May 22, 2015

Google Keep versus Evernote for Your Note-Taking Needs

organize app Evernote google keepGoogle Keep, Google’s note-taking app, is getting better. According to a post on an unofficial Google blog, “Google Keep now lets you add labels to your notes. Just click the 3-dot icon below the note and select ‘add label.’ There are 3 default labels (inspiration, personal, work), but you can add your own labels.” The post goes on to describe the navigation menu, show how to export notes to Google docs and create recurring reminders.

According to the post, “The new features are available in Google Keep’s web app, Chrome app and Android app (Google Keep 3.1).”

How does Google Keep compare to Evernote? Well, I’m a longtime Evernote user who wrote a genealogist’s quick guide to using Evernote (see below) and provides the Ultimate Evernote Education to my Genealogy Gems Premium members. I might be just a bit biased when I say I still whole-heartedly prefer Evernote–but that’s because of what I do with Evernote, which is full-scale organization of my life and genealogy research across all my devices.

One tech writer’s post on Google Keep v Evernote indicates that she likes the simple functionality of Google Keep for quick notes. Yet, she writes, “I’m a big fan of Evernote as well, because of its strong organizing options–tags and saved searches, notebooks and stacked notes–but it can be overwhelming for simple note-taking. It is, however, cross-platform and, unlike Google Keep, more likely to stick around (former Google Reader users might be afraid to sign up for a new Google app that could be pulled suddenly).” I have to agree with this last comment. Actions speak louder than words, and they are evidence worth pondering.

Another post, though it’s a little older, sings a similar tune: “While there is some overlap [with Google Keep], Evernote is still a much more robust product with a bigger feature set and far greater device compatibility. Google Keep has an attractive user interface and is being met with a pretty positive response—an average rating of 4.4/5 stars in the Google Play store so far, but it’s presently nowhere near Evernote’s capabilities.”

Still a third writer has figured out how to use both apps, just for different tasks. For my part, reading through all these opinions reminded me how fortunate we are that technology gives us so many options to help us meet our needs. The challenge is figuring out how to use the powerful tools we have at our fingertips. That’s what we specialize in here at Genealogy Gems.

For me, I’m sticking with Evernote. One of the most compelling reasons in addition to many (cross-platform functionality, synchronization to all devices, OCR…) is that note-taking is Evernote’s primary focus. It’s not one of dozens of products (which is the boat that Google Keep and OneNote are aboard.) Instead, it is the singular purpose of Evernote’s research, development and execution. I like that kind of dedication when it comes to something as precious as my genealogy research notes.

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideAre you ready to harness Evernote’s powerful organizational tools? My laminated quick guides (image left) for using Evernote for Genealogy (for Windows or Mac) will get you started right away.

Those who are ready to take Evernote to the next level will likely LOVE my Evernote video class series, available to Genealogy Gems Premium members. Full-length classes include:

3 Sources for Historic Maps that May Surprise You

Old maps are an essential tool for discovering more about your family’s history. If you have exhausted more traditional sources, here are three places to find maps that may surprise you.

#1 Surprising Finds within the David Rumsey Map Collection

www.davidrumsey.com

You’re probably aware that the David Rumsey map collection website is a terrific source for old maps. But you may be surprised by the variety of maps, some which you likely don’t come across every day. Here’s a fun little tactic I took today to see what it may hold in store beyond typical maps. A search of the word neighborhood reveals that their holdings go well beyond traditional maps. Here’s an example from San Francisco showing a neighborhood in its infancy:
google earth maps for genealogy

And the image below depicts the Country Club district of Kansas City in the 1930s. If your family lived there at that time, this is a real gem.

Google earth for genealogy maps

#2 Google Books

www.books.google.com

If you think Google Books is just books, think again. Historic maps, often unique and very specific, can often be found within those digitized pages. Try running a Google search such as: neighborhood map baltimore. 

Click the MORE menu and select BOOKS. Then click the SEARCH TOOLS button at the top of the results list, and from the drop down menu select ANY BOOKS and then click FREE GOOGLE BOOKS:

baltimore search

Select a book that looks promising. Then rather than reading through the pages or scanning the index, save loads of time by clicking the thumbnail view button at the top of the book. This way you can do a quick visual scan for pages featuring maps!

baltimore history

When you find a page featuring a map, click it display it on a single page. You can now use the clipper tool built right in to Google Books to clip an image of the map. Other options include using Evernote (free) or Snagit ($).

Google Image search for maps google books

#3 Old Newspapers at Chronicling America

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Like Google Books, the digitized pages housed at the Chronicling America website contain much more than just text. Old newspapers printed maps to help readers understand current events like the progress of war or the effect of a natural disaster. This map from The Tacoma Times in 1914 shows a map of Europe and several quick facts about the “Great War,” World War I:

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

Here’s one more example below. A search for “San Francisco earthquake” at Chronicling America brought up this bird’s eye view of San Francisco at the time of the major 1906 earthquake. Articles below the map explain what you’re seeing:

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

Learn more about using newspapers to understand your ancestors’ lives in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. 

Want more inspiring ideas for finding historic maps? Below is my FREE 8-minute video on using Sanborn maps. This is an excerpt from my Genealogy Gems Premium video, “5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” (Premium membership required to watch that full video along with others like “Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps.”)

Family Tree DNA Review: GEDCOM Search Tool Added!

Family Tree DNA review GEDCOM Search toolFamily Tree DNA (FTDNA) has some of my very favorite genetic tools to help you make connections with your DNA matches when you can’t immediately find a genealogical connection, but it’s no secret that their genealogy tools leave much to be desired. However, their latest genealogy tool has promise: if certain conditions are met, you will be able to see whether any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test!

For quite some time now FTDNA has allowed you to enter your genealogical surnames and locations into your account and list your earliest known paternal and maternal line ancestors. The latter is displayed for your YDNA and mtDNA matches to see and the former for your autosomal DNA matches to see. As a bonus, if one of your autosomal matches shares an inputted surname, FTDNA will bold that surname (or location) for you in the “Ancestral Surnames” column of your match page.

A few months ago they upgraded their pedigree tool for uploading a GEDCOM into your account.  This GEDCOM does not in any way interact with your DNA match list or results; it is just provided as a resource to your matches. The pedigree tool itself is clumsy at best, but at least it is searchable and can give you a head start when looking for matches. It would be really nice if FTDNA could scrape all the surnames and locations from your GEDCOM and use that to populate your Ancestral Surnames field, but it does not.

The latest addition to FTDNA’s mediocre genealogy offerings is the ability to search all of the uploaded pedigree information in the FTDNA database. The best part about this feature is that it is not limited to searching just your DNA matches. This means you can see if any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test! This is great news!

Of course, you see the immediate problem: if the cousin of interest hasn’t uploaded a GEDCOM, you still won’t be able to find them. And, of course, the usefulness of the information is completely dependent on other people’s genealogical sleuthing skills. But still, this can be a useful tool.

I tried using this tool to find out if there were other descendants of my ancestors Julia Pond and Austin Tilton who had tested. I have one DNA match who descends from this couple and I am fairly certain this is our connection. I wanted to see if there were others out there who were also descendants of this couple. I started with just a search for “Julia Pond” and got 37 results. I then used the advanced search feature to add her birth year “1821” and “Ohio.”GlobalSearchJuliaPond

There were two matches.  My family tree, and another belonging to Katie.  It was frustrating that I couldn’t see right away if Katie was also a DNA match. But in the Advanced search I can ask to see only DNA matches, and repeat the search. Katie disappeared. By doing this I learned that Katie is descendant of Julia and Austin, but she and I don’t share enough DNA to be considered related. This makes sense, since descendants of this couple would be my 4th cousins at best, and I know that I will only genetically match about half of my fourth cousins. I can now contact my DNA match that lists Julia and Austin on his pedigree and ask him if Katie shows up on his match list. Perhaps they share some DNA that I do not.

Speaking of that DNA match of mine: why wasn’t he listed in my search results for Julia Pond? Well, it turns out that in his pedigree she is listed as born in 1821 from OH, and my search said Ohio. Ah. The search function is not catching those kinds of differences. So be careful.

GlobalSearchJuliaPondMatchDetail

When implemented properly, this tool can help you collect all of the descendants of a particular ancestor so you can learn more about what DNA you inherited from whom, and further your genealogical efforts.

Are you ready to get started? If you’re new to genetic genealogy, the first thing to do is acknowledge you may face some unexpected discoveries. If you’re not willing to chance some surprises on your family tree, don’t pursue it yet. Next, evaluate FTDNA (or other DNA companies) for yourself. If you decide to get started, your first step should be to upload your own GEDCOM, and make it public. Don’t feel like you have to put everything you know in this GEDCOM, just what you are certain of and feel confident sharing. To make it public, go into your Account Settings, and agree to share your Basic Profile.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesAfter this Family Tree DNA review, if you’re ready to explore what DNA can do for YOUR genealogy, why not explore how I can help you do it? My quick guides on genetic genealogy include a guide specifically for those who test at Family Tree DNA.

You can also hire me for an individual consultation to make sure you’re doing the right DNA tests with the right relatives to answer your burning genealogy questions. (Testing the wrong people or DNA type can be a very expensive mistake!)

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!

Volunteer Gem: He Indexed Milwaukee Journal Obituaries Himself!

my ancestor in the newspaper newsRecently we received this inspiring story from Brian Zalewski, a longtime Genealogy Gems podcast listener. He found a valuable genealogy resource and made it easier for others to access. Thank you, Brian!

“Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking for death listings in the archive of The Milwaukee Journal on Google News. These entries are usually so small (or too bad of quality) that they don’t get picked up by the character-recognition software….This means you can’t search for [ancestors’ names in them via OCR]. Also, depending on the date of the paper, the death may be recorded in a normal obituary, a full article (like my great-great grandfather, fortunately), a tiny single-line burial permit, or a small death notice.

“I decided to start recording all of the deaths I can find. I try to note the date, individual’s name, paper, type of record, age, and address. So far, I’ve recorded over 1000 entries (some duplicates due to similar entries on multiple days), mainly from the years of 1884, 1885 and 1910.

“The benefit of doing this is two-fold. This data will be recorded and searchable for everyone, and I will probably find information on my family somewhere. Also, who knows how long Google will keep the archives online. These papers are available elsewhere on microfilm, etc, but I’ll do what I can when I can.

“I have also spent some time adding a few helpful features. Within the details of a death entry, you can automatically search for the individual in a few burial index sites. Currently, this includes the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries burial index, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves. The search, while helpful, is not perfect. I can only search using the information included in the entry. Sometimes this does not work if the name is spelled differently in both places, though you can always tweak the search variables once you’re at the indexing site. If I happened to find a matching entry from one of those sites, that URL is now linked directly from the entry. The entry will also be flagged with the little headstone icon.

“Currently, it’s not a massive database, but it’s constantly growing. Hopefully it will be helpful to somebody with research in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area.” Click here to search his database of Milwaukee Journal obituaries.

Want to learn more about searching for obituaries in newspapers? Click to read the blog posts below:

RootsTech Hits the Road! RootsTech Family Discovery Days Coming Your Way!

overhead_freeway_custom_sign_16324Were you among the record-breaking audience of 23,918 attendees at RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah? Even if you were, chances are you didn’t catch all the top talks.

RootsTech staffers have announced that over 1000 FREE regional RootsTech events, called RootsTech Discovery Days, will be hosted around the world throughout 2015. “Select sessions and planning resources from RootsTech 2015 have been recorded, translated in 10 languages, and made available online to support…local volunteer organizers,” says a media statement.

“By the first week following the conference, 65 local family discovery day events had already been held, including 27 in Latin America, one in Korea, and another in the Philippines. Over 1,000 more events are expected to be held throughout 2015, significantly extending the reach and impact of this popular conference.”

Click here to search for a RootsTech Family Discovery Day event near you. We notice that there plenty of options across the U.S. and in England, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Where do YOU want to look for an event?

Lisa speaks to a packed audience at RootsTech 2015.

Lisa speaks to a packed audience at RootsTech 2015.

How to Make Google Cache Pay Off in Your Genealogy Research

how to use google cacheWhat do you do when you Google something, click on a search result URL, and it says “page not found,” or “error?” Debbie recently discovered the answer in her new copy of the newly revised and updated The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (2nd edition).

She wrote to us: “I ordered my book last week and found it in my mailbox today! I immediately flipped through it, reading the headings and looking at the pictures. I love the way it reads…not “text-booky” but more enjoyable and more as if someone were just talking to me. I can’t wait to try out all the tips and see what I can discover!  In fact, I already discovered something I didn’t know…seeking out the cache when you get a page that says “not found” or “error”.  Now, if only I can remember all the times I saw that. Thank you so much!  I’m very happy that I added this book to my little genealogy library!”

Google Cache: Here’s How It Works

As you know, Google “crawls” the web constantly indexing websites. It also takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches, or stores, the image as a backup. It’s the behind-the-scenes information that Google uses to judge if a page is a good match for your search queries.

In the case of a website that no longer exists, the cache copy provides a snapshot of the website when it was still active. Practically every search result includes a Cached link.

How to Retrieve a Cached Webpage:

  1. how to use google cacheWhen you land on a “File Note Found” error page, click the Back button on your browser to return to the Google search results page.
  2. Directly under the website title is the URL. Click the small down arrow right next to that address.
  3. “Cached” will be one of the options presented in the pop up menu. Clicking on the Cached link will take you to the Google cached version of that webpage, instead of the current version of the page.

Cached versions of websites can also be useful if the original webpage is unavailable because:

  • of internet congestion;
  • the website is down, overloaded, or just slow. Since Google’s servers are typically faster than many web servers, you can often access a page’s cached version faster than the page itself; and
  • the website owner recently removed the page from the web.

If Google returns a link to a page that appears to have little to do with your query, or if you can’t find the information you are seeking on the current version of the page, take a look at the cached version by clicking the cached link. You will then see the webpage as it looked when Google last indexed it.

You’ll notice that a gray header will appear at the top of the page. This provides you will the following information about the cached page you are viewing:

  • The original web address of the page.
  • The date and time that the page you are viewing was cached.
  • A link to the current version of that page.

how to use google cache

If you don’t see a cached link in a search result, it may have been omitted because the website owner has requested that Google remove the cached version, or requested that Google not cache their content. Also, any sites Google has not yet indexed won’t have a cached version.

Be aware that if the original page contains more than 101 kilobytes of text, the cached version of the page will consist only of the first 101 kbytes (120 kbytes for pdf files).

Interested in learning more about caching?
VIDEO: HTTP Caching

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverThis tip comes straight from my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition, all-new and revised for 2015. Find more great tips like this for getting the most out of Google for genealogy–and anything else you want to find online! Click on the link to learn more.

New FindMyPast Hints Help Find Records

FindMyPast hintingFindMyPast, the genealogy website best known for its mega-collections of U.K. historical records, recently added a hinting feature to the family trees component of its website.

According to a press release, “Once you start to add to your family tree, Hints will sift through 755 million of our birth, baptism, marriage, divorce, death and burial records to identify matches between them and the people on your tree, providing you with historical records and potential new relatives from our collections.” Hints do not search other trees, as FindMyPast does not have publicly-searchable trees.

FindMyPast hinting 2Now when you look at your tree, you’ll see little numbers appear next to individual profiles when hints are available. You can review hints at your leisure and extract facts from them to add to ancestral profiles.

FindMyPast Hints are available to all users but are still in the beta testing stage. “You can expect a lot more from Hints in 2015, including Hints on census records and other collections. By reviewing all of your Hints, you’ll be helping us to ensure that our process continues to improve.”

stick_figure_ride_mouse_400_wht_9283Click here to learn about our favorite collection at FindMyPast: PERSI, the Periodical Source Index. It’s not just an index any more: FindMyPast has started adding digitized articles to the thousands of article titles indexed in this amazing database of genealogical and historical articles in journals and periodicals.

Find Historical Photos at Flickr Creative Commons

"Exercise Field Artillery Corps" album, image AKL092038, Netherlands Institute of Military History uploads at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nimhimages/16026248719/.

“Exercise Field Artillery Corps” album, image AKL092038, Netherlands Institute of Military History uploads at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nimhimages/16026248719/.

If you’re interested in historical photos, there has never been a better time to try the Flickr Creative Commons. Flickr is a popular photo-sharing site that’s keeping up well with the times: its new app was on the “Best of 2014″ App Store list for iPad apps. It’s a great platform for sharing your favorite photos with family and friends.

But wait, there’s more! An important part of the Flickr world is Flickr Creative Commons, which describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.”

Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others. Like what kinds of groups? Well, there’s the British Library photostream, with over a million images in its photostream! And how about the (U.S.) Library of Congress, with over 23,000 photos?

Look for your favorite libraries and historical societies–and check back often. New additions post frequently. For example, as of December 2014, The Netherlands Institute of Military History now has a photostream. According to a blog announcement, “The Institute exists to serve all those with an interest in the military past of the Netherlands. Its sphere of activities covers the Dutch armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, from the sixteenth century until now. The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.” At this posting, only a couple dozen images show up so far, like the one shown here. Check back–or check with the Institute to see what they’ll be posting soon–for more images.

Here’s a tip: Those who post images to Flickr Creative Commons offer different rights to those who want to download and use their images. Described here (and searchable here by the kinds of rights you want), those rights may include the ability to use a photo as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and proper credit is given. Perfect for a responsible, source-citing genealogist!

Watch RootsTech 2015 Sessions Online FREE

webinar_education_800_wht_13013 RootsTech 2015Did you miss RootsTech 2015? You can watch highlights online for FREE!

Several RootsTech 2015 keynote sessions and lectures were videotaped for live streaming. Now they’ve been archived online. Click here to see what’s available.

Our own DNA correspondent here at Genealogy Gems, Diahan Southard, was recorded. You can now watch her presentation, “Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy.” Watch with relatives who might be interested in “doing DNA” with you! She makes a complex topic MUCH easier to understand.

Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat SheetsRemember, once  you’re ready to test (or had testing done), Diahan’s available as a personal coach to help you navigate the exciting world of genetic genealogy. And we’ve got her entire series of genetic genealogy quick guides available in our Store. Buy just the ones you need or the entire  bundle for a great discount. These were super popular at RootsTech!