Friday, February 28, 2014

Fort Bend County (TX) Library Genealogy Events for March 2014


Have you ever wondered where your ancestors came from?  Are you curious about their military service or daily lives? Begin your family-history research at Fort Bend County Libraries' Local History and Genealogy Department at George Memorial Library,

1001 Golfview in Richmond. Library staff will present two programs in March to help the beginning family-history researcher pursue their genealogy search.

Learn how to use the online genealogy resource, HeritageQuest Online, a resource for tracing family histories, on Tuesday, Mach 11, beginning at 10:00 a.m., in the Computer Lab. Discover how this resource can help you get results tracing your family history, and the kind of information it provides. Tips and strategies for a more efficient search will be demonstrated.

The class "Family-History Research: Filling In Your Ancestor's Story" will take place on Tuesday, March 18, beginning at 10:00 a.m., in the Computer Lab. Learn how to find and search archived editions of historic newspapers, local histories, and Google Maps to discover details about the daily lives of people in the past.

The programs are free and open to the public. Seating is limited, however, and reservations are required. To register online at the library's website (, click on "Calendar," select "George Memorial," and find the program. Participants may also register by calling the library's Local History and Genealogy Department at 281-341-2608, or by visiting the department at the library.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"A Conference Manifesto" for the Genealogy World

"If you want to see where the genealogy field will be in five years, look at what the library field is doing today."  --Me

I get a lot of raised eyebrows and blank stares when I say this. Some people are even offended. I stand by it, however, because this has been my observation as I straddle both worlds.

Genealogists deal in information and research. They want the highest quality, the most current and the most accurate stuff. Guess what? The library field does, too. We all have the same interests and value the same things.

The difference is that both fields incorporate new ideas at different speeds. The issues the library field is talking about right now are what the genealogy field will be talking about down the road. That's not an insult, just an observation.

One of the issues where I've noticed different speeds is conference planning. Trends are changing overall, but they haven't trickled down to the genealogy world yet.

Recently I read a piece that mirrored my current feelings about genealogy conferences. I've grown tired of the standard lecture session format, many of the same subjects covered over and over again, and those horrible connected convention center chairs.

A Conference Manifesto was written by Mary Ellen Bates, one of the premier names in the information world. She speaks of the recent demise of a large conference (Online Information) and the changing ways in which we seek learning experiences. She comments:

"The traditional conference is going away, because it is no longer serving its purpose. We are no longer willing to shuffle zombie-like from one conference session to the next, passively listening to speakers talk about what they know."

Do you feel this way? I'm honestly and sincerely saying that I do. You might not, and that's ok. Keep in mind though that as the library world goes, eventually so will the genealogy world. It's only a matter of time before you tire of the zombie-like shuffle.

Many of Bates' points are spot-on and too important for the genealogy community to ignore. "How can a conference be relevant when its topics were set a year and a half ago?" Even in genealogy where we're used to looking backwards, developments are happening at a rapid pace, but scheduling is not. "Expect more from your speakers." Yes, yes and yes.

My blog post is now at the point where people are forming their rebuttals in their heads. I know conference planning is harder than it looks. The sit-and-stare-at-a-speaker format is still widely accepted and expected. If that's what the registrants desire--and you're sure of it--then by all means keep at it as you see fit. But you better be sure you know what people want because once they stop attending your conference, it's very difficult to get them back.

However, as you can see from Bates' article, the library world is getting tired of this conference format right now. At some point, genealogists will also be weary of this traditional style. The clock has started, conference planners. Be ready when it happens.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Visit with StoryPress at RootsTech

During RootsTech, I had a nice meeting with the people behind StoryPress. They describe it as a digital Pinterest for stories.

Here is a video of CEO and creator of StoryPress explaining the concept and his motivation behind it:

Story collecting apps and websites are de rigueur now. It seems like everyone has one and I usually don't get excited when someone wants me to review theirs. However, I really liked this one. It was different. It held my attention and made me want to explore others' stories.

There are numerous features to guide users through the process. You are given a template as a story guide.

Questions are provided as audio prompts to get your stories started. You can include photos, video or both in your story. The finished product is like a small movie of a particular story in your family. Imagine having several of these from various family members. Quite a treasure.

(Example of what the story prompt will look like)

Each story can be tagged with various subjects like "travel" or "birthday." These descriptors are provided by StoryPress, so you can't customize your own for surnames and such. They stay within the general subject vein, which is fine for mainstream use. However, hardcore genealogists are going to want more descriptors. When that time comes though, I fully expect the StoryPress crew to be receptive to adding more tags.

Your StoryPress stories can be public or private. The public ones can be searched and browsed by subject. I must admit, it was fun looking at other people's stories. This is a magnificent time-waster for when you're avoiding other things.

I was told StoryPress will be a go on April 1, 2014. At that time it will be free to have an account. You will be able to "like" and comment on others' stories. You will be able to follow your favorite authors. Most importantly, you will be able to record your own family's stories.

I was promised more updates by the StoryPress crew closer to the launch date. I'll keep you posted. Until then, here is another teaser video:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Visit With Peoplefinders at RootsTech

Peoplefinders was a new vendor at RootsTech and a new-to-me vendor as well. I love me some records databases, so I went over there to view their wares. I did not tell them I was an Official Blogger, a regular blogger, or that I was a crazy library-type lady who asked odd questions about user experiences searching databases. I wanted the regular sales pitch so I could form my own impression.

The Peoplefinders crew was touting their new website It focuses on public records for living people for the most part. There are no secret records. All of this information is available somewhere online. They just collect it and provide it neatly and quickly.

The Peoplefinders employee that was answering my questions used a test name to show me how the site works. The results returned included property records, relationship records (marriage, divorce), vitals (birth, death), censuses and more. Lots more. Names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

There is also a family tree component where you can build your own tree at the site, just like all the other genealogy records vendors out there

Where is gets interesting is that in, you can attach records and add people to your tree just like you can do at It is but a mere click of the mouse, and a living someone and their public record are part of your family tree.

Now I've seen the messes that result from the click-and-add options for adding people on family trees. There are trees where a couple has 16 children, 13 of them are the same person just added 13 times because of lazy record attachment. At, the same situation can happen...but with living people. Anyone can pull your records and add you their family tree. 13 times if they feel like it.

Is there a way to prevent others from adding me to their tree? She didn't know and went to ask. I felt a little uneasy knowing some lazy genealogy yahoo could add me and my public information to their family trees. I accept that the info is out there, I want to prevent it from being gathered if possible. The Peoplefinders person told me I'd have to make a request to have my file suppressed.

Apparently you don't have to be a member of to construct a family tree. If you build a family tree and your membership lapses do you still have access to your tree? She went off to ask again. The answer is no.

$11.95 per month was the price I was quoted for There is also a $24.95 version with more options at I was also told there will eventually be a Peoplefinders Pro edition that will have much more powerful options for finding living people. This one will be contract only.

My initial impression is that might be an option for novice searchers and those who aren't familiar with public records. This is certainly a large group of those who casually do family history. I'm pretty confident with my own public records searching ability to do without this site for now. It didn't quite hook me in yet.

I did not test, so I can't tell you how that was, nor can I discuss Peoplefinder Pro.

Our own data = $$$ now so look for more public records vendors to pop up in the future. If you see Peoplefinders at an exhibit hall, do some test searches and let me know what you think.

The Best Seat in the RootsTech House

If you're looking for me at the vast RootsTech conference, chances are you can find me in the Demo Theater. This is the second year RootsTech has featured the Demo Theater. I like to call it "the best seat in the RootsTech house." Here's why:

The Demo Theater features rows of big couches and chairs arranged in a semi circle around a small stage with a podium and a screen. There are some overflow tables in the back. Those white boxes on the tables are chargers for your electronics. Nice.

Demo Theater sessions last 15 minutes long and feature vendors from the exhibit hall. The presentations run about 10-12 minutes with a few minutes for questions. Each session usually has a live demo of the product or at least a planned sales pitch.

Here is one about search techniques at

Presentations run back to back, so there are no gaps. There is an emcee to keep the conversation going as the vendors switch out. At the beginning of each session, a person comes around with a raffle ticket and a basket of chocolate. Please understand what I just said: someone brings you raffle tickets and chocolate every 15 minutes while you sit in a big comfy chair. And...the vendors come to you.

Now do you see why the Demo Theater is the best seat in the RootsTech house?

I will confess I've spent a great deal of time here during RootsTech. Here are some of the presentations I've seen:

Billion Graves: Billion Graves Basics
Pictureline: How to Digitize Your Photos
MyHeritage: Finding our Ancestors Among Billions of Names...
Treelines: Family Tree Management on
RootsPoint: Connecting Lives
FamilySearch: Effective Search Techniques on
findmypast: Discover Your Irish Roots with findmypast

So let me repeat this again: vendors come to you and show you how to use their products while a lady hands out raffle tickets and chocolate. This happens every 15 minutes while you sit in a big comfy chair.

I can't got any further without thanking Backblaze for sponsoring the Demo Theater. Not only did they sponsor it, but they were very active in running the show, answering questions and filling the gaps with conversation when the vendors switched out.

I'd really like to see something like the Demo Theater at more traditional genealogy conferences, but I'm doubtful that would happen as there aren't many big money sponsors and it's something new and different in a field that's slow to change.

For now, I'll continue to enjoy the features and knowledge that come out of Demo Theater. I learned a lot in that area at this conference and hope to do so again at RootsTech 2015.

Friday, February 7, 2014

PERSI 3.0 with Curt Witcher at RootsTech

Friday I attended PERSI 3.0: The Next Generation of the Periodical Source Index led by Curt Witcher, who you may know from his awesomeness at the Allen County Public Library.

PERSI is a great genealogical resource. Recently, it got a new address and some new life breathed into it. For these reasons, I was curious to see the latest PERSI news.

Witcher started by describing the types of periodicals in the index. In this case, periodicals do not include newspapers. Those are serials. Periodicals in PERSI are genealogical journals and publications. They may focus on a certain place, historical era, surname, ethnicity or something else.

Much of the good information found in these articles is missed because the people that are interested in them aren't subscribers of these journals or part of the geographical area. Witcher calls these "orphan articles." He gave an example of an article about the history of a town in Indiana....but it was featured in an Idaho genealogical society journal. How would one ever find out about it if they weren't part of the Idaho society? That's where PERSI comes in.

PERSI is indexed by humans who are information professionals who know about genealogy. This means you'll get excellent, quality results when you search the index. Do you get that same quality in Google Books? Not usually.

When you search PERSI and find an article of interest, you can enter the title of it in WorldCat and see local repositories near you that hold the item.

Where can you get this magical PERSI? It's been around for a while, but hadn't been updated with new items for a few years. Now PERSI is available through findmypast. Yes, you do need to be a subscriber. There is an older version of the PERSI index available at HeritageQuest, but it doesn't have recent updates or all the things that are being added at a rapid pace by findmypast.

Wouldn't it be great if you could access findmypast through your library? They are working toward a library edition right now.

Here's more about the PERSI move to findmypast.

This was a great RootsTech session. I'm glad I attended. I tweeted it heavily. Thanks to all who responded.

RootsTech Expo Hall Sneak Preview

Before the opening keynote and the start of RootsTech, I took a media tour of the Expo Hall. The conference and the exhibits have moved to the other (larger) side of the Salt Palace this year.

MyHeritage (Platimun Sponsor) (Platinum Sponsor)

Backblaze (Sponsor of the Demo Theater)

Demo Theater

FamilySearch Phone a Friend Area

FamilySearch Story Recording Area

FamilySearch Photo Memories Area

FamilySearch Indexing Obituaries Initiative

Media Hub

Wide aisles

Free drinks! One of my favorite RootsTech perks!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

FamilySearch Blogger and Media Dinner at RootsTech

Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO

Wednesday night was the Blogger and Media dinner. This is an annual event where FamilySearch feeds us and shares their latest developments throughout

Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO, gave the opening remarks. Three years ago, he was new to FamilySearch and family history. On this night, he was right in his element.

Shipley Munson spoke next and gave a quick overview of the RootsTech 2014 by the numbers. 8,000 adults will be attending, along with 4,000 youth and another 1,000 kiddos on a waiting list. Also, many sessions are being live-streamed to tens of thousands more around the globe. It's kind of mind blowing to think about it.

The Developer Challenge finalists were announced by Thom Reed, FamilySearch Partner Marketing Manager. We got to see the three tools in the challenge. The winner of the Developer Challenge will be announced during Friday morning's keynote.

Don Anderson, VP of Patron and Partner Services, discussed FamilySearch's ever-evolving partner relationships. They currently have partnerships with several big names like and MyHeritage. These partnerships are mutually beneficial. The partners help index records and in turn get access to these records. Look for several more companies of all sizes to partner with FamilySearch in the future.

A couple more announcements were made by Mike Judson, Indexing Workforce and Development Manager. There is (or will be, I can't remember) a new indexing site. It is online based.

FamilySearch is stating that this is the "Year of the Obituary." They will be putting tons of obituaries online at FamilySearch. THEY NEED INDEXERS! You can start indexing obituaries right now so get on it!

If you're a member of the LDS Church, I have good news for you. You will have free access to major FamilySearch partner sites from home. This includes and others. I'm not in the LDS loop so I don't have specifics. However, it was reiterated that this is happening in the coming year. It is not immediate.

My overall takeaway from this event is that FamilySearch is continuing to foster partnership relationships this year. They want to grow the volunteer indexing sector, and reach out more globally with FamilySearch services.

All in all, it was an entertaining informative event and I'm thankful FamilySearch invited me to be a part of it.

Innovator Summit at RootsTech

I had the pleasure to attend the Innovator Summit portion of RootsTech yesterday. These are sessions and events geared toward the developer end of the tech spectrum.

The day kicked off with an early lunch and keynote by Chris Dancy.

My photo is lousy, but you get the idea that the event was well attended. Dancy is an interesting duck. There's no way to really explain him in words. You just have to see him, hear him and think about what he is saying.

From a genealogical perspective, he discussed life after death. Given our online presences, we don't really "die" after we die because our stuff lives on. He talked about how others will perceive our stuff, how it will be preserved and who will have control over it.

Dancy brought up digital death policies and said Google has a good one. It got me thinking about the genealogy-type companies that house our data. Who gets that when we die? Do these companies have digial death policies? My guess is no.

I sat at a fun table of bloggers and got my official beads from DearMYRTLE.

After lunch, I attended "It All Started at Starbucks--From a Partnering Idea to a Business Success in Three Years." This session was about the beginning of Inflection, which owned before bought it. 

My favorite takeaways from this session had to to with public records statistics. The company started when the founders noticed 30% of all online searches were for people. They studied the types of people searches that were being made and gathered the record sets to meet that need. 

Genealogists are a big group of public records users, but they are not a majority. Knowing this may help genealogy folks understand what makes tick and how they fill a need in the global online market.

I also attended "GOV-The Genealogical Gazetteer" led by Timo Kracke. I was fortunate enough to meet Timo in the morning. I finally put two and two together and realized he was teaching this class I wanted to attend. This session focused on the site and the need for distinct place identifiers. Here is his presentation in a nutshell.

The Innovator Summit sessions were well attended. From my point, I think this event was a success and Im glad I was able to be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My FHL Day and Adventures in Satanic Hotel Room Heaters

Yesterday's blog post made reference to the heater in my hotel room. Despite what the thermostat said, my choices were HOT or OFF.

Last night I woke up at 12:30am to the most suffocating heat. I went to the thermostat and tried to turn it off, except it would not turn off anymore. It said OFF, but the hot air just kept coming. I was sweating profusely and even waited in the hallway until I was rescued. 1:00am a security guard brought me a luggage cart. I piled all my already unpacked stuff on it and made my way to a room higher up and with a less satanic heating unit.

The plus in this story is that it snowed overnight. I watched it come down and blanket the city until I was able to fall asleep in my new room. By the time I woke up again, the streets were already plowed:

Despite all that action overnight, I was only an hour off my intended schedule. I made it to the Family History Library at 9:00am. I am so glad I brought my clodhopper boots on this trip. They came in handy on my slippery walk.

Inside the library, I spent 4 hours at the microfilm readers. I retrieved a lot of information. It's not for me though; it's for a client. Said client should be satisfied.

I set up a lunch date via Twitter with Amelia and Colleen. I didn't know them before today, but when you have genealogy in common, everyone is a friend. That's what I always say to people who say they don't know anybody at conferences.

After lunch I went back to my hotel room with the non-satanic heater and entered all my new FHL information in my RootsMagic database. Umm...and then I never left. I think I'll skip dinner and read in bed. Tomorrow is the RootsTech Innovator Summit and I need my sleep if I'm going to try to understand half of what they're saying.

Until then....

Monday, February 3, 2014

Touchdown in Salt Lake City

Today I made my way from home to Salt Lake City for a little pre-RootsTech research time.

Here is the obligatory "view from my room" photo:

The dome is the state capitol. My room is great, but my thermostat has two settings: OFF and HELL. So either I freeze or burn. This should be a fun week.

I was able to spend two hours in the Family History Library this afternoon. I was successful in finding records in that short time. Much more research is planned for tomorrow.

I intended on having a quiet dinner at the hotel, since there aren't many RootsTech people here yet. However, the president of the Illinois Genealogical Society saw me through a window and joined me for a lovely meal and discussion. We talked about genealogy and DNA, as well as our families. It was just one of those cool serendipitous meetups that happens at genealogy conferences.

All in all it was a good first day. Now I have to enter the records into my RootsMagic database before I forget.

Tomorrow is another day. There will be waffles for breakfast.

Select Twitter Accounts of RootsTech Sponsors, Vendors and Keynotes

I really enjoy using Twitter during genealogy conferences. It allows me to share with people at home, communicate with fellow attendees and reach out to vendors, sponsors and other entities.

I usually make a list of conference Twitter users in case I need to refer to them during the event. I did the same thing this year for RootsTech, but figured I'd throw it on the blog and share it with anyone here you go. This list includes official conference accounts, sponsors, keynote speakers and vendors.

This is not a list of all sponsors and vendors at RootsTech. This is merely a list of those who have a Twitter presence. I tried to search all vendor websites, but some did not make their social media presence obvious and I wasn't about to go blindly searching through the madness If you see one that needs to be added, let me know. 

The official hashtag for this event is #rootstech

Official RootsTech Twitter Accounts

Official RootsTech Conference - @RootsTechConf

FamilySearch - @FamilySearch

Sponsors - @ancestry

findmypast - @findmypast and @findmypastUS

MyHeritage - @MyHeritage

People Finders - @peoplefinders

BYUtv - @BYUtv

Backblaze - @backblaze

Dell - @Dell

Mocavo - @Mocavo

Pictureline - @pictureline

Lexmark - @lexmark

rootspoint - @rootspoint

Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) - @fgsgenealogy

Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) - @APGgenealogy

National Genealogical Society (NGS) - @ngsgenealogy

Keynote Speakers

Chris Dancy - @ServiceSphere

The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) - @thepioneerwoman

Annelies van den Belt - @annelies34

Dr. Spencer Wells - @spwells

Judy Russell - @legalgen

Stephanie Nielson - @nieniedialogues

Todd Hansen - @trippinwithtodd host of @thestorytrek


Ancestor Quest - @ancquest - @ancestry -

Backblaze - @backblaze

Billion Graves - @BillionGraves

Celebrating Family History - @News2Celebrate

CodeWeavers - @CodeWeavers

The Crowley Company - @CrowleyScans

Crystal Inn Hotel and Suites - @crystalinns

Dell - @Dell

Elijah Tree - @TheElijahTreeCo

E-Z Photo Scan - @ezphotoscan

Family ChartMasters - @FamilyChartMstr

FamilySearch Indexing - @FamilySearchInd

FamilyTree DNA - @FamilyTreeDNA

FamilySearch - @FamilySearch

Federation of Genealogical Societies - @fgsgenealogy

File Grove - @FileGrove

findmypast - @findmypastus

Fold3 - @fold3

Genealogy Bank - @GenealogyBank

Heritage Makers - @HeritageMakers

Legacy Books - @LegacyBook

Legacy Family Tree - @LegacyFamily

Lexmark - @lexmark

Lisa Louise Cooke (Genealogy Gems) - @lisacooke

MADTech - @MADTechs

MagiCensus - The MagiKey - @TheMagiKey

Mocavo - @Mocavo

MyHeritage - @MyHeritage

National Genealogical Society - @ngsgenealogy

New England Historic Genealogical Society - @AncestorExperts - @_newspapers


One Great Family - @OneGreatFamily

People Finders - @peoplefinders - @Photo_Tree

Pictureline - @pictureline

Plink Box - @PLINKBOX

Pro8mm - @Pro8mm

RootsMagic - @RootsMagic

Rootspoint - @rootspoint

Salt Lake Community College - @slcconted

Salt Lake Plaza Hotel at Temple Square - @SLCPlazaHotel

Silicon Valley Computer Genealogy Group - @SVCGG

Southern California Genealogical Society - @scgsgenealogy

ST Imaging - @st_imaging

Stories to Tell Books - @STTBooks

Story Press - @storypressapp

TechSmith - @TechSmith

Timpanogos Storytelling Institute - @TimpFest

Treelines - @treelinescom

Usborne Books and More - @_ubam

Utah Genealogical Association - @ugagenealogy

You're welcome to follow me on Twitter at @acoffin if you want. My account is all over the place just like life.