Changing with the Times

I’m going to wax philosophical after all of the talk since RootsTech about a genealogy technology revolution. I recently got to thinking how genealogy isn’t the only realm in which big changes are happening (and I’m not just talking about the Middle East either).

The most recent copy of American Libraries from the American Library Association includes an article titled “Is ALA Ripe for Rebellion?” (January/February 2011, page 84). The Special Libraries Association recently went through an “alignment” process that included an attempt to change the name of the association.

In both of the above instances, the associations are struggling to keep up with the times and the needs of their members. Technology is playing a big role in the challenges they are facing and the solutions available to them. I think genealogy is experiencing a similar shift and the RootsTech conference brought the issue front and center.

When change is on the horizon, it can be frightening and it’s natural to want to batten down the hatches and try to weather the storm, but change also can be a good thing. Consider this quote from Thomas Jefferson included in the above American Libraries article:

“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical… It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” (p. 85)

Indeed, when a thunderstom rolls through, it usually clears the air and leaves the ground ripe for new things to grow. Many in genealogy may view the recent talk since Rootstech as a disruptive thunderstorm, but the changes brewing will lead to many new possibilities and opportunities.

Sorta Wordless Wednesday: Face Time

I created this short movie using the Movie from Faces function in Picasa, which I learned how to do at RootsTech in Geoffrey Rasmussen’s session on “Digital Images for Genealogists”:

"Face" Movie created using Picasa -- links to YouTube video.

As Geoffrey pointed out in his session, the photos in the video overlap using the eyes in each photo as the focal point.

This didn’t work perfectly. I was annoyed when I loaded Picasa onto my computer and it wouldn’t let me upload photos just from one folder — I had to let it search either my entire computer or a large subset.

Also, a couple of the photos that I uploaded to Picasa weren’t recognized as faces (even after retouching to try and make them clearer) and so weren’t included in the movie. It was still fun to try out this technique though. I think it’s a neat way to show the progression of time in a person’s life. I could have added captions to the photos and recorded audio to go with the movie as well.

Here’s how to create your own version:

  1. Install Picasa on your computer.
  2. Upload the photos you want included in the movie.
  3. Select the photos and then select Create–>Movie–>Movie from Faces in Selection
  4. You can preview the movie, edit the photos and reorder them. Once you have it to your liking, click Finish Movie and then you can export it or upload it to YouTube.

Follow Friday: Relatively Curious About Genealogy

One of the presentations that I attended at RootsTech was led by Tami Glatz of the Relatively Curious About Genealogy blog. Her presentation was called “Cool Tools to Enhance Your Online Research.” One of the tools she covered was her very own — her Internet Genealogy toolbar. I just downloaded it myself, but it looks very promising in terms of the links and resources it contains. I encourage all of you to check out her blog and the toolbar, if you haven’t already. The toolbar can be downloaded from a link at the very top of her blog. Enjoy!

RootsTech Redux

I’ve been spending the evening cleaning up my previous posts about RootsTech, which I wrote on-scene using an iPad with limited skill/ability to do things like link links and include images. Here’s the full list, in case you’d like to revisit the posts or you are seeing them for the first time:

RootsTech, Day 1: Toto, we’re not at FGS anymore.

RootsTech, Day 2.0: “Genealogy is about the experience and not proper citation format. People don’t keep doing things that make them miserable.”

RootsTech, Day 2.1: Digital Images for Genealogists

RootsTech, Day 2.2: Digitization of Irish Records

RootsTech, Day 2.3: Still more from Day 2!

RootsTech, Day 3.0: Notes from the founder of Internet Archive

RootsTech, Day 3.1: Photography Brings Ancestors to Life

RootsTech, Day 3.2: Virtual Presentations How-To

Random RootsTech Photos: exactly as advertised

I had such an excellent time at this conference. I love the chance to get to know the bloggers with whom I correspond online and I learned a lot at the various sessions. The chance to use the legendary Family History Library was fabulous.

This event had the vibe of the larger library association conferences I’ve been known to frequent. Rock music was used to introduce the keynote speakers. It also had its very own touches that really made it standout. There were recording booths in the vendor hall that bloggers could use to record video interviews. Microsoft set up a gaming area with Kinect video games, pool tables and more. All three keynote sessions were broadcast live on the Internet along with several breakout sessions. It was rather unreal.

Tweeting and blogging was encouraged and even expected — live tweets were featured on the conference homepage. Developers hung out with genealogists and brainstormed. Bending the rules and creative thinking were the norm.

It’s amazing that this event came together after only seven months. And 3,000 people came. 3,000! Some from as far away as Ireland and Australia.

I’m so excited that they’ve already picked the dates for next year: February 2-4, 2012. You can bet I’ll be there!

RootsTech, Day 3.2 – Virtually There

The last official breakout session that I attended was a roundtable on how to host virtual presentations. Thomas MacEntee led the session, which featured several familiar faces on stage and familiar voices joining virtually.

The session covered everything from what technologies to use (GoToMeeting was mentioned several times and was used to facilitate this particular session) to how to prep for such a presentation both as a speaker and as an attendee.

This type of presentation has become more and more popular in other spheres, but genealogy societies have struggled to offer such sessions either due to a lack of know-how, a lack of funds or a fear that it will leave out less tech-savvy members.

The message from the speakers was that virtual presentations are doable on any budget (partner with a venue like a library if your society doesn’t have the technology) and can be held in such a way that members who want to attend in-person can do so.

There are many reasons for holding virtual presentations–it can make the society accessible to far-flung members and can attract speakers who are unable to travel to the society’s location.

To quote Lisa Louise Cooke, who took part in the panel, “the genealogy landscape is going to change.” Societies need to step up and change with the times or risk becoming irrelevant.

Random RootsTech Photos

I still have at least one more substantive RootsTech post to write based on the sessions I attended, but I finally downloaded some photos off of my camera so here are some relatively random pics from my trip.

I did a pretty horrible job of taking pics of other people at the conference, and so encourage you to check out the other folks blogging about the conference for people shots.

Nifty shot of another plane as seen from seat 13F on the flight to SLC.

The view from my hotel room. That's the roof of the Family History Library in the foreground!!!

Fantastic chocolate shake from JB's restaurant (attached to the Plaza Hotel). I also highly approved of the mini Belgian waffles at their Sunday breakfast buffet (no pic of those, sorry).

Fireworks by the state capitol. I never did find out what they were for...

Slightly less blurry fireworks shot.

RootsTech, Day 3.1 – Photography Brings Ancestors to Life

The first breakout session I attended today was “Advanced Technology Brings Ancestors to Life” by Patricia Moseley Van Skaik of the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County. She focused her talk on a panoramic daguerreotype image of the Cincinnati waterfront taken in 1848. It is considered to be the oldest photograph of urban America, including steamboats, storefronts, and more.

You can learn more about the image here.

The Cincinnati daguerreotype panorama is actually pieced together from eight separate images of the shoreline. The assembled image is more than seven feet long.

Here is another site with information about the image.

Many of the buildings in the image are no longer there, but researchers studied the photos in 1947, when many were still standing. At the time, they used magnifying glasses to see leaves on the trees, determining the season, and used other clues to determine that the year the photo was taken was 1848 (evidence of drought, etc., confirmed this date). Names of the boats in the water also helped date the photo.

Fast forward to today and Eastman House made hi-res images of the daguerreotypes that allowed for closer inspection. They stitched the images together to create the panorama available at the links above.

They didn’t stop there. Using microscopic images, they were able to determine it was 1:50 p.m. by zooming in on a clock tower in the photo. They discovered signs on the buildings and were able to read them. The level of detail available upon close inspection of the original images is quite impressive.

Taking the information from the signs, researchers then turned to census records, deeds, city directories and more from that time to learn more about the store owners and their businesses. They also learned about some of the residents of the buildings as well.

Enhanced images and detailed information will be online later this year. The crew working on this project hope to hang the daguerreotype for public display once again. It has been down for conservation work.

RootsTech, Day 3.0

This morning’s keynote was from Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. His topic was “Personal Archiving and Primary Documents.” He talked about many projects of which I was unaware, including the fact that they had digitized all available years of the census (they are not indexed, but other services have done that…). was another initiative I was surprised to learn about. The site is trying to create a web page for every book that gets you as close to a copy of the book as possible.

Filmstrips, people! They’re archiving those filmstrips you watched in school when recess was rained out or there was a substitute teacher. (also check out

There also is an effort to create a television archive. All told, there are more than 300,000 moving images.

“Hackers of today are the archivists of the next generation.” (This started a discussion on Twitter about how the BBC was indebted to hackers who helped restore videos that had been considered lost.)

“It’s a really bad idea to trust a commercial company with your only backup.” His advice was to have more than one back-up copy and send one (at least) to someone who is as far away as you can.

RootsTech, Day 2.3 – All the Rest

I attended a session on blogging led by Thomas MacEntee. The panel included several bloggers, who shared their experiences for an audience ranging from newbies to experienced bloggers. I learned a few things myself, including that affiliates earn 35% ROI. I also need to comment more on other blogs and not just read them.

Next, I attended an unconferencing session with Jay Verkler of FamilySearch. The topic was on societies and technology. The president of my local genealogical society doesn’t even use email, so I didn’t have too much to contribute, but it s interesting to hear about what other societies across the country are doing. is a provider of technology solutions that societies could benefit from.

Next, I needed a nap. Badly. I had to rest up before a marathon research session at the Family History Library.

Crappy BlackBerry photo of my FHL visitor badge.

Once at the FHL, I got a special first-time visitor badge and watched their introductory film. Then, I sat at a computer and got to work. I didn’t have a specific research problem to work on, so I went through some of the subscription DBs available. What a treasure trove! I highly recommend perusing through the list.

Next, I attended a class taught by Judy Jones, a British reference consultant. She took us through several types of British vital records. Here are some of her tips for searching, no matter what country:
– Search for all family members and in all feasible years
– Use children’s birthplaces to find census locations
– Use location of first child’s birth for marriage location; search before and after. Then check locations of births of the parents.
– Make a note of witnesses; these usually are relatives
– Double check the availability of types of records for the time period before searching

I learned some new definitions. “Scholar” simply meant a child above a certain age (toddler) in England. “Spinster” simply meant single, never married; age was not a factor.

Another interesting tidbit: Apprentices couldn’t marry; the average age for the to marry was 25-26.

Next, I went back to researching while I watched the Tim McGraw episode of “Who Do You Tink You Are?” I started fading by about 10 p.m., but by that point, I had found many leads to follow up on and I hope to go back today to look at some microfilm.

RootsTech, Day 2.2 – Digitization of Irish Records

Brian Donovan of Eneclann presented a session on efforts to digitize Irish records. He began with a brief history of the records in the country, covering the 1922 destruction of the public records office, which resulted in the destruction of pre-1851 censuses, more than half of the available parish registers and pre-1700 records.

The destruction didn’t stop there. Bureaucratic decisions destroyed later census records. Irish apathy also led to the disappearance of value genealogical resources.

Then Donovan turned to more hopeful news about current efforts to digitize those records that are still available.

The Irish Genealogical Project at provides and index only, no images, of many parish registers, civil and census records, tithe books, primary valuation and more., an initiative of the Department of Tourism, also is working on parish registers, but not all counties are represented.

The National Library, at, has the Griffiths valuation for 1846 & 1852 available.

There are several new initiatives coming along. FamilySearch may have tithe records from 1823-1837. A tithe was a religious tax collected by then established church of the time. Household list akin to census enumerations are provided in theses records.

The National Library has a RFP out to digitize microfilm records. The ETA on this is unknown.

Eneclann has several projects in the works. Sign up for their e-newsletter to find out how to access the below databases as they come online. Their web site is

In May, records from the landed estates court, which sold land from bankrupt estate owners, will go online. These records include mortgage and “portions” from the mid-19th century (1848-1852). The list of renters numbers 600,000.

Prison registers, which give details about relatives and victims, will go online on this summer. Ireland had the most prisons per population in Europe and millions of prisoners.

Petty Sessions, which are just like it sounds (think the Judge Judy of 19th-early 20th century Ireland), included criminal and civil cases. There are 15 million cases to 1910. These I’ll be available in about a year.

Dog license books! More pertinent than they sound. Every farmer had a dog and had to have a license. These records include their name, address and more. I missed the ETA on this project.

The Irish Revolutionary period was 1912-23. Of course, it was a very emotional period for Irish. The police records from the period are fascinating (they tracked everyone). They include mug shots, Volunteer records (private army raised against revolutionaries), and Army records (including search and raid records, court martials, intel files). Also missed the ETA on this one.

Eneclann is launching a new site on 3/17. Stay tuned!

One important reminder that Donovan mentioned: Many Irish changed religious affiliation for economic, legal reasons and many Protestants reverted back to Catholicism after impediments to owning land, etc., were lifted. Don’t let assumptions about your ancestors limit your searches!