Monday, March 2, 2015

Donny Osmond Keynote at #RootsTech/#FGS

The Ancestry Insider with singer, entertainer Donny Osmond
Scott Fisher of the ExtremeGemes radio show
and Amy Urman of The Genealogy Search blog,
with me, hangin' with our good friend, Donny Osmond.
“When you discover more about your ancestors, you discover more about yourself,” Donny Osmond said. Donny was one of the keynote speakers at RootsTech. He told us that he loved that anyone can do family history. He, himself, received the family genealogy from his mother. (We all appreciate having someone interested in receiving our life’s work.) Donny said that in his spare time he worked on his family history while staring as Joseph in the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.

Donny told us that a lot of his life story has been captured on film and video, but that our life story is every bit as important as his, even more so, to our descendants. Don’t your children want to know what you are like? We need to document and record our family stories, both funny and inspirational stories. You never know when those will keep someone going when things get rough, he told us.

Friday, February 27, 2015

More Than Serendipity in Tan Le’s #RootsTech/#FGS2015 Keynote (#RTATEAM)

Tan Le’s voice wavered a bit and she shed a tear or two as she spoke of her grandmother and some special moments they shared. Le shared them with us in her RootsTech keynote. Now FamilySearch has shared them with you in a three minute video on their YouTube channel. See “#RootsTech 2015 Keynote: Tan Le Remembers Her Grandmother.”

image

To see her presentation in its entirety, with both the Thursday keynote presentations, visit the RootsTech website.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Search Ancestry Like a Pro (#RootsTech #RTATEAM)

At RootsTech, Crista Cowan presented “Search Ancestry.com Like a Pro.”

“Remember, you are not searching for people; you are searching for records about people,” said Cowan. She presented the process she uses to find records.

  • Start by looking at the hints. [Click the leaf shown in the person page—below—or on the tree view.]
    Fred Ross Cown example from person page on Ancestry.com

    “Ancestry provides hints for the top 10% of our most popular databases as a way to get people started in their discoveries.” They are just hints not certainties. Pay attention to record hints first. Use hints to other family trees as clues. [I might emphasize this. The evidentiary value of other people’s family trees is much, much less than the evidentiary value of original records. ---tai]
  • When you follow a hint, you are going to link to a record page. Pay attention to the view button on the record page (#1 in the image below). “Always, always, always look at the image.” The image is going to have more information than the record page. [And there is always the possibility of transcription errors.]
    Fred R Cowan census record example from Ancestry.com

    When you find a record about your ancestor, attach the record to your tree so you don’t have to search for it again. [Also, Ancestry.com marks it as such in search results and the record page (#2 in the image above). When you come across it again, you know you’ve already discovered it.]

  • While you are looking at an ancestor’s record, look at the suggested records shown along the side (#3 in the image above). This is like Amazon.com which shows you a list of the other things people bought who bought what you bought. That’s what suggested records are. These are records that other Ancestry.com members have attached to the same person in their trees.
  • After you’ve looked at the hints, there are still more records to find. There are misspellings, wrong ages, and other reasons why hinting doesn’t find all the records. Search starting from the tree. [Underneath the portrait in the first image above, click “Search records.”]

    Ancestry.com fills in the search boxes for you with every piece of information known about that person, including every place they have ever lived and all their immediate family. “We do this because we want to see what records bubble to the top. Is there any single record that has all the information? No, so we present a list of ranked results.” Pay attention to the records that show up at the top of the list of results. Don’t go through too many pages of results. Stop after a page or two. Then switch from records to categories.
  • Craft a basic search. [I can’t remember for sure what my notes mean by this. Perhaps she was recommending trying a search without all the extra detail added by starting a search from the tree. That’s what I do at this point. The extra detail suppresses results from databases with fewer fields.] Use the advanced search form. Once you choose to use the advanced search form, it remembers. It has more fields which will make it possible to do a more powerful search. Think about the kind of record you are searching for when crafting a search.
  • Do a global search. It searchers over 32,000 titles containing over 15 billion records. That number is growing by one million new records every day.
  • Do a category search. It searches only records that are included in a specific category. Categories are listed along the right side of the main search page. [I think Cowan also pointed out the special categories found in the lower-right corner: New York 400th anniversary, African American, and Jewish family history. Over the years there have been others. They didn’t included them in the list, so they may not be current. I’ve seen  NARA, U.S. Military, and others.]
  • Do a database search to search for records in a specific database. Extra search boxes are present to allow matching fields not present in a global search.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ancestry.com Shows New Website Improvements at #RootsTech/#FGS2015

imageAncestry.com showed upcoming improvements to their website during RootsTech/FGS2015 in their booth in the Expo Hall. These include LifeStory, Historical Insights, a new Media Gallery, and an improved Facts page.

Dan Lawyer, Ancestry.com product manager, wrote about the changes in the Ancestry.com Blog. In the article, Lawyer says:

We’d like to invite you to become a part of the Ancestry beta. To join the beta, simply add your name to the waitlist at this link:

http://home.ancestry.com/beta

We will be inviting people on the waitlist to join the beta in batches over the next few months. When you are next, we will email you instructions for how to access the beta. You will be able to send feedback to the Ancestry team from directly within the beta site. We want to hear your feedback on what’s working well, what problems you  discover, and your suggestions for improvement. When you send us feedback, you are helping Ancestry to reinvent the way we do family history.

For more information, see “Sneak Peek of The New Ancestry Website Coming!.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Mailbox: Do I cite the Entire Census or the Page?

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I have just read your article on sources and citations (May 26, 2010).  I agree that such terms should be properly defined to avoid ambiguity.

I have constructed my UK family tree, using BMD indexes to determine the basic structure of the family relationships.  To record it I used PAF and, more recently, converted to Ancestral Quest v14. 

I now wish to add the information about residential addresses and occupations that I can find in the published census returns.  To do this in AQ I need to associate the information with events in the individual's "timeline". However, the "event" is the census process itself, which is also the ultimate "source" of such information - on a national scale.  Furthermore, if I wish to include a scan of the relevant census page, AQ only makes a provision for this in a "source" record.

So, is the source the relevant census page, or is it the entire collection of records for that year?

I tried to get help from the [AncestralQuest] email group, but they didn't seem to understand my difficulty.

Are you able to advise me on how census derived information should be recorded in family histories?

Kind regards,
Paul Grant

Dear Paul,

It’s kind of scary going back five years and seeing what I wrote about citations. I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m pleased to see that what I wrote stands the test of time.

I’ve not looked at AncestralQuest citations since then. Let me speak generically so that my advice will be applicable to any revision of any tree management software. I will use dictionary definitions for source and citation. Ignore AncestralQuest for a moment, or the mismatched definitions will confuse you.

A census of a nation is a source. There is a citation that applies to this entire source.

All the pages for a county (or some other sub-jurisdiction) are a source. There is a citation for this source. It includes all the elements from the previous citation, plus some more.

A single page is a source. There is a citation for this source. It includes all the elements from the previous citation, plus some more. 

A line of a census is a source. There is a citation for this source. It includes all the elements from the previous citation, plus some more.

All of these statements are true at the same time.

Most tree managers provide some mechanism to speed citation entry. One can enter some of the more general details of a source citation into a data structure so they can be reused over and over. I will call this a Master Source List. When specifying the citation for a single fact, one references an entry in the Master Source List and then adds additional citation detail.

What you specify in your Master Source List is entirely up to you and the specific research project. The Master Source List feature (or whatever it is called in your tree manager) is there for your convenience, so you get to decide to what specificity you use a Master Source List entry.

  • You could specify the national census in the Master Source List entry and add remaining detail each time a specific fact is cited.
  • If the majority of the citations are for a particular county, one might wish to add a second entry that includes the county details. Add remaining detail each time a specific fact from within the county is cited.
  • It is conceivable, but unlikely, that a situation could arise, perhaps for a small project in a small file, where a majority of the citations specified a particular page. In addition to a national or county entry, one might have a Master Source List entry for that one page.

There are other considerations that might affect your decision:

  • How long of a Master Source List is too long? How easy does your tree software make it to find an entry when you need it? (I do most of my work in an Ancestry.com Member Tree and Ancestry.com has awful, awful, awful management of source citations. Any length is too long. But I digress...)
  • Will you be producing a research report that includes a bibliography? And do you want to use the Master Source List entries verbatim in the bibliography?
  • Are you collaborating with another person?  Making your citation entry optimal may not work the same for them.
  • Does it bother you to mix jurisdictional levels in your Master Source List? Some people may find it illogical and a violation of mutual exclusion. Others may find it too difficult to remember what they've done if they are inconsistent.
  • Are you synchronizing your tree with an online tree? Citation exchange is still in the wild, wild West. It may take some experimentation to learn what works best with your desktop software and your online software.

The bottom line is that the feature is created for you, not you for the feature.

---The Ancestry Insider