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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Tuesday
    Jun162009

    Tech Tuesday: Transcript 2.3.2 Now Supporting Side-by-Side Windows

    Jacob Boerema is the kind of software programmer that users truly appreciate. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Transcript 2.3, his thoughtful tool for transcribing documents, in Tools for Transcribing Documents. Transcript eliminates the need to have both image viewer and word processor windows open when transcribing a document. A host of helpful features make transcriptions faster and easier, from the synchronized scrolling of both image and typed transcript, to the many image enhancing options available.

    I found the program to be well-conceived overall, but added a wistful request for side-by-side windows; my landscape-oriented monitor limited the vertical real estate available for actual viewing and typing.

    When I emailed Jacob Boerema to ask if I had missed such an option, he replied that the program just didn't have that capability at present, but it would go on the "feature request" list. He is obviously very active with Transcript, because I received an email a few days ago notifying me that the a new beta version now supports this feature. Wow! I am impressed. I've never had a quicker response to "I wish. . ."

    Anyone who works with document images can benefit from Transcript's features, and now it is even more custom-rich with side-by-side window support. The newest feature is part of a beta update is 2.3.2 build 77, and can be downloaded at http://www.jacobboerema.nl/en/TranscriptBeta.htm.

    It's worth noting that the basic version of Transcript does just about everything most genealogists need and is available as Freeware. The registered version costs only 15 euro (about $20.00) and adds multiple projects, time tracking per project, auto-replacement, auto-correction, plus many more features. I am upgrading to the registered version, as much to support responsive programming as an excellent software program. Thanks, Jacob.

    Tuesday
    Jun092009

    Tech Tuesday: Book Collector for iPod Touch and iPhone

    Good news for collectors who have asked for mobile access to their collection database -- users of the Collectorz suite will soon be able to view their books, movies, games, music, and/or comic collections on their iPod touch and iPhone. I wrote about the Book Collector application a few weeks ago, Organizing a Book Collection with Book Collector, and have been following company press releases as they prepared and submitted the apps for approval with the Apple iPhone App Store.

    At present, the Movie and Book applications are available at the App Store; Games and Music are currently awaiting approval. Programs will work on both iPhone and iPod Touch and are available for $9.99 each. Users also need the latest Pro version of the Movie Collector or Book Collector. Currently the Windows version is available; the Mac edition is expected by August 2009.

    For Book Collector, while the app is "viewer only," users will be able to search for books already in their collection avoiding duplicate book purchases, manage a book Wish List, and view facts about the book.

    If you purchase a lot of books and can't always remember what is on your shelf, Book Collector and the mobile version could be a very useful tool for genealogy conferences and exhibit halls. Right now, I don't know of other apps that offer both a Windows and Mac database and an iPod Touch/iPhone application. If you know of a similar software situation, please leave a comment; I'd like to hear about it.

    Saturday
    Jun062009

    So Very Dreadful

    My dear friend, Penny Dreadful, knows that it's always great fun to take a break from hard evidence and do a bit of daydreaming. Thank you footnoteMaven for providing today's storyline at Shades of the Departed.

    Tuesday
    Jun022009

    Tech Tuesday: On Deciphering Genealogy Software Citation Templates

    In the spirit of continuing Dialogue... I'd like offer a few comments sparked by Randy's Seaver's recent post at GeneaMusings, "Which census source citation should I use in RootsMagic 4?"

    It's always nice to know you're not alone when faced with frustration or confusion. Like Randy, I sometimes puzzle over which citation template to use (in Legacy 7 , for me). I often spend more time figuring out the appropriate template than in actually inputting the information to my genealogy software program. It's not that I am a total novice at sourcing citations; I taught high schoolers the fine art of MLA style for years. They would probably love to know that NOW, I feel their pain.

    Question of the week: How do you cite photocopies of Henry M. Winsor's military records sent to me by my mom who got them from a cousin, who got them. . . "where???" They look pretty official. Copies in spidery 19th century handwriting enumerating Muster-in and out dates, information about an injury on the "Casualty Sheet." But, what the heck are these? Compiled Service Records? Personal Correspondence? Family Artifacts? Junk Science?

    I know what my students would have done; they would create a citation style ALL THEIR OWN. It would

    1. suit the time available for homework (as little as possible)
    2. use only internet research, no library time or printed books
    3. be based on either what their parents did in 8th grade, or what their 23-year-old brother did for his State Bird Report
    4. be creative in the use of fonts, style, and color
    Some of my favorite renditions included a combination MLA, Chicago, and APA. I particularly enjoyed the blending of numerical notes with parenthetical in-text citations, when presented in magenta ink in 14-point Gothic type.

    I like the comments from Tina and ProGenealogists under Randy's article; they have designed their own RootsMagic templates using EE as a guide. They must be the Smart Kids! My problem is deeper, though. I can't even figure out what form to use from EE. Do you think my students would find out if I made my own template and label it "UFO"?

    Tuesday
    May262009

    Tech Tuesday: Tools for Transcribing Documents

     

    This week I've been trying out a few different tools for transcribing documents. My trip to NEHGS netted images of more than forty pages of microfilmed probate records, and as I didn't want to spend my time at the library deciphering the 19th century handwriting, I now have enough "home"work to keep me busy for a while.

     

    Before I could even begin to work with the documents, however, I had to organize the files. The microfilm image software that copied files to my flash drive used sequential numbering which was not helpful in identifying the file. Fortunately, at the advice of another researcher, I did copy the opening image of each roll as I started to work with the films, so I had some basis for my work.

    The machine also recorded TIFF copies which are good for archiving. I found it easiest to rename the files with a useful name and then make JPG copies that I could adjust for brightness and contrast. My transcription also carries the same filename, with a different extension, .doc. This keeps the image and transcriptions together in my file folder.

    To transcribe the documents I first tried the most obvious approach, open Microsoft Word and the image in MS Picture Viewer, adjust window size and get to work. I found that when I needed to adjust brightness or enlarge the document, however, I needed a more robust image viewer. I first tried Adobe Photoshop Elements 7, but quickly became frustrated by the time lag needed to open each image from the Organizer to the Edit window where I could view closer. I then tried Xnview, a freebie program that I turn to often. Using a Windows Explorer style sidebar, I could easily locate my image, magnify and adjust to my heart's content. I could also use Xnview to batch convert the image files from TIFF to JPG. With the image open in Xnview and my working transcription open in a second window with MS Word, I was quickly working through the documents.

    I then compared this setup with Transcript 2.3, a great program from a Dutch software developer. It allows you to work in one window with the image at the top and the transcription below. Transcript can be configured to scroll the image any number of pixels as you type and hit the Enter key in the transcription window. This is clearly a very useful feature, and combine with Transcript's image adjustment capabilities to make it a top transcription program. In fact, the only drawback I could find was that the windows were stacked rather than side-by-side, and this can be a problem on a small or landscape-oriented screen. I searched unsuccessfully for a way to configure the window layout, but in the end resorted to smaller font size so that I could have a larger image view.

    Both methods work well, with Transcript offering many special features appreciated by transcribers. If I had a portrait-oriented monitor I think it would be my first choice, but for now the landscape set-up with Xnview and MS Word are helping me to get the job done with my New England probate records.

     

    Saturday
    May232009

    Reviewing Archival Practices with Rebecca Fenning

    Today's column at Shades of the Departed, "Raiders of the Lost Arc[hive]" by archivist Rebecca Fenning, is a wake-up call to all Family Curators. Who ever guessed at the untold, unprocessed treasures hidden in the depths of our favorite repositories? It is both frustrating and depressing to read that hundreds, if not thousands and tens of thousands, of documents are unavailable to researchers for lack of processing.

    This rather sounds like my own "archive" of family papers. When I began organizing my grandmother's letters and miscellaneous papers, I felt the call to do things right. In so doing, I fell into the very archival abyss described by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner in their report, "More Product, Less Paper." As Greene and Meissner describe it, archivists routinely process a collection by item-level handling, whether or not the collection warrants such minute attention. And, just like the good little archivist I longed to be, I foldered and refoldered every item and removed every piece of metal I encountered. And at the end of the summer, I too had only "processed" a fraction of the collection.

    In fact, I should not be suprised. According to Greene and Meissner, an email survey of archivists estimated that it should require 14.8 hours per cubic foot to process 20th century material. I figure that I have a trunk-full of stuff, about 16 cubic feet; so it should take me about 236.8 hours or 29.6 days to organize it. That would be, of course, if I was experienced and knew what I was doing, which I am not.

    And, if those figures aren't depressing enough... compare this to the time archivists actually spent processing similar materials -- "the modal average -- the most frequent value in the range -- was 33 hours per foot." It's no wonder I didn't make much headway.

    While Rebecca's article for Shades is a heads-up for researchers to remember those hidden collections, I think she is also making a point which can help Family Curators work with their own material. We need to think about how we will use a collection, and preserve and process with that goal in mind. This might mean moving forward even if we don't have funds for expensive archival storage boxes, but it also means asking good questions if we donate our collection to a repository such as a library or museum so our treasures aren't forgotten in the back room of an archive.

    Tuesday
    May192009

    Tech Tuesday: My Favorite New Old Low-Tech Tool


    Digitial images are wonderful, but sometimes a person just has to touch paper! My favorite new-to-me, old-fashioned, low-tech tools areTreasury Tags, little bits of twine and metal that can bring order to the chaos of a bulky stack of paper. I used them on my research trip to hold Great Aunt Mercy's 21-page genealogy, and never lost a page.

    Reputed to be used by Winston Churchill, this British invention works quite simply:

    1. Drill small hole in the corner of the page (from 2 to 200 sheets) using a mini-hole punch
    2. Insert the metal bar of the Treasury Tag through the holes. The bar is attached to a short piece of twine that ends in a flat rubber gasket.
    3. Pull the flat rubber gasket snug from the other end of the twine and
    4. There you have it, there you are, a tidy sheaf of pages all neat and trim
    Of course, old-fashioned wonders like this aren't sold at the neighborhood Staples or Office Max. Check out the Treasury Kit at Levenger, Tools for Serious Readers. The kit includes both punch and tags.

    Wednesday
    May132009

    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 3: Researching at NEHGS

    Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part review "Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009" focusing on the three-day program and the one-on-one consultation sessions.
    Part 1: Preparing to Research
    Part 2:Consulting with the Experts

    Three full days of research at the New England Historical Genealogical Society Library may sound like quite a bit of research time, but it is not surprising that it is still not quite enough. Day One I spent mostly in consultations with the NEHGS experts. The Library was open in the evening, but I left about 5pm to join my husband for dinner, and did not take advantage of the extra research time.

    I vowed to be Focused on Day Two, and went to work immediately after Josh Taylor's excellent presentation on source citation. I have always been a "browser" and took full advantage of the library's open stack policy to examine the volumes on hand for my localities of interest. A handy photocopy machine made quick work of copies for my records, and then I was off to the microtext room where I was pleased to discover the full-text films of the Vermont probate records. Julie Otto helped me conquer my fear of film machines and before long I was making digital copies of the films to examine more closely when I returned home.

    Day Three promised considerable progress, but I had to leave the program at noon and could only attend the morning lecture by Judy Lacey on manuscripts in the HisGen archive collection. Her excellent presentation gave me so many ideas for further research: I would like to return and examine some of the letters, diaries, and journals in the collection with an eye toward finding friends or relatives of my ancestors. I was awed by the extent of the Society's collection; there will be wonderful discoveries in the years to come from this archive.

    So, what will I research on my NEXT visit?

    Local Histories
    Maps and Gazetteers
    Manuscript Collection
    more Family Histories
    Probate Records
    Military Records

    I was determined to use NEHGS resources that are unique to the Library, yet I found myself reading microfilms (can't I get these elsewhere?) and examining various printed volumes. When I returned home and did an internet search at World Cat for the same volumes I found that I would have to request the films from the local LDS Family History Center or visit NEHGS! This reaffirmed my appreciation for the HisGen collection, and made me more than a bit jealous for those researchers who live within easy driving distance of the library. I was also pleased that I had been able to use the digital copy machine to make copies of the microfilms I examined; this will give me many more hours of research time from home as I transcribe documents with the aid to computer enhanced images.

     

    Of course, the online databases also provide unique access to the NEHGS collections. I have found my ancestors in the Rhode Island Vital Records Index, in the Newspaper Archive collection, and in various other digitized resources. The recent addition the indexed TAG articles with The NEHGS Register make this resource indispensable for any researcher working with New England records.

    My experience at HisGen not only extended my pedigree, it also helped me feel confident to tackle research elsewhere. I think this was one of the greatest benefits of the program, I practiced "learning to learn." Thank you NEHGS.

    Tuesday
    May122009

    Organizing a Book Collection with Book Collector 6.1


    In collecting the names and stories of ancestors, family curators are often called to collect and organize all kinds of things from letters and photographs to china, baby spoons, and books. I think the same "collecting gene" that drives a family curator to preserve these treasures may also push a person to collect other things -- souvenir postcards, funny hats, or even photographs of women wearing glasses (hello, footnoteMaven!).

    In my case, I collect books. So many books on so many different subjects that sometimes I purchase the same title twice and even sit down to read a "new" mystery only to discover I am in the middle of a deja-vu experience right about page 30. Good thing this memory lapse allows me to guess "whodunnit" all over again, but this is hard on the book budget.

    On a recent trip to New York City, I had a chance to visit two Greenwich Village bookshops on my list, Partners in Crime and Bonnie Slotnik Cookbooks. Of course, I added a few volumes to my "collection," but I was frustrated because I couldn't remember the name of a great British genealogy mystery writer, and because I couldn't remember which Farm Journal cookbooks I still wanted to find.

    Since returning home I have been testing the trial version of Book Collector by Collectorz.com. This is a hefty program that catalogs books either from manual input of title/author or ISBN, or from scanning the ISBN bar codes. I don't have a bar code scanner, but when I type in the ISBN, the program searches a book database and returns all the book information complete with an image of the book jacket and plot description. From there, I can add my own notes about purchase price, condition, etc., or also indicate if this book is on my Wanted list.

    Collectorz also offers similar collection programs for music, comics, games, mp3s, and photos. The programs for music, movies, and books will run on both PC Windows and Mac OSX.

    This week, Collectorz announced that the companion program Movie Collector is now available as an iPhone/iPodTouch app at the official AppStore, and that Book Collector is slated to be added witin the next few months. The companion iPhone app will sync with the desktop software to provide portable access to your database.

    Book Collector is easy and intuitive to use, and set up is easy with the available tutorials. The trial version is limited to 100 books, which is certainly enough room to test its many features. In fact, the only downside I found is the price. The Standard Version is $29.95, but the iPhone/iPodTouch app will require the Pro Version at $49.95 (plus $9.95 for the app), which may be a bit steep if one's library cataloging needs are not extensive.

    Friday
    May082009

    TAG Now Available Online Through NEHGS

    One more good reason to be a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society -- The American Genealogist (TAG) is going online thanks to a new collaboration in which NEHGS will digitize back issues of the journal and make them available at the Society website, NewEnglandAncestors.org.

    Founded in 1922 by Donald Lines Jacobus, TAG is edited by a trio of NEHGS members: Dr. David L. Greene, FASG, past recipient of the Society’s Coddington Award of Merit; Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, director of the NEHGS Great Migration Study Project; and Joseph C. Anderson II, FASG, who is also editor of The Maine Genealogist. These distinguished genealogists, along with dozens of highly-regarded contributors, uphold and advance the standards for genealogical scholarship so carefully articulated by Jacobus and the Jacobus “School.”
    Volumes 1-8 of TAG covering 1923-1832 are already available online at the NEHGS website under the title “Families of Ancient New Haven.” The new searchable database adds Volumes 9–13, published between 1933 and 1937. Additional volumes are slated to be published through Volume 82, at which time new volumes will be added to keep the database current. The most recent five years will not be available online.

    This is great news for genealogists worldwide who can now access the wealth of information in TAG through the internet. Randy Seaver included the full press release at Genea-Musings today; I second his enthusiasm about this new collaboration, and hope that we see even more journals "go digital" in the future.

    Wednesday
    May062009

    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 2: Consulting with the Experts

     

    Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part review "Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009" focusing on the three-day program and the one-on-one consultation sessions. In "Part 1: Preparation" I address some of my own questions before attending the program and review registration and pre-event preparation. In Part 3, I will discuss research opportunities at NEGHS.

     

    Mention "bricks" to a genealogist, and the image of a brick wall appears, followed by proposed strategies for climbing or demolishing the obstacle. But there is another use for bricks as well, one used with great care and skill by the staff at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. My experience at the 2009 Spring Getaway demonstrated the value of building a firm research foundation that can withstand any amount of weight as the evidence grows, brick upon brick.

    Day One of the program, attendees met in the second floor education center the library. Conversation was already lively when I arrived and the room full of participants and friendly staff members. The program began with introductions from each member of the entire staff. I had stopped by briefly the day before and met a few people; it was helpful to see them again and put a name with a face. Staff members introduced themselves and explained their responsibilities at the Society or outlined their areas of expertise. From Event Coordinator, to Archivist, to Genealogist, to CEO, the entire staff were present to offer their assistance.

    Then it was the participants' turn to briefly introduce themselves and their goals for the session. Attendees came from New England, Tennessee, West Virginia, New York, Colorado, and California. Some participants had also attended the NEHGS research trip to Washington D.C. and were now ready to conduct more research at the Society Library.

    Marie Daly, Library Director, opened the lecture series with a virtual tour of the library collections. The Library itself is spread out over six floors in an former bank building on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay. The old teller's windows are still visible in the wood-panelled Reading Room on the first floor, but a modern elevator eases access between floors. The second floor holds the Education Center, a spacious room well-equipped for audio-visual presentations, receptions, and meetings; and the third floor holds Staff and Administrative offices. The Society's collections are housed on the first floor (International Books), fourth floor (microtext documents), fifth floor (local history), fifthA Floor (special collections), and sixth floor (open stacks and reading room). Marie's armchair tour was an efficient way to become familiar with the general layout of the library and the collections.

    Following the lecture, participants were invited to sign up for individual consultations with the HisGen resident experts, what Ryan Woods likened to the legendary "Running of the Bulls." Good manners ruled the day, and I found open appointment times even as one of the last to sign the sheets. I was especially impressed with the staff's good-natured willingness to assist attendees at unscheduled times, and found them to be helpful and patient with my questions.

    My consultation schedule for the first day was rather full, but it left me with lots of ideas for research on the second day, and a few remaining consultations. I was able to meet individually with several NEHGS staff members during the program, and look forward to working with the experts I missed in the future, among them Marie Daly, David Dearborn, David Lambert, Michael Leclerc, Gary Boyd Roberts, and Tim Sallis.

    First, I spoke with Joshua Taylor from the Research Services Department, who offered his experience with technology and website creation. We discussed copyright protection through PDF watermarks and he gave me some ideas for design and marketing with The Family Curator blog.

    Later in the day I met with Judy Lucey, Assistant Archivist, to discuss preserving my own collection of family papers and photographs. It seems that as much as I have read about preservation, I still had questions, and it was helpful to talk pointedly with an expert in the field. Judy told me about HisGen's own archival protocol for working with historic photographs, and suggested some ways that I could economically and easily organize my collections.

    I was organizing my papers (and my thoughts) in the sixth floor reading room, when D. Brenton Simons, President and CEO of the Society stopped to chat. I was so glad to have the opportunity to talk with him about publishing opportunities for my research, and hope to pursue some of these ideas in the future.

    I also met with Julie Otto, Genealogist, and solicited her help over and over in my attempts to master the microfilm reader and scanner. Eureka! We did it. Julie is a phenomenol resource with unlimited enthusiasm. She seems to know just where to find any probate record or local history, and was always ready to help, even during a late-night, last-night marathon session. It was fun to discover that we were nearly born in the same hospital (Queen of Angels, Los Angeles) during the same week of the same year (I'm not telling!). Maybe genealogy was in the stars that year!

    My final "official" consultation was with Rhonda McClure, one of my favorite authors. I showed Rhonda the first few pages of a 1852 court case that had me stumped: Heirs of James Winsor vs. Calvin French et. al. With some deciphering, we determined that my ancestor James Winsor, appeared to be "intemperate" (i.e. a man who liked his liquor) and that after his death his estate had been presented with many bills, among them bills to his father-in-law who seems to have paid for his "board and other things" for nearly two years. Funds were deposited in a Rhode Island bank from the sale of Vermont property, and any number of claims and settlements seem to have been litigated. I had been focusing on researching the problem in Vermont, but Rhonda encouraged me to pursue Rhode Island connections, opening the door to a wealth of available documentation and research. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I left our discussion charged for action.

    I had only one more "Have to meet" on my list, and I was able to find Chris Childs in a free moment to explain a "Childs" research problem. My mother and I met Chris briefly at last year's Southern California Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank, and Mom was sure that "of course he's our cousin" Chris Childs would know just how "our Fanny Childs" fit in the big picture. We knew our ancestor Henry Winsor had married Fanny Childs, but we couldn't find her parents. With information from Aunt Mercy about Fanny's supposed father David Childs, Chris found her in the Childs, Childe family genealogy book; the problem was that she was young enough to be his grand-daughter. Aunt Mercy's note about a second wife gave us a clue, and by searching her name we found a likely family in the next census where the widowed mother was living with a child Fanny's age. A wonderful push in the right direction, thanks to Chris' knowledge and work with the Child/Childe family line. As icing on the cake, Chris then showed me the connection in Ancestors of American Presidents by Gary Boyd Roberts with charts prepared in part by Christopher Challender Child from originals by Julie Helen Otto. It would seem that Fanny is leading us on to other family connections. Maybe Aunt Mercy knew a thing or two after all.

    In his introductory remarks, Ryan Woods noted that availability and expertise of the NEHGS staff is one of the hallmarks of HisGen programs, and I must add my applause to his remarks. The knowledge, enthusiasm, and patience of each genealogist and staff member I met excelled my expectations. My philosophy for attending workshops, classes, seminars is simple, "If I learn one new thing, it's worth the price of admission." Sometimes, I learn two new things, and feel elated. I attended the Spring Research Getaway hoping to learn one or two new things about researching my New England ancestors; my experience showed that the program was a bargain. I learned foundation-building skills that are invaluable, met scores of helpful, knowledgeable people, and feel confident to tackle the next research goal with enthusiasm and focus.

    Read More about NEHGS Spring Getaway

    Part 1: Preparing to Research

    Part 3: Researching at NEHGS

     

     

     

    Tuesday
    May052009

    Tech Tuesday: How to Sky Surf


    In-flight web surfing is now a reality. . . for a small admittance fee (of course). I was surprised to discover on my last flight from JFK to LAX that American Airlines was one of four carriers now offering Gogo inflight internet, on some routes.

    The service works as a wireless hotspot providing internet access for email, websurfing, live news and more. Gogo works with mobile phones and laptops equipped with Wi-Fi, including BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobil. Pricing varies by flight length and device. For example, the Gogo Mobile Flight Pass for cell phones is $7.95, while the cost for laptop is $9.95 for flights shorter than 3 hours, and $12.95 for flights 3 hours or longer.

    Although I didn't sample the service on my netbook or BlackBerry, it was obvious that my fellow passengers were enjoying the service. A man across the aisle viewed streaming video on his iPhone and one row up another passenger surfed the web and appeared to be logging in for email.

    The Gogo website notes AirCanada will soon be joining American, Delta, United, and Virgin America in offering the service. Routes are somewhat limited at present, mostly between JFK and San Francisco or Los Angeles for American and United. Delta plans to have over 300 routes available by the end of the year, and Virgin America offers service on several routes west/east, and west/northwest.

    When it comes to those extra flight charges, Gogo is less expensive than checking a bag. Travel light!

    Thursday
    Apr302009

    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 1: Preparing to Research

    Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part review of my recent research trip to NEHGS. I have tried to address some of my own questions before attending the program for those who are considering research at the Library, and hope my comments are helpful. In Part 2, I will review the one-on-one consultation sessions, and in Part 3, I will discuss research opportunities at NEGHS.

     

    It has been one of my long-time goals to research my family history at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, and this month I was able to take advantage of the Spring Research Getaway offered each year by NEHGS. I classify myself as an Advanced Beginner in genealogical research, and I knew that I would benefit from an orientation and assistance in using the extensive collections at HisGen.

    The three-day Spring Research Getaway promising guided research with one-on-one consultations and special access to the collections appeared to be well-suited for my needs, and I was not disappointed. My experience with NEHGS was very positive from my first correspondence in January. Questions were answered promptly, and information about the program was directed to help me be successful in my research goals.

    I admit that I was quite nervous about attending the program; concerned that my research goals would be either too "big" or too "small." Although I have a graduate degree and know my way around a university library, I've always felt intimidated by microfilm readers and was sure that I would have an awful time with those monsters. I was also traveling alone for part of the trip, which is its own issue. Happily, by the time I left home for Boston I felt ready to research and confident that I would be able to accomplish at least some of my goals.

    Shortly after registering for the program I recieved an email letter and several attachments from Ryan Woods, Director of Education. In addition to travel information, schedule, and liability waiver, the packet included a Participant Interest Sheet. The accompanying "Tips for Completing Your Partipant Interest Sheet" was a mini-couse in how to write research goals: what to include, what NOT to include, and samples of well-written research questions.

    The schedule showed that we would have time for scheduled consultations with NEHGS experts, and time for personal research.

    A few weeks before the program, I received a packet in the mail with a copy of each participant's research sheet, a list of the consulting staff with notes on their areas of expertise with accompanying Facebook-style photo, a guide to the library, and information about Boston and the library vicinity.

    After laboring over my Interest Sheet I asked for a quick review from Midge Frazel, who has researched at HisGen. She gave me the go-ahead and a huge lead on our potentially-common ancestors.

    I also spent some time online at the NEHGS website. As a member, I was able to access the database resources and do some catalog look-ups for books I might want to investigate. I also viewed the Library orientation material so that I would have some idea of what was available where.

    I am glad that I took time to work on my research goals and review the program materials, so that I was able to move foward even after losing my laptop enroute to the program. Ryan Woods was helpful in working out alternate strategies for using computers at the library and took time to give me a brief tour when I stopped in the day before the program began. When I arrived on Day 1, I was ready to hit the ground running.

    Read More about NEHGS

    Part 2 - Consulting With the Experts

    Part 3 - Researching at NEHGS

     

     

    Tuesday
    Apr282009

    Tech Tuesday: Tips for Travel and More on Lojack for Laptops

     

    I have just returned from a 12-day trip which included genealogy research in Boston at NEHGS and family time in the Hudson Valley and Manhattan. As I mentioned last week, my research was nearly sidetracked by a lost laptop, but Dear Mr. Curator saved the day with a replacement, and I have learned quite a bit from the experience.

     

    First, when traveling alone, limit your carry-on baggage. With many airlines now charging a fee for checked bags, it's certainly frugal to carry on whatever you can; but, losing items can be an expensive alternative. When I went through the security checkpoint at LAX, I was instructed to place my items in four separate bins -- shoes, jacket, purse, laptop. I also had a small carry-on bag. At some point, that last bin was stopped in the scanner and in the confusion of reassembling my gear, I turned away from that last bin. When I returned to the line, the laptop was gone. Security and airport police could only run the taped video, but as I didn't want to miss my plane, I couldn't wait. I didn't know that I had to be there in person for the search to take place; this was something I found out later when I called security. As angry as I was with my own inattention, there is much to be said for staying focused as you go through security. The confusion and commotion are pretty distracting, and it is hard enough to keep track of boarding pass, ID, shoes, coat, and any other items.

    Second, be aware of any purchase protection services that may cover your loss. I was glad to discover that my new HP mini-notebook was covered from theft or loss by my American Express card purchase within the 90-day window. AmEx requires paperwork and approval, but hopefully I will be reimbursed for the loss. If I had been past the 90-day coverage, I may have filed a claim with our homeowners insurance and paid the $100 deductible charge to replace the laptop. When our sons left home for college, we added computer coverage to our insurance and were glad to have it in force when laptops were a big-ticket item some years ago.

    Third, carry your data on a flash drive separately from the laptop. I was SO GLAD that my genealogy data was on a little flash drive in my purse. This meant that even if I hadn't replaced my laptop, all was not lost. The only downside for me was that I was unable to access my Legacy data without the program itself. With the replacement laptop, however, I was able to log on to the internet, download Legacy and then open my file. I wouldn't be surprised if more genealogy software companies imitate Roots Magic with the Roots Magic To Go feature in the future. This would be a lifesaver.

    During my first session with Joshua Taylor, computer guru at NEHGS, I explained my mis-adventures and laughingly said I needed something like a lojack for laptops. Without blinking, Joshua said that he had used exactly such a service, and it's called just that "Lojack for Laptops."

    The subscriptions service registers your laptop and is activated when notified that the computer is lost or stolen. Standard service tracks the laptop for recovery; premium service also activates a command to securely delete data on the computer remotely the first time the computer is connected to the internet. Mr. Curator thinks this would be worth the price of admission if I travel again!!!

     

     

    Tuesday
    Apr212009

    Tech Tuesday: Needed--Leash for Laptops

    This week's regular Tech Tues column will be brief: avert Genealogical Disaster by carrying data on a flash drive that is NOT with the computer.



    More on "Lojack for Laptops" and "How to Replace a Lost Laptop when Travelling" next time.



    P.S. -- why do I feel that I am in one of Penelope Dreadful's tales?

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