Genealogy Do-Over – Week 8, Cycle 2: 22-28 May 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 8 Topics: 1) Conducting Collateral Research and 2) Reviewing Offline Education Options.

Click here to to download this article in PDF format.

Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 8 posting on February 20, 2015, except for my personal updates.]

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

How are you doing on your Genealogy Do-Over? Or are you working on a “go-over” review of your own research? This is Week 8 with five more weeks remaining. I realize that many participants are not yet caught up, but one of the nice features of this collaborative learning project is the ability to print the PDF articles for each week and work on them when you are ready.

Don’t forget! When the current Genealogy Do-Over cycle ends, on 2 July 2015, I’ll be restarting with Week 1 on Friday, 3 July 2015.

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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.
  • What I Plan to Do: Now that I’ve done basic research on my generation, my parents and my grandparents, I’ll go back and start collateral research. This means looking at my siblings (my brother) and proving his life events. Then I’ll work up to my father and my mother (Mom had 11 siblings – a huge project). For each of them I’ll try to prove their live events and list their children.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: 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 weeks of the Genealogy Do-Over.
  • Modified Participant Options: 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

You’ve 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 also 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 2015 or 2016. Click here for RESOURCE Offline Genealogy Education – US or visit the Files section of the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group for a listing with links.

  • What I Plan to Do: I currently keep tabs on all genealogy education offerings, both virtual and offline (in person) through various blogs and using Google Alerts. One of the challenges for me, personally, is that when I attend a genealogy conference I am often delivering several lectures. This means I am often unable to attend other lectures at an event. Participating in virtual genealogy education has always been a better fit for me.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: Review the list of available conference and institutes. Also consider local genealogy conferences and attending local genealogy society meetings.
  • Modified Participant Options: Review the list of available conference and institutes. Also consider local genealogy conferences and attending local genealogy society meetings.

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And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. Get ready for next week when we start looking at the importance of “cluster research” especially when trying to break through brick walls. We’ll also focus on keeping documents and photos organized.

Next Week: Week 9 – 29 May – 4 June 2015

  • Conducting Cluster Research
  • Organizing Research Materials – Documents and Photos

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at geneabloggers@gmail.com or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Week 7, Cycle 2: 15-21 May 2015

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

Click here to to download this article in PDF format.

Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 7 posting on February 13, 2015, except for my personal updates.]

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

Can we really be more than half-way through the Genealogy Do-Over? This is Week 7 with six more weeks remaining. At this point, many of us who started on Cycle 2 on 3 April 2015 are still doing research and hopefully we’ve settled into a groove in terms of search methodology, citing sources and evaluating evidence. Remember  . . . the more you repeat these new habits, the more it becomes an integral part of your genealogy research. Hopefully your descendants, as well as your ancestors, will thank you!

And here’s some news: When the current Genealogy Do-Over cycle ends, on 2 July 2015, I’ll be restarting with Cycle 3 Week 1 on Friday, 3 July 2015.

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Reviewing Genealogy Database Software

By now, many 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.

  • What I Plan to Do: Although I’ve used Family Tree Maker in the past, for my Genealogy Do-Over, I’ll be working with Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage. I plan on entering the data that I’ve been able to prove using evidence tracked in my Genealogy Research Log.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: Review all the different genealogy database possibilities, including software which 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.
  • Modified Participant Options: 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

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.

A special discount of 34% percent off the new book How to Archive Family Photos by Denise Levenick - here's how to get the special coupon code!

If you decide to take the DIY approach, I highly recommend the book How to Archive Family Photos by Denise Levenick (use promo code SFT2015 to save an extra 10%). 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.

Eye-Fi 16GB Pro X2 SDHC Class 10 Wireless Flash Memory Card

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?

larsen digital

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.

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

  • What I Plan to Do: Over the past few months I’ve been using my Flip-Pal scanner to scan photos while I am watching television each evening. Going forward, I’ll likely be using Larsen Digital for my photo scanning needs. As for documents, right now I use a flatbed scanner, but I don’t have a process for converting the image text to searchable text. I may consider purchasing Adobe Acrobat but due to the expense, I may consider other options such as Google Drive.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: 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.
  • Modified Participant Options: 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!

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And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. Get ready for next week when we start looking at the meaning of “collateral” genealogy research and how to use it, as well as review the various “in person” programs available for genealogy education!

Next Week: Week 8, Cycle 2 – 22-28 May 2015

  • Conducting Collateral Research
  • Reviewing Offline Education Options

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at geneabloggers@gmail.com or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

New Genealogy Search Engine: Top 100 Genealogy Sites Mega-Search

Looking for a new way to search many genealogy sites at once? Check out the new Top 100 Genealogy Sites Mega-Search engine at Many Roads.

I love discovering new ways to locate genealogy and family history information, especially “search aggregators” that allow you to search many sites at once.

A new search engine that you’ll have to add to your genealogy research toolbox is the Top 100 Genealogy Sites Mega-Search located at Many Roads. The search engine will perform a keyword search across all of the top 100 genealogy websites for 2015 as noted by GenealogyInTime Magazine. And I’m proud to say that once again this year, GeneaBloggers is among the top 100, coming in at #89.

The search engine is free (Many Roads is passing the the hat to collection donations for upkeep of the search engine if you can help out), and you simply have to choose either the Full 100 Mega Search (searches all sites including subscription and fee-based sites) or “Free” 46 Mega Search (searches only the free sites). Many Roads points out that most users will see better results by searching the subset of 46 free sites:

“Because there are so many ‘for-fee’ sites in the Full 100 Mega-search engine, we make no guarantee as to the actual completeness & thoroughness of this engine’s results. The “Free” 46 Mega-search engine should provide much better and more thorough results from within the “Free 46″ subset.”

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Take a closer look at the Top 100 Genealogy Sites Mega-Search and you may discover the clues you need to break through that genealogy brick wall!

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.