Category: Books

Cool gadgets and gifts on every Genealogist’s wish list !

Over time, I have developed this list of my favorite and most wished for cool gadgets and gifts on every genealist’s wish list whether the occasion is Christmas, birthday, graduation, or any of life’s other milestones.

Apple – iPad with Retina Display 4th Generation 9.7″ 16 GB Wi-Fi Black Tablet – 2013 Model (iOS 6, LCD Touchscreen, 2048×1536, 10 Hours, Lightning Connector)

genealogist's wish list

Apple iPad with Retina Display 4th Generation 9.7 on the genealogist’s wish list.

Although in the past, I always used a laptop for portability, I find that I’m home all the time now and have replaced my old laptop with an all in one desktop with 23″ touch screen that I absolutely love.

Since I learned the lovely news that RootsMagic, my favorite genealogy software, has now released Mac and iOS compatible versions, I have decided that my next purchase will be the Apple iPad for portability – for those rare occasions when I do travel away from home.

Wizcom – QuickLink Pen Handheld Scanner (Infrared)

genealogist's wish list

Wizcom QuickLink Pen Handheld Scanner (Infrared) on the genealogist’s wish list.

I have an OCR conversion software for converting pdf and image files to be editable. This is an absolute must for my transcription efforts.

Although I don’t own a pen scanner, this is the next item on my list for my ‘portable pack.’

VuPoint Solutions – Magic Wand II Portable Photo + Document Scanner with Wi-Fi (Pewter) with 32GB Card + Reader + Case + Cloth

genealogist's wish list

Magic Wand II Portable Photo + Document Scanner with Wi-Fi and 32GB Card is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I did own this handheld scanner until my daughter knocked over my working table one day and broke it. I do intend to get another as it was great for scanning individual pages, open books, etc.

Couragent, Inc. – Flip-Pal mobile scanner

 on every genealogist's wish list.

Flip-Pal mobile scanner is on every genealogist’s wish list.

This is another scanner I don’t yet own, but I’m toying with purchasing this solely because of its portability and ability to ‘stitch’ images together. This is essential for scanning large documents, certificates, photos, charts, and diagrams.

WD – My Passport Slim BGMT0010BAL-NESN Portable External 1 TB Hard Drive (USB 3.0)

WD - My Passport Slim BGMT0010BAL-NESN Portable External 1 TB Hard Drive (USB 3.0)

My Passport Slim BGMT0010BAL-NESN Portable External 1 TB Hard Drive is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I swear by my portable, external hard drive. Using this in conjunction with SkyDrive, my genealogy data is always duplicated and secure. This is by far the best method I’ve found for safeguarding years of hard work and investment.

NMicro – NMicro 1TB USB 3.0 tiny mini micro Pen DRIVE Blue Series actual 28.8GB Free Space

on every genealogist's wish list

NMicro 32GB tiny mini micro Pen DRIVE Blue Series is on every genealogist’s wish list.

For those occasions when I don’t want to lug around the portable external hard drive, the micro pen drive is the answers. It is great for storing those scanner images, photos, etc. until I can get home and transfer them to my main system.

Magnabrite – 64mm Magnabrite® Light Gathering Magnifier

is on every genealogist's wish list

Magnabrite® 64mm Light Gathering Magnifier is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I haven’t been doing a lot of research in dimly lit, dusty old libraries, archives, etc., this is an amazing gift as it gathers and magnifies the ambient light to direct it at specific documents, books, etc. and making them more readable.

Nuance – Dragon NaturallySpeaking v.9.0 Preferred (Voice Recognition Mini Box – PC – English)

 is on every genealogist's wish list

Nuance – Dragon NaturallySpeaking v.9.0 Preferred is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I love my NaturallySpeaking software and use it all the time. It doesn’t work well when there are people around all the time, but for someone like me who is home alone during the weekdays, this software enables easy verbal transcription of documents, and then it’s just a matter of editing and formatting. Such a time saver!

I also swear by this because I like my blogs to have a more conversational tone, so I dictate my blog posts directly into the software for easy editing and formatting. If you’re a blogger with plenty of quiet time on your own, you really must try this.

NOTE: There is some ‘training’ required to increase accuracy, but except for a few ‘glitchy’ instances, I find it amazingly accurate.

Great Plains – WOW 4-in-1 Combo Stylus for Touchscreen Tablets

 is on every genealogist's wish list.

Great Plains 4-in-1 Stylus for Touchscreen Tablets is on every genealogist’s wish list.

Since I just purchased my very first touch screen computer – my new all in one – my next purchase will be a decent stylus for on screen actions and activities – and just for fun!

Antenna Shop – Antenna Shop Brief Bag with Stylish Carrying Case for Tablets and Gadgets (ASBBNB)

 is on every genealogist's wish list.

Antenna Shop Carrying Case for Tablets and Gadgets on every genealogist’s wish list.

I don’t think I have to say much about this one. Once I’ve purchased all of the items on my list above that I don’t already own, this would be an ideal case for carrying around the iPad and extraneous gadgets required to keep my genealogy research and blogging life simple – believe it or not!

Genealogy obsession in Iceland opens academic doors.

As I’ve written in previous posts, much of human history has involved the management of relationships, marriages, etc. to safeguard against incestuous relationships, and has resulted in an impressive genealogy obsession in Iceland.
Genealogy obsession in Iceland

Genealogy obsession in Iceland opens academic doors.

Iceland, with its population of only 320,000, is one small corner of the globe that still deals with the issues of living in the shallow end of the gene pool, manifesting in today’s Icelanders’ preoccupation with genealogy and family history.

In one instance, a group of students from the University of Iceland engineering department created a smart phone app, allowing users to simply bump phones to see if they have a common ancestor, as well as if there’s a relationship and just how close it is.

Prior to the smart phone app, the “Book of Icelanders” (Islendingabok), has been the receptacle of genealogy records. Kári Stefánsson, an Icelandic neurologist, created a web-based version of the “Book of Icelanders” to provide constant access to its users. Kári Stefánsson and Fridrik Skulason claim to have documented 95% of Icelanders of the past three hundred years.

A benefit of the impressive job Icelanders have done tracing their family genealogies, is the extensive collection of data available for studies and experiments in many  disciplines including science, social studies, health and genetics.

Another example of the benefits of pursuing genealogy was described in my previous post “Owning a home: Military least likely and fire fighters more likely to own”. In this case, a statistical analysis of census data by Ancestry.com provided data to study home ownership trends over the past century.

Although the thoughts of the current and future benefits of genealogical study are pleasant ones, consider the negative – how would such caches of genealogical information have been used during WWII in Germany? The thought is truly frightening.

Previous posts about this topic are:

Icelandic Ancestry: the Icelandic genealogy database is now available online. 

Ingenius incest prevention app created by University of Iceland students.

The Science of husbandry on a human scale.

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MyHeritage, EBSCO to provide genealogy services for institutions.

This press release brings great news for genealogy researchers. We’ve seen this in the past with Ancestry.com in libraries and Family Search through local LDS Family History Centers, and now MyHeritage will be partnering with EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) to provide genealogy services for worldwide institutions and libraries.
Ancestry and genealogy services for institutions

Providing genealogy services for institutions.

PRESS RELEASE
October 7, 2014

MyHeritage, the popular family history network, today announced a significant expansion into the institutional education market, with the launch of a dedicated, high-performance family history genealogy service for worldwide institutions and the signing of a strategic partnership with EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) to distribute it exclusively.

As the leading provider of online research content for libraries and other institutions, EBSCO’s partnership with MyHeritage reaffirms its commitment to providing first-class content to libraries at affordable prices.

EBSCO Senior Vice President of Product Management Michael Laddin, said: “MyHeritage brings to the table an unparalleled offering of a vast, content-rich database and innovative, easy-to-use technologies. With a proven track-record of supporting customers across the globe, we are very excited about this partnership and the value it will bring to libraries and other educational centers worldwide.”

The new, state-of-the-art MyHeritage Library Edition™ MyHeritage Library Edition™ empowers people to discover more about their family history and the lives led by their ancestors. It’s the first product servicing libraries that offers a one-stop-shop of global content, powerful technologies and remote access.

The MyHeritage Library Edition™ provides access to a vast collection of U.S. and international documents online, with images of original documents to enhance research and encourage critical thinking.

Key highlights include:

Vast Global Content

Educational institutions that deploy the MyHeritage Library Edition™ will be able to offer their patrons access to billions of historical documents, millions of historical photos and other resources in thousands of databases that span the past 5 centuries. Available in 40 languages, the MyHeritage Library Edition™ is the industry’s most multilingual family history search engine, breaking down geographical and language barriers in research. The data repository, one of the largest and most internationally diverse of its kind, includes birth, death and marriage records from 48 countries, the complete US and UK censuses, immigration, military and tombstone records and more than 1.5 billion family tree profiles. The database grows at an average pace of more than 5 million records each day.

Powerful Technology

The MyHeritage Library Edition™ builds upon MyHeritage’s deep investment in innovation. Its search engine’s automatic handling of translations, synonyms and spelling variations of millions of names in multiple languages is unparalleled. Its unique Record Detective™ technology takes research one step further by recommending additional records for each record discovered. This enhances research and helps users discover a lot more in less time.

Remote Access

Library members can use the MyHeritage Library Edition™ either at their local library or in the comfort of their own home using remote access.

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My top ten: Best world-wide genealogy and ancestry websites.

After almost twenty years of genealogy research, there are certain sites that have become my ‘go to’ sites for certain aspects of my genealogy research. I thought it might be helpful for me to post my list of my top ten genealogy and ancestry websites.
Internet Archive

Internet Archive Search

I have also included a description of the reasons why these sites have proved invaluable to me. If you’re looking for information in these areas, be sure to check out these sites.

The headings are links to the sites described and paid sites are indicated by ($) following the heading.

1.  FamilySearch.org

Maintained and updated by the LDS (Latterday Saints) Church, this site has been invaluable for all of my time researching my family’s genealogy. In the past few years in particular, the databases have expanded substantially as the LDS organization works to digitize more and more information. Recently, the search feature has become much more effective and accurate. No matter what country, region or time frame you are researching, this is a wonderful site. Best of all, it is free.

2.  Ancestry.com ($)

Ancestry.com is a favorite for all of the reasons listed for FamilySearch.org, the only difference being that a paid subscription is required. Although I do use Ancestry.com a great deal, I plan my research so I don’t have to remain subscribed all of the time. As I research and find gaps, I keep a ‘to do’ list and when it is large enough to warrant the cost, I will subscribe for as long as I think is necessary, tackle my list, and cancel the subscription when I have completed my list. It has been almost a year since I last subscribed because I’ve been finding a substantial amount of information elsewhere. I am due to subscribe pretty soon to tackle my current ‘to do’ list.

If you’re looking for one paid site that provides extensive data from around the world, this is the one.

3.  Cyndi’s List

Cyndi’s List is the largest site that offers extensive links to genealogy sites and resources on the internet. Cyndi has worked tirelessly for decades creating this site of over 300,000 links – sorted, categorized and constantly updated to maintain currency and functionality.

Recently, however, Cyndi’s List has been the target of a hacker who stole her entire site, making minor changes to ‘make it their own’ and attempting to divert revenue to themselves. Be sure the site you’re visiting is actually Cyndi’s List and help protect her extensive investment and our valuable resource.

4.  Olive Tree Genealogy

Olive Tree Genealogy is an extensive portal of links to valuable data and genealogy research information around the world. Although I do find this site somewhat confusing and difficult to navigate, my investment of time and effort has proved valuable as I have found wonderful, obscure data that I was unable to find elsewhere.

5.  Foundation for Medieval Genealogy

You should have seen my surprise when my husband’s ancestry connected directly to nobles and royalty in the medieval period. For the longest time this was a vast brick wall for me as there is very little quality data available online for researching this time.

I can’t remember how I found this site, but it’s an amazing resource as it’s extensively researched and sourced. The sources are described in detail and where there are questions about the data, they make it clear so we can note these gaps and questions in our own research. Where they have drawn conclusions from the existing evidence they examine the evidence and describe their conclusions.

6.  Directory of Royal Genealogical Data: University of Hull

This is another well researched site about royal genealogy from the University of Hull in England that also covers the medieval period, but they are not as clear about the quality of their sources, the evidence they’ve used to form their conclusions and the reasons they formed the conclusions leading to the published genealogy.

7.  Internet Archive

Besides finding and sourcing dates and events, I also enjoy finding the details of the lives of our ancestors through written accounts. Access to these publications has helped immensely with writing this blog by enabling me to understand the circumstances and times in which our ancestors lived.

Internet Archive tops Google E-Books on this list because it is totally free.

8.  Google E-Books

Google E-Books is essentially a site offering paid and free access to public domain written materials and books with a very accurate, intuitive search feature. If you use the link in the heading, however, it is possible to search only titles available for free access and download. To find free titles, be sure to check ‘Full View’ when conducting a search.

9.  Rootsweb

This is a free site offered by Ancestry.com. It’s a valuable resource for providing free access to user input data and family trees. Although I don’t entirely trust the data offered on this site for the simple reason that it is made up from ‘user input’, it has been very valuable to me when encountering those frustrating brick walls. I use the information here as ‘clues’ which have helped me break through those brick walls.

This data is recognizable in my Blythe Database because I do not enter sources or indicate very poor quality sources. Those using my database should interpret these facts as questionable at best.

10.  GeneaBloggers

GeneaBloggers was the genius idea of offering a directory of genealogy blogs. When I have some time on my hands and just want to explore what others are doing and saying, I start at GeneaBloggers.

Have fun checking out these sites!

Sign of the times: Ancestry.com killing local genealogy societies?

To me, the new article I discovered today on the Simcoe Reformer website illustrates a disturbing trend in which the larger, conglomerate sites such as Ancestry.com are killing local genealogy societies.
online genealogy websites killing local genealogy societies?

Are large online genealogy websites killing local genealogy societies?

I must admit, I’ve never been one to do physical research. As one whose personal income depended on computers, the internet and their use on the job, I began my genealogy research twenty years ago using the internet almost exclusively. My timing was just right as there was an influx of information being indexed online and I was able to take advantage as I progressed in my research.

Admittedly, I would hit frequent brick walls, but the scope of my research was so extensive, I would just shelve that brick wall, move on to something else, and come back to it later with the hope something had been put online that would allow me to break down that brick wall.

According to the above mentioned article, the Norfolk chapter of the Ontario Genealogical Society will be holding a sad but important meeting to discuss the organization’s chances of survival into the future. With a membership that has dropped by almost 50% over several years, and this is easily attributed to the mass availability of genealogy data online with large sites such as Ancestry.com. There’s no longer much reason to do physical research in local repositories, libraries and genealogy societies.

As sad as this seems, it is a sign of progress and global accessibility to all information, which is as it should be – giving everyone with computers and internet connections equal access.

The only part about this that bothers me is, what will happen to the collections held by these organizations? My hope is that there will still be regional organizations in the larger city centers and these collections can be transferred, care for and made available to the general public at these venues.

Living in Chilliwack, British Columbia, I would have no problem traveling to Vancouver if the local collections were transferred to the larger city. For those times when we have to research areas not indexed online, it would be well worth making the periodic trip.

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Are free genealogy databases a thing of the past?

In almost twenty years of genealogy research, I have found a considerable amount of the sources, data and images on free genealogy databases online. They still exist in large numbers and can be very valuable.
find free genealogy databases

Finding free genealogy databases.

The tough part in some cases is finding them, as most sites created by amateur genealogists and website owners are not optimized for the internet and therefore may not rank well in Google searches.

Be sure to sift through as many links as you can. If the site entered from a Google search result links to other sites, then by all means check them out. It’s important to bookmark any sites you find valuable as it’s very likely that days, weeks, months or even years down the road, you may never be able to find it again.

One tool I find very helpful for finding free genealogy databases is the Google Genealogy Search Tool at the Ancestor Search website. Scroll to the very bottom for the search tool, just one of many on the page. This tool incorporates most of all the search types above it. Just proceed to the next search results once you’ve waded through a set. This is very quick, easy and fruitful.

It is also important to search by other means than just names, such as location, topical sites (i.e. military service, war records, births, deaths, etc.) and dedicated surname websites.

When you begin to study genealogy, the resources that you have are few and far between. Most of us don’t go out and purchase expensive books or buy memberships in larger sites to get the information that we want. We tend to rely more on our own experiences and family members, but the truth is that those resources, while good, won’t carry you back through too many generations before you need some additional help.

Frustration can be an integral part of genealogy research. When it gets to the point where I’m very frustrated and feeling blocked, I create a ‘to do’ note on the person’s record in my genealogy software and turn to a different item. I find when I return later, either with a fresh, clear mind, or having given the database time to make updates, I will find something useful.

While you’re working online on your family tree, the free genealogy database will very often be a life saver. Those of us who don’t, or can’t buy the online access to the many paid databases, use the free ones religiously to find our way through family members. While you may not find all of the things that you want to know, you will find a great deal of information that will point you in another direction you weren’t even aware that you had to explore.

Even paid genealogy sites offer some specific databases for free access. These sites include Ancestry.com, and Fold3.com, amongst others. To search for free records on any given paid genealogy site, find the search link, go to advanced search, and enter the keyword ‘free.’ Most sites will produce a list of all free databases on the site. Also, try a general ‘free database’ keyword search on Google. Be prepared for thousands of search results, but at least it’s a place to start.

It is also important to subscribe to the blogs or newsletters to learn of any time limited free database promotions that may be coming up.

For all of you who thought the free genealogy search was a thing of the past, and that nothing worth having was free any more, take heart. There are literally thousands of free genealogy database sites out there that are waiting for you to come and pick through them and get what you can for your own genealogy.

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