Thursday, June 25, 2015

Which genealogy progam should I use?

I often see people asking in online forums which genealogy program they should use to keep their genealogy data -- Ancestry.com, Geni.com or My.Heritage.com.

The do not seem to be aware that these are not programs, but web sites where you can publish your genealogy, and the web sites themselves often do not make it clear that that is what they are.

A genealogy program is a program that runs on your computer and enables you to enter, sort and organise your family history. A web site may have a program working in the background that does such things, but it is running on someone else's computer, not yours, and you have less control over it.

There are many genealogy programs available and it's not my purpose to compare them and make recommendations of the comparisons here. If you want such comparisons of programs, click here.

My main point here is to point out the differences between a genealogy program that runs on your computer, and a web site on which you publish your genealogy, and what they are good for and what they are not good for.

And my first recommendatuion is that you get a genealogy program to run on your computer. Two good ones to try are Legacy Family Tree and RootsMagic.

You can download and install both of them for free, and try them both to see which one you like best. The free versions do an adequate job of keeping your family tree information. Once you've learnt how to use them and decided which you like best, you can buy a "deluxe" version, which has extra features.

If you don't like either of them, go back to the comparison page and look for another one. The point about Legacy and RootsMagic is that they have free versions, so if you try them and don't like them, you haven't lost anything.

The point about using a genealogy program is that you have your family tree on your computer, under your control. You can share your data with other family members because both these programs can import and export GEDCOM files, which allow you to transfer genealogical data to other programs (and also to upload it to online web sites). "GEDCOM" stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication, and it produces text files with the .GED extension. If you're looking for a genealogy program, make sure that it can import and export GEDCOM files.

Once you have entered enough of  your family in a genealogy program, and are reasonably sure that your information is accurate, then you can think about putting it, or some of it, on a web site like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, Geni.com etc.

So which is the best web site to upload your family history to?

My recommendation is none of the above.

The best online web site for your family tree is FamilySearch.


And the good news is that both Legacy and RootsMagic can link to FamilySearch and upload or download data. 

FamilySearch is a collaborative family tree, which is eun by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), though you don't have to be a member of the church to participate, and they won't proselytise you if you do participate. 

FamilySearch family tree has many sources of information, one of which is people like me, who upload their family information. Another is information that has been extracted from records around the world. That means that you will find some information duplicated, and you can merge duplicated people if you know what you are doing. And the way to know what you are doing is to get a genealogy program and enter it on your own computer first.

For example, a couple in my family tree are Thomas Henry Sandercock and his wife Fanny Harris, who have several children. FamilySearch has information on the children extracted from the baptism register of the Church of England parish of St Neot in Cornwall. If there are seven children, the parents are repeated seven times, and you can merge them, if you are certain that they are the same people. This makes the family tree on FamilySearch more accurate and more useful to all the users. That is why it is collaborative.

I find Geni.com and MyHeritage.com much less useful. I've written about my reservations about Geni.com here, and about MyHeritage.com here, and about the perils of online family trees in general here.

So if you are starting your family tree, don't start it on an online web site, start it in a genealogy program on your own computer. Only put it on line when you are reasonably sure that it is accurate.



 

Monday, June 08, 2015

Historical Papers, Wits University

This resource includes the archives of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa (ACSA), also known as the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA), which includes many church registers of  baptisms, marriages and burials, some original and some microfilmed copies.

Historical Papers, Wits University:
The Historical Papers research archive, situated in the William Cullen Library, was established in 1966. We are a friendly, vastly used, valued and popular service as well as unique and accessible hub for human rights research serving civil society, scholars and researchers. Historical Papers is one of the largest and most comprehensive independent archives in Southern Africa. We house over 3300 collections of historical, political and cultural importance, encompass the mid 17th Century to the Present. Our primary aim is to serve the broader community as well as the university and to transform archives into accessible centres for research. Included are the records of many human rights NGOs, trade unions, labour federations, political parties, women's organisations, churches and church bodies, and the papers of human rights activists. We are also home to a huge volume of political trials, photographs, press clippings, oral interviews, and material collected by several research institutions and individual researchers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

J T Weaver | And in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make. — The Beatles

Here's a good example of a lifestory blog, of stories that a father tells for his children -- the kind of stories that he wishes his parents had left for him about their lives J T Weaver | And in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make. — The Beatles:
My Dearest Sarah and Patrick,
Before you is a set of stories about your father. When you wake up one morning and notice that you are not the towhead kid that you once were, you get a first hand look at your own mortality. It has long been my intention to leave you both with some tangible evidence of your family heritage. Yes, we have the ancestry tree that has been passed from one generation to another. That tells JTus the who and the what of those who lived before us. But it doesn’t tell us anything about the how and the why of those lives.
One of the things we are often told in manuals of genealogy is that in addition to recording what we can of our ancestors, we should also leave a record of our own lives and times for our children, of the kind that we sometimes wish had been left for us.

One of my own efforts along these lines is Tales from Dystopia, stories about what life was like in the apartheid era in South Africa, which few people under the age of 30 will remember.
 

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Hillary Clinton Family Tree a Wake-Up Call for Genealogy

Hillary Clinton Family Tree a Wake-Up Call for Genealogy | Megan Smolenyak:
When Irish America requested that I research and write a piece on Hillary Rodham Clinton's heritage (pages 50-52), I was concerned. Why? Because delving into the ancestral past of celebrities has become something of a sub-hobby in the world of genealogy, so I knew that countless others would have climbed the branches of her family tree. What would I possibly be able to add that wasn't already known? Fortunately for me, but regrettably for genealogy in general, there was plenty of fresh terrain because I soon realized that everyone had a quarter of her family tree wrong. And when I say "everyone," I mean dozens of people on at least eight family history websites.

Monday, April 27, 2015

160 year-old Documents Intentionally Destroyed in Franklin County, N.C. | Stumbling in the Shadows of Giants

160 year-old Documents Intentionally Destroyed in Franklin County, N.C. | Stumbling in the Shadows of Giants: –
This summer a new Clerk of Court in Franklin County discovered a trove (an entire roomful) of documents, some dating back to 1840, in a previously sealed room in the Franklin County, North Carolina Court House. – Recognizing the historical value of these materials, she contacted the local historical society to assist in reviewing the materials, preserving them, and inventorying the materials. – The Local historical group enthusiastically poured themselves into the project, mobilizing volunteers and the whole community – securing space to work, materials, and finances – in order to catalog and preserve the bounty of record books, photographs, deeds, chattel records, land grants, deeds, wills, personal correspondence, and countless other materials from a wide variety of government departments throughout the county. (This room had apparently become the “graveyard” for old records, and no one bothered to investigate it for many, many decades.)

And then all these documents were seized and destroyed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

New Irish Genealogy Records, 2014 - free e-booklet

New Irish Genealogy Records, 2014 - free e-booklet:
Just in time for St Patrick's Day, Irish Genealogy Toolkit has published a 20-page e-booklet providing brief details of all the brand-new or, in some cases, upgraded Irish Genealogy resources released in 2014. All of the collections featured in the e-booklet were the subject of blogposts on Irish Genealogy News at the time of their release.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Miscellaneous useful stuff

Miscellaneous useful stuff gleaned from the web: a hard copy research trip bible, and a digital scrapbook

Creating a Genealogy Research Trip (GRT) Bible | Genealogy With Valerie:
You have the location of your trip picked out, you know the route you will take and if you will make any stops on your way there or back, you know where you will be staying and you have a list of the documents that you want to search for. What now?

The next step would be to make your GRT Bible. This is what my husband called covermy master binder that I put together for my first trip. In it will be your itinerary and other much needed information. It will save you time and keep you on track. It is also an easy reference that you can look at anytime you need to.

Book Review: BarbwireDigi’s Guide to Creating A Digital Genealogy Scrapbook | Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter:
Ms. Groth has published a guide for creating a digital scrapbook, specifically targeted for the users of Adobe Photoshop Elements. This program is an excellent photo-editing software for many genealogists, most especially for beginners. It’s fairly easy to learn, and does an excellent job of preparing photos for viewing and publication, adequately meeting the needs of most of us. Besides removing red-eye and cropping photos, I use photo-editing software to enhance contrast and modify light values on fuzzy scanned documents for improved readability and clarity. And, most importantly, Elements is affordable.

The first chapters of Creating a Genealogy Digital Scrapbook review the advantages of creating digital scrapbooks over the traditional scrapbook methods, then recommend the basic tools you’ll need: computer, scanner, digital camera, and the like.

My instinct is to do it the other way round: for our last few research trips I've used Microsoft OneNote for our trip planning. Evernote would work too, but I find OneNote better for drawing tables. And the tables have a list of things to do in each place, and notes can be added when you are there -- how much you did, and what you found or didn't, people you saw, and so on. But this article makes a good case for having a hard-copy binder as well -- opening up the laptop while sitting in the car and squinting to see the screen to find directions to that cemetery is a hassle. Hard copy would be easier.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Genetic study reveals 30% of white British DNA has German ancestry

Genetic study reveals 30% of white British DNA has German ancestry | Science | The Guardian:
The analysis shows that the Anglo-Saxons were the only conquering force, around 400-500 AD, to substantially alter the country’s genetic makeup, with most white British people now owing almost 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of modern-day Germans. People living in southern and central England today typically share about 40% of their DNA with the French, 11% with the Danes and 9% with the Belgians, the study of more than 2,000 people found. The French contribution was not linked to the Norman invasion of 1066, however, but a previously unknown wave of migration to Britain some time after then end of the last Ice Age nearly 10,000 years ago.
See also British Isles mapped out by genetic ancestry : Nature News & Comment:
Today, few Britons have ancestors from just one local region of the UK, so it is hard to identify patterns of genetic variation specific to any one place. But Donnelley and his team found 2,039 Britons of European ancestry who lived in rural areas and knew that their four grandparents were all born within 80-kilometres of each other. Since these volunteers’ DNA was a mosaic of their grandparents’, who themselves were to known be strongly linked to one British region in the late nineteenth century, Donnelley hoped to find genetic variation that clustered neatly with their grandparents' geographic location.

I was not surprised at the finding that most of the English had German ancestry, but what did surprise me was the differences between Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.


Monday, March 02, 2015

Indexing the books of Lawrence G.Green

Lawrence G. Green was a prolific author and raconteur who wrote stories about people and places, mostly in southern Africa.

I've found some of his books useful in family history research, as some of them mention family members, or places where they lived. In his life as a journalist he collected notes on all sorts of topics, and wrote them up in his books, sometimes reusing the same story in more than one book.

I have been rereading some of his books to make notes for family history research, and in response to a recent review of To the river's end someone pointed me to a combined index of 23 of his books.

I downloaded the index, which was unfortunately in PDF format, though someone kindly converted it so that I could get it into a spreadsheet. Unfortunately none of the books in the index had any references to the families I was interested in (Morris, Stewardson and Green) and it did not give page numbers. Also, the personal names were listed with surname last, which makes alphabetical sorting by surname difficult. It also appeared to be simply based on the printed indexes in the books, which are not complete, and many of the most interesting and useful bits in the books do not appear in the printed indexes at all.

Someone else sent me another index, which was rather too complex and difficult to use.

So I would like to propose a new collaborative indexing project for the books of Lawrence George Green.

I propose that people who have access to Lawrence G. Green's books undertake to index one or two of them, and communicate with each other to ensure that the work is not duplicated.

The entries should be in book index format, and entered in a spreadsheat or database program that can export a file in "comma-separated values" (CSV) format.

The fields should be:

  1. Combined Index
  2. Book
  3. Page

They should all be text fields.

The Combined Index field should contain the index entry, initially compiled from the printed book index, and then supplemented by going through the book and adding missing entries. The Combined Index field should look like this:

Moffat, Robert
Monomotapa
Moore, Leopold
Morton, (hangman)
Morris, Abraham
Moss, George
Moyle
Muchison Club
music
Musina people
muti
Myres, Prof J.L.
Oates, Frank
Oberholzer (farmer)
Old Drift
Oswell, William Cotton
Ovamboland

Personal names should be listed with surname first, and proper names with the initial letters capitalised.

If you use a spreadsheet program, when you enter the title of the book, it will usually offer a duplicate entry, which can saving typing (and typos).

If you have any comments or suggestions to make about this proposal, please write them in the comments section below, and also if you would be interested in taking part in such a project.

You can get a copy of this article, with a sample index, at the following link: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/25096784/GreenNdxProj.pdf

I suggest that discussion and coordination of this project take place in the African Genealogy Forum on Yahoogroups, which has facilities for uploading and downloading files and entering files in a database.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Genographic Project Participants Help Refine Human Family Tree – Voices

Genographic Project Participants Help Refine Human Family Tree – Voices:
The Genographic Project recently released the most refined evolutionary tree of the human Y chromosome, which every male inherits directly from his father. The new Y tree was created in part through the help of the 300,000 male participants that have joined this one-of-a-kind project to trace their own ancestry and become citizen scientists. As more people participate in the Genographic Project, we are able to fill in branches and gaps on the entire human family tree, and gain new insights on our ancient past. We wanted to outline how this new tree affects our understanding of our shared ancestry, and what it means for current and future project participants.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SQLite Tools for RootsMagic

One of the things I'm always on the lookout for is things that save having to re-type stuff. Once I've entered my genealogy information on my computer, I don't want to have to re-type it, but would like to use it in various ways, some of which are beyond the capabilities of the program in which I originally entered it. That is why I keep my lineage-linked genealogy in 3-4 different programs, each of which has capabilities that the others lack, and transfer from one tyo the other by GEDCOM. But it seems that it is possible to do far more than that, and this site gives some ideas abour what is possible. I'd love to hear of other suites like that that can extend the capabilities of other genealogy programs. SQLite Tools for RootsMagic - home:
This wiki style site is intended to enhance our use of RootsMagic 4 and above with queries and reports not provided from within the program. RootsMagic 4, 5 and 6 use SQLite 3 as their database engine so the .rmgc database files each creates are readable using third party SQLite management and development tools. We explore collaboratively the RootsMagic 4 databases with some of these SQLite managers and develop SQL queries that attempt to answer questions that cannot be answered or are difficult to answer using the RM application.

RootsMagic SQL Queries:

  • How to Query RootsMagic
  • Problem Queries - Post your problem for discussion.
  • SQLite Managers - Choose from one of these tools to run your queries.
  • MS Access - Or connect to your database with Access and Excel for great looking reports.
  • Open Office - Use the same ODBC driver as described for MS Access to connect OpenOffice to a RM database.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Death of Dr Keith Tankard: researcher of German Settlers to Eastern Cape

South African genealogists and local historians will be sorry to learn of the death of Dr Keith Tankard, who has done much research into the German settlers in the Eastern Cape and East London Local history.
Dr Keith Tankard, historian with a wicked sense of humour, has passed away in East London today. Many of you have benefited from his enormous research into the History of East London and especially the German Settlers to the Eastern Cape (his webpage can be viewed here: http://www.eastlondon-labyrinth.com/germans/index.jsp) I worked very closely with Dr T on his book “Broken Promises” and got to know him very well – even though we never met in person. He will be sorely missed. Condolences to his wife Rosann and son Graeme (posted in the South African Genealogy Group on Facebook by Nolene Lossau Sproat‎)
One does not know how long his web site will remain after his death, so if you are interested in the topics, it would be best to visit it sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Where have all the genealogists gone?

A couple of days ago I was reading a genealogy newsgroup, and someone asked where all the genealogists had gone and noted that

In the period 2000-2007 there was a very active community of enquiries on Rootsweb Mailing lists, both general ones like this and the County lists were particularly popular.

Now the number of messages a month is in some cases only 2% of what it was at its peak.  If there has been an increase in interest over the last 10 years, why has the interaction between genealogists apparently declined?

This morning I was going through the Genealogy blogs lists on BlogCatalog, and noticed how many of them had closed, or not been updated for several years. One group in particular struck me: the Association of Graveryard Rabbits. The site hasn't been updated since January 2009, and nor have most of the linked blogs. Does that mean all the graveyards have been sorted, or that people have just lost interest and are doing something else? 

The linked sites were quite interesting. and though they had not been updated recently, at least they had not been closed. Closing a blog or a web site is a horrible thing, because it breaks links, sometimes lots of them, and is very frustrating for web users. So thanks to the owners of those abandoned blogs for not closing them.

But where have all the genealogists gone? Was it just the hobby of one generation, and those who took it up have been unable to interest their children in it? Will all the material they have collected be tossed out when they die, or be left to moulder on a hard disk in an attic somewhere, to be tossed out by the great grandchildren, who have no idea how to recover data from such obsolete technology?



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Cemetery recording

Yesterday we learned some relatives had been buried in a nearby cemetery, and though there was a picture of the gravestone on line at the eGGSA site, the inscription was faded and hard to read. The Silverton cemetery was close enough, so we went to have a look. The grave was of Karl Jacob Denneville and Gladys Adelheid Dennewill -- if you are interested in what we discovered about them, check our other blog here. But in this post we are describing how we went about recording them.

It seemed like a good opportunity to come to grips with the BillionGraves Android app.

In theory it is simple: take a photo of the gravestone inscription with a cellphone, upload it to the BillionGraves database and there it is, waiting for someone to look at it, with the GPS coordinates showing its exact location.

We'd tried it a couple of times before, when we'd been on holiday far from home, and seen a grave of some relative. But it somehow never seemed to work. But this was close to hom. I printed out the instructions, and carefully read the web site on the computer at home, so this time it would surely work. It didn't

The pictures wouldn't upload. I thought I'd delete them and try again. The application crashed. It also seemed locked on the wrong cemetery -- it showed Mamelodi cemetery, which was about 4 km away. There is a thing for adding another cemetery, but when you're actually in the cemetery, looking at a squitty little screen on a phone in bright sunlight, it's easy to miss that option.It has a thing for linking two or more photos of the same gravestone, but it is also hard to see what pressing the link has done, if anything.

So we took pictures on ordinary digital cameras as well -- no good for BillionGraves, because they don't have GPS positioning to inpoint the location of the grave.

We went home again, and then with our WiFi were able to upload the photos. And, after a lot of fruitless efforts, we finally managed to enter a new cemetery into the database.

With the photos taken on ordinary cameras we were able to record them on the Find-a-Grave site, where one has to do everythin g manually, but at least you can see whether it has worked and what is there.

So both sites are very useful. If BillionGraves is working as advertised with no glitches, then it's brilliant. You can zip down a row at a cemetery taking a photo every couple of seconds and upload them every 5 graves or so.

With Find-a-Grave you have to upload each picture individually, link it to the right cemetery, and type in the name of the person mentioned on the stone. Even at it's best, it's more work. But it's reliable.

BillionGraves is quick when it works well, but slow and frustrating when it doesn't. But it's a good idea and deserves support.

I have one recommendation to make. If you join BillionGraves, look first at the Transcription option. That lets you index people and transcribe epitaphs that other people have photographed. The value of that is that you can get a better idea of how the site worls, and become familiar with it. It could be that that will reduce fumbling and floundering when you get to a cemetery and you're not sure what is happening.

The trouble is that, like the recording of graves, when the transciption system works, it works well, but four times out of five I get the message "Oops... we just had an error on our side. Try again later"

Monday, September 29, 2014

Closing of Family Wiki on Wikispaces

For some years now we have had a family wiki on Wikispaces, but we were recently told that it would have to close. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, as it will result in numerous broken links, which we will try to fix when we discover them, but we don't have time to go looking for them.

This is the notice that we received from the owners of Wikispaces:

Today we announced on our blog that Wikispaces is no longer offering a free wiki option for non-education wikis.
hayesgreene.wikispaces.com is currently not categorized as an education wiki and it is on our free plan. In order for it to remain active, it must be categorized as an education wiki or upgraded.
We are notifying you, as you are an organizer of this wiki.
If you no longer use this wiki, you may ignore this email.
Otherwise you may categorize this wiki as an education wiki, pay for this wiki, or export the contents of this wiki for use offline or on another service. To make your choice please visit the following link:
http://hayesgreene.wikispaces.com/space/convert
If you take no action this wiki will be deleted in no fewer than 30 days.
If you have any questions please let us know.
Thanks,
The Wikispaces Team
We have downloaded the contents of the site, as they suggested, in WikiText, PDF and HTML formats, just to save the work that had been done on it. Maybe one day we may look for a new host for it, but that is not a high priority, because having a family wiki didn't seem to work too well, and it achieved nothing that could not be done with our family history blog.

When we started it, we thought it might give an opportunity for collaborative family history, with a group of people contributing information, family stories and more. We hoped that others would be moved to start family wikis for their own families, in which shared family members could be linked.

But somehow this never worked out.

Though our family wiki seemed to get about 50-80 visitors a day, it was very rare indeed for any of them to contribute anything to it, or even leave a message to say that they had visited and found, or not found, what they were looking for. It seems that for most people, wikis are not a good way of collaborating, and most prefer things like blogs and mailing lists -- we've certainly had far more interaction on those that we ever had on the wiki.Some even like to use Facebook, though that seems to be altogether the wrong medium for such a purpose.

So we won't be looking for a new home for the wiki any time soon, but we'll keep the archives as a memento.