October 7, 2015

Here’s How You Can Bring Your Family History to a Big Screen: How to Use Chromecast

display family history photos on TV with ChromecastHere at Genealogy Gems we love using Google for genealogy. Today we have another exciting Google resource that can transform how you share your genealogy with your family – because ultimately, genealogy is all about sharing your family’s story!

While the mobile device era has made communication and sharing easy and instant, sometimes it’s hard to really see the ‘big picture’ on our tiny screens. And crowding around the computer monitor isn’t much better. Chromecast by Google is a tool that allows you to stream content from your mobile devices and computers directly onto your TV!

You can share slideshows, photos, videos, and more while everyone is seated comfortably in the living room. If you are looking for an easy and inviting way for your family to enjoy all the hard work you put into constructing the family tree, Chromecast is for you. The Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player currently sells for $35 and takes a mere 5 to 10 minutes to set up.

Even though I’m Lisa’s daughter, I am not a techie person at all, so if I can do it in just a few minutes without help, you can too!


How to Use Chromecast
After you’ve completed the initial set up, simply open the app you want to stream (YouTube, for example) and tap the Chromecast icon. Streaming is now enabled. (Chromecast primarily works over wifi, but Google recently announced that Ethernet cables are now available as an alternative.)

While streaming, you control the app functions on your mobile device or computer. For example, if you’re streaming a movie from the Netflix app on your iPad, you would play, pause, and make your selections directly on your iPad. If you want to switch back to viewing on your mobile device (or simply stop streaming), tap the Chromecast icon again.

Dozens of photo and video apps are compatible with Chromecast and all are listed on their website. Here are a few that I think genealogists will really enjoy, and they’re all available on both The App Store and Google Play:

photosPhoto Cast for Chromecast
Premium Upgrades – $2.99 and up

albums for Google ChromecastWhen you open the app, you can view all the photos and videos (including TV shows or movies you may have purchased) on your device. You can also create slideshows by picking individual photos or entire albums and adding songs from your music library. Then tap the Chromecast icon to instantly stream to your TV. It has four viewing modes available. Photo streaming has very little lag, but video streaming could take a little longer to load, depending on your wifi speeds. Multiple devices can stream to the same TV, and slideshows can continue to play on the TV while you use your mobile device for other tasks.

chromecast goog;e slidesGoogle Slides
Google Slides is an ideal tool for Chromecast because it is linked directly to your Google account. I recommend using Google Slides from your laptop or desktop because you can pull pictures from your hard drive (or anywhere – you’re not limited only to the pictures on your mobile device). And personally I find I can work much more efficiently with a full mouse and keyboard for this kind of project. You can create a wonderfully detailed and multi-media slide show or presentation. Then, download the app to your mobile device and your presentations will be accessible there as well. I find streaming from your tablet works a little better than streaming from your computer, but you can still stream from a computer as long as it’s connected to wifi and is close enough to the TV to detect Chromecast.

Chromecast youtube iconYouTube
Chromecast youtube app screenChromecast offers you an easy and convenient way to watch videos from our Genealogy Gems YouTube channel and other favorites on your TV! Open the YouTube app and tap the Chromecast icon. Browse videos as usual. When you select one to watch, it will stream to your TV with no loss of video or audio quality. You can also create a TV queue, specifically for videos you want to watch on the big screen. Tap on a video and a pop-up will ask to either play it or add it to your TV queue. The best part? YouTube will continue to play your video on your TV even if you minimize the app on your device to do other tasks. Before you finish your viewing session, be sure to tap the Subscribe button at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll have easy access to all current and new videos.

Desktop Streaming
Streaming from your desktop browser is another great feature. Anything you are viewing on your browser (videos, audio, website content, etc.) can be projected to your TV. You will need the current version of the Chrome web browser, as well as the Chromecast extension installed. In my personal experience I found streaming video from my browser to be a bit slow and choppy, but results may vary based on browser settings and wifi speeds. It’s worth a try, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this technology continues to evolve and improve.

TIP: How to Update Chrome
Normally, Chrome updates automatically in the background when you open and close your browser. But here’s how to check if you have the most current version of Chrome:

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. In the top right, click the Chrome menu
  3. Click About Google Chrome.
  4. The current version number is the series of numbers beneath the “Google Chrome” heading. Chrome will check for updates when you’re on this page.
  5. Click Relaunch to apply any available update.

Another cool thing about Chromecast:
Once you have Chromecast set up, your devices will detect any Chromecast that is nearby, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. So if you’re at a family member’s home and they have Chromecast, you can stream from your device to their TV as well! Can you say “time to share the latest version of the family tree?”

Again, as a non-techie I found Chromecast to be very user-friendly, and a huge value for the price. There are loads of fun apps to explore (music, podcasts, interactive games, and even a karaoke app!). Happy streaming!

thanks youre a gemP.S. If you decide to purchase Chromecast, will you please use this link? Purchasing through our site supports the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.

U.S. Passport Applications for Genealogy: Find Immigrant and Traveling Ancestors

passport applicationsHave you ever thought to use passport applications for genealogy–to search for your immigrant or traveling ancestors?

Passports were issued in the U.S. beginning in the late 1700s, but weren’t required except during times of war until 1941. These records can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival, the arrival ship and date of naturalization (if naturalized).

Two Quick Tips for Researching U.S. Passports for Genealogy

  • Passports expired every few years, so people reapplied. You may find multiple applications for those who traveled abroad more than once. Subsequent applications will refer back to a prior one.
  • In earlier years, look for married women and minor children in group passports issued under the name of the head of household.

Where to Find Passport Applications

Passports Genealogy


A Page of History: Passport Applications  by Phil Golfarb

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124 interview with author Phil Goldfarb on the history of passport applications and celebrity passport stories. Available to Genealogy Gems Premium members.

Family History Made Easy podcast for free, step-by-step beginner and back-to-basics genealogy education

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Write Your Family History: A Printed Book or Digital Archive?

print v digital archive write your family historyIt’s time (maybe past time!) to write your family history. Should you write a book or throw everything into a digital archive?

Recently Joyce attended a genealogy conference I taught that was sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System. She wrote to us that she went home with a newly-resolved plan for how to write her family history:

“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak. I learned a lot also. There was a question asked at the conference that I had also thought a lot about: how to leave your legacy to your family. With technology changing every day, I have decided that the old-fashioned way is probably the best. Technology will not change the fact that we can sit down to a paper book. So I will keep my CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; however, I will print out books for my family to have, whether they have access to the computer or not.


A Combination Approach

I certainly agree that paper and books are certainly a solution for genealogical information being accessible for generations to come. I like a combination approach. Since paper can deteriorate and become damaged like anything else, having a cloud back up service (I use Backblaze) and digital items like flash drives is also a good plan.

Part of leaving a legacy also involves finding ways to share that help the next generations (particularly those not interested in research) understand the value of the family tree. That’s where a Google Earth “family history tour” or other innovative sharing comes into play. If you can click click, copy, and paste, you can create an exciting multi-media story that looks like a video game that will captivate the next generation!  (Learn how to create a Google Earth family history tour in my 2-volume Google Earth for Genealogy CD). The combination of sharing the info in fascinating ways and preserving the info in reliable multiple formats is a comprehensive strategy for the future!


How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-Free Life

Recommended File Formats for Long-Term Digital Preservation

Why I Use and Recommend Backblaze Cloud-based Computer Backup Service

email thisReady to make your own plan to write your family history and preserve it digitally? Share your resolve–along with this post–with someone else! Use the handy icons at the top of the page to share on Facebook, Pinterest or your favorite social media site, or email the link to this article to a friend. Thanks!

Don’t Lose Control When You Post Your Family Tree Online

Online tree out of controlWhen you post your family tree online at multiple websites, it’s easy to lose track of changes you make at each one. Maintaining a master family tree on your own computer can help solve that problem.

Recently Gems podcast listener Louis wrote in with a question many of us face. He recently purchased RootsMagic 7 software to keep track of his family tree, but he’s still finding it difficult to corral all his data in one place. Here’s the problem, he says:

“I have my family tree splattered everywhere: FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Ancestry. I’m afraid of losing control of my tree and would like some advice on keeping things straight. Each of the sites I go on seem to offer different information, so I started posting tree information on different sites. Can you offer any suggestions that I can use to centralize my data across different sites?”

I can fully appreciate Louis’ situation. Here’s a quick summary of how I keep my family tree organized all in one place.

Websites come and go, as we know, so I look at my RootsMagic database on my computer as my MASTER database and tree. This kind of approach lets you post your family tree online but not lose control of it!

When I post GEDCOM files of my family tree on other websites (what’s a GEDCOM?), I do so to try and connect with cousins and gain research leads. With that in mind, I upload only the portion of the tree for which I want to generate those connections and leads. In other words, I don’t put my entire GEDCOM on each site (MyHeritage, Ancestry, etc.) because I don’t want to get bogged down with requests and alerts for far flung branches that I’m not focused on researching right now. To do this I make a copy of my database, edit it to fit my research, and then upload it.

As I find documents and data on these websites, I may “attach” them to the tree on that site, but I always download a copy and retain that on my computer and make note of it in RootsMagic. That way I retain control of my tree and my sources.

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyAnd of course the final step is to back up my computer so everything is safe and secure. I do that with Backblaze (the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast) and you can click here to learn more about their service for my listeners.

In the end, it is my family tree and history. I want to keep ownership of it on my own computer, even when I share parts of it online.


RootsMagic the Master GenealogistBest Genealogy Software: Which You Should Choose and Why

RootsMagic Update for FamilySearch Compatibility

Free RootsMagic Guides

Family Tree Builder for Mac

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(Full Disclosure: Some of the websites mentioned and links provided in our articles are for sponsors of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. They are sponsors because we think they are terrific and use the products ourselves. We include affiliate links for your convenience and appreciate when you use them because they help keep The Genealogy Gems Podcast available for free. Thank you!) 

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Here’s a simple solution for making additions to an existing web clipping in Evernote.

By CBS Television (eBay item photo front press release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever clipped something with Evernote and realized after the fact that you would like to copy and paste additional information (such as a genealogical source citation) to the clipping?

Carolyn wrote me recently when she ran into this problem of how to add text to a web clipping in Evernote: “I clipped a wedding document from FamilySearch to Evernote Notebook [and] added URL to dropdown menu. But where can I add the citation that is given on FS document page?

I tried copy/paste but…back at Evernote, nowhere to paste citation.  I like to document everything I use in my family records, so this is important to me…I enjoy using Evernote and following your tutorials that came with my (Genealogy Gems Premium website) membership. I have been using Evernote for just two weeks.”

Carolyn, I’m thrilled to hear that source citation is important to you, because it is the backbone of solid genealogical research! Here’s a simple solution.

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote:

1. In Evernote, click once on the web clipping in the existing note

2. Press the right arrow key on your keyboard (you will see that now there is a big flashing cursor to the right of the clipped image)

3. Press the Enter key on your keyboard (just like a Return on a typewriter, your cursor has now moved one line below your clipping.)

4. Type or paste copied source citation as desired.

5. Use the formatting options at the top of the note to change the font size, type, and color, etc.

6. Click the INFO icon to see and add more data as desired (such as the original URL of the webpage where you clipped the item.)

How to add text to a web clipping in Evernote


Click here to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy.

Did you find How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote helpful? It’s easy to share it by clicking any of the social media icons at on this post. And we feel all happy inside here at Genealogy Gems when you do – thanks for being a Gem!

WDYTYA? Premieres Sunday, July 26 at 9/8c

WDYTYA? Who do you think you are Jennifer GoodwinActress Ginnifer Goodwin (from ABC’s Once Upon A Time) knew nothing about her paternal grandfather John Barton Goodwin’s family because he refused to talk about his parents. In the premiere episode of the brand new season of TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? she goes on a journey to uncover the truth behind her great-grandparents’ story, and is shocked to discover turbulent lives filled with court cases, drugs and incarcerations.

Like many new moms, Ginnifer became even more interested in learning about her family history after the birth of her son, Oliver. In this episode, she starts her search for information with her dad, Tim, who recalls that his father’s parents were named Nellie and John “Al” Goodwin, and that for some unknown reason, John Barton (Tim’s dad) was abandoned when he was just 11 years old. The last time he did any research, Tim found a 1910 Census return in which Nellie, Al and John Barton are living in Batesville, Arkansas.  Ginnifer wonders what could have happened for Nellie to have let an 11 year old leave her home, and heads to Arkansas to see if she can find some answers with the help of some very talented genealogists.


Local records in Batesville reveal that Nellie’s maiden name was Haynes, and a search for her marriage record returns a result for Nellie and a man named J.D. Williams, and another great grandfather Al Goodwin!

Ginnifer wondered what happened with Nellie’s first marriage that she eventually married Al Goodwin. Was Nellie a young widow?  The local genealogist explains that death records of this time are incomplete and advises Ginnifer to visit the Independence County Courthouse to search for evidence for the other alternative to the end of a marriage: divorce records.

Next week: We’ll share some additional discoveries not covered in Ginnifer’s episode. Stay tuned!

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood? Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Google Earth Jones St neighborhood

Jones Street, Olyphant, PA, 1910. Image courtesy of Michael Grayson.

When Lisa blogged recently about Google Earth’s 10th birthday, it reminded me of something on my family history “to do” list. A few years ago I found a postcard of what I thought was an ancestor’s neighborhood. Could Google Earth confirm it?

Lisa uses Google Earth’s powerful 3D renderings of the world’s streets to identify where old pictures were taken. I knew from deeds, a plat map, and addresses on censuses and draft registrations that the O’Hotnicky lived on a certain block of Jones St. (now named Grant St.), around the corner from and behind Holy Ghost church.

This postcard of “Jones Street, Olyphant” looks like its viewpoint is from the end of the block behind the church. This would mean the tall tree shown here was shading–and blocking our view of–the O’Hotnicky home.

Olyphant view Google EarthI opened Google Earth and flew to “117 Grant St, Olyphant, PA.” The initial view, hovering from above, was promising. The camera icon shows where I thought the photo was taken. The left arrow points to the former line of trees, in front of the ancestral address. The right arrow points to the church tower behind.

Unfortunately, when I enter Street View at that exact spot, the new church on the corner and a tall apartment building block the view that would have been seen a century ago. There is no Street View available on Grant Street itself so I couldn’t move up the street toward the church. So I moved into Street View along the side street (parallel to the bottom of the photo).

In the opening between two buildings, Google Earth gave me a glimpse of the church tower. I compared the postcard view with Google Earth’s photo. The church towers look so similar: a simple cross on top, pointed copper roof, arched tower and the building roof line. Even more striking to me is the white frame house. Was this the same white house shown in the postcard view?Olyphant detail view Google Earth

These two visuals taken together–the church tower profile and the position of the white house–seem consistent with my theory of where the photo was taken. Which means that yes, indeed, this 1910 postcard shows the trees in front of an ancestor’s home as they appeared 105 years ago.

Google Earth can fly you to an ancestor’s neighborhood–and whatever clues its current landscape gives you into the landscape of the past. Click here to watch Lisa’s free video about using Google Earth for genealogy!


NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club Title: Pioneer Girl (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Pioneer Girl Book ClubWhen Lisa and I were young we read the “Little House” series of children’s books about growing up on the western U.S. frontier. These books continue to shape the way Lisa and I imagine our ancestors’ lives during that era. Well, the “grown-up” version of the Little House series has finally been published!

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, is our newest Genealogy Gems Book Club. It’s the never-before-published autobiography Laura wrote in the 1930s. The stories and memories she shares in it are the basis for her  popular Little House children’s series.

Across the cover of a dime store paper tablet, Laura scrawled “Pioneer Girl.” Then she filled it with detailed recollections of family, and neighbors, wagon trains and homesteads. In other words, memories of pioneering in an American West that was fading away. Her stories will intrigue–and sometimes stun–any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.

In the Book Club announcement in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 181, I asked Lisa what makes this book a standout and a prime candidate for genealogists. Her answer? “The immaculate research that went into it. The stunning example it sets for source citations, which consume large portions of most of the pages. And the often never seen before photos sprinkled throughout that bring the people and times to life visually for the reader.”

Look for more on Pioneer Girl in the coming two months on the Genealogy Gems podcast and website. In September, Genealogy Gems Premium members will get to enjoy Lisa’s full interview with editor Pamela Smith Hill. We’ll play an excerpt on the free Genealogy Gems podcast.

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family HistoryWant to see more great titles we’ve recommended? Click here to access the Genealogy Gems Book Club, with best-selling titles: fiction, memoir, history and family histories. OR click here to see our growing list of how-to genealogy titles we love and have featured on Genealogy Gems in the past.

Here’s What Evernote Can and Can’t Do for Family History

Evernote_fileRecently Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Rosie wrote in with an Evernote question:

“I really enjoy listening to your podcasts. Thanks so much for all your efforts. As a long time researcher I always wondered how the Hunt family got from New England to Ohio around 1800. Not too long ago another researcher found some autobiographical sketches written by Thomas W. Hunt in the Library of Congress. They posted it on Ancestry.com and another researcher sent me the linkI am still trying to figure out Evernote but I am wondering if there is a way to transcribe the sketches from PDF format with this tool.

Good for Rosie for considering her options for how technology might be able to make the task at hand just a little bit easier!

genealogy transcription to Evernote OCRCurrently you must have an Evernote Premium account in order for your PDF documents to be keyword searchable or to annotate PDFs directly. The pdf document that Rosie was hoping to automatically transcribe with optical character recognition (OCR) is in cursive handwriting. Evernote can apply OCR to simple, clear printing, but it can’t read script, especially fancier writing such as this Thomas Hunt sketch or old German script and handwriting.
That would require ICR, or intelligent character recognition, and that technology is still emerging and isn’t widely available to consumers yet.
The Solution: Evernote doesn’t transcribe documents. To get the genealogical content from the sketches into Evernote, Rosie will need to start a new Evernote note and re-type the documents herself. Once that is done, then Evernote can apply OCR to the note and the typed transcription will be keyword-searchable.
A Solution for Type and Printing if you aren’t an Evernote Premium user:
If you are fortunate enough to discover a long-sought after genealogical document such as Rosie did, and your PDF document is typed text or simple, neat printing then you are in luck. There are free conversion tools available online that can do the trick. I use ConvertOnlineFree.com to convert my PDF document to text. I like it because I can use the tool directly from the web without having to download software to my computer.
PDF to Text Converter Evernote OCR
(As with all tools we discuss here you’ll need to do your own homework and decide if it is right for you.)
I simply:

1. click the Choose File
2. select the PDF file I want to convert from my computer
Ultimate Evernote Education abbreviated3. click the Convert button
4. save the converted file to my computer
5. copy and paste the text into a new note in Evernote, and OCR does the rest.


How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: The Ultimate Education

Evernote for Genealogy laminated quick reference guide, available for for both Windows and Mac users. This guide is handy for everyday reference, and it’s packed with time saving tips you can use every day in your genealogy research.

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote 

share notes with evernoteIt’s nice to share
Do you know other genealogists who use Evernote? Why not share this post with them?  Use our handy social media buttons at the top of this post, or copy the and paste the URL into an email. Your friends will thank you!

How to Unsend Gmail email message

Unsend gmail email messag
Have you ever clicked the Send button on an email message only to seconds later have a wave of regret fall over you? At a moment like that it would be very helpful to know how to unsend Gmail email messages. At one time or another we have all left out vital information, or sometimes worse, said too much. Now you can change your mind and undo what you did!

On June 22, 2015 Google announced the Undo Send feature for Gmail on the Web. By default the Undo Send feature is turned off (that is unless you are already using the Labs version.) To flip the switch and start undoing your sends, simply:

1) Click the Settings gear in Gmail

2) Under the General tab, scroll down until you see Undo Send

3) Click to check the Enable Undo Send box

4) From the drop down menu select how much time you will have to decide to unsend an email message

how to unsend gmail email message

5) Scroll down the General Settings page and be sure to click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen to activate your unsend Gmail email selection.

Save unsend gmail email messageNow if you want to unsend Gmail email messages you will be able to do so for the short amount of time you specified (in my example I selected 30 seconds)

unsend email in Gmail

Unsend Gmail email and get it right – the second time!

How to use Google for Genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition features an entire chapter on using Gmail effectively.