Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Win a Free RootsTech plus Innovator Summit 2017 4-day pass

You can win a free 4-day pass to the fabulous RootsTech 2017 and the Innovator Summit, a $299 value by being the first to answer the puzzle below. RootsTech 2017 will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Salt Palace on February 8-11, 2017. Of course, you will have to pay your own way to get to Salt Lake City and find your own accommodations, food and etc. but the price of the conference will be free.

I have thought about how to hold a contest that is moderately challenging but allows for someone to win. The only way to do this is to have some rules for the contest. Here are the rules.

  • The winner will be the first person to send the correct answer to the following geographic puzzle to my email address:, as shown by the date and time stamp on the email. 
  • The answer to the puzzle will need to be in the form of a complete geographic location including the coordinates of the place to solve the puzzle. 
  • The winner will be notified by email, so be sure to include contact information. 
Genealogists should be able to locate any place on the earth as part of their skills. I thought about using some obscure place in Europe or Asia, but instead I decided to use one of my favorite places. So here it goes. 

I would say good luck, but in this case there is really no luck involved. The red flag is the place. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Back It Up, Archive It, Preserve It or Lose It

I received a comment from a friend in Australia that reminded me of the evanescence of records. He sent me a copy of an online article entitled, "Lost Memory - Libraries and Archives Destroyed in the Twentieth Century." Here is a citation to the original article.

Hoeven, Hans van der, J Van Albada, Unesco, Memory of the World Programme, and International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Lost Memory: Libraries and Archives Destroyed in the Twentieth Century. Paris: UNESCO, 1996.

Even though I received a PDF copy of the article from my friend, as is my custom, I needed a citation. I found the article listed in and available in several articles. also listed an electronic version of the article, but the link was broken. Apparently, the article was in a print publication listed as follows:

Hoeven, Hans van der, J Van Albada, Unesco, General Information Programme, UNISIST (Program), and International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Memory of the World: Lost Memory : Libraries and Archives Destroyed in the Twentieth Century. Paris: General Information Programme and UNISIST, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1996.

I finally did find a copy of the article on in the form of an OCR version of the UNESCO document. See This appears to be the only online copy left.

This example points up some of the same issues raised in the article which lists the libraries destroyed, mostly by wars, in the last century.

Today there was a news headline about a swarm of over 3 dozen tornados that killed several people in the southern part of the United States. We do not have to live in a war zone to lose our own personal and vital historical records. The bright side of my example above is that the document is not "lost." I was able to find a copy online.

Backing up your data is a fairly complex issue especially if you are an involved genealogist. I did a video on this subject some time ago, but I haven't written about it recently.

Can You Afford to Lose all your Genealogy? Backing it Up - James Tanner
The preservation of our genealogically important documents and records goes well beyond the issue of backing up our digital files. But digitizing our paper records is an important step. How many of us still have piles of photos or other records that are waiting to be digitized? How much longer are we going to wait until we make the effort to arrange for our records to be preserved? Even physical libraries are not permanent, but spreading a document across the internet in digital format is one way to increase the probability that a copy will be preserved. Watch the video above for details on the digital side of this subject.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kindex updates

In anticipation of RootsTech 2017, several of the app developers are updating their programs. is a program designed to work with and act as a personal or family indexing program. Some of the new features added to are the following:
  • Search all transcribed content in your archive
  • Build your archive with records from your computer or Memories from FamilySearch
  • Share links to your records
  • Delete individual records or people from your list
In the near future, the following features will also be added.
  • Enhanced search tools
  • Tutorials and indexing helps
  • Multiple-page PDF management.
  • Record tagging
  • Ability to add Kindex records to FamilySearch
I am very interested in being able to transcribe and index personal records and will continue to follow the development of this useful program.  

Ancestral Quest 15 adds new features

Ancestral Quest Version 15 is being released very shortly. The main new feature being added is the ability to exchange photos and documents between and your computer using Ancestral Quest. Here is a short video explaining the new features.

Exchanging Photos and Documents Between FamilySearch and Computer using Ancestral Quest

Genealogists Guide to Technology: Choosing a Computer 2016

We have been upgrading our computers during the past year and we have been confronted with a bewildering number of models and options. In each purchase, we ended up with semi-customized models rather than just buying whatever was available in a local store. Of course, the price was a major consideration, but there are other considerations also. There is a cycle in the world of computers driven by basic technological developments. As I have written before, computers are more like a consumable than a durable item. Over time, they change so rapidly that there is a buying cycle.

Genealogists as a group, simply because of the demographics of the adherents, are more cautious and conservative buyers than the general population. This is especially true of technology. How can I make such a general statement and be accurate? Part of the reason is that I constantly talk to and associate with hundreds of people who are interested in genealogy. People who are technologically and keyboard challenged seldom have and use cutting edge technology. What I see when I go into people's homes to help them with their research is often a small, very uncomfortable computer desk with an old PC and monitor. There is seldom enough working area to do much more with the computer than stare at the screen. The ergonomics of working for a long period of time are usually ignored altogether. All this indicates to me that these people are not doing much work on their computer.

From time to time, I do find someone who has an adequate working space, but this is very unusual. Even with dedicated office space, the chair used and the desk used seldom match. So, I would suggest that if you are serious about doing a lot of genealogy on your computers, you spend some money or time or both on setting up an adequately comfortable area to work. If clutter and papers etc. are a major concern, then choose and area of the house that is relatively isolated from the normal traffic flow. Personally, I have an added issue because my cameras also have to be within arm's length at all times. We also have to have printers and scanners attached to our computers. We also need headphones, USB extenders, power cords and changing devices.

This post is intended to be part of a series but I will probably not handle it as a series because it will be on a lot of completely disparate topics. By the way, if you are a bit challenged by the terms used in this post, I would recommend looking for a basic book on computers at your local library or, if you are reasonably familiar with getting online, there are dozens of basic tutorials online including The Family History Guide.

If you simply open your mouth and mention you might need help purchasing a computer or a new computer, you will find any number of people who are more than willing to tell you exactly what you need. In fact, all you really have to do is walk into the closest Walmart or Best Buy and they will have any number of computer systems to choose from. If your main interest is genealogy then almost any computer currently being sold today will suffice. I often tell people who ask which computer to buy to simply walk into the nearest Sam's Club or Costco and buy the one on sale. Of course, you can order a computer online from or one of the manufacturers directly. Amazon will have thousands of computers to choose from.

Now, down to the issue of choosing a computer. Not too long ago, there were essentially two main types of computers: desktops and laptops. The technology has now changed and many new types of computers have been added and the distinction between the different types of computers has blurred. Here are the main classifications.

Desktop computers

The term "desktop computer" has evolved over the years. The term is usually applied to a computer system that has a box containing the main computer components, a monitor, a keyboard and some type of input device, most commonly a mouse or a trackpad. Early on in the computer industry, the monitor or screen was bundled in with the computer components. You can visualize the original Macintosh computers. The current iteration of this combined system is exemplified by the Apple iMac where the entire computer is included in the monitor. However, you can still purchase a more traditional configuration and even buy all of the components separately. Here is a stylized idea of the most common type of desktop computer.

The box is usually mounted underneath the computer table or off to the side. Here is the current Apple iMac for comparison.

Some of the other manufacturers have also designed models that have all the components in the monitor.

Desktop computers vary almost exponentially in price. Today in 2016, you can buy a complete, new, computer system that includes monitor and keyboard for much less than $500. There is no real limit at the high end. A fully configured Apple Mac Pro with two monitors could cost well over $12,000.

What is the difference? Speed, memory and included storage capacity. If you find a computer system for a very low price, it is most likely configured with limited memory, slower and older processors and a smaller screen or monitor.

Laptop computers

A laptop computer is designed to be self-contained with the monitor, keyboard, tracking device and computer components all in one package.

The price of a laptop varies the same way as desktop computers with one important difference. Laptops are sold primarily on size and weight. Thin and light are the buzz words of the laptop world. The current 2016 prices for a laptop are comparable to desktop computers. You can buy a new laptop computer for well under $500. There is a category of laptop-looking computers out there today called Chromebooks. These are designed to work with Google's operating system and are really inexpensive. The Chromebooks are designed to be used almost exclusively while connected to the internet and with almost all programs or applications and storage in the "cloud" or online. If you have an almost constant connection to the internet, they may work for you. Of course, as a genealogist, using a cloud-based Chromebook precludes you from storing your own documents and using your own local computer program. See "Should I Buy a Chromebook? Buying Guide and Advice."

The main reason for buying a laptop is portability. Many people now "dock" their laptop computer at home

Hybrid Laptop/Tablet computers

Currently, there is a type of computer being developed that crosses the boundary between a laptop and a tablet. The computers are exemplified by the Microsoft Surface and the Apple iPad Pro. They come with a keyboard and, in some cases, may be a substitute for a new laptop. I have an iPad Pro with a keyboard that I have been using for presentations and it has been very useful. It is not quite a completely functional as a laptop, but I have found workarounds for almost everything. The Microsoft Surface is a fully functional computer and may be a good alternative depending on your needs.

Tablets and iPads

There is a lot of genealogical functions you can do with a tablet or iPad but the lack of a keyboard is one major obstacle to complete dependence. I will be discussing these devices more in future posts.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Google Translate now covers over 99% of the online population

In 2016 Google Translate expanded its language translation coverage to more than 100 languages. This week in the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I was helping a patron with some German research. She found some documents in German and was puzzling over them. I pulled out my iPhone and went to the Google Translate app and turned on the camera usage and held the iPhone up to the computer screen and was soon reading all of the German instantly translated into English. It is always surprising when a new technology suddenly becomes useful and it is only a small step to when it become indispensable.

Digital Public Library of America agrees to collaboration with Library of Congress

In an announcement dated 29 November 2016, the Library of Congress has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Digital Public Library of America (DP.LA) to become a “content hub partner” and will ultimately share a significant portion of its rich digital resources with DPLA’s database of digital content records. Quoting from the announcement:
The first batch of records will include 5,000 items from three major Library of Congress maps collections—the Revolutionary War (, Civil War ( and panoramic maps collections (
As the announcement further indicates,
Library of Congress items already appear in the DPLA database. Earlier in this decade, the Library digitized more than 100,000 books in its collections as part of its membership in the Hathi Trust and the Biodiversity Heritage Library, both current partners with the DPLA. As a result, those books are already in the DPLA’s collections through those partners.
Currently, the Digital Public Library of America has over 14 million items from a variety of sources. Earlier this year, announced that its digital book collections would become searchable on the Digital Public Library of America's website also. Here is an explanation of the website:
The Digital Public Library of America, the product of a widely shared vision of a national digital library dating back to the 1990s, was launched with a planning process bringing together 40 leaders from libraries, foundations, academia and technology projects in October, 2010 followed by an intense community planning effort that culminated in 2013. Its aim was to supersede the silo effect many digitization efforts were subject to. Based in Boston, the board of directors includes leading public and research librarians, technologists, intellectual property scholars, and business experts from across the nation. Its goal is to create “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future ­generations.”