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!

Record a Life Story: Free StoryCorps App

StoryCorps boothRecently a friend sent me a link to a TED talk by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay. As a radio broadcast journalist, Dave has spent his life capturing other people’s stories. The profound impact this had on him led him to found StoryCorps, which collects and archives interviews with everyday people.

“Every life matters equally and infinitely,” Dave learned, something we discover as family historians, too. He talks about how inviting someone to talk about his or her life “may just turn out to be one of the most important moments in that person’s life, and in yours.” This is something I try to explain to people about family history interviews: asking respectful questions and listening just as respectfully is a gift we can give our relatives when we interview them.

StoryCorps started with a little recording booth in Grand Central Terminal, one of the busiest places in the world to hold these intimate conversations. Two people share a conversation, one interviewing and the other being interviewed, and a facilitator helps them record the conversation and leave with a copy of it. Another copy goes to the Library of Congress.

In our own ways, we do this when we record loved ones’ life stories. We honor their feelings, experiences and opinions by asking about them and preserving them. Sometimes we share personal moments of understanding, forgiveness or revelation. In my experience, it’s similar to what unfolds in the StoryCorps booths: “Amazing conversations happen.”

In Dave’s TED talk, he shares snippets of some of those amazing conversations, like A 12-year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome interviewing his mother, and a husband sharing his love for his wife: “Being married is like having a color television set. You never want to go back to black and white.”

Storycorp appStoryCorps now has an app that helps people capture conversations like these. A digital facilitator walks you through the interview process, the app records the conversation, and then you can save and share the resulting audio file. Why not record an interview in honor of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day this spring with the StoryCorp app? Or have a meaningful conversation with an aunt or uncle, sibling, cousin or your child or grandchild.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastGenealogy Gems Premium members can learn more about preserving the stories of your own life in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 116, in which I interview Laura Hedgecock, author of Memories of Me.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? Look below for early Australian settlers, Canadian military and vital records, the 1925 Iowa State Census and a fascinating collection of old New York City photographs.

AUSTRALIAN CONVICT RECORDS. Now Findmypast subscribers can access several collections on early settlers. Among them over 188,000 Australia Convict ships 1786-1849 records, which date to “the ships of First Fleet and include the details of some of the earliest convict settlers in New South Wales.” You’ll also find “nearly 27,000 records, the Australia Convict Conditional and Absolute Pardons 1791-1867 list the details of convicts pardoned by the governor of New South Wales and date back to the earliest days of the colony” and New South Wales Registers of Convicts’ Applications to Marry 1825-1851, with over 26,000 records.

CANADIAN WWI MILITARY RECORDS. As of June 15,  162,570 of 640,000 files are available online via the Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database on the Library and Archives Canada website. This is the first installment of an ongoing effort to digitize and place online records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force service files.

IOWA STATE CENSUS. About 5.5 million newly-added records from the 1925 state census of Iowa are now free to search at FamilySearch,org. Name, residence, gender, age and marital status are indexed. The linked images may also reveal parents’ birthplaces, owners of a home or farm and name of head of household.

NEW YORK CITY PHOTOGRAPHS. About 16,000 photos of old New York City from the New York Historical Society are free to view on Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York. According to the site, “The extensive photograph collections at the New-York Historical Society are particularly strong in portraits and documentary images of New York-area buildings and street scenes from 1839 to 1945, although contemporary photography continues to be collected.”

ONTARIO, CANADA VITAL RECORDS. Nearly a half million birth record images (1869-1912), nearly a million death record images (1939-1947) and over a million marriage record images (1869-1927) have been added to online, indexed collections at FamilySearch.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Today’s list of new records has a LOT of Canadian material! If you’re researching Canadian roots, here’s a FREE video for you to watch on our YouTube channel: Lisa Louise Cooke’s interview with Canadian research expert Dave Obee, who shares 10 tips in his effort to help one RootsTech attendee break through her brick wall. This post and tip and brought to you by The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, newly-revised and completely updated for 2015 with everything you need to find your ancestors with Google’s powerful, free online tools.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of cool new genealogy records online. Should you search any of these: an 1831 England census substitute; parish records for Hertfordshire; images of French forts in North America; Michigan death records; outgoing passenger lists for the US and War of 1812 pension records?

ENGLAND 1831 CENSUS SUBSTITUTE. There’s a new 1831 census substitute database at Findmypast!  England, Pollbooks and Directories 1830-1837  allows you to discover where your ancestors lived, how they earned a living and how they voted. This collection of assorted documents also plugs the important gap left by the lack of a complete 1831 census.”

ENGLAND PARISH REGISTERS. Findmypast now has a browsable collection of parish records for Hertfordshire. The collection spans 1538-1988: that’s 450 years and 1.9 million pages of baptisms, marriages and burials.

NEW FRANCE. Library & Archives Canada has published a new Flickr photo collection with images of North American forts built or captured by the French during the era of New France. It’s free to explore and the history is fascinating!

MICHIGAN DEATHS. A new collection of  Michigan Death Records, 1857-1960 is available to Ancestry.com subscribers. Death registers and certificates contain varying amounts of genealogical information.

US TRAVELERS ABROAD. Ancestry.com has a new database of departing passengers and crew from various U.S. locations (1916-1962) by ship and air. These include military transports. “Details requested on the forms varied, but they typically include the name of the vessel, departure date, ports of departure and destination, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence.” Later documents may include visa or passport information.

WAR OF 1812 PENSIONS (US). Images of pension records for US soldiers with surnames beginning A-M have been posted on Fold3, where they are available to view for FREE. This is part of the ongoing Preserve the Pensions project led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Click here to learn more and contribute to funding for this crowd-sourced effort.

google for genealogy quoteLooking for a specific type of record about your ancestor? Want to find more new genealogy records online yourself? Click here for step-by-step instructions on using Google to search for specific records.

 

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.

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