September 23, 2014

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.

How to Start a Genealogy Blog: FREE 5-Part Podcast Series

how to start a genealogy blogHave you thought about starting a blog to share your family history research, but just haven’t done it yet?

  • It’s a free, no fuss-way to publish your family history as you write it, one little piece at a time.
  • It shares your family stories with loved ones who are interested enough to read your short snippets.
  • It’s “out there” on the internet for long-lost relatives to find and connect with you.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastWell, Lisa has just republished a FREE 5-part podcast series on how to start a genealogy blog! It’s from her original Family History Podcast, a step-by-step how-to series for genealogists. I’ve just finishing remastering the last of the how-to-blog episodes, and I’ll tell you, they are inspiring!

In fact, after one of the episodes originally aired, listener Will Haskell contacted Lisa and said he thought he’d start a blog. I was curious–did he ever do it? He DID! I found Will’s Genealogy Blog here and started reading. He’s posted all kinds of great information about his family history. He hasn’t posted much recently, so I contacted him. What he said was really interesting:

“Lisa definitely was the instigator in starting the blog. I have not been keeping up with the blog in the past couple years. Being a business owner has cut in to the family history research and blogging quite a bit. I am still amazed at how many people visit my blog even without regular updates. I have been able to reconnect with several relatives through the blog.”

So that’s another great aspect of blogging: it’s not a forever commitment, and it often continues to reward you even when you’re not actively blogging! Check out the blog series here:

Episode 38: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 1. The Footnote Maven, author of two popular blogs, joins us to talk about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, commenting on other people’s blogs and more. This is a fascinating inside look into the geneablogging community, whether you’re interested in starting your own or not!

Episode 39: How to Start a Genealogy Blog,  Part 2. This week we continue to explore of family history blogging. In this episode I interview TWO more successful genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and  Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).

Episode 40: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 3: Step by Step. In this episode, learn step-by-step how to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!

Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Blog readingsGet inspired by two seasoned bloggers who each read a great post for you. And hear a special announcement about an exciting project I’ve been working on.

Episode 42: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 5. In this final episode, learn a few more gadgets for formatting your blog and making it easy for others to subscribe. Learn tips for writing that first post and using keywords that will help others researching your family to find you.

BillionGraves: Easy Family History for Kids!

BillionGraves

Belle M Graves on BillionGraves!

I’ve been wanting for awhile now to help with BillionGraves’ efforts to photograph the world’s cemeteries. And recently I was looking for a “date” idea with my 9-year old son. Something outdoorsy (for me) and technology-friendly (for him). Well, I realized there’s a perfect app for that combo–BillionGraves!

First we created an account (from the BillionGraves home page). Then, from the Get Started page, we downloaded the app to my iPhone/iPad, watched a quick video about what we were doing (great intro for my son) and then watched another quick video about how to take good gravestone photos.

We were ready to go! But where to go? Which cemeteries near us needed imaging? The BillionGraves app told us!

BG screen shotThe “Cemeteries” section shows, in order of distance from our house, the names and locations of graveyards near us and how many images have already been taken at each. I was surprised to see that of 15 cemeteries within 6 miles of my house, only 2 had been imaged at all (and only partially, by the small number of images mentioned). There was plenty for us to do!

Using the link to Google Maps provided within the app on my iPhone, my son navigated us 1.5 miles to a little village cemetery. We took turns taking pictures on my iPhone. (Next time we’ll bring both the iPhone and iPad and split up, now that I know he can take good pictures.) We stayed only about 25 minutes because it was so hot. But we got nearly 60 images taken and committed to return and image the rest.

During those 25 minutes, my son saw the world in a whole new way. We saw a big tombstone for someone whose last name matched that of a main street near our home–was this an early settler? He commented on how sad it was that so many babies and kids were buried there. We sneaked a peek at two letters placed on a child’s grave, written by kids a few days earlier with their own thoughts on life. And–this last gave us a laugh–on the very first row we imaged for BillionGraves, we photographed the headstone of Belle M. Graves!

To me, this was a perfect introduction to family history for kids. I’d advise it for any kid old enough to take a good picture with a mobile device (just supervise them for quality control).

Are you a BillionGraves volunteer, either in the “field” or as an online transcriptionist? Tell us how that’s been meaningful to you 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?

FREE Microsoft Office 2013 Guides

MS Office Quick StartDo you have Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office has published a series of new FREE Quick Start Guides to help users better navigate the 2013 editions of Microsoft Word, Access, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Visio and Project Standard.

Don’t have the 2013 version? Many of the tools and features mentioned in the Microsoft Office 2013 Guides may be relevant to older versions, though the design or some functionality may have changed. So these can still be helpful to those who aren’t totally up-to-date in their Microsoft Office software.

Click on this link to find and download these pdf guides. (If you don’t have Windows 8, you’ll need free Adobe Reader.)

How This Site Blew the Lid Off the Silver Surfer Myth: Internet Use by Older Adults

stick_figure_ride_mouse_400_wht_9283You’ve heard of the Silver Surfer, right? I’m not talking about the comic book hero. This title is also given to older people who surf the ‘net. Are “silver surfers” a myth? Uncommon? Not at all!

Genealogy Gems reader David Sawers recently sent me this fantastic infographic about internet use by older adults (read the accompanying article here). He helped with the research behind the infographic and wants to share it with the genealogical community.

Yay for all the older people who are keeping up with the world online! It’s no small transition for someone who remembers when everyone communicated at a much slower pace and in different ways.

I don’t keep track of the ages of those who follow Genealogy Gems, but now I’m curious. You don’t have to reveal your age outright–but if you’re a “silver surfer,” will you surf over to my Facebook page? Post your memory of how communication happened when you were young: by letter, wire, party line, over the back fence?

older-generations

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 110: New FREE Apps and More

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipLisa found a few minutes before heading out to play “mother of the bride” to publish Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 110

There’s lots of fun stuff on there for you lucky Premium members, like:

  • Lisa talks about great FREE new apps she loves, including Magnifying Glass with Light, which we posted here about;
  • Advice to a listener on finding a home for some orphaned family memorabilia in the Mailbox section of the show notes;
  • An inspiring family history use for Twitter.

Haven’t become a Premium member yet? Did you know you’re missing out on not just podcast episodes like this one (and 109 archived episodes) but a growing online collection of Lisa’s video classes on her most popular topics. She adds a new video class every month! Check out the benefits of Premium membership here.

Solve Your Genealogy Brick Walls: 3 Tips for Breaking Through!

genealogy cold caseWe’ve all got genealogy brick walls in our research: family mysteries we have so far found unsolvable. In the new issue of Family Tree Magazine (May/June 2014), Lisa’s got a great article packed with 14 strategies for SOLVING those perplexing questions.

The article is “Warming Up a Cold Case,” and it’s got a fun criminal investigator theme. I won’t give all 14 of her tips away, but some of my favorites include re-examining old evidence, finding new witnesses and going on a genealogical stakeout. And one that made me laugh out loud: “Post wanted posters.” And then I just had to put my ancestor’s face on a wanted poster (right).

How do you really create a wanted poster for your ancestor? Lisa shares these ideas in the article:

1. Post their names on genealogy online message boards (like at Ancestry.com). But fill in those “wanted” details. Instead of height, weight and hair color, add what you know about their births, marriages, deaths, family relationships and residences.

2. Post your family tree online at any number of sites for free. Sites organize their trees in one of two ways. Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and others offer the individual tree model. You upload (or build on the site) and maintain your own tree. FamilySearch.org, WikiTree, Geni.com and WeRelate.org are community tree sites. You may work from a view of your own tree, but the site is merging your tree with others behind the scenes to create a single world family tree (each does this a slightly different way).

3. Start your own family history blog. Write keyword-rich blog posts that make it easy for Google searchers to find your ancestors there. Check out Lisa’s free four-part series on how to create a genealogy blog at the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. This link will take you to the 4 part video playlist.

FTM Cover June 2014Find the entire article in the May/June issue Family Tree Magazine. Even better: Genealogy Gems Premium Members can also watch Lisa’s one hour video class Brick Walls: Cold Case Investigative Techniques. Not a Premium Member yet? You’re missing out on 24/7 access for a year to some of her most popular classes on Google, Google Earth, organization, Evernote, newspaper research and more. Learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership here.

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Genealogy and Family History

use your ipad for genealogyYour iPad can be one of your best genealogy buddies. Its light weight design makes it a dream to tote (no more sore shoulders hauling a laptop bag around the library!) And it offers a gorgeous, vivid display, making it a true pleasure to review and share your findings.

If your tablet time has been limited to playing Angry Birds and checking your email, then it’s time to check out these 7 great family history uses for your iPad or other mobile device:

Family Trees

1. Access your online family tree (and even make changes) with apps like those from Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.

Images

2. Take pictures of old family documents, photos, memorabilia and artifacts. From the iPad, you can upload and share them via Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, email, or access them from your other computing devices via cloud based storage such as Dropbox or iCloud.

Share

3. Put old family pictures on your iPad to share with your relatives. Click here to see how.

Capture

4. When you research your genealogy in libraries, use your iPad to take digital images instead of wasting time and money on photocopies. Image pages from a county or local history or take a snapshot (and a closeup) of a historical map. You can even take digital shots of microfilmed materials! Learn more here, and always get permission at each library before you start taking pictures.

Organize

5. Keep track of all your genealogy sources with Evernote–and keep all your sources at your fingertips by using the Evernote app. My new Evernote for Genealogists Quick Research Guides, available both for Windows and Mac users, are cheat sheets that will help you start using Evernote immediately across multiple platforms.

Read

6. Save genealogy and history e-books and pdfs to your iPad so you can read them anytime, anywhere. Click here to learn more.

Magazines & Podcasts

7. Use convenient apps to access great family history magazines and podcasts like these:

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueAngry-Birds-is-a-perfect-videogameYou see, an iPad–or a tablet PC–isn’t just for Angry Birds and other games! You can use it for many of the same purposes, but iPads/tablets work differently and in very specific ways. You can learn more about using your tablet or iPad for genealogy from my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse:

  • an in-depth look at over 65 apps;
  • 32 fabulous tricks and tips to make you a power user (and not just for genealogy!);
  • “see it for yourself” demos in recommended online videos.

Keep up to date with iPad/tablet developments other tech topics for genealogists by subscribing to my FREE e-newsletter.

Up next, read:

MyHeritage: A Genealogy App That Can Build and Edit Your Family Tree

5 Reasons You Need the New YouTube App for Family History

The 5th Generation iPad is on the Way and Will Possibly Include…

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free

 

 

Best Genealogy Software: Which Should You Choose and Why

custom_software_box_12041Just about every major genealogy website these days lets you build your family tree from scratch right on their website. But you may wonder what will happen to millions of carefully-constructed trees if the company goes out of business or the site goes down.

Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in specially-designed software. These programs generated .GED files (called GEDCOMs), a universal file type that allowed researchers using different software to share their findings. Software like this still exists. These days it can communicate your research to any genealogy sites you care to share with–by using those same GEDCOM files.

If you do choose to build your family tree online, make sure you can download your tree anytime as a GED file. Keep this file as a backup both on your computer and in a second location (like cloud storage). But my recommendation is to build your tree at home, in your own software. Then you can upload or synch your data to your favorite genealogy websites whenever you want–and you never lose control of your research.

Choosing the Right Software

There are lots of family history programs out there, and all of them will serve your basic needs. But you only need ONE. What’s the best genealogy software? It depends on how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be. In many cases, you can order the product or purchase a digital download. I really don’t think you need the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. All of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.

FREE AND EASY: Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage helps you stay organized with streamlined screens to work in and doesn’t require a lot of startup time. Family Tree Builder offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy apps for mobile devices. Download the software FREE at the above link.

TOP SELLER-PC: Family Tree Maker is from the folks at Ancestry.com, so you should always be able to easily synch your results online at that site.

PC OPTION WITH GREAT REPORTS: If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share, and loads of free online help videos, then RootsMagic is a great choice. (and we are honored to have RootsMagic as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.) And they now have an iOS app.

Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and supported.

AFFORDABLE MAC OPTION: iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95.  There’s a free demo you can try before you buy.

TOP-SHELF MAC OPTION: Reunion 10 is fairly pricey at $99.00. If you’re interested in Reunion, I highly recommend that you listen to Episode 51 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems Episode 53.