May 28, 2016

How to Create Captivating Family History Videos – New Video Series

family history video documentsFamily history videos can captivate the non-genealogists in your family. In this step-by-step video series I’m going to show you how to create them quickly and easily!

If you’ve spent some time researching your family history, your discoveries probably look like this: old documents like census records and death certificates – not exactly exciting stuff to your kids and grand kids. And yet they are the ones you hope to pass your family’s history on to.

animoto family history videosThe truth is that the non-genealogists in your family may not be all that captivated by the same things you are. You can solve the “boring genealogy” problem with a tech tool that will help you create fabulous and captivating family history videos.  It’s called Animoto. It’s super-fast and incredibly easy, and no special skills are required.

(Full disclosure: The links I provide in this article are affiliate links, but if you follow me then you know that I only recommend and provide links for services I use myself and think are “Gems.” Use our exclusive coupon code lisa20 to get 20% off now through 12/31/16)

There are many wonderful opportunities to share videos:

  • Birthdays, Weddings, & Anniversaries
  • Family Reunions
  • Holidays
  • Facebook and other social media
  • Your own genealogy website or blog

Riveting Family History Videos

Creating digital video can be intimidating. In the past I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on video editing software, and then invested hours trying to learn how to use it. When my eldest daughter got married, I offered to create a short (5 minute) video to show prior to the ceremony. My goal was simple: create a heart-warming look back at the bride and groom and how they found each other, including old photos, nice fading transitions, a few home movie video clips, and a favorite song.  That short video took 3 days to create! It’s that kind of financial and time investment that keeps so many of us from attempting family history videos.

Animoto is a game changer! If you can…

  • click
  • copy
  • paste

…you can use Animoto to create family history videos.

I want you to see what Animoto can do to help you share your genealogy research through riveting family history videos. In this first video we’re going to lay the ground work for the story you’re going to tell in your video. In fact, you’ll probably find that this step takes longer than actually creating the video! Click the video below to watch Episode One of my series Creating Captivating Family History Videos. Then click here to head to my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Click the SUBSCRIBE button to get all new upcoming free videos.

How To Pronounce Names: Google Translate and Name Pronunciation Tools

how do you pronounce thatCheck out these 3 free online tools that help with how to pronounce names.

Recently, I heard from a Genealogy Gems listener in The Netherlands, who shared research tips for those starting to trace Dutch ancestors. I wanted to mention his email on my free Genealogy Gems podcast, but I didn’t know how to pronounce his name, Niek.

There have been other times I wished I knew how to pronounce names of ancestors or distant cousins, or other foreign words. Here are 3 free online tools that can help. They’re each a little different. I’m giving you all three so you can run the name through more than one site to be even more confident you’re getting the right pronunciation.

1. Google Translate is a powerful, free tool I use for quick translation look-ups. Google Translate now has an audio tool for some languages that will pronounce the words you enter. Look for the speaker icon in the bottom left corner of the translate box and click it:

Google Translate how to pronounce Niek

Google Translate is an awesome free tool for other reasons, too–click here to read about one of its qualities that actually got a gasp out of the audience when I mentioned it in a lecture.

how to pronounce niek2. Forvo describes itself as “the largest pronunciation guide in the world, the place where you´ll find millions of words pronounced in their original languages.” It’s like a pronunciation wiki. A quick search for “Niek” gave me the result shown here. I clicked on “Pronunciation by MissAppeltaart” to hear how that contributor (who is from The Netherlands) said that name. By the way, you can contribute your own pronunciations by clicking on “Pronounce” to see a list of words that are waiting to be recorded.

niek at pronounce names3. Pronounce Names gives you visual cues for pronouncing a name, which is helpful for those who aren’t sure they heard an audio pronunciation correctly. This is what it looks like when you ask for a name pronunciation for Niek.

More Free Online Tools–These are Gems!

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records OnlineTry These 2 Powerful Online Tools for Finding Genealogy Records

New Online Property Map Tools for U.S. Genealogy Research

Compare Look-Alikes in Your Family with This Facial Recognition Web App

NGS 2016: FREE Lectures at the Genealogy Gems Booth

Picture3 ngs 2016

Back by popular demand: free Genealogy Gems sessions in the NGS 2016 exhibitor hall. Fabulous speakers, prizes and a free e-book to everyone who comes!

After a fabulous response last year, Genealogy Gems will once again host FREE presentations in the exhibitor hall at the National Genealogical Society conference on May 4-6, 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale.

If you’re attending NGS 2016, check out the 30-minute power sessions below, being taught by powerhouse presenters Lisa Louise Cooke, Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard and Family Tree Magazine writers Lisa Alzo and Jim Beidler. You’ve heard them on the Genealogy Gems podcast and the Family Tree Magazine podcast and you’ve read their work in the magazine and on this blog: now come see them in person!

schedule NGS 2016

mobile device for genealogyThese smaller free sessions at our booth (#228) offer a great way to meet these top speakers and hear them teach their most popular topics. Because these sessions have been standing-room-only at recent conferences, this year we have created a brand new Genealogy Gems Theater with MORE room to sit and enjoy each session. When you attend, you can sign up for a free e-book with all the session handouts and enter to win a fabulous grand prize, too.

Click here to check out the full Genealogy Gems Theater schedule, see an exhibit room map and download a schedule and prize entry form.

NGS 2016 official social media badge

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 190: Missing Person’s Case SOLVED!

GGP 190In the just-published, free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 190, hear from a genealogist who helped lay to rest a 30-year old missing-person’s case–and so much more.

Don’t you love it when everyday heroes help the experts solve baffling mysteries? I especially love it when that hero is a genealogist who wields research skills with deftness, creativity and bulldog tenacity. Has Lisa Louise Cooke got a story for us!

Scott Fisher, Extreme Genes

Scott Fisher, Extreme Genes

In the new Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 190, Lisa interviews Extreme Genes radio host Scott Fisher about his now-famous role in helping to solve a 30-year old missing persons case. He’s told this story to People, FoxNews and CBS.com, but here Lisa gets Scott to really lay out the details of how he did it for fellow researchers.

There’s more to love in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 190, such as:

  • Lisa advises a listener on a pesky Gmail problem;
  • A whirlwind world tour of new genealogy records online;
  • Searching out military service details with Google Books;
  • One RootsTech attendee’s Google search success story
  • the new Genealogy Gems Book Club title, a brand-new, much-anticipated second novel by a breakout British novelist.

GGP thanks for sharingClick here to listen to the episode for FREE (no membership or login required).

Not sure what a podcast is or how to listen? Click here to learn more about these “online radio shows” that you can take with you on your mobile device. Listen while you commute, exercise, do your household chores or garden.

TV’s Who Do You Think You Are? #WDYTYA Starts Tomorrow

aisha tyler wdytya

It’s time for a new season of Who Do You Think You Are? here in the U.S. Episode one features comedian and actress Aisha Tyler (Archer, Ghost Whisper.)

According to TLC, Aisha “tracks down her 2x great-grandfather, whose story had been lost over generations, and uncovers an astonishing tale of a prominent ancestor whose struggle to keep his illegitimate son a secret made headlines.”

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store tomorrow:

The new season of Who Do You Think You Are? premieres Sunday, April 3 at 9/8c

The contributors featured in the upcoming season include:

  • Scott Foley finds a relative who risked his life for one of America’s founding fathers, and an ancestor who suffered unspeakably during one of this nation’s darkest times.
  • Lea Michele nails down where her mysterious paternal ancestors came from, and learns of the dire economic circumstances they endured while trying to emigrate to the U.S.
  • Chris Noth learns his ancestors suffered during one of the greatest catastrophes in American history, and a relative who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of all time.
  • Molly Ringwald explores family lore of Swedish royalty which uncovers her ancestors’ harrowing lives and a brave woman who forever changed her family’s fate.
  • Katey Sagal is shocked to learn of her family’s Amish roots, and digs deeper as she realizes the level of dedication to their faith.

 

What Ancestry’s Retirement of Family Tree Maker Software Means for You

I think this is a long post, but this is an extremely important topic. I hope you will invest the time to read it through to the end.

Family Tree Maker Discontinued

I travel the world presenting sessions on a wide range of genealogy topics. One of the presentations that is most near and dear to my heart is called  Future Technology and Genealogy – 5 Strategies You Need. In it I not only outline 5 strategies that genealogists can use to cope and thrive in an ever-changing technological world, but I share 3 major areas that I believe genealogists should be aware of as we move into the future. One of those is the desktop moving to the Cloud.

Certainly Adobe and Microsoft have already moved that direction by discontinuing physical software sales and moving to a Cloud based subscription service. But the desktop moving to the Cloud has been a more subtle transition in the genealogy space. Today, however, our industry was hit between the eyes with this new reality.

retirement pocket watchAncestry has announced the “retirement” of one of the cornerstone products in genealogy, the Family Tree Maker desktop software. 

I couldn’t help but think that Ancestry was striving to paint a picture of Family Tree Maker as Charles Coburn (in black and white of course) in his classic double-breasted suit, gold watch in hand, walking off into the sunset in a Jean Arthur movie. Perhaps it would be more accurate to visualize him being pushed out. Let’s start with the announcment that Ancestry released on their blog late Tuesday December 8, 2015, and then we’ll probe deeper:

Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software
By Kendall Hulet

Ancestry is proud to have made a significant investment this year to bring valuable new content and records to the Ancestry site. In 2015, we’ve made 220 million searchable historical records from Mexico available, more than 170 million pages from the largest collection of U.S. will and probate records, among others. We’ve also introduced new features such as Ancestry Academy and major advancements for AncestryDNA.

We remain dedicated to helping people gain new levels of understanding about their lives, and who and what led to them, harnessing the information found in family trees, historical records and genetics. As a company, we’re also continually evaluating ways to focus our efforts to provide the most impact and best product experience for our users through our core offerings.

True to this focus, we’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide product enhancements and support that our users need. With that, we’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.

Our subscription business and website, on the other hand, continue to grow and we are doubling down our efforts to make that experience even better for our Ancestry community.

Ancestry will continue to support current owners of Family Tree Maker through January 1, 2017. During this time, all features of the software, including TreeSync™, will continue to work, and Member Services will be available to assist with user questions. We will also address major software bugs that may occur, as well as compatibility updates.

These changes are never easy, but by focusing our efforts, we can concentrate on continuing to build great products for our loyal Ancestry community.

If you have inquiries regarding Family Tree Maker, please reach out to our Member Services team. We’ll also provide updates on our blog as needed leading up to January 1, 2017.”

What this Means for Genealogists

In reality, I would wager to guess that this move is a cold, calculated business strategy, not a warm and sentimental retirement. And that’s OK. Business is good. If Ancestry didn’t do well in business, we wouldn’t have such easy and convenient access to all those records.

Discontinuing Family Tree Maker is a strategic move. The goal is it to get everyone from family history “dabblers” to seasoned genealogists to enter their family tree data directly onto a family tree housed on the Ancestry website. This puts them in the drivers seat.

It is keenly important to understand what is really happening so that you can make the wisest decisions possible for the life of your genealogical research. Our family trees are not Ancestry’s responsibility, or anyone elses for that matter. They are our responsibilities, and we need to be as calculated and ruthless in protecting them as any savvy CEO.

We must understand that it is more profitable for Ancestry to quit producing software CDs, and all that packaging to put the CDs in. It’s more profitable to stop employing and paying employees to ship all those CDs. Digital content is more profitable and easier for a company to control. But is that the whole story?

Absolutely not. Information is King, and it is valuable. Your genealogical information is financially valuable to genealogy companies. (Read Ancestry’s Terms of Service to refresh yourself on what they can do with your information.) Think AncestryDNA is only about your ancestry? You must understand that it is not. Aggregated data is sold in the marketplace to other companies. (Read this article at Wired.com about one partnership Ancestry has with the Google-owned biotech company Calico.)

Not to say it is not a worthwhile effort on your part to get your DNA tested – it certainly may be. But that DNA data has dollar signs written all over it. It is valuable. But today isn’t about DNA, so let’s get back to Family Tree Maker and your tree. How do you, the genealogist, retain control in this environment? Take on a “genealogist-protected approach” to your data.

The Genealogist-Protected Approach

Step 1: Purchase a new genealogy software database program and load it on your computer. I recommend and use RootstMagic software. RootsMagic is excellent, reliable and extremely well supported. Click here to read how they are ready to help you in our transition.

Step 2: Back up your entire computer with a Cloud-based backup service. This is critical to protecting and retaining control of your data. I recommend and use Backblaze. (Here’s an article I wrote that will give you a compelling reason not to skip this step.)

Full disclosure: RootsMagic and Backblaze are sponsors  of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. This is primarily because I use the products myself and have been impressed and satisfied with their products. Regardless of which products you choose, just be sure you put the Genealogist-Protected Approach into action.

I have stated numerous times in presentations, on the podcast, and here on the blog that I view family trees on Ancestry and other websites as “cousin bait” not primary family tree storage. Rather than upload my entire tree, I upload that for which I want to generate “genealogical leads.” My master tree and master database file is on my computer in RootsMagic, backed up by Backblaze.

You might be one of the many genealogists who has thoroughly enjoyed having your entire tree on Ancestry, and wonder now how you can get a software program that fully synchronizes with Ancestry. To address this issue, first go back and read the section above under “What this means for genealogists.” Remember, data is BIG business. The truth is that it is not financially beneficial to Ancestry to allow that to happen. They want to be where you house your master family tree. I don’t blame them. But, in my opinion, that’s not in my family tree’s best interest. Therefore, I follow the steps outlined above, and upload a gedcom of what I want circulating publicly in order to generate “leads”: hints and cousin connections.

whining genealogist protected approach paperI believe it is generally going to get harder and harder to retain control over our privacy and our data. We don’t know what the future holds for computer software. But no matter what happens, we as genealogists will still be 100% responsible for what happens to our family trees and our data. There’s no whining in papergenealogy. And last I heard they still produce paper and pencils.

 

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Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #10 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy blog posts Coundown #10I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!

Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3  of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!

I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.

genealogy blog posts countdownWhen I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.AncestryDNA common matches tool

In the #10 genealogy blog post New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…

A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #9 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #9In our continuing series counting down the 10 most popular genealogy blog posts here at Genealogy Gems in the last year, we come to #9 that strives to answer the eternal question: “how are we related?”

I  love getting email and voicemail questions from Genealogy Gems readers and listeners. When you take the time to write, you represent all of the people who didn’t hit “Send.” Our genealogy blog is the perfect vehicle for answering your questions and getting the word about the tools we like best.

A while back Shirley in Austin Texas wrote in to say that she had determined that her great grandmother Caroline’s great grandfather Franz Joseph  was the also the grandfather of her great grandfather Eduard. She wondered if there is a way Genealogy relationship cousin calculatorto easily identify their relationship in relative terms.

Genealogy post #9 in our countdown offered the answer. Read How are We Related? Use a Cousin Calculator  and discover a simple, easy online tool that I offered up.

Do You Have These 5 Free Family History Apps? You Should!

custom_app_icon_15153Looking for family history apps? Check out these recent recommendations.

Recently Diane Haddad over at Family Tree Magazine featured 5 fun family history apps on the Genealogy Insider blog. She kindly shared them with us. (Thanks, Diane!)

1. Today In History provides headlines, quotes and images of important historical events from today’s date in history. It’s available for iPad and Android (Diane had to keyword-search its creator, Downshift LLC, to find it in the Android App Store).

2. Streetmuseum from the Museum of London lets you see the streets of your London ancestors. Select a destination from a London map or use your GPS to locate an image near you. Hold your camera up to the present day street scene and see the same London location from years ago on your screen. Information buttons give you historical facts. It’s available for iPad and Android.

Battle app3. Civil War Battle Apps from the Civil War Trust are GPS-enabled guides to 17 well-known Civil War battles. Use them at the battlefield for a self-guided tour or remotely for a virtual tour. The battle maps show your location on the battlefield, and many have time-phased maps that show where Union and Confederate units were located at key moments. You also can see videos with experts and hear accounts from those who fought. These are available for iPad and Android.

4. Biblion: The Boundless Library from the New York Public Library draws on the library’s records, photos, ephemera and other archival collections to take you on a tour of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. (A second edition of Biblion covers the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)  Available for iPad.

5. History Here, a location-based app from the History Channel, lets you learn about thousands of historical places all over the United States. You can let your GPS set your location to learn about nearby historic sites, or choose any location in the app. Available for iPad and Android.

ipad for genealogy FTM kitWe love these family history app recommendations! Family Tree Magazine sells a great Maximize your iPad for Genealogy Kit on their website, which includes a webinar I did for them called “iPad: Your Ultimate Genealogy Tool” and an e-book version of my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.

More Resources from Genealogy Gems on Mobile Genealogy:


mobile genealogy bookMobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research (2016 print book)

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

Video: Genealogy on the Go with the iPad (Premium website subscription required)

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