Sunday, September 13, 2009

NGS article cautions of e-mail data loss risk

Technology is a wonderful thing, but not without its risks. An article on the NGS Upfront blog (the Upfront newsletter is now in blog format), "Set Your E-mail Free," by Editor, Pam Cerutti, reminds us that e-mail is at the same risk for data loss as social networks, photo sites, and blogs themselves. We've cautioned about these risks in several articles on GenWeekly. Backing up data has been our primary theme. Cerutti writes,

"You may have heard about Verizon's sale of its internet services in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont a few months ago. Some readers may even be the victims of the sudden switch of their e-mail addresses from to Neither Verizon nor FairPoint notified all customers in time to tell their family, friends, and business contacts of their new e-mail addresses. Many people not only lost all e-mail they had stored on Verizon's servers, but they also lost new messages that were sent to their void Verizon addresses. Furthermore, when FairPoint took over those accounts, their servers were initially overburdened, causing still more lost e-mail messages."

It's true. Companies go out of business. Companies are sold. Systems crash. What happens to your data is everything goes away suddenly? We hope you are 1) saving your e-mail messages (including contact information) and any documents or photos you may have received to your local computer; and 2) transferring whatever data and sources your have received to your genealogy software program . . . or are at least printing it all out. Then, if a company goes belly-up, you've at least preserved your data. But, as the article points out, there are other, equally important issues, that come with a change in your e-mail provider -- be sure to check it out.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Technology helps FamilySearch hit major milestone

FamilySearch volunteers expect to have transcribed more than 325 million names by the end of 2009, just three years after the organization began its online indexing program," according to an article in today's Deseret News, "Technology helps FamilySearch hit major milestone."

The milestone was a number once thought impossible to reach in such a short period of time. In 2006, a few thousand volunteers indexed only 11 million names. But thanks to continuing advances in technology and a growing number of volunteers -- more than 100,000 across five continents -- an estimated half million individual names are indexed each day. At that rate, Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager, expects that 500 million names will be transcribed by the end of 2010.

The article goes on to explain the scope of the work and the technological innovation driven by the need of efficient methods. I was struck by two quotes, in particular:

"With the technological advances and the ever-increasing number of indexing volunteers, the Ellis Island historical records -- which a decade ago took 12,000 volunteers 12 years to complete -- would take three weeks to index today. "

"The records FamilySearch contains currently, when digitized, would equal 132 Libraries of Congress or 18 petabytes of data -- and that doesn't include our ongoing acquisition efforts."

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Friday, August 21, 2009

What the heck is "data rot" and why do we care?

If you have ever experienced a system crash, you know how devastating it can be -- the challenge of trying to reconstruct information that has been damaged or irretrievably lost is the computer user's nightmare.  As beneficial as computer technology is, and it's revolutionized the field of genealogy, it still comes with a powerful caveat: be aware of "data rot"; that is, the deterioration of the medium on which information is stored (CDs, DVDs, hard drives, magnetic tape, etc.) and the problem of accessing data when medium and the equipment to run it becomes obsolete. "The Ten Commandments on floppy? Where would we be?" explores the issues and what can be done to preserve valuable information.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Simple High=Tech Solution for Genealogists

Although "simple" and "high-tech" might sound like a contradiction in terms, in her latest article, "A Simple High-Tech Solution for Genealogists," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests an "innovative and earth-friendly way of using computerized gadgets you already have" for extracting information from various sources.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

PRO TALK: Virtual Genealogy Presentations

Professional genealogists understand the many challenges of presenting live at conferences; issues of traveling and setup, to say nothing of the expense. In her latest PRO TALK article, "Virtual Genealogy Presentations,"Judy Rosella Edwards offers a viable alternative "without ever leaving home." The discussion covers the various technologies available and how they can be used.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Live Roots Gadget Now Available for Second Life

If you are a Second Life fan, here's some good news. Genealogy Today announced the release of a software gadget for residents in the Second Life (SL) virtual world. This new tool, called the Genealogy HUD, allows SL residents (also known as avatars) to seamlessly access many of the resources at from within the virtual reality environment. For additional details, visit,

Virtual reality has been compared with genealogy for the way its participants connect at an emotional level; to read more about it, see our January 2007 entry, "I think therefore I am Uncle Charlie."

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Personal Blogs as Historical Documents

Today's blogs represent modern day journals, and as such should be preserved. The article, "Personal Blogs as Historical Documents," explores the personal nature of today's blogs and the importance of backing them up . . . offline.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Live Roots on Second Life

An interesting article written last year by Paul Mason, "Searching for the Soul of Cyberspace," compared the experience of genealogists researching their ancestors and times past to those fascinated with virtual reality. Both experiences, although "virtual" as opposed to "actual," evoke similar emotions and personal investment. Well, it appears, those two worlds are now combined. In an article released yesterday, "Live Roots on Second Life," announced Live Roots, a new site launched by GenWeekly publisher Genealogy Today, has come to Second Life (SL), perhaps the premier virtual reality world.

Exactly what is Second Life? Second Life is an Internet-based 3-D virtual world created by is Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe. Now genealogists are flocking to SL for an alternate way to research their family history.

Live Roots on Second Life is a new area created to assist SL researchers, much in the way the RL versions does. In the Live Roots on Second Life area, you can easily locate all of the available SL genealogy (related) areas, and get information about a variety of database companies in the upcoming exhibitor area.

Popular RL blogger/chat host/author/speaker, DearMYRTLE, has coordinated some of the genealogy efforts at Second Life, and helps maintain a calendar of the voice chats. She also recently launched a new blog called Teach Genealogy, where she chronicles the progress of the Union of Genealogy Groups (UGG) genealogy voice chats in Second Life, which she considers R&D to see what folks are learning about on and offline research. For details on joining the Second Life service, be sure to read her post, "Get a SECOND LIFE, genealogists".

Future enhancements to the Live Roots on Second Life area will include being able to preview available results for a specific surname (or full name) you are researching on a variety of database sites.

To learn more about Second Life, visit. To see the Sytem Requirements, go to
Already a Second Life member? Jump to the Live Roots on Second Life area.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

MyHeritiage launches face recognition feature

According to a recent article on, the Tel Aviv-based family tree site MyHeritage has received a $15 million second-round investment from London's Index Ventures, and is now launching a face-recognition feature said to help users organize photos based on who appears in the photos. It can also be used with photos on sites like Flickr, Facebook and Picasa, the article said.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Family tree mapping software integrates with Google Earth

According to a recent press release, a new software package entitled "Map My Ancestors" aims to link the world of Genealogy with the powerful mapping capabilities of Google Earth. Published in the UK by Integrated Earth, "Map My Ancestors" enables users who have exported their family tree from their favourite editing program in the industry standard GEDCOM format, to automatically read and identify places from their tree. A unique feature allows the user to view ratings for the locations which will help them to identify and correct any errors in the automatically assigned locations. Locations that have been corrected are remembered in an internal database so that the user doesn’t need to repeat the process next time a revised GEDCOM file is imported.

"Map My Ancestors" can also save the resulting geographic data in KMZ or KML format, ready to be emailed or published on a web site – enabling other relations or friends to view the data in Google Earth without any other Family Tree software. Since Map My Ancestors uses the online Yahoo Geocoding technology to locate places it has been possible to keep download sizes small enabling a trial version to be made available. Visit for more information to see a tutorial video, and to download and a free trial copy of "Map My Ancestors."

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

MacFamily Tree 5.2 offers 3d Virtual Tree

According to a recent press release, Synium has rolled out its MacFamily Tree 5.2 public beta with the new 3D Virtual Tree.

Never get lost. Navigate even the most complex kinships - in 3D. With our new Virtual Tree, MacFamilyTree 5.2 intuitively displays all kinds of family relations. Hobbyists as well as genealogy experts will fancy the Virtual Tree, making it easy to inspect and navigate one's entire family tree database.

From all perspectives, close-up and from a broader angle, MacFamilyTree renders a three-dimensional mesh of persons and their relations. Highlight common characteristics using different colors and shapes. Navigating the Virtual Tree is simple: just point, click and drag with your mouse, or use a dedicated Navigator to literally fly through your own ancestry.

MacFamilyTree 5.2 also significantly enhances GUI and workflow for editing families. Additionally, GEDCOM import is now even faster than before, and HTML export has been improved to better handle Media contents. This most recent update to version 5 is currently available as Public Beta and fully compatible with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and its predecessor.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Technology dependence can work against us

There's a cute story by Arnold Lobel called, "The Letter." Toad is waiting by the mailbox, sure he's going to get a letter that just never comes. Frog decides to send Toad a letter to make him happy. Frog gives his letter to Snail, who agrees to deliver it. Frog rushes back to Toad's house and together they sit waiting for the letter to arrive. They wait four days. Snail mail is a little slow. In "Snail Mail Revisited," the author shows how too much dependence on technology can be a liability.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Utilizing newsgroups as a genealogy resource

While some researchers may shy away or be unaware, a particular set of tools used in the computer field, Newsgroups, Mailing lists and Bulletin Boards, can be valuable in sharing problems in genealogical research. In his article, "Newsgroups and Genealogy Resources," Alan Smith seeks to clarify terms and simplify the process of accessing available information in this "growing resource."

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Computerized Family History and Genealogy Conference, Mar 14-15

The eleventh annual Conference on Computerized Family History & Genealogy at Brigham Young University is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, 2008. This conference is designed to be a how-to guide for everyone—beginning, intermediate, and advanced researchers. The focus of the conference is to help everyone learn how new computer programs and advancements in existing programs can improve family history and genealogy work.

In addition, representatives from the Family and Church History Department will be discussing how to effectively use LDS Church family history programs. Also this year will be new classes by vendors of products that aid family history work. The conference is sponsored by the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, LDS Family History Library, and BYU’s Division of Continuing Education. Anyone with an interest in family history or genealogy is invited to attend and meet with fellow genealogists and computer enthusiasts.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Genealogy recap and prediction for the future

In a Computerworld article, "Coming Soon: The Mother of All Genealogy Databases." Mike Elgan writes, "I've always found genealogy boring. But it's about to get exciting, very exciting, and for everybody." The article summarizes where genealogy has come in the last 10 years, and what the author finds exciting is his prediction of where it will go in the next 10 years.

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Monday, April 2, 2007

Roots Television - watch, learn, participate

An article today on summarizes Roots Television, a privately owned company founded by professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak and media producer Marcy Brown. Roots Television is an Internet-based viewing channel dedicated to genealogy. According the site's itself, "Roots Television™ is by and for avid genealogists and family history lovers of all stripes. . . . You’ll find everything from DNA Stories, to Flat Stanley’s Family Tree, to the lectures from the latest Genealogy and Technology Conference." Not only can you watch and learn, but Roots Television also accepts user-submitted content on its new "Roots Tube" Channel, and to get people interested is holding a WildRoots contest, where users tell the craziest thing they've done in pursuit of their family tree. It's a brave new world!

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Where in the world is Grandpa Jones?

Wonder no more. With the aid of modern GPS technology, you may be able to pinpoint Granpa's location down to a hair's breadth. In his article, "GSP and Genealogy," Alan Smith provides a little background and information on Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and gives researchers some idea of how this very cool satellite technology can be applied to genealogy. An important point Smith brings into the discussion is documenting, suggesting there may come a time when "GPS location" becomes a standard notation in our genealogical records — one more bit of key information to pass on down the line.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A new deal to scan some 75 million historical records announced

According to an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article, "Kirtas Technologies gets contract to scan genealogy records" announced Victor's Kirtas Technologies Inc., a maker of high-speed document scanners, has signed a deal with The Generations Network to scan more than 75 million historical records. The Generations Network, based in Salt Lake City, Utah runs web sites, including, that have become destination spots for geneaologists. The documents include immigration records and city directories that date back to the 1920s.
The documents include immigration records and city directories that date back to the 1920s. The network will use two high-speed Kirtas scanners to scan nearly 5,000 pages per hour. The scanners use a robotic arm and twin 16.6 megapixel cameras to capture the images. The process reduces stress on the delicate books, Kirtas said. Character recognition software developed by Kirtas helps assure accurate scans.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wait, there's more . . .

We haven't heard the last word on techology and tombstones. An article out Wednesday in the Vancouver Province, Virtual cemeteries promise life everlasting, announced Microsoft is getting in the game. The U.S. computer giant is looking at ways for the dearly departed to store e-mail messages and biographical information for centuries. The information could be stored on tombstones or cremation urns, or in a virtual cemetery on the Internet. Microsoft is researching ways of storing the data for generations without having the storage devices break down. Instructions to access the data could come in multiple languages, even hieroglyphics.

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New iFamily genealogy software for Mac

As reported on, Mac iFamily software remarkable, a new genealogy program for Mac users was announced. "Mac users have long envied the excellent genealogy programs for PCs and have more or less been resigned to using the far more basic offerings such as Reunion or Mac Family Tree. Now, iFamily for Tiger is a genealogy program for Mac users that is not only easy to operate but offers an innovative approach to mapping the family tree."

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007 appoints Megan Smolenyak announced in a press release today the appointment of Megan Smolenyak as Chief Family Historian. An award-winning professional, author and co-author of four books, Smolenyak most recently "rewrote history" by uncovering the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to come through Ellis Island. "We couldn't be more pleased to expand our relationship with Megan and have her join our stellar research team led by noted Loretto Dennis Szucs (Lou)," said Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

"I think therefore I am Uncle Charlie"

You may have more in common with your children and grandchildren than you think. In the BBC News article, Searching for the soul of cyberspace, writer Paul Mason explores the link between genealogy research and virtual reality games. Both, it seems, have the uncanny ability of psychologically transporting people into a time and place removed from the present and generating a strong emotional attachment to their subjects (or characters, as the case may be). Now, suspend all arguments between the reality of "family" and the "unreality" of virtual reality. The comparison is an intriguing concept, which embraced, could generate greater tolerance and understanding across the generations. And goes to show, once again, that we are more alike than we are different.

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Internet-connected tombstones on sale now

A new, digital graveside technology containing the life history the dearly departed is now available to the general public. The Graveside Memory Capsule was announced in a recent press release. The "inconspicuously mounted" device can display pictures, text, audio, music, voice and video, and is immediately accessible at the grave site to anyone with a laptop computer and USB cable. It can even be downloaded on site for later viewing and sharing through CD-ROM or the Internet. The cost is $500.

Plans for a similar product called Cemetery 2.0, was discussed in a Dec. 31 article in, Tombstone technology tells story of deceased. "This is only the tip of the iceberg," predicts Bob Biggins, former head of the National Funeral Directors Association. We can say Amen to that.

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