July 6, 2015

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).

 

Technology United These Long-Lost Siblings 90 Years Ago!

radioIt’s common to hear of long-lost relatives who rediscover each other online or through DNA tests. But nearly 100 years ago, another new technology–the radio–united a pair of long-lost siblings 40 years after one ran away.

This newspaper article reports that Alonso Jones’ children were sitting around one day in 1926 listening to the radio. Then they heard the announcer say, “Alonso Jones, wherever you are, listen…Your sister wants to see you at Worthington, Ohio. She has not seen or heard from you in forty years. You were born at Antiquity, Meigs County, Ohio, at the time of the Civil War….”

“You were reared by Captain William Roberts, an Ohio River flat boat man. You went with him on a produce boat when you were a boy and ran away while the boat was lying at the bank in Arkansas.” The article reports that the man telegraphed his sister and arranged to meet her.  What a great story! And what a great family history find for anyone researching Alonso Jones or his sister, Mrs. Robert Eakin, or his guardian, William Roberts!

Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at Ancestry.com.

Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at Ancestry.com.

This article illustrates two fantastic tips for newspaper searching.

FIRST, I originally found this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, digitized at Ancestry. I was struck because the story was about people from Ohio and Arkansas–not Salt Lake. As we still see today, local news stories of the past were often reported in other cities. When searching digitized newspapers, don’t automatically discount search results that otherwise seem right but appear in out-of-town papers. 

SECOND, curious about this story, I used Lisa’s search strategies from her book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox to search for more information about the people mentioned in the article. I got a hit on a possible match for the riverboat caption. I also found that the Google News Archive had this same article in The Evening Independent in St. Petersburg, Florida (shown above). The copy above is much clearer to read and slightly different. For these reasons, it can sometimes be worth looking for duplicates of news articles and/or obituaries for your relatives.

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersWant to learn more? Genealogy Gems Premium members can also listen to Premium podcast episodes GGP 36 and 3GGP 37 about newspaper searching (Lisa talks about Google News Archive in episode 37). Or get the ultimate scoop in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers! It’s packed with inspiring family history finds in the newspaper and all the tools you need (online and offline) for finding your own.

What’s New with Google? Glad You Asked

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

 

Good: Bolded Answers in Search Results

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

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

 

Better: Free Roaming Abroad

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

Best: Chromebit computer plugs into HDMI port

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

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

 

Organize Digital Family Photos: Free Podcast Interview with Denise Levenick

organize digital family photos

I love Denise Levenick’s “getting started” strategies for digital photo organization in the free May 2015 Family Tree Magazine podcast. I have thousands of digital photos on my computer–and that’s just from the past few years!

how to archive family photosDenise Levenick is the author of The Family Curator blog and the book How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally. Her approach is so practical and forgiving: start where you are. Start small. Take your time. Do a few at a time. Use a consistent and simple file naming and digital file organizing scheme!

Also in this podcast, Editor Diane Haddad chimes into the conversation with 25 keepsake family photo projects. Then host Lisa Louise Cooke wraps up the photo theme with her favorite strategies for navigating the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

 

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastAre you ready for some serious hard drive organization? We can help with that! In our free 2-part series, “Organize Your Genealogy Files,” Lisa shares the system she developed about a decade ago to keep her computer hard drive organized. Her system has withstood the test of time: she’s added thousands more files to her genealogy folders as well as folders that organize “the rest of her life.” Click here to go to these episodes of the Family History Made Easy Podcast, episodes 32-33. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also watch the 2-part Premium video series, “Hard Drive Organization.” You’ll learn similar principles but you can watch Lisa do all that digital organizing right on her computer screen!

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!