Sunday, February 21, 2016

FamilySearch Apps - Kinpoint

I hope everyone has had a great weekend. I have been working with our local Family History Consultants trying to bring them up to speed on all of the information that I learned at RootsTech. That could take a few weeks since there was so much to learn there. I am continuing to research the many apps that are available on FamilySearch and this time I decided to write about Kinpoint.

Kinpoint has a free version and a paid version and has been described as a "fan chart on steroids" by some. The site searches the information from FamilySearch, providing you some clues on what to search for next and where you have missing information. When you log in it starts the display with you and then moves out from there. However, you can change that by double clicking on someone in your chart or by searching for a specific ancestor by name or PID# from FamilySearch.

There are several views that you can use to display the information from your tree. The Explore View shows a fan chart of your family. The free version displays a color coded fan chart which helps you see family relationships with grey areas indicating where there is missing information. For me, all of the grey areas indicated missing marriage information.

Exlpore View for Kinpoint (5 generations)

The paid version also gives you hints on problems, sources and matches. Problems are things such as timeline discrepancies, potential duplicates, etc, which you can clean up. Sources mark those items which have not been verified by an attached source. And the Matches information tells you how many record hints are available on FamilySearch for you to add to your research. The view I have above shows 5 generations however you can zoom to between 3 and 8 generations in a view or you can switch to a descendants view with 3 generations. The zoom, ancestral view, and descendant view controls are located in the upper left corner of the fan chart frame.

The left side of the screen shows the vital information for the selected person. There are also icons to bookmark, refresh, and edit the person in FamilySearch under the person's name. The right side area displays a summary of information from the chart, including countries of origin, family size, age, work and military service. Most of the items on the right, except the country of origin, are only available in the paid version.

The Family View shows a detailed view of three generations, the selected person and their spouse, their children, and the selected person's parents and siblings. This view includes the photographs from each person's Memories on FamilySearch. In this view you can select any of the listed people and see their details. The yellow dots below the person's name indicate items which need your attention. Also, if you notice the blue box in the upper right corner, you can add people directly to FamilySearch from this screen. When you click on the blue box that says Add Person the screen changes to ask where you want to add the person. You can add siblings, step siblings, spouses, parents, children, etc. Once you select where in the family the new person goes, the site walks you through adding the information. For some people, this might be a more understandable way to add family to their FamilyTree.

Family View for Kinpoint

The third screen view is the Memories View. This screen pulls all of the items that are attached to the person's Memories tab on FamilySearch. You can easily move between people and see what information has been attached to their Memories tab. Kinpoint even indicates how many items you expect to see before you visit the page. Selecting any of the photographs or documents results in a full screen view of that item.

Memories View for Kinpoint

The fourth screen view from Kinpoint is the Timeline View. This view provides a timeline, including important events in the person's life, along the right side of the screen. Events such as birth, marriage and death of members of the family are included in the timeline. Additionally, an interactive map is displayed with icons indicating each event. Icons are color coded for sex and there are different icons for each type of event.

Timeline View for Kinpoint

So, what do I think of this site? The basic free version provides you another way to visualize your research and indicates where you need to focus your research. It also allows you to add new family members and edit existing people in FamilySearch. The paid version ($4.99/month or $49.90/year) provides even more functionality by indicating where duplicates may exist, where sources are available, and a more detailed list of problems with the information in your tree. This interface may be easier for some people to understand and could easily replace their FamilySearch interface. One important note: the paid version can be accessed for free at your local Family History Center. All-in-all, I would recommend trying it out to see how it could help you improve your research.

I hope everyone has a good week and I will try to return soon with my next post.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Family Search apps - All The Stories

Hello again! Hope everyone is ready for a beautiful weekend, and if it isn't beautiful where you are maybe you can spend the time inside doing research, or reading my blog. I am continuing my discussion on FamilySearch apps with a new app called All The Stories. This app was just uploaded to the FamilySearch site this week.

Imagine if you will, you are a new researcher who has just started adding your family to FamilySearch's FamilyTree. You have connected your recent family to an existing set of names and your tree has suddenly grown. Where do you go from there? You might be overwhelmed by the number of new relatives you just discovered. May I suggest that you visit a newly released app called All The Stories?

All The Stories searches your family tree, back 9 generations, provides you a chart of your ancestors, and lists the stories that are attached to your ancestors. Since the program is version 1.0, it is currently pretty basic.

Screenshot from All The Stories for August Jacob Wise.
When you visit the site you are asked to log into your FamilySearch account so it can be searched. As it searches your 9 generations, you can see it build your family chart. The chart gives you an idea of where your gaps are. As you can see from the image above, my tree is fairly complete for 6 generations but then there are some holes as I go further out from that. When I mouse-over the dots a pop-up comes up with the name of the individual, their relation to me, and a count of the number of stories attached to them. The grey dots have no stories attached to them. The blue dots indicate those that do have stories. As you can see, I really need to get on to writing stories. Most of the stories I have attached are transcriptions of newspaper articles or biographical information that I found in books. When I click on a blue dot I get the details that are shown below the chart. The details include the person's name, relationship, birth and death locations, and a list of stories attached to them.

On the left side of the screen is a complete list of all the stories that are attached to my ancestors. You can also search for a story by keyword if you are not able to find it right away. Once you find the story that you are searching for, you can click on it and read the story. I was wondering what the notations next to the story names were so I did a little more playing. For my stories, the notations are 0 min, 1 min, ..., up to 5 min. This indicates the length of the story and I am assuming the average reading time. Short stories are 0 min and longer stories are 5 min.

Obituary for August Wise.
If you notice in the upper right corner it has two links for View in FamilySearch. The top link opens the story view in FamilySearch. The bottom link opens the person view.

So, you may be asking what is the purpose of this app. Well, I see several uses for it. First, you can see up to 9 generations and see where your research gaps are. Compare this to FamilySearch's fan chart which only displays 4 generations on the screen and 7 generations when printed. Second, you can see who in your tree has stories attached. You can see if new stories have been attached since your last view and you can archive the stories. Another thing that this site is useful for is giving you an easy way to access those stories. It could take a while for you to search all of your ancestors on FamilySearch to see who has a story attached. But by using this app, you can see it all on one screen and you can spend time reading those stories much more efficiently.

This is a new app so I can see the potential for more functionality as it develops. For example, maybe it will include photos or sources sometime in the future. Try it out and see what you can learn about your ancestors.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

FamilySearch Apps - Relative Finder

Hello again, can you believe this is my third post since returning from RootsTech. We'll see how long I can keep this up. As I said in my previous post, I want to focus on some of the FamilySearch apps and how they can further the interest in family history research. Today I will be discussing Relative Finder.

Relative Finder is a fun app that uses the data in your FamilySearch FamilyTree to determine how you are related to various famous/historical people. The site is free to use and was developed as a project of the BYU Family History Technology Labs. The first time you go to they ask you for your FamilySearch log-in. This is necessary for them to be able to upload your tree so the site can determine who you are related to. Once your FamilyTree has been uploaded the site will display a list of famous people you are related to, such as Presidents, Signers of the Constitution, LDS Leaders, Authors, Composers, European Royalty, etc. For some people this list is extremely long. You can select which category is displayed so it becomes more manageable. If you are curious you can see the connected tree to see who your common ancestors were. This is a fun way to start a conversation on family history, however, make sure you take the information with a grain of salt. It is based on the FamilyTree connections, and many of us have found incorrect families that need to be corrected.

One of my favorite parts of this site is the Groups. I have joined a couple Groups and have also created my own Group. The Group that I created was for my church ward. As I get members registered on FamilySearch I invite them to join the Relative Finder group that I created so they can see how they are related to other members of the Ward. Once they find out they are related to someone they are encouraged to invite others from the Ward to join and see how they are related and as the number of members increases so do the numbers of people they are related to. The use of this Group, along with other tools has resulted in a significant increase in the number of patrons in our Family History Center. These Groups are all password protected so only those you invite will have permission to see the information included in them.

For me, the 12 generations I have in FamilySearch have no link to any of the famous/historical people in the groups or any members of the other Groups that I am a member of. My wife, on the other hand, is related to 788 of the famous/historical people and about one third of the Ward group that I created. But I have discovered through my own research that I am related to at least one famous person. My great-grandfather's brother's wife's first cousin is the great-great grandmother of Paris Hilton. Isn't that how the six degrees of separation thing works?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

FamilySearch Apps - MooseRoots

Greetings from sunny Florida. It is almost 70 degrees today. It was a wonderful day to get outside and visit the  farmer's market, beach, auto show, dinosaur exhibit and just have an enjoyable day. After all that running around I decided to take a break and add my next post to my blog. One of the things I told myself was that I would focus more on the blog posts this year and I will start by focusing on the various apps that can be found on FamilySearch. If you are a registered member of FamilySearch and haven't yet visited the FamilySearch apps page, you are really missing out on some great tools. The apps cover a variety of topics and platforms including Windows, Android, iOS, web based, etc. So there will be something there for you to try out.

Today I want to highlight MooseRoots, one of the web based applications. MooseRoots was also one of the sponsors of RootsTech this year and I had a chance to talk to their representatives while I was at the conference. This site helps you explore the time and area of your ancestors' lives. It provides graphics which allow you to visualize the historic demographic and population trends of a region, provides information on the origins and meaning of names, displays economic data, and suggests record matches to give you insight into their lives.

When you visit the MooseRoots site you will see a search bar that allows you to search the 1940 US census, other US census records, death records, marriages & divorces, birth records, and cemetery records. This site does not access your FamilySearch FamilyTree account so you will have to type in your ancestor's name and birth year for the search.

For my test, I searched for my grandfather, Raymond Anthony Meyer, born 1909, in Auglaize County, Ohio, in the 1940 census. Once I found his name, (it wasn't at the top of the search results) I went to the page that MooseRoots created for him and received the following information: "Raymond Meyer lived in Auglaize County, Ohio at 59 Fourth in 1940, which is also where he lived in 1935. He was the head of the household, 30 years old, and identified as white. Raymond was born in Ohio around 1910. In 1940, Raymond was married to Velmie Meyer." All of this was correct, except his wife was Velma, not Velmie, but I guess I can forgive the transcriber for that small mistake. This part of the page also has an area to add or edit photos and to leave a story if you want to provide more details to this record. Below that section there is a more detailed transcription of the information from the 1940 census as well as the other names listed on the same page and others on the same street. This information can help provide links to neighbors or other family members in the same area. One thing I found in the list was a household at 218 Fourth with Elizabeth Meyer, age 71, daughter Leona Meyer, age 46, sons Alfred Meyer, age 42, and Leroy Meyer, age 26, and grandson Lawrence Steinemann, age 21. I don't know who this family is but they were living on the same street as my grandfather so this provides me a new set of people to research and figure out if they connect to my family. The research never ends.

The personal page for Raymond also provides possible record matches for the other search functions. However, after looking through the possible matches, none were for my grandfather. Below the possible matches there is a timeline. This timeline provides some of the events that occurred during Ray's life. It starts out with the year 1910, which is his approximate birth year based on the 1940 census. So what notable events occurred?
  • 1910: The weekend becomes popular in the US.
  • 1914: The Federal Trade Commission is established.
  • 1919: The US rejected the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.
  • 1923: President Warren G Harding died of a heart attack at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
  • 1927: The CBS radio broadcasting company was founded.
  • 1928: Ray's 18th birthday.
  • 1940: Ray's 30th birthday.
  • 1940: The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, reinstating the US Military draft, was signed into law.

It was interesting to see what was included and what was excluded from the timeline. I was surprised that World War I and the Great Depression were not included but the establishment of the FTC was included. I am really not sure how events were selected for this timeline, but I think there could have been a better selection of events that had more of an impact on a person's life.

According to the information provided on the site, Raymond is derived from an Old French name, Raimund, of Germanic origin, from ragin meaning advice or decision and mund meaning protector. This name was adopted by the Normans and introduced by them to Britain. Subsequently it dropped out of use but was revived in the middle 19th century, together with several other given names of Old English and Norman origin. I also learned that Raymond was most popular in the 1920s when it ranked number 15 among male baby names and it has declined in popularity since then.

Rank of the Name Raymond Over Time | MooseRoots

I also learned more about the last name, Meyer. According to MooseRoots, Meyer is a very common surname in the United States. In the 2000 US census there were about 149,664 individuals with the surname Meyer, making it the 163rd most common surname. The name is most prevalent in the Midwest, especially in Nebraska, and is least common in the Southeast. Meyer is of German and Dutch origin, from the Middle High German meier, a status name for a steward, bailiff, or overseer, which later came to be used also to denote a tenant farmer and is used in many compound surnames formed with this term as the second component. There are also Jewish, Irish and Dutch variants of the surname with various other meanings.

Popularity of Meyer by State | MooseRoots

Additionally, MooseRoots provides a short history of Auglaize County, Ohio. I learned that Auglaize County was established in 1848 and in 1940 it's population was 28,037, somewhat lower than the average for Ohio counties. In 2014 the population was nearly 46,000. Women slightly outnumbered men by 1.7%, there were 2,387 farms, most people lived in rural areas, 13% of the residents had at least a high school education and 67% were married. Demographically, Auglaize County was 99% white in 1850 and by 2014 it was still predominantly white with 98% of the residents identifying as white.

MooseRoots also provides information on the economic environment during Ray's life, including information on the stock market, inflation and GDP. There are also areas to look at more detailed demographics, such as education, gender ratios, age distributions, marital status, ethnicity, urban/rural distribution, place of birth, employment, occupation, farming, and nearby counties.

Marital Status of Auglaize County in 1940 | MooseRoots

One of the things I like about the site, is that you can embed the information from their site into your blogs. The ones I included above are just a few of the many ways they provide a setting to your ancestor's story. Take a look at the wealth of information provided by MooseRoots and see how it can improve your stories by incorporating the contextual data into their lives. 

I hope you enjoyed this post and found the information useful in furthering your research.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Welcome Back! A Return From RootsTech 2016

Hello everyone, I bet you thought I was gone. It has been awhile since my last post on this blog, almost four and a half years. If you were following me you know that I started another blog focusing on family history biographies (, was more active in several discussion boards trying to help people with their research, and I switched jobs. The new job took up a lot of my time and still does, but I have decided to focus more time on my writing on both blogs. What made me decide to get back to writing? Well, part of it was due to RootsTech 2016. I finally made the commitment to attend RootsTech and it was a great experience. While I was there I talked to several other Geneabloggers and many other researchers. I realized that people had actually been reading my posts and they were appreciative of the help that I had given them over the years. Also, the diverse vendors and speaker topics that were at RootsTech will provide me with a wealth of information to write about, so please check back occasionally to see what new information I have come up with.

For my return to blogging, I decided to write a bit about my experience at RootsTech and hopefully encourage researchers to take part in conferences, whether they be local, state, national, or international. They are a great opportunity where you can make the contacts and learn new ideas to enhance your research.

RootsTech was February 3 thru 6 this year, mid-winter in Salt Lake and cold enough for a Florida boy to need to buy a new jacket (the warmest clothes we have down in the Sunshine State). According to the registrations there were over 26,000 people registered from all 50 states and 31 countries, and 360 exhibitors. The opening events included a variety of speakers. One of my favorite speakers was Paula Madison who spoke on her research which led to her producing a documentary film titled Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China. This was the story of a broken family from Jamaica and her journey to discover her Chinese roots in and African family. Stan Ellsworth, from BYUtv's American Ride, also provided a great talk. Many of the speakers had heart touching stories about their families and what they had learned during their voyage of discovery of their family stories.

We learned that the demographic of genealogy is changing. There were over 7,000 conference attendees under the age of 18. FamilySearch has seen a 482% increase in use by teenagers. Facebook, Instagram, and Chatbooks are quickly becoming the focal points of genealogy for many.

An overarching topic of discussion during the conference was storytelling. Many of the exhibitors were demonstrating products to assist in writing journals, producing memory books and photo albums, archiving your old film media, and providing creative ways to present these in digital format for the next generations to appreciate. Story Corps was also there with their StoryBooth, recording family interviews and stories. Storytelling is a passion of mine and many of those involved in family history. In the old days, stories were passed through the generations to teach lessons and provide a feeling of place and time for your ancestors. However, over the last century we have lost much of the storytelling. It has been said that memories can be lost within three generations. It is our duty as the historians to keep those stories alive. There is an old Russian proverb that says "You live as long as you are remembered." I also like Dr. Suess' message from The Lorax - "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." I take that to heart, both in my writing and in my view of the world around us. I do care a whole awful lot and I hope that the work I do expresses that and provides the incentive for others to care and preserve their memories and our world for those who come after us.

One thing about storytelling is that it is a passion. In order to tell a big story, you need to start with the small story. You don't need all of the details. Stories can start from pulling on the small strings of knowledge and seeing where it leads you. When I write, I do it as a stream of thought with no idea how it will end. I just let the ideas flow. You can probably tell that by my ramblings. Families that tell family stories have been shown to have better emotional well being and are happier. Is that because they have a better sense of place, that stories bring people together, that they see themselves as part of a larger whole? I don't know for sure but I think belonging is an important part of it. One of the speakers said the following, "Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. Find a way through your stories to allow them to live forever." I find that a very deep thought and an inspiration to my work.

Many of the larger companies, such as FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage and FindMyPast announced new initiatives to bring more records to researchers. FamilySearch stated that 2.5 million names are added to FamilyTree and 8 million records are attached to individuals each month. There are currently 1.1 billion names in the FamilyTree. Considering that there are currently over 7 billion people alive today and there have been an estimated 108 billion people who ever lived we still have a ways to go. Also, FamilySearch currently has a total of 615 million source documents online for us to research and there are 318 teams working around the world to bring new records online. For me, one of the greatest announcements was that Ancestry will be adding 100 million new German records to their collection in the next year. This includes 14 million civil registry records from 1,300 city archives. They will also be working closely with FamilySearch to provide over 19 million German church records spanning the time from 1500-1985. FindMyPast announced that they will be working to provide a comprehensive US marriage collection, covering 2,800 US counties with 100 million records. Currently they have 33 million marriage records available to search for free until February 14, Valentine's Day.

The variety of speakers at this conference allowed everyone, no matter their skill level, to choose their interests. Most of the time I was attending talks by the major companies to see what they are planning to role out over the next year. I also attended several talks on German genealogy records and a couple on research techniques. I learned quite a bit from these talks. Now, let me vent a little here - people, you are not the only one attending these talks. There were several occurrences where people answered their phones during the presentations, or worse yet, they just ignored the ringing phone while the speaker was talking. One person sitting next to me let her phone ring several times during the presentation and never attempted to turn it off. Also, it is ok to take a picture of a slide as a note but there were people who video recorded entire talks or took photos of every single slide in a presentation. Not only is that impolite, it is an infringement of copyright. We should be respectful of the work these people put into their presentations.

Will I return to RootsTech next year? I can only hope that I am able. This was a great event, not everything was perfect, but there is so much there that even the experienced researcher can learn something. I hope you enjoyed my return to blogging and please return to see what I will talk about next.