Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

One thing I discover is I’ll often have to clean up after myself on the computer. And that can be really tedious. You know what I mean, we go out and shoot a bunch of digital gravestone photographs, and the camera names them DM308393.jpg, DM308394.jpg, DM308395.jpg, etc. Once I get home, I save and scan through them for the best ones for my personal use, and will then rename them JohnPaulJones1831-1898.jpg so I can see what each photo is easily. Sometimes I resize them down to smaller images. But the end result (besides some great documentation!) is that I end up with multiple copies of the same file on my computer.

Have you ever downloaded your pictures one weekend, then the next time you use the camera, it downloads the old ones again along with the new ones? Again, another easy way we end up with multiple copies of the same file.

Normally, I want to keep just two: the original, which is stored in folders sorted by date the image was taken, and the renamed one I’m using as my source within my research. Invariably, I end up with three or four copies, and that can really clutter up your hard drive.

Along with the other regular maintenance I do on my computer (yes, you SHOULD be doing computer maintenance!) I’ve been checking out duplicate finder software, which does just what it sounds like: it scans your system, looking for duplicate images. Not only can it search and compare by file name or size, but also by visual similarity. But a word of warning: DO NOT run these programs expecting them to scan your system while you wait! The scan can take quite some time, especially the first time you run it. These is an excellent tool for someone who takes a ton of pictures and wants to easily find the best ones to keep or print. WARNING: if you take three or four photos of the same headstone, just at a slight angle of difference or distance, these programs may tell you each photo is a duplicate, when they are actually slightly different. These programs allow you to choose the best one for your purpose and remove the others, if you want to. Easy to use, and they certainly free up disk space on your computer. Simply search on Google for “duplicate photo cleaner” or “find duplicate photos” – be prepared to sort though quite a few. Just remember there is no “right” program for everyone – other than the one you will actually USE!

But, you’re asking, what if I have duplicate files on my computer that are not photographs? Can I do anything about those? You might want to look at WinMerge, another free open source program. WinMerge can compare both folders and files, and it shows you the differences in a visual text format that is easy to understand and handle. When it compares files, it can actually show you the differences within the files – so it’s showing you line by line what’s changed. This may be more than you want to know, but it may also help you not to delete that file you worked on and found all the typos in last week! WinMerge will also allow you to merge changes between different file versions. This program provides a little more than just finding extra copies of files – and it’s free! There are othr

Ever copy emails from one folder to another in your computer and discover you have two or three copies of those as well? If you use Thunderbird for your email, there’s an Add-On called (strangely enough) Remove Duplicate Messages.

I strongly recommend that you consider adding duplicate files to something that you include in regular maintenance on your computer.


Have You Looked Yet

   Posted by: HystoryByts Tags: , , ,

Have you looked at the 1940 Census? The first day (Monday) was almost impossible – too many people trying to see, to the point where the servers were overwhelmed. The second day was pretty much the same for me, but there were a number of notices of different places getting the images online and so the traffic seemed to ease. (If you’d like to see more on that, NARA and put together a great little graphic that you can see by clicking the left hand graphic or here.) Today, I finally managed to peek online and within just a few minutes, found my mother’s family! It helps that they lived in a smallish town, and I had a pretty good idea where to look – there were only two enumeration districts to choose from, as well.

Fun things I learned: they rented their house for $26 a month, and my grandfather was making $5000 a year. Five years previously, they were living in Beaumont, Texas. I never knew they had lived there, and my mother was too young to have remembered it. So I picked up many small details just from the single opportunity I had to check them out.

If you’re interested in indexing, so that you don’t have to read through page after page of images, you can do that too! Officially known as the “1940 Census Community Project” you go to the site, read all about it, then if you’re still interested, download the software to your computer. (Sorry, tablets and cell phones won’t work.) Family Search says that online volunteers completed the indexing for the state of Delaware in the first 24 hours! But don’t think there’s not plenty still to do – next up are Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia. And there are other indexing projects that were going on before the census, including WWI Draft Registration Cards. So there’s plenty of work to go around. Join us – and have a great time!


Making History

   Posted by: HystoryByts Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As much as we look back through genealogy, the 2012 RootsTech conference with live streaming and plenty of twitterers is a very positive look at the possible future of technology and genealogy.

The Keynote speech by Jay Verkler on “Inventing the Future, As a Community” has really spent quite a bit of time talking about what we’d all like to see: permanent records, better searches, collaborative searching, and – hopefully – open source standards for it all.

One of the really exciting things is the use of the GEDCOM standard not only as a way to exchange data between users, but also between software, and as a storage medium. Imagine your GEDCOM storing links to your photos as well as a copy of the photos!

Another really exciting announcement is the use of the schemas standard to create one for genealogy type sites. That schema is in use on, already – the schema itself is online at if you’d like to browse through it. Basically, it uses HTML5 to tag microdata on web sites, which will enable machine-readable data on the pages, so a Google search not only will know the date is on your page, but also that it is the birthdate of a specific person.  There is an new extension for the Chrome browser which utilizes this schema immediately. It’s called the Ancestry Family Search Extension. The demostration at RootsTech was eye opening!

There was more, certainly. Discussion of the future, a lot of humor regarding international cooperation, more technology as we’d like to see it. This was certainly a great start to what looks to be a wonderful conference. Feel free to watch the live stream at the RootsTech home page. It’s a great time to be a genealogy geek!


Offline Tools

   Posted by: HystoryByts

Our 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy asks this week about Free Offline Genealogy Tools: For which free offline genealogy tool are you most grateful? How did you find this tool and how has it benefitted your genealogy? Describe to others how to access this tool and spread the genealogy love.

In thinking about this, I realized I’m such a geek, I doubt I am ever truly offline. I have both a cellular modem which plugs into the laptop, giving me internet access through the cell phone network, and my cell phone actually can create a wifi ‘hotspot’ to allow my laptop to connect.

Without those things, what would I do? I always have pencil and paper, and can still put together a pretty good set of citations and transcriptions if I have to. Often I find using the cell phone’s camera is a handy substitute for a better one, and I can have a fair copy of the original if I need it using the phone. It’s not ideal, but it will allow me to shoot both without a flash and fairly good video – both of which I transfer over to a thumb drive or DVD as soon as possible.  I also carry a large (20 inches x 30 inches) tablet of newsprint paper and a crayon, because a rubbing of a faded headstone may be the best way to have a permanent record. And it’s better to get it NOW then put it off until sometime later when I remember and it’s faded or eroded even more.

If I’m walking graveyards or cemeteries, then a good pair of boots, a fairly large hat, and a sturdy stick. Springtime in Texas means snakes, and I really don’t like them! If you make enough noise as you walk, they tend to slither away from you instead of confronting you. Which is the purpose of going through all that. Oh, and avoiding poison oak and ivy, too.

But for research purposes, I always like to carry my filled-in pedigree sheets, family group sheets, and blank forms to record the information I’m looking for. I have too many lines to try to remember which “John Smith” it was I’m looking for: the one married to Elizabeth, Jane or Harriet?? Of course, with technology (not the internet!) I can store all of that in my tablet or even in my cell phone.

And then there’s the trusty GPS to get me where I want to go. Sure there are maps in the glove box, and printed out maps in my kit, but it’s my GPS that not only gets me there, but gives me specific Latitude and Longitude coordinates. (I guess you can tell, I do a lot of outdoor research!)

And not just for genealogy, I carry around a whole fist full of USB thumb drives with information on them. Everything but the kitchen sink, so to speak. If I have a reference book in electronic format, I’ve got a thumb drive for that! If I need to locate a suspected cemetery site, and I’ve plotted it out, then a local geologic survey map is on there too.

Everyone will have their own favorite tools – and I know as I read some of the other genealogical bloggers, they’ll have some great ideas of their own. I do love sharing information and learning new things!



Technology and Genealogy

   Posted by: HystoryByts Tags: , , , , ,

Technology can certainly help us with our research and organization! As a gadget addict, I can attest to having a lot of techno-baubles. I received an email with the question, “How much do you really think you’ll write about technology and not genealogy on your blog?” Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not sure that I can separate the two personally, as I use so much technology. But I do know that there’s LOTS to be written about. If you have something specific you’d like to know about, drop me a line or add a comment.

As supporting evidence, I’d like to introduce you to RootsTech, the family history and technology conference. This year, RootsTech is February 2-4 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. Yes, this year – it happens annually. There’s that much to learn about technology and genealogy.

There are two specific sides to RootsTech: developers and users. Developers come to share information about creating the gadgets and programs that may be of use to genealogists. Genealogists come to find out the latest methods of making our searches easier. Plus, as users, we have a opportunity to tell the developers what works, what doesn’t, and what wild wishes we’d like to see created. Both Ancestry and Familysearch organizations have multiple representatives on hand giving speeches, workshops, or just listening.

Some of the speakers will include:

  • D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS — Do I Trust the Cloud?
  • David Barney — Google’s Efforts to Improve Genealogy Research
  • Kory Meyerink — The Fifty Most Popular Genealogy Websites (Really!)

And if all that isn’t enough, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy runs starting today with educational tracks designed for the more advanced researcher. While too late to register now, you can look at the different class tracks offered this year. It runs through the 27th – just before RootsTech. So if you have a couple weeks free…