Ancestry.com Announces New Home for MyCanvas

Ancestry Saves MyCanvas

Early this morning, Eric Shoup – Executive Vice President for Product at Ancestry.com – announced that Ancestry would continue providing access to the popular genealogy self-publishing platform MyCanvas. This is good news to the many MyCanvas users who have been busy downloading content since Ancestry’s initial announcement on 5 June 2014 that it was shutting down MyCanvas along with other non-performing Ancestry.com platforms.

According to Shoup’s post at the Ancestry.com blog, the functions of MyCanvas will be assumed by Alexander’s, a Utah-based printing company which has been a long-time service provider for the MyCanvas product line.

Shoup notes that the transition over to Alexander’s will take about six months and current access to MyCanvas will be extended beyond the 30 September 2014 shutdown date originally announced. Once the transition is final, the entry point for MyCanvas will be at the Alexander’s sites.

One other issue related to MyCanvas that has been a frequent concern to users: the inability to ship products to Canada. According to Lorine McGinnis Schulze of the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, Alexander’s will extend shipping of MyCanvas products to Canadian residents.

Stay tuned here at GeneaBloggers for further developments related to MyCanvas and other Ancestry.com products and services.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday’s Tip – Using TITLE and ALT Text on Blogger Images

Tuesday’s Tip – Using Title and ALT Text on Blogger Images

This past weekend during the Blogger Boot Camp where over 50 new and prospective genealogy bloggers were “immersed” in anything and everything about Blogger, I mentioned the importance of properly naming and tagging image files in your blog posts.

Power Up Your Blogger Images

Why should it really matter if your image file name is image01.jpg instead of Obtituary of John Smith.jpg? And should you add descriptive language to the uploaded image? Here’s why:

  • By changing the file name to one that describes the image, you’ll make it easier for others to locate your image, your blog post and your “cousin bait.” It isn’t easy to determine the name of an ancestor in an image when the image name is image01.jpg.
  • By adding descriptive text, you’ll allow others to use Google Images to find your images.
  • From a social media sharing standpoint, adding descriptive text to the image allows you to control what gets posted along with the image to Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms.

Descriptive File Names

Remember when file names were limit to eight characters or less and no spaces? Well if you don’t you are lucky those days of caveman computing are over! Make sure you rename images that are produced from a scanner or mobile phone camera so that the name describes – briefly – the content of the image.

Most devices will spit out a sequential file number such as IMG 0001 or SC0001 etc. Here are some ways to add a descriptive file name:

  • Be as brief as possible. Instead of “My great-great-great grandmother’s obituary” which doesn’t indicate who you are or your ancestors’ name, use something like “Death notice Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe 1928.”
  • Some researchers prefer a specific naming convention such as “OKEEFE Catherine Sullivan obit 1928.” Be consistent if you do decide on a formatting system and style.
  • Save longer descriptions for the Image TITLE and ALT tags mentioned below.

Image TITLE and ALT Tags in HTML

Once you’ve uploaded your image to Blogger, you can add text to the Image TITLE and ALT tags in HTML without even having to know HTML coding.

  • The ALT tag allows you to add “alternate” text which is helpful when a viewer uses a browser which has disabled images. Instead of the image, they’ll see a grey box with the ALT text in the center. Technically the ALT tag is reserved in HTML for displaying alternate text when the image cannot be properly displayed. Another reason to use ALT text is that those with visual impairments who use a screen reader will hear the ALT text when encountering the image.
  • TITLE, when used in conjunction with the IMG tag, defines the title of the document, or image, in our case. It displays information when the mouse hovers over the image and it provides “excerpt” text for social media postings. The TITLE tag is also used with the HREF tag for links to give a descriptive name to a hyperlink.

Example: Scanned Obituary of Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe

Here is a recent post at my blog Destination: Austin Family about Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe’s death in 1928.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 01

Once the image is added to the post in draft mode, click the image and you’ll see a toolbar appear.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 02

Click the Properties link and the Image Properties dialog box appears.

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Here you can add the Title text and the Alt text. They can be the same or they can be different. Usually the Title text is more descriptive but I’ve reversed them in this example.

The result: Hover the mouse over the image and the Title text appears.

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 04

In addition, when posting to social media such as Pinterest, the Title text is included:

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 05

And finally, a search on Google Images using descriptive text will bring up the image:

How to Use TITLE and ALT text on Blogger images 06

Conclusion

Yes it is tempting to go back to all your images in your blog and set the IMG TITLE and ALT text, but start by getting in the habit of adding the information on all new blog posts going forward. Then cherry pick the most important blog posts – the one’s you feel best serve as cousin bait for your genealogy – and update the descriptive photo information.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: County-Clerks.com

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Recently I, along with many other genealogy bloggers, received a series of emails from a new website called County-Clerks.com (http://www.county-clerks.com). One email asked that I post a link to County-Clerks.com on GeneaBloggers as a resource for my readers. Another asked me to participate in a “Genealogy Blog Contest” and vote for my favorite genealogy blog; of course the email started out with pure flattery, stating that I had been listed as one of the top 200 genealogy blogs.

In addition I’ve had several comments made on posts here at GeneaBloggers by someone purporting to be from Count-Clerks.com advertising the Genealogy Blog Contest. And I’ve received several emails from members of GeneaBloggers asking what the County-Clerks.com site is all about.

So I figure it was time for me to check out County-Clerks.com and see what it was all about and if it could actually be a useful resource for genealogy research.

County-Clerks.com – A Resource Chock Full of Ads!

Well it really was no surprise to me when I first pulled up the site – there were ads. Now I don’t mind ads. I understand the business model and I, in fact, have been known to us them. And there are many genealogy sites out there – all free – that display useful links and info with ads in the header, sidebars, footers etc.

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I went to find information for Cook County, Illinois and each time I progressed to get the information I needed, there were more and more ads. And these are the types of ads that appear based on my previous search activity, purchases etc. (not uncommon these days).

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Is There a Better County Clerk Resource?

I’ll give County-Clerks.com credit: I could not find a national list of county clerks which makes sense – most states have their own list of county clerks. One resource that I find more helpful, that doesn’t have ads, and that is created by genealogist contributions is the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

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Besides getting information on the county clerk and/or courthouse, you also have tons of information about the county itself including advice on research. It is easy to find the county in the FamilySearch Wiki and then get the information I need.

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Genealogy Blog Contest

I’m a big fan of contests and it is a great way to get attention for a new site or endeavor. The contest allows you to vote each day for more than one blog. It also asks that you link to the contest and share the link with others and ask them to vote. The goal, like most sites, is traffic. More traffic means more ads means hopefully more revenue.

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Conclusion

In the genealogy blogging community we’ve seen many awards and contests created by sites that have nothing to do with genealogy. We’ve also seen many “free” resources created that are really fronts for advertising revenues.

I always tell folks to “check your sources” both in genealogy research and when you are approached with any offer be it to place a link on your site or be part of a contest. Do you know the person or company running the website? Are they new to the genealogy community? If so, how have they reached out to the community? Are they vested in being a resource or merely generating traffic and ad revenue?

I wish County-Clerks.com luck with their endeavor. I know I’ll be sticking with FamilySearch Wiki which is a known commodity and have been created ad-free by a group that has been and continues to be very generous and giving to the genealogy community.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.