Monday, September 30, 2013

Lesson Learned!

At least I hope I have learned my lesson. Last week, while accompanying my husband to a work seminar, I stayed back in my room and worked on some genealogy. My project, to go through some pages a distant relative sent me from a family history book that someone published back in 1986. He scanned about 20 pages of this book along with the cover and title pages so that I could properly source the items to my genealogy software.

The problem that I created, I should have never created. I use Family Tree Maker for my genealogy program because I like how it syncs my tree to I always had my tree privatized so that when others find a match in my tree, I am able to expand my tree. But that is getting off the subject of my challenge.

I use a desktop computer and a laptop computer regularly to do my genealogy work. In the past, I would copy my desktop database to a flash drive and then copy from the flash drive to my laptop. After I was finished working on my laptop, I would then have to copy from the laptop back to the flash drive and then from the flash drive back to my desktop. The problem, I would forget to copy back to my desktop and start working and it would not be updated. Then I would have to have my laptop open next to my desktop and figure out what I did on one versus the other. I could have merged the two together, but I run into so many problems because of the size of my file and the duplicate names that I come across. Therefore, I just don’t merge if I really don’t have too.

Therefore when I found I thought I had my problems solved. I store my Family Tree Maker database and supporting files on Dropbox within a genealogy/FTM subfolder. Then, I make sure to turn on my laptop from home before leaving anywhere and making sure that my Dropbox folder syncs before I leave. Then when I get back, I make sure I turn on my laptop before starting my home computer so that any changes that I made on the road get updated to my home computer.

This works great in Theory.  However, when I was in my hotel room, I guess my internet connection was weak and it didn't update to Dropbox properly while I was away. Then I didn’t turn on my laptop before I started working on this project again from home. OUCH! Therefore, my files didn’t sync properly. The good news is that Dropbox informed me of this problem.

So now I have two FTM files open at the same time, with the index of individuals open. I will just compare name for name all the people in one file against the names of the other file. But first I need to redo the pages that I did last week. I hate redoing my work. I probably could merge my two files, but again, I have so many problems with merging that I just won’t do it. My hat does go off to those who are able to merge but I find I get duplicate facts with duplicate sources. It seems I get like a parallel file of names because it just doesn't merge correctly. Yes I do the backup before I start, and then I just don’t use the newly incorrect merge files. I get the most frustrated because of all the time I would spend trying to do the merge and then it doesn't work properly, so I am not going to this.

So here I am, kicking myself, scolding myself and feeling sorry for myself for being so spacey and forgetting to turn on my laptop when I got home from my trip. ARGH! Next time, I will put a big post-it-not on my desktop that reads “Before using this computer…. turn on your laptop and make sure Dropbox updates completely. Then make sure Dropbox updates completely on this machine before proceeding.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Genealogy Roadshow

Last night I watched the first Genealogy Roadshow. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I am not sure how I feel about the show.  I like the idea that it helped answered some of the questions people had dealing with their family history.

My favorite was about a woman who didn’t know anything about her father’s family. The started by talking about her great-something father and worked their way back to her father. They showed a picture of her grandmother holding her father and I think may the other woman in the picture might have been her father’s grandmother. Then they showed some other pictures. It turned out that they found her father’s sister and niece (her cousin) and brought the cousin on the show. She presented to her new found cousin a scrapbook with pictures of her father and her heritage.
I guess I wanted to know more on how they found these people and figured out their histories. I am more interested in the back workings of the show. But that is probably because I do research and I want to learn tips, tricks and hints on how to expand our own histories.

The show did make me wonder about some of the questions that I have. Okay, I have a lot of questions that haven’t been able to answer yet. The biggest question is about my mother’s birth father. This summer, I found out that my mother was raised by her step father since she was about 2 and was told 2 weeks after her 18th birthday that he was not her birth father. She was then legally adopted by her step-father.  My mother knew this her entire adult life and never said a word to any of her children.
Another question is my twice great grandfather Amos Booth. I know he was born in Canada and I think he was from Elizabeth Town, but beyond that, nothing. His death certificate doesn’t list his parents.  His civil war pension file doesn’t tell much either.

Well, I could go on with even more questions, but we all have our own questions to answer and I am sure you don’t want to read about mine. However, this leads me to a tip I read, using a spreadsheet program to keep a running master list of questions. In addition to the question or task, include columns for the date the questions arose, the relevant surname, the ancestor, possible repository where you might find the answer, the result and when it was answered. The wonderful thing about a spreadsheet is that you can sort any column you want. Perhaps you will be visiting a certain repository and then you could make a list before you leave.  Various lists can help you plan research trips and know where gaps are.
Good luck researching.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's never too late!

Last week while I was working at the Library, a woman came in and stated that she wants to get back into doing her family history. She told me it has been about 10 years since she did anything. I asked her if she did it manually or on her computer. She informed me that she used Family Tree Maker and wasn’t sure what version but her data is stored on 3.5” Floppy Drives. Since the Library does have one computer with a floppy drive, I told her that would not be a problem and that she needs to bring those in along with a flash drive, so we can move the files.

The following week, she brought in her laptop, floppy disks, flash drive and her Family Tree Maker Disks. She had version 8 and I explained that the new version doesn’t look anything like the old version but it would do for the time being.
We put the first floppy into the drive and I heard the drive churn and boy did that bring back memories. Especially since I could tell this floppy wasn’t reading properly. When we complete the task of reading all her old floppies, we only found a few that it could not read. We were able to read her old file and it had almost 400 people in it. We also discovered some old photos of grandkids and those were a great bonus. She even mentioned to me that she almost threw those disks away. Lucky for her she didn’t.

We proceeded to install FTM onto her laptop and decided to setup a genealogy subfolder in her documents folder for all her goodies. I suggested a FTM subfolder under her genealogy folder for her to store her database files. So she moved the file to the proper location. She had some other files on her flash drive and we created more subfolders for her census records, military records, vital records, newspaper articles and tombstones. She stated she was putting off returning to genealogy because she didn’t look forward to inputting all those names again, but now she was really excited.
I re-introduced her to FTM and explained how to do some basic tasks. We created some errors so she would see what comes up and how to fix it. I suggested that she should make sure to start citing her sources and explained some basic concepts and showed her some examples.

I then showed her FTM version 2012 and explained that the newest version (2014) is now available. I realized that we can take for granted all the cool features that have been added to FTM over the years. Since we see the changes as they occur, we don’t notice them, just like our children growing. We see them growing before our eyes so we don’t notice drastic changes like our friends or family might who don’t see your children every day.
She is going to key in all her changes and will probably upgrade her FTM version when she gets a new desktop computer. In the meantime, she is going to get her computer files to equal all the notes that she wrote on her paper forms. She also stated she has a lot of scanning to do and stated that she will also be working on that project. She promised to come back, in two weeks because we both have other things going on next Wednesday.

I am very excited for her!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dedicated Genealogy E-mail

We all have heard the phrase “Do as I say and not as I do”. Well this applies to Genealogy too!

When I teach classes, I always advise new students to setup a dedicated email for genealogy related items. I also advise against using the free email that their internet provider gives them, because if they change providers, they will have to change all their logins and contact information.
Well, I find myself needing to change my internet provider and thus all my email contact information. Yikes!

We also hear about how bad it is to write down our logins and passwords, but as I get older, I can’t remember all my logins, passwords or even websites that I have used. So lucky for me, I have written all this down. I have a small address book that I use for recording my information. After I create some new emails, one for genealogy and one for all my other stuff, I will slowly go through my address book and start to update the information.  Keep in mind that you can find lots of free applications that will store your passwords on-line. I think I have tried one, but I can’t remember what that website is off the top of my head, hopefully I wrote that down.
I am giving myself plenty of time to get this done, (the first of the year) because I want to complete this while I still have my current internet provider. Some websites will send a notification email or confirmation email to your old email as a warning that your account is being changed. This is great if your account becomes compromised, because you would know.  So if you close down that email account too soon, I don’t know what a website will do when they get your old email message bouncing back to them. This way I am hoping for the least amount of aggravation by doing my changes before I close down my email accounts.


Welcome Readers to my new blog titled “Out on a Limb”. There are times during my genealogy research journey that I seem to get myself “Out on a Limb”. I will try to record my genealogy challenges here, perhaps as a warning to you. As the saying goes, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” So learn from my mistakes so that you don’t repeat them.