In this installment of the Collaborative Genealogy blog post mini-series I’m going to share one of my favorite ways to organize and share family history data and source material: Evernote.
Evernote is a free software, website and app that can hold both research content and the source citation information that goes with it. You can pull data from websites and Evernote will often automatically capture information about the site you got it from. You can upload images, scanned documents and other multimedia content. And of course you can use it to keep track of non-electronic sources, too.
Research teams using Dropbox put themselves on the same page–literally. It’s easier to be sure you’re looking at the same sources. It’s easy to add notes like data you’ve abstracted from the source (or that seems to be missing from the source). It’s easy to tag data: every source that cites an ancestor can be tagged with her name. That way, when you are ready to analyze or write up someone’s life story, every piece is there. No more hunting for sources you knew you had somewhere!
My recent post provides two tips for using Evernote and introduces my Evernote for Windows for Genealogists Quick Reference Guide “cheat sheet” (click here for U.S. and here for international shipping). It’s been so popular since its release that we sold out for a while, but it’s back in stock. This 4-page laminated guide offers at-a-glance training and reminders so you can be up to speed quickly using Evernote for genealogy.
Want to learn more about using Evernote? Click here for tips and complete resources on getting started in Evernote, like a complete video mini-series that walks you through the process of signing up for your free Evernote account, downloading the desktop app, getting and using the web clipper….There’s so much you can do with Evernote and I show you how!
For more on collaborative research (including more on Evernote for genealogists), check out the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. It’s got an article I’ve co-written with Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton.
Check out my other blog posts in this series on collaboration:
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free
Double good news: AncestryDNA has made some improvements to the way they calculate your genetic matches, but they haven’t messed with the site format or layout. There is one downside–so keep reading.
Change is afoot at AncestryDNA. Again.
While stability and predictability seem like honorable qualities in a company or product, when it comes to tech tools, in the ears of tech companies, those words sound more like dated and old. Of course, we are used to this by now. I had a client tell me recently that he wanted to be in touch sooner, but his grandson “upgraded” his computer to Windows 10 and then promptly left for college the next day, leaving him fighting with a new interface and operating system.
The good news is, you won’t have this problem with Ancestry’s new update. There aren’t any changes to the interface or the layout of the information. In fact, many of you will not even notice at first that your match list has changed. You’ll just see this notification when you log in:
But in fact, there likely have been some adjustments made to your match results:
- Some of your third cousins have been demoted to fourth cousins.
- Some of your fourth cousins have been demoted to 5th-8th cousins.
- Some of your Distant Cousins have disappeared off your match list
- You have new cousins on your Distant Cousin match list.
In general, from what Ancestry has showed us, you gain more than you lose.
Changes in the dregs of your match list may not seem like that big of a deal. But Ancestry has made some big changes in the way that they are calculating matches. They are getting better at it. Which means you match list is now more representative of your ancestral connections, even at the very distant level.
There are two big pieces to this matching puzzle that Ancestry has tinkered with in this latest update: phasing and matching.
You will remember our discussion on DNA phasing and how it can impact your matching. Ancestry has developed a robust reference database of phased DNA in order to better phase our samples. Basically, they have looked through their database at parent-child duos and trios and noted that certain strings of DNA values often travel together. It’s like they have noticed that our DNA says “A black cat scared the mouse” instead of “The brown cat ate the mouse” and they can then recognize that phrase in our DNA, which in turn helps our DNA tell the true story of our heritage.
In addition to updating the phasing, Ancestry has revamped their matching method. In the past they viewed our DNA in small windows of information, and then stitched those windows together to try to get a better picture of what our DNA looked like. Now instead they have turned to a point-by-point analysis of our DNA. Again to use a sentence example, with the window analysis we may have the following sentence windows:
ack and J
ill went t
he hill t
etch a pai
l of water.
Of those windows, you may share the “etch a pai” with another individual in the database, earning that cousin a spot on your match page. However, the truth is, that bit could say “sketch a painting” or “stretch a painful leg” or “fetch a pail.” With Ancestry’s new method, they are able to see farther on either side of the matching segment, making this clearly “fetch a pail.” That means better matching, which means more confidence in your cousin matches.
The downside to this update is going to come in the reorganization of some of your relationships. Ancestry has tightened their genetic definition of your third and fourth cousins. Basically, that means that some of your true 3rd cousins are going to show up as 4th cousins, and some of your true 4th cousins are going to be shifted down into the abyss of 5th-8th cousins.
This brings us to the downside of this AncestryDNA update: changes to the Shared Matches tool. The shared matches tool allows you to gather matches in the database that are related to you and one other person, provided you are all related at the 4th cousin level or higher. This tightening of the belt on 4th cousins means that some of them are going to drop through the cracks of that tool, really limiting its ability. Grr. Hopefully, Ancestry will fix that, and expand this tool to include all of your matches. They have their fairly good reasons for this, but still….
So, as the winds of change blow yet another iteration of the AncestryDNA match page, I think we can see this as an overall win for doing genealogy with our genetics at Ancestry.
More AncestryDNA Gems
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Do you want to become a professional genealogist–or just research like one?
The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) recently released an updated, revised version of Genealogy Standards in honor of its 50th anniversary. It’s a 100-page paperback manual that presents “the standards family historians use to obtain valid results.”
They also just announced that, effective March 3, 2014, the new BCG standards apply to anyone who applies for professional certification or recertification through BCG.
“As the standards are at heart unchanged, genealogists whose work meets the old standards should meet the new standards as well,” states a press release. “The revision, however, means the new standards offer superior guidance as to the qualities necessary for credible genealogical work.”
To help researchers familiarize themselves with the recent changes, BCG has also released two charts that compare the new and old standards. They can be downloaded from the “Skillbuilding” page of BCG’s website.
Recently I did a webinar for Legacy Family Tree called “Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers.” Soon after, I heard from a happy student named Christina.
“I just had to let you know how grateful I am to you,” she writes. “I finally had a chance to utilize the information you shared and wanted to check out the websites you talked about. I started with the Stanford Data Visualization and the very first newspaper I opened online had one of my ancestors on the front page. WOW! When I went into my Legacy program I discovered that I already had that information, but now I also had a verification.”
She goes on to say she started reading through more newspaper issues, which were so interesting she kept getting distracted. She found another ancestor mentioned in a political newspaper and guesses she’s just discovered his political affiliation.
Then she tells me about a longtime family mystery she decided to try to solve in newspapers. “My cousin’s daughter contacted me about a year ago for information about a child that died in the same time period that the local court records were lost in a fire. I didn’t think we would ever get the information. But I thought I would use the date that we had and start with any paper I could get online, starting the day after. I wasn’t sure it would hit papers that soon in that time period, but I had to start somewhere. Lo and behold, her death notice was on page 4 of the first paper I opened!”
“I realize I am very lucky to have found so much right away and it won’t happe
Available at http://genealogygems.com
n every time, but I am encouraged that your training was so helpful that I am going to break through a lot of walls. Again, Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.”
I’ve heard countless stories like these from so many people who have discovered their family histories in newspapers. A video version of my newspaper class is available as part of Genealogy Gems Premium Membership, along with over a dozen other instructional videos, and over 100 exclusive podcast episodes. Starting today 11/29/13 through Monday 12/2/13 when you purchase a 1 year membership you will get an exclusive free ebook. Click here for all the details.
You can also get my complete newspaper research method in my book: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available in print and as an e-book. And also starting today 11/29/13 through Monday 12/2/13 you can get it as part of a special book bundle or ebook bundle at a 40% savings.
Does your local library, historical or genealogical society have a newspaper collection to share? Let the NEH help!
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting proposals from institutions hoping to participate in the the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). This program creates “a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 in U.S. states and territories.” Guidelines for 2014 are now available and proposals must be submitted by January 15, 2014.
According to the press release, “Each award supports a 2-year project to digitally convert 100,000 newspaper pages from that state’s collections, primarily from microfilm negative. Titles may be printed in Danish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish. The program provides access to this resource through the Chronicling America web site hosted by the Library of Congress. The site currently includes more than 6.6 million newspaper pages in English, French, German, and Spanish, from more than 1100 titles digitized by institutions in 30 states.”
For more program information, please visit the NEH’s program page or this page for technical information from the Library of Congress. Click here to see what institutions have participated.
I can’t say enough good things about this and other initiatives to support more digitized newspapers online. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers will provide you with more about using these awesome resources to flesh out your family’s story, a tried and true research process, and loads of resources. Check it out in paperback or pdf e-book!