I’ve been getting acquainted with FamilySearch’s integration with MacFamilyTree and I’m loving the Show Citation tab that shows up at the bottom of a record – like the census page shown here.
I’m also becoming quite enamored with My Source Box where I can collect and organize sources in one convenient location. And, when I expand one of the sources, it gives me both the link to the source if it’s available and an easily copied citation.
I belong to several “nostalgia” groups on Facebook – an alumni group for my high school and a couple of groups discussing local history. I am amazed at the photos and stories that regularly appear in those groups. Recently a fellow researcher in the Georgia county where my mother’s family lived recommended a similar group for that county. What a treasure! Not only do I enjoy seeing people and places I remember from our frequent summers in that area, it’s a wonderful way to get reacquainted with old friends and long-lost cousins. It’s something else too – a way to develop relationships with other locals to learn more about the area and even family members no longer with us. Something as simple as posting a photograph can generate some amazing conversations and some very interesting leads.
You might also look to see if a local historical or genealogical society has a presence on Facebook. They could provide information on local resources – especially useful if your planning a trip to that area.
Are you using Facebook to help research distant locations? If so, what kind of results have you had?
doo may just be the genealogist’s new best friend. This platform creates an index of your documents on your local drives and on cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive and even Evernote. You can also connect to your email services to have doo index your messages. Once indexed, you can use the doo app on your desktop [Mac available now, Windows 8 soon] or mobile device [iPhone and Android devices now, iPad soon] to locate files in your collection. Using the phone apps, you can photograph a document and doo will OCR it and index it in your document collection.
Click on the image to watch the video at the doo site.
I’ve installed doo on my Mac and iPhone and it’s indexing my local Documents folder and one of my email accounts. I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s as good as they say it is. If so, it could be a researcher’s dream. I’ll keep you posted.
eReaders and tablets have become a must-have tool for genealogical research. We can now carry our genealogy databases with us to the research library, read while we sit in the waiting room and scan documents wherever we find them. They also give us the ability to keep a research library with us wherever we are.
What do these devices provide that makes them so useful to family research? First, every ebook is fully searchable. You can quickly find things that never show up in the index of a print book. You can load a device with hundreds of books so you can carry an entire reference library with you at all times–without breaking your back. Even if you have limited storage on your tablet, you can keep your library in an easily-accessible cloud storage account. Many devices and apps offer the ability to highlight and annotate your books. Some even let you share your notes with others. Speaking of sharing, a growing number of ebook sellers let you lend your purchased books to others, and many public libraries have subscribed to the OverDrive service so they can offer ebook lending, too.
These tablets and readers can also read PDF documents. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort scanning family documents, genealogical and historical society periodicals and other useful documents into searchable PDFs and I can now read them on my iPad. Since they’re searchable, I can quickly get right to the passage I need using my reader app’s search function.
How does all of this put me into a “better place” as far as my research goes? First of all, I have the books and documents I frequently use on my iPad as either an ebook or a PDF. They are with me at the research library, the Family History Center and on a research trip. I’ve moved my magazine subscriptions to digital whenever possible and although they aren’t as search-friendly as other publications, I can maintain my collection of back issues with little effort and no guilt. I’ve been digitizing the society journals that don’t yet offer electronic versions of their pubs–and frequently reminding them how much money they would save if they did offer digital editions. My workspace clutter is slowly beginning to disappear and I’m finding it easier to put my fingers on the information I need thanks to my computer’s search box.
There has been another unexpected–and very pleasant–result of my move to a more digital library. There are a number of public domain digital libraries that are digitizing dozens of new books every day. Many offer news feeds announcing each new book added to the collection. You’ll be amazed at the number of local histories, personal memoirs, regimental histories and published genealogies that are being digitized. Then there are the 19th century periodicals like Harper’s and The Atlantic along with a growing number of alumni magazines from universities and even medical and scientific journals. All of these can provide some amazing research jewels.
Where do you find these nuggets of genealogical goodness? Here’s a list of digital libraries to get you started:
- Internet Archives. This is a truly amazing organization dedicated to digitizing not only books but audio, video, web sites and more. In the Texts section you can browse the many libraries and collections or search for specific content. They offer an RSS feed announcing their latest additions. A quick look at the collections included in the American Libraries section shows some familiar names–Allen County Public Library, New York Public Library, The Library of Congress and the Georgia Historical Society. The site has a web-based reader so you can navigate and read books right in your browser, and they offer downloads in formats for just about any e-reader.
- Google Books. Google has been digitizing books for years. The collection includes both public domain and copyrighted publications. They also provide a web-based reader and downloadable files. And, being Google, it has amazing search functionality. You can create a personal library in your Google profile to keep the useful books within easy reach, or download copies in several formats.
- Project Gutenberg. This is the oldest and largest library of digital books. Since 1971, volunteers have been digitizing books and making them available to all. It’s not the best platform to browse, but does have a very good search engine. You might also check out the various bookshelves (topics) for books related to specific historical events or geographical locations. Books can be read online or downloaded in a number of formats.
- ManyBooks is a much smaller library but has two things that make it very useful–RSS feeds by category and a very pleasant browsing experience. Titles often include nice descriptions and there is a facility for readers to add their own reviews. It also offers a large number of download formats. Although I use this library more often to find pleasure reads, the RSS feeds have delivered several histories that have provided useful tidbits for my family research.
The efforts by these groups–and many others–to digitize historical books and publications are quickly becoming yet another research asset for the family historian. You can access any of these resources right from your desktop, but as your library grows you may well want to add an e-reader or tablet to your digital toolbox.
I am fascinated with the possibilities that Google + and Hangouts offer the genealogy community. And, with the new mobile apps things are getting even better. Hangouts gives us all the flexibility of Apple’s FaceTime but without the only-Apple-devices limitations. I am especially fascinated with the Communities feature and the potential they offer. Pat and Russ are the pioneers in this area with the DearMYRTLE community. There’s a lot to be learned from their examples – and their always informative Hangouts on Air.
I’ve noticed a RootsMagic Users community along with communities for African-American Genealogy, Cemetery Photography, Evidentia users and Civil War Research. I find these focused communities much more interesting than the generic genealogy or family history ones. Right now I belong to the Evernote community which is very informative, but I have to wade through a lot of things that don’t apply to my use of Evernote to find each nugget I can use. Having an Evernote in Genealogy community would put the focus closer to my needs while still being broad enough to cover any number of genealogical uses. So I built it.
If you’re using Evernote as a research tool, I hope you will join us at Evernote in Genealogy and share your experiences, tips and best practices.
I’m also looking forward to discovering even more topic-focused communities in genealogy and family history. This could get very interesting (and useful) very quickly.
I am fascinated with the number of small histories becoming available through various public domain digitizing projects. By “small” I mean histories targeting a particular event, military unit or person. Memoirs, regimental histories, journals and genealogies are showing up regularly. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the volunteers digitizing all these fabulous publications are focused on the process and often the catalog record only lists the most basic of information.
Wandering the stacks at the local library or book store is a delightful experience. Books are organized by topic and displays are designed to catch your eye and your interest. If a title or cover looks interesting, there’s the teaser to help you decide if this is the book for you. Browsing has always been a fun way to find my next read.
Browsing a digital library leaves a lot to be desired. If you know which book you want, it’s easy to find using the library’s search feature, but looking for inspiration can be a challenge. Barnes & Noble has the best online storefront. Each book has a synopsis, editorial and customer reviews, information about the author and recommendations for other similar books. And, thanks to e-books, we can now often download a sample to see if this is what we want. It’s a delight to wander through this digital display trying to grab both my attention and my cash. Why can’t public domain libraries provide a similar experience?
Actually, some of them can. The infrastructure is in place to provide much of this information. They just need some help in pulling it all together. One of my favorite online libraries is ManyBooks. It’s a great spot to find both fiction and research titles – all of them in the public domain so you can download them at no cost. Once you’ve registered, you can build your own collections – called bookshelves – or add them to your GoodReads collection if you are so inclined. You can download the book in any number of electronic formats so they are all readable on just about any e-reader. I find the reviews especially useful and, since anyone can add a review, it’s a good way to give back to the community. You can also subscribe to their RSS feed and learn when new books are added to the library. I have found journals, memoirs, military histories and biographies are regularly added to this library. It’s also been my experience that the e-books are better quality – better formatting, fewer typos, etc. – than many other public domain libraries.
Other public domain digital libraries include:
- Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest and largest collections of digital books. It’s search feature is a joy to behold, but each book page is limited to basic bibliographic data and the list of format options available for download. If you know what you’re looking for, this is a good place to find it.
- Internet Archive collections include video, audio and music along with texts and while each book’s page is basic bibliographic stuff, their Open Library project provides an editable catalog of all their books in a very user-friendly format. Users are encouraged to add descriptions, reviews and other information about the book.
- Feed Books has a limited collection of non-fiction, but if you’re looking for some affordable pleasure reading, this is a good place. It has descriptive information along with the bibliographic stuff and readers often use the comments to review books. As with ManyBooks, Feed Books quality is a notch above many of the public domain collections.
These are just some of the online libraries offering digital editions of books useful in your research. The number of universities and associations building digital libraries is growing daily. We’ll take a look at how to find and manage their information in future articles.
The folks at Digg have announced they are working on a reader to replace Google Reader. According to their blog post, it was already on the todo list but is now a priority item on that list. It will be interesting to see what they produce.