December 19, 2014

Evernote for Family History: OCR Handwriting and Uploading Data

evernoteSo many of you are harnessing the organizing and storage power of Evernote for family history research (and probably everything else you know!). Every time I teach on Evernote, a round of excited follow-up questions follows. Here are two great questions from Karen:

Q: The handwriting app on my phone is way cool, yet Evernote doesn’t seem to recognize any of the words. I thought it would apply OCR to the handwriting. Is that just a premium feature?

A: The key to handwriting OCR is to print clearly. OCR can not read cursive. Also, if you created your handwritten note and then immediately tried to search for a keyword, (and the note was printed clearly) it may not have found it because you searched before it had a chance to sync through the cloud and apply OCR. If you’re in a hurry, click the SYNC button in Evernote. Also, Premium accounts sync and apply OCR faster than free ones.

Q: My husband has a single note file that he has been putting all his daily notes in for years – currently about 14mb. Once he has uploaded that file, then when he makes additional notes to it each day, will he be “charged” for the entire file being saved again or just the incremental portion?

A: No he won’t be using 14 mb of upload each time he saves it. The key here is “upload.” You are charged uploading for the first time you upload the item to Evernote. I believe that if he adds a paragraph that is 1kb of text to the note the next day, he will only have 1kb deducted from his monthly upload.

One word of caution, if he has a desire to some day publish a book or some other project with his daily notes, I wouldn’t recommend Evernote. As you saw, the export file types are limited, and it does not export directly to Word or .txt. However, if he just wants it for his one record keeping, I think Evernote is a great solution.

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideNeed some more Evernote help? My Evernote for Genealogists quick reference guide is available for both Mac and Windows users (purchase the one that goes with your computer’s operating system, not your mobile device). Click to download it!

Genealogy Gems Premium members can also access exclusive full-length videos on how to use Evernote for family history, like:

Not a Premium member yet? The Evernote video series alone makes Premium membership worth the low annual fee, but you get SO much more! Learn more here.

NGS 2015 Genealogy Conference Program Now Available

NGS 2015The FULL program and registration brochure for the next National Genealogical Society conference is now online. Browse the NGS 2015 program for some mouthwatering sessions, workshops, tours and social events!

Why read it now, right when the holiday season is kicking off? Several events have limited seating–first-come, first-served to those who register. And registration opens December 1! So set aside your Black Friday shopping lists and read this tempting list. You may give yourself a holiday gift of attendance at NGS next spring!

ALisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems Podcastmong the sessions Lisa will be teaching at NGS 2015 are NEW topics many of you haven’t heard yet:

  • Tech Tools that Catapult the Newspaper Research Process into the 21st Century;
  • iPad & iPhone Power User Techniques for Genealogy; and
  • Six Pillars to Build Your Genealogy Business Online.

The conference will take place in St. Charles, Missouri. The 16-page brochure is downloadable here as a pdf or you can read it online here.  Register at the NGS website. Can’t make it in person? They will stream 10 sessions live for you to watch from the comfort of your own home or office. (Learn more about in coming months.)

Premium Perks! Genealogy Technology Tools Video, Life Story Writing AND Scottish Research

Are you a Genealogy Gems Premium member–or have you thought about becoming one? If so, you’ll want to know about the NEW content we recently published for Premium members only:

10 Technology Tools for GenealogyPremium Video: 10 Genealogy Tech Tools You Can’t Live Without

Most of us want to use the best technology tools available for genealogy. But we don’t want to wade through every app, software and gadget out there. We just don’t need them all! This video session focuses in on Lisa’s favorite 10 technology tools that keep the focus right where it belongs: on our research, not on technology overload. In this one-hour class, you’ll learn how to:

  • organize your research notes with Evernote
  • harness mobile genealogy with a tablet or iPad
  • save, share and transfer genealogy files through the cloud
  • access your home computer from a mobile device
  • safely and securely backup all of your family history files
  • curate and consume genealogy-related content
  • and much more!

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 116: Life-story Writing Inspiration and Scottish Roots

Laura Hedgecock life story writingGenealogy Gems Premium MembershipThe newly-released Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 116 includes–in addition to news you can use and inspiring asides–two great conversations. The first is an interview between myself (Contributing Editor Sunny Morton) and Laura Hedgecock, author of Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. We talk about the challenges and rewards of writing life stories, whether your own or someone else’s. Learn some practical tips for writing family stories and helpful advice on what to do about family secrets.

Lisa also chats with Marie Dougan on the shores of Scotland to talk about researching Scottish ancestors. Marie is a professional genealogist based in Scotland who has been researching for more than 12 years. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and is currently a tutor on a range of genealogy and family history courses at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. Marie loves to talk genealogy technology tools, which is one of Lisa’s favorite topics, too! So listen in on their conversation and see what tips you pick up!

Indiana Genealogy Records to be Digitized by Ancestry.com

ebook ereader for Mac Digital Genealogy books at Google BooksA recent news article at Indianapublicmedia,org reports that more than 13 million Indiana genealogy records will be digitized and put online–and Ancestry.com is picking up the tab.

Among the records doing online are early 20th-century birth and death certificates and marriage records since 1958. According to the report, it would take the state a decade and over 3 million dollars to digitize these records. So Ancestry.com’s offer to take on the work is a godsend for both the state and those who want to use these records.

The deal gives Hoosier residents the first free access to the digitized records (onsite at the state archives). Three years after the the project is completed (which should happen in 2016), the state archives will offer records for free through its own website. Some records may still have confidentiality restrictions. But this still represents a great step forward for those whose ancestors helped to settle Indiana!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastLearn more about using vital records in your family history research with these episodes from our FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, a step-by-step series for beginners and those refreshing their skills:

  • Episode 24 on using U.S. marriage records;
  • Episode 25 on using U.S. civil birth records;
  • Episode 4 on using death records and a variety of additional vital records resources in the U.S.

Win a Chance to Attend RootsTech 2015 for FREE!

rootstech 2015 ambassador badgeRootsTech 2015 is shaping up to be a major production again! This three-day technology-oriented family history mega-conference offers over 200 classes for beginners-to-pros, hands-on computer labs and big-name evening entertainment options. The conference runs in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, so attendees can catch two powerhouse conferences with one visit to genealogy mecca Salt Lake City, Utah.

Our news of the day is that RootsTech has given us a FREE RootsTech All-Access Pass for one of YOU. This is a $159 value–itself an enormous value for all the fun and learning you’ll find at RootsTech.

If you can get yourself to Salt Lake City for RootsTech from February 12-14, 2015, you can enter to win this pass.

TO ENTER:

  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsEmail us and in the subject line include the title of the book we are currently featuring in our brand new  high & low tech Genealogy Gems Genealogy Book Club.
  • In the body of your email, tell us whether you think you’ll read the book. (Tell us why if you’d like–your opinion won’t affect whether you win!)
  • Include your name, email address and phone number.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Your entry must be received by Nov. 25, 2014. The randomly selected winner will be announced in the Dec. 4, 2014 newsletter.

We just launched our new Book Club last month and we’re already hearing enthusiastic response. Our Book Club is free and features mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that make great reads for those who care about family history. Sign up for our free monthly newsletter to follow the Book Club selections.

Good luck!

How to Record Phone Calls on Skype and Smartphones

stickman_customer_service_anim_300_wht_2125Looking for ways to record phone calls for family history interviews? Janice emailed me to ask that very question, and I gave her some ideas that can help you out too.

“I live in Maine and have awesome century old relatives that love to share stories. Most are in nursing homes and have hours and hours available of awesome family stories. I am limited on traveling because most visits are five hour drives one way.  They love talking on the phone. Is there any recommendation for an app that could record our conversations for historical preservation.  I would love to share these stories with the Maine Memory Network before they are forgotten.”

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistHere’s my response:

Lucky you for having these relatives to gather stories from! You mentioned using an “app” so I’m assuming you want to be able to use your smartphone. Here’s a good article with some options for recording from a smartphone.

 

How to record phone calls on Skype

Another alternative is to get a Skype account, and call them from your computer using a headset with microphone. For about $2.95 you can call any phone number (calling another skype account is free) and then you could use the program “Pamela” to record the call. Pamela works seamlessly with Skype, automatically generating the recording when you call. The file is saved on your computer as an easy to use MP3 file. The free version of Pamela lets you record for up to 15 minutes at a time. You can always restart another recording after 15 minutes, or purchase the software for unlimited recording length.

Janice’s response to my advice: “Oh how exciting. I like the Skype idea. I have discovered so many relatives to that were orphaned this would be a great way to capture their lost stories. Thanks a million!”

More Tips for Interviewing Relatives

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastWould you like some tips on how to contact and interview long-lost relatives? Check out these two episodes of the FREE Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast:

Episode 14: How to Contact Long-Lost RelativesConnecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that first call. In this episode, we chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has mastered the art of “genealogical cold calling” by conducting hundreds of telephone interviews.

Episode 15: More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives. In today’s episode we talk more about “genealogical cold calling” with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying.

Create a Family History Website with Your Tree

tree_of_knowledge_book_drop_500_wht_489Recently I heard from David with this question:

“Because of your consistent message of starting a family blog [and] anecdotal success from listeners, I started a family history website. A blog just seemed too small….  The ultimate goal is to display the family information for my known relatives as well as create a site that will pop up on Google search results and hopefully put me in contact with new relatives.

My question is about displaying the family tree on the website.  I want to have a page that shows my family tree.  I did not know how to accomplish that, so I decided to include links to my ancestry and myheritage family trees.  The problem with this method is that ancestry requires you to have an account to view the tree, and MyHeritage only shows you some of the family tree and requires an account to view the rest.  This is not a great method to share the family tree with relatives because not everyone has, or wants, an account with these sites.  Is there a website where I can upload my family tree’s GEDCOM file and then link to it on my website where it will display all the members of my tree?”

Mailbox question from Beginning Genealogist

It’s always great to hear that Genealogy Gems is helping out. Congrats on the website David! I recommend blogs to my readers because they are quicker and easier to set up, but in reality I would rather recommend they create a family history website like you are doing. It’s better suited for the long haul of getting your word out and connecting with others.

You pose a great question, and so I did what I just coached everyone in my latest episode #171 to do: just Google it! What you are describing is a ‘website plugin’ so I Googled: family tree website plugin and…Ta-da! There are some out there.

I found one for Word Press (which is where I build my site) so I may have to give that one a try. However, since you are using Weebly I went back and added “weebly” to the search and there are definitely some hits there, though I’m not sure if they specifically include a visual tree plug in. Try the searches and see if you find something you like.

My friend Caroline Pointer has a YouTube video called “Build a Family History Website & Blog on Weebly.” Around the 5:50 mark she shows how she embedded family tree charts into Weebly. Looks like she used Scribd.

Keep up the great work on your family history site!

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!