices! How long since you’ve updated YOUR genealogy apps?

Alternatives to MyFamily.com: What Can You Replace it With?

woman_raising_hands_400_wht_12536I recently heard from Renee in St. Louis with this dismayed question:

“I’m assuming you’ve heard that MyFamily.com is shutting down.  I administer 5 sites there and am desperately trying to figure out what I’m going to do with all that data … I’ve got to get it migrated by September. Do you have any idea of any sites that can handle all the kinds of material that Myfamily handled?  Nothing I’ve seen so far seems adequate. I’m praying you may know of something. Thanks.”

Many in the genealogy community are mourning the passing of a few products like MyFamily that Ancestry has decided to close. My uncle has a MyFamily account which I’ve visited only a few time so I’m no expert on it, but when I look at what it offers, this is what comes to mind to replace it: MyHeritage.com. (And not because they are a sponsor of my podcast which they happen to be.)

  • For just over $6 a month (Premium membership), members can create a site that stores up to 1000 MB of photos and videos, which invited relatives can access for free. Members can also post their family trees there–allowing members to gradually and casually share their family history research alongside current photos and life events. You can keep a family events calendar that automatically incorporates living relatives’ birthdays and anniversaries.
  • For about $3.50 more per month (Premium plus membership), members get unlimited photo and video storage.
  • All the new records recently added to MyHeritage.com and their automated searches of those records and other people’s trees are a great bonus for anyone actively researching their family tree.
  • One MyFamily.com feature I see that isn’t offered in the same way at MyHeritage.com is the blog. However, you can send out group emails that link directly to the pictures you put on the site.

Check out MyHeritage membership options here.

Another perspective: Ancestry.com posted a page of frequently-asked questions about the MyFamily.com shutdown. Here’s what they say:

Q: I really like MyFamily: are there any alternatives?

A: We encourage you to visit other relevant websites that provide one or more of the features that MyFamily.com offered. Sites for you to consider include:

 

New Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #168

DNA and genealogyGet up to speed on the world of DNA and Genealogy in this episode. We’ll explore in depth the ramifications of Ancestry closing down some of their DNA tests along with other businesses in their portfolio. You’ve had a lot to say on this subject, and I do too!
Your DNA Guide for Genealogy Diahan Southard

Then you’ll meet Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard. She’s a genealogy gem who will be joining us here on Genealogy Gems on a regular basis to help guide us through the murky waters of DNA research in easy to understand, and FUN terms.

 

Thanks for listening friend, I’ll talk to you soon,
Lisa

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family History

Lisa Louise Cooke Genealogy Gems Podcast