A Treasure Trove for Everyone!

Last week, while doing some research, I decided to go back over the list of FamilySearch microfilms that I have put on indefinite loan to have access to at my library whenever I want. There was 1 roll of Mercer County deeds that I was hoping was on the list, but it was not. So I went to the FamilySearch site to look up the film number. While on the site, I noticed new icons that I’ve never noticed before. Some listings have small film roll icons which mean that a microfilm is available, but others have small cameras. So what happens when you click on a camera? You will see all of the images are available to view online!

So what kind of records can you find? Let me give you a taste of what’s available for Mercer County, Kentucky:

This is a phenomenal resource that’s available right from home! Any day, any time of day – not just when my library is open! Available for quick look-ups or all-day research sessions without packing up my stuff and driving to the library! Quick downloads directly to my computer instead of time spent scanning…this is genealogy heaven!

I’m not sure how they determine which films will be put online, but I was shocked at the number for Mercer County! Not quite as many for Russell County, but not a bad little list. It seems, the earliest films are being scanned first – which is good for me because I’m not interested in much beyond 1830. And I’m assuming that this is a work in process, so I’ll be checking back often.

So if you’d like to see what available for your research, click here and enter your location and take a look! Hopefully, you’ll be doing a genealogy happy dance too!

Can anyone decipher this?

I’m working my way through early tax lists and I keep seeing this abbreviation in the Water Course column. It looks like War.* or Was.* with a symbol after it similar to a symbol to abbreviate Edw* or Rob*. It doesn’t appear on all water courses, as you can see at the top of this image, but it does appear a lot. Any guesses?

Water Course

Update: Here is another image. Same County, same year, different commissioner’s list.

Water Course 2

Microfilm Scanning at the ACPL

I haven’t been able to spend time at the Allen County Public Library in awhile, but I’ve had a couple of days recently to come in again and there have been some updates in the microfilm room. In the past, the room was huge with many rows of microfilm readers and about 10 scanners. When I came this time, I was surprised to find that the room has been divided in half, which I think is excellent because I just never saw that many of the readers being used at the same time. I believe the non-microfilm portion is being used for classes, but I could be wrong.  The sign says “Discovery Center”.

Now there are 22 readers and 8 scanners which I believe are the same scanners that have been here for quite awhile. But there are 2 new scanners which are AWESOME! The camera takes the entire image at once. No more waiting for the camera to pass over the film once for a preview then again for the scan itself. And the image is wonderfully clear!

You have the option of sending your scans to your email, Google Drive, or Dropbox in addition to your flash drive. Printing is also available (still for free, which I find incredible!) You also have the ability to name each file while scanning and can name the folder you are saving to on your flash drive.  In the past, I would try to keep a list of what I was scanning and then rename everything once I got home.

While the scanner takes place in a flash, the saving process can take quite awhile if you choose to save in a larger file size. After doing a few experiments, I’ve decided that the default setting (300 dpi) looks wonderful enough to use without changing anything and saving at that size is pretty quick. When I scanned my first 4 images, I chose 1200 dpi and saving took close to 20 minutes! If I think a scan will be difficult to read due to scratches or fading and I know I’ll want to really zoom in on something, I’m changing the setting to 600 dpi, but that significantly changes the saving time.  In fact, I’m writing this as I wait for 10 images to save at a 900 dpi setting. But if I can finally make out what those lines are saying, it’s time well spent!

if your coming to the library, be sure to give the new scanner a try!

Transcription Time with Google Docs

I use Google Drive to keep ALL of my genealogy records stored in the cloud. I love this because I get 15 gigs of space for every gmail address I have and I can access those records from any computer. I can have a specific email set up for each surname and then I can email documents directly to that address and then later, move them into my Google Drive. (I’ve talked about this before – see Gmail stands for Genealogy Mail.)

But last fall, a new tool was introduced that is just about a dream come true. It’s called “Voice Typing” and I tried it for the first time yesterday. It is truly amazing! So here are a couple of tips if you’d like to try it out.

  1. You have to be in Chrome for it to work.
  2. Once you open a new Doc, you can find it listed under the tools tab. (I was getting pop-ups for it every time I opened a new Doc, but didn’t try it for quite awhile.)
  3. I didn’t try it because I didn’t think I had a microphone, but then one day, I realized that the Apple earbuds that I use at the gym have a built in microphone and those worked great!
  4. My first document was not the easiest thing to test with, but I discovered a lot. I decided to transcribe a very long deed in which two ancestors were selling all of their shares to their deceased father’s land to a brother. There were 5 tracts of land, each with quite a list of metes and bounds descriptions. (Beginning at a beech and a hickory thence S34 E117 poles, etc.). Some of the language used was not something that Google interpreted well, so I did have to come up with a couple of short cuts. I decided to use specific words as substitutes for some of the common words in the deed that Google consistently missed. For example, instead of saying the word “thence”, I said “Toshiba”. And instead of “to wit”, I said “Seagate”. (Can you tell I had some external drives sitting on my desk?) I kept a post-it note on my screen to help me remember which word to substitute. After I had completed the transcription, I used the “Find and Replace” tool and told Google to replace every use of “Toshiba” with “thence”, etc. It was a fast fix. For my next deed, I will also have a word to substitute for “poles” because that word was interpreted a dozen different ways!
  5. As I was reading, I did say “South 34 West 117” and then used “Find and Replace” to change it to S34 W117. (Replace “South” with “S”, etc.) This did result in a couple of additional places to check like when a parcel of land started on the south side of the river, but those were pretty easy to find. I could have tried to read it as S34 W117, but I’m sure that every S would have been interpretted as “is” and every N would have been “in”.
  6. Many of my numbers had a “th” added after them. For example, “South 34th West 117th” and I’m not sure why. That was a bit of a hassle, but now that I know it’s an issue, I will try to speak slower when saying the numbers.
  7. You will have to speak any punctuation such as period, comma, question mark, etc. But in my experience, there is not very much punctuation in documents like this. I think I had a 4 page deed and there may have been 4 periods total.
  8. Google made some interesting decisions on what to capitalize. I’ve decided that instead of spending time going back through checking which words were capitalized originally and which were not, I will just add a note to the bottom of my document that says I was using the Voice Typing tool and that capitalization may not match the original. (Not a huge deal in my book.)
  9. If you are transcribing a long document, you may want to stop every half page or so to proofread what you have so far. I read the entire thing and then went back, which made it a little harder to find errors. The proofreading took a little while (I will not do a long document in one reading again) but compared to the headaches I get when I’m trying to type those metes and bounds descriptions, proofreading was a piece of cake.

I hope that you’ll give it a try if you do a lot of transcribing. I also read somewhere that a person played a video on one screen and had Voice Typing transcribe as it was playing. That’s something I’m anxious to play with using some of the digital recordings I’ve made of family interviews!

Genealogy Search Engine

Have you ever tried the Genealogy Search Engine? It’s a free customized Google search which focuses solely on worldwide websites that contain free genealogy records. I receive a monthly newsletter from GenealogyInTime Magazine and it always gives a list of new records that have appeared online in the past month as well as a link to the Search Engine.

I was recently out of town with very little genealogy information with me and so I decided to give it a try with my biggest brick wall – John M. Smith. It was able to find a web page that had a Revolutionary War Pension application in the Russell County Court Records. The Pension application was for one of my ancestors – Jordan George – and I could not figure out why the Search Engine had taken me to that site.

As I read through the questions, I finally realized that the Justice of the Peace who was asking the questions of Jordan and his witness was none of than John M. Smith! I knew that John was a JP, but I have never noticed his name on any document like this – which makes me think that I need to go take a look at the microfilm to see if he’s listed on other similar things.

This record gave me no additional information for John, but it was nice to see one of those “slice of life” types of things – and the fact that both of the men were my ancestors was the icing on the cake!

I highly recommend the Search Engine. There is also a link in the left hand column with a short guide to formatting your search terms that I found helpful.

Give it a try! Good luck!

A Slight Change of Plan

Still working on my genealogy “Do Over” – which I’ll probably be working on for years – but I’m now ready to add the 1940 census record for my grandparents.

My original plan was to take every document for a single person into Evidentia and Roots Magic and pull out every piece of information that I could as well as making sure my citations were correct. I was not going to move on to another person until every document that I had already collected was “processed”. My plan was not to add anyone to my tree until I had proper proof for adding that person to my tree.  For example, I would not add a parent or a child for an individual unless I had documentation of the relationship such as a birth record or marriage recording that clearly stated who the parent was.

But my frustration with finding the correct citation template for different documents is really dragging down my enthusiasm for the project. So I’m changing my plan slightly. Since I know which template I want to use for the 1940 census and I know I’ll use this template multiple times and because I know exactly where to look to find each piece of information needed for the citation, I’m going to process every 1940 census that I have, no matter who it is for. After I process all of the 1940 census records, I will go back to each person and make sure that I have all non-census records documented for those individuals. Then I will move on to the 1930 census and process all of those.

I hope that this new plan doesn’t get me into another mess. I truly want to make sure that everyone is properly documented. I don’t want to accidentally miss entering citations for a collateral line person because I’m focusing on a specific record type instead of 1 person at a time. I think that collateral ancestors will hold a goldmine of information for me to find!

According to my calculations, I have 6 direct line ancestors with census records for 1940. 2 grandparents, 3 great-grandparent and 1 great-great grandmother. Because some of these are married couples, I’ll actually be looking at 4 records. I’ll use the citations and information for each person in their family at that time. When I calculate the number of people included in total, there will be 25 people. But at least I’ll be able to copy and paste citations once I’ve created the citation for the head of household. I thought about doing calculations like this for the 1930 census, but I’m afraid if I think about it too much, I’ll never pick up this project again!

I’m really anxious to get back to the earlier generations – to people that I had been researching before I started this project. My research time is limited, so I really have to force myself to stick with this plan. I’m kinda looking at these recent generations – people that my mother actually knew – as my learning opportunity for the software I’m using and for the process that I’m committing to, so I know it’s worth my time – just not as “fun” as the research I was doing before. Getting this process down now will (hopefully) lead to the information that I need to break through my brick walls!

I need a “creativity break”!

I’ve been working on my Genealogy “Do-Over” – making sure that every fact has a correctly cited source beginning with myself and moving back through family groups. I’ve recently completed my grandparents so I’m ready to move back another generation and the thing that I’m finding is that this is so BORING! Sure, as I’m entering information into my Evidentia file, I’m thinking of questions to ask my family or to research, but it’s not the detective work of finding new sources for ancestors from long ago that I enjoy so much.

So today, I’ve decided that I have to take a break and do something different. I’m taking the notes that I’ve created for each family and adding as many images as I can to them. Not the detective work that I’m craving, but at least it’s a creative outlet.

Each family’s notes begins as a basic timeline created in Microsoft Word. I add more information as I find it. I have consistently added cropped or reduced images of actual documents – more to remind me of what I’ve already found than anything. Each of these images is linked to the digital document that I’ve stored on Google Drive so that if I need to see the full page (or see the page in a size that can actually be read) I simply have to click on the image to open the digital file.

Today, I’m adding photos, maps and tree charts as well as any images I can find for the different locations that are mentioned. Right now, I’m focusing on my grandparents. The town where they lived after getting married is only half an hour from where my mother lives now, so we took a “genealogy tour” a couple of summers ago. I took pictures of the building where my grandparents met (now an abandoned building), the school my mother went to (now a community center), some streets paved with bricks back in the WPA era (laying those bricks was one of the jobs my great-grandfather had), the house that my mother was born in, etc.

I’m also using Ancestry’s “view in tree” feature to add an overview of the family whenever a significant event is mentioned. For example, in some notes for my great-great grandfather, I added this image to the page that contains an image of his will along with the transcription.

George

This allowed me to see the family dynamics when the will referred to different individuals. I can easily see all of the members of the family, not just my direct line.                 George tree

 

 

 

 

I might also add an “un-expanded” version of the tree whenever a person’s birth is noted just to show how they relate to others being discussed in the notes.

 

To do this, I used the Print Screen (PrtScr) button on my computer to capture the image on the screen and then I pulled it into Photoshop or even Paint to crop it. Any photo editing software could be used. And I’ll just take a quick moment to say that I really wish Ancestry would allow us to select a background color for the tree views. Currently, the background is grey and I find that rather depressing…

For maps, I’m looking for county maps (especially if I can find a map from their specific time frame) as well as using Google Maps to show neighborhoods. Sometimes, I can find an image or a postcard using Google Images that matches the area I’m referring to as well. (This is starting to sound like a Google ad – sorry!) When I get to older generations, I plan to look for images that will represent occupations or even images of the types of equipment they would have used during their lifetime. Most of my family were farmers, so I’ll be looking for images of old farm equipment, etc. I’m going to research common household items to add as well.

Someday, I hope to turn these notes into a book of sorts, so adding these images now adds interesting details to the story, but also allows me to burn off some creative juices every now and then!

 

My citation decision

I have been working on my “Genealogy Do-Over” and I have been using the opportunity to learn how to use the program Evidentia to help me cull every bit of information from every document. And for the most part, I am enjoying the process. The step that I agonize over is selecting the correct citation template to use, but I’m getting over it.

I sincerely hope that someday there will be an app for the Evidentia program so that I can work on documenting sources on my computer, but add all of the claims while “on the go”. I think that I would enjoy documenting the sources in batches, but adding the claims with my iPad a few at a time while out of town or traveling on an airplane or in the car.

I’ve decided that my group sheets and 5 gen charts will have 1 “main” citation for each piece of basic vital information. I will select the “best” source for the information. For example, if there is a birth certificate for an individual, that would be better than a date of birth given in an obituary or by calculations using a census record.

But, I don’t want to just ignore all of the other sources that I have, so I will create a Bibliography listing all of the sources for each individual. That way, every document or database listing will have a citation, but my groups sheets and 5 gen charts will have the “best” source to prove each point. The Bibliography will be added to the end of each family’s notes. The group sheets and other forms will have the EE short reference note while the Bibliography will have the full reference note.

Of course, as I get further back, there will be times when several pieces of information will need to be combined to come up with a final life event date or location, so I may need to think this through again at that point, but for now, I’m pretty satisfied with my decision. Any time that multiple documents are being used to come up with one fact, I will have to include my analysis and conclusion reasoning within the notes. I’ll be using Evidentia to come up with those pieces.

Driving Myself Crazy with Citations

I’m spending the day learning how to use Evidentia and to create group sheets for my family and my parents’ family – which for some reason, I’ve never done.

My goal is to be 100% sourced for every piece of information in the group sheet. Every time I’ve EVER worked on sources for a group sheet, I’ve always had the same questions. And I think the perfectionist in me keeps me from sharing any of my information because I don’t want to be told that I’m doing something wrong.

These questions are not about formatting of citations, although I have plenty of questions on that! But because I don’t plan to ever put my information in any formal publication, I feel like if I select the wrong citation format (for example “Local Vital Records: Certificate” vs. “State Vital Records: Certificate” vs. “State-Level Records: Vital-Records Certificate”), any interested person could still find the document I’m referring to. (But I will admit to spending WAAAAYYYYY too much time trying to decide which format to use – and it drives me crazy because I’d SO much rather be searching for new records!)

So I will now list my questions here to see if anyone wants to chime in and tell me the “correct” way to cite my sources. I feel like these questions are going to be “duh” questions for a lot of you, but I also figure that if I have these questions, I’m probably not alone.

  1. When I look at a record – say, my birth certificate – it contains information for several pieces of information in my group sheet. Father, Mother, birthplace for each of them, my date of birth, my birth location, my middle name. So my question is, should I add seven identical endnotes for each of those facts? 1 “long form” full citation followed by 6 “short form” subsequent citations?
  2. Again, for birth records….I have 3 versions of my own birth certificate. All three of them give the same information that I listed in question 1. So do I cite all three of these documents for each piece of information?
  3. If I’m not to cite every record that I have, how do I decide which is best? The commemorative certificate that the hospital gave my parents has a lot more information than the “legal” certificates I have. Typically, I’d think that a legal certificate holds more authority, but the commemorative certificate was created while the hospital was collecting the information from my parents…information that was then passed on to the board of health for the legal certificate. The information is more specific and includes information not included on the legal certificate.
  4. Do I give a citation for middle names based on my birth certificate? My own, my father, and my mother? Middle names are often included on census records of my ancestors. Do I site those sources as well?
  5. Do I give citations for the name itself to indicate how I know that a person is a legitimate child of the parents on the group sheet?
  6. For ancestors from long ago, do I cite every source that gives a birth location? Birth record, marriage record, death record, every census record, land records, etc?
  7. Do I cite every source that gives the name of a spouse? Marriage record, census records, land records, death records, etc?
  8. If I want to include an analysis for why a specific piece of information was chosen to be included in the group sheet, is that indicated in some way on the group sheet? I am learning how to create these analysis reports in Evidentia and it seems they would be most helpful to include with a group sheet.

The bottom line is this: I want to be thorough, but I don’t want a group sheet that has such a long line of superscripts after each piece of information that it looks like a joke. The examples in my questions are probably extreme examples, but I just don’t know where to draw the line. I think that in my heart, I feel there should probably just be 1 citation for each piece of information with some type of notation that other sources were taken into consideration. If that’s the case – what is the format for that? Does every citation end with “see the attached analysis for additional considerations”?

There is an endless supply of web sites and books that will tell you how to create source citations. Is there a web site that might show examples of a well cited group sheet? I really only want to do this “do-over” once. For that to be the case, I want to do it right and I’m clearly frustrated!

Spinning Wheels

Ah….finally, I have a good portion of a day that I can devote to genealogy! I have been working on a list of steps that I’d like to complete every time I am ready to enter some information into my genealogy files. I have decided to start a new tree with my RootsMagic software and to be much more careful about adding appropriate citations for each fact that I am putting in. I am starting with myself and trying to be as detailed as I can with creating my “Process List”. The list that I have in mind right now is pretty basic and I think I’ll probably be adding to it as I go through the process. For now, the steps will be:

  • Use Evidentia Software to enter and analyse each source. (I am QUITE certain that this step will be broken down into several more steps, but I have not used the software enough to understand what I’m doing yet.)
  • Enter the information into RootsMagic.
  • Use RootsMagic to create the proper citation.
  • Scan the source if it isn’t currently in a digital format
  • Save the image in RootsMagic, linking to all appropriate people
  • Upload the scan/document into Google Drive (where I have already set up my folders with the format that I want to use.)
  • Update the Group Sheet  (already created) if new information has been discovered for the correct family within Microsoft Word. (These are also save in Google Drive.)
  • Copy the citation in the correct position within the Group Sheet.
  • Update the Notes document (already created) for the correct family within Microsoft Word. (Also saved in Google Drive.)
  • Copy the citation in the correct position with the Notes.
  • See if Ancestry needs to be updated with any new information.

Awesome! Feeling pretty proud of myself and ready to dig in! Now, where is that Evidentia software? It’s not installed on my laptop, so I must have put it on my older laptop. Hmm…nope! Oh well, this is a “starting from scratch to get it right this time” project, so I’ll just reinstall the software. The only problem is that while I have no problem finding the software case, there is no disc inside. And thus begins a 3 hour search in my office. Every drawer, every box, every computer bag, etc. And no luck.

So I was thinking about just biting the bullet and re-purchasing the software. This time, I’d be sure to get the digital download instead of the disc! But wait, I have the registration key inside the software case, so maybe…..sure enough, I was able to download the latest update to the software, enter the registration key and VOILA! I’m ready to go!

Of course, now it’s lunch time….

Well, my plan is to start with my own birth certificate in order to learn how to use the software. I’m planning on looking at the “how to” videos on the website, but I’ve also downloaded the User’s Guide onto my iPad so that I can use that as well.

That’s the plan! Now to put it into practice!

On a side note – let me warn you about something that happened to me. Rather than searching for “Evidentia” in my browser, I just took a shot and put evidentia dot com in the address bar. This took me to a very official looking warning about a virus infection on my computer as well as a never ending audio recording about how I was in danger of having my financial and private information hacked and that I should call a specific phone number immediately. My virus protection software has never opened a web page to warn me about threats, so I knew better than to click anything on the page. After closing the window, I googled for information on the warning and it was not hard to find. Don’t fall for scams like this!

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