Tag: sources

Protecting genealogy data and files!

Protecting genealogy data and files!

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After twenty years of genealogy research, I have learned a few things about the fragility of the valuable data and files we work hard to accumulate. In response, I have worked hard to develop some good habits when it comes to protecting genealogy data and files.

 

Safe Front
Protecting genealogy data and files.

Some of the issues I’ve encountered in the past are:

  • Sudden corruption of files.
  • Malfunction of hardware including CDs, flash drives and both internal and external hard drives.
  • Accidentally overwriting files.
  • Spontaneous software shutdowns, computer seizures or crashes prior to saving of files.

Following are some key rules that will protect against technical, software and hardware problems; viruses and malware; and deliberate or accidental interference.

 

  • My first and most basic rule when working with data and files is ‘SAVE OFTEN‘! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost data when my computer has seized or crashed prior to saving work.

 

  • Keep two copies of all data and files, one on the computer you use and another on an external hard drive. External hard drives are getting larger and less expensive all the time. It’s well worth the cost. Once you start using an external hard drive, be sure to eject it properly before unplugging the hard drive to avoid damage.

 

  • To secure against more extreme events, upload to an online server or cloud drive. This will safeguard against more extreme damage that can be caused by fire, theft, flood, etc. in one’s own home, possibly damaging or destroying everything in the home.

 

  • Keep your backup copy current by conducting daily backups of all data including media, sources, and software files to the external hard drive or cloud server. Some will tell you to use DVDs or CDs or flash drives for backup copies, but I’ve learned the hard way – DO NOT trust CDs, DVDs or flash drives except for transport of data. They are easily corrupted and/or damaged.

 

  • Always password protect genealogy software, directories and hard drives to safeguard against accidental and deliberate access by unauthorized persons. It is best to use a unique password for your genealogy data.

 

  • In a case where there is no backup and damage or loss occurs, it is possible to take your computer/hard drive to a knowledgeable technician to attempt data recovery. There are never any guarantees to this and the likelihood is that if anything can be recovered, it will most likely only be a percentage. Full recovery is very unlikely. The one time I had a hard drive recovery done was about five years ago and it cost me $99.

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I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

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Ideally, I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

I’ve long been a proponent of the open and free exchange of genealogy data to ensure ready access to information for everyone researching their family history.

This morning, however, I read “Cooperation Makes Records Available for Free” at FamilySearch.org and it made me think.

As much as I’d like all genealogical data to be free, I can understand someone wishing to recover their costs of researching the data.

Database profile for Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky, including references to numerous images, documents and sources. (Click on the image to see in full size.)

Although the costs of genealogy research have reduced considerably over the past two decades due to computers and the increasing availability of records, images and data online, we’re seeing a correlating increase in sites online offering valuable data for a fee of some kind, making free data harder to find.

FamilySearch.org is one of the few sites still offering data for free.

In my case, ALL of my data (including images, sources and documents) is available online for free download. I do not charge for anything. I do, however, make revenue from ad clicks and sponsored posts on my sites. The end result is that, at least at present, I can offer all of my data for free as the ads pay for the upkeep and maintenance of my sites – for the most part.

There is a delicate balance here, though. As long as I can afford to offer this information free of charge it will remain so. If there comes a point where I have to recover my costs, I will have to either charge for downloads or remove the site from the internet altogether. Rest assured that this is not anywhere in the foreseeable future.

I’ve also seen a marked increase in the amount of personal genealogy data online that is ‘locked’ or marked ‘private’. I have contacted the owners of such data and in most cases they have been very forthcoming and willing to exchange information. In a few cases, however, the owner can be very protective of their data and will not make it available. Luckily, these appear to be few and far between at present.

I welcome the exchange of data offered by anyone doing genealogy research. It is important that this information remain available. One caveat, however, is to ALWAYS categorize the data as it appears when received. If there are no sources attached, it is questionable at best and it is important to use this information as ‘clues’ to further finds. Do not take this information at face value.

I have a very large database and about half of the data is sourced, while about half is not. I am constantly actively seeking and adding sources to prove the data.

I have received some criticism for this. One researcher contacted me about a particular line of information because it was claimed I had a place name incorrect. Little did this person know I had lived in the area for 21 years and knew it very well. To say this person was hostile is putting it mildly. I couldn’t believe it when it was demanded that I remove the lines pertaining to HER RESEARCH as she was the researcher of this family and I had no business researching it since our connection was only by remarriage, adoption and the birth of half-siblings. She also demanded that I remove anything that was not sourced or proven. To do as she demanded would break up lines and create gaps, leaving me without clues to search for sources to prove the information I do have and fill the gaps.

As I stated above, a good portion of my data is accumulated through free exchange of information, including the import of gedcoms of other peoples’ research. The sources (or lack thereof) remain as they have cited them, but I do search for actual copies of listed sources to attach where possible. I leave unsourced data as I receive it until I can research it further and I categorize any sources I have confirmed or added.

It is important to realize that cooperation and goodwill among researchers is essential to keeping the lines of communication and free flow of information open. Once we start becoming territorial and protective of our data, we contribute to the scarcity of information and increased costs for all.

Again, although such data can be invaluable as clues to further research, it is important to note that all sources are only as good as the attachments and assessed quality.


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New Link: Online Newspapers Archive

New Link: Online Newspapers Archive

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Learning of this online newspapers archive site was very exciting to me. Some of the most valuable information we can find in our genealogical search comes from newspaper accounts because they provide a more detailed reflection of the lives of our ancestors – not just facts and figures. I have added this link to the main ‘Genealogy Links’ page in the top menu.

 

Online newspapers archive.
Online newspapers archive.

The Online Newspapers Archive site endeavours to centralize the thousands of historical newspapers from various sources in one location.

The first newspapers I looked for were those in the Acadian territories of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick before, during and after the expulsion. My family names do show in the papers available after 1850, but it will take some time to sift through them.

The newspapers for Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Kentucky also look promising as a great deal of our family history took place in these states.

One great disappointment, though is that there is nothing yet for the United Kingdom.

Although there are great gaps in the newspapers available for some geographical regions, what is available could provide that ‘gem’ one or more of us have been seeking.

I definitely intend to investigate this site further.


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The truth is ” the genealogy community needs more respect ” …

The truth is ” the genealogy community needs more respect ” …

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I strongly believe that the genealogy community needs more respect and tolerance in numerous ways.
We all have our own methods, beliefs and processes that we prefer to use in our own genealogy research.

 

tolerance

Just as I believe we should be tolerant of those in society who ARE different from each other, ACT different from each other, or BELIEVE different from each other, the same is true in the field of genealogy.

Tolerance is a key prerequisite to respect. We can’t respect anyone we judge, no matter what the reason or provocation.

I am one who believes in free and open exchange of genealogy information. I act accordingly offering all of my data images and sources for free download on my website. However, this does not mean that I expect the same from others.

I make it clear both on my site and in my personal communications that I do openly share information. Those who exchange information with me do so of their own free will and I respect their right to refuse, no matter what their reasons may be.

I am always amazed at the wonderful people I meet, correspond with, chat with and follow on social media. This aspect of my research is the most rewarding and enjoyable. These wonderful people more than make up for my infrequent encounters with those who are disrespectful, judgmental or demanding. Luckily, encountering them is very, very rare.

I love being an amateur genealogist (amateur being the key word here). After 20 years of research I would still not claim to be anything but an amateur who loves the field.


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Avoiding the quick pace and immediate gratification of ‘Pinball Genealogy’.

Avoiding the quick pace and immediate gratification of ‘Pinball Genealogy’.

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Pinball machine.Recently I read a post on the dearMyrtle.com blog about ‘Pinball Genealogy’, a general description of which is the quick ‘bouncing’ from one source to another, attaching the obvious data and facts without taking the time to explore the document to fully investigate all the information available.

An example of such a document is a census, which contains the listings of the individuals living in a household, their relationship to each other, gender, age, place of birth, etc. There is valuable information available elsewhere in the document, including neighbours, street addresses and house numbers, etc. that would be easily overlooked.

I bring this up as I’ve only just realized the importance of her philosophy as it relates to the fun, new, automated methods of mining genealogical data online using the latest generation of software.

Up until recently, I’ve entered everything manually when cataloging and entering data in my genealogy software. I would save the image (or other document), open it and size it to the right half of my screen, then open my software, and resize it to the remaining left half of the screen. The side-by-side windows make it easy to quickly transcribe the data from the image of document to the appropriate individuals, sources, etc. in the database. I have noticed that I have to struggle to resist the temptation to move quickly, saving the image and moving on to the next without transribing the data, fully intending on returning to it. This, however, never seems to happen and I’m left with an individual showing as unsourced even though I do have sources in my collection that have just not been entered. I do now continually work to finish entering these sources and try my hardest to completely exhaust all data from each and every document I use now and in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided to switch to the Family Tree Maker 2012 software from Ancestry.com and I’ve been working steadily familiarizing myself with the software and it’s features. The most intriguing feature is that of the ‘shaky leaf’ hints. This refers to the shaky leaf icon appearing at the top right of the individual’s cell in the pedigree window. Clicking on this leaf opens a browser window in the center of all the other windows neatly fitting on the screen and lists all ‘hints’ it has found for the person in question. Initially I started using it by only merging the data directly and quickly, but upon closer examination, I realized that this system only harvests the most obvious information, ignoring all extraneous information on the document.

In order to avoid the ‘quick and easy’ habit (ergo ‘Pinball Genealogy’), I have instead worked on making a habit of opening the image in a separate window after completing the merge as structured with Family Tree Maker 2012. Then I systematically go through the document and transcribe any additional data that was useful or may be useful in the future and enter it as well. This is especially important for the ‘hints’ from scanned publications, books, etc. as, although they are searchable, it is not possible to automatically merge the data into one’s database. In these cases, it is essential to manually enter the data from the document.

Perhaps there should be a 12-step program for those of us prone to ‘Pinball Genealogy’ to assist and support us in our efforts to change our ways…


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Let’s all work to save and expand our genealogical resources.

Let’s all work to save and expand our genealogical resources.

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I have been researching my family’s genealogy for over twenty years and my appreciation of the tireless and volunteer contributions in the pursuit of genealogy is endless.

 

All of our continuing efforts to expand our own genealogies do contribute to the cumulative effort of us all to save and expand our genealogical resources.

 

At one time, the only options for researching outside one’s own community were to depend on the mail system at the time or to travel to the location involved.

Although mail was relatively inexpensive, the flexibility of performing research oneself was lost. There was no opportunity to just dive right in and pursue a lead found in the return information. One would then have to mail another request, and then another, and then another – making this process time-consuming.

Submit Hall
Submit Hall

Travel to the location(s) in question could be very expensive, but resulted in the opportunity to pursue leads found while on site. If new information led to other organizations, agencies, museums, archives, etc. within the area, it was possible to also visit and do further research. This option provided a much more timely method of researching.

Genealogy has evolved considerably with the advent of the personal computer. Now, one can travel the world, visit museums and historical sites, communicate with organizations virtually, as well as doing research using free and paid sites online. The immediacy and flexibility of researching genealogy is something to be marveled at.

How was this possible?

This evolution started with passionate and dedicated volunteers and individuals who began transcribing physical records, collecting photos and images of documents, and placing them in online archives, databases and in specialty archive sites. For the most part, these resources were free and available to everyone.

With some sadness, I have watched a major shift take place in the short time since I began. As the popularity of genealogy became evident, commercial sites and paid services suddenly appeared online – the most noted of which being Ancestry.com .

Barker, William Sr. - Accused in Salem Witch Trials
Barker, William Sr. – Accused in Salem Witch Trials

It was still possible to find considerable free information and resources online, but those who had the funds and wanted to save time and effort could pay for subscriptions to make their search easier. Those of us with limited funds began setting up our own sites posting tips and information for other genealogists.

The newest shift I’ve been seeing is the trend for paid services and sites to ‘buy out’ free resources and add them to their paid catalog, leaving paid sites as the only option.

I still consider genealogy as a historical ‘treasure hunt’, one which I pursue with great effort and pleasure. I love nothing better than to discover an obscure site offering valuable information and this blog has provided the venue for me to post this information and assist others.

All links I find to valuable sites can be found in the ‘Genealogy Links’ tab above. Another update with dozens of new links will be completed soon.

Ambler, Joseph and Williams, Ann Wedding Certificate. Let's all work to save and expand our genealogical resources.
Ambler, Joseph and Williams, Ann Wedding Certificate.  Let’s all work to save and expand our genealogical resources.

I think it is important for us to try and preserve the free resources that remain, and possibly add new ones. This is only possible through the efforts of volunteers and the willingness of those of us researching to share information for free. I have made all information from my research available in the ‘Blythe Database’ in the tab above, including sources. Unfortunately, in order to include photos and images, I would have to start my own server. I do wish I could though, because the gold in the genealogy treasure for me has always been photos and images of documents, etc. I will say, though, that the images in my articles are either owned by me, credited to the rightful owner or under free commons license (credit requirements). Feel free to use any images on my site, but please be sure to include the photo credit. A credit to this site on the ones I own (uncredited) would be appreciated.

How can we all help to encourage and preserve free information?

Here are just a few ideas.

  • Start a website of your own and freely post any information you are willing to share.
  • Donate physical items to genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries and archives that provide free services to the field.
  • Start a newsletter or contribute to existing newsletters to collect and provide information to other researchers.
  • Offer your services to anyone researching in your area through services such as RAOGK (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness), which has since shut down indefinitely due to the illness and death of its Administrator, Bridgett Schneider.
  • Volunteer in ways to add to or improve what is available. Examples include transcription of documents, taking and submitting photographs of historical and/or genealogical importance, voluntary work at a location providing free services and resources, and conducting and documenting interviews for first hand accounts.

I am still actively pursuing my research and operating my sites, Empty Nest Ancestry and Blythe Genealogy. All data I’ve accumulated, including images, documents, links and sources is available for free access and download on Blythe Genealogy. Feel free to check it out by searching the Blythe Genealogy database site using the surname search link and the ‘All Media‘ search link in the upper drop down menu.

It is recommended to search using both methods as the results can differ greatly due to a glitch in the software that doesn’t connect all images from the bio.

If you have new information of relevance to genealogy, or are willing to volunteer your services to provide research in your area on behalf of others and would like to spread the word about your own efforts in this regard, or just plain news of interest, please let me know and I’d be glad to post it here.

Guest posts are welcomed but are subject to Editor review and may not be accepted. If accepted, the author will be given credit for the article and can include two nofollow links.

Please consider making information you have available to others in any way possible and for as little cost as possible and volunteer and/or donate to those who do if you can. Let’s keep our voluntary and free networks operating and providing for researchers in the future.


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We must know the genealogy questions before we can find the answers.

We must know the genealogy questions before we can find the answers.

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It has become increasingly apparent recently that there are two distinct schools of thought regarding quality and depth in genealogy research.

There are the genealogists who believe in working only with well-sourced, proven information – and then there are those of us who started our genealogical quests simply for the pleasure of doing so.

Before either camp can begin searching for answers, they much first know the genealogy questions.

 

My own research (see my Blythe Database) started with a curiosity about our history because I grew up in a military family that moved a great deal, and therefore I had very little opportunity to meet with near and distant family members to learn family stories and lore.

I do agree with the article “Take time to produce well-sourced, quality work,” on the Genealogy Today site, in which they respond to another article by Sharon Tate Moody in the Tampa Tribune, entitled “Drive-by genealogists should learn a few rules.”

I am one who looks at unsourced information as possible clues to breaking down brick walls and answering questions. Although the information itself may be unsourced and seen as questionable, it can be regarded as a clue.

When I receive gedcoms from others, or access information online, I do not discard what could be valuable information simply because there are no sources cited. I note the information, making it part of my own database, intending to return to it, find and cite concrete sources as I can.

Yes, I’ve found mistakes, but I have also found wonderful information allowing me to enlarge upon my family’s own stories.

I believe in the researchers’ responsibility for assessing the quality of the data they receive from others. I never take sources cited by others at face value, always working to find the sources cited and attach concrete proof in the form of images, etc.

Although a great deal of the Blythe Database attached to this site is not sourced, the majority of it is – the result of tireless work and ever increasing expense over 15 years. I have a clearly stated ‘Data Quality’ disclaimer linked in the upper horizontal menu of every page and post, and it states:

“The Blythe Database is my genealogy research in its entirety and is an ongoing process. I spend a minimum of four hours a day researching sources to verify data.

I have been researching genealogy for over fifteen years and you will note that I classify all sources by quality. If it is a poor quality source it is clearly indicated as such…

…It is common for there to be gaps in data and sources and in these cases I will use the individual anyway and either leave sources blank (indicating no sources found) or will clearly indicate source quality. It is up to the person using the data to use the information as classified.

I continually search out sources and documents to verify data and improve on substantiation. I have made some of my best discoveries using unsourced data as a starting point and I would hate for those clues to not be available.

This site is an effort to provide open, free sharing of genealogical information. However, all information is only as good as the sources cited.

I will gladly make corrections to data providing the information provided can be substantiated by the submitter with a source…”

Let’s face it: it’s quickly getting to the point where information gleaned from others will rarely include sources, images, etc. as more and more researchers become protective of their data. I understand as I struggle with my decision to openly share ALL of my information, but ultimately feel I’ve made the right decision, hopefully promoting more open and cooperative sharing of data by others as well.

Genealogy is a passion for me – and others. I enjoy the hunt as much as finding those elusive facts and sources. Maybe it’s my inner detective struggling to get out. Whatever the reason, my database will always have a substantial amount of unsourced data as I continually stumble upon new and hopefully ‘breakthrough’ information. I do, however, spend as much time as I can finding evidence and sources, but find (and I’m sure others do as well) that each new discovery raises numerous new questions, and finding those answers takes a great deal of time and effort.

There will never be an end to my quest…

photo credit: droetker0912 via photopin cc


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New to genealogy? Start with free genealogy sites and tools online.

New to genealogy? Start with free genealogy sites and tools online.

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Using available free genealogy sites and tools to the best advantage.

 

I’ve been doing genealogy research for well over fifteen years now and have amassed a database of over 100,000 individuals with supporting sources, images, and documents for over 90% of the individuals, which are available for free download. Yet, I still find new information every day.

There is a certain pattern of research I highly recommend to new researchers and here it is:

  • Interview or have a questionnaire completed by as many accessible family members as possible.

Everyone needs a place to start and with genealogy, depending on the location of the information sought, privacy laws vary, but information can be inaccessible for up to 100 years back.

To successfully trace back further than 100 years, one must have information from a closely linked generation to provide clues for working back in the family history. From here, one can also work forward and fill out collateral lines by contacting individuals who are willing to impart information, documents and sources that are not public due to privacy laws.

Here is a double-sided Family View Report I designed for use during interviews or for others to fill out and return. The reverse side is for notes, tasks, etc.

Using free software allows you to learn which functions and features are important to you if you find you wish to use paid software later on.

  • Using the Family View Reports gathered, enter the data into your genealogy software of choice and then research the individuals mentioned with the free sites, databases and tools available online.

I have amassed a very large collection of links to free resources of all types in the right sidebar. It pays to explore the free resources first and obtain as much information as possible until one or more ‘brick walls’ are reached and no further information is forthcoming for free.

I also highly recommend the free genealogy link directory site Cyndi’s List, which offers over 300,000 categorized and cross-referenced links.

  • Once one reaches a brick wall (sometimes called a dead end), it is advisable to explore the paid resources available online.

The paid site I recommend most highly is Ancestry.com , where I find I get by far the best return for my dollar.

I post periodically (usually between 7 and 14 days apart) on this blog with a listing of all of the updates and additions to both of these databases and they can be accessed by clicking here.

  • If the cost of research is a concern, I have found that it’s best to purchase a short-term subscription for the paid site you prefer.

Work within this site as much as possible during the subscription period to try to find information to help break through any brick walls, and then once the subscription expires, once again use the free resources to continue.

Working in this manner can save a considerable amount of money over time.


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FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions to January 3, 2014

FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions to January 3, 2014

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FamilyAncestry.com Updates and Additions” src=”https://www.emptynestgenealogy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/small__3568501582.jpg” alt=”FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions” width=”320″ height=”240″ />Search.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions to January 3, 2014

Family Search.org

Russia

United Kingdom

United States

Worldwide

 

Ancestry.com

Canada

 


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Agreement between Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org will enable future release of billions of records.

Agreement between Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org will enable future release of billions of records.

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Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org” src=”https://www.emptynestgenealogy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Blythe-Chas-Ships-Entry-Immigration-small.jpg” alt=”Agreement between Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org” width=”300″ height=”307″ />Agreement between Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org will enable future release of billions of records.

I rarely print press releases since I want this blog to resemble your local community genealogy center or club, where information, data and sources are made freely available and those involved in the pursuit of genealogy can communicate with me and with each other.

The last thing I want is for this blog to become just a ‘news’ website.

In this case, however, this press release is concerning an agreement between Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org that will make billions of records available and accessible online, making the experience of researching our family trees and ancestry even more productive and enjoyable. You can read more in the press release below.

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch to Make a Billion Global Records Available Online

Groundbreaking Agreement to Deliver Valuable Historical Content Over the Next Five Years

PROVO, Utah, Sept. 5, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ancestry.com and FamilySearch International (online at FamilySearch.org), the two largest providers of family history resources, announced today an agreement that is expected to make approximately 1 billion global historical records available online and more easily accessible to the public for the first time. With this long-term strategic agreement, the two services will work together with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.

The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as Ancestry.com continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide. Ancestry.com expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.

“This agreement sets a path for the future for Ancestry.com