August 31, 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.

 

A Tip for Harnessing New Technologies for Genealogy

Lisa BYU Keynote

Photo courtesy of The Ancestry Insider

New technologies don’t stay new. They keep evolving. Here’s a tip for harnessing new and emerging technologies to advance family history research and stay connected with living relatives. 

Last week, I was at the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy in Provo, Utah. What a friendly, welcoming group! (Be sure to check out the BYU Family History Library here.) All week, I taught sessions and gave a keynote address on various technologies that help our research. The week’s discussions reminded me how quickly technology moves–and how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology.

It’s part of my job to learn about these new technologies and pass the best ones–the “gems” along to you. But here’s a tip I shared during my keynote address that will help you focus on the technologies you care most about: Think about which tasks you want to accomplish with technology, rather than just learning genealogy-specific technology. Then keep up with developments in the technologies that accomplish those tasks.

For example, by now, many of us have used (or at least heard of) Google Translate. We can use it with foreign-language documents and to correspond with overseas relatives and archives. But Google Translate’s functionality keeps improving. “By the audible gasps of the audience” (during my keynote address) reported the FamilySearch blog, “most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.”

Genealogists are really thinking about these issues. The Ancestry Insider blogged about my keynote talk, too, and my observation that genealogists haven’t been embracing digital video at the same speed at which they embrace other forms of digital media. In the comments section of that post Cathy added, “Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YOUTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living….Our children and grandchildren don’t write letters, they email, text, instagram. They don’t write journals, they blog. They make videos of current history….We all need to look to the future and [learn] how to save the new technologies.” Cathy gets it!

A special thanks to conference organizers Stephen Young and John Best, who welcomed me and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton all week long. They did a fantastic job of organizing a large event while retaining a warm, personal environment.

Continue reading about applying technology to your family history here.

Use Forensic Genealogy Tools: Technology Sheds New Light On History

forensic genealogy toolsThe forensic investigator pulls up to the crime scene and snaps a fresh set of rubber gloves. She props open the trunk of the car and carefully, slowly, sweeps a tube of florescent light back and forth inside the trunk, watching with an eagle eye for the glimmer of something that shouldn’t be there.

It’s a familiar scenario – well, that is, if you watch Court TV or CSI or one of the other of myriad of television shows featuring forensics. If you’re like me, you’re fascinated by this type of investigation. Criminal investigators are not all that different from genealogists: they are  looking for dead people and trying to find out what happened to dead people.

So it will be be no surprise that this recent news item grabbed my attention:

Image from the National Library of Wales website. Click to view.

Image from the National Library of Wales website. Click to view.

Poetry and pictures drawn in the margins of a medieval manuscript–and then erased–have been rediscovered using modern imaging techniques. The Black Book of Carmarthen is the oldest known surviving Welsh language manuscript. Written in 1250, it’s now “throwing up ghosts from the past after new research and imaging work revealed eerie faces and lines of verse which had previously been erased from history,” according to a National Library of Wales blog post.

“A combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software” were used to better see ancient doodles that had been erased from the margins. The process revealed “images, and snatches of poetry which are previously unrecorded in the canon of Welsh verse.”

We’ve featured several types of forensic analysis as applied to genealogy over the years. In fact, forensic genealogy principles inspired my popular presentation, How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case (if you’re a Premium Member of this website you can sign in right now and watch it under Premium Videos).

Criminal investigators are not all that different from genealogists:
they are  looking for dead people and trying to find out what happened to dead people.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes 89 and 90 features Dr. Robert Leonard, a forensic linguist featured on an episode of Forensic Files on TV. It was such a riveting interview that I brought him back for Premium episode 48 where his brother Dr. George Leonard joined us. And way back in the pioneer days of this podcast (2008) Episode 18 featured “Vehicular Forensics.”

vehicular forensics genealogyIt was my genealogical take on using alternative light sources on not the trunks of cars, but rather their faded license plates as they appear in old photos. That episode has been “retired” but will soon be Gems ebook remastered and available for listening (stay tuned to the free Genealogy Gems email newsletter for the publication announcement.) In the meantime you can read about it in depth in my very first book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.

Have you looked to see what lurks on the pages and photos of your ancestors? Email me and we may share it in an upcoming blog post or episode.

Here’s What Evernote Can and Can’t Do for Family History

Evernote_fileRecently Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Rosie wrote in with an Evernote question:

“I really enjoy listening to your podcasts. Thanks so much for all your efforts. As a long time researcher I always wondered how the Hunt family got from New England to Ohio around 1800. Not too long ago another researcher found some autobiographical sketches written by Thomas W. Hunt in the Library of Congress. They posted it on Ancestry.com and another researcher sent me the linkI am still trying to figure out Evernote but I am wondering if there is a way to transcribe the sketches from PDF format with this tool.

Good for Rosie for considering her options for how technology might be able to make the task at hand just a little bit easier!

genealogy transcription to Evernote OCRCurrently you must have an Evernote Premium account in order for your PDF documents to be keyword searchable or to annotate PDFs directly. The pdf document that Rosie was hoping to automatically transcribe with optical character recognition (OCR) is in cursive handwriting. Evernote can apply OCR to simple, clear printing, but it can’t read script, especially fancier writing such as this Thomas Hunt sketch or old German script and handwriting.
That would require ICR, or intelligent character recognition, and that technology is still emerging and isn’t widely available to consumers yet.
The Solution: Evernote doesn’t transcribe documents. To get the genealogical content from the sketches into Evernote, Rosie will need to start a new Evernote note and re-type the documents herself. Once that is done, then Evernote can apply OCR to the note and the typed transcription will be keyword-searchable.
 
A Solution for Type and Printing if you aren’t an Evernote Premium user:
If you are fortunate enough to discover a long-sought after genealogical document such as Rosie did, and your PDF document is typed text or simple, neat printing then you are in luck. There are free conversion tools available online that can do the trick. I use ConvertOnlineFree.com to convert my PDF document to text. I like it because I can use the tool directly from the web without having to download software to my computer.
PDF to Text Converter Evernote OCR
(As with all tools we discuss here you’ll need to do your own homework and decide if it is right for you.)
I simply:

1. click the Choose File
2. select the PDF file I want to convert from my computer
Ultimate Evernote Education abbreviated3. click the Convert button
4. save the converted file to my computer
5. copy and paste the text into a new note in Evernote, and OCR does the rest.

Resource: My Evernote for Genealogists quick reference guide not only provides an easy to follow chart to help you determine which type of Evernote account is right for you, but it’s also packed with time saving tips you can use every day in your genealogy research. Click here to learn more.

Genealogy Gems Premium members also have access to my Evernote premium instructional videos, which really are the ultimate Evernote Education for genealogists! Learn more here about Premium membership.

share notes with evernoteIt’s nice to share
Do you know other genealogists who use Evernote? Why not share this post with them?  Use our handy social media buttons at the top of this post, or copy the and paste the URL into an email. Your friends will thank you!

Language Translation Tool for Genealogy: MyHeritage’s New Global Name Translation

MyHeritage Global_Name_Translation_PR_imageAt some point in the past, many of our relatives–overseas or in the same land–spoke a different language. They used different versions of names we know. Records about their lives were created in a language we don’t know, whether their home tongue or the language of an institution, like church records in Latin.

Well, MyHeritage has just launched a groundbreaking new technology today that aims to remove language barriers in family history research. “Global Name Translation™ helps overcome the Tower of Babel syndrome,” says Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “The world is getting smaller and more connected, yet information from other countries is still mostly hidden from those who don’t speak the language.

Now you can now search for historical records at MyHeritage “in one language and receive relevant results from other languages, automatically translated for you into the language of your search,” explains Japhet. Alex is Aleksi MyHeritage name translationFor example? “A search for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find ‘Саша’ (which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia) with its corresponding transliteration into the language of your search.”

This technology is also integrated into MyHeritage matching technologies, so subscribers will begin receiving transliterated matches from other languages.

According to a press release, Global Name Translation™ works with “very high accuracy, generating all the plausible translations, to facilitate matches between names in different languages. In addition, a manual search in one language will also provide results in other languages, translated back to the user’s language for convenience. This is a unique innovation not offered elsewhere, useful for anyone interested in discovering their global roots.”

The first version works with several languages: English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. “The next version currently in development will add Chinese and Japanese, and additional languages will follow.”

MyHeritageClick here to learn more reasons we love MyHeritage, which is a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast, or click here to explore MyHeritage yourself. If you are looking for a language translation tool for genealogy outside of MyHeritage, check out the chapter on Google Translate in the fully-revised and updated second edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke.

How to Unsend Gmail email message

Unsend gmail email messag
Have you ever clicked the Send button on an email message only to seconds later have a wave of regret fall over you? At a moment like that it would be very helpful to know how to unsend Gmail email messages. At one time or another we have all left out vital information, or sometimes worse, said too much. Now you can change your mind and undo what you did!

On June 22, 2015 Google announced the Undo Send feature for Gmail on the Web. By default the Undo Send feature is turned off (that is unless you are already using the Labs version.) To flip the switch and start undoing your sends, simply:

1) Click the Settings gear in Gmail

2) Under the General tab, scroll down until you see Undo Send

3) Click to check the Enable Undo Send box

4) From the drop down menu select how much time you will have to decide to unsend an email message

how to unsend gmail email message

5) Scroll down the General Settings page and be sure to click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen to activate your unsend Gmail email selection.

Save unsend gmail email messageNow if you want to unsend Gmail email messages you will be able to do so for the short amount of time you specified (in my example I selected 30 seconds)

unsend email in Gmail

Unsend Gmail email and get it right – the second time!

Resources:
How to use Google for Genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition features an entire chapter on using Gmail effectively.

Google Alert to Remember Your Wallet? Yep, It’s Coming

Google patent to remember your walletIf you’ve read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, then you know that Google Alerts is an incredibly powerful tool for automating your online genealogy searches and finding things.

But l admit it, there are days when I just want to find my reading glasses (typically sitting on my head) or my car keys (I’ll never forget when my kids were toddlers and would hide them in the compartment under the seat of their Big Wheel!) Wouldn’t it be great if your smartphone issued you a Google Alert if you left your keys or eyeglasses behind when leaving the house? It’s a concept under development, based on a new Google patent recently posted on the U.S. Patents and Trademark website.

According to the patent, the device uses short-range wireless technologies to link your smartphone (and who would travel without their smartphone?!) with other commonly-needed items like your wallet, keys or glasses.

According to this article on VentureBeat, “The user can control the amount of distance between the mobile device and the paired object that must exist before an alarm goes off. They can also control the type of alarm, as well as how often the device checks to see if all paired objects remain nearby.”

VentureBeat further comments, “The patent is interesting because it shows Google trying to differentiate Android products by enabling them to directly address some of the little friction points in everyday life. Features such as these may not use cutting-edge technology, but they could sway a consumer to buy an Android product over an iOS product.”

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverSpeaking of patents….you can find out if your ancestor ever applied for a patent by searching Google Patents for his or her name! Google Patents is also a great place to learn more about the household items and inventions that shaped our relatives’ lives. You can learn more about using  Google Patents –and other fabulous and FREE Google tools you can use for family history–in the new, fully-revised 2nd edition of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

Use Skype Translator to Speak Another Language

Skype translateDo you use Skype or another video chat service to keep in touch with loved ones? Have you considered using it for long-distance oral history interviews or collaborating on your genealogy with a faraway cousin? Language barriers can sometimes become a problem. Skype Translator offers a solution!

Last December, online communications giant Skype announced the debut of Skype Translator. The service launched with two spoken languages, English and Spanish, and more than 40 instant messaging languages. Customers could access it who signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and were using Windows 8.1 on a desktop or device.

The Skype blog has proudly announced that they’ve added Italian and Mandarin to the list of spoken languages in Skype Translator. “As you can imagine, Mandarin is a very challenging language to learn, even for Skype Translator. With approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones, this is one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master.” The list of instant messaging languages has also expanded.

The post acknowledges years of hard work and testing required for the Mandarin application by Microsoft researchers and scientists in the U.S. and China. “Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets,” stated the initial release. “As more people use the Skype Translator preview with these languages, the quality will continually improve.” Here’s a video demonstrating Mandarin translation:

“The focus of our updates in this preview release is to streamline interactions between participants, so you can have a more natural conversation using Skype Translator,” states the recent Skype release. They describe these key updates:

  • Text to speech translation:
    • You now have the option to hear the instant messages people send to you – in the language of your choice
    • Continuous recognition – Recognized text translation as your partner is speaking
  • Automatic volume control:
    • Your partner can speak while the translation is still happening. You will hear the translation at full volume, and your partner at a lower volume, so that you can follow the translation, which will help make conversations more fluid.
  • Mute option for translated voice:
    • There is now an option to easily turn the translated audio on or off if you would prefer to only read the transcript.

stick_figure_ride_mouse_400_wht_9283Want to learn more about using video chat services like Skype for family history? Click here to read tips about collaborating with other family history researchers via Skype. We’ve blogged about how to use third-party apps to record Skype conversations (click here to learn how). Our free Family History Made Easy podcast features an episode on interviewing skills (episode 2) and a 2-part series on how to contact long-lost relatives (“genealogy cold-calls,” episodes 14 and 15).

 

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