RootsTech 2012, Day 3

I ate nachos way too late last night and hence was awoken by very strange dreams early this morning. But the early bird gets to breakfast with Thomas MacEntee, and I also got to meet Chris Whitten of WikiTree. Caroline Pointer joined us as well.

I was able to attend this morning’s keynote talk by the Ancestry guys led by CEO Tom Sullivan, and they showed some really promising demos of things to come from that site.

Next, I attended Is Your Ancestor Hiding in This Picture? by Patricia Moseley Van Skeik of the Public Library of Cincinnati. This was a follow-up to her talk last year about the 1848 panoramic daguerreotype of Cincinnati. This year, she showed the results of their research into the various buildings and businesses pictured. Really good, inspiring stuff for this photo researcher.

Then, I attended the fold3 overview and learned a lot of new ways to use this service. Their Training Center features videos by Laura Prescott (she also wrote a lot of the collection descriptions).

Check out fold3’s listing of all resources, which shows the completion status of digitization for each collection. Go to the information page about a collection to search or browse just that collection.

You can browse by conflict on the homepage, which is very handy for eliminating irrelevant records.

When you are in a set of search results, use the Watch feature to send you alerts when possible new records are found for a particular person at a particular place.

You can check out which other users are adding information to pages for particular people or annotating particular records and connect with them. You also can upload an image about a person that’s related to other docs and/or their page on fold3. Anything that users upload is free for others to view.

One really nice feature of fold3 is the ability to create memorial pages. Users can create pages for places and organizations, not just individuals.

I had a nice lunch with Linda McCauley, Jenna Mills and Caroline Pointer at Blue Lemon before skipping the last session to get in some last minutes of research at the FHL. That was not going so well, so now I’m back at the hotel, watching my Terps. Will be heading out later with a LibraryThing friend who lives nearby.

Stay tuned for more posts from me including my best-of tips that I learned at RootsTech and my overall thoughts on this year’s event. Something for me to work on during the long flight tomorrow.


RootsTech 2012, Day 2

After breakfast with Footnote Maven, Elyse Doerflinger and Denise Levenick, I spent the morning at the Family History Library. After lunch, I finally attended a couple of sessions at the Salt Palace.

The first was Genealogical Uses for QR Codes, by Thomas MacEntee. I have used QR codes on things like posters at work, but was interested to hear more ideas about their applications in genealogy.

The session was recorded, so I assume it will be available later. This was Thomas’ first time giving this presentation.

QR stands for Quick Response. QR codes should link to robust content such as video, census pages and family trees.

One application that is just getting off the ground is, which provides QR codes that can be applied to gravestones and link to online memorials of the deceased.

Among the genealogical applications for this technology:

  • Store source citations
  • Turn your biz card into a QR code
  • Store your surname list, family trees, research databases, citations
  • Include photo info on photo sleeve

Some things to keep in kind:

  • Give the QR code image a name that makes sense so you can find it more easily later
  • The more info, the bigger the image. It’s best to host your information online and then make a link from the code
  • Be careful what information you make available. Do you want anyone to be available to see it?

The next session of the day for me was Google Toolbar and Genealogy, by David Barney of Google. I was already aware of a lot of the items he covered, but here is what was new to me:

– Put ~genealogy at the end of your search string for more genealogy-related search results (this tip courtesy of Dan Lynch). The tilda tells Google to include words like genealogy in the results.

– Add a date range like so: 1827.. 1888 (also courtesy of Lynch. I really need to get his book)

– When searching images:
In the search bar, click on the camera and upload an image to find similar images

– The Chrome browser has a screen capture extension that allows you to edit the capture with tools like blur, drawing and text.

Now, I’m resting up in preparation for a wild night at the Family History Library: Geneabloggers Radio, Who Do You Think You Are?, and research!

RootsTech 2012: Day 1

Day One of RootsTech got off to a great start with breakfast with Denise Levenick, Footnote Maven and Jenna Mills.

The opening session included reps from Google speaking on new search capabilities for genealogy that got everyone excited. I’m sure my fellow bloggers will cover this in more detail.

The first topical session I attended was on Mining Newspaper Archives, presented by Tara Carlisle and Kathleen Murray. You can view their slides at

The session started out with a whiplash-inducing overview of metadata and the digitization process.

Interesting takeaway: in the 1990s, standards for microfilm were finally adopted; anything before that probably won’t be very good.

They focused on Chronicling America (newspaper directory,, which has lots of information about a publication. Especially helpful among the data is who is holding each publication.

The Portal to Texas History also was covered. This free resource allows you to search or browse by county. Use the calendar view to choose a specific date. I can’t wait to use this to search for my Bexar County ancestors.

In the session on Using Advanced Photographic Techniques to Recover Content from Damaged Documents, presenter Jack Reese gave a fascinating look at how to salvage information from burned or water-damaged documents. It was great to see that there is hope.

The talk started with a brief overview of NARA 1571, guidelines for paper documents i.e. maximum temperature of 65 degrees F and 35-45% humidity. Keep documents at least 3 inches off ground and not below grade. Storing documents in a room with vinyl tiles or carpet subjects them to off-gassing and fumes, which is a no-no. Likewise, unpainted concrete walls create dust.

By working with the non-visible spectrum of light, researchers can view documents in a way not possible with the naked eye, or even most cameras and scanners. You can use a filter on a camera to show reactions that are not in the normal spectrum in order to see missing text. For instance, shooting fluorescent light onto a document can cause faded ink to emit photons that can be seen using a special camera and lens. Astronomy-related cams will have the right type of filter for doing this kind of work.

The speaker also discussed forensic document analysis, like that on CSI, but this has its drawbacks. The devices are small and really don’t accommodate large documents, resolution is limited and it is expensive.

So, he and his colleagues set out to build their own gadget, a document-restoration camera that is a combo of a specialty camera, lens, filters, and lighting.

He showed us examples of inspecting documents using infrared and UV examination. It was very cool to see how the writing is revealed!

This type of work requires an investment in equipment and some learning, but this can be done at home.

The final session I attended today was on The Power of Evernote. I have used Evernote before to keep track of citations, but that’s about it. Tevya Washburn and Kurt Francom taught us how to create Notebooks, tags, and use the browser extension to clip from web.

One of the great advantages of using Evernote is that if you clip from a page, it will be available to you even if the page goes away online. Text is searchable within Evernote, even if it’s in a clip.

The interface is slightly different for tablet users, but Jenna Mills of SeekingSurnames said you can still email clips from your iPad to your Evernote account.

The speakers suggested journaling in Evernote and tagging your daily posts for a summarized history by individual, for instance.

One of the best tie-in apps they discussed was If This Then That, which can even pull in Gmail emails and blog posts.

Go to for the presentation, links and more.

That’s it for now! Time for dinner and a comedy show!

Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference 2012

Today was the 2012 Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference in Salt Lake City. I had a great time seeing old friends and learning at the sessions.

The first session speaker was J. Mark Lowe. He spoke on creating an advanced research plan.

Lowe covered a lot of ground, including recommendations for several products to help you collaborate and report back to clients. He mentioned to create a three-ring binder on the web that can be private or public with PDFs, web resources, notes, etc.

Another suggestion was Oneeko (one echo) to share with up to eight users. ScreencastOMatic allows you to record video from screen with audio, annotations and animations.

On the research side, one tip that struck me was to look for doctor journals for evidence of births, etc.

Next, I listened to Thomas MacEntee talk about giving virtual presentations. He had a ton of advice on everything from gadgets to services to dos and don’ts (as a presenter and as an audience).

The last presentation I attended was There’s an App for That by Laura Prescott. She had a great idea to use iMapMyWalk, which allows you to add photos to a map and can be handy for walking a cemetery.

She reminded us that the Ancestry app features those infamous leaves, which allow you to check out potential records related to your ancestors.

I definitely need to check out DocumentsToGo, which features many useful tools like word count and others. It looks very handy.

Finally, I downloaded Photoshop Express. It’s free! I had no idea!

I skipped the last session of the day (I was feeling antsy and decided to take a gym break). Then, I headed over to the Salt Palace to register for RootsTech and met up with a bunch of friends that I had heretofore only known online: Footnote Maven, Elyse Doerflinger, Russ Worthington and Denise Levenick (whom I had met briefly the day before). Kim Cotton joined us too. We all went out for a great dinner at PF Changs and then several of us hung out in the lobby of the Radisson, gabbing and having fun. I can’t wait to see more folks tomorrow as RootsTech gets underway!

Rootstech Has This Librarian Hoppin’ Mad

UPDATE: Rootstech has made some floorspace available to a few booksellers at the conference after the recent uproar. I don’t know if they are also making room for other non-tech vendors like crafters…

I was dismayed to hear today that booksellers will not be allowed to set up shop in the RootsTech vendor hall at the upcoming conference. Then I was still more shocked to see that not only booksellers, but craft vendors and genealogical studies vendors also will not be allowed in.

Dear RootsTech Organizers, to borrow a phrase from a friend, “Who pooped in your cereal this morning?”

Rootstech attracted thousands of attendees to its inaugural event last year — genealogy enthusiasts and professionals of all skill levels, both techie and non. To be honest, I thought that the selections in the vendor hall were a bit underwhelming for a conference of that size.

Now it’s going to be even more limited?

I don’t get it.

Now, I’m not an official RootsTech blogger or anything, but I did sing the event’s praises on my blog while attending last year and I was really looking forward to going to the 2012 event. Things like this make me wonder if the event is going to have the same positive vibe as last year’s though. I liked how inclusive the event was last year. That’s what made it work.

I really hope that if enough of us raise our voices on this one, RootsTech may reconsider.

Lunch with President Kennedy

When my grandfather was serving in the Army in Germany, he was invited to a luncheon in honor of President Kennedy. One of my aunts showed me the souvenirs that he held onto after the day, including his ticket and the program with menu. I took photos of the items (click on the images for larger versions).

Something tells me presidential luncheon menus have gotten a bit fancier since the 1960s. Also, can you find the typo in the menu?

“Missy! It Happened Again!” 9-11 Memories

Seen on the Mass. Ave. Bridge in Boston shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

“Missy! It happened again! Another plane just hit the World Trade Center.” One of the students in the research group I worked for at MIT was on the phone with her husband, who was in Brooklyn, relaying to her the horrible things he was seeing on September 11, 2001.

The first time he called to tell her a plane hit the WTC, we couldn’t believe it. I wondered how it could even happen. Was it on purpose? The second time he called, we knew.

That morning was probably the strangest morning of my life. People gathered around the available TVs to watch the news coverage. After the Pentagon was hit as well, rumors swirled about other planes in the air, aiming for the White House, Capitol Hill (where dear friends of mine worked) and other places in my hometown of Washington, D.C.

You couldn’t get calls to go through to check on loved ones for the longest time. I didn’t have a cell phone yet. I tried and tried to reach my grandma, who lived in Alexandria, Va., not far from the Pentagon. She used to work at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon is where my grandparents met.

Hours after the attacks, I finally got through. She was very upset. Turns out, I didn’t know how upset. I thought she told me one of my aunts was there with her. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t alone. Turns out, my aunt was stuck in traffic trying to get there.

It was one of the last times I would talk with my grandma. She died the next month.

We had to wait weeks to bury her. She was to be buried at Arlington National Ceremony, but there was a backlog of funerals for the victims of the Pentagon attack.

I returned to the D.C. area for her memorial service soon after she died. We drove past the Pentagon on the way. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the gaping hole in the side of that massive building.

I remember the outpouring of goodwill from other countries after the attacks. The way people helped each other to recover. Sadly, much of those attitudes have been lost in the intervening years. I hope it doesn’t take such a tragedy before we see that caring and thoughtfulness again.