NGS 2015 — Evernote for Genealogists

I recently gave two talks on geneal­ogy and tech­nol­ogy at the NGS Fam­ily His­tory Con­fer­ence in St. Charles, Missouri.

One talk was Ever­note for Geneal­o­gists. Here are the slides. (Please note that I wrote these in Keynote, but have to con­vert them to Pow­er­Point to pub­lish, so there may be some con­ver­sion effects.)

A key resource for pow­er­ful searches in Ever­note is this YouTube video on Ever­note search syntax:

FGS 2014

I attended the Fed­er­a­tion of Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties annual con­fer­ence in San Anto­nio, Texas this week.

It was a great week, with good lec­tures from lead­ing geneal­o­gists, as well as an active exhi­bi­tion hall.

I was hon­ored to be asked to present two talks on the first day:

Strate­gic Plan­ning for Soci­ety Leaders

And … Elec­tronic Pub­lish­ing Fun­da­men­tals for Soci­ety Leaders

Eulogy for Alice Jones

Alice May Jones (1928-2014)
Alice May Jones (1928−2014)

I think of my mother are an adven­tur­ous per­son. She thought noth­ing about pack­ing the five of us into a VW bug and head­ing to British Colum­bia. Or, when we were more grown, into a sta­tion wagon and head­ing to West Vir­ginia, or Boston.

When she wanted to revamp the kitchen cab­i­nets, but couldn’t afford to pay a pro­fes­sional to do it, she took a wood­work­ing class at the adult school, and built 18 feet of cab­i­net, with a Lazy Susan.

She was adven­tur­ous, and very prac­ti­cal about the steps required to set out on the adven­ture, and also a dreamer who some­times strug­gled when real­ity did not match her dream.

I’m going to read an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal sketch my mother wrote, prob­a­bly some time about 1983, I’m not sure when. She con­veys bet­ter than I can the blend of prac­ti­cal adven­turer and invet­er­ate dreamer she was. I think you’ll also see some of her sense of humor in her writing.

I was grad­u­ated from High School in 1945 in Sheri­dan, Wyoming a small town in north­east­ern Wyoming.

I thought about going to nurs­ing school after that, but nice girls didn’t do that — they became teach­ers or got mar­ried and raised chil­dren. So I went away to col­lege in Hast­ings, Nebraska — where I really had a ball. I think I must have majored in cam­pus­try. I took only what was inter­est­ing to me — music, French, Span­ish, and literature.

I came to Cal­i­for­nia in 1947 and fell in love with the warm weather — and no snow to shovel. I grad­u­ated from Glen­dale Col­lege in 1949, major­ing in music & lit­er­a­ture, and got married.

My hus­band was just out of the Navy, and between us we couldn’t have dug up bus fare out of town, but I started mak­ing plans. It was going to be a beau­ti­ful life: I would have a house, a car, a baby grand piano, and 5 chil­dren — not nec­es­sar­ily in that order.

My first child, a daugh­ter, was born in 1950 and by the time she was two we had a car and a house — not bad for 24 years old.

There were 4 more chil­dren in the next 13 years, another daugh­ter and 3 sons. I worked a lit­tle here & there but never steadily until 1961, when I started a busi­ness: Reseda Nurses Reg­istry, and an all med­ical tele­phone answer­ing ser­vice. I sold this busi­ness when we moved to Simi Val­ley in 1963 — I needed to spend more time with my fam­ily. In about 1965, I was con­tacted by the Pres­i­dent of CNA Dist #5 in LA about run­ning their Reg­istry for them — which I did for about 8 years.

By then I had my piano and I was ready to retire. Every­thing accord­ing to plan. I didn’t work for sev­eral years — I took piano lessons and enjoyed being home with my chil­dren. I was for­tu­nate in that I had beau­ti­ful gifted chil­dren — just like the plan — involved in music — play­ing foot­ball, drill team etc.

My old­est daugh­ter grad­u­ated from County USC School of Nurs­ing. My younger daugh­ter fin­ished high school at 16 and went to work for State Farm Insur­ance in T.O. She wanted to go to night school, but was a lit­tle shy, so I told her I would go with her, if she would pick some­thing we would both enjoy — so we took con­ver­sa­tional Spanish.

That got her started and she went on her way, and so did I — more Span­ish and piano. Then I dis­cov­ered the Simi Val­ley Adult School, where I stud­ied oil pain­ing and stained glass and cab­i­net build­ing — all rather expen­sive hob­bies —. So I took a part time job with Brent­wood Nurses Reg­istry — to sup­port my habit.

By now, my youngest daugh­ter was a full time stu­dent and always look­ing for a part time job. Finally, she took the nurse’s aide course at the Adult School and loved it. In fact, she talked me into tak­ing it. I fin­ished, but was still work­ing at the Reg­istry. Any­way, one day, Simi Doc­tors’ Hos­pi­tal called her to work and she couldn’t go — but she told them she’d send her mother. And that’s how I started work­ing in a hospital.

In 1978, my hus­band had open heart surgery (6 bypasses) — That wasn’t in my plan! — but he recov­ered nicely and was back at work in 3 weeks — so that was O.K. and I went on my merry way.

Then, in 1981 Jana was killed in a car acci­dent — that wasn’t in my plan either — and it wasn’t O.K. — I met a Catholic Priest at the hos­pi­tal who has influ­enced my life for­ever. Over the next few months I began to real­ize that I had been liv­ing in fairy­land for 52 years. Things were not always going to work out the way I had planned. Life is so frag­ile. I may not have my hus­band for­ever, indeed, I might not have him tomor­row, and I had bet­ter pre­pare myself to take care of me.

She trails off there.…

You see, mom was a coura­geous dreamer, and often, but not always, ready to take the next challenge.

Despite the fact that she dis­ap­peared from us over the last decade, I was com­forted that her adven­tur­ous dream­ing, her sense of humor, and her love of music were the last things to go.

Alice May Jones

Alice May Jones passed away May 26, 2014 in Scott Town­ship, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

She was born March 16, 1928 in Ord, Nebraska, the only child of Ernest Melvin Hill and Helen Kjer­s­tine John­son. Her father was a cloth­ier who lost his busi­ness in the Depres­sion and returned to farm­ing; he died when she was five. Her mother was a teacher.

She attended Sheri­dan High School (Wyoming), Hast­ings Col­lege (Nebraska), and Glen­dale Col­lege, where she received an AA degree. She majored in art and stud­ied music, lan­guages, and literature.

On Sep­tem­ber 21, 1949, she mar­ried Carl Lawrence Jones. They raised five chil­dren in the San Fer­nando Val­ley and Simi Val­ley. She started a nurse’s reg­istry, and later pur­sued arts and crafts, includ­ing paint­ing, macramé, cro­chet, knit­ting, and wood­work­ing. She liked to travel. On one of her trips, she fell in love with Albu­querque, New Mex­ico, where she retired with her hus­band. After Carl’s death in 2003, she lived with and near her chil­dren in Cal­i­for­nia, North Car­olina, and Pennsylvania.

She was pre­ceded in death by a daugh­ter, Jana Jones. She is sur­vived by four chil­dren: Jacque­line Abra­ham of Swiss­vale, Penn­syl­va­nia; Jonathan Jones of Acton; James Jones of Simi Val­ley; and Jor­dan Jones of Raleigh, North Car­olina; as well as three cousins, seven grand­chil­dren, five step grand­chil­dren, and six great grandchildren.

A com­mem­o­ra­tion will be held at 10 a.m. Wednes­day, June 4th, at the Rose Fam­ily Funeral Home, 4444 Cochran St, Simi Val­ley. Inter­ment will fol­low at Oak­wood Memo­r­ial Park, 22601 Lassen St, Chatsworth. In lieu of flow­ers, the fam­ily requests dona­tions be made to the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion at

The Demise of Readmill

The best app for read­ing books is being shut down. Read­mill allowed for read­ing of DRM-free as well as Adobe and Google DRM titles on mobile apps for iOS and Android. The read­ing expe­ri­ence was crisp and clear; the app also allowed for social and shared read­ing and annotations.

When Ama­zon bought the bet­ter known GoodReads, Craig Mod wrote an inter­est­ing piece at Paid Con­tent enti­tled “The deal Goodreads should’ve struck (hint: it wasn’t with Ama­zon)”:

In my dream team, fan­tasy pub­lish­ing startup league, I would have had Goodreads buy Read­mill. Here are two star­tups with sim­i­larly over­lap­ping prob­lems. I under­stand why Ama­zon bought Goodreads, and why Goodreads sold itself to Ama­zon. But as a reader and lover of com­pe­ti­tion in the world of pub­lish­ing, there is a com­pelling alter­na­tive uni­verse in which a Goodreads plus Read­mill com­bi­na­tion offered us all a unique alter­na­tive to Amazon.”

Now, Read­mill has come to its Epi­logue. The Read­mill team will be join­ing Drop­box, pre­sum­ably to enable read­ing of e-books stored there, but … they are not tak­ing the Read­mill app and website.

The web­site is no longer allow­ing peo­ple to cre­ate accounts as of today, and it will shut down com­pletely, as will the avail­abil­ity of the mobile apps, on July 1, 2014.

This is a sad day for inde­pen­dent read­ers. E-books are dom­i­nated by Ama­zon, with Apple, Google, and Adobe sweep­ing up most of the remain­der. It was an impor­tant part of the e-book ecosys­tem to have a sep­a­rate (and in many ways bet­ter and cleaner) app from the dom­i­nant Ama­zon, Apple, Google, and Adobe offer­ings. Hope­fully, Drop­box will build the Read­mill tech­nol­ogy into Drop­box and pro­vide a non-content com­pany way to store and read our geneal­ogy and his­tory e-books.

Direct Me NYC 1940

Direct Me NYC 1940
Direct Me NYC 1940

The New York Times pub­lished an arti­cle yes­ter­day (“Crack­ing the Brand-New 1940 Cen­sus”), report­ing that at the New York Pub­lic Library’s Mil­stein Divi­sion of United States His­tory, Local His­tory and Geneal­ogy and the NYPL Labs have con­nected 1940 phone books to the 1940 cen­sus to help researchers locate New York­ers in the 1940 US Census.

The site lever­ages the One-Step work of Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub.

This is a wickedly intel­li­gent way to con­cate­nate avail­able data.

The data­base allows you to start with a name and a bor­ough, find the per­son in the tele­phone direc­tory, use that to find the address, then use the address to find the 1940 US Cen­sus enu­mer­a­tion dis­trict. The site guides you through the process, includ­ing send­ing you over to Fam­il­y­Search to infor­ma­tion on the Enu­mer­a­tion Dis­trict you have discovered.

This will pro­vide quite a bit of help for researchers who still have not found fam­ily mem­bers in the 1940 US Cen­sus, either because the names are indexed incor­rectly, or because there are “too many hits.”

StoryCorps Covered Survivors of Another School Massacre

The national tragedy of Sandy Hook School in New­town, Con­necti­cut has shocked the coun­try. The incred­i­ble loss makes me almost speechless.NPR’s Sto­ryCorps cov­ered a Michi­gan school bomb­ing, inter­view­ing sur­vivors of the May 18, 1927 attack on a school in rural Bath, Michi­gan.

Forty-five died in that bomb­ing. What you hear in the Sto­ryCorps record­ing, is how people’s lives were affected. How, even 70 years later, the mem­o­ries of a fam­ily and a com­mu­nity can cen­ter on a sin­gle hor­rific moment when so much changed for so many.

Witness to the Lincoln Assassination Appeared on TV

Sey­mour Win­ston, he last liv­ing wit­ness to the assas­si­na­tion of Abra­ham Lin­coln appeared on the TV show “I’ve Got a Secret” on 9 Feb­ru­ary 1956. As made sense at the time, they offered him a car­ton of cig­a­rettes, but he requested pipe tobacco.…

The show’s pro­duc­ers knew of Mr. Win­ston because of an arti­cle that had appeared in The Amer­i­can Weekly.

Samuel J. Sey­mour, as told to Frances Spatz Leighton, “I Saw Lin­coln Shot,” (Mil­wau­kee:  The Mil­wau­kee Sen­tinel, 7 Feb­ru­ary 1954), p. 11. Google News.

Georgia Archives to Be Closed to the Public

Update: It seems that the Gov­er­nor of Geor­gia has found a way to return fund­ing to the Geor­gia Archives.

Georgia Archives PetitionIn a move intended to save money, the Geor­gia Archives will be closed to the pub­lic, start­ing 1 Novem­ber 2012. You can read a copy of the Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State’s let­ter about the clos­ing at the Records Preser­va­tion and Access Com­mit­tee (RPAC) web­site. (RPAC is a joint com­mit­tee of the Fed­er­a­tion of Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties, the National Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety [of which I am the President-Elect], and the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties (IAJGS)).

The archives has be on restricted hours as it is, being open only 17 hours per week (Fri­day and Sat­ur­day, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.), but clos­ing down com­pletely, is a blow that will be hard to recover from for fam­ily his­tory researchers and other his­to­ri­ans. Under this sce­nario, there would be a lim­ited avail­abil­ity for the pub­lic to sched­ule access to the archives, but, since these archives are Geor­gia state pub­lic prop­erty, many Geor­gians are mak­ing their opin­ions known in a Face­book group (Geor­gians Against Clos­ing the State Archives) and via a peti­tion: “The Gov­er­nor of GA: Leave our state archives open to the pub­lic.”

Read more about this in the Atlanta Jour­nal Con­sti­tu­tion: “Sup­port­ers Rally Against Geor­gia Archives Clo­sure.”

Access to records of his­tor­i­cal and genealog­i­cal impor­tance is cur­rently under siege in many states and fed­er­ally. There have been sev­eral attempts to limit access to what have been and should remain pub­lic records. Many of these attempts are well-intentioned, but misinformed.

As an exam­ple, pub­lic access to SSDI (the Social Secu­rity Death Index) is under threat because it was used to by crim­i­nals to claim as depen­dents recently deceased chil­dren. This was a rep­re­hen­si­ble act that caused the fam­i­lies of those chil­dren to go through IRS scrutiny, as well as hav­ing endured the loss of a child. How­ever, the point of these records being pub­lic is to avert fraud. Had the IRS been val­i­dat­ing against these records, they would have dis­cov­ered the fraud imme­di­ately, and with­out con­tact­ing families.

It may seem easy to mis­con­strue geneal­ogy as a sim­ple hobby with no real neces­sity, but clos­ing records not only affects hob­by­ists, but also pro­fes­sion­als, many of whom are act­ing on behalf of courts as foren­sic geneal­o­gists, or attempt­ing to find next of kin of fallen sol­diers. Pro­fes­sional qual­ity research can also be valu­able to under­stand a family’s med­ical his­tory, which can improve the value of health care and reduce its cost.

Geneal­o­gists are just as con­cerned about iden­tity theft as any­one, and have strict stan­dards designed to pro­mote pro­fes­sional con­duct even of ama­teur researchers, and these include stan­dards for main­tain­ing the pri­vacy for liv­ing persons.

For exam­ple, NGS has NGS Stan­dards for Shar­ing Infor­ma­tion with Oth­ers, which state, in part: “respon­si­ble fam­ily his­to­ri­ans con­sis­tently … con­vey per­sonal iden­ti­fy­ing infor­ma­tion about liv­ing peo­ple — like age, home address, occu­pa­tion or activ­i­ties — only in ways that those con­cerned have expressly agreed to.” Addi­tion­ally, the Board for Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Geneal­o­gists has a Code of Ethics, to which all Cer­ti­fied Geneal­o­gists must adhere. It states: “I will keep con­fi­den­tial any per­sonal or genealog­i­cal infor­ma­tion given to me, unless I receive writ­ten con­sent to the contrary.”

The Records Preser­va­tion and Access Com­mit­tee (RPAC), a joint com­mit­tee of the Fed­er­a­tion of Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties, the National Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety, and the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Genealog­i­cal Soci­eties (IAJGS) advo­cates for pri­vacy and access issues on behalf of the genealog­i­cal com­mu­nity. To keep up to date on records access issues, fol­low the RPAC RSS feed, or visit the RPAC web­site.

iBooks Author and iTunes U

iBooks Author
iBooks Author

Apple announced on Thurs­day their lat­est play to dom­i­nate the edu­ca­tion mar­ket. From its incep­tion, Apple has been focused on edu­ca­tion as a mar­ket. They have con­sis­tently pro­vided spe­cial dis­counts to edu­ca­tors and stu­dents, and they have devel­oped a series of education-friendly appli­ca­tions and products.

Within iTunes, Apple has long had iTunes U, a col­lec­tion of free audio and video of instruc­tional mate­ri­als from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties around the world, includ­ing Stan­ford, Har­vard, Yale, and Oxford. On Thurs­day, they announced that iTunes U was sep­a­rat­ing from the rest of iTunes, and being given its own app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Addi­tion­ally, Apple is allow­ing K-12 school dis­tricts the abil­ity to pro­vide con­tent through the app. (How they will help those school dis­tricts or their stu­dents afford the devices required to view this con­tent is not made clear, though many have spec­u­lated that Apple will offer deep dis­counts for large pur­chases. Even so, this seems to be an offer for another day, but per­haps as prices come down and the econ­omy recov­ers, some oppor­tu­ni­ties for this will open up.)

The most impres­sive part of the iTunes U app is how closely it mir­rors the best aspects of a good learn­ing man­age­ment sys­tem. It’s easy to nav­i­gate and to find con­tent, as you would sus­pect, but it’s no longer only a col­lec­tion of pod­casts. Now, iTunes U uses a binder motif, where the tabs include:

  • Info — defin­ing the course in a para­graph or two.
  • Posts — usu­ally hav­ing a brief sum­mary of a class, along with check boxes allow­ing you to keep track of the progress you have made, and links to the lec­ture on video or audio and the readings
  • Notes — where all the notes you take on the mate­ri­als or in related books are available
  • Mate­ri­als — where you can get to all the video, audio, books (some­times from the iBook­store, some­times in print-only copies from Ama­zon, some­times via links to exter­nal repos­i­to­ries such as Jstor.

What Apple is doing here is remark­able. They are cre­at­ing an infra­struc­ture where you can learn, with a min­i­mum of depar­ture from Apple’s ecosys­tem of hard­ware and its con­tent vend­ing ser­vices. The ben­e­fit to the con­sumer is con­ver­gence: notes taken in the e-book you bought from the iBook­store as part of your class are next to your notes about the lec­ture. The ben­e­fits to Apple are in keep­ing peo­ple locked into buy­ing their hard­ware, and also their con­tent. Geneal­ogy edu­ca­tion is going to be mov­ing in this direc­tion, though it remains to see how quickly.

Another thing that Apple announced on Thurs­day is iBooks 2 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app can now dis­play a new type of mul­ti­me­dia book. While this could be used for any con­tent, Apple is focus­ing on the text­book mar­ket. See their adver­tise­ment if you want to hear their pitch about this. They tout the cost sav­ings (most are priced at $14.95), the weight dif­fer­ence (we have all seen the mas­sive books chil­dren labor to carry back and forth to school), and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of engag­ing stu­dents. I’m not sure how the pric­ing model will work for these pub­lish­ers, though I do think some kind of sub­scrip­tion model could flat­ten out pur­chases that with phys­i­cal books cover a 5 year period, into some kind of annual fee for updat­ing elec­tronic text books with no ship­ping and ware­house expenses.

The launch included 8 books by McGraw-Hill, Pear­son Edu­ca­tion, and Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, who together account for 90% of the K-12 text­books in the United States. These books, as shown by a free copy of E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth: An Intro­duc­tion, are com­pletely dif­fer­ent from books you have seen before. They include video, audio voice overs, images that read­ers can inter­act with, charts that can be re-spun to dis­play infor­ma­tion from a dif­fer­ent perspective.…

Finally, Apple has released a free prod­uct that will help get con­tent into their iBook­store. The app, which runs on the Mac OS, is called iBooks Author. It is easy to cre­ate high-presentation qual­ity mul­ti­me­dia books using iBooks Author. It’s as easy to use as Apple’s other con­tent cre­ation tools in iWork. The catch with the prod­uct is the End-User License Agree­ment (EULA). Most EULAs are designed to limit the lia­bil­ity of a soft­ware com­pany to any­thing that might hap­pen to you if the soft­ware stops func­tion­ing or loses your data. How­ever, this EULA includes the fol­low­ing (as sec­tion 1B, high­lights are mine):

B. Dis­tri­b­u­tion of your Work. As a con­di­tion of this License and pro­vided you are in com­pli­ance with its terms, your Work may be dis­trib­uted as follows:

(i) if your Work is pro­vided for free (at no charge), you may dis­trib­ute the Work by any avail­able means;

(ii) if your Work is pro­vided for a fee (includ­ing as part of any subscription-based prod­uct or ser­vice), you may only dis­trib­ute the Work through Apple and such dis­tri­b­u­tion is sub­ject to the fol­low­ing lim­i­ta­tions and con­di­tions: (a) you will be required to enter into a sep­a­rate writ­ten agree­ment with Apple (or an Apple affil­i­ate or sub­sidiary) before any com­mer­cial dis­tri­b­u­tion of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may deter­mine for any rea­son and in its sole dis­cre­tion not to select your Work for distribution.

So, if you sell works cre­ated with iBooks Author, you can only do so through Apple, and you can only do so if they agree to dis­trib­ute it. If they turn your con­tent down for any rea­son, you not only can­not sell it with them, you also still are not allowed to sell it with any­one else. If you are absolutely sure that you are going to give your work away, I say, by all means, use iBooks Author. You will likely have a lot of fun putting the book together, and end up with a very good prod­uct. If, how­ever, you are invest­ing time cre­at­ing con­tent you hope to sell, even to dis­trib­ute as a perk for mem­ber­ship in a non-profit genealog­i­cal soci­ety, then I would say, wait a bit, and see if Apple is pres­sured by the out­rage of the com­mu­nity to soften this. (I can­not say that I have a lot of hope, because Apple has sev­eral dra­con­ian aspects to their con­tent dis­tri­b­u­tion model already that peo­ple are clos­ing their nose and swal­low­ing, so … they may not change this either.