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?
Scottish genealogy records are as popular as plaid this fall. Deeds, paternity records, and censuses are just a sampling. Also this week, records for Ontario, New York State, Philadelphia, and the women’s suffrage movement!
Scotland – Deeds
Findmypast offers Scotland Deeds Index 1769with over 1,000 transcripts. This collection contains the details found in minute books kept by the Court of Session and includes a variety of different types of deeds including: assignations, discharges, bonds, obligations, protests, and leases. Each deed transcript will record the type of deed, the date it was recorded, and the two parties named in the original court document, their addresses, and occupations.
By understanding what each type of deed is, you may be able to glean additional clues to your research. For example, a discharge is granted once evidence is shown to a granter that a debt or payment has been paid in full. Discharges were also given to release an individual from specific tasks or duties. A heritable bond, however, is in regard to land, property, or houses that pass to an heir or next of kin. In some of these cases, the records could be proof of parentage. For more details about the types of deeds in this collection, read here.
Scotland – Paternity Decrees
Containing over 25,000 records, Scotland, Paternity Decrees 1750-1922 will help you find out if your ancestor was involved in a paternity dispute that appeared before Scotland’s Sheriff Court. These records could identify illegitimate ancestors and break down brick walls in your research. You will find cases from jurisdictions across Scotland including: Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Midlothian, and Roxburghshire.
Each record offers a date of birth and sex of the child whose paternity is in question as well as the name, occupation, and residence of both the pursuer and defender.
Scotland – Census and Population List
Also at Findmypast, Scotland Pre-1841 Censuses and Population Lists now contains over 3,500 early census fragments and parish lists from Jedburgh, Greenlaw, Ladykirk, Melrose, Applegarth, and Sibbaldbie. Until 1845, these courts were for governing the local parish and overseeing parish relief. Many kept up-to-date lists of the parish residents, their occupations, and their birth places.
The details recorded in each transcript will vary, but most will include a birth place, occupation, and address.
Scotland – Registers & Records
Over 1,700 new records have been added to the collection titled Scotland Registers & Records at Findmypast. These additions include Written Histories of the Highland Clans & Highland Regiments.
By Gsl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Scotland Registers & Records contain images taken from 21 different publications related to Scottish parishes and families. The records vary and include parish records, topographical accounts, and memorial inscriptions.
Some of these records reach back as far as the year 1100! To see a list of each of the publications within this collection, click here, then scroll down to the subheading, “What can these records tell me?”
Canada – Ontario – Birth Index
Findmypast offers a collection titled Ontario Birth Index 1860-1920. It is comprised of 1.7 million civil registration records. Civil registration in Canada is the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories and it was not standard practice until the late 1800s.
Each record contains both a transcript and an image of the original document. Information should include:
Ancestor’s name and date of birth
Place of birth
In some cases, the record may also provide:
Where the parents were married
Name of the attending physician
Address of residence
Special Savings for You
If you are interested in subscribing to Findmypast, we want to let you know about a special savings. Findmypast is now offering a year subscription for $34.95, a savings of $79.95. Click here for more details!
City directories contain more than just names and addresses. You may be surprised to learn that they record the price of travel and postage, the kinds of occupations around the city, the layout of streets, and at what time the sun was predicted to rise and set!
City directories might also contain images, maps, illustrations of buildings, and advertisements.
United States – Massachusetts – Women’s Suffrage
The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced that seven collections relating to women in the public sphere have been digitized. A grant made it possible to create high resolution images that are accessible at the MHS website, as well as preservation microfilm created from the digital files. The seven collection titles and links are listed below.
Check out the Philadelphia Inquireron Newspapers.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of the oldest surviving papers in the United States. The Philadelphia Inquirer was established in 1829 and originally titled the Pennsylvania Inquirer. It was originally a Democratic paper that supported President Jackson.
Lisa’s Premium Member episode 116 is just what you need. Marie Dougan, a professional genealogist specializing in Scottish research, joins Lisa in this episode to talk about how to research Scottish ancestors. If you haven’t taken that plunge and become a Premium Member, why not do so today! There are over 100 Premium Member podcast episodes and over 30 video classes on a wide variety of genealogy topics waiting to inspire and educate. Join today!
I’m also concerned about my privacy and security online. Chances are you are too. VPNs add an important layer or online protection and are one of the hottest tech trends right now. I receive a lot of questions about what tech tools I use, so in this episode I’ll explain:
why I’m using a VPN (don’t worry, you don’t need to be techy at all to use a VPN!)
what I looked for in a VPN
how I set it up (oh my gosh, it was so easy!)
how it protects my online activity
the surprising BONUS benefits that I love and you will too.
My goal is to help you find your family history safely and privately. I took a deep dive into VPNs and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned so you can do it yourself.
Click the play button below to watch or click “Watch on YouTube” to watch at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.
Episode 56 Show Notes
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a top tech trend right now, although their origins can be traced back to the 1990s.
According to the top tech blogs VPNs usage in the U.S. jumped by 41% between March 13 and March 23, 2021 and is expected to continue to surge. Today I’m going to explain what that is, and the top reasons why I use a VPN and why you might want to start using one too.
What Does a VPN Do?
Sending data over an unencrypted internet connection is like mailing a postcard. Your message is wide open for the mailman and any other nosy people to see.
Whenever you’re connected to an unencrypted internet network on your phone, computer, tablet, TV, etc., you’re sending countless pieces of information out into the digital world that can be seen and intercepted by many different parties before they get to their intended destinations.
While not every message and piece of data I send out over the internet is sensitive (such as banking information) I like knowing that my activity is private. It’s a lot like why we always protect the identity of living people in our family tree. It’s always best to err on the side of privacy and security when working online.
A VPN creates a secure encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet. In other words, it puts an envelope around your postcard so that no one can sneak a peek at your private correspondence. That way none of your data going in and out of your devices can be seen – not the government, hackers, your internet service provider, or even by the VPN.
The best VPNS also don’t create or keep activity logs or connection logs. This means if they are asked by government or law enforcement to hand them over, there’s nothing to hand over.
Since every device has a unique IP address, your device can be traced back to you. However, when you use a VPN, your connection gets routed through one of thousands of servers, hiding your real IP address and replacing it with one of their own. This allows you to browse the web anonymously.
Top Reasons I Decided to Use a VPN
There’s no one way to make everything you do completely private. But a VPN does add a nice layer plus some great added benefits. I’ve been thinking about doing something more for a long time, and then my brother-in-law who worked for years for one of the largest tech companies in the world told me he set up a VPN and that I should too. I did my own homework, and here are the top reasons why I use a VPN:
1. I want to be able to use public Wi-Fi safely
Libraries, archives, traveling to speaking engagements, visiting ancestral locations, vacation. Public Wi-Fi is often provided and it’s really convenient, plus I don’t have to use my phone as a hot spot which uses up cellular data not to mention battery. Your favorite coffee shop could be a favorite spot for hackers who steal personal information. And you can even get hacked on your own home Wi-Fi. With only basic computer knowledge, the hacker could gain access to your passwords, financial details, or even your emails!
Any time you’re on public Wi-Fi a VPN hides your IP address encrypts your internet connection using encryption.
2. I want my privacy and don’t want to be tracked by my ISP
Your internet service provider (known as an ISP) can see everything you do.
In the US, ISPs can legally sell your data to ad companies.
In the UK and Australian ISPs are required to keep logs of the websites you visit, the apps you use for around a year.
Governments, large corporations, and websites potentially surveil your activity regularly to harvest your data for their own agendas.
A VPN makes your online activity private and secure with tunneling and encryption. Your messages go through a tunnel of sorts so others, including your ISP, can’t see where you’re located, or that the data is from you. It also applied encryption (AEs-256 is what you’re looking for in encryption) so that your message is essentially locked by you and the service delivering the data for you doesn’t have the key. Only the recipient does (such as the website you’re trying to communicate with.)
But you may be wondering, isn’t your activity safe because you only visit secure “HTTPS” websites?
In an interview with TechRadar.com Dan Pomerantz, Co-Founder of ExpressVPN explains it this way: “Many of those companies know your identity, and they might store and resell those data about you without your knowledge or approval. Why is that the case even when you use https? Because technologies called DNS and SNI transmit those data in plain text, and because the pipe operators can still see the destination of your traffic.”
3. I want the best deals when online shopping
Many websites offer deals based on your location. Countless times I’ve been shopping for airlines tickets and watched the price go up each time I checked the price. It’s an effort to get me to buy before the price goes up more. The website can do this because it knows who I am and my location.
Have you noticed more and more websites asking you to allow them to know your location? You can click “Don’t allow” but if you’re not using a VPN you can’t be sure they don’t know who and where you are. Using a VPN means you’re accessing their website through that tunnel which hides your location, opening up opportunities for deals you might not have gotten otherwise.
A VPN allows you to select from servers in different location to be your “location”. So, I may live in Texas but my internet traffic might be by way of London. And by going through the “tunnel” the website doesn’t know it’s me. This gives me more flexibility to shop for the best deals.
Will a VPN slow my connection speed?
I was a little worried about a VPN slowing down my connection speed. But I’ve not found that at all, and in fact if your ISP is throttling your speed, which many do, it can actually speed up your connection because again your ISP can’t tell where you’re located. Connecting to a server closer to your location increases the speed, and switching servers is super easy in the app. Smart location will automatically pick the best server to you too.
What to Look for in a VPN
Lots of global servers – The VPN I chose has 3,000+ servers in 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries.
Best encryption – Look for AES-256 encryption
Usable on all your devices – If you’re like me, you have multiple devices and a variety of platforms. I have Windows computer, iOS mobile devices and a smart TV. ExpressVPN has super easy-to-use apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as platforms that other VPN companies don’t support, like Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and routers.
24/7 customer support – Look for live chat with a real person.
Ease of use – You should be able to fire up the app and connect with just one click. And it should be super easy to change servers.
Trusted as Secure – Look for high start ratings from a large number of users. It should also be highly-ranked by trusted tech review sites.
Affordable – It’s normally $12.95 a month, but I’ve arranged with ExpressVPN to get my viewers and listeners 3 extra free months with the 12 month plan. Comes out to just over $8.00 a month plus the first 3 months free.
Money-back guarantee – ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so there was no risk in trying it.
The VPN I Chose
There are tons of VPNs out there but it’s important to know they don’t all offer the same features, especially the free ones. (My theory is that nothings ever really free particularly when it comes to security.) After doing my homework I decided to use ExpressVPN. It’s top-rated and has all the features I was looking for. I’ve been using it for a while now and I’m really happy with it. It’s super easy to use. So I reached out to ExpressVPN and they’ve agreed to extend a special offer to us. This is an affiliate link so I’ll receive compensation when you use my link. That helps make this free show possible, so thank you! Plus you’re going to save money.
Special Deal for Genealogy Gems Viewers: Get 3 extra free months with the discounted 12-month plan.
Comes out to just over $8.00 a month (+ 3 months free) Gosh, I feel like I would have spent more than that just to gain access to the additional shows it gives me access to with ExpressVPN. Keep reading below to learn more about that. ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee so there’s no risk to try it.
Rated #1 by CNET, The Verge, Wired, TechRadar, & many more! Learn more about their approach to security at the ExpressVPN Trust Center. (Includes Network Lock which protects you if there’s an interruption in your internet connection.)
BONUS Reason #4: Access to regionally specific online content.
And speaking of being able to access the internet through any global server, this allows you to access regionally specific content. Did you know that many websites or apps are blocked or restricted depending on where you are located?
I discovered this while on the road for some genealogy speaking engagements. I was keynoting in London several years ago, and at the end of the day in my hotel room I sat down to watch my favorite show on Netflix. But when I logged in it said that I was not allowed to watch the show in England. My iPad was telling the internet provider that I was in London, and the ISP told Netflix. Had I had a VPN at that time, I could have rerouted my server connection through England and binged watched as many episodes as I pleased.
So is this helpful even if you aren’t traveling right now? You bet it is!
Remember when the UK version of Who Do You Think You Are? came out. We were going crazy over here in the U.S. because we would go to the website to watch it only to get an access denied message. It said you had to be in the UK to use the BBC iPlayer. A VPN allows you to switch locations and enjoy the show.
This is true of subscriptions like Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, ITV, Sky Go, and more.
You’ll also find that various subscription services offer different content based on your ISP location. By switching locations you can get access to shows not available in your home country with the same subscription.
My experience specifically with Amazon:
It may tell you to turn off your VPN. Try a different server. Thanks to the ExpressVPN live chat I found a server that allowed me to stream on Amazon.
Amazon restricts your access by your billing address.
Servers that let me access Amazon videos were San Francisco, Jersey 1, and Jersey 2.
Download the app from the website to your computer.
Install the ExpressVPN extension on your web browser (Chrome, Firefox)
More about Web Browser Settings:
Spoof Your Location When you visit a website and it wants to know your location, it asks because it’s not getting that information based on your IP address. It’s based on nearby Wi-Fi networks, your systems location settings, or your device’s GPS. This means in that situation your location can still be potentially revealed via your web browser. If you decline the request for your location, you might find that some websites or content will be blocked for you. The Spoof Your Location feature helps solve the problem. When you’re connected and it’s turned on, the extension hides your location by automatically sharing the ExpressVPN server location instead.
Block WebRTC WebRTC is an HTML5 specification designed to enable voices and video communication to work inside web pages without needing to install any special plugins in your web browser. (Examples include Google Meet, Facebook Messenger and GotoMeeting.) In some situations, Web RTC could potentially leak your IP address even while connected to a VPN. Block WebRTC allows you to block it entirely.
HTTPS Everywhere Automatically makes websites switch from HTTP to a secure encrypted HTTPS connection where available.
How to Set Up ExpressVPN on your smartphone and tablet:
Go to the app store and search for ExpressVPN
Open the app
Sign in with your ExpressVPN account
Tap button to connect. You will be connected to the “smart location” ExpressVPN has selected for you – typically considered the fastest connection.
Tap the three dots ( … ) to change servers. Be aware that when you change to a European server you may see different types of GDPR “cookie” pop-ups that you aren’t used to seeing. These have to be accepted / managed before visiting the website.
One of advantages of watching the show live is the chance to ask you questions. I answered many at the end of the show, but here are the remainder with my answers.
flounder1st: Does VPN only work for Wi-Fi data or Cellular Date also? Lisa: Yes.
Mary S: I may get a new computer soon, should I wait and install it on the new one? Lisa: You don’t have to. When you get the new one simply uninstall the VPN from the old computer and install and sign in on the new one.
Linda G: So I can use a VPN but my husband can continue doing his own thing through his regular ISP? Lisa: Yes.