Archive for January, 2012


Offline Tools

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy, Research, Technology

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    in Education, Events, Genealogy, Research, Technology

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…




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Keeping It Simple

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in Genealogy, Research

 “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”

How very true that message from Albert Einstein is! And it applies to genealogy and technology doubly so! Especially if you’re asking someone else or offering to help them. Some very simple rules to follow if you’re asking for help:

First, you need to be very specific about what you’re looking for. “The Adams family went from Connecticut to Virginia and I want to know all about them” is not very specific. Break it down to the important details: “We’ve heard our great-great-great-grandfather John Adams is related to the President of the same name and would like to know if they are, and how.” Better!

Second, share the information you already have. Nothing is more frustrating to a volunteer than to uncover something they believe is new, just to have you person say, “Oh, we already know that!” They are sharing their time and effort with you, so please be considerate of it. Include in your shared information the proof you already have, if any. Is it just family folklore, or do you have some documents that back the story up? (A second benefit of sharing your information is that it requires you to organize it. After years of looking, many times our documentation gets fragmented and we don’t even realize it. Reorganization might just show you a clue that’s been there all along!)

Some people would add the question, “Where have you researched already?” And if you have that information, that’s great. Knowing where the research has already been done can keep duplication of effort to a minimum – BUT – it can also miss important clues that a fresh set of eyes can give. While one person might read a name as “Sharrock” another set of eyes might see “Shadrock” instead. So sometimes a fresh look is in order.

The flip side is approaching someone with an entire box of documents and saying, “Here’s what we have, and we want you to figure it out.” That’s going to take longer, and be much more likely to miss important clues. So try to focus on the goal and use the KISS system – Keep It Simple Silly!

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1924 Texas Traildrivers Ebook Online

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in Books, Ebooks, History, Research

Did you have family in Texas during or after the Civil War? Were any of them cattle ranchers or drivers? This Ebook is a collection of recollections of about 500 cattlemen of that time period.

An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 men trailed six to ten million head of cattle and a million horses northward from Texas to Kansas and other distant markets between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century. Judging from the literary remains housed in range archives and libraries, memories of the experience lingered far longer in the minds of the men and boys involved than did the tracks of bovine hooves upon the landscape of the Great Plains and beyond. Besides drudgery and hardship, the long drive promised excitement and danger for some; for many, a trip across the prairie behind a herd of Texas Longhorns was the most unforgettable experience of their lives.

Reproduced from the Introduction in, “The Trail Drivers of Texas” (subtitled “Interesting Sketches of Early Cowboys and Their Experiences on the Range and on the Trail during the Days That Tried Men’s Souls – True Narratives Related by Real Cowpunchers and Men Who Fathered the Cattle Industry in Texas“), this 1924 publication has been paced online in ebook format by the University of Texas in their Texas Classics section. It is unique in that it includes many photographs of the trail drivers as well as their stories. “I first saw the light of day in April of 1855″ is just one introduction to his story a cowboy used – giving us unique insight into their lives and lifestyles as well as genealogical data.

Ebooks are a great place to not only find family information but also to learn about how our ancestors lived.  One caution – back in “the day” your ancestor didn’t have to document what they said, so there is a lot of conjecture if not downright misinformation. Be sure you try to verify important specific information if you find it in these older sources. But if you want to know what was important, what was humorous, and how certain legends came to be, the old books are wonderful windows into that world. Even if you don’t find one of your kinfolk in this specific ebook, the reading is interesting and varied in The Trail Drivers of Texas“.


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Hello world! Welcome!

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in Events

Welcome to “Hystory Byts” -  where you’ll find bits of history and genealogy and technology.

“Hello world!” is a bit of computer jargon – traditionally, it is the first program that people learn to code for computers. Normally the code is simple enough that people who have no experience with programming can easily understand it, especially when they have a guide or mentor to assist them.

The funky spelling of “Hystory Byts” reminds us as researchers not to presume writing, spelling or syntax have stayed the same over the past few centuries – an important item to remember when you are researching.

I hope to give helpful hints, updates on work I’m doing, and generally talk shop when it comes to genealogy, research and technology. Thanks for taking some of your time to join me.

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