Google Books: The App

There’s probably not a genealogy presentation I give that I don’t mention the website Google Books.  There’s a good reason for this. Never at any time in history have we had access to so many books at our fingertips. Genealogists rely on books for information ranging from family histories and periodicals to city directories and local histories. Researching our family history from the comfort of our home or on the go is a new concept and Google Books provides us that luxury with its digitized collection of books and periodicals.

So it makes sense that with that type of easy to access content there will be times you might not want to be sitting at a computer as you peruse a book that either names your ancestor or provides social history background on their lives. My experience with using the Google Books website on my cell phone is that it is not user friendly. I can’t seem to get the text large enough to see even with my reading glasses and I just find it downright frustrating. Yes, it could be just me but this is the reason that websites develop apps, so that the website can be more easily used on a mobile device.

Google play books homescreen

Now why would you want the Google Books app on your phone? It’s about more than the ability to search for books easily from anywhere. It’s the ability to view and read books you have saved and purchased from Google Play (yes, you can purchase books and download free eBooks from Google Books). The app includes tools for not only viewing your books on your mobile device but they increase the readability of those works via the brightness or tone. Plus it offers the ability to take notes, highlight, and bookmark passages so you can study the text you need for your research. Yes, the app provides access to books but it does much more. In fact the Google Play Help says: You can use Google Play Books to download, read, and listen to e-books and audiobooks on a computer, Android phone or tablet, iPhone, iPad, or e-Reader. You can use Google Play Books on more than one device. You can also listen to audiobooks on your Google Home and through Google Assistant.[1]

Google play books tools


The Google Play Books app is  like having an eReader on your cell phone. Apple's iTunes advertises that other features of the app include the ability to :

  • Read your books, comics, and textbooks even when you’re offline
  • Tap the page and watch your favorite comic book or manga come to life with Bubble Zoom
  • Take notes that sync with your Google Drive and share them with a group for easy collaboration.
  • Use the Night Light setting to automatically adjust the background color and brightness to make it easier for you to fall asleep[2]

Google play books tone

 

And you can do even more than that because Google Play Books allows you to upload PDFs and eBooks from other sources onto your Google Play Books app. So it does become your own personal mobile library.

To download the app, go to your mobile device’s app store and search for Google Play Books. I found the best way to learn all of the app’s features is to play around with it but you can also refer to Google Play Help.

Is the app as good as Google Books? Well, it’s different. It doesn’t have everything I like about Google Books because it is focused on providing you access to books you’ve purchased or saved. So for example, the My Library bookshelves aren’t there but to be fair they were also missing in earlier renditions of the app. Like most apps, Google Play Books doesn’t replace the website but it does help you have the content of Google Books available on your phone.

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

[1] “Get Google Play Books on your favorite device,” Google Play Help (https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/4517692?hl=enL: accessed 17 January 2019).

[2] “Google Play Books,” ITunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-play-books/id400989007?mt=8: accessed 18 January 2019).


An Overlooked Source for Finding U.S. Records Online

Chances are when you started your family history journey you were helped by someone who was a volunteer. A genealogy society or Family History Center volunteer may have taught you how to start your research. There’s no doubt that we all  benefit from websites that offer free content transcribed, uploaded, or indexed by volunteers. Lucky for all of us, there are volunteers in the genealogy world that help others in our common quest to know our ancestors.

There are special people in the genealogy online world who have been helping researchers for decades to find the information they need. They create online link portals or genealogical finding aid websites. Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List, Karen Isaacson and Brian (Wolf) Leverich of Linkpendium are the names behind two such popular websites. One other unsung hero of genealogy is Joe Beine. Joe’s websites help researchers find passenger lists, U.S. vital, immigration, military, and census records.

U.S. Vital Records

DeathIndexes
Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records is one of my favorite websites for links to U.S. death record resources. Search by state and then county for links to both free and fee based websites for “death records, death certificate indexes, death notices and registers, obituaries, wills and probate records, and cemetery burials.” Big cities such as, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, New York and St Louis have their own Death Records web pages to peruse. Don’t forget to click on the link to the Obituaries Guide for obituary indexes and websites for religious groups, physicians, firefighters and police officers. The link for Genealogy Records & Resources found at the bottom of the website, next to the Obituaries Guide link, includes other website links and research guides that that can assist you in your research such as U.S. Census Records Mortality Schedules 1850-1880, Records of Deaths of U.S. Citizens in Foreign Countries and the Panama Canal Zone, and the Online Death Indexes and Records for Canada.

Online Birth & Marriage Records Indexes for the USA is a sister site to Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records except it largely focuses on statewide records and doesn't include the individual big city pages. This website  also includes links to divorce records.

Naturalizations and Passenger Lists

Ship Passenger Lists and Records Online features two web pages, Online USA Ship Passenger Lists and Online International Passenger Lists. This collection is part of the Emigration and Immigration Records and Resources web page by Beine. There you will find U.S. Passenger Arrival Records, Passenger Departure Records, and Naturalization Records and  records  for Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, and Canada.

U.S. Naturalization records are tricky. Anyone who has heard a presentation on the topic knows that the year 1906 is important, it signifies when naturalization began to be under Federal control. Prior to that, your ancestor could have been naturalized in any number of places, so finding those records can be difficult at best. Places to Find U.S. Naturalization Records and Indexes Online includes links to online indexes and and state records for naturalizations making it a bit easier to find  online records.

Military and Census Records

Online WWII

It's no surprise that Online Searchable Military Records & Databases and U.S. Census Records: Tips, Resources & Online Records have links to those records. However, don't just click on links you find, but instead really explore the websites. The link, Online World War Two Records, Indexes and Draft Records,  under the World War Two heading may seem to be a singular link to a website with records but instead it’s a portal to  everything from military records, draft registrations, cemeteries, causalities, and records by state. What I love about the Census page is that there is information about researching the census and what the census can tell us. It’s easy to assume that you know everything there is to know about the census, but these links to guides such as State Census Records Genealogy Research Guide can help you make sure you truly exhaust everything census-wise for your ancestor. While the Census page is focused on U.S. research, there are links to census records for Ireland and Canada.

German roots screen

If you have taken some time to explore the websites I’ve mentioned above you might notice that the root URL for all except Online Death Indexes is “germanroots.” Do you have German ancestors? Beine's German Roots is a an online German genealogy resource guide with links and help for searching your German ancestors.

Need to find genealogy on the Internet? Make sure to check out genealogy finding aids like Cyndi’s List, Linkpendium, and Joe Beine’s websites to find the links for the resources, indexes, and records you need.

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Try Goodreads for Genealogy Inspiration

Are you using Goodreads ? I will admit that I wasn’t until recently. It was one of those websites that I signed up for years ago and then almost as soon as I had, I forgot about it. Recently my nephew helped me to see the importance of Goodreads and how it can be helpful to family historians.

Goodreads website

First, let me explain what Goodreads is. The Goodreads About Us web page states, “Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love.” Wikipedia  explains that Goodreads is “a social cataloging website that allows individuals to freely search its database of books, annotations, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions.”

To be honest, even though I LOVE books, these website descriptions weren’t enough to interest me. What did finally interest me was the ability to create virtual  “bookshelves” of books I want to read or have read. Goodreads does more than this but I want to focus on this aspect of the app and how it can help family historians.

What really convinced me to give the Goodreads app a try were the experiences and enthusiasm of  those around me. My brother and nephew use it to find new books and track their reading. My brother even challenged himself to set a reading goal for 2018 which you can do via the Goodreads Reading Challenge (you can find this under the More link on the app). Legacy Webinar speaker and archivist Melissa LeMaster Barker (The Archive Lady) says, “I am an avid user of the Goodreads app. I love the fact that I can access my collection of genealogy and archives books that I own anytime and anywhere. This comes in real handy when I am at the bookstore and I am wondering if I have a particular book, I just check the Goodreads app. Also, if I come across a source citation for a particular book in a reference work at the archives, I can check to see if I have that book by checking the app. I can also add genealogy and archives related books to my “to-read list” by just accessing the app and adding the book to the list.”

So after talking to friends and family it became obvious to me that Goodreads would enhance my reading life by tracking genealogy books I read and finding new books  to read to learn about my ancestors' life.

Getting Started

How do you get started with Goodreads? You can sign up for a free account on the Goodreads website or through the mobile app. I suggest that you use the app since that will give you the tools you need away from home at libraries and bookstores. To use the app you will need to first download the free Goodreads app  from your mobile device’s app store. Although you could just use the desktop version of the service, the Scan  feature is only available using a mobile device with a camera (more on this later).

Searching for Books

The Goodreads app is fairly simple to use. Why I fell in love with it is its ability to add books to virtual bookshelves labeled, Want to Read, Currently Reading, and Read. Goodreads allows you to create additional bookshelves. I, of course, created a “genealogy” shelf but I could see this being useful for more specific genealogical topics (think DNA or Eastern European Genealogy). You can view your shelves and the books on them by clicking on My Books at the bottom toolbar of the app.

Home


Two ways to add books to your bookshelves are by searching for a book (click Search at the bottom of the app and then enter a title or author) or  click on the books featured on the Goodreads  home page in  categories like  Trending and Popular or based on what you have read or what your “friends” have read/reading/ or want to read. Yes, Goodreads allows you to “friend” others (family, real life friends, those with similar reading interests) just as you do on other social media websites.

My books 2

 

Another way to add books is actually my favorite part of the mobile app,  the Scan feature. I don’t know about you but when I’m at a bookstore, the books I’m interested in far outweigh the amount of money I have to spend. So when that happens, you can scan the book’s barcode (look at the back cover) and Goodreads will identify that book and allow you to place it on a bookshelf. Easy! Now when I’m at a library,conference, a bookstore, or even a friend’s house, I can easily upload the books I want to read. And, I can even upload books in my own collection. What a great idea since I’ve bought the same book more than once on several occasions!

Scan book 2

There’s More

I’m just touching the surface of what you can do with Goodreads. Goodreads has other features that will enhance your genealogy as well including the ability to join groups, review what you’ve read,  and connect your Kindle with Goodreads (Goodreads is owned by Amazon) so that you can view your Kindle notes and highlights on the Goodreads app (to learn more about using Goodreads and Kindle together see the Goodreads Help subjects on this topic.)

Use Goodreads for your genealogy? Yes! Keep track of your 2019 genealogy reading goals by using Goodreads to track what you have read and what you want to read.

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Learning Family History With The 1918 Pandemic Trail Game

Please Note: Sometimes we have bad luck. Shortly after the publication of this article the CDC pulled this game from their website. It is regrettably no longer available.

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If you grew up in the 1990s or later or had a child or grandchild during this time you may be familiar with the educational video game, The Oregon Trail. In this game you follow the Oregon Trail and experience what pioneers faced in their quest to go west. You begin in  Independence, Missouri and travel the trail while facing various obstacles along the way including hunger, accidents, wagon failures, and death.[1] Anyone who has played is familiar with certain phrases uttered in the game such as  “you have died of dysentery,” one of the fates that can befall a player.

Pandemic start

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has taken a cue from the popular 1980s game and designed their own game that tells the story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Simply called,  The 1918 Pandemic Trail Game, players take a walk through the streets of Philadelphia in September 1918 as the flu has broken out infecting and even killing soldiers at nearby Fort Dix.

Why does the game focus on Philadelphia? Philadelphia was especially hard hit by the flu due to an influx of soldiers and sailors, overcrowding, and a lack of medical personnel. On top of that, crowds watching the Liberty Loan parade ensured that the flu spread rapidly and devastated the city of two million. Philadelphia would see half a million cases of the flu and 16,000 deaths. 12,000 of these deaths were over a 5 week period. [2]

Pandemic PA

Pancdemic characters

As you begin the 1918 Pandemic Trail Game, you choose to play as one of three characters, a letter carrier, a farmer, or a soldier and your mission is to go about your character's day-to-day life making choices that may put you at risk for the flu.

Pandemic mission

Just like The Oregon Trail, initially this game seems like it should be easy. After all, you just have to get through a few scenarios without your character catching the flu.  But there are hazards that are far removed from our modern everyday lives. I played the game as a letter carrier thinking that although my character would be out in public I could avoid contact infected community members. But, of course I was wrong. One obstacle was that unlike today, mailboxes were not mandatory in 1918 which meant my character was forced many times to interact with coughing community members.

I played other scenarios with one of my sons including the soldier character who experiences everything from digging graves for those lost to the flu to going to the parade. Avoiding groups was one sure way to stay safe from the flu.

Pandemic mail facts

Pandmic wave

Not surprising to me, because I didn’t avoid that coughing family on my mail route, I contracted the flu (and perhaps died since there is the RIP on the tombstone next to the news of my infection). Let’s just say I’m very grateful for the availability of the flu shot in today's world since I have had the flu before and it wasn’t a lot of fun. Today we take for granted vaccines and preventative measures, but our ancestors weren’t so lucky. The 1918 flu pandemic was frightening because it did the opposite of who the flu typically affects - younger, healthier people. Otherwise healthy people contracted and died of the flu. 

Pandemic RIP

 

Besides the graphics, this game is definitely old school. It doesn’t currently work on mobile devices and you use your computer’s space bar and enter key to move forward in the game. But technology aside, the history and the information incorporated in this game provides an important message about how the flu affected our ancestors and how we can avoid it today.

So why should family historians care about this game? This is one way you can help tell the story of how the pandemic affected your ancestors. Consider learning more about your ancestor in the year 1918 and then write about it. Use documents and images to help illustrate the facts. Invite family members to play this CDC game and then tell them how this same flu affected your family. It’s a great way to introduce this time period to your family and will make the story of their ancestors even more poignant and interesting.

You can learn more about the 1918 flu pandemic  from the CDC's 1918 Commemoration web page including  a history, a timeline, and stories about those working on understanding the 1918 pandemic better.

Pandemic stats

 

[1] “The Oregon Trail  (1985 video game),” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oregon_Trail_(1985_video_game): accessed 20 December 2018).

[2] "Influenza (“Spanish Flu” Pandemic, 1918-19)," The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/influenza-spanish-flu-pandemic-1918-19/: accessed 20 December 2018). 

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

 


Why You Should Be Using WorldCat Now!

Are you familiar with WorldCat? No? One of my favorite resources, WorldCat  is an important tool for genealogy researchers that can make the difference between finding information you need to document your ancestor and coming up short.

WorldCat

WorldCat describes itself as “the world's largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.”[1] What’s important for you to know is that WorldCat is the world’s library catalog with 2 billion items from 10,000 libraries.

WorldCat

Two billion items. Don’t assume that means two billion books because it doesn’t. No doubt that would be great but like other library catalogs, it includes periodicals, audio recordings, photographs, thesis/dissertations, archival materials, articles, newspapers, and more. So basically all the materials that we should be searching for when we research our ancestors.

What can you find on WorldCat?:

  • Local histories for the place your ancestor lived
  • Transcriptions of cemeteries
  • Maps
  • Indexes for vital records
  • Images of your ancestors hometown
  • Family history books
  • Dissertations detailing the historical era of your ancestor
  • Archival materials that document your ancestor’s membership group

Basically you can find anything having to do with the place, occupation, religion, or events that your ancestor was involved in.

Start using WorldCat by searching your ancestor’s hometown. Now, when I say search by a location that really involves more than one search. So for example, Independence, California is in Inyo County. So I would want to search for “Independence, California” and “Inyo County.” But then I also need to consider regional nicknames for that place which include “Eastern Sierra” and the “Owens Valley.” These searches will help me find records that detail the local history and genealogical records of that area.

Did you notice that I didn’t tell you to search by your ancestor’s name? Why? Because this is a library catalog and not a genealogy database. Genealogy databases are filled with records that are indexed by name, date, and place. Library catalogs are different. So unless your ancestor was famous, infamous or an author, stick to searching by using  keywords that describe a place, an occupation, religious affiliation, or an event.

Let me give you an example of why WorldCat is important.

If I do a search on “Snowflake, Arizona” I receive over 500 results. Snowflake is a small town in northern Arizona where my maternal family lived. These results include all kinds of histories including some religious histories that I’ve seen at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

WorldCat Snowflake all Results

One of the items found in this search is a genealogical report of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the time period my family, including my maternal grandmother, lived in Snowflake. Notice where this item is located.

Worldcat genelaogy report

Now, let me narrow my search so that I'm just looking at archival materials. This search results in  144 hits including interviews and diaries. One of the more interesting archival materials is bank records covering the years 1890-1909 found at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. None of those diaries or letters appear to be written by someone related to me but because this was a small town, it’s possible they knew my ancestors and mentioned them and would be worth checking into.

WorldCat Snowflake Results

So why should you use WorldCat for every research project? WorldCat is where you can identify histories and other materials important to your research. You already know that the FamilySearch Catalog is an essential part of your research. Guess what? FamilySearch’s Catalog is also available in WorldCat. Which for you means that if you find something in the FamilySearch Catalog that is only available onsite at the Family History Library, check WorldCat for the possibility of a closer repository with that same item.

Get Started with WorldCat!

Don’t take my word for it, start using WorldCat now. Conduct a search on the place where your ancestor lived. If too many results appear, narrow it by choosing a specific format (on the left-hand side of the page). See what it can help you identify that you didn’t know about before.

 

[1] “What is WorldCat,” WorldCat (https://www.worldcat.org/whatis/default.jsp: accessed 7 December 2018).

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

 


My 5 Favorite Collections on Internet Archive

My 5 Favorite Collections on Internet Archive
I’m a huge fan of the online resource Internet Archive. Why? Internet Archive is where you can find important genealogy resources that span books, periodicals, and microfilms. Have you used Internet Archive for your genealogy? If you haven’t, you should search it as soon as possible because it’s just possible you’ll find what you need. Below are five collections on Internet Archive that are my favorites and I bet they will soon become yours as well. 

IA Genealogy

Genealogy

It's no surprise that I mentioned  the Genealogy collection first. How can you not love a collection of nearly 140,000 digitized materials from repositories like “Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Robarts Library at the University of Toronto; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library; Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; the National Library of Scotland; the Indianapolis City Library's Indianapolis City Directory and Yearbooks Collection; The Leo Baeck Institute Archives of German-speaking Jewry;  and the Boston Public Library.” There’s bound to be something that interests you in this collection. Expect to find everything from family history surname books, to transcriptions, city directories, yearbooks and more.

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center - Microfilm 

I don’t know about you but I’d much rather peruse microfilm from the comfort of my home than sit at a microfilm machine. So I’m a fan of this microfilm collection from the ACPL Genealogy Center. This collection includes the US federal census, records from the confederate states, Freedmen’s Bureau, military records, and more. To see everything that is included in this collection, see  Topics & Subjects on the left side of the page. 


IA Allen Co

Journals

The journals collection has a simple description, “A collection of scholarly literature created by experts and professionals in their fields. Included are theses, books, abstracts and articles.” So what that means for you is genealogy-relevant content from journals such as The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, The Washington Historical Quarterly, and the William and Mary Quarterly. In the journals collection, search by the word genealogy, a surname, or a state to see what might be of use to you. One search I did on the keyword "women" brought up articles from the early 1900s discussing everything from teacher salaries to working hours of women in Chicago, and property rights of married women in Pennsylvania. Academic journals publish articles that can help us understand our understands life in context.

Smithsonian Libraries

There’s a couple different government libraries represented on Internet Archive but the Smithsonian is one new users may mistakenly overlook even though it’s full of materials with names that would be of interest to genealogists such as: Old Clocks and Watches & their Makers; American Indian Painters: A Biographical Dictionary ; and Makers of Early American Silver.

Cookbooks

The last choice for my favorite collection on Internet Archive is the Cookbooks and Home Economics collection. Sure, you may think that’s nice that I like cookbooks but you're wondering how a cookbook collection helps your family history. Good question! Search through this collection of historic cookbooks to find community cookbooks for the places your ancestor lived, cookbooks that include that favorite old family recipe, or even better understand what great-grandpa ate in the Army with the Manual for Army Cooks (1916). Yes, this collection is probably my favorite because of all that you can learn about your ancestor through what they ate.

IA Manual for Army

Internet Archive is literally an archive available to you from your home. Sure, its Wayback Machine is an important tool for finding content on cached websites that have now disappeared and their image and video collections might also have something you’ll want to peruse. But for me, it’s the text and microfilm collections  that has the real hidden genealogical treasures.

Do yourself a favor and start browsing the Archive and see what it can offer you.

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

 


Bookmarking - Using the Facebook Save Feature

Are you using Facebook? There are many reasons to use Facebook for genealogy. First of all it’s a great place to get your Legacy Family Tree questions answered. But you probably knew that.

We all have our own reasons for using Facebook but one of mine is to keep up on genealogy resources. I also love to find recipes,  history, and even interesting books to read when I scroll through my Facebook News Feed. I like that Facebook provides me a place to read more about topics that are of interest to me. But let’s face it, we don’t always have time to read an entire article. In some cases I catch a glance at Facebook while I’m waiting at an appointment or when I’m inbetween other tasks. So how can we "bookmark" those Facebook posts that we want to refer to at a later time?

You can Save them.

Facebook has a feature called Saved that allows you to save posts. This feature works slightly different depending on whether you are using it via the website (as you might if you're at your computer) or on the Facebook mobile app. So let’s first  take a look at how it works via the website.

Saving Posts via a Computer

To save a Facebook post, click on the three horizontal dots at the top right of the post. This will reveal a drop-down menu and one of the choices in that menu is to "Save post" (or "Save link"). Click on "Save post." Please note that you can save more than posts. You can also save events, links, and videos.

Savepost1

Now, to see where that post went, go to your Facebook News Feed page, and on the left side under the Explore header, click on Saved (it has a purple bookmark icon next to it).

Savepost2

Your Saved Page on Facebook will show your "Collections" and  all of the posts you have saved.

Savepost3

“Collections” are just that. They are a collection of saved posts that you curate around a topic. They are a way for you to save items that are alike in one group. So you might have a Legacy collection or a Recipes collection or a Social Media Tips collection. You can also add your Saved items to more than one collection if you'd like. You can also delete items once you are done with them.

FB Legacy Collection

Saving Posts via a Mobile Device

If you are using the Facebook mobile app and want to save a post, link, video, or an event, save the items just as you would using Facebook on your computer by clicking the three dots.

Savepostapp-1

 

When you save, a menu will appear prompting you to add your newly saved item to an existing collection or create a new collection. 

Savepostapp-2

 

Once you save it to the collection of your choice, click Done.

Savepostapp-3

I love this Facebook feature and most admit I use it frequently. Even if it’s something I want to save temporarily, it’s so much easier to save it to a collection and then later delete it then to try to find where I originally saw it. Consider making a few collections right now for your genealogy interests and see how saving on Facebook can help you make the most of your social media time.

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

 


Did You See Gmail's Latest Addition?

You might remember that we talked about Gmail in my blog post, “What Else Can You Do With Your Email? Two Tips for Gmail. Google’s 20th birthday was September 27th and it seems fitting that we revisit this free Internet email program and check out two new enhancements that you may want to take advantage of.  

Smart Composing and Responding

The two new features are aimed at helping you answer emails quicker. We all could use time-saving help as we go about answering emails and Google has what they believe is part of the answer to your email routine. These two new features are Smart Compose and Smart Response.  

Smart Compose

Smart Compose might remind you of a Google search feature you’re probably already using. When you conduct a search on Google you may notice that Google tries to “guess” or anticipate what you want to search for. As you type, Google provides you a list of possibilities. This feature allows you to stop typing and simply click on the correct search term(s). This helps you to type less and get to searching quicker.

 

Google Search
Auto-fill as you type feature (click to enlarge)

The new Smart Compose feature in Gmail does something similar. According to Google's blog, The Keyword , Smart Compose is a "new machine learning-powered feature which suggests phrases to help you complete sentences in your emails so that you can draft them quicker."[1] So as you type, Gmail tries to anticipate what word or words you are going to type next. It shows the anticipated words in gray. If you want to accept what Gmail suggests, just click the Tab key. If you don’t want to use Google’s suggestions, just keep typing.

Smart Reply

Smart Reply also helps you to answer emails quicker by suggesting responses that you will find at the bottom of the email you are typing. This is a great feature when someone’s email just requires a quick reply such as “Thanks so much” or “That’s awesome.” If the appropriate response is suggested, simply click on the response you want and send your email. If you don’t like the suggestions, go ahead and reply as you normally would. 

Gmail responses
Sample Smart Replay Options in Gmail

It's important to note that these "canned" responses aren't available for every email reply you write. I'm sure as the technology is perfected we'll see more of these each time we reply to an email. 

Right now this technology doesn’t write your emails for you but with time it might provide you enough assistance that it can cut down on some of the repetitive responses you find yourself sending in emails.

 

[1] “5 ways the new Gmail can help you get more done,” The Keyword (https://www.blog.google/products/gmail/5-ways-new-gmail-can-help-you-get-more-done/: accessed 1 October 2018).

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

 


4 Great Image Collections from the New York Public Library Digital Collections

4 Great Image Collections from New York Public Library Digital Collections

Let me just start off by admitting that I’m in love with the New York Public Library Digital Collections. Why? Because it’s in these web pages that you can find books, ephemera, maps, and images that would otherwise not be easily available. Like an online museum, I could get lost in studying these digitized items (don’t even get me started on Anna Atkin’s Photographs Of British Algae ) that help us better understand history and ultimately our ancestors.

The New York Public Library’s Digital Collections is a “living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.” For the family historian it is a place to discover materials to research your ancestor as well as add social history context. In some cases these items are grouped into a “collection” and in others they are just solitarily digitized items just waiting to be discovered. This collection of over 746,000 items is huge in scope and depth but the following items from the collection give you an idea of its value.

New York City Directories

New York City Directories found in the Digital Collections span the years 1786 to 1934. These are digitized books and the Digital Collection's  viewer allows you to page through the book, zoom, rotate, and even print. Each book’s page includes card catalog information as well as links to other websites with the same digitized content (such as the website Digital Public Library of America).

Yizkor Book Collection 

The genealogically rich memorial books in the Yizkor Book Collection document communities destroyed in the Holocaust. “Most often privately published and compiled through the collective efforts of former community residents, they describe daily life through essays and photographs and memorialize murdered residents.” The Yizkor Book  Collection’s About information states that the New York Public Library's holdings include about 730 books but fewer that number can be found in this digitized collection. Please note that these books are in Hebrew or Yiddish.

Summer Excursions for 1874

 Ok, this book isn’t for everyone but I wanted to mention it because it is so unique and it’s a perfect example of what social history can be found in the Digital Collections. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s Summer Excursion Routes for 1874 appears to be incomplete (the introduction states that the book includes 300 routes)  on the website but this travel brochure  gives us a peek at what ephemera our ancestors may have had access to and, those with the funds, may have influenced them. We often think about our ancestor’s immigration or migration but don’t consider other travels that they could have taken including those to visit family or just for a holiday. As the introduction to this pamphlet concludes, "A glance through its pages cannot prove uninteresting, and may serve to guide summer travelers into pleasant, interesting, and profitable channels.”

Menus

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Of course you knew I couldn’t write about a website without pointing out what food history is available! The Digital Collections actually has more than one menu collection but the largest is the Buttolph Collection of Menus which has almost 19,000 menus. “The menu collection originated through the energetic efforts of Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924), a somewhat mysterious and passionate figure, whose mission in life was to collect menus. In 1899, she offered to donate her existing collection to the Library -- and to keep collecting on the Library's behalf” which she did until her death in 1924, amassing over 25,000 menus (not all have been digitized).

So why is this collection important for family history? Menus provide us information about what foods were eaten during a specific place and time, prices, as well as  food availability. Food history is an important part of family history and menus can provide some valuable information in that pursuit.

747,888 and Counting

No blog post could list every collection from the New York Public Library Digital Collections that I love. My hope is to  just to give you a taste of what’s available. Don’t ignore this digital gallery because you don’t have New York ancestors. Yes, there are New York specific items but there’s so much more than that including North American maps, US postcards, and social history items that can help you better understand your ancestor’s life.

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


The Keyboard Shortcuts I Couldn’t Live Without

KeyboardShortcuts

Everyone loves a shortcut, right? Whether it’s a shorter way to get home from work, an easy way to pay bills, or just a simpler way to get a dreaded task accomplished, shortcuts are great. The same is true for using the computer. Anything that can be done quicker and with ease gives us more time to research our family history! 

A keyboard shortcut is a series of one or more keys that “invokes a command that would otherwise be accessible only through a menu, a mouse, or an aspect of the user interface.”[1] Keyboard shortcuts are available for software programs as well as your Internet browser. You could find dozens or more shortcuts that exist for all the programs you use. I don’t use every keyboard shortcut available but there are a few that I consistently use that make my life a little easier.

Here are a few of my favorites when using Microsoft Word but keep in mind that they may work with other software programs and the Internet as well:

CTRL and C , CTRL and V, and CTRL and X: These are the commands to copy, paste, and cut. Probably the more well-known of the keyboard  shortcuts, I use these three on a daily basis. Highlight the text you want to copy or cut and then use CTRL and V to paste it wherever you want it to go. For me, I use this often when I decide that a sentence or a paragraph I just wrote in Microsoft Word should either be deleted or moved elsewhere in the document. Or when I want to copy text and insert it into another program. A great time saver when you are searching the Internet.

Shift and F4: This is probably my biggest time saver when looking at a website or a document and I’m searching for a specific word or phrase. Hold the Shift key and then press the F4 key to open a Find box. This box, will appear at the top right of the website you’re searching and allows you to search on a specific word or phrase. It’s perfect when searching a web page for a specific surname. I find this function saves me a ton of time and effort. If that doesn't work try the alternativeto this,  CTRL key and F.

CTRL and S: Ok, who hasn’t been typing away happily and something goes wrong like the electricity unexpectedly goes out or the cat hits your keyboard and  everything you just worked on suddenly vanishes? Use CTRL and S to save periodically. Anytime I have to get up and interrupt what I’m doing I hit CTRL S just to be safe.

CTRL and P: There’s no easier way to print than hitting CTRL and P. Whether in Word or on the Internet, a printer dialogue box comes up and you are ready to print. I even use this command when I want to save something as a PDF since one of the choices in my print command box is to save a document as a PDF. Saving as a PDF is perfect when I run out of ink, paper, or am not quite ready to print out that document.

Wait There’s More!

There’s no way I could list every possible keyboard shortcut that exists for your favorite software, browser, or websites. Did you know that even Twitter has a list of keyboard shortcuts? To find them go to your Twitter account and in the top right side you will see your photo, click on that and a drop-down menu will appear with a link to  “Keyboard shortcuts.”

Twitter shortcuts 1

Twitter Shortcuts
Do you have some keyboard shortcuts you use? Seek out the shortcuts for the website, software, or browser you use the most and start using some of those shortcuts to make the most of your time on the computer.

 

[1] "Keyboard Shortcuts and System Commands for Popular Programs," TurboFuture (https://turbofuture.com/computers/keyboard-shortcut-keys: accessed 9 September 2018).

 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.