A Tip for Harnessing New Technologies for Genealogy

Lisa BYU Keynote

Photo courtesy of The Ancestry Insider

New technologies don’t stay new. They keep evolving. Here’s a tip for harnessing new and emerging technologies to advance family history research and stay connected with living relatives. 

Last week, I was at the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy in Provo, Utah. What a friendly, welcoming group! (Be sure to check out the BYU Family History Library here.) All week, I taught sessions and gave a keynote address on various technologies that help our research. The week’s discussions reminded me how quickly technology moves–and how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology.

It’s part of my job to learn about these new technologies and pass the best ones–the “gems” along to you. But here’s a tip I shared during my keynote address that will help you focus on the technologies you care most about: Think about which tasks you want to accomplish with technology, rather than just learning genealogy-specific technology. Then keep up with developments in the technologies that accomplish those tasks.

For example, by now, many of us have used (or at least heard of) Google Translate. We can use it with foreign-language documents and to correspond with overseas relatives and archives. But Google Translate’s functionality keeps improving. “By the audible gasps of the audience” (during my keynote address) reported the FamilySearch blog, “most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.”

Genealogists are really thinking about these issues. The Ancestry Insider blogged about my keynote talk, too, and my observation that genealogists haven’t been embracing digital video at the same speed at which they embrace other forms of digital media. In the comments section of that post Cathy added, “Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YOUTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living….Our children and grandchildren don’t write letters, they email, text, instagram. They don’t write journals, they blog. They make videos of current history….We all need to look to the future and [learn] how to save the new technologies.” Cathy gets it!

A special thanks to conference organizers Stephen Young and John Best, who welcomed me and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton all week long. They did a fantastic job of organizing a large event while retaining a warm, personal environment.

Continue reading about applying technology to your family history here.

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.

Resources

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!

Easy Family History Craft: Framed Ornaments

ornament brandedLooking for a quick and easy craft to do? My mom made these cute ornaments for volunteers who work in the genealogy room of the public library with her.

These little framed photos of the volunteers’ ancestors would make fantastic ornaments to hang on a holiday tree or–year-round as my mother-in-law does–on a decorative metal family tree.

All you need are copies of old ancestral photos and these basic supplies:

  • inexpensive wood or paper mache cutout frames, which you can purchase at craft stores;
  • tape or craft glue to adhere the picture to the back of the frame;
  • silver spray paint (or any other paint suitable for the frame surface, with a brush);
  • Mod-Podge or another acrylic sealer (optional) to protect and further adhere the front of the ornament;
  • decorative ribbon or string to use as ties.

This would be an easy family history craft to produce in bulk, and it’s inexpensive! Consider making them for your own family history display or for family gifts. This is a great project for kids to do, as it should turn out looking nice even with young or inexperienced crafters.

large_thumb_tack_800_16520Looking for more great family history-themed craft or display ideas?  Follow Lisa Louise’s board Family History Craft Projects on Pinterest or Follow Lisa Louise’s board Kids – Genealogy and Family History on Pinterest.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

 

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. This week’s findings include a major Cincinnati newspaper collection, Cuban genealogy resources, a burial index for New York City and records for a mental hospital in Surrey, England. Might any of the collections below include your ancestor? Check out our weekly Google search tip at the end of the post, too–it’s about finding images associated with the records you come across.

CINCINNATI NEWSPAPER. Subscribers can now search over a quarter million pages from The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841-1922) at Newspapers.com. This collection covers 80 years of history for one of the largest inland cities in the U.S., which was a major landing spot for Ohio River travelers and home to thousands of German immigrants.

CUBAN GENEALOGY COLLECTION. The Digital Library of the Caribbean now offers access to the Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collection of Cuban Genealogy. According to the website description, the collection “includes thousands of books, handwritten and typed letters, photos and other primary documents relating to Cuba and Cuban genealogy, collected over four decades by Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza….: rare 17th and 18th century books, long out-of-print publications and periodicals that few, if any, U.S. libraries hold in their catalogs. Additionally, thousands of unpublished family genealogies and manuscripts make this collection particularly significant.” Read more about the collection in this article, where we learned about it.

NYC BURIALS. One of New York City’s oldest and largest cemeteries has put up  a free database with thousands of burials, among them Civil War soldiers, former slaves and more. Green-Wood cemetery has about  Green-Wood currently has more than half a million burials dating to 1840. Those who find an ancestor in the database should consider ordering a search of Green-Wood’s archival records.

UK HOSPITAL RECORDS. Over 11,000 Surrey, England Mental Hospital admission records (1867-1900) have been newly digitized and published by Ancestry, in partnership with the Surrey History Centre. Each record contains the patient’s name, gender, marriage status, occupation, residence, religion, and their reason for admission (diagnosis).
check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s your weekly Google search tip: don’t forget to look for images associated with the types of record collections you find! Where one record exists, another may also. For example: search “Surrey England mental hospital,” and then when the results come up, click “Images.” You’ll find tons of photos of that hospital, some of them quite old. You can further filter these (or any image results) under Search Tools. Most commonly when searching for old pictures, I will choose “Black and White” under the Color tab (which naturally limits results to mostly older photos) or “labeled for reuse” under the Usage Rights tab (more likely to find images I can publish). This tip is brought to you by The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke: the fully-revised and updated 2nd edition is packed with great search tips like these!

Ancestry Up for Sale? How to Download and Backup Your Ancestry Data

Ancestry for saleReuters recently reported that Ancestry “is exploring a sale that could value it at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, including debt.” According to unnamed sources, Permira (a buyout firm that owns most of Ancestry) “has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company.”

It’s far too soon to say what this might mean for paying customers, users of Ancestry Library Edition and corporate and community partners. The sale of a company can mean possible changes in direction and organization. Ancestry currently boasts delivery of 15 billion genealogy records to 2.1 million subscribers, and has stated its intent to acquire additional records at an aggressive pace. In an ever changing corporate and technological environment we believe it’s important to retain ownership and responsibility of our own data.

Our best advice to those whose master family trees are on Ancestry? Download and backup your data! We’re not being alarmist. This announcement is just a good opportunity to do something we routinely recommend anyway.

First, download your current tree(s) to GEDCOM files onto your computer. Under the Trees tab, choose Create and Manage Trees. For each tree you have there, choose Manage Tree, then Export Tree.

Next, check your sources! The Ancestry help section states, “Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.” Check your GEDCOM to see whether your source notes are intact. Then make sure you have copies of documents, videos, photos and other items you may have attached to your tree. You don’t want them to disappear, should there be a hiccup (or worse) in service.

Finally, if you have used AncestryDNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data. We especially recommend this step! These tests are expensive. Tests for loved ones who are now deceased can’t be re-rerun. And Ancestry has disposed of DNA samples in the past when the company has switched directions. (Again, not trying to be alarmist, just cautious.)

how to start a genealogy blogIf you have relied on Ancestry or any other cloud-based service to host your only or master family tree, we recommend you do your homework and consider your options. Please click here to read a blog post about keeping your master tree on your own computer at home, and which software may be best for you.

Click here to Start Your Free Family Tree at Ancestry 

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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