My Week in Search Terms

As a blogger, I’m obsessed with site metrics and as a researcher/librarian, I’m obsessed with search terms. WordPress satisfies both obsessions with its blog statistics, which let me know how people find my blog by searching the Internet.

I found several interesting search terms over the past week (for still more search-term hilarity, I suggest you visit my friend Amy’s We Tree blog for her “Fun with Search Terms” posts).

1943 guide to hiring women — perhaps this week’s “Binders Full of Women” meme made you think of this brochure that informed 1940s government managers about the ins and outs of hiring and employing women.

andrew jackson photos — unfortunately, Andrew Jackson died in 1845, pre-dating most photographic technology. My second great grand uncle Andrew Jackson Corley, on the other hand, lived in the late 1800s, and I was lucky to come across a photo of him.

how to flip my couch into a flatbed — I think the method you use will be determined by the type of couch you have (Hopefully you have a sleeper sofa. Otherwise, I’m not sure how successful you’ll be). You found my blog because of my post about my Flip-pal scanner — one of my best purchases of 2012. I highly recommend you get one too. You can use it while on your couch or while on your bed.

roots tech 2012, going to — RootsTech 2012 was back in February, but you’re in luck! The event will take place again in March 2013. Hope to see you there.

why are maganetic albums badMagnetic albums are bad. Really, really bad. I highly recommend using an acid-free album like these from Creative Memories (I am a CM consultant) to better protect your photos.

“alfred t. gourley” civil war — nice use of quotation marks to create a phrase out of the name. Unfortunately, even though you most likely also are a descendant of my third great-grandfather, you didn’t reach out (and I even have a special request at the top of this post asking for you to make contact). Next time, stop by and say hello! I don’t bite.

abbey mausoleum arlington wiki — It would be great if there were a wiki for this now-defunct mausoleum, which was looted over many years of neglect. I posted about my search for ancestors who used to be buried there. Hopefully you also found this FindaGrave page about Arlington Abbey, including old pictures of the facility.

RootsTech 2012: My View

It’s been almost a week since the end of the RootsTech 2012 conference and I’m finally able to get some thoughts down about my overall experience there. I’m adding my voice to dozens of other bloggers who also attended. I’m not going to try and cover the whole thing — just the highlights and a few low-lights for me.

Highlights

One of my favorite things about these events is meeting the other attendees and this year did not disappoint. I finally got to meet several genealogy bloggers that up until last week I’d only known online and we all got along swimmingly. If nothing else, I think any conference can be a success from an attendee perspective if you get out there and meet the other attendees and network. I especially enjoyed getting to know my roommate, Footnote Maven. We had a really great time and looked out for each other throughout the conference (we both were hobbling around on injured feet).

Kudos to the conference organizers for scoring free breakfasts at the Radisson for attendees staying there. What a money-saver! I don’t know if that’s a standard part of the room package that the Radisson offers to event planners, but this attendee was thankful and used almost every one of my free breakfast coupons. The breakfast buffet was a great opportunity to run into other genealogists too. I’ve never had as much face time with Thomas MacEntee as the two mornings I was up early enough to find him at breakfast. What a treat!

The RootsTech app for smartphones and other handheld devices was a huge help to me — it was great to have the schedule at a glance (both the overall schedule and my own personalized session schedule). The alerts sent through the app weren’t all that effective — I usually noticed them too late and I think whoever was adding them was doing so as an afterthought rather than as planned missives. Better luck next time on that front. I was using this app on my iPad and it worked great, but I fear I would have found it to be too small on my phone, so I didn’t download it to that too. I’m also not sure there was a way to have your information from the app on one device automatically update on another.

I attended one or two really, really stellar sessions. Both covered advanced photography topics. Most of the other sessions were useful and educational, but there were one or two stinkers. Now we’re starting to get into the low-lights section, so let’s introduce that header, shall we?

Low Lights

Back to the sessions. There were a few problems here that started even before we all arrived in Salt Lake City. The session schedule for this conference was announced very, very late. I made a cursory schedule of sessions that I thought I might like to attend a few days before the conference and then shifted things around as the syllabi became available.

I think the schedule and the syllabi need to be posted much sooner and I think it would be a good idea for the conference planners to try and track what sessions folks intend to attend (the app is perfect for this!) and plan their spaces accordingly. Some of the sessions I attended were more than standing-room only. The rooms were uncomfortably packed and hot.

There were nearly 1,000 more attendees at RootsTech this year than last year and yet it felt like they were trying to cram us into the same number of sessions and spaces. Not physically possible. Shortly after arriving in SLC for RootsTech, I learned we were sharing the Salt Palace with another event — I think the conference organizers need to invest in more space next year!

On the content side of things, some of the presenters raced through too much material for their 60-minute slots or covered material that didn’t really align with their session descriptions. I’m going to join the chorus of attendees asking for more advanced session topics next year.

Another low light for me was the vendor area. It was expanded from last year and it was a little bit easier to navigate around (at least after the first day; more on that later). I’m not usually the type to want to learn about new software at a vendor booth — I’d rather visit their web site or download a trial version. If I’m going to visit a vendor booth, there’s gotta be something hands-on for me to play with that I can’t try out from my living room couch. Several other attendees bemoaned the lack of actual gadgets available at the conference. With the exception of Flip Pal, I don’t think there were any gadgeteers there. At a tech conference. Lame.

Back to navigating the vendor area on the first day of the conference. There were a few booths I actually did want to visit, but I couldn’t reach them. Why? Because they were mobbed by other attendees. But these weren’t attendees actually interested in the services those booths were promoting. They were just trying to get their passports stamped by enough vendors to win a t-shirt. Again? Lame. Nix the whole passport thing — if 2 percent of the folks getting those passports stamped had a valuable conversation with any vendor, I’ll be surprised.

My other complaints have more to do with the Salt Palace — they need to beef up their wireless signal availability. Also? Please get some better food options.

Am I likely to attend RootsTech next year? Probably. The registration fee has been reasonable. It’s right next to the Family History Library, which on its own is worth the trip. So long as I can keep networking with my fellow genealogists, I’ll be willing to fly out there. But I do want to see a few things improve for next year. Here’s hoping the organizers are listening.

Stay tuned for one more RootsTech post (my greatest hits — facts, tips and tricks that wowed me).

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 QRmemorials.com, 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 goo.gl/6rt7D

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, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), 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 fiddlerstudios.com/evernote for the presentation, links and more.

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

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.

I Just Registered for RootsTech 2012!

Did you hear? RootsTech 2012 registration is now open! What’s more, you can register at a bargain price of just $99 now until Saturday. Find out more here at my friend Amy Coffin‘s blog, We Tree. She’s also an official RootsTech 2012 blogger, so be sure to follow her!

Why should you attend RootsTech? RootsTech 2011 was an amazing experience, bringing together genealogists of all experience levels and developers who create technologies for them. I made so many new connections and learned so much. I cannot wait to go back for more. Also? It’s in Salt Lake City! Mecca for genealogists. The Family History Library is right across the street from the conference venue.

My Take on Genealogy Conferences

The GeneaBloggers community is abuzz about conferences this week. It’s only within the past year and a half or so that I’ve been able to attend national and local conferences, but here are my observations:

I’ve been thrilled with the quality of the information presented at every conference I’ve attended so far. Our community members have so much to offer each other and I have had a very hard time picking which sessions to go to more often than not because there are usually several offered at the same time that I’d like to attend.

I am willing to travel far and wide if there is more to do beyond just attend the conference in the location where it is being held. I’ve not attended NGS yet because it hasn’t been held in a location where I either had friends or family to visit or where I could do research. I attended FGS last year in part because I could visit my sister in Knoxville at the same time. RootsTech has the draw of being in Salt Lake City where the Family History Library is located. I would love to go to FGS this upcoming September in Springfield, Ill., because I have family history there and could do research at the same time. Alas, the timing won’t work with my schedule this year.

At local Family History Conferences held by the LDS church, the use of social media hardly gets a mention. At FGS/APG last year, the organizers regrettably asked attendees to refrain from blogging, tweeting or even having laptops open during many of the presentations. RootsTech got it right. They had a hashtag that attendees could use to Tweet about the conference and openly embraced the use of social media. I hope other events soon follow suit.

As with any type of conference, the part I value most is meeting and hanging out with other attendees. I often joke that I would come to a conference without any sessions if I had still the chance to meet and talk with so many diverse and talented people. I make a point of scheduling meetings and meet-ups at nearly every break and meal during conferences. Those opportunities are not to be missed.

I would love to have the opportunity to attend portions of FGS and NGS remotely, since I can’t make either one this year. I’d even pay for the privilege, especially if sessions were archived and offered after the fact. RootsTech webcasted many of its sessions and those who couldn’t be there in person flocked to their computers so they could take part too. This made the social media interactions that much richer and I think encouraged many more attendees to make an effort to attend next year.

For those who struggle with what to do with all of the material you accumulate during a conference, you might want to check out a series of posts I did after surveying folks on what they do with everything after they get home.

Follow Friday: Luxegen

I had the pleasure of meeting Joan Miller at RootsTech last month, but I’ve been following her on Twitter and on her blog for a long time.  I encourage you to do the same.

Shortly after RootsTech, Joan posted about SEO (search engine optimization) for genealogy. This was one of the most helpful blog posts I have ever read. I immediately put into practice some of her tips on my own web site and in my APG directory listing. It’s paying off. I’m already seeing an uptick in hits to my business web site and this has netted me sales and new clients. Thanks, Joan!