Mobile Accessibility for the Modern Genealogical Researcher

Recent library literature ( Smith, Aaron.  “Cell Internet Use 2012.” Pew Internet and American Life Project.)  explained that Internet use for minority young adults often occurs on cell phones. A recent class meeting indicated that this study was right.

Genealogical research is a hot topic, but there is a disconnect with the young adult age group. Most of them do not relate genealogical research with family stories and for those that do relate the two, they have no idea how to start researching. My app should help to change that. Based on a game-learning system, the point of the game is learning real research techniques and using the app to find the closest places for what there is for documentation at home and in other locations.

Instead of the surname-based system, use geographic searching strategies to make progress in family history. The app isn’t done yet, and all of these ideas are under immediate copyright of the owner/author. I should have at least mock-up’s attempted within the next year or two. I am learning as fast as I can how to code and how to bring other’s coded materials together for collaborative use. Crunching the data may not be the hard part, though I am uncertain. Seeing whether the server can handle more than two searches, move fast, and effortlessly as the app changes how people search could be the bigger thing. I am starting now to wonder how much server space is necessary for making all of this happen.

The intent for the app is the democratization of genealogy. This may be an arrogant assumption, as I have little to no idea what genealogical efforts are under-sway world-wide, though I know that they must be out there. Looking for world conferences on genealogy that actually are world-wide. RootsTech, FHISO, and GEDCOM X are only the beginning tools.

I need something that people can use on their phones or IPads in live-time. Making it social might blow all server possibilities, but may get a grant. We’ll see what happens.


Feeling Like Jello

I once ate Jello with chopsticks at the MTC. It’s not the hardest thing to do if you slightly break up the blocks so that there is something there for the chopstick to hold to.

My life feels like Jello. I think that I am falling behind in my classes although they seem to be all that I ever do. And even as I write that, I know that I spent more time watching TV this semester than I ever have before, and also a lot of time looking through job ads. God said that I needed to keep up with school, but He never mentioned how I would get through my  bills and that’s caused me to be a nervous wreck for a few months.

Although actually less stressful somehow, I just moved this weekend to another location in the city, pretty far away from the things that most people act like are important but closer to companies, businesses, and actually closer to one school. The amenities are resoundingly better than my last apartment, and although the commute to one school is much longer than it used to be, I get to deal with that next semester.

Today I am supposed to register for classes at the closer school and I have no idea what to attempt to get into. I want to do markup language coding and learn more languages so that I can mark up the way that I want to mark up and do things that help my projects progress and be happy. Personal happiness is a luxury now, not a right. It’s that elusive thing that living commandments is supposed to get you, and sometimes it just takes an attitude adjustment to get toward.

Nothing in my life is simple. I wish that it was, but instead, I feel like I am walking on Jello. God walked on squishier stuff, but I am starting to wonder if my current state of being is simply an attribute like a mark up language. I have some stability, but at the same time everything else flows around me and ignores me. Goes right past me and maybe that is a good thing.

All that I can see is that I have to hold on and do what God’s already told me to do. To live the commandments, I’ve turned down some really hard temptations, and when others would not listen to Deity, have been pushed aside akin to Miyagi’s wax on-wax off method. Whatever the method or reasons, I’m here now and am trying to figure out what to do with this lifetime.

Afterlife is easy: help with the gospel, do the right thing, keep on going. Done. Just work hard, and do as well as possible. Seems simple enough. All that I see for this life now is finishing school, making family history apps, working on the genealogy business, and otherwise paying bills. I wish that I could have a family, but that is dependent on other’s agency of which I do not have control and would not ask for that control to be had by me. Without someone else’s choices, my progression is limited in this life. It seems harsh, but it isn’t. Not everyone has the chance to marry. I think/thought that I will have that chance, especially as I am still fairly young. I’m young, but I have the weight of kingdoms on my shoulders and they hurt a little. I’d give my life for a good, honest, temple-worthy guy to help share the load and for me to share his load.

No matter what, I must keep going. There is no vice without a price, and in this case, I have avoided much and hope to be able to endure a lot more. God has said often that He expects a lot of me, and I don’t really know exactly what that is or how to get it done. How long did it take the Brother of Jared to figure out that God touching small stones could make light for the barges when crossing oceans? I mean, that’s REALLY creative stuff. I’m not honestly that good. I have an app. One app, and it could easily change the world. I feel like I am behind in everything that I do, but maybe I’m stuck in the DNA-style loop that seems to befit the fullness of times.

I don’t know what God wants me to do now outside of unpacking. Do homework, look for and apply to everything under the sun including scholarships, and become exhausted on a regular basis. Trying  not to drown.

Best from the GenealogyDr

Something New

Because I can, I started another blog in addition to this one. This one deals now more with my musings on politics, religion, and then professional family history, personal family history, and whatever else comes to mind. The other blog is strictly about food, cooking, etc. I can’t get away with writing without something to do with family history in the process, so there are some family stories in there, also. If it goes with the food or explains the results or why we did what we did when we did it, there you have it. Call it a memorial to my Mom. There were some passions that she was more-able to develop in life and instilling a love of food and cooking into her posterity was one of them. So, feel free to look at it, if so inclined. There are maybe five recipes up so far and a lot more to follow.

This semester I start my new program, Digital Humanities, and continue my other program, Library Information Science, with emphasis on the digital aspects. Meta-data, programming, etc. By the time I get through both Master’s programs, I will be a programmer with a solid emphasis in Instructional Design. Was not planning on going into Instructional Design, but if it gets me to making the family history repository app, then I will do what is necessary that way.

The main element I can see coming out of the ID courses is the ability to teach family history better, and to create better online learning portals for doing that. While education is not my primary focus, I am always looking for better ways of teaching the topic, so this major is unusually applicable to where I can find a job. My bedrock skills are always useful. Adding to the research skills knowledge of best practices in teaching, and creating one of the tools that teachers and lay people may use to make teaching much more effective and efficient is kind of sheer genius. I do not give myself credit for the thought process. That’s all Deity. Good things come from Deity, and saying that it is my idea feels strangely like a cop-out.

Not sure what will happen. I am part of a class of a maximum of seven people for a total of tops of twelve people in the program. We are only the second class in this program, and no matter how hard it will be (which I am SURE that it will test me to limits I have never seen before), this will be GOOD!


More on GIS Genealogical Apps and Reviewing and Using the FamilySearch 21 Jun 2012 Webinar

21 June FamilySearch Webinar

I am one of many devotees of the Ancestry Insider, the guru who writes unvarnished industry semi-insider information and who makes my life easier as I am the only person who I know that does genealogical tech research in the Windy City. Reading an update, I got the link upon which this blog has basis. I was at one of the first meetings where a major developer or director told us all about how FamilySearch was changing. It is where New FamilySearch came from, and it was part of the BYU Tech Conference back in 2006. Wow, it blew my mind back then. And changed how I do family history and upped my participation. I majored in the topic, but I liked the research. I did not especially find use for it afterwards due to cumbersome processes necessary to use said information in manners consistent with my beliefs and practices. was genealogical crack. It was addictive beyond measure, and I noticed that the first two months that I was on it, I had a hard time getting homework done. I ate, slept, did enough to get through assignments, and otherwise was up until 2 every night working on what was there. The live-time aspect floored me and instantly changed my perspective from “this will never happen and this is taking forever and no one knows how to do this” to WOW. This is LIVE-TIME? The change in my view was that of realizing instantly the applicability that the software had to what the Church had and did.

After six years, the toddler (NFS/FamilySearch) took its first steps and now it is time to go to school, so to speak. The webinar describes something called SourceBox. Any genealogist with even minimal training learns quickly that without a source (ANY source, but the more credible, the more accurate, the better), everything is only leads. Leads are good, but they’re only air or legends and those are fairy tales. That will likely insult people who think that absolutely everything has to be taken only on faith, but the thing is that unless the faith has basis on or placed in something or someone TRUE, then it’s meaningless. Devoid of consistency as in devoid of material or spiritual matter. So, there has to be SOMETHING (tangible in this case) that gives the information needed to put a name, date, place, time… something to do with a material object to say that an ancestor lived, breathed, died, whatever the event was. The things that are tangible or intangible evidence (if talking in spiritual terms) are sources. The closer to the event, usually the better.

FamilySearch the Internet site, has not had this capacity in any meaningful format since its inception. As grew from the first 700 beta testers (me included) to a world-wide effort, this is an imperative to establish within its framework. I keep seeing familysearch like DNA. There are bits of the human family here and there, sources documenting things, and if there was a visual to it, perhaps all of that information eventually could look like a human body. So many documents, so many pieces of knowledge trained and traced together, and establishing the history of the world according to the people who lived it. THAT is where history comes from. The rest of us are all annotators.

In addition, I see the next steps when watching said webinar. Why only use tools that other people give you? Make your own. The original DIY was the wheel. Making something to fix a problem. Now, it’s using what is there, and (in my head) turning the useful reference books into programs or into a conglomerate site. That is what reference always was and people never truly connected it together. These massive tomes of information: reference books in the genealogical sphere, such as the Handybook for Genealogists, Ancestry’s Redbook (which is kind of almost the same thing, but not quite), the Genealogist’s Address Book– all of these need to be GIS-mapped places that give the basic information for any particular place in live time. Again, in the Zee-maps tradition, mark repositories by places by then make them historically useful.

That means, your ancestor lived in Scotland or Wales, or New Brunswick in 1837. Okay. Most of those places were well-established by 1837. There may have been a few boundary changes, but in general it’s a case of getting to the right land place and then finding out who has those records. I don’t have to know what is actually IN your ancestor’s records, but I do want you to be able to find them without having a direct knowledge of what the place was back in the day. This makes a little more sense for the United States or for parts of Europe that were conquered or re-district-ed, or parts of Russia with name changes or Asia or basically anywhere but the conquering territories and governments.

The United States developed as it went along, similar to a programming project before there were software architects. Dealing with the development of all of those counties, townships, villages, cities, and where their records went as places split, divided, etc. is why the Handybook is my go-to source for anything in the US. But, if I could just stick in a place and a time, and be given all of the libraries, archives, and whatever other repositories were there at that time in addition to what existed to the present and where things ended up! That would be sheer genius. And that is what the historical app ultimately tries to do once I get it to any version of a development stage. It has a lot of layers, and that is the whiz-bang dynamo version of it. It looks so simple in my mind, and this is the first time that I have ever been able to express that level of the app with clarity.

Sure, professional genealogists are still necessary. Being able to read, interpret documents, and everything else necessary for this? It’s kind of feels like breaking the sound barrier, but it’s in genealogical terms, United States research-based. I can mentally hear something akin to a sonic boom-gong going off in my head when speaking about this. I care about the old countries. But if you can’t get back there, that research does me little to no good.

The layers and levels of research necessary to get this app done are a little staggering, but it needs to be done. There have been 30+ years to get to this stage, and the levels and stages ratchet up. It only took six years to get to where FamilySearch is now, and while I wish they installed it six years ago. Now, we get to go back and tell everyone where we got everything. It may be a mish-mash for a few years, but then we get to SOAR as there are documents backing up the information and apps that give clarity to where in the world to find these documents in a quick and efficient method. Boy, we’re going to be tired by the end of this, but wow, what a ride!

I’m not sure what I need to learn to help accomplish this, but it is going to be incredible. That, and I think that I need some help… a LOT of help to make this work properly. Any takers?

Disney Pin Trading App?

While in LA this weekend, I saw how friends adore Disney pins. I almost never wear pins, period. These are not a fashion thing whatsoever. It’s a collection thing. In this case,  merchandise and inventory attach themselves to a positive thought process. Nothing wrong with that. My version of Disneyland is going to any given cemetery and turns toward recording who is there and the information presented upon and around headstones. Leave the dead alone, but let them be known. Part of why I consider the historic repositories app mentioned in previous blogs intensely necessary.

Keeping track of Disney pins is a cumbersome exercise involving printout’s of pictures and SKU numbers for correlation. Pin collectors and traders need binders to keep track of said information. In a day when there is an app for nearly anything (or at least that is the theory) why is there not an app for this?

Walking around Disneyland with friends, I see people with lanyards and pins. Most stores carry either clothes, crystal/glass, figurines, food, pictures, kitchen ware, toys, music, and/or pins. There are tales of pins ranging through and between the different parks. Evolving between Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Orlando, California, and/or including other elements such as Disney Vacation Club, limited edition pins, D23, Annual Passholder, and mystery pins. There’s a pin style, size, or anything for the preference of the person purchasing. There are also buttons. Pin trading varies in levels and layers of complexity.

Since my friends are such fans of most things Disney, I came along for holiday, and they handed me a lanyard with extra pins for trading. Inclusion in the past time was nice and enjoyable, though I do not see myself getting into it with their passion. While I do not admit to organizing myself well, helping solve unfulfilled needs is a hobby, and app production is my latest craze. At least, aspects of development where I take notes and either figure out how to do it later, or see if anyone decides to read this blog and then attempt it. I dream things up and with one degree may make it happen. Understanding the inherent fire behind the pin trading is not necessary for my work. My friends communicate well what they want. I work by asking for pointers in what the needs are for their daily use.

On first look, this appears as a simple correlation between Excel spreadsheets and pictures. Like setting up a basic carousel or Internet store effect, or something akin to electronic binders with unlimited expansion potential. Options that I could see being necessary are the abilities of the app to:

  • Add specialty pins (expansion of scale with specialty products that are not necessarily available for everyone)
  • Add historic (older) sets (dependent upon years)
  • Download the newest collection pictures as-needed or as early as released for organizing purchases, orders, etc. (refresh rates)
  • Keep track of pins sets according to any range of parameters including what friends or family members own, styles preferred, and potential to limit pins based upon preferences (if choosing not to complete a set versus automatic updates or reminders of pins needed)
  • Wish lists for pins
  • Ability to trade lists between pin holders.

My friends explained that there are hundreds of thousands of pins. Quantity is not my worry. Time spent is one thing. If there is a way of using what already exists on Disney websites and Ebay and moving it into the database, then it’s mainly data mining mixed with correlating and linking pictures with unique serial numbers. Crunching quantities of data is the purpose of computers. If opened up like a Wiki, let the people who care the most upload information and populate the data for themselves with options of sharing with the rest of the world and helping the public with something that people need.

I’m actually a little surprised that Disney does not use QR codes to keep track of it all already. Regular scanned bar codes are easy to use with portable red scanners. QR codes would automatically scan via smart phone and keep things organized without massive time necessary. And the QR codes would make shopping simpler. Scan the code for something purchased, a wish list item, or similar, and the data is there. Personal information regarding the collection is not necessary. Just a username and password for keeping track of whose pins are whose.

Pin traders are serious, and they invest in these items. This is not short-term investing or a day-trading concept. People specifically buy premium passes to the parks for access to said pins on the days that they come out. It’s a little mind-boggling, and not to detract, but it feels like a Costco run. You get what you need and then you get out and do your best to avoid sample distractions. Some people need to ride rides (I prefer rides, but that’s me). In this analogy, some people need to look at everything as in checking out everything from steak to tuna to dairy to frozen food, batteries, Christmas lights, and car tires. Serious pin traders know where to go, do their thing, and have time to run errands on the way home. It’s incredibly impressive, and I hope that these concepts help someone create the needed app to make pin trading even more effective and fun for good friends of the Mouse.

Views from AHA: Modern History and How to Cope

There are a lot of changes needed in the ways of teaching history, of integrating formats into the general perceptions and bringing history to a modern audience. Some of these methods came across AHA with beauty and grace. Pioneers in historical fields finally meet with the cultural metamorphosis that computers made on the rest of academia ten or twenty years ago. Web 2.0 is the current standard, but history is not yet working well with Web 3.0. Social networking tools, now commonplace in general society, make a standard media outlet that attracts and demands attention. History, unless dealing with 1900-present, generally deals with the deceased. Web 3.0, while connecting the living, needs a voice within the ranks of AHA to connect to the dead on an individual level. There is a strong disconnect between AHA, FGS, NGS, and APG. This is unfortunate on a good day, and damning on a bad one. There is professional bias, but that needs to drop.

Genealogical researchers, while anyone may become one by self-training, do not frequently receive proper training. There are schools that teach proper technique, methodology, etc., and those are rare albeit wonderful programs gaining prominence in the world-wide revival of genealogical studies. It is not only the lack of professional genealogical researchers presenting at AHA in Chicago, but where were the museum professionals? Where were the historical society reps? Although this seems a bit heretical in stating, there was one participant in the Graduate School/Early Professional Career track who mentioned that AHA should have “Professors” inserted between Historical and Association. At AHA, I was the only Masters student there from what I could tell. No one could tell the difference between me and anyone else from looking at me, but I could feel the pressure to become a PhD. While various professors were kind and cordial, it appears to be a lonely, solitary existence. Groups form among specific narrowly defined disciplines, but my curiosity about the future of history made me consider THATCamp and anything digital as my most important sessions for attendance, and I could not attend most of them.

The best area was where vendors congregated, and I spent time with HistoryIT and the Minnesota Population Center in forming an idea for an app blending the multi-year census data with libraries, archives, and repositories of a genealogical nature with a Wiki emphasis for incorporation of ethnic data and emphasis on cemetery plotting. WikiMap is something that takes more knowledge of the topic than I have now, but maybe my Digital Media class this semester will steer me in a proper direction. Although PhD thought processes rotate through my mind, I need to finish the Masters first. I work outside of academia and do not get paid to go to school. Debt is no one’s friend, and it makes me scared. It may as well be poison administered by degrees, pun intended. I have no choice but to work hard and keep going as hard and long as I have to to finish these and be ready for whatever lay ahead.

I left a great dinner and the conference pumped, rearing to work, and exhausted. Now, I am still exhausted, but I start classes this week and I feel old right now. My internal chronological time line, usually not a factor that matters much daily, shows how much I missed due to personally induced oblivion to the outside world and numbness until August 2010 from family tragedy in 2005. Oblivion and numbness do not need outside vices as catalyst for inducement. I have a lot of catch-up to play in the digital world history sphere, especially according to the articles due for my first class reading. I hope that I survive this semester as well as last semester.

I’m nervous, but God was right when He told me that this would be exciting. Oh my word, wow. It’s time to find the good in life amid gray days and self-reflection turning to personal doubts. I can do this. God wouldn’t have me here unless there was a way of doing it with His help. Have to work hard, and have to do as well as possible. Anything less is unfitting for a heroine. That is my plan. I need to be the heroine in my life, not the supporting cast to a time stream.

The Genealogy Doctor