1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in “spyglass” format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at DavidRumsey.com.
I love showing people how to use online tools to compare historical maps to modern ones. You can map out your ancestor’s address, check out their neighborhoods “then and now,” map their route to work, see if their old home still exists and more.
Well, the online Smithsonian magazine has created an exciting new interface for six American cities. Now you can compare modern satellite imagery with bird’s-eye views of:
You’ll see great city layouts before the fire that claimed much of old Chicago, the San Francisco earthquake, the Lincoln memorial and more. The historical map of New York City is the oldest, but the other maps capture each city at a critical point in their growth. For each city you can look at a historical map with a “spyglass” mouse-over of a modern satellite image, or vice-versa, as shown in the New York City map on the right. Each map is accompanied by a fantastic Smithsonian article; the historical maps come from the amazing David Rumsey Map Collection.
As many of you know, it’s possible to do something similar (or even better) with Google’s amazing mapping tools. Learn how to do that with these three Genealogy Gems resources:
1. My FREE Google Earth Video, which teaches you how to unlock mysteries in your research, from unidentified photographs to pinpointing homesteads;
3. My new Time Travel with Google Earth video, in which you’ll see old maps, genealogical records, images, and videos come together to create stunning time travel experiences in Google Earth. This is available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members (learn more membership here).
Inbox by Gmail app has some great features and if you’re willing to go all-in and are up for a big change, go for it. If not, here are some ideas for improving your regular Gmail experience.
About a year ago, Google announced the new Inbox by Gmail app. I didn’t cover it then because they had bugs to work out. But, I’ve been keeping an eye on it. It’s a bit overwhelming, however, if you are up for the change here’s a quick video summary of what it does.
As a recap, the Inbox by Gmail app can:
Bundle similar messages for you, like offers and promos;
Recognize emails about travel reservations and bundle those together; and lastly,
It allows you to browse photos in emails without opening the message.
You can also do a lot of housekeeping and organizing tasks yourself. For example, you can:
Pin messages that you want to come back to, then click on a thumbtack icon to show all pinned messages;
Snooze an email message by marking it to pop back up to the top of your list at the time and date you indicate;
Create easy reminder messages for things you need to do; and
Keyword-search your emails just like you do in Google. Sometimes, the search function is even smart enough to answer questions for you. Like when I type in “flight Indianapolis” for my upcoming trip to the Midwestern Roots conference in July, I get an email with my flight reservation in my search results. At the top, I will also see a nice summary of my flight information that Google extracted from that email and puts right in front of me.
These are pretty slick features, but they come with a price: Inbox by Gmail is a dramatic change from Gmail which some might find a difficult transition.
Improve Your Regular Gmail Experience without Using the Inbox by Gmail App
If you’re not quite ready to switch to Inbox by Gmail, there are ways to enhance and improve your experience using regular Gmail. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use the “Chat” feature on Gmail very often. However, that little chat box pops up right below the labels, and that means that when you select a label lower down on the list, it’s easy to accidentally open the chat box. Frustrating indeed!
Make your life just a little bit easier by changing the location of your chat box. Go to Settings, then click on Labs. Click to Enable the Right-side chat feature. Chat moves out of the way over to the right and the problem is solved.
For those of you who don’t use the Chat feature at all, you can completely turn it off. Simply go to Settings, Click the Labs tab, click to select Chat Off, and then click Save Changes. Ah, this gives you a cleaner, less cluttered, Gmail to work with. Nice!
An important thing to remember about changing any of your Gmail settings is that you must click the Save button on the page to apply the changes.
Switch to the new Inbox by Gmail app or just improve your existing email with this little tip, the choice is yours. Thanks for sharing this tip with your friends…it’s nice to share, isn’t it?
Just announced: The FamilySearch microfilm lending service will end on August 30, 2017. Let’s cover what we know so far, how it may impact you, and strategies for getting the information you need.
WHAT: FamilySearch Microfilm Lending Ends
Most of the Family History Library’s microfilm vault has already been digitized and is online–or will be within a short time. According to the website:
“Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide.”
However, the world’s largest lender of microfilmed genealogical records will be discontinuing the distribution of microfilms to Family History Centers in the near future.
“On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services,” announced the site yesterday. “The change is the result of significant progress in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. Digital imaging has made it easier to find ancestors through the internet, mobile, and other technologies.”
This means the clock is now counting down your ability to borrow microfilmed genealogical records from the Family History Library. The last day you can place an order for delivery to your local Family History Center is August 31, 2017.
It’s a change I’ve seen coming, but it’s still a little disconcerting now that it’s here. But change is the norm in today’s busy world, so let’s break down the details we know so far together.
WHY: Why are they discontinuing microfilm lending before they’re done digitizing?
It’s just too expensive. “The cost of duplicating microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically, while demand has decreased significantly,” says a FamilySearch Q&A. “At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access.” FamilySearch wants to redirect its microfilm lending resources to providing more and better electronic record access.
I have personally visited the microfilm distribution facility, and the best analogy I can give you is that it looks a bit like the inside of an Amazon warehouse. It’s a mammoth and expensive undertaking, certainly not something you open or close lightly. I’m thankful that in the decades before the Internet, FamilySearch devoted so many resources to helping all of us gain access to hard-to-find records from around the world.
Photo Credit: Lisa Louise Cooke
WHEN: What will be available online and when
According to FamilySearch, they hope to finish digitizing the records that they have permission to digitize, in 2020. Unfortunately, some films we will not be digitized because of contractual limitations, data privacy, or other restrictions. Look to the Catalog for access details for the records you want.
By Lhsunshine (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
HOW: How to order FamilySearch microfilms between now and August 31, 2017
I encourage you to use the microfilm lending service while it is still available. While most microfilmed records will be eventually digitized, the fate of a small percentage may remain unknown for some time. Follow these steps to view them now:
1. Go to FamilySearch.org and log in, or create a free login. (You’ll need the login to order records.)
2. Under the Search menu, select Catalog.
3. Search by location, listing first the largest jurisdiction (such as the country) and proceeding to the smallest, such as “United States, Illinois, Cook, Chicago.”
4. Review search results by clicking on the record categories and then each entry. Within the entries, watch for interesting items that only list microfilm or microfiche formats.
5. Within record entries, order items you want by clicking the microfilm reel icon on the far right, under Format. Select the lending period and the correct currency. It currently costs $7.50 USD to borrow a microfilm reel for 90 days.
During the order process, you’ll select a family history center near you to receive the item(s). When your order arrives, you’ll be notified. Check the center’s schedule before visiting; most have limited hours. Centers are free to use. When you get there, identify yourself and request your film. Then put it in the microfilm reader and scroll through it until you find the item number and pages you need. (Here’s a helpful article: How to Use a Microfilm Reader.)
What about accessing microfilmed records after August 31, 2017?
“At this point, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah still plans to keep on hand microfilmed copies of records that are not yet online. So your options include going to view them in person (since to the best of our knowledge the library won’t be lending them), arrange for someone else to view them (such as through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group), or use the FamilySearch Catalog to identify the records and then attempt to locate them through other repositories and websites.
To find records you may borrow from other sources, click where it says ‘View this catalog record in WorldCat for other possible copy locations’ [see screenshot below]. This will take you directly to this item’s listings in WorldCat, which is the enormous, free multi-library online catalog. Look either for a copy at a library near you, or a copy at a facility that participates in inter-library loan. (This is the same process you already have to use to find copies of books you can borrow, since the Family History Library doesn’t lend these, either.)”
What about accessing the digitized records?
After August 31, 2017 many genealogists will be turning to the online FamilySearch catalog and Family History Center Portal. (Learn more about the Portal at the FamilySearch Wiki.) As you attempt to view records through the portal, you may be prompted to go to a Family History Center to view the record, and the site will link you to a map of all locations. It’s important to understand the difference between an official Family History Center and an Affiliate Center. We’ve learned that Affiliate Centers do not have access to what is called the Family History Portal. That portal is only accessible from an officially designated Family History Center.
So how do you know which location on the map is official, and which is an affiliate? I turned to genealogy blogger and friend of Genealogy Gems Amie Tennant for clarification:
The (online) FamilySearch map of Family History Centers is not accurate. With the new changes to microfilm loans, this is going to be a big problem. In other words…if a person assumes all FHCenters are the same and travels to the nearest one, they will be sorely disappointed to realize that this one will NOT have access to all the digitized microfilm. (Researchers) should call ahead to confirm whether the center they see on this map is an affiliate or a full FHC with access to the portal.
I’ve reached out to FamilySearch for additional official information on this and several other important questions that have arisen with the discontinuation of microfilm lending. I’ll report to you here on the Genealogy Gems blog and the podcast as more information becomes available. Check out Amie’s article for more information on the various levels of access.
What do you think?
The end of the FamilySearch microfilm lending service is a major milestone. It signals exciting future online access, but provides obstacles for the next few years. What suggestions do you have for researchers to gain additional access to essential microfilm? Please share with the Genealogy Gems community in the Comments below.
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