August 29, 2015

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)

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.

 

The New Ancestry Site: New Features, Mixed Reviews

Ancestry new site screenshotAncestry’s new site is now available to all U.S. users–across browsers, mobile devices, and the PC/Mac divide. It’s more than just a cosmetic or branding overhaul. The way Ancestry explains it, many changes boil down to helping users find family stories and improving their mobile experience. And while using the new site is still optional (see below), there are good reasons to start using it now. Mostly because the old site will be going away–possibly along with data you enter in it from this point forward. Many users adapt without much thought; for others, these changes are painful.

Ancestry logo new site“The new Ancestry experience was based on extensive research of problems our users are facing and their current needs,” states an FAQ on Ancestry. “We surveyed and interviewed thousands of users and found that new and long-time users wanted to be able to find and write their family stories. Based on this information we decided to provide more powerful storytelling features (LifeStory), coupled with tools to make research easier (updated Facts view) as well as organize media efficiently (Gallery)….Also, “the new experience was designed to work better across all mobile devices. You’ll be able to see the media gallery, Historical Insights, and LifeStory, too. More improvements for the mobile experience are planned.”

If you’ve been using Story View, the news is mixed. The new LifeStory feature is the next generation of Story View and “is better integrated into the overall profile page.” But Story View is going away–and as of June 1, “if you edit a Story View, the information will not be changed in the new LifeStory.” Also, the current FAQ says that Ancestry still hasn’t decided whether to transfer data from the Story View to the LifeStory.

Ancestry expert Crista Cowan explains the updated Facts view in the new Ancestry site: “Just like before, you will find the facts you’ve discovered and entered about the life of a person in your tree running down the page like a timeline. You will also find that the parents, spouse and children of the person are on the right-hand side of the page just where they have always been. The big change you will discover is that the sources that support those facts and relationships are now front and center.” Read more from her blog post here. The comments on that post and on the original announcement are great places to read the mixed opinions about the new site.

Below is Ancestry’s video about the new site:

Users can currently opt in or out of the new site (click Classic Site or New Ancestry on the username drop-down menu), but that option will go away soon. If you’re still on the fence about using the new site, read Ancestry’s FAQs about the changes, especially those that affect what changes you make from this point forward. Here’s a detailed list of the planned feature roll-outs, along with the estimated dates for them.

Ancestry for saleHave you backed up your Ancestry tree lately? It’s a good idea to do it regularly. We found ourselves reminding people how to do this recently in the wake of news that Ancestry may go up for auction. Read our how-to post here.

 

What’s New with Google? Glad You Asked

Group_Asus_Chromestick_V1 (1)_1000Google has recently made three announcements that I’m thinking of as “good, better, and best” news. Here they are:

 

Good: Bolded Answers in Search Results

google search results answers bold“Google is now bolding answers in the search results, not just the query or the synonym of your query in the search results,” reports Search Engine Land.

Maybe you’ve noticed this already. You Google the question, “What county is Chicago in?” Instead of the search results highlighting key search terms you used, the highlighted results actually answer the question. So helpful and fast!

 

Better: Free Roaming Abroad

Google’s wireless plan is looking at providing free roaming while abroad. Mashable.com reports that Google is exploring the ability to “offer wireless plans that will allow people in the U.S. to use their smartphones abroad without roaming charges….The plans would include voice calls, text messages and data, which would cost the same regardless of customers’ locations.”

Best: Chromebit computer plugs into HDMI port

ReadWrite.com recently featured Google’s new Chromebit, “a Chrome OS computer the size of a candy bar that plugs into a TV’s HDMI port. This device, manufactured by Asus, is the latest in a line of ‘computers on a stick,’ a type of gadget we’re likely to see a lot more of.” How cool this is for on-the-go computing, or for sharing what’s on your computer on a big screen. At a reported retail price of less than $100, these technologies may be as wallet-friendly as they are portable. Keep an eye on this technology!

sign up newsletterLike keeping up on what’s new with Google from the standpoint of a genealogy lover? Sign up for our free email newsletter, and we’ll keep you posted with “gems” like these! From our home page, enter your name in the box. It’s that easy. We never sell your information, and you’ll get a free Google Research e-book as a thank-you.

 

Think Outside the Box at NGS and Jamboree

NGS Outside the box schedule

Click this image for a crisp downloadable version to print and keep

Major genealogy conferences like NGS and Jamboree can be both invigorating and overwhelming! It’s tough to catch all the classes I want by my favorite lecturers on the topics I need most. But at some point each day, I’m also done sitting in a boxy classroom for a little while.

We at Genealogy Gems suggest a proven “fix” for these problems: Outside the Box Sessions! We partner with favorite fellow exhibitors to schedule short live presentations on our hottest topics at our extra-large shared exhibit space. Those who attend any Outside the Box session can sign up to receive a free e-book of handouts from all the sessions.

From what you’re telling us, Outside the Box works for you! Bonnie wrote to us: “I attended several of your [Outside the Box] sessions, at least one from each of you and often more. They were terrific, at least as good and often better than conference  sessions. And the e-book of session notes, with the myriad of internet  links, is frosting on the cake. Thank you.”

Ad_RevisionA packed and lively schedule of Outside the Box sessions will run at the following upcoming events in the free exhibit hall:

National Genealogical Society conference (13-16 May)

Southern California’s Jamboree (5-7 June).

Click on the conference names above to see the full scoop on each, including classes on:

  • Google searching,
  • family reunion ideas,
  • DNA,
  • German research,
  • Google Earth for genealogy,
  • identifying and caring for old photos,
  • Evernote for genealogy,
  • using your iPad for family history
  • and more!

Since the exhibit hall is free, this is a wonderful opportunity to stop by and see what genealogy conference are all about, and pick up some excellent free training sessions while you’re there!

Ancestry App for Apple Watch

Ancestry app Apple WatchAncestry’s new app for the Apple Watch brings new meaning to the idea of giving our ancestors “the time of day!”

The Ancestry blog reports that while the Ancestry app for Apple Watch doesn’t offer full-service genealogy research capabilities on its small screen, you can do two major tasks:

“1. Get notified about important events in your family history. You can see important ‘on-this-day’ events in your family history including birthdays, anniversaries, and death dates of your direct ancestors and close relatives. Plus, we will let you know when we find records about a possible new parent or spouse, or birth, marriage, and death info missing from your tree.

2. Keep on top of new hints and comments. Take small steps to discover more about your family anytime, anywhere. A simple tap to review new hints or comment by voice dictation can enrich your family stories step by step. Within the watch app, you can scroll through a feed of meaningful hints, important dates from your tree, and comments about photos and stories. If there’s a hint that looks interesting, you can easily open right to it by pulling out your phone—if it’s a photo hint, you can save it to your tree directly from the watch.”

The latest version of the Ancestry iPhone app includes the watch app.

how to start a genealogy blogInterestingly, responses posted to this news announcement seemed most excited about the ability to have fingertip access to family birthdays and events. This feature is already available (without having to purchase the Apple watch!) from MyHeritage: you can opt to receive text alerts for living relatives’ birthdays and anniversaries, along with any other family events you put on your own private family calendar. We blogged about it recently: check it out!

Here’s Why You Should Use the Genealogy Gems App

get the app genealogy gems appThe Genealogy Gems App  lets you listen to the Genealogy Gems podcast on your mobile device which is great. But there are more specific reasons to use the app over just listening online or using iTunes.

Recently I heard from podcast listener Kay, who wondered about listening to the podcast on her phone without using data in places where she doesn’t have wifi (like the gym).

My answer to her: use the app! By default, it streams the episodes via an Internet connection. However, if you tap the star for an episode, you will download the episode. Then you can listen to it offline.

The Genealogy Gems app turns 5 years old this month and continues to offer even more great perks like:

  • Stream episodes from anywhere
  • Receive updates with the latest episodes and an archived back catalog
  • Playback resume (when interrupted by a call or other distraction)
  • Access exclusive extras like PDFs, Wallpapers, and Bonus Content
  • Quickly access all the contact methods for the show
  • With the iOS version (compatible for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone, you can follow the show on Twitter
  • On iPhone, there’s a call-in audio comment feature (We LOVE when listeners leave comments and questions!)

Click here to get the Genealogy Gems app for Apple, Android and Windows devices.

BillionGraves Apps: iOS Update and Windows Beta

billiongraves appBillionGraves has announced an overhaul to the BillionGraves app for iOS (to be released shortly) and a new Windows app that’s ready for beta-testing (keep reading to see how you can test it!). 

The following is quoted from a BillionGraves press release:

BillionGraves app iOS 4.0

“This isn’t just a new app with a few new bells and whistles. This app completely changes how users can utilize the app to perform functions that have been found only on the website. 

In the past the app was primarily designed for users taking photos while providing minimal tools for the researchers who are looking for their ancestors. This release adds tools to better search, edit, add, and manage BG records from the mobile device! Make sure you have enabled the auto updating feature on your iOS device to get the new version the second it is available! We will have new tutorials and support explaining every step of the way! Join us on our community page for helpful tips and tricks as the new app is released by Apple!

BillionGraves for Windows in Beta

“After countless requests from our users around the world for a Windows version of the BillionGraves app, we have one ready to release to the public for testing! This is exciting news as many of our overseas users have a growing increase in Windows based phones. This will greatly assist in the world-wide expansion of the BillionGraves index.

Now that we have a Windows app ready for testing, we are putting a call out to all our users with a Windows phone to help us test these new features before putting it on the Windows store. To participate, send an email to windows@billiongraves.com with your full name, type of windows device (Nokia phone, etc) and Windows email address. Once we receive your email, you will receive an invite to our beta testing group and given a link to download the application. Then visit the cemetery and report any feedback from your experience so we can make quick adjustments and release our Windows app to the world!”

New Interactive Exhibit Brings Family History to the Public: FamilySearch Discovery Center

FS Discovery CenterWouldn’t it be great if you could bring your loved ones to a state-of-the art, museum-quality interactive exhibit that introduces them to their own family history?

Now you can! A “prototype” FamilySearch Discovery Center was unveiled yesterday in downtown Salt Lake City in conjunction with RootsTech 2015. Visitors are handed a tablet computer and sent around to seven stations. At each they dock their tablet, which has their FamilySearch login programmed, and experience different aspects of history with their own family history data.

You can see your family’s international migration through the generations; superimpose yourself in historical costumes from several nations; check out the history and popularity of your first and last names; and enter a “time machine” with 3D historical re-creations of ancestral kitchens throughout the years. One of my favorite stations was one I almost skipped: the personal history interview in a private booth. You choose your life season, from child to senior, and a virtual interviewer appears on the screen and asks you a series of questions, which are recorded. All the data is later sent to you through your FamilySearch/email accounts.

For now you can only experience this in Salt Lake City. But this exhibit is meant to be replicated in major venues, and indeed has been booked for at least two so far in Seattle and Philadelphia, says FamilySearch CEO Dennis Brimhall. He chatted with me as I toured and confirmed that they are experimenting with this exhibit in different sizes and scales. He hopes to see versions of the FamilySearch Discovery Center one day in museums, libraries, archives, and heritage centers around the world. “We haven’t done a really good job of bridging the general public into family history,” he admitted. This exhibit concept is a big step toward changing that.

As for myself, I love what they’re doing. I would love even more to see them customized for regional audiences, which it sounds like is part of the plan. If you’re in Salt Lake, it’s absolutely worth checking out. Just bring your relatives–preferably the ones who are now the LEAST interested in family history!