Saving Your Gedcom

Spring is just around the corner and at the top of your “to do” list, make sure you backup a copy of your gedcom. Yesterday, while hubby and I were painting away as the home renovations continue, I got a call from a former Client I had done some consulting work regarding his Irish ancestry. He called to thank me for making this year’s St. Patrick’s Day even more memorable as I had pointed him in directions that saved him time and money.

I had also recommended that he always save his Ancestry.com tree in another location and we had discussed several options. Why do I recommend that? I’m definitely not trying to start a malicious rumor here as I believe there is no problem at all with Ancestry.com but in this crazy world, you just never know. I’m a planner (and a little paranoid) so I think about the what ifs in life – what if I can’t pay for the service any longer, what if they get hacked and I can’t access my lifelong work, what if they get sold and the service becomes deplorable? (On a side note, my hubby thinks this is a little irrational and he’s probably right. I say some people fear immigrants and I fear losing mine!) So my concern led me to find alternatives for my trees.

My Client decided to download the free standard edition of Legacy Family Tree but he had difficulty following my Ancestry.com download instructions. I talked him through it remotely and understand why he had a problem which you, dear reader, may also encounter.

If you’re new to this process it’s quite simple, just follow these steps:
Log on to Ancestry.com
Click “Trees” on the Ribbon and scroll and click on “Create & Manage Trees”
Click “Manage Tree”
Under “Manage Tree” in the green box on the left, click “Download your gedcom file”

Be patient, it may take some time, depending on the size of your tree.
Once downloaded, if you open the file it will be gibberish so you must install a program that can read a gedcom. You have several options; I’ve listed those that I’ve used that allow you to save the program to your own computer and/or place in your own Cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) so you have complete control over the data:
Legacy Family Tree – free with the standard edition; small cost for a program that does more.
Rootsmagic – small cost and by mid-April it will sink with Ancestry.com
Family Tree Maker – small cost, used to synch with Ancestry.com but I experienced problems; supposedly works now.

Or, you can join another organization like Ancestry.com and save your tree there. I’ve used My Heritage as an alternative.

There are lots more options that I’m not familiar with – for a review of the opinion based Top 10 click here.

I haven’t done this but am exploring these as other options some day:
Familysearch – free, however, you are donating your tree to their genealogical community and although it is a backup, you don’t control it any longer. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and follow the directions under “Contribute Your Research”
Wiki Tree – free, however, when I tried to upload several years ago my tree was too large for them. Haven’t checked back to see if their system will take it.

Whatever you choose is your personal decision but you have to select one so you can access your data.

Here’s where my Client got stuck – on Ancestry.com, step 4 above, he clicked “Download Tips” and got information on deleting his tree so he panicked and stopped. That was wise as you DON’T WANT TO DELETE THE TREE!!!! Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

When I click on download instructions I get the following:

“If the “File Download” window does not appear and Windows automatically downloads a text file:
Right click on the “Download your GEDCOM file” button.
Select “Save Target As…”
A “Save As” dialog box will display. Select a location for the file that you will be able to find later, such as “Desktop.” Then give the file a name and click on Save.”

He didn’t need to follow the 3 steps above. Once he clicked “Download your gedcom file” he was able to successfully save it to his hard drive. He selected to install the free Legacy Family Tree program and I listened as he followed the Legacy prompts and uploaded the gedcom. He was quite happy when it was finished.

You’ll be really happy, too, when you know you’re hard work is safe and accessible. Personally, I think sitting on my derriere to download and upload a gedcom is the easiest spring cleanup to do!

Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

Now that the holidays are behind us it’s time to look ahead and schedule some genealogy training. What would you like to learn more about this year? Maybe it’s finally understanding DNA or getting serious about writing that family history you keep putting off. Perhaps you’re stuck on a few lines and need some fresh ideas. Whatever you hope to learn, there are wonderful webinars that you can view in the comfort of your own home. Let’s start with the free ones first!

Legacy Family Trees 2017 offerings are now available and you can register for multiple webinars at once. It pays to register so you can get the syllabus. If something comes up and you can’t attend, no worries! The tape is available for the first week for free. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers monthly webinars on the Legacy site, too, so don’t miss those offerings

Like to participate as you learn? Then become a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and take part in their upcoming discussions held via Go To Meeting. You are expected to be engaged either through your microphone or via chat. You can use your computer, tablet or phone to attend. Two sessions are available for each topic – one in the afternoon and one in the evening. In January, “Writing as You Go with Elissa Scalise Powell and Running a Successful APG Chapter with Lois Mackin” will be offered. February brings “Creating Genealogy Classes and Workshops with Lois Mackin.” The meetings are free but you must be a member of APG to attend. Visit APG for more details.

The National Genealogical Society Conference will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina May 10-13. Early Bird registration is now open via the NGS site. Don’t delay – the price to attend rises closer to the event.

Don’t want to travel far but love in person camaraderie and collaboration with other passionate genealogists? Then check out your local societies, libraries and archives for their offerings. In the Tampa Bay, Florida area, Thomas MacEntree recently held an interactive webinar through the Tampa public library and Lisa Marie Cook will be offering workshops at the Largo library in February.

Rather work on your own? Then purchase a workbook and pace yourself. Mastering Genealogical Proofs by Tom Jones is available via Kindle or Paperback on Amazon. Also on Amazon is Blaine Bettinger’s Genetic Genealogy in Practice. If you’re an NGS member, check out the site for a discount on both.

It never ceases to amaze me that I learn something new from every class I take. Additionally, I learn a bunch from reading and writing blogs. A few days ago, I was the guest blogger for AncestorCloud so check out Using S.M.A.R.T.’s to Crystallize Your Genealogy Goals. Happy Hunting!

Photo Preservation for Genealogy

I found it interesting that four of Legacy Family Tree’s top 10 webinars of 2016 revolved around photography (Dating Family Photographs – 1900-1940 by Jane Neff Rollins;  Enriching Your Family History through Pictures and Stories by Amie Bowser Tennant; Scrapbooking & Journaling for Family History by Amie Bowser Tennant; and Share, Store, and Save Your Family Photos by Maureen Taylor).  I guess you could even make a case that a fifth one also involves photos (Crowdsourcing with Social Media to Overcome Brick Walls in Genealogy Research by Amie Bowser Tennant) since FaceBook and Pinterest are valuable genealogical tools to find photos.

I love discovering photos and when I perform Client work I try to add them to a project.  Staring into the eyes of an ancestor elicits emotions like no other item can! 

So, that’s why I’m worried about the present habits we have developed (no pun intended!) regarding preserving our photos.  Our smart phones and other devices have made preserving memories incredibly quick, easy and inexpensive.  I use my phone’s camera for recording anything I want to refer back to, such as a whiteboard that was used during a brainstorm session in a meeting, two garments I might purchase to see which would better match the shoes I left at home, and of course, family events.  I take more photos now than at any earlier stages of my life.  I also have a horrible habit of not preserving those photos I take.  

As I walk throughout my home I noticed that most of the framed photos I have on display were taken by a professional.  Back in the day, having a photograph made was an event in and of itself.  First you had to find the studio, then book an appointment, make sure everyone was dressed and ready to go and finally, return days later to view the proofs to select which you wanted to purchase.  Another trip was necessary to pick up the final product.  No wonder most of those photos are still around.  So much time, effort and cost was involved the photo was determined to be valuable.

Today, not at all.  Snap, click, delete if it wasn’t to everyone’s liking or share if it was.  We don’t print out photos like we did in the past.  Right after the “Years of the Hurricanes” in Florida in the early 2000’s I would have said it was a blessing not to have more photos to lug during an evacuation. CD and Cloud technology seemed like such a great idea.  It was the hurricanes that forced me to scan and save my family’s photos – those from the 1800’s to the recent scrapbooks I had created as my children grew up.  I thought I was being so smart when I saved to CD’s and gave them out as Christmas gifts to various relatives.  My thought was to spread them around to increase the likelihood that they would be preserved.  Have a wildfire in California or a twister in the Midwest?  No worries, the CD will live on in New England.  I never thought about CD’s going away or family members who misplaced them.  

When Cloud technology came out I simply transferred everything online.  How convenient to be able to access those photos from anywhere!  But the program I used, Picassa, became defunct.  So I transferred them to Google Photos and Dropbox and Ancestry.  

It just hit me I’ve preserved the past but not the present.  I’m not saving my current photos at the rate that I did before.  Our family’s Thanksgiving pics are still in my phone, along with birthdays and other events I’ve recently attended.  

Just as I calendar in a monthly day to download my gedcom from Ancestry to save to software (Legacy and RootsMagic7) on my hard drive, a stand alone hard drive and in the Cloud (Dropbox) I need to also be saving my pics.  Yes, I am paranoid but I’ve invested so much time I would be heartsick if all of those were lost.

What I need to do is to get in the habit of cleaning out the photos and preserving them.  My plan is to delete those that didn’t come out well and send those I want to keep to my computer.  I’ll back those up like I do the gedcom.  This is being added to my New Year’s Resolutions!

Genealogy Catch Up – Using the Extra Hour of Day Light Savings to Keep Organized

My goodness I accomplished a bunch last weekend with that hour of extra time!  I’m taking the advice I preach and cleaned out my emails, making sure that I saved everything that was important to my desk top and if it was super important, to the Cloud.  I use the free Dropbox.  For information that may someday be important, I save the link to an Excel file I keep in Dropbox.  For example, if there is a particularly interesting blog about clues from old photographs from Ancestor Cloud or Genealogy in Time Magazine, I copy the link in the Excel spreadsheet.  One column is Topic, next is the link and the third is comments, if any.  That way, if I ever have a brick wall or a client comes to me with a difficult quest with an area where I’m not an expert, I can quickly find useful information.

One email I had received from last month was for a special on Roots Magic.  For my faithful readers, you know I dearly miss the simplicity of the old PAF that Family Search once provided for free. I switched to Family Tree Maker when PAF was dying and was happy until it stopped synching with my Ancestry.com tree.  The many calls and emails I made between both organizations were pointless so I gave up and went to the Standard free version of Legacy.  I liked it so much several months later I bought the Deluxe version.  IMHO, Legacy has the BEST charts of any genealogy software product out there and is a bargain for the price.  But back to the Roots Magic email, there was a special offer for $29.95.  I thought I could do better so I hunted around and found I could get it for $20.00, along with an instructional ebook.  I decided to make the purchase, download my GEDcom from Ancestry and upload to Roots Magic in preparation for when Ancestry.com and Roots Magic are able to synch like Family Tree Maker failed to do.  I got my $20.00 price from the Association of Professional Genealogists but I also found it by looking for special offers.  Here’s the link if you’d like to purchase it – ROOTS MAGIC SPECIAL.

Another special for the upcoming weekend – November 12-13 – is Arkivdigital will be free for everyone.  If you have Swedish family it’s a must use.  Yes, the records are in Swedish but there are helpful hints on their site or you could use Google Translate.  Happy Hunting!  Now back to Roots Magic…

I was pleased with how quick the upload was; Legacy takes a whole lot longer.  After updating both Legacy and installing Roots Magic, I saved to the Cloud and to a stand alone hard drive as I am paranoid to lose the information.

While I was doing that, Hubby was working at his desk beside me.  I looked over and what did I see but visions of holiday shopping appearing on his screen!  So I gave him my gift list for this year – a new sewing box and three genealogy books.  I did have to have him log onto my National Genealogical Society account to get a discount on the books but that was a good savings, too.

All that took up my extra hour but I felt so good about cleaning up my data I decided to move on to finishing the Canvas project I started in the summer.  I’m just about done with our family poster. I think it’s a bargain for $34.95.  Granted, I’m going to have to get it framed.

Haven’t checked out how to make one?  If you click on EXTRAS on the Ancestry ribbon and then click on the drop down menu for Photo Books and Posters you leave Ancestry and go to MY CANVAS.  To make a poster, click on their ribbon FAMILY HISTORY.  You can import your Ancestry.com tree to their template and get creative from there.  It’s an awesome holiday gift.

If only I could have an extra hour every weekend!

Genealogical Software and Identifying Family Relationships

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 6 Apr 2016.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending an all day conference hosted by The Villages, Florida Genealogy Society for the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS).   I’m a member of NEHGS and I was interested in the topics, especially migration patterns .  Although I found all the workshops fairly basic I always take something away from any workshop I attend so I did get some new info to use when I revisit my tree AFTER I submit my portfolio.

I want to mention two points that I think were most interesting.  The first was during the workshop titled “Choosing a Genealogical Software Program” by Rhonda McClure.  I enjoyed Rhonda’s talk even though I’m not shopping for a new software program.  What was interesting to me was the number of attendees that couldn’t understand why someone would want to have their tree information on their own program.  Maybe I’m just old and remember the first genealogical software program I used which was on a cassette that was inserted into a TI-84 computer.  When we upgraded to Windows 3.0, I downloaded PAF from Familysearch.org and had to re-enter all of my tree info.  I didn’t have a lot, about 100 individuals, but it was time consuming and a duplication of efforts.

I moved to Family Tree Maker (FTM) because it was supposed to synch with Ancestry.com but as I’ve written in previous blogs, mine stopped synching and between the two organizations I could never get it working.  I then downloaded the Standard (Free) edition of Legacy in which to save my Ancestry.com Gedcom  and about once a month, I update Legacy by re-downloading the Gedcom.  I know Ancestry.com is in the works with synching with Roots Magic and maybe a resurrection of FTM.  I really would like a feature that synchs and I would go with that.  I do love the reports Legacy generates as I ended up purchasing the Deluxe version so I’d keep that, too.  The problem with not synching is one gets updated and the other doesn’t.  I have a lot of pdf’s and photos saved on Ancestry.com that’s not on Legacy so we’re back to time consuming and storage saving issues unless something is available to synch.

But back to why anyone would want to have their own software.  I live in Florida where we have many storms, often severe, which means that our power is off and therefore, no internet.  Even when there isn’t a storm we sometimes have no internet.  Like yesterday, with our wonderful new internet provider, Frontier, who can’t figure out how to provide the service we’re paying for (but that’s another story!)  With a backup generator I could still access my desktop, though it would be unlikely in severe weather that I would use a generator to do that.  I’d rather save the food in the fridge but I like options and if I would be so inclined, I could get to my information.  Although it’s also unlikely that Ancestry.com will cease to exist, one never knows.  Companies come and go.  I’m not trying to start a rumor – I think that is remote but in case, I want to have a backup.  I also like to have my tree available when I research away from home on my Kindle or laptop as in some facilities that I’ve visited, the wireless goes down when you’re in the stacks and it’s a problem.

The next interesting observation from the conference was how the Ancestry.com relationship feature doesn’t work.  I was surprised how many people rely on it.  Mine comes and goes and sometimes is so convoluted it’s hysterical. I’m not blaming Ancestry for that; it’s my twisted family tree where I relate to my husband back in the day.  It can’t figure out the connection and seems to take the long route.  I think I figured out why it does that.  Simply because of who I set at the home person.  If you’re having that problem just go to settings and change the home person to someone else and it may correct the problem.  If it doesn’t, then you’re going to have to figure out the relationship the old fashioned way.  I’d recommend bringing up the family tree view from the person you are trying to determine the relationship from and look and see where you recognize a common ancestor.

In a pinch you may find these links helpful:

Twelve+ Genealogy Gems for a Whole Year of Fun!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 16 Dec 2015.

I’ve been asked lately by colleagues and students what are some of my favorite genealogy sites so in keeping with the holidays (and having the 12 Days of Christmas stuck in my head!) here are my favorite free go to sites for quick genealogy answers.  They are listed in alphabetical order because they are all valuable in their own way.  I’ve also included the sites’ own description, when available:

  1. AncestorCloud – “is a community that connects family researchers with willing helpers and professional genealogists. Connect with helpers to pick up records, take local photographs, translate documents, help with research questions or conduct custom research. It’s free to join and post a request. Connect with researchers in over 52 countries”.  I have never been contacted to provide research assistance so I can’t vouch for how that works but I did post a request for help that was picked up by a genealogist in Croatia. AncestorCloud acts as an intermediary so I never communicated directly with the researcher.  She did provide valuable assistance in how to locate my maternal great grandmother’s gravesite,  The process isn’t anywhere online so the information was extremely valuable to me.  I had tried Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves but no one ever responded.  I volunteered to pay the researcher $25.00 US dollars for her help – that was my choice.  If you are going to hire someone the price is negotiated before hand.  Additionally, AncestorCloud emails helpful genealogical articles.
  2. Crestleaf – “is for people who want to preserve their family’s legacy in a chronological timeline and digital archive for both current and future generations to enjoy.”  I don’t use Crestleaf as an archive.  Instead, I scroll to the bottom of the page and check the All Surname search.  You can also browse by state or decade. The absolute best part of Crestleaf, though, is the weekly emailed Genealogy Tips and News.  One of my favorite reads!
  3. Cyndi’s List -“A comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online.”  Cyndi has been a wonderful resource for me for a long time!  Amazing that her links always work and are current.
  4. Family Search – “Search for a deceased ancestor in historical records to uncover vital information from their life.”  Besides searching records, check out the genealogies (that may be inaccurate so look for citations), catalog, books and the wiki.  I love the wiki and find it’s extremely useful if I need information about a region that I’m don’t typically research.  The only cost is if you want to view microfilm that hasn’t been placed online. You can order and have it sent to a local Family History Center to view.
  5. Find-A-Grave – “Find the graves of ancestors, create virtual memorials, add ‘virtual flowers’ and a note to a loved one’s grave”  It’s owned by Ancestry.com but remains free.
  6. Billion Graves – “Collect photos of the headstones in your local cemetery with our iPhone/Android camera app. Then upload the mapped-out photos here. Transcribe information from uploaded headstone photos – then descendants everywhere can easily search for their ancestors. Search for your ancestors’ graves using our easy search. You can access their headstone records, photos of headstones, and accurate locations of all the graves.”  (Both Find-a-Grave and Billion Graves have helped me find children that may have been born and died in between census years)
  7. Geneabloggers – “The ultimate site for your genealogy blog – an online community created by Thomas MacEntee”.  There’s alot of blogs here but the features I like the most are Tom’s genealogy special offers and his webinars (which have a nominal charge).  Subscribe for free to Geneabloggers and you’ll receive emails with give aways (such as genealogy e-books), discounts and helpful hints.
  8. Genealogy in Time (online) Magazine -“We have the tools and resources to help you discover your ancestors for free. Let us help you find your story”.  There’s also a search engine, rare book search and the magazine includes new records placed online each week.
  9. Geneanet News – “More than 1.5 billion indexed individuals  The Genealogy Library gives access to hundreds of thousands documents indexed for genealogy research.”  They will email you periodically any surname updates you’ve identified to follow.
  10. Genealogy News – Every Sunday, I receive this awesome newsletter filled with links of recent genealogy news from Genealogy Today LLC.  Love to read it with my morning coffee as it often gives me ideas that I use to plan my research for the upcoming week.
  11. Legacy Family Tree – “Genealogy News, Legacy tricks and technology tips”.  Some webinars are not free but many are. The Standard Edition of Legacy is free to download if you want to save your tree to your hard drive, desktop or cloud.  If you do use their tree, you can also subscribe free to their techie list and you’ll get emails with updates and hints.  They’re also on Facebook.
  12. Rootsweb – A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… no, not Star Wars, I’m referring to circa 2000 before Ancestry.com owned everything – Rootsweb was the most awesome site in the genealogy universe.  I still use it although it’s not current and it’s now owned by Ancestry.  It remains free, however, and if I’m stuck I use the site to see if someone has created a tree in the past that may be helpful.

Next time I’ll write about my favorite NON FREE sites.  Happy Hunting!