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!

RootsTech, Day 2.1 – Digital Images for Genealogists

The first breakout session I attended today was on Digital Images for Genealogists. Geoffrey Rasmussen of Legacy Family Tree was the presenter.

Right away, his emphasis was on using the highest resolution possible. Never make edits to the original master jpg or tiff file. He recommended as the ultimate resource on digital images.

His presentation focused mainly on PS Elements, the consumer version of PhotoShop, and Picasa. He also mentioned Heritage Collector, which was written for genealogists.

Rasmussen shared many tips for manipulating images and also discussed the benefits of tagging images for use and reference later.

I particularly liked the Picasa Face Movie tool that he demonstrated. It can show a person growing up/aging – perfect for genealogists.

He also talked about keeping images in the cloud. I was surprised to learn that Elements has options for this (I’m a PhotoShop user and it does not have this feature, so far as i know). Picasa also has cloud capabilities (but no smartphone integration without a third-party app). (NOTE: Actually, I’m hearing from others that it does work with smartphones!)

Another really neat tool he mentioned is the Eye-fi memory card for digital camera uploads, which can send pics to your computer or Picasa (and many other services) whenever it encounters a wireless network.