Don’t miss the FREE lectures, Expo Hall, and connections you can make. Starting this AM, RootsTech is available for free from your home. Just register here and start participating.
Here’s some handy hints to get the most out of the conference:
Look over the lectures by clicking “See Full Schedule” and save those you want to view to the Schedule tool. You can go directly to your class from your schedule, (MySchedule), saving time by having to find it on the main page.
More classes you want to attend then time? No worries! Just open Word and copy and paste those you can’t attend. They will be available on YouTube later.
Refer back to my AI Notes blog so you can save the info from the chatbox and/or lecture in summary format.
Don’t forget to download the syllabus from the viewing site!
Definitely spend time on other events (RootsTech Event>Expo Hall). Lots of discounts on genealogy stuff! Take advantage of it this weekend.
Want to connect with far flung relatives you didn’t know existed?! Easy – just go to RootsTech Event>Relatives at RootsTech. Had to laugh as there were five fifth cousins of mine attending in Indianapolis. I know you’re wondering how in the world did RootsTech know that? Well, if you have yourself on a family tree at Familysearch.org it matches all the registrants to their tree and then connect you if you have a common ancestor.
This past winter I spent many hours indexing the Johnson Funeral Home and Furniture Store records that I acquired at a local online auction in November 2023. The funeral had been in operation since 1901 and the collection contained many loose documents, such as burial transports and tombstone orders, to eight Daybooks that recorded funerals and items sold from a furniture store that the family also ran through 1991.
This blog article is the How To from begin to end of an indexing project.
Obviously, the first step is to determine if a document is important to preserve. Ask yourself if it contains a:
record that states names, relationships, and/or
dates of residence in a location, and/or
mentions a particular community event.
If so, then this is a record worth preserving. Think about it, there may not be another record available that shows the named individuals in that location on that date. City directories and phone books are important but they don’t narrow down a family’s location to a particular date.
Next determine who owns the rights to the record. If it is a family, will they provide you, in writing, that you may scan, index, and share the information? If it is an archive, will they house not only the record but also have technology available to make scans and the index available to patrons?
Once permissions are received it’s time to appraise the documents. Are they in fragile condition? Are they moldy? Are they dirty/dusty? Do they have a funky smell (seriously!)? If so, then you will want to speak with a preservationist about containing the damage before proceeding.
In my case, there were no funds available locally to hire a specialist so I reached out the Transitional Genealogist Forum and asked for advice.
It was recommended that I spray a microfiber towel with Lysol, peroxide or rubbing alcohol to prevent possible mold from spreading. This was done outside on a warm day, allowing the books to dry naturally.
I then placed each book in an individual plastic bag and froze them in my freezer for 48 hours to kill any mold spores. Some of the books had water damage and smelled moldy. They were housed in a building that showed visible signs of mold on the walls. I did not want to spread the mold in my home and later, the archive where I was going to be donating them.
The books were then defrosted in my garage which was 60 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. I then took a microfiber towel and again wiped down the covers, spine, and each page. The books were ready for scanning.
I decided with my local genealogy library to use their oversized scanner as the books were large and would not fit completely on my home scanner. I brought along a thumb drive. Working with the librarian, I adjusted the scanner setting to their recommendations and saved each page, cover and spine that had writing on it to the thumb drive. I had to use more than one thumb drive as the images were large and there were many. After each scanning session I saved the images from the thumb drive to my desk top computer and to a stand-alone hard drive and a cloud. I didn’t want to lose the hard work I had invested in scanning!
It took me a month of scanning four full days a week to have all the records recorded. I placed individual papers in acid free sheet protectors as soon as they were scanned. The books were taken home and housed in case I discovered, while indexing, that the scan was incomplete or blurred. There were two scans that needed to be redone.
Next up was indexing the records. I used Microsoft Excel to set up a database. Since each record book and the individual papers contained varying information, I selected the following headings to keep them consistent as I wanted to combine all the information into one database eventually. First, though, I indexed each book to its own tab. The headings were “Original Name,” “”Book Name,” “Page No.” (if any,) “Image No.”, and “Date”(if any). I later added two more columns – “Verified Name” and “Notes.”
I opened each scan and recorded all the information I could find under the heading names, noting anything interesting under notes. For example, sometimes a marriage date or a spouse’s name was given.
I did try using AI to index but the yellowed pages, written with pencil in poor handwriting and with varying spellings was not something AI I had available could handle. It took me another four weeks to index all the information.
Verifying the indexed information is just as important as recording it the first time! I wish that there were others who could have checked my work but unfortunately, due to family situations others who had volunteered could not assist at the end. So, I had to find a different way to double check my work.
It became apparent that names for the same individual were spelled differently throughout the documents. Sometimes a person would be recorded as Mrs. John Smith and later, Mrs. Betty Smith. I wanted family to be able to find their ancestors quickly so I combined all the individual tabbed databases into one filtering the name column so I could find separate records for the same person. I then used online sources, such as death certificates, public trees, census records, city directories, church records, marriage records, and yearbooks to validate that the individual was the same person. Was Mrs. Betty Smith the same person as Mrs. John Smith? Only thorough research could answer that question.
This is where the note column came in handy. In my Smith example, I could record how many people in the area during that time had the same name. This means I was not always verifying a particular individual made the record but that there were several people with that name in the area at the time the record was made. It will be up to the researcher to analyze the information further to determine exactly which Betty Smith had made the record.
Lastly, I wrote a brief explanation of:
How the books were acquired
The businesses address, owners, and years in operation
How the collection was prepared for indexing
The condition of the books
Who to contact if errors were found and needed to be corrected
Then, I was ready to contact the archive and schedule a day/time to turn over the materials. Per their request, I sent the images and index via email.
Now it was time to share the resource with the general community. Otherwise, how would researchers find the index? I spoke with a local newspaper reporter who published an article. The local genealogical society will publish an article in its newsletter. I’ve updated the county resource guide to include the new index. Getting the word out is your important last step.
I have not tried this AI tip noted on Facebook by Michael Cassara but it is something I’ve placed on my to-do list.
Do you have lots of old VHS tapes? I do and I’ve had them digitized as they do fade away with time.
Michael uploaded his digital file to ParrotAI and had the former VHS tape transcribed. It can then be summarized and you can even ask questions, such as “Where was immigration mentioned?” of “What did Aunt Dot say about her first job?” This would be a real time saver if you can’t watch the entire video and need to refer to a certain part.
Last week I blogged about solving an AI creepy result and this is a continuation of how you can get the most out of AI. You can read last week’s blog here.
First, a disclaimer. AI will not immediately be looking at your blog posts as the various companies “train” their technology at set times. This means you aren’t going to see immediate results but you will over time.
You will likely see positive results fairly quickly by connecting with far flung family members who are researching the very same lines you are. I’ve obtained photos and lots of helpful documents I wouldn’t have known existed if I had not blogged about my family.
I love blogging for so many reasons! I began it as I pursued certification through the Board of Certified Genealogists as I thought the journey would be of interest to others. I did not obtain certification but I got hooked on blogging!
Several folks I know had tried to blog but just didn’t follow through with it. The reason was they claimed they didn’t have time. It doesn’t take long to write a short blog post. Schedule an hour once a week at a time where you will have minimal distractions. With practice, you’ll cut down on the time you spend writing.
Another reason I’ve heard that people don’t blog is because they can’t think of what to write about. I write about what I’ve been doing or plan to do. If I find a great webinar, hint, or an a-ha moment, I figure it will be of use to others so I share it. It’s that simple!
I think one of the reasons I was successful in continuing to blog was because I initially wrote four blog posts before I ever published one. That way, I had back up posts in case life got crazy. At the time, I was working two jobs, still had kids at home, and was involved in a lot of community organizations. Developing the habit of sitting down to write when there was a quiet moment and writing several pieces helped me develop a habit. Scientists claim (according to Google, hmm!) that it takes 66 days to develop a positive habit. So, definitely schedule time during that initial period. After that, you can wing it.
I began blogging through Google’s Blogger. It is simple, just follow the directions provided on the website. Why I chose Google over other blog sites is because you will have that search engine behind you to get the word out of what you are writing about.
As my business, Genealogy At Heart, grew I added a website through WordPress. I selected WordPress because other professional genealogists said it was easy and inexpensive. Now I post my weekly blog in both places. If Google ever decides to stop supporting Blogger than my blogs are safe on my own website. If I decide to retire and cease my website, then I can easily backup my blog posts so that future family will still have access to my ancestral discoveries. That’s a win-win outcome!
There are many other blog sites so do a simple search if you’d like alternatives.
So, there you have it! I’ve published over 500 posts since I began in 2015. In 2023 my Genealogy At Heart blog was recognized as one of the top 100 by Genea-Blogs and for 2024, FeedSpot has named it in the Top 100 Bloggers. Getting recognition is nice and appreciated. Getting connections with other who have the same passion I do is even better. Got a question on how to get started? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In December, I blogged about a creepy AI discovery I had made when testing ChatGPT’s ability to extract and summarize from newspaper articles. Information in the summary was provided by AI that was no where in the articles uploaded. Although errors like this, called hallucinations, are known to happen with this budding tool, the information that AI proved was 100% correct. That’s what made this feel creepy. How did it know more about my family than the articles I entered?!
I’m now enrolled in my second AI for Genealogy class through the National Genealogical Society and my instructor, Steve Little, noted in class this past week that AI was trained by, among other information, through blog posts.
Bingo! That explains how ChatGPT got my correct ancestors to include in the summary as I have blogged extensively about my Leininger and Landfair families.
Since I’ve blogged about my families for years much of my research is available online. I’ve spoken with other family historians who haven’t had as good a result as I have with using AI. Perhaps this is why I’m getting the results that I am.
When the world wide web was in its infancy, I had difficulty with understanding the concept that once something is place there you can’t get rid of it. Sure, websites come and go but the information is still out there if you look hard enough with tools like the Wayback Machine. Personally, I was involved with an educator only web in the early 1990s and on the world wide web since 1995 so my digital footprint is a large size. Who knew that it would be a help to me with the latest technology?!
If AI is not giving you the results you’d like, I’d suggest that you upload the info you’re working with as a pdf when you prompt it. This might also be a good time for you to start blogging about your family. I will be providing more info on how to do that next week. Happy Hunting!