Category Archives: Society Corner

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.

The Society Journal

There’s another blog in the Moultrie Creek family. Actually, it’s been around for quite a while but now it has a new name. I would like to introduce you to The Society Journal. Focused on small societies and associations, it offers articles on affordable tools and resources to help your society prosper. And, while the focus is on genealogy societies, the information is just as useful for historical societies, military associations, family associations and civic groups adjusting to the digital age.


LiveMinutes – Easy and Affordable Collaboration

Societies always have documents to edit and review along with projects to manage. Round-robin email messages are cumbersome to manage and often get lost or deleted. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy-to-use platform where you could do all this – and more – in one place?

There is! It’s called LiveMinutes.

LiveMinutes note

You are looking at a document being edited in LiveMinutes. On the right is the activity panel where activity within the project is documented and where team members can post – and reply to – messages. Conversations are kept together so you don’t have to go hunting for all the discussion.

If that was all you could do, it would be a very useful platform. Fortunately, it’s just the beginning. Team members can call each other from within the project – using Skype or dialup. LiveMinutes even provides a toll free number and PIN so you can initiate your own conference calls. While talking to your team members, you can be working in the project – pointing to things within a document or making changes. You can upload documents and images to the project for reference and/or review. There’s also a very nice commenting function for reviewing outside documents.

Currently LiveMinutes integrates with Evernote, allowing you to pull notes into your project workspace. They are working to include cloud storage integration via Dropbox and Box.

LiveMinutes is free and supports access to up to five projects. A premium version will be introduced soon costing $5.00/month for unlimited projects along with additional features. I see this as a very useful tool for both societies and families. Most society staff could operate within the 5 project limit with only a few board members needing premium accounts. Families could find this quite useful to organize family events, vacations and reunions. It also has great potential for collaborating with research cousins.

Take advantage of LiveMinutes’ free account to see how you can put this impressive platform to work for you.

A Revolutionary Solution for Meeting Management

Meetings often seem to last forever without accomplishing much. Yes, there’s always that one person who has to comment on every topic, but a good portion of the time is spent doing things that could – and should – be done well before the meeting begins. This is where Evernote comes in. Things like agenda preparation and reviewing reports can be done online before the meeting, leaving only the official approval to be done during the meeting.

Evernote recently announced a collaboration with LiveMinutes. This is a divinely simple platform for collaborative document editing and review. The user’s workspace is organized into projects and each project consists of documents and a messaging panel. Users are invited to participate in a project which gives them editing access to all the documents in the project as well as the messaging panel on the right. The video below gives you an overview of how this all works.

Consider this . . . post a draft meeting agenda in LiveMinutes and have board members comment on proposed additions or deletions. During the meeting, the secretary can mark up the agenda with notes that will become the basis for the minutes of that meeting. Those minutes can be posted in LiveMinutes with a deadline set for comments or corrections. The final copy of the minutes are online and can be reviewed by all before the meeting.

In addition, both the board and individual committees can use LiveMinutes’s conference call feature to have online meetings – or allow someone who can’t attend physically to attend via the  Web. When used for a conference call, the cursor becomes a laser pointer seen by all participants.

But wait! It gets better! This video shows you how to connect LiveMinutes to your Evernote account and the advantages of doing that.

LiveMinutes is free and supports up to 5 projects per user. A premium service will soon be available with unlimited projects for $5/month. As you see in the videos, there will soon be mobile apps available too.


iPad Presentations

I’ve found my iPad works great as a traveling presentation tool. Instead of dragging a laptop and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, I carry my iPad mini along with a VGA connector and an HDMI connector. My iPhone serves as the remote control.

Keynote is my presentation software of choice and I keep most of my presentations in my iCloud account so I can access them just about anywhere. Before leaving home, I make sure to open my presentation on both my iPad and iPhone from the iCloud version. This insures I have a copy of the presentation on the device and can still function even if there’s no Internet connection where I’m presenting.

Setup is quick and easy. I just hook the projector’s VGA cable to the VGA connector plugged into my iPad, open up my Keynote presentation and tap the Play icon.  Then I open Keynote on my iPhone and tap the remote icon. Once it makes the connection to the presentation on my iPad, a big Play button appears. I tap on that and I’m ready to begin. The slideshow below is a quick demo showing how it all works.

NOTE: The Keynote Remote app is no longer needed as long as you have the most recent version of Keynote for iOS on both devices. 

Recently, I’ve been conducting genealogy workshops at our local Council on Aging using a flat-screen television as the display. These are usually conducted in a board room setting. The HDMI connector and an extra-long HDMI cable [3-meter Amazon Basics cable is only $7.50] make it easy for me to present slides and demonstrate live sites right from my iPad. Yes, I do need a Wi-Fi connection for the live demonstrations.

Although I can include transitions and effects in Keynote for iOS presentations, I personally find them a distraction. [I do love them, however, for creating greeting cards with Keynote.] The app only supports the limited selection of fonts available on the devices. Remember this when your building your presentation on your desktop. For a font fanatic like me, it’s a challenge.

One last tip . . . I make sure both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services are turned on for both devices before the presentation. That way, if there’s no Wi-Fi signal in the room, I can still use the iPhone remote via Bluetooth. I haven’t checked the distance limits for Bluetooth, but I have wandered 15 to 20 feet away from the iPad during my presentation and was still able to control the presentation.

My iPad has made presenting a whole lot easier – and lighter. Life is good!

The Posthaven Mailing List

Genealogy societies, historical societies, local civic and social groups, veterans groups and friends of the library often use email to keep their members informed about meetings, special events and society news. This is a good system, except for one thing – managing the mailing list. Even a small mailing list can be a challenge to keep updated – and then there’s the delight of dealing with all the bounced messages every time you send an update. There’s got to be a better way!

One very nice solution is Posthaven. At first look, Posthaven appears to be just a lightweight blog service. It is that, but it’s also a lot more. With Posthaven, you can create a blog site complete with permanent pages to provide information about your group. The blog itself serves as the mailing list manager, message distribution service and an online archive of the information sent to your members. To add content to the blog, you just send a message to the blog’s assigned email address.

The Posthaven Gazette - news, ideas and tips for Posthaven bloggers.

The Posthaven Gazette – news, ideas and tips for Posthaven bloggers.

If you’re scratching your head right now wondering what a blog has to do with a mailing list, keep reading.

Give your members the address to your Posthaven blog site and they can choose to subscribe to your updates – having them delivered as email to their inbox or as a newsfeed to their news reader. When a new item is posted to the blog, it is also be sent to all your subscribers. It even keeps you out of legal trouble by providing online subscribe/unsubscribe functionality so your organization won’t be categorized as a spammer.

Posting to your blog/mail list couldn’t be easier either. Each Posthaven blog has a unique email address and all you have to do is email a message to your blog’s address. The subject line of your message becomes the title of the blog post and the body of the message is the post’s content. You can include formatting, links, photos and even attached files. Posthaven converts it all beautifully into a blog post which is saved to your blog and then emailed to all your subscribers. Not all the post content is forwarded in the email messages, however. Large items like video files and attached documents are posted on the blog site and the email message links to them. This is done to keep the size of the email message within the limits of email service providers.

A Posthaven account will cost you $5.00 a month and each account can create up to 10 blogs. Each blog can have multiple contributors as well as an unlimited number of subscribers. While you may think 10 blogs is overkill – all you want is a mailing list, you will soon find any number of uses for those additional blogs. You can create private blogs as well as public ones, making them great platforms for committees, project teams and special interest groups to collaborate and share information.

If you would like to learn more about Posthaven, you can subscribe to my Posthaven Gazette blog – by email or by feed – and get all the latest news and tips about this impressive platform.

Tech Support for Societies & Associations

I’ve resurrected, renamed and renovated the old Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society as the Moultrie Creek Journal. While the Gazette provides tech support for the family historian, the Journal is focused on doing the same for societies and associations. Topics range from site management to collaboration tools with lots of items in between. I am currently managing the web sites for three organizations – each with very different needs. As a result I’m learning a lot of creative and affordable ways to meet those needs. Many of the things I’m discovering can be very useful to other organizations so I’m documenting those lessons I’m learning.

Moultrie Creek Journal won’t have daily updates – probably more like a weekly thing I’m guessing – but I would like to hear from you what your challenges are and what ways you’ve found to meet them.

Please stop by and say hello.

Blog Your Cemetery Inventory

Have you or your society considered using blogs as part of a cemetery inventory project? The bloggers of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits have demonstrated how a blog adds much more to the story of a cemetery than just a photo and transcription of the grave marker. They’ve added histories of the cemetery itself, follow-on research about the people buried there and information about the design and symbols used on the markers. Best of all, blogs are very search-friendly and attract researchers who often leave comments that provide even more information about the people buried there.

Doesn’t that sound a lot more interesting than a data table of bare bones text?

While this could be done on just about any blog platform, the tumblr platform combines free blogs, multiple author support and mobile apps into an amazingly easy platform that will not only provide a good home for the stories of your cemeteries, but also impressive tools to post content directly from the cemetery.

The tumblr blog platform can be a great support system for individuals and societies doing on-site cemetery inventories. With a free tumblr blog and companion mobile app [iOS, Android & Windows Phone – free], you can turn loose an army (okay, a platoon) of volunteers who can photograph, document details and post right from their phones.

Tumblr supports multiple contributors (called members) on all secondary tumblrs. [NOTE: A user’s first blog is the primary blog and only that user can post to it.] If you’re inventorying multiple cemeteries, it would probably be best to create a separate tumblr for each. The site administrator invites each volunteer as a member of that cemetery’s blog. All it takes is to go to the Member screen and enter the email address for a volunteer, then click the Invite button. That volunteer will receive an email with instructions to join the blog – and register an account on tumblr if he doesn’t already have one. The volunteer will be able to publish posts on the blog, but can’t perform any of the blog management functions. Once the volunteer has joined the blog, he installs the appropriate app on his smartphone and uses that login to connect to the blog through his device.

Now it’s time to do some field work.

At the cemetery, capturing details about each grave is as simple as creating a photo post, taking one (or more) photos of the grave/marker, adding whatever text information is required, then publishing the post. At this stage of the process, content is more important than style. You may want to have a volunteer sitting at home on a desktop computer reviewing the posts as they are published. This volunteer – who has a full-size screen and a standard keyboard – can review the photographs, clean up any typos and call field workers when a photo needs to be retaken or there’s a question about the post.

Although tumblr doesn’t have the organizational features found in more sophisticated blog platforms, a good system of tags can make it easier to access any of your posts. Tags can be added at any time – as part of the original posting from the field and/or during any of the reviews or updates performed by your staff. The key is to build a taxonomy (standard) for the tags you’ll use to define your posts. Surname is one obvious tag, but you might want to include tags for marker styles or to define a mausoleum. There’s no limit to the number of tags you can use, but consistency is important.

Individual posts can be edited at any time to add additional information. If you want to research individuals, you can add the information you’ve discovered to the existing post or create a new one. Some creative tagging on your part will allow visitors to pull together all the posts associated with a particular surname or topic by just clicking a displayed tag.

In the example shown below, you’re looking at an individual post in the Huguenot Cemetery blog. Notice the tags in the left column. A visitor could click any of those tags and tumblr displays all posts containing that tag. Now look at the menu across the top of the page. Tumblr supports pages although they are a bit clunky to create. This blog uses the page feature to provide the history of this cemetery. Additional pages could be created to list research resources or whatever information you want to provide.

Cemetery tumblr

Using a blog to inventory a cemetery can add value to your society archives. Using a blog platform such as tumblr can help simplify the process. Want to learn more about tumblr? The Unofficial, Beginners Guide to Tumblr is a good place to start.