The 2015 summer Dallas Genealogy Society Summer Symposium: Researching in Texas was held August 7-8, including an after-hours session at the library until 10:00 on Friday night.  The speakers covered a lot of Texas history, and the types of documents that are available in different archives for each period. Of special interest was the discussion on the archives at the Texas General Land Office.

Although many records are available online at the GLO website through the Land Grant Search, the Surname Index shows some of the documents that are not available online; for these we will have to make a trip to the GLO. We both have enough for a couple of days of research; there is a trip to Austin in our near future.

The presentations on the special collections at the University of Texas at Arlington was partcularly helpful in figuring out what questions to ask and what to expect when trying to find a home for collections.

Bruce's Do Over Week 6+--Scanning Treasure

My digital archiving project took a leap forward, as I visited the sister who has all the family archive.  We spent two days scanning more or less full time and got through about 5%, or maybe less.  We found a letter written by my great grandfather around the turn of the last century telling one of his daughters to come home from Mexico, where she was visiting a cousin.  The was a postcard from my great, great grandmother to her daughter-in-law on the death of my great grandfather.  There was the midcentury equivalent of a text message--a telegram from my father telling his mother that he had defended his dissertation and turned in the final copies.  My sister realized that she had not seen everything.

We discovered some obituaries that gave us some new information.

We also discovered that the library we had donated some photographs had cataloged them under the wrong "W. E. Moore" to their significant embarrassment.


Kristin's Do-Over - Off the Rails (for the time being)

All I can say is that I'm glad Thomas MacEntee will restart the Genealogy Do-Over cycle in April, because I got sidetracked. I started off on the Do-Over so well. I was on a roll, setting aside my previous research, collecting my own information, creating a research log, and even conducting some research. After that, not so good.

The first thing that happened is that we went to Salt Lake City for a week, spending several days at the Family History Library and attending the combined RootsTech and Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference. I'm not complaining -- I had a *great* time! While I didn't have as much of a "pick list" before heading to the FHL as I had hoped to have, it turns out that I had plenty! I owe a lot of that to the initial stages of the Do-Over. I committed myself to finding the low-hanging fruit, meaning the vital records for recent generations. I copied the birth, death and marriage records that I could find for my grandparents (already had my parents'), some great-grandparents, and even some g-g-grandparents. (This is not as easy as it could be. Our family has some long generations;  even my grandparents were born before the states began requiring birth records. But I found and copied what I could.) Then I ran into a motherlode of information on one of my great-grandfathers. I already had a copy of his autobiography that he wrote for a Civil War army reunion at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 and which he dedicated to my grandmother. But I also found several documents on regimental reunions that included information on and articles by my great-grandfather. Between these and the newspaper articles I had previously found online through the Quincy, Illinois Public Library digital newspaper project, I have a lot of information on my great-grandfather -- the most on any of my ancestors -- and I hope to write an article on him one of these days.

While at the conference, we spent a lot of time on the Expo floor, talking to vendors about different products. We saw many interesting things, but my main purpose was to settle on a new database program. We did buy one, and I've spent a lot of time working in it since we got home. However, I am somewhat frustrated. My home desktop is a Mac Mini, and both of the products we were looking at are Windows-based. The one I've been trying is Legacy 8.0, which means that we have to run it under an emulator. I won't go into excruciating detail, but further investigation is required as the program will run for a bit and then run out of GDI handles and crash. We're not giving up yet and plan to look into the version of Wine and MacPorts that we're currently using. Suffice it to say, I have not had time to enter the fabulous information I collected in SLC. But for what I have entered, I really like Legacy's Source Writer to help me format the citations correctly. As part of this, I've spent a lot of time going through the Legacy training videos, and I'm glad I have. I've learned and am learning a lot as I go relating to best practices. 

We did find out that Legacy uses Microsoft Access as its underlying database, so there will never be a native Mac version -- at least not without a complete rewrite. They are working with CodeWeavers to create a package that will allow Legacy to install on a Mac. In the meantime, they offered to sell me CrossOver Mac as an alternative to Wine. I'd rather wait for a packaged version, though noone would commit to a date. The other option is RootsMagic, also a Windows program but which already has a companion product, MacBridge for RootsMagic. And they are working on a native Mac version. They can do this because their underlying database is SQLite, which is not limited to Windows. To be completely fair, I should spend time with the RootsBridge training videos and the free RootsMagic Essentials or the paid version. I need more hours in the day.

But this weekend I'm taking a detour to work on income tax. Ick. Genealogy is so much more fun!

Bruce's Do Over Week 4--Preparing for FGS/RootsTech

2015 was our second time to attend both FGS and RootsTech–this year a combined conference in Salt Lake City. There were two major tasks for getting ready:

  • Preparing laptops and tablets with all of the software, tree files and conference syllabus materials.
  • Coming up with a plan for how to spend time at the Family History Library.

This article talks about how we prepared for this conference/library trip both from a technical and a research planning perspective.

Technical Planning

Laptop Security

The biggest part of the technical planning was ultimately laptop security, since we both have email and other sensitive information on our laptops, and would be spending time in airports and libraries–both of which have a significant chance of laptop theft. I’ve finally gotten to a point that I wanted to encrypt the disk drives on our laptops to reduce the severity of identity theft if a laptop was lost or stolen; if someone gets access to your email, they can reset passwords to bank and other web sites that you really don’t want someone to get to. But even long-time Information Technology professionals hesitate to do encrypt drives for fear that they will forget the password and won't be able to decrypt any of the files on the laptop. I decided that good backups were the order of the day, and started the process of researching and encrypting both or our laptop disk drives.

The process of selecting and implementing the encryption process is described on my business web site in Laptop Security–Encrypting Disk Drives. It turned out to be much easier and less time consuming than I expected.

Collecting Conference Materials

Getting all of the conference materials onto tablets turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected. For my Asus TF700T Android tablet, I ended up loading all of the PDF files that Kristin downloaded in to Calibre and then pulling them downloading them from our Calibre content server. We use the Calibre server to keep track of manuals for appliances, online magazines, and for pulling down newspapers (the niftiest feature by far in my mind). Getting the materials loaded early was important, as the RootsTech application wouldn’t download the materials directly to either my tablet or my cell phone.

I’m not sure how Kristin got the PDF files onto her iPad, but I gather that it was a frustrating process, and that she is not entirely sure how she did it.

Research Planning

I did not do as much research planning as I should have done. I primarily made an inventory of where I had looked for information on the brick wall people before, and decided that I would work primarily with the newspaper databases that I would be able to access at the Family History Library. That turned out to be a treasure trove, as I found a number of articles that will help me reconstruct a timeline that will in turn tell me where to look for a couple of vital records that I am persuing.

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