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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Genealogy often makes me sad

Is it weird to get upset at the difficult lives our ancestors have lived when we haven't known them? I find that as I am researching people, I start to feel as though I "know" them and feel a kind of connection to them, which means I feel quite sad about their personal tragedies.

This week for example, I have discovered (thanks to *) that my great-great Grandmother died aged 41 of breast cancer in 1914 at the Royal Cancer Hospital in Glasgow. Now that is sad enough as it is, a relatively young woman dying of an awful disease. But it was other facts that made it even more sad and poignant for me:
  • When Barbara Robertson died, her youngest child Elizabeth (my Great Grandmother) was just four years old.
  • She died on 27 December, just two days after Christmas.
What I knew came later for the little girl who lost her mum at such a young age also made me sad:
  • Elizabeth, having lost her mum at a very young age at Christmas time, herself died at Christmas - she had a heart attack an died suddenly at home on Christmas Day 1970.
Now I never knew Elizabeth, or Barbara, but I have grown up knowing that Elizabeth died on Christmas morning. I know the story of my Dad seeing his Nan on Christmas Eve and exchanging gifts with her, for her to die a few hours later unexpectedly. I know how Christmas changed from a happy family occasion to a time of mourning and grief in a moment and I am certain that this has had some bearing on my Grandad and my Dad not being huge fans of Christmas. But I didn't know that Elizabeth herself may have had bad memories of Christmas, and that upset me.

This happens a fair bit with genealogy. You spend time researching a name and as you do, they become more than a name. You feel a connection to them because you're following their story and wanting the best for them. And then, they hit hard times or die. And it's sad, even if the tragedy is a hundred or two hundred years old because they as your ancestors are a part of you. Without them, you wouldn't be here!

*If you have Scottish ancestors and haven't used the Scotland's People website, I would urge you to have a look as it is a fab website with lots of info as well as a huge selection of digitised records all available on a pay as you go basis. As in the case described above, you can even get a statutory death record online (due to Scotland's legal and register system being slightly different to ours in England) which includes all the info you would expect to see on a death certificate but is much cheaper and faster than ordering one.

Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Utah brilliance!

I've spent the last two evenings watching talks from RootsTech, the genealogy technology conference now in its third year, which is happening this week in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Have I been lucky enough to be actually there? No, I've been at home in the UK, but that doesn't matter because the RootsTech website offers live streaming of some of the talks online which are so good it's like you're actually there in Utah (rather than on your sofa in Essex).

I even have the RootsTech app on my iPad which not only lets you stream the talks, but also gives you full bios of all the speakers at the conferenece, full details of all the companies exhibiting and lots of other useful info. It's amazing!

The session I enjoyed last night was Valerie Elkins "From paper piles to digital files" about her quest to organise her genealogy research. Up until fairly recently, I would have said that I am quite an organised person. However, as I've done more genealogy research I have noticed that I find it more and more difficult to locate a particular piece of paper or book when I need it so I have obviously slipped!

Being organised more and having my research easily accessible at all times is something I'm aiming for though (a bit like a kind of late new years resolution!) so I found Valerie's talk quite inspiring and hope to try using some of the tech she suggested in order to make this huge task a little easier.

Evernote was something she mentioned a fair bit and to be honest, I have tried using it a little already but found it all a bit confusing (despite being a lover of technology, I just find myself wanting a notebook and pen!). However, after the talk, I have decided I need to maybe give it a go again with what Valerie said in mind or maybe try One Note and see if I get on with that more.

I have also discovered just how many tutorials there are on YouTube, so I think I will watch a few of the "Evernote for Genealogy" ones and see how other people are using it. Pinterest is another thing where I have signed up for an account but don't really get how I can use it for what I want so that's another tutorial to search for I think.

I would love to know how other people are using apps and tech to organise themselves so do leave me a comment with your top tips!

Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Valerie Elkins @ RootsTech

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The FlipPal scanner - my new best friend!

We went to London at the weekend to see my Mum for Mothers Day and as well as her Mothers Day gift and flowers, I took my new FlipPal scanner along.

Mum managed to locate a huge box of photos (loose, in albums and in photo wallets), and whilst we all chatted, ate cake and drank tea, I scanned about 200 photos with ease in a few hours.

My Mum, Dad and Sister were all fascinated by the tiny scanner that can scan photos in and out of albums and save them on to a tiny memorycard. My Dad doesn't really even understand a memorycard so 200 photos being put on to one took some serious explaining!

I think that the FlipPal is the most useful thing I have bought since becoming interested in genealogy and as we have now scanned close to 400 photos in all (my Husband also had some old family albums of his parents wedding and him as a baby), it has already proved its worth. Scanning is so simple - it really is just a touch of a button, and unlike a normal scanner you can turn the scanner upside down and scan without the lid to scan photos that are in albums without the need to try and move them, which is brilliant if they're someone elses photos. There's no more pleading to borrow pics from relatives who are scared that they wont get them back either as the Flip Pal is so portable you can scan there and then.

The only downside I have found to the FlipPal so far is that as it runs on batteries and as scans take a fair bit of battery power, they run out a lot during a scannning session (I am getting about 60-80 photos scanned per set of batteries at the moment!). It's OK though, as long as you have good rechargable batteries in use or a good supply of normal ones. There's nothing more frustrating then realising you have run out mid scan!

I haven't needed to scan any large photos yet, so I haven't tried out the scan and stitch technology which allows you to stitch several small scans together to make a large scan. Other people who have tried it tell me it works well though and I have no reason to doubt them.

At just over £120 the FlipPal isn't cheap, but it's a great gadget that is essential if you want to quickly and easily digitise old family pics. I'm now a huge fan!

Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

My FlipPal 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A week on from WDYTYA Live

I can't believe it has been a week since Who Do You Think You Are? Live (WDYTYAL)! Where has the week gone?

It was a fantastic event to attend, and even better than I thought it would be. Having only gone for one day tickets for the Sunday on the basis of "Surely there can't be enough to keep you busy for two or three days", I can report that actually there *IS* enough to keep you there for an entire weekend! We were upset we hadn't gone on the Friday and Saturday and next year I will definitely be going for at least two days of the weekend in order to see more workshops.

The workshops were without a doubt my fave thing about WDYTYAL - I learned a lot, and it was good to hear experts talking on a variety of subjects. The most useful workshop we attended was Janet Hovorka's session on using social networking and mobile devices for genealogy (as discussed in my previous post, the session is why I have set up this blog), but I also enjoyed Rebecca Probert's talk on cohabitation and marriage and John Titford talking about tracing London ancestors. I've decided that I'm going to have to see what talks the Society of Genealogists have on in the coming months as I can't wait a whole year for my next genealogy workshop fix!

There were also a lot of stalls to browse, with lots of genealogy companies, family history societies and online family tree sites exhibiting. I bought a couple of books, as well as a Flip Pal scanner which I have been after for ages (more on that in a future post, I am sure) and also came home with a huge bag full of leaflets, brochures and free gifts (my fave being a magnifying bookmark - very handy!).

For anyone who hasn't been, I think WDYTYA is best described as my husband described it: "A bit like the Ideal Home Show, but with family tree stuff instead of home stuff". However, unlike the Ideal Home Show which is held at Earls Court, WDYTYAL was held around the corner at Olympia - which I think is a superior venue.

So, roll on next February when I can go back again :-)
Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat