Not sure how to use microfilm or microfiche readers? Watch these quick video tutorials before your next trip to the library!
Recently I heard from a Genealogy Gems Premium member who is digging in deep to her family history. But she confessed that she left the Oklahoma Historical Center in Oklahoma City “in tears because I really didn’t know what I was doing” with the microfiche machine and with microfilms.
I totally understand. Microfilm and fiche readers are not my favorite part of genealogy research, either. But despite the wealth of digitized records that continue to appear online, microfilm is going to be around for a while! FamilySearch and other publishers of microfilmed data (like state archives) do not have copyright permissions to digitize all their microfilmed materials. Even if they can get it, it’s going to take a long time to make that happen.
Meanwhile, we will continue to need microfilm and microfiche readers!
Microfilm is a long reel of film (up to 125 feet, I’ve heard) that are essentially page-by-page photos of a document collection, book, newspaper, etc.
Microfiche is a single sheet of film (about 4″ x 6″) that contains the same, only shrunk down so small you need a magnified reader to make sense of it.
These were standard technologies for duplicating records in the pre-digital era. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City alone has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Yes, that’s million! (And yes, they will lend them out to a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library near you.)
To access these fantastic films and fiches, you will need to use microfilm readers and microfiche readers. It’s easy to walk into the library and think everyone knows how to use them but you. But that’s not true. In fact, every single genealogist has had to face their first encounter with a reader. Don’t be shy about asking politely for a tutorial (and help when you do it wrong and something gets stuck). And don’t be shy about watching these tutorials on YouTube before you go to the library again:
Are you having a hard time coming up with the perfect gift for someone special on your list? The gift of video gives all year round, and doesn’t require you to buy the correct size. Make your video about family history, or the memories of the recipient, and get ready for hugs and smiles of appreciation for your thoughtfulness.
Do you remember the first Christmas that you realized it was better to give than to receive? It’s an amazing feeling when your heart swells at the thought of snagging the perfect present for the people you love the most. But if you’re like me, there are always one or two relatives who present daunting challenges. Perhaps it’s the elder members of your tribe who seem to want for nothing; or a Aunt who quietly returns everything.
My challenge this year is my Dad. He seems to want for nothing, and having an Amazon Wish List isn’t even on his radar. Last year Dad passed his high school scrapbook on to me. It’s brimming with some of his fondest memories: his Boy Scout membership card, newspaper clippings of his football prowess, and the cardboard glasses he wore to his very first 3D movie. I’m pretty sure his heart was swelling when he handed this treasure chest of beloved memories to his daughter, the family historian.
And that’s when I was struck with an inspiration: give it back to him in the form of a video.
Video: Gift Perfection
Here’s why video makes a perfect gift:
It doesn’t take up precious space on the shelf
It can be enjoyed from any computing or mobile device again and again
It can be shared easily with others
If you have been in search of the perfect holiday gift, follow along with me, and give the gift of video.
Creating a Video Gift
If you’re short on time, consider making a video of an old family scrapbook. All you will need is a smartphone and 30-60 minutes. Pull a scrapbook off the shelf, and dust it off because it’s about to get a new life!
Step 1 – Photograph the album
You could use a flatbed scanner to scan each page and the individual items you want to highlight. But you can save a ton of time by putting your smartphone or tablet to use. For me, this was the ideal solution also because so many of the items in the scrapbook had become loose, and I wanted to be able to show the pages as they were originally laid out. By setting the book on a table I could just snap photos rather than turning it upside down on the scanner glass. And don’t worry about snapping the perfect pics because we’ll get them all snazzy in step 3.
Save the images to a free cloud service like Dropbox so that you can easily retrieve them on your home computer.
Step 2 – Head to Animoto.com
(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)
Although Animoto does have an mobile app, I like using the web version on my computer which provides the advantage of a bigger screen. Click here to go to Animoto, and sign in to your account. Then, just click the Create button to start a new video project.
Choose a Video Style, which will include a music soundtrack. If the music isn’t quite what you had in mind, click Change Song and pick from a robust list of tunes. Animoto’s secret sauce optimizes and paces your slides to jive with the music. If the music is faster, the slides are faster, and if it’s slower, yep, the slides are slower. In the end though, you always have the final choice in the pacing of your slides and your entire video. Need a little extra time? Then just add a second music sound track.
Step 3 – Add Your Photos
Now it’s time to add your photos. Click Add Image, select Dropbox, and navigate your way to the folder where you saved your photos. Click the first one in the list, and then holding down the Shift key on your keyboard, click the last photo in the list, and click the Choose button. There you go: you’ve added all your images in one fell swoop! Imagine the time you saved over adding one item at a time.
I snapped all the full page photos first, and then I went back and snapped some of particular items I wanted to highlight with closeup images. That meant that when I added my photos they weren’t in exactly the right order. Thankfully, all I had to do was drag and drop them in the desired order. Easy peasy!
Edit your photos within Animoto.
Another reason I adore using Animoto is that I can do all my editing right there in the dashboard. With a few clicks you can apply a quick crop, slight rotation, and image enhancement with a great result. (Image right)
You even have the option to add video clips with Animoto. So if I had a fancy to add my original video of turning the pages of the scrapbook (above) I would just drag and drop it onto the timeline. And it is that ability to drag images and video from your hard drive straight into Animoto that makes it so quick and easy to use.
Step 4 – Add Title Slides
Although my Dad’s scrapbook really speaks for itself, I decided to add a few title cards to help guide the viewer like:
The Picture Show
And title cards are great for “The End” and any other message or credits you want to add.
If you want to add text within your project, click to select the item that your text will follow, then click Add Text from the menu, and it will appear immediately after the previous item. To add text at the end, just click the plus sign in the last box and again type your text. And remember, nothing is set in stone. If you change your mind you can drag the text to a new location, edit it, or delete it all together.
Step 5 – Preview & Publish Your Video
At any time during the process you can click the Preview Video button to see your work. If you like what you see, then click the Produce button in the Preview window to create the final product. And speaking of final products, here’s mine:
Are you ready to start creating memorable videos for the loved ones on your list? Click here to learn even more and give Animoto a whirl. (And just think: no wrapping required. You’re welcome!)
Recently I heard from Carol in St. Louis, Missouri, who was frustrated that she couldn’t read my entire email newsletter. “Would love to know what you are saying,” she says. But my newsletter email doesn’t fit in her email window. “I don’t want to toggle to the right to see the end of each line and then have to toggle back.”
The good news I shared with Carol is that she could fix this problem–and so can anyone else who has trouble with emails not fitting in their viewers.
Email sizing is related to your computer’s screen resolution setting, and a variety of other variables. It’s different for everyone. 98% of our readers see the email perfectly fitted to their screen.
As you can see in the screen shot here, the email Carol forwarded me appears neatly and completely in my email window in my browser. (I’m on a PC using Firefox.) In cases where it doesn’t come through to your email account that way, we provide a link at the top of the email that you can simply click to view the email on a new web browser tab fitted to the page.
Want to receive our free email newsletter? Just sign up in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this webpage or on the Genealogy Gems home page. It’s free, we don’t share your email address with anyone else, and you get a free e-book of Google tips for genealogy just for signing up.
Has it been awhile since you have perused your DNA matches? Here’s how reviewing your DNA test results regularly can help your family history.
By now, many (if not most) of the genealogists I meet at conferences have had their DNA tested. Good for you! But how often are you checking on your DNA matches? It’s easy to forget about them after that first exciting look at your match list and the flurry of emails that you received. You should be checking in regularly! Here are two great reasons why:
1. You may have new DNA matches.
More and more people are flocking to these companies to have their own DNA tested. Why just this month, AncestryDNA announced they have tested 5 million people. It was only in January of 2017 that they announced they’d hit 3 million, so they’ve added more than two million people so far this year.
What this means is that just as new records are constantly being added online (we cover millions of new additions every Friday on this blog), so are new DNA test profiles. That means you will keep discovering new DNA matches in your list over time. That elusive cousin you’ve been hoping would test may do so tomorrow. A key relative on your dad’s side–maybe on a line with unknown parentage–may have tested three weeks ago, with results now pending. (Genealogy Gems Editor Sunny Morton told me she has had two ground-breaking DNA matches in the past two months alone. Lucky her!)
In AncestryDNA, you can actually sort to view new matches. From your AncestryDNA home page, click View all DNA matches. Then select the filter New by clicking on it.
AncestryDNA will now just show you, in order of degree of relation, any matches you haven’t yet clicked on to review more closely. This can be quite a time-saver. And it can also help remind you of any matches you may have already seen in passing but haven’t closely reviewed.
Another tip: under each of your AncestryDNA matches, you can also see how long it’s been since that person logged in, as shown here.
Perhaps you emailed someone a while back but never heard anything (or didn’t notice a response). If you can see that a person is actively using the site now, it may be worth reaching out again.
2. New tools to review your DNA matches may be available.
While you’ve been busy recently tracking down census records and virtually visiting the courthouses, your DNA testing companies have been busily adding to their offerings. Just recently, MyHeritage revealed a beautiful, streamlined way to review each of your DNA matches. (Remember, it’s free to upload your DNA there. Click here to see how. You can also purchase a test from MyHeritageDNA.)
At MyHeritage, your list of DNA matches shows your genetic relatives who have tested, how much DNA you share, and your possible relationship. The new DNA MatchReview page helps you navigate that information and decide what to do with it. This is what the new MyHeritage DNA Match Review experience looks like:
In the past, I’ve talked on this blog about several excellent (and still-evolving) tools on AncestryDNA, such as:
Competition in the DNA market space means that every company continues to add new and improved features to their site and testing experience. It’s worth checking back to explore what new information and tools might be available.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that your testing company is always working to improve your DNA testing experience. So you should regularly return to your lists of DNA matches at the website of every company where you have tested. If you’re not sure how to use the site, please read some of my DNA posts on this blog and consult my quick reference DNA guides about these testing companies:
Keep checking back on those DNA matches. You never know what discovery might be just a click away.
Disclosure: This post 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!
Millions of Ellis Island passenger arrival records include the names of the arrivals’ relatives, but those names haven’t been searchable in online indexes–until now. MyHeritage has added over 26.6 million relatives’ names to its passenger list collection and even digitally stitched together the pages for easier reading.
New Names in Ellis Island Passenger Arrival Records at MyHeritage.com
Recently, I interviewed Ellis Island experts and shared my ongoing immigrant ancestor discoveries in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast (episode 211) and PremiumPodcast (episode 153). I’ve made progress by searching Ellis Island records at different websites and by learning about clues we often don’t recognize in the records themselves. So I was pleased to hear that MyHeritage has added its own Ellis Island and Other New York Passenger Lists (1820-1957) collection and given it two unique features:
Its 94 million names include–for the very first time–26.6 million names of the relatives of passengers. Passenger lists recorded both the name of a relative or friend living at the arrival’s last residence and the name of a relative or friend the passenger was to visit in this country. Many times, this chain of names represents family links between an immigrant’s old and new homes. MyHeritage has indexed these names; their press release says they’re the first to do so. A quick check of Ellis Island collections at Ancestry.com, Ellis Island.org, Steve Morse’s One-Step Pages and FamilySearch confirms that none of them mention relatives’ names in their index descriptions.
MyHeritage has stitched together the two-age passenger manifest images, which I find pretty cool. It’s much easier not to miss the fact that there is a second page for each record, and to trace your ancestor’s line straight across the page. Here’s what it looks like:
Searching for Ellis Island Immigrant Ancestors
Louise (on the right) just before departure for America.
Interestingly, this search engine is the first one of any genealogy records site to pull up both sets of arrival listings for my great grandmother Louise Sporowsky and her daughter Martha, whom I talked about in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #153.
I’m very fortunate that by a quirk of circumstance Louise and Martha were recorded twice in the same passenger list. But because each entry had variations, they’ve never come up in the same search – that is until now!
The search was a simple one: the name “Sporowksy” & 1910 as the year of arrival:
Premium Members may listen to that episode to find out why Louise and Martha had two passenger listings for the same crossing and what I learned from looking at both of them.
Here’s a tip: There isn’t a separate search field for relatives’ names in the MyHeritage index. I wondered about that, and Daniel Horowitz at MyHeritage confirms that you just use the regular search fields for first and last names of the passenger’s relatives. Results will include both the passengers themselves and the relatives they named.
Learn More about Ellis Island
Me with Barry Moreno at Ellis Island. Photo by Beth Forester.
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!