Meet the Genealogy Gophers

Did you know that there are thousands of digitized family histories, regional and local histories, genealogy magazines along with how-to books, gazetteers, newsletters, and medieval histories freely available online? Organizations like Project Gutenberg, FamilySearch, Internet Archive, Google Books and educational institutions have been hard at work for years. That’s both good news and bad news. While there are a lot of freely-accessible publications available, finding them can be a challenge. That’s where Genealogy Gophers comes in. The Gophers have built an amazing search engine that will not only find the publication, but find – and display – the information that matches your search. In the example below, I’m looking for information about my ancestor, John Lewis Gervais, in South Carolina.

Sample Search Results

 

Within seconds I had two pages of results with excerpts showing the information matching my search. Clicking the title will display a screen that includes source information for that publication along with a reader opened to the page where the information on my ancestor appears.

the reader screen

In this example, there is only one page referencing my ancestor. The orange pointer you see at the bottom of the reading window is a bookmark to that page. In publications where there are multiple results, you will see additional pointers. Click on a pointer to move to that page. There are also controls to navigate forward and backward in this book, enlarge or reduce the view and more. Notice the link at the top of the reader to download a PDF copy of the publication.

Genealogy Gophers is free if you don’t mind responding to a number of surveys. If you don’t like surveys, a $19.95/year subscription will remove them.

 

The Genealogy Column at Boston Evening News

The Boston Evening News was published from 1830 to 1941. Between 1906 and 1941, it featured a genealogy column in which readers would submit and respond to queries. It is estimated that two million names had been included in those columns. This collection is part of the archives at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society.

Recently they partnered with FamilySearch to digitize the collection. Several weeks later the scanning was completed and the collection is now browsable at AmericanAncestors.org (the NEHGS website). The Vita Brevis blog has details on the collection and tips for using it to learn more about your family.

 

Society Scrivener

How does your society maintain the many articles published in your quarterly journals and newsletters? Over the years those publications become quite an archive of genealogical goodness. That’s the good news. The bad news is that in many cases your archive is mostly paper copies. Even if you’ve saved the master copies created on desktop computers, chances are good that the software used to create…

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Society Scrivener

How does your society maintain the many articles published in your quarterly journals and newsletters? Over the years those publications become quite an archive of genealogical goodness. That’s the good news. The bad news is that in many cases your archive is mostly paper copies. Even if you’ve saved the master copies created on desktop computers, chances are good that the software used to create them no longer exists and you can no longer read those old files.

Why is this a problem? The articles and transcribed records published in those old issues could be a goldmine of revenue for your society if you can digitize and organize them. Once that is done, it is then possible to make them available for sale. Fortunately, many of today’s scanners are able to create digital files of “editable text”. Instead of just having a photocopy of each page, you can actually copy/paste the text from the scanned file. You don’t have to have a high-end scanner either. Many of your members have impressive scanner apps on their phones. They may not be the best choice for an archival quality copy of the original document but they will give you editable text with a minimal amount of effort. Look for a scanner – desktop or mobile – offering OCR (optical character recognition) support.

Scanning will make it possible to digitize your paper masters, but now you need a safe place to organize and keep them for future use. That’s where Scrivener comes in. Scrivener is not a word-processing program, but rather a writing platform. What’s the difference? It’s designed to organize manuscripts into scenes rather than documents. The writer can then arrange and rearrange those scenes as needed. For the family historian, it means you can write the stories as your research gives them to you and then arrange them into timelines, family groups or whatever. For the publications chair, it makes collecting, organizing and managing articles a lot easier. And it supports Markdown [see An Introduction to Markdown] which will insure those articles won’t get left behind as technology moves forward.

Scrivener ($45.00) is available for both Windows and Mac desktops. In the example below you are looking at a society newsletter project in Scrivener for Mac. The selected article appears in the editor panel while the sidebar provides access to individual articles organized into folders by issue. The Front Matter section holds repetitive content such as publishing guidelines and copyright notices. There are also areas for managing graphics, notes and even research (making it so useful to family historians).

Screenshot-01.png

Scrivener can import files created in Word, Pages and other formats, so it’s easy to pull member-submitted articles into your project. It also supports including photos and graphics. It offers features like automatic backups to protect your work and snapshots so you can quickly return to a previous version of an edited article.

The compile feature makes it possible to export the entire publication or just selected articles. Your publication can be exported to rich text (RTF) or Word (DOCX) format for printing or further formatting. You can compile to HTML, ePub and Kindle format using custom stylesheets. Scrivener includes a number of compile formats so you can choose how your compiled document will look. You can also create your own custom formats. These would be quite useful if your publish in a “journal” format, however an outside app like InDesign would still be needed for more complex magazine-style layouts.

If you are using Markdown within the Scrivener editor, you can compile and export an “archival” copy of each issue or project in plain text format. If you do not use Markdown, export your archival copy to HTML. It is also plain text only it has a lot more “formatting code” elements than Markdown.

Since Scrivener is unlike most word-processing apps, it will take some time to get comfortable using it. Fortunately it is so popular with writers – and now family historians – that there’s a lot of support out there. Lynn Palermo’s Scrivener for the Family Historian [PDF – $9.99 or Print via Amazon – $14.99] is a good place to start.

Next up . . . what to do with that collection of genealogical goodness once it’s all digitized and organized.

Eastern North Carolina Genealogy Society Quarterlies Digitized

NEW RESOURCES Some of the Quarterly Review of the Eastern North Carolina Genealogical Society has been digitized and put online. “15 volumes of the Quarterly Review of the Eastern North Carolina Genealogical Society are now available on DigitalNC, contributed by the New Bern-Craven County Public Library.” A database of Nordic women in filmmaking is expanding […]

Details at ResearchBUZZ