North Florida Genealogy Conference – Call for Presentations

The North Florida Genealogy Conference will be held on March 21, 2015 in Orange Park, Florida. This one-day conference offers both presentations and exhibits at a very affordable price.

They have just released a call for presentations. Selected speakers receive a complimentary registration and are reimbursed for their gas costs. If you are interested in submitting a proposal, the SGES blog has the details.

Create a Digital Family Treasure Chest

As I look around my office I see dozens of family treasures ranging from portraits and other artwork to souvenirs of our travels to pieces of furniture. Every one of these pieces has an associated story. I know the stories to many – but not all – of these treasures because either I was there when one was acquired or someone else passed the story along with the piece.

And, just because they are in my possession doesn’t mean I’m the only person interested in them. I have siblings, cousins and friends who also have connections to many of these treasures. How can we all share these items – and the collected knowledge associated with them? By taking advantage of some very simple digital tools and a family-friendly blog platform, we can build a digital family treasure chest and post scanned or photographed copies of these treasured items in a controlled environment that’s only accessible to family and selected friends.

TelegraphTreasures

Since privacy and simplicity are the two primary requirements for any private family site, I’ve chosen Posthaven as the platform for my treasure chest. Most of my family aren’t about to visit a family site on a regular basis and the concept of posting content to a web site is like expecting them to become proficient in Latin. Ain’t . . . gonna . . . happen. Most site members receive site updates via email and can reply with their comments or send a fresh email message which Posthaven will treat as a new “post”. The collective conversation is maintained online in the family’s private blog.

Posthaven simplifies access management too. Only the site manager needs to have an account. Others are welcome to set up their profiles – and include passwords for access to the site’s work area. Everything else is managed by email. Posts are only delivered to the addresses identified as members. The site manager adds members by entering their email address and defining whether they are members (can only view content) or contributors (can view, comment and submit).

To post content, contributors just send an email message to the site’s email address. The subject line of the message becomes the title and the content of the message becomes the body of the post. In the example above, the two photos were attached to the email message and Posthaven automatically set up for display online and via email. Video attachments will be embedded in the post and even document attachments are included as embedded Scribd documents.

Email recipients who wish to comment on a message/post can do that by hitting reply to the original email message. All members will receive a copy of the reply and it will be attached as a comment to the original post online.

Any blog platform can work as a home for your family’s digital treasure chest, but Posthaven is so easy and flexible that it you are quite likely to find comments from family members who wouldn’t think of commenting on “normal” blog sites. Posthaven will cost you $5.00 a month but your account will support up to 10 blogs at no extra cost. To learn more about Posthaven, download my Posthaven Primer. It’s free!

iPad Genealogy

Lately I’ve found I’m spending more and more research time on my iPad. There are two reasons for this – Evernote and MobileFamilyTree [iOS - $14.99]. MobileFamilyTree has a companion app for the desktop called MacFamilyTree [Mac - $49.99] but although both can use the same database when it’s stored on iCloud, the mobile app is entirely independent of the desktop version. I believe at the moment, it’s the only mobile iOS app that is. Another advantage is that both versions can synch family tree data with FamilySearch.org.

MobileFamilyTree person page.

MobileFamilyTree person page.

One thing I love about both the Mac and Mobile editions is that I can view and edit all of a person’s detail information on one screen without constantly opening and closing data boxes. That is so irritating.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Even with MobileFamilyTree’s synching capability, I still prefer to do most of my FamilySearching via web browser. Why? so I can capture source information and download record image files into Evernote. I’ve found the Dolphin Browser [iPad - free] has a much better Evernote capture interface than the Safari browser on the iPad. It works much like the Web Clipper installed on my desktop Safari.

Granted, the iPad is not the best platform for bouncing around between web sites and apps – something I tend to do a lot. My solution is to take written notes. Sure that slows me down, but I’m finding that’s actually a good thing. Writing those notes instead of copy/pasting or clipping them makes me think about them more – more time to consider what this record adds to my research. At the end of a session, I’ll use Evernote on my iPad to photograph those notes so they can easily be found again when I need them. So far, I’ve had very good luck with Evernote’s search engine “reading” my handwriting.

What’s the down side? Trying to read original documents – especially census records – on my iPad mini’s small screen. Sure I can zoom into a document so I can see the content, but when I do it’s displaying such a small bit of screen area that I’m scrolling all over the place trying to see all the information. That gets real tedious real fast.

Am I ready to give up my desktop? Not even. I do find that developing mobile research skills and workflows at home has significantly improved my efforts when researching at the library. Since I’m planning a couple of research trips, these skills can become even more useful when I have a limited amount of time in a distant archive.

That being said, I do see where the iPad could become a primary research tool – especially for seniors who never used a computer but have found the iPad quite useful. Platforms like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org seem to be making it easy to get them started and I expect that’s a trend that will continue to grow.

Mobile Toolbox – Documents by Readdle

The Documents app [iOS - free] is at the top of the must-have apps list for genealogy research. It serves as a document reader, media player and file manager – all in one beautiful package. With Documents, you can search, read, bookmark and annotate iWork and MS Office documents, read PDF documents and ebooks (ePub and FB2), view photos and videos and even listen to music.

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The file manager screen in Documents for Readdle.

Need to view a document attached to an email message? No problem. Just long-tap the attached file and choose the Open in Documents option. There is also a built-in browser so you can find and download documents from web sites.

If that’s not enough, Documents also serves as an impressive file manager, giving you access to your computer and cloud services. Using the Wi-Fi Drive feature, you can upload documents from your desktop computer to your iPad using your desktop browser. You can also share files with your favorite cloud storage service and download online files directly to Documents. Of course there are tools to copy, move and delete the files saved in Documents. You can even select and zip a number of files. Use the Share icon to send any of your files to someone via email.

Other Readdle apps work with Documents to give you even more functionality. For example, adding Printer Pro [iPad - $6.99] makes it easy to print attachments, documents or web pages from your device to either Wi-Fi or USB printers. (Note: USB printing requires a free helper app installed on your computer.) PDF Converter [iPad - $6.99] can convert the files managed in the Documents app – including those stored in cloud services such as Dropbox – to PDF documents. Need to fill in PDF forms, sign documents or markup documents for review? Then PDF Expert [iPad and iPhone - $9.99] is the app for you.

Readdle’s suite of document management apps give your iPad an amazing amount of functionality and access to your files and documents wherever they are stored. All of this in your choice of easy-to-use and affordable packages.