FamilySearch Pictures and Sources: Using the Facelift

Changes in FamilySearch’s user interface spawned new research efforts when sources transfer easily from software to social ware (FamilySearch) for accuracy and depth in ancestral research.

Little inspired me to try FamilySearch for research and posting outside of their LDS-specific uses in ages. As such, I did not keep up with changes until the last two months. Initially, the information I really wanted to review was on new.familysearch.org, After becoming spoiled by Ancestry.com’s instant abilities, I waited while FamilySearch brought their collections “up to code” with the monolith.

For any researcher, the sources are what turns cute family stories into real family history. Pictures (now ubiquitous and essential to Internet life) are easily uploaded and connected to ancestors. Instead of image-less names, dates, and places, uploaded pictures and stories make lives of the dead.

Any information taken out of context is easily misinterpreted, or misrepresented. Although reaching back to the past does not guarantee “accuracy in reporting,” meat on the bones (stories, pictures, and the daily stuff that is often relegated of being no importance to the person at the time) is important in sparking interest for the instant Internet and media-based generation, often a hundred or more years ahead of what someone once thought of as “boring.”

Outside of and including historical professorships, history is bigger and bigger business. Applied and marketable history is not a bad thing and teaches faster than monographs. While considered the standard for “serious” research, unless there is a connection to a direct past event, why read the monograph?

Adding applicable, accessible, and non-copyright restrictive photos and basic source materials gives a reason to review a historic monograph. Consider family history or genealogy as “front lines” history when trying to teach the subject.

Link

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 new.familysearch.org 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.

New.familysearch.org 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 new.familysearch.org 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?

More thoughts on New Apps?-NUCMC Mobile

Since I plan to learn how to program apps for historical repositories to make the genealogical world an easier place to navigate for friends, relatives, and the rest of the world, I want to work on getting more thoughts down on paper. I make notes everywhere. Can’t stop writing if I wanted to, but they do not always make it here. Must write this down before it leaves my thought processes.

So, NUCMC exists. It’s this massive union catalog of manuscripts done by the Library of Congress.

  •       For anyone not heavily invested in libraries, a union catalog is how a bunch of libraries together (supposedly) try to save money by using one major catalog and adding entries as needed. Since supposedly no government entity has money anymore (and most libraries are the forgotten beneficiaries of Borders closure, hence making a lot of people try to return to libraries that lost funding and programs in the never-ending stream of budget cuts that come out when people lose interest in culture) then the union catalog supposedly helps people find their information faster. Once I had a teacher who was extremely upset about converting a library to a union catalog. I need to hear positive opinions about them before I can give a more-accurate conclusive judgement. So, consider the above paragraph biased due to that experience.

NUCMC is a manuscripts version of OCLC’s WorldCat. In the end, it’s all about finding the right piece of information as quickly as possible. I was wondering when it comes to NUCMC, is there an app for that? I know that is a trade marked catch-phrase from Apple, but really- IS there an app for that? I am investing my time and energy in learning more about how to make existing technology work easier. If something exists and it’s not incredibly easy to use and does not function on a level where it only takes a few taps, then it’s outdated already. Not as if everyone has the time or power to use such technology on a grand scale. That is not the point here. Accessibility, while a hot topic in any archive or library, along with a basic design, (advanced design principles) that clarify and streamline are the essentials to an effective group’s work.

History matters to the people who live it and somehow either loved it or hated it. And it also matters to the people who don’t know about it for themselves, meaning “Was this family story for real?” That is where the repositories come in. The places that physically host or hold the information must be open virtually, 24/7, while the staff go to bed, live, eat, take care of children’s runny noses, and have lives. They don’t have to operate staffed all the time, although this would be a little ideal for the world employment situation. Someone complains about money issues and then everyone curls up in virtual fetal positions or raise their hands and say no.

I can see when war is the only option to divest tyrants, and military actions tend make really great, detailed records, but it’s like no one has the ability to tell me where all of the money went. Congress has not passed a real budget in 3/4 years of the current presidency and runs on these strange executive orders. I’m sorry. I don’t elect kings. I elect a president and I can get them out. America feels more like a police state now than it did ten years ago. I am not a fan of the illusion of security over the reality of corruption in every level of government and spying on your own people because you are afraid of losing your power. That smacks of fear and lack of confidence in a huge degree. I mean, when you are done being president, you continue with your security detail, you have a huge paycheck, and if the spouse wants to, she can run for president, too. I mean, it seems incredibly silly to worry so hard over the power struggle. And no, it’s not a case of scarcity of resources. It’s a struggle against innovation to clean things up versus keeping costs low. Other countries figured out how to get away with much less oil consumption back in the 1970’s during the first oil crisis by using sugar and other plant-based fuels that Americans seem completely unaware of. No, it does not cost more to convert over. It costs lobbyists and politicians their dependence on the fuel profits from corn shares that literally change how all food grows in the US. I may not know a ton on this topic, but I do see inter-connected webs throughout. It’s a pain in the rear.

Back to the libraries and archives, there is need for NUCMC to be accessible by app if it is not already. When thinking about how historians actually work, it’s not just IN libraries and archives. We need as much portability as any other traveler. Most of my research time is on a day off from other things, or maybe on Saturdays. I research on the way to other places instead of that place being the only thing on the list. It’s the only way that I do not feel guilty for taking the time out to make my work happen. I have yet to be able to do a work trip specifically geared for simply research unless I plan it way in advance. I know of other professionals who actually do plan for research trips and spend their time in the libraries and archives akin to gold.

Due to the expenses involved, online record repositories like Ancestry are incredibly popular, and if I am correct, just passed the one billion mark for profits for good reason. Some of the basic records should be free, and it would be the ideal in the best of world for the whole thing to be, but that is not going to happen either in the current economy or any other. A market economy will not allow it. However, instead it comes down to enough people basically buying into the program to lessen the charge for everyone else.

A lot of apps are free or else people do not try them. I want to do things that are free and somehow make ends meet and get paid for it. I am too much of an idealist in that regard. Not sure how in the world it will work out, but I love the idea of flooding the earth with the ability to find what is necessary to get the research done. I am a romantic in this ideal, and I understand it. Going into academia unfortunately will not pay for it, but I also love teaching. Why is it that everything that I get a kick out of does not pay bills?

*sighs from the GenealogyDr*

Mapping Revolution

I am sure that I am maybe a decade or more behind in GIS mapping and similar developments, but you have to start somewhere to catch up. Never before did I take mapping as seriously as I do now. Perhaps this is just me, but I see mapping initiatives as the biggest, hottest thing since PAF’s endorsement by the LDS Church back in the 80s. But this has a much prettier interface. I received a newsletter article today that made me stop and re-evaluate my actions from the past week in changing majors. Enough to jump into the new program with both feet.

Image

BillionGraves is an app that just blew open the door on Internet genealogy. A year old, this company’s development took part of what I want to do and already made it happen. I need to ask them about their API and see what they use. What I want to develop is similar, but this was the first step in its evolution. I am unsure that I can develop the rest of it quickly enough to finish it for my Masters project before I end up having to do something else because it is already done.

Although much tech development has happened in the last 15 years, this is the next level. Bringing the technology to the people for use in practical, every day approaches. Simple user ability, wiki possibilities. I don’t know how to develop this, but this is literally the thing next door. After that, I have no idea what to do for that project. And people say that family history, AKA genealogy is dull. They have never tried it or else they would NEVER say that. The technology alone being developed to make things work faster and better is moving so fast that it is almost impossible to keep up. And I’m writing the book on this process, literally.

I am in-process of switching one of my Masters programs and refining the other to reflect the need that I have for learning to program web apps. Without them, all of the current infrastructure becomes meaningless. Obvious to most of the world by now, web apps are the way that everything moves and getting into development is the obvious solution for anyone who wants a job over the next ten years.

Historians typically have not been programmers. That has to change. Everyone needs programming skills. It is not an option unless you want to farm away creative control and/or design elements and the guts of the thing to a developer who often does not have the background. Why historians do not normally learn programming is the sheer math involved. I had enough with being scared. I have apps to make and Masters degrees to hope is not out of date by the time I graduate from the program.

Time to play,

The GenealogyDr

Notes From Cataloging Class

While working on the RDA overview, I started thinking about bar codes on books and wondered why didn’t the bar code have embedded standardized cataloging in it? A quick scan and the information is all there. This is not to say that catalogers become extinct at libraries. Far from it, employ more of them in diverse media fields, like music and within publishing houses if they are not there already. There is usually one of maybe tops of three catalogers in any given institution. At larger institutions, I have only heard of a maximum of five.

Change the structure a bit and pre-catalog in AACR2 and RDA. When the books or similar materials get to a library, scan the book, and if institutions need to tweak an entry for individual use, that is the functional role of the staff cataloger. We do not lose catalogers that way, we add to them. I am not sure whether this is already being done, but I see no reason it is not. For union catalogs, it still works.

Adding catalogers to staff of book sellers, DVD processors, CD processors, and etc. Even iTunes needs cataloging standardization and methodology to help with making content more accessible. These thoughts do not seem new. I am a new GSLIS student, and I am all about not reinventing wheels when it is not necessary, but in finding the fastest and the best methods possible for a given task. They are not always mutually exclusive endeavors.

I would love a systematic cataloging system utilizing Mills citations for sharing across the genealogical world. As of this writing, I am not aware of anything that comes close. Something inexpensive or free for home cataloging. And something that allows a Creative Commons use for archival uploads. Catalog an item once. Do it once (if possible) and do it right, no matter which institution it belongs to, whether NARA, a historical house, or a private collection. I want the Creative Commons ability for my crusade about digitizing as many documents as possible with keyword-search abilities to make searching easier, faster, and better. That said, cataloging should function in similar manner. Do it once and allow for downloads anywhere needed or the bibliographical information.

No future-proofing option exists now, but if the current motions for acceptance of RDA come true, and international standardizing bodies recognize it and start using it, then there is an obvious need to turn the AACR2 information into compatible work. Software with dual screen abilities, populated by OCLC Connexion or similar software should give current catalogers a chance to keep using their skills even as they merge over to the new fields. If someone has need to look up information backwards, they should also be able to do it. AACR/2 has been around for 30+years and all efforts in American academia up to this point revolve around this system, Dewey, Cutter, or a similar method with Library of Congress information. The idea is not to interrupt workflows, but to make for as seamless a transition as possible.

My class uses OCLC Connexion for double-checking basic bibliographical references and we do not add to the records. Seems like good reason as we do not know what we are doing, and wish not to disrupt the entries of those that do. AACR2 has a million rules to follow, also. Following the rules means that people get really good at proving their cases for things. Akin to lawyers’ court cases, or mathematicians’ proofs, or family historians’ Genealogical Proof Standard, everyone uses evidence as proof of things. In most places of life after introductory basics, a person is proving him or herself all the time. Very few people accept anything on face value unless tired, or the facts are not sufficient to alarm them.

Even God uses evidence, although there is a certain degree of faith attached. “Prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts” is part of a scripture asking for people to try out the promises that God gives. Try it, akin to trial, perhaps. Who’s trying whom? To be determined.

That aside, I want things to run efficiently. Let the para-professionals simply scan in books or other items as they come in. If there are back logs of previously cataloged items, then use the logs to help with populating the new material or union catalogs for distribution. There is always more cataloging to do. Whether it is new acquisitions, or archival items, or even simply cataloging Google images and items, it needs doing. Search terms help, but they’re not enough. An Advanced search on Google is almost impossible unless a person literally searches Google for it. And while there is a lot on Google, there isn’t everything there yet.

For those of us who did not grow up in the instant information-Fast Pass (thank you Disney) mentality of the Internet, there is still a lot of material left to cover and a lot not yet available online. Even for what is there, keyword searching does not always cover it, nevertheless cross-cultural information algorithms.

Hire more catalogers. Improve and increase software, and make sure that what is there is known.

Best to all from the Genealogy Doctor.

So This is Christmas: Dissertations and Becoming Dr. Death

At least, it will be on Sunday. Yesterday I had an academic shifting-discussion with a lady on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to LA. I made her, her seat mate, and the mother across the way small crocheted snowflakes on the flight. Found out that the lady, P, for short, was on her way to Melbourne although she grew up in Chicago and loves cheese and caramel Garrett’s popcorn. That was for documentary purposes at some point. The man had a scotch, and the mother had twin children, a boy and a girl.

The thing that seemed important to me was that while speaking with the woman, I decided on a doctoral emphasis and general research topic. I am between my first and second semesters of graduate school for double Masters degrees and although my life will probably change dramatically over this next year, and I hope that it does in a very positive way, I think that this doctoral emphasis could help someone. Helping someone know that they aren’t alone is incredibly important to me. The emphasis is trauma following death.

Once January ends, it will be six deaths in seven years. I was batting par for the course there for a while, but this past year has been (knock on inanimate object) the best. My first without a major traumatic life experience since 2005. Well, I moved across the country and started grad school. That is a different version of trauma all together. From my oral history class, I learned more about how to cope with and deal with trauma in real-time. That was definitely not a part of the intended learning outcomes of the course, but life experience being what it is, it happened. We read a lot about people in traumatic situations, and I am beginning to see it with a bit more of a clinical eye. Not with an eye that doesn’t care, but everyone goes through trauma eventually.

Whether or not a person believes in the Afterlife, this is still a case where it’s one of the hardest things that a person can go through. Some people never leave the state of trauma that happens with death, and some eventually find their way out of it. Seeing the quantity and sheer size of disasters these days, knowing how to deal with post-mortem trauma in survivors is important. I have no plans of becoming a psychologist, but I do plan to give some degree of relevancy and “Your life matters” to the people who get left. As universal as family and food, so is death. I also do taxes. 🙂

Relevancy when it comes to death is something that I prefer to establish through historical context. I don’t know whether that many people would see things the way that I do. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I have a unique perspective given my experiences in family history work, and a sincere love of all things old. Okay, that doesn’t make me unique. Add training and education, and I may still not be unique. However, it’s not every day that a person decides to take on the task of learning how people deal with after-effects of death in a historical context. At least, I’ve never heard of it before. I want to really become a genealogy doctor, able to help anyone who needs to know a given resource. While I consider this, I also know that I’m great at starting things. It just takes me a long time to finish them, especially to finish them well.

It concerns me how studying this topic could negatively impact my future family life. The other side is that it could give my family members a  unique perspective contributing to positive reactions, and defying the “bad fear” of death. I prefer that my children some day not have “death wishes” or that they don’t act to hasten an untimely demise, but instead never to fear death. I don’t. It’s a time for going home, but it’s not yet. You work hard in this life and you make sure that you have the relationship with God where you understand that His grace saves. That never means that you stop working hard, helping others, etc. It means that you step it up a notch and remember where that grace comes from, particularly intent on moving forward, on progression and helping make good things happen. Never step on anyone else’s agency, but help channel influence in positive directions.

There’s also an app that I am trying to figure out how to make, or to make an “appative” as it were. (App as an additive to already-existing software or freeware= appative.) Working with existing technology to make something that works better. There are things that I need to make happen, and I hope that I can do this, or find a way of making things work properly.

Yours truly,

The Genealogy Doctor