Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Twenty first century genealogy in action

Beyondthedate is proud to announce a new partnership with the online academic website Udemy.com the number one provider of online education.  The online education market is booming with many topics.  From the educators that I have talked to this is the direction that education is going by users taking online specific courses to grow their skill set.

What does this have to do with genealogy?
Among the courses that Udemy offers are a few but growing number of courses about genealogy.  There are courses from experts about tracing your family tree and other courses will be added as time goes by.  I also know that for many genealogist, genealogy is not there only hobby and Udemy many be a resource they were unaware of that could help develop those hobbies as well, whether they be anything from photography to yoga to computer programming.

While the genealogy course selection are small now I know they will be growing as the Udemy platforms continues to grow.  Full disclosure I am currently in the mist of creating my own genealogy related online course through Udemy that will hopefully be done in the Spring.

For now the best genealogy courses are Everything Olde is New Again! Genealogy Clan Management which can help beginners climb their family tree and understand their records. Another great genealogy related course is Develop YOUR Customized Genealogy Family Tree Board Game which is a detailed course on creating your won genealogy board game. But feel free to browse their extensive collection of courses and topics that may interest you. 

As this partnership goes on I may mention from time to time any courses of genealogical interest(especially my own)  and place a permalinks on he right hand side but I will continue to blogging about topics of interest and how to get beyond the date to get your family story both past and present.

The two online courses mentioned in this article

Everything Olde is New Again! Genealogy Clan Management Develop YOUR Customized Genealogy Family Tree Board Game
 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Knowing your milestones...the genealogist historian




My grandfather tells the story that in his father's lifetime the Wright brothers flew the first airplane and the first man landed on the Moon.  In my own lifetime there has not been a man on the moon but there has been unmanned landing on Mars and the Internet as we know it was invented.  Where my great grandfather grew up in a age of transpiration advances, I am growing older in an age of technological advances.

Being aware of the greater world and how it is changing adds depth to your genealogy.  These things have a place in the narrative of your genealogy so the future generation can know what you experience. In a narrative in my grandfathers genealogy he writes a story of how his father remembers the streetlights being lit by hand every night in the city.  As someone born after prevalence of home electricity and indoor plumbing, stories about how my relatives lived in before these things and found it normal, is fascinating.  It makes me stop and appreciate the modern conveniences that I take for granted.

Your personal milestones only become apparent in hindsight.  Technology develops over time.  If my great grandfather heard about the Wright brothers first flight, he might have thought they did something interesting, but there is no way he could have possibly conceived that it would lead to modern air travel let alone a trip to the Moon.  But all of those things happened as time passed.

Keep track of the modern world and how it is changing and note it in narratives in your genealogy so that future generations can look back and wonder how you ever survived without a flying car or your teleportation device to get to work in seconds.     

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Aunt Ethel




Genealogy is a two way street.  Most of the time we are going backwards looking for ancestors from the past but we must also continue to document current history as well.  People are having babies all the time and as the generations get further apart is becomes more difficult to keep up with the new arrivals.  So as a genealogist you need to have systems in place to keep tabs on distant families note worth news.   

Closeness matters
In an ideal world you would receive a announcement or a least a Christmas card from every living family in your genealogy program with an update on an wedding, graduation or births that have occurred in the recent years.  But we don't have an ideal world and when you start to get to 2nd and 3rd cousins it is not practical or affordable to send out those thing to people you hardly know.  It is easy to get information from local relative or close relatives that you see throughout the year but what about the rest.

Relying on the relations to of others
Though you may not be close to the distant relatives perhaps you are close to someone who is close to them.  A personal example is that my Uncle was closer to some of the my fathers cousins than my father.  My Uncle saw them more frequently so to get genealogy information on who was having a baby or getting married in that family who I only saw at the occasional funeral or the once in a while family reunion, I would get the information from my Uncle who what happy to share the information he received when he saw them last.

When lines break
The problem with the "relative of a relative" situation is that communication lines can break.  In my own example my uncle died.  So the news out of the cousins family ceased.  Luckily my father has a cousin on that side of the family that he sees more than I do so, he is able to get births and marriages more frequently than next funeral but not as frequely as my uncle used to deliver.  But sometimes you have to take what you can get.

"Aunt Ethel"
Many families have a central figure that always seems to have the news on everyone.  The person usually is older and has ties to multiple families.  It may be a grandmother, or a Aunt but they are the one everyone sends the an obligatory birth and wedding announcement too, as well as the most recent school picture of the kids.  As the family genealogist, you need to make it a point to call or visit "Aunt Ethel" first to see how she is doing and secondly to be able to get a hold of her treasure trove  of genealogy information both past and present. 

Facebook
As I have posted before Facebook can be a genealogical resource for distant relatives.  But Facebook also has its limitation.  People generally only friend people they know.  So if you friend your 20 year old great niece, you may be the only one of her "friends" over 40 which could have some awkward things coming through your news feed if she even accepts your request.  But friending relatives that you know and are you own age could also get you genealogy information when they post about new grandchildren.

So when trying to get names down the tree rather than up, it is good to have strategic placed relatives that can give you all of the news of distant families that are also descendants of your relatives.  As the generations continue the names that you put in as babies will be having babies of their own and you need to be ready to document them as best as you can.                    

Thursday, November 6, 2014

21st century genealogy... looking forward while looking back

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In the late eighties, shortly after my grandfather retired he decide to take up genealogy as his retirement hobby.  So he purchased a new computer and genealogy software.  He had a DOS based computer which ran the Roots III software program.  He began putting all of his names, dates and locations into the software.  Through the 90's he upgraded computers and software, moving up to a windows based computer and upgrading to Roots IV and then to Ultimate Family Tree when the company that made the Roots software got bought out.  On Ultimate Family Tree he stayed.  

I recently got a call from him that his a new computer with Window 8 on it would not run the old genealogy software.  He is so use to the interface of UFT he doesn't want to learn a new software but  the old software won't work.  As an IT person, I hope to be able to discuss with him over the holidays the problem.  I have emailed him a possible solution but need to see if they worked for him.  I hope to be able to visit him to get it fixed before the new year.  

Keeping up with changing technology
I tell this story not to solicit advice for an old software but the point of the story is this: Are you keeping up with technology of the future, as you continue your family journey in to the past.  It is difficult to change to an new program once you have mastered the nuances and shortcuts of another program.  Are you prepared if your hard drive crashed for what you would do, not only for back ups, but for transferring to a new machine.  Hard drive crashes happen everyday, so we have to be prepared for them.  We must also keep up when our software is out of date.  There are various resources in the genealogy community that have been available for years, such as a GEDCOM file that should help transition to a more modern software.  But we also have to look at how is the industry leader when picking software.  And also look at the possibly that the days of buying software at a store that come with 2 or 3 CD ROMs to load the program on the computer may be coming to an end.  The world is going wireless and cloud based and software is downloaded no longer bough as it was in times past. That too comes with risks and caveats.  Trusting the cloud and having your tree online is great but also has risks to doing so with things that are not always tangible or accessible and you many not have recourse if you are not backed up with a hard copy.  Keeping all things online could wind up in you having nothing at all if the service goes down. 

Utilizing new technology
As we discussed in the post about smartphones there are millions of apps and websites for genealogies to try.  Some will be junk but some might be helpful.  This is also true about websites.  An example was that I was putting names into Google to see what might come up.  I was dealing with an rather unusual name so it was easier to sort the results.  I found a website of the survivors of a Air Force unit that my other grandfather had been a part of in WWII.  It listed all the bombing runs that he had done over Europe as well as the crew of each mission.  This was info that no one in my family had and i found in on Google.   

Depending on how much you watch TV you have seen that Ancestry.com has been putting out and ad campaign to get new users. This can be a start but it is not always as easy as they make is seem and Ancestry.com doesn't have all of the genealogy resources wrapped up yet.  So I remain neutral on if an Ancestry.com membership is right for you.  But know that there are many things you can find just perusing the Internet.  Many things that we previously only found in library are now finding their way to the Internet.  Some for free and some with a price.  You have to decide what resources are right for you and how much they are worth to you.  

If you are still finding all of your info in the library or archives (both great sources) and not looking what modern technology has done for genealogy in the form of the Internet or genealogy software and resources then you are handicapping yourself and your research.  If you still have your ten year old computer with old irreplaceable software that is not longer supported and no modern day back up of USB sticks or CDs for all of your thousands of names then you are playing with fire and all your work could go up in a puff of smoke.        

Friday, October 3, 2014

Knowing where the family records are, even if you don't have them

I have a copy of my great-great grandfather's civil war discharge and pension papers.  The copy I have is from the original that he received upon discharge in 1864.  I do not have the original and even though I act as the family genealogist, I am not really entitled to the original just because I have an computer with some names in it. 

My great-great grandfather's had 6 kids and each of those kids had between 3 and 8 kids and that only puts me at my grandfathers generation, there are about a hundred more people a generation below that.  The point is that I am one of hundreds of people who is a direct descendent to him.  The record is also in the archives if the copy in the family ever gets lost.  I was fortunate enough to talk a great uncle into letting me get one copy of the fragile document many years ago before he died.  From that one good copy I made many more copies and scans.

When my great uncle passed away that documents went to his son.  I assume they are still with him since everyone should realize the significances of the document.  The 1980's cartoon series G.I.Joe always ended each episode with a life lesson and the catch phase "...and knowing is half the battle." This phase also holds true for original documents that you have as much right to as everyone else.  Knowing where they are, having and copy for yourself and knowing that they are safe is half the battle, there is no need to fight over getting the original.

Not yours to take 
Once things go out 2 or more generations, many more people have a sake to claim on holding the original.  While it is imperative to make sure the document or picture are safe and trying to get a copy even if you have to drive the owner to Office Max so they can see you make the copy and give it back to them, you do not have to have the original and you may not be entitled to it.  But knowing where the original is, "is half the battle." 

If my house ever caught on fire and my fireproof safe where I keep important documents failed, I would know where I could get another copy of the document.  Historic documents get lost and destroyed all the time, but if they are in the family and you know who has them, you can sleep well at night with your copy.

 If you are concerned about the document, it wouldn't hurt to reach out to the family member about preservation techniques to make sure they are about to pass down the document to their family as well.  Originals are wonderful but if 100 people are just as entitled to them as you, then a copy might have to be good enough. Knowing where the originals are and even noting that in your research can give future generations an idea of what family line they went down.  

The other side of the coin
There are occasions when people want you as the family genealogist to take the original, since they might not have an interest or storage.  This might be true of pictures of distant relative that have not descendants. Great Uncle Sal was a life long bachelor, so when cousin Kelly got a box of his personal items she didn't want to throw them away and wanted you to have the box because you are the keeper of the genealogy.

In genealogy, you can end up with a lot of "stuff", books, pictures, documents and letters.  It is important to hold on to the things you get and get copies of the things you don't possess, but if you had everything you would need another whole house just to store it.  So be happy with what you have and hope that future generations have the room to store even more generations of family significance.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Social Science of Genealogy or Finding the Why?




Often times in genealogy there is a disconnect between the name of a person and the concept that this was a real person who had day to day struggles and made life decisions.  It's easy to get caught up in a static picture that of John Miller (1850-1910) who was a farmer.  But to get into the life of John Miller we have to look at where he lived, why he lived there and what he did on a daily basis.  You are more than dates and an occupation, so why limit John Miller to that too.

 Let's look at the whys of life rather than just the who, where and when

Location Why 
Knowing where relatives lived is interesting (census records are good for placing them in a location every ten years) but finding out why they got there or how they decided to pick that location is even more interesting.  It's one thing to look at immigrants, they left home due to war or famine or to seek new opportunity.  But it is another to look at where they went when they got here.  Did they move to a location because of a job specialty, because of a large ethnic population that matched them or did they have relatives here already?   Don't just accept that in 1870 your great great father is living in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  Think about if he was there for work, living temporarily there after being discharge are the Civil War?  Understanding the world around him at the time helps us draw better conclusions.   

No two people are the same now and they weren't then either.  So how is it that two Irishmen get off the same boat in the same port but one ends up farming in Maryland and one ends up living in New York City.  Seeing why they went different ways will help understand them better as people.    

Occupation Why
Another thing to look at is what your distant relatives did for a living and why.  Most of us don't come from lines of Rockefeller so our relatives were working class folks.  But why did they choose that profession.  If your Italian relatives got off the boat and moved to the city and started a restaurant, was that because they had great cooking skills that they brought with them.  Many times people get into profession their parents were in.  Was your grandfather a farmer because his father was a farmer, or did he specifically not become a farmer because he had other aspirations?  I have a relative who had a farm but for a living had a business that blew up tree stumps with dynamite.  He may have obtained this skill during the Civil War and turned it into a career after discharge.   People both then and now use their skills and talents to make money.


Occupational and location can go hand in hand
The point is that names and dates don't tell the whole story and the genealogist job is to put him or herself into the mind of the person.  One last personal example, I have a relative from around the turn of the century that I followed in three censuses in the first one he was at home, the second he was in St. Louis and the third he was back at home.  I could read a lot into this but with further digging I found out that he was in the publishing business and since he had 3 bothers already on the farm he left to go to St. Louis which at the time was a hub for publishers.  While in St. Louis he contracted Tuberculosis during an outbreak of while he was there.  He came home so that he could die at home with his family.  Census records and dates won't tell that story and if I was guessing I would have thought homesick or unemployment.  But the real story is more meaningful to my family tree.   

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What classifies a recent photo

Having photos in your genealogy is great I would say even essential.  But what is the best way to keep them up to date and how should you update them?  The good news is that genealogy is a history subject rather than an missing person search(even thought it can be that at times too).  By this I mean that you are not handing out these photos for identification but a representation of what the people looked like at a point in time. 

Importance of updated pictures
Updated pictures are important if your are going to a reunion and want to know who you will be seeing.  If all your photos are from the 1970's you will be assured that you will not be able to identify anyone.  The baby is now 35 years old.  So having updated images can be helpful in this purpose.

Getting updated photo
 The best way to get updated photos is a "take it when you see them" mentality.  It may behoove you to start to bring a digital camera to function and trying to get a mug shot of everyone to connect to their profile in your genealogy.  Some functions such as family reunions lend themselves to this more than others (i.e.funerals).  Also scanning in pictures from Christmas cards is a way to update photos as well   Anytime you see the person or a picture of a person that is more recent than the one you have you should find a way to capture it.

Final photos
The fact is that over a lifetime people are constantly changing.  So having the best photo of person attached to them in your genealogy is important.  How do you want to remember them?  Just because a person died at 80 does not mean that you have to have a photo of them at 79 as the primary picture of them in the genealogy.  Having a picture of them as young and vibrant may better suit your purposes of telling the story of their life.