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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is Genealogy Evolving? (My thoughts on Mommy bloggers)



To some people “evolution” is a bad word, but that may be just what’s happening in the genealogy community. Today’s technology gives us the opportunity to go far beyond just recording names and dates. It is easier, today, to put our ancestors in the context of their times.

There have been some comments made online that a few of the attendees at the 2015 RootsTech conference were displeased at the presence of so many lifestyle bloggers, or “Mommy bloggers”.  I’d bet that those same complainers would, or do, cherish any diaries or journals left by their ancestors.  Yesterday’s diaries are today’s blogs.

Apparently more people like me are pursuing genealogy – not for the sake of proving lineage; but to learn and document our family history. Genealogical research gives us the information we need to try to understand our ancestors. Where and how did they live?  

How I wish my ancestors had kept journals!  What was the minutia of everyday life? What drove them to leave their homeland and extended families?  What were the conversations that led to the decision to emigrate? How did they adjust to their new homes?  How did my mother feel when her husband enlisted in the army in 1944?  My childhood memories are disjointed.  My parents and all their siblings are deceased. I’m left with historical records but none of their personal reminiscences except what I remember hearing. I scour history books in an attempt to understand my history and heritage.

Here’s a toast to lifestyle and Mommy bloggers. They’re leaving a priceless legacy.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Too Many BSOs!!!



Thomas MacEntee warns genealogists, especially those doing the Genealogy Do-Over to avoid being sidetracked by BSOs – Bright Shiny Objects.  We need to keep focused. 

I was doing ok for a couple of weeks.  I worked on my file naming strategy for documents and digitized photos. So far it seems to be working well. I have an Excel spreadsheet as an indexer of the photo files. As I prepare my scanned photos, I’ve been including metadata and a watermark of sorts - the three initials as shown in the lower left of the photo below.  I try to make the watermark fairly unobtrusive but definitely visible.



Then I was besieged with BSOs. On February 7 I attended an all day seminar put on by three Treasure Coast (Florida) genealogy societies.  This is an annual affair hosted by the Indian River Genealogical Society.  They’re always good but this one was GREAT.

Lisa Louise Cooke presented four classes from her book: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox   I knew that Google had more features than I’ve been using, but I was blown away by her presentation and her demonstrations of the powerful Google tools that can take online research to another dimension.  If you’re not watching her website, podcasts and videos, go take a look at Genealogy Gems

How can you not go home with a treasure trove of BSOs – new tools – and not play with them all?

Then on February 10, at the monthly Indian RiverGenealogical Society meeting, Mark Fearer spoke on the topic of immigration.  He gave me some ideas that may help with my one remaining immigration brick wall.  A couple more BSOs to play with.

I love new toys.  Self discipline has never been my strong point.  There are just too darn many BSOs.

Focus! Focus! Focus.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Revised File Name Scheme



Thanks to the people on the Facebook Genealogy Do-over group, I have revised my scheme for naming my digitized photos.

On FB I posted a link to my 1/24/2015 blog that asked for feedback; and got very good response that made me reconsider both my document file name scheme and the one for photos.

Documents

After much thought, I am not revising my document naming plan. I believe it will work for me. Here it is as posted on Jan 24:

Document Files = Date_Who_What

Date
 YYYY_MM_DD  A lower case x will substitute for unknown entries: 195x_xx_xx
Who
Surname-first name; or just family name
What
Type of record: Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Census, Deed, etc.

Here’s an example:  A copy of the church record of baptism from an LDS microfilm.
The file name is: 1841_11_14_Dachtera-Andreas_Baptism.jpg

The LDS film number is in the file metadata

Photos

Several people pointed out problems with my photo naming scheme. For one thing it was too complex. Even worse, it would be difficult to sort in a logical way. 

Old plan:

Date_Who_What-Description(description optional)_ Generation

Date
 YYYY_MM_DD  A lower case x will substitute for unknown entries: 195x_xx_xx

Who
Surname-First name; or just Family name plus additional information where appropriate
What
Type of photo i.e. snapshot or portrait
Optional description can include the event
Generation
Gx where x = the generation number.

Generation is one of the things I’ve wrestled with.  Here’s what I came up with.

Generation
Zero (Z) = me and my siblings, first cousins, etc.
1 = my parents and their siblings, etc,
2 = grandparents
3 = great grandparents
Z1 = my children
Z2 = my grandchildren
Z3 = my great grandchildren
M  = a photo with more than two generations.

A couple of examples:



File name:  191x_xx_xx_Dachtera-Stanley-kids_snap_g2-1.jpg


This tells me that it is a snapshot of my grandfather with kids, and that the primary person is generation 2 but it also includes generation 1 people.

Identifying the photo with Stanley’s name is my choice for my reasons. It could well have been “Dachtera-Johanna-sibs-dad”

File name: 1920_05_04_Dachtera-Supinski_port-wed_g1.jpg



New and Improved Photo naming scheme!!

Who_Type_Event_Generation

Who
Surname-First name; or just Family name plus additional information where appropriate
Type
Type of photo i.e. snapshot or portrait
Event
Wedding, birthday, reunion, etc.
Lower case x if there’s no specific event to be noted
Generation
Gx where x = the generation number.

Generation
Zero (Z) = me and my siblings, first cousins, etc.
1 = my parents and their siblings, etc,
2 = grandparents
3 = great grandparents
Z1 = my children
Z2 = my grandchildren
Z3 = my great grandchildren
M  = a photo with more than two generations.

Again, using the photos above as examples the file names would be

Dachtera-Stanley-kids_snap_x_g2-1
Dachtera-Johanna-Supinski_port_wed_g1

Not only is this simpler, it will sort well by name. The generation designation is unchanged.  In a family with several common first names, I want the file name to tell me which Joseph, for example, is the main subject of the photo.

Women’s names

There was much discussion in the FB group about how best to identify women. Should one use the maiden name or the married name? Here’s what I’m thinking:
Use the surname that is appropriate for the photo. A photo of my mother as a teenager would identify her as Ganas-Emily; while a photo of her after marriage would identify her as Dachtera-Emily-Ganas.

It seems that no matter how you approach this issue, there will be plenty of room for confusion. I'm hopeful that the supporting information will keep confusion at a minimum

Supporting information

I will also have an Excel file – one for documents and one for photos - that will keep track of the files as I create them.   Before I get too far along, I’ll try sorting these in various ways to make sure I have the info I need.

I hope my schemes will work for me, but it is still a work in progress




Saturday, January 24, 2015

Looking for Feedback on File Naming Schemes



I think that I’ve come up with a workable (for me) scheme for naming document files, and another one for photo files. But there a still a couple of unresolved questions. Please comment.  I know I can’t have considered everything.

Document Files = Date_Who_What

Date
 YYYY_MM_DD  A lower case x will substitute for unknown entries: 195x_xx_xx
Who
Surname-first name; or just family name
What
Type of record: Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Census, Deed, etc.

Here’s an example:  A copy of the church record of baptism from an LDS microfilm.

File name: 1841_11_14_Dachtera-Andreas_Baptism.jpg


The LDS film number is in the file metadata.

The idea is that the file list will sort itself first on date, then on name, but I haven’t gotten far enough to see what happens when there are Xs in the date. I suppose that a year of 184x will be listed after those with 1849 as the year.

While this seems that it will do the job, it seems just too simple.  Have I forgotten something???

Photo naming gets a little more complex

Date_Who_What-Description(description optional)_ Generation
Date
 YYYY_MM_DD  A lower case x will substitute for unknown entries: 195x_xx_xx

Who
Surname-First name; or just Family name plus additional information where appropriate
What
Type of photo i.e. snapshot or portrait
Optional description can include the event
Generation
Gx where x = the generation number.

Generation is one of the things I’ve wrestled with.  Here’s what I came up with.

Generation
Zero (Z) = me and my siblings, first cousins, etc.
1 = my parents and their siblings, etc,
2 = grandparents
3 = great grandparents
Z1 = my children
Z2 = my grandchildren
Z3 = my great grandchildren
M  = a photo with more than two generations.

A couple of examples:
File name:  191x_xx_xx_Dachtera-Stanley-kids_snap_g2-1

This tells me that it is a snapshot of my grandfather with kids, and that the primary person is generation 2 but it also includes generation 1 people.

Identifying the photo with Stanley’s name is my choice for my reasons. It could well have been “Dachtera-Johanna-sibs-dad”

File name: 1920_05_04_Dachtera-Supinski_port-wed_g1


I’m not sure how I should identify married women.

Use the married name?  In terms of one aspect of “future proofing” succeeding generations are more likely to know only the married name and may be looking at photo files independently of genealogy data files.

Use both maiden and married names? This may be the best solution, but would I identify the bride above as “Supinski-Johanna-Dachtera” or some other combination?

I’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible but maybe I’m missing something important.  I’ll resume scanning photos and see where I run into snags.

Any suggestions for improvement will be welcome.




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Learning from the Genealogy Do-Over



The Genealogy Do-Over is a thirteen week project begun on January 1 of this year and  led by Thomas MacEntee.  Information can be found online in several places that will be listed below. I’ve learned so very much from the participants in the Facebook group (more than 3,000 of them) devoted to this project who post and answer questions; and share the files they’ve created or modified to improve their research and recording techniques.

Digital file archiving is one problem I have not resolved to my satisfaction. My “system” has simply evolved from what seemed practical when I first began family research.  In other words, it is a non-system with some inconsistencies that make it a bit of a mess.  A specific problem area is file names for photographs.

At one time I started to design a file naming structure and a Microsoft Access database. Ill health took me away from genealogy for a while and when I got back to it I saw that my photo file naming scheme was entirely too complex to be usable.  I also came to realize that My database would become obsolete as Microsoft Access software changed and priced itself out of my budget. Consequently, I haven’t done any more scanning without having a reasonable naming scheme.

Thanks to the Do-Over folks, I’ve found a few archiving methods that may suit my needs.  I will probably take ideas from more than one suggested method. When I figure it out, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, I continue to follow the Do-Over and absorb the knowledge that these folks are sharing. I’m grateful to them all.

Here are some links to Do-Over information


Join the group and take a look at the files that have been uploaded as well as reading the posts.

There’s a link here to blog posts made by participants and links to resources.





Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Visit your Ancestral Village Online



For those of us who are not able to visit our ancestral towns in person, virtual touring can be the next best thing.  Using Wikipedia and Google Earth, you can often get much information about a town and probably its history, too.

Just as in the US, a village or city name may not be unique. When I first searched for my Grandmother’s birthplace, Grabowo, in Poland, I found twelve villages or towns with that name.  Over time I was able to pinpoint Grabow nad Prosna as the right one.  So if you know the correct village or town, you are ready for a virtual visit.

Wikipedia
When you do a normal Wikipedia search you end up at en.wikipedia.org.
Searching for your town will get you to an English language entry giving basic information including location on a map, map coordinates, county, population, etc.  But every country has its own Wikipedia entries aimed at its own citizens in its own language and much more information.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkowo shows this for one of my towns. This is a village of 1,040 people – pretty small. If it had a website, the link would be shown, too.  But look at the Polish entry for Parkowo.

Simply putting the two letter internet code for the country in the URL gets you to that country’s Wilipedia.  Here’s a link to a listing of all Internet country codes http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/text/web_country_codes.html

Entering pl.wikipedia.org brings up Poland’s Wiki. The bad news is that it will be in Polish, but the good news is that Google Translate does a pretty good job of translation – usable if imperfect.  If you use Google Chrome, you will automatically have the option to translate.  If you use a different browser, you can go to https://translate.google.com/ for translation.

http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkowo_(powiat_obornicki) has a lot of great information about the area including history and some photos.

Even better is the information from Grabow nad Prosna. http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grab%C3%B3w_nad_Prosn%C4%85
This town of more than 8,000 people does have its own website
There are current photos and even some old photos. I felt that I hit the jackpot when I got to this site.

Google Earth
If you don’t now have Google Earth, get it.  It is FREE and it is wonderful.
Finding your ancestral town on Google Earth gives you first a bird’s eye view.  You see the town and its setting, its geography.  You can zoom in and out and look around for an idea of your ancestors’ environment. Was it urban or just a crossroads?  Forest? Agriculture? Mountains? Rivers?

You can look at photos of the area that others have posted.  If there’s a church or river or lake or a palace, someone will probably have put a photo on Google Earth.

Here’s a screenshot of another of my ancestral towns, Iwno.



But best of all is Street View.

Google Street View cameras have been almost everywhere.  If a numbered highway goes through your town, Street View cars probably will have driven it. Except in larger cities, they won’t have traveled the neighborhoods, but you can at least get a glimpse of what the town looks like today.

Here’s a screenshot from Grabow nad Prosna



There’s nothing like a personal visit to see and feel for yourself what it is like, But even virtual visits are fun,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A new site to help add context to your ancestors’ lives.



Wouldn’t it be great to have quick access to an historical timeline and a summary of the time in which your ancestor lived?  You can have both at History Lines.

History Lines is still in beta test, but you can sign up to be a beta tester. Because it’s still in beta, there are a few glitches but that’s what beta tests are for. There is a feedback button so that you can offer any suggestions you may have for improving the product.

Enter your ancestors name and birth and death dates and you get both a timeline and a short narrative account of what daily life was like and the impact of significant events.  Here’s a screenshot of one person that I entered.




The areas covered in the summary are:
•           Childbirth
•           Childhood
•           Clothing
•           Communication
•           Diet
•           Education
•           Entertainment
•           Household
•           Hygiene
•           Marriage
•           Medicine
•           Military
•           Politics
•           Religion
•           Transportation

Stories are currently available in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, United States, 1600 to 1950

They’re currently working on Germany and they need user input to prioritize which countries to add next. I sure hope their German information will include Prussia.

I’m excited about this site because it will help me add flesh and context to family history.  The summaries will point me to areas I want to research further.


Great start History Lines!