Category Archives: Technology

A Starbuck in Seattle

A monument memorializing the arrival of the ship EXACT in Seattle.

This past June, I was excited to attend the first workshop ever offered by NEHGS in Seattle. It was a bit of a drive from my home in Salem, Oregon, but definitely worth it, and the most useful thing I learned was that many older Massachusetts deeds can be browsed free of charge through FamilySearch.org.

I’d hoped one day to revisit the Massachusetts island of Nantucket – where a branch of my family lived for the first two centuries of European settlement – largely to do additional investigation at their Registry of Deeds. The staff there was incredibly helpful when I visited in 2013, but even in the off-season, staying on the island is not exactly cheap, especially with a cross-country flight thrown in. Imagine my joy to discover that I could now do this work from home 24/7! Continue reading A Starbuck in Seattle

Fluid genealogy

By now followers of my Vita Brevis posts are well aware that no genealogy is perfect. Period. No matter who wrote it.

The old mindset that a work published in a book or an article is automatically complete and completely accurate should be dead by now. The problem has always been that, once a book is in print, there is no practical way of updating and correcting information without reprinting the entire book.

On the other hand, modern electronic publication (in theory) offers endless opportunity to keep a genealogy “live.” Continue reading Fluid genealogy

Arranging your family papers, part 3

[Editor’s note: This series began here and continued here.]

The last topic that I originally wanted to discuss in my article on organizing and preserving your family papers was digitization. For someone who wants to digitize their material there are a few things that you can do to have archival quality digital images.

The first of thing to do is make sure that you have the necessary equipment for a digitization project. This would likely involve a flatbed scanner (your printer may have one) or a digital camera to photograph larger items. The disadvantage of using a camera is that if the item is large, you may not obtain a focused image and if you try to take the photograph by hand you may end up with a blurry picture. If you are photographing material, a tripod will help stabilize the camera. Continue reading Arranging your family papers, part 3

Desktop publishing woes

Desktop publishing refers to computer programs that allow you to create works with both text and graphics in the same file. I never got into the Mac and Apple world, so my experience is only with PC programs such as Microsoft Word, which has always done well with text, but is limited when incorporating graphics. Programs such as Microsoft Publisher and Adobe InDesign pick up the gap between programs that specialize in words and those that specialize in pictures.

My go-to program in the past has been Microsoft Publisher. When it originally came out thirty years ago, it emphasized the ability to take large Word files and merge them into larger book-length files and then convert them to formats that were used by commercial printers, such as PDFs. Today one can create a PDF file directly from within the Microsoft Word program. If one does not need sophisticated graphics for a book, therefore, one does not necessarily need a desktop publishing program. Continue reading Desktop publishing woes

Finding your roots

Lindsay Fulton assisting students at a genetics and genealogy summer camp.

Recently, I had the opportunity to drive through the breathtaking Pennsylvania countryside to teach a group of middle schoolers about family history and genealogy at Penn State University. The kids were attending a genetics and genealogy summer camp cleverly named “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings,” where the primary goal was to stimulate interest in science by getting kids to study themselves – their DNA, their bodies, and their family histories – as scientists. Continue reading Finding your roots

Become an expert

I did not learn to spell properly until I learned to type at the Katharine Gibbs School. This may have had something to do with my less-than-perfect handwriting. Seeing a word in type instead of scribble helps me spot the errors.

In genealogy, of course, we run into all kinds of spellings, and it is hard to decide whether we should use the literal spelling from the record or modernize and standardize the word or name. I have had to standardize words for clients who simply could not deal with “misspellings.” Also, in the case of documents where superscripts and abbreviations are used, like “ye” for “the” or strange letters, such as “ff” for capital F, converting to typed text is all the more complicated. Continue reading Become an expert

Online teaching

I think I survived my first foray into online teaching Wednesday night when I gave my lecture on “Working in and Understanding Original Records” as the third presentation in the NEHGS Online Course “Researching New England,” a fee-based program open to NEHGS members.[1] The course began on July 5, with David Dearborn’s class on “Settlement of New England”; then, on July 12, Lindsay Fulton gave the second class on “Seventeenth-century Published Resources.” The two classes after me are by David Lambert, “Researching Colonial and Revolutionary War Soldiers” on July 26, and Chris Child, “Thinking Outside the Box: Breaking Down Brick Walls in Early New England” on August 2. Continue reading Online teaching

Shared DNA through both parents

Recently I gave a webinar about choosing a DNA test and breaking down the differences between AncestryDNA, 23andme, and FamilyTreeDNA. When it came to autosomal DNA, I included the fact that 23andme and FamilyTreeDNA provide a chromosome view of how you share DNA with your matches while AncestryDNA does not, giving you just the summary of how much CentiMorgans are shared and along how many segments. For these reasons I do recommend people who test with AncestryDNA to also upload their DNA onto Gedmatch so they can better visualize some of their matches. A question I get concerns why does this matter? I now have an ideal example to share. Continue reading Shared DNA through both parents

Three words

A screenshot showing a range of open tabs along the way to becoming organized.

Enjoyable, rewarding, and complex – three words that come to mind when I describe my work at NEHGS. As researchers and writers, we have the pleasure of making discoveries and documenting them for current and future generations. However, that comes with many responsibilities requiring juggling multiple projects. How can we keep track of so many research and writing projects while still giving our best efforts to each?

In answer, I offer three more words – conceptualize, organize, and prioritize. These are the actions that guide my work flow in order to maintain momentum on various projects – and they should be applicable to genealogical projects on any scale! Continue reading Three words

‘The hurrier I go’

As the White Rabbit said in Alice in Wonderland, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” We’ve all been there. The good news is that two new Early New England Families Study Project sketches are being posted to Americanancestors.org this week: John Hollister of Wethersfield and Thomas Nichols of Hingham. In addition, two second-version treatments are also being posted: Samuel Jenney of Plymouth and Dartmouth, and Joseph Andrews of Hingham. Continue reading ‘The hurrier I go’