I’ve heard from many of you since publishing my interview with Diane Loosle, Director of Patron Services at FamilySearch on the topic of FamilySearch ending its microfilm lending program on August 31, 2017. As fate would have it, just as the interview published, the unexpected happened – microfilm ordering capability ceased. That was when emails like this one started to arrive in my inbox:
Last Monday there was a computer software upgrade (or downgrade as I call it) in the FamilySearch catalog system which now prevents ordering of a mass number of microfilms ahead of the deadline this week…I am not confused about what is going on. I volunteer at an FHC and to date we have ordered some 600 films to complete our collection (these records will never be digitized.) We have ordered all the vital records we can. We have more than 9000 films at our little FHC, but now we want to order the Naturalization records and the system says “Film #—- does not exist.” This is happening on a global scale and even with films we already own. German, Lithuanian, Swedish, Chicago, Sacramento, Dallas, you name the city, this error message is showing up…Since you had a conversation with Diane recently, is there a way you can share this with her and find out how we can address this stumbling block. This is now a week old…
Many of you asked me to reach out to Diane, which I did. And thanks to your involvement, I received the following from Diane this morning:
Diane Loosle, Director of Patron Services at FamilySearch
“There was an update to the software that had unintended consequences in that it broke the online film ordering systems connection to the FamilySearch Catalog. People were unable to order the films they desired for a little less than one week. This timing of course was very unfortunate. The situation has been remedied in the software so orders have resumed and because of this issue, the decision has been made to extend the film ordering deadline by one week toSeptember 7thto make up for the week that the software was down. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused people and are anxious to ensure that they are able to order the films they desire. We now need everyone’s assistance to get the word out to their friends that if they experienced this issue in trying to order they will be able to get their orders in now.
Thanks for your help on this Lisa. This was an incredibly unfortunate event with timing which couldn’t have been worse. This is of course and evolving situation at this point. I will keep you posted if anything else changes. The software that we use for this is quite archaic, a real dinosaur in the technology world. We are literally praying that it will hold up under the additional load. While we don’t anticipate any further problems, it is possible, so I will keep you in the loop should anything happen” -Diane
As you can hear, it was genealogical serendipity struck in an unusual, and unfortunate way. But as soon as FamilySearch became aware of the problem, they went into action. I’m pleased and grateful that they have extended deadline, and that they make millions of genealogical records available to us every day. And I’m grateful to you, our Genealogy Gems community for getting into gear and bringing the situation to the forefront.
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?
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
We’re going to start off today by continuing our use of U.S. Federal Census Records. Last episode we located relatives in the 1930 census, and today we’re going to push further back in time to follow the census bread crumb trail.
Then in our second segment we’re going to explore some census enumerations that often go overlooked by family historians with Curt Witcher, the Manager of the nationally-recognized Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Curt is a very well-known genealogy lecturer and he has some great tips for tapping in to more obscure census resources. We’ll talk about nonpopulation schedules for the federal census, census substitutes for missing census data (like the 1890 census) and state censuses that may be available, too.
Updates and Links
As I mentioned in the show notes of the last episode, the 1940 census is now available to researchers. Check out those notes for more information. Here are some more updates and links:
The U.S. Census Bureau has online info on state censuses. Learn even more in Ann S. Lainhart’s book State Census Records (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992). A lot of state censuses are now searchable on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
The Ancestry database substitute for the 1890 census I mentioned in the show is now supplemented by census substitute databases on Ancestry for just about every state for 1890 and other years. Search for them in the Card Catalog with the search term “1890 census.”