Genealogy Do-Over – Month 8 – August 2016

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 8 Topics: 1) Conducting Collateral Research and 2) Reviewing Offline Education Options - at GeneaBloggers

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2016.

Topics: 1) Conducting Collateral Research and 2) Reviewing Offline Education Options

Conducting Collateral Research

Many people confuse collateral research with cluster research or they tend to lump them together. For me, collateral research involves the collateral lines connected to your direct line ancestors. Most times this would mean focusing on the relatives of someone who married into the family – the wife or husband’s parents, siblings etc. It also can mean distant cousins along your direct line. Also, don’t forget those second and third marriages and step-children.

My definition of Collateral Research: A search for those who are not direct line ancestors, but who are considered part of the same family. These include siblings, half-siblings, in-laws and others through marriage. Example: take time to look at the siblings of a woman’s husband or her husband’s parents and who they married, as well as their children.

  1. Start out with a direct line ancestor.
  2. Spend time researching that person’s spouse, including parents and siblings.
  3. Record as much information as possible, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Include occupation, address and other details.
  4. If needed, branch out with research on the siblings and other non-direct relatives.

Reviewing Offline Education Options

You have likely heard the term “not everything can be found online” when it comes to records and genealogy research. The same holds true for genealogy education. There are several large genealogy conferences as well as week-long intensives better known as “institutes” offering a chance to learn from nationally known educators and genealogists.

Over the past five years, several new institutes have popped up and I believe this will continue over the next few years in the genealogy field. Genealogists realize the value of working in a collaborative environment with other researchers and being able to network with others in person. There are some aspects of the institute concept that just can’t be replicated online!

Review the list of large genealogy conferences and institutes in the United States and make plans to attend one or more in 2016 or 2017. Click here for Offline Genealogy Education – US handout.

Month 8 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Conducting Collateral Research: While some researchers prefer to work on an entire family as a “group,” meaning parents and children, others “loop back” once they’ve work on all the parents and grandparents. No matter which approach you take, remember to utilize the research and evidence evaluation skills you’ve acquired over the past few months of The Genealogy Do-Over.
  • Reviewing Offline Education Options: Review the list of available conference and institutes. Also, consider local genealogy conferences and attending local genealogy society meetings.

Month 8 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Conducting Collateral Research: Those doing a “go-over” will want to review the children for each set of parents and look for missing children, other spouses, and verify all information such as birth dates, locations, marriages, etc.
  • Reviewing Offline Education Options: Review the list of available conference and institutes. Also, consider local genealogy conferences and attending local genealogy society meetings.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 7 – July 2016

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 7 Topics: 1) Reviewing Genealogy Database Software and 2) Digitizing Photos and Documents - at GeneaBloggers

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2016.

Topics: 1) Reviewing Genealogy Database Software and 2) Digitizing Photos and Documents

Reviewing Genealogy Database Software

By now, many of The Genealogy Do-Over participants have been tracking their research and then evaluating the evidence to prove or disprove dates, names, relationships and more. The next step: enter proven data into a genealogy software program or on a genealogy website in order to share results and produce reports.

When I first started with genealogy, I purchased the latest version of Family Tree Maker from Banner Blue software (remember them?) and simply entered whatever I found (without evaluating evidence) into the program.

Then when I decided to pursue genealogy as a profession, in 2008, I opted to use a variety of programs, all at the same time. These included Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker. I also had my data in Ancestry.com on a public tree and on WikiTree. Why did I have my data in all these programs? Then, as now, I am often asked by vendors to beta test new versions and new features, so I had to keep my data in those programs.

Genealogy Database Programs – Are You Being Served?

I selected Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage since I have a MyHeritage subscription that I use and I like. MyHeritage is great for connecting with other European researchers and my German lines (Henneberg, Pressner, Herring) are where I need the most help.

I did a thorough review of available options and listed the features that were most important to me and my research. Every genealogist is different in terms of how they research so your choice should suit you and not work against you. Also, before moving to any new program, make sure you a) read the Terms of Services and b) understand how to import a GEDCOM file (that standard genealogy data file format. Some programs will not import notes, sources and other items. Make sure you don’t lose data when moving to a new program!

Wikipedia has an up-to-date Comparison of Genealogy Software chart listing specifications. In addition, check out GenSoftReviews which includes actual reviews, many by genealogists and actual users of the programs.

Digitizing Photos and Documents

Understanding the correct way to scan and digitize your family photos as well as your research documents is an important part of genealogy. I can’t stress this enough and I knew I had to include the topic in The Genealogy Do-Over.

Photo Digitization Best Practices

  • Set your scanner to a high resolution, such as 300 or 600 dpi.
  • Use the TIFF format and then copy TIFF files to create JPG or PNG files.
  • Clean the scanner with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Remove dust, lint and fingerprints so you can achieve the clearest possible scans.
  • Make sure the photo is in contact with the scanning surface or as close as possible to the surface; however, often you can get a good scan right through a plastic sleeve, matt, or glass. Don’t move the photo while scanning.
  • Keep the photo lined up with the edges of the scanner to reduce editing later on.
  • When transferring digital images to your computer, always save an original scan of the photo and then make copies of the file to be used for editing. Also, export to multiple file types.
  • Use Photoshop Elements or your favorite graphic editing software to resize digital images for use with your favorite project.
  • Remember to periodically backup your scans of photos and documents.

Photos: DIY or Use a Professional Service?

There are many different ways to handle digital preservation of family photos. You can take the DIY (“do it yourself”) approach or use a service that will scan the images for you.

So what is the difference? The DIY approach may require you to purchase a scanner, learn the specifications and correct scanning settings, and then scan each photo. Once scanned, you’ll need to rename the file, save it and then move on to the next one. The process can be time consuming to say the least. Using a service tends to be hassle free, usually guarantees a high-quality scan, but can be expensive if you have many items to scan.

If you decide to take the DIY approach, I highly recommend the book How to Archive Family Photos by Denise Levenick. It has excellent advice on how to select a scanner as well as the best way to scan all types of photos. I also recommend Denise’s handout from her RootsTech 2014 presentation, How to Scan an Elephant: Digitize Your Family History from Artifact to Zombie. Click here for the free download.

One aspect of my current scanning regimen is the use of a wireless SD card by Eye-Fi in my Flip-Pal mobile scanner. I have the 8GB version, but I just noticed that Amazon is carrying the Eye-Fi 16GB Pro X2 SDHC Class 10 Wireless Flash Memory Card on sale for 30% off! Click here for more info.

So why is having a wireless SD card so special? I can sit in my living room and through my wireless router, have the scanned image sent to my desktop computer or even to my Dropbox account. Also, many of the newer flatbed scanners have a slot to read SD memory cards!

If you decide to use a service, please take my advice: review their services and make sure they are using the best equipment and providing you with the best high-resolution scan. Many of the services, including superstores like Costco and Wal-Mart, outsource their scanning to vendors who are more focused on speed and quick turn-around rather than quality. Do you really want to take shortcuts with your family memories?

That’s why I use Larsen Digital for my scanning needs: I’ve been extremely happy with the results. By using Larsen, I know I get expert results AND spend that scanning time researching my ancestors. Click here to learn more about Larsen Digital and to get a 15% off coupon on scanning services!

Documents: How to Convert Image Text to Searchable Text

The digitization of documents is different than photos due to this challenge: how do you convert the text in an image to text that you can search, copy and paste and use? The process employed to convert image text is called OCR or Optical Character Recognition.

Again, just like scanning photos, you can take the DIY approach or use a service. Keep in mind that the quality of the document will impact the OCR results. So if the document is old, faded and hard to read, the OCR process will certainly need review and correction. And, currently, handwriting OCR is basically unavailable.

If you have a flatbed scanner and it came with software, look to see if that software will OCR your scanned text documents. Another option is to purchase a program such as Adobe Acrobat Standard that can quickly OCR scanned documents.

Alternatively, consider using a service for scanning documents; a good local option is your closest FedEx Office store.

Month 7 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Reviewing Genealogy Database Software: Review all the different genealogy database possibilities, including software that stores data locally, and online programs such as WikiTree. Select a program that meets all your needs including source citations, linking to scanned photos and documents, etc.
  • Digitizing Photos and Documents: Spend some time reviewing how you want to scan your photos and documents. If you decide to take the DIY route, research scanners that work within your budget and technical expertise. And remember to thoroughly check out any scanning service you decide to use if you don’t want to scan items yourself.

Month 7 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Reviewing Genealogy Database Software: Also, decide if your current method of recording your genealogy research results are working for you instead of against you. If you decide to stick with your current system, make sure you’ve downloaded the latest upgrade and understand any new features.
  • Digitizing Photos and Documents: There is no real difference in practices from the “All-In” participants; however, if you are sitting on digital scans of photos and documents you’ve done previously, review the quality and consider instituting the best practices listed above and “re do” those scans!

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 6 – June 2016

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 6 Topics: 1) Evaluating Evidence and 2) Reviewing Online Education Options

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2016.

Topics: 1) Evaluating Evidence and 2) Reviewing Online Education Options

For Month 6 of The Genealogy Do-Over we turn to one the most important, and often neglected areas of genealogical research: Evidence Evaluation. As I’ve stated in the past, not determining whether a source was credible, would often come back to haunt me in later research. I’ve admitted this shortcoming and now I’m resolved to do something about it!

In addition, we begin to look at different types of educational opportunities available for genealogists. This month, the focus is on those offerings online, both free and fee-based. Ongoing education is a crucial part of not only becoming a good genealogist, but keeping your current skills finely honed and acquiring new skills!

Evaluating Evidence

Once I’ve gathered various bits of evidence for a proof point, such as my own birth date, and I’ve entered them in my research log, the next task: evaluating the evidence to determine whether my birth date can be proven or not.

In the past my evaluation of evidence consisted of saying to myself, “Well, if it is in a book it must be true!” or “If it is on someone’s tree, why would they lie?” Then I would enter the data in my genealogy database program and go on my merry way.

Now, I’m using a process to really look at the evidence I’ve found and to “rank” it based on certain elements. The evaluation elements that I use are from an article entitled Guidelines for Evaluating Genealogical Resources by Linda Woodward Geiger. You can find this article, and many more, in the Skillbuilding section of the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ website here.

I’ve included the basic evaluation information in a separate tab of my Genealogy Research Log so I can refer to it when evaluating a line entry in the research log. I also make notes in the Analysis column to support my theory as to proving or disproving my birth date.

Here’s an example using a certified copy of my birth certificate that I have in my possession:

  • Source Type: Derivative. It is a copy of the original record at the repository, in this case the New York State Department of Health, Vital Records. Some would argue that an official copy could still be called an Original instead of a Derivative, but for the standards I am using, I feel comfortable using Derivative.
  • Clarity: Clear. I can read the text, it is typewritten or printed, and I don’t need to guess at words.
  • Information: Primary. Although this is a copy, the original birth certificate was filed soon after my birth and is very close in time to the birth event. It was also filed with an official government agency required to keep an accurate record of such events.
  • Evidence Type: Direct. My birth date, location and other information is explicitly stated on the record; the information does not need to be inferred.

So, my birth certificate is “Derivative, Clear, Primary and Direct” as I call it. It would rank higher as a reliable record than say a birth announcement in the newspaper (not knowing who the informant was) or a Delayed Birth Certificate that is filed years later and based on one or more sworn affidavits by myself and/or others.

Finally, another valuable resource for learning more about evidence evaluation is QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map at the Evidence Explained website.

Reviewing Online Education Options

Starting this month, The Genealogy Do-Over asks participants to starting reviewing options for genealogy education and the focus is online resources (we look for “offline” resources next month!).

As you can imagine, I’m a big proponent of not just genealogy education, but online genealogy education as well. Webinars are a big part of my own genealogy business and over the past five years, the genealogy industry has seen explosive growth in “distance education.”

So why do we pursue genealogy education? Not only to become better genealogists, but also because new record sets come online or are available at repositories and we want to use them as efficiently as possible. In addition, we may discover an ancestor from a new location and we’re not familiar with research in that area.

Here is a resource listing for free online genealogy education resources: RESOURCES Free Online Genealogy Educational Resources (opens in PDF). As you can see, there are some gaps especially in the area of Canadian, UK and Australian resources.

Month 6 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Evaluating Evidence: Consider following my example of implementing evidence evaluation into your genealogy research process. Yes, it can be time consuming, but just like citing sources, once you’ve gotten into the habit, it becomes easier and you feel more confident in completing the task.
  • Reviewing Online Education Options: Review the RESOURCES Free Online Genealogy Educational Resources (opens in PDF) and consider creating an Education Plan. Start with small goals for 2016 and then look for webinars, videos and other online resources that can help you achieve those goals.

Month 6 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Evaluating Evidence: If you are reviewing your existing research, it may be difficult to evaluate evidence if you haven’t cited sources. In addition, some genealogy database software programs don’t make it easy to evaluate evidence. Determine the best method for your current data; it may actually help to use a program such as Evidentia, Clooz or one of the other evidence evaluation software packages.
  • Reviewing Online Education Options: There isn’t much different for the “go-over” or “review” participants – we all need genealogy education whether we are doing a complete “do-over” or not. See the plans above and determine what is a good fit for your learning style and the gaps in your genealogy skills.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.