28 February 2011

FamilySearch: newFamilySearch begins public Rollout

newFamilySearch begins public Rollout, it's not just for Mormons anymore

FamilySearch has been running a new Family Tree system called newFamilySearch for members of their parent organization The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was pleased to have access to this beta and see it grow since 2008. The website can be found at new.familysearch.org

The idea is to make one family tree for everyone who has ever lived on the earth. It isn't a new concept among genealogists, but having a big player like FamilySearch working on this project leaves us expecting something that will change the way we do genealogy forever. My review? That expectation is a valid one.

The system isn't as smooth as many other family tree websites, but the concept is highly promising. We may see some major changes before the tree comes out of beta. One change that is being discussed is creating a more wiki like environment for the tree.

Don't get yourself too excited. Rumors have been around for awhile that newFamilySearch would rollout to the public soon and that it would start with a small test group before going to everyone. The good news is that we have received word that the test group has been selected.

Read more about the Public nFS Rollout here.

PaHR-Access: Senator Pat Vance plans to move SB 361 by June 30th

NOTE: PaHR-Access addresses Pennsylvania vital records legislation. All interested individuals are encouraged to contribute to our efforts to make PA records available to the public. Learn how

Feb. 1
Our cause given a legislative form in SB 361
Referred to PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE Chair Senator Patricia H. Vance.
Senator Vance's Staff, Joe Marsicano, reported Senator Vance's intention to speak with new PA Department of Health Secretary Dr. Eli N. Avila before passing senate bill 361 through her committee.

Feb. 7
20th Senator sponsor added to SB 361

Feb. 28
Senator Vance's Staff, Amy Long, reported that Dr. Eli N. Avila has not responded in full to Senator Vance's inquiry, but that Senator Vance continues to support SB 361 and they believe it will be moved from her committee by June 30th. A backlog of legislative work makes moving this bill more quickly a difficult task. Senator Vance's staff encourage our calls and visits regarding this issue.

Please help make PA Vital Records open to the public by contacting Senator Vance's office to express your support. Follow the link to the list of her staff above or use the contact information here:

Main Capitol
Senate Box 203031
Room 168
Harrisburg, PA 17120
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ph: 717-787-8524
FAX: 717-772-0576
TTY: 800-364-1581

Other ways to help include spreading the word about PA SB 361 which you can read in full here, as well as contacting other PA legislators to express your support and request their cosponsorship.

13 February 2011

FamilySearch: Family History Center Subscriptions

Today's article is motivated by an article from Renee's Genealogy Blog on 9 Feb 2011. Ancestry.com is now available for free (again) at Family History Centers.

When I went to church today I stopped to look around the Family History Center as I often do and I noticed the new portal: www.fhc.familysearch.org
It must be viewed from a FHC computer with LANDesk installed so I got some screen shots for you.

The portal is broken into three categories: Genealogical Resources, Classes & Workshops, as well as One-on-One Assistance.

  • Genealogical Resources includes links to Premium Subscriptions, FamilySearch, FamilySearch Indexing, and FamilySearch Microfilm Ordering (sorry locals, microfilm ordering online is still not available in the United States).
  • Classes & Workshops include links to Online Research Courses and the new FamilyTech section of FamilySearch.org
  • One-on-One Assistance links to FamilySearch Records Wiki, FamilySearch Forums (still in beta), and FamilySearch Help Center.

I spent some time today clicking around the various websites. While all of the content is worth a discussion the content that can only be accessed from Family History Centers is the Premium Subscriptions section.

Here is the new look for Ancestry.com from the centers:

It appears to be a little more modern of a look than the old library version, similar to the non-library version, but lacking all the personalized features of a personal account.

Besides Ancestry.com, several other websites can be accessed for free from there and I took some screen shots to share with you which I have posted below. If you click any of the screen shots you may see a larger image.


World Vital Records

British Library Newspapers


The Genealogist

American Civil War Research Database

I had some trouble with findmypast.co.uk because it did not appear to be logged in. I hope that FamilySearch will upload some webinars on how to use these websites. I have some ancestors from the UK, but these UK websites are run quite differently than what most of us in the United States are used to. I'd be happy for advice from any of my readers and hope this look into the new Family History Center portal has been helpful.

12 February 2011

RootsTech 2011 (watched online): My highlights

This post has been compiled long after the conference to highlight what I learned from RootsTech 2011. It will be more sparse than future years as I only viewed online content for the 2011 conference year. Unfortunately, the 2011 videos were removed from the video archive at RootsTech.org (presumably to save room and post the more recent year). Fortunately, some are still available through a page of the Middle Peninsula African-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Virginia (MPAAGHS).

The 2011 conference was held February 10-12th, although I believe I did not watch any until March 4th. I wrote in my journal that day that I watched a couple sessions, but I gave no comments. I did comment briefly in a couple blog posts that year. I was busy with many other genealogy and family things, though I distinctly remember being impressed. After 2011, I committed to attend in person.

Talk highlights
FamilySearch image viewer
Recently I spoke to Brian Pugh for more details on the HTML viewer he mentioned in his speech at RootsTech 2011. Going to any historic document you will see the document within what we call a viewer. There have been some good blog discussions lately about ways this viewer could be updated in the near future. Brian was able to tell me how to access the HTML version of the viewer. Simply remove "/show" from the URL in your browser's address bar and hit enter to load the image in the HTML viewer.

While functionality differences are not earth shattering in scope, it is fun to know there are 2 versions of the viewer online right now.
From my post, "FamilySearch Family Tree: Sneaking up on us?"

Interview highlights
11 Aug 2011 - Genealogy Gems Podcast YouTube Channel: Interviews with Genealogy Experts
There are several interviews available on this channel from RootsTech 2011 and a few from other conferences within the past few years. While each interview is "expert," the most memorable interview for me this week was "Family History and Mobile Strategies with Ty Hatch." This month I've been spending a lot of time exploring the new BillionGraves mobile app. This app uses crowd-sourcing to photograph and transcribe graves. A unique feature is the automatic geo-tagging. The BillionGraves apps were released in May and June this year. This interview with Ty Hatch, from 3 months earlier, discusses the genealogy mobile market and the need to use mobile technology such as geo-tagging.
From my post, "Highlights - August 2011"

01 February 2011

PaHR-Access: Named SB 361

Update from Senator Robbins Office:
"Since last week Senator Browne has joined as a co-sponsor to the bill. In addition we now have a bill number – Senate Bill 361. The bill was submitted today for introduction, but it will probably be a couple of days until it is assigned to a committee."

Our total known cosponsors is at 17 including: Alloway, Baker, Browne, Dinneman, Earll, Eichelberger, Erickson, Folmer, Fontana, Gordner, Kasunic, Mensch, Piccola, Pileggi, Rafferty, Tartaglione, and Yaw. Including the sponsor this bill was introduced by at least 18 known senators this session. This is a good indication of the Senate's support of the bill.

The last 10 bills listed at http://bit.ly/PaSenate have an average sponsorship group of 10 Senators. The greatest being 24 and the least being 2.
More senators support the bill, but have so much paperwork to go through etc. that they did not sign on at this point. Be encouraged!
At the same time we have more work to do to promote this bill and will be posting updates about what you can do to move it through the committees soon.

PaHR-Access updates can be set up to go straight to your cell phone or if you are an avid Twitter website user you may like to add them to your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/PaHRTweet

Tim Gruber, spokesman for PaHR-Access
" ...a legislator can become a cosponsor after the bill is introduced. In some ways it makes it easier because you have a specific bill to refer to... We would like as many as possible... Once a bill has been assigned to a committee we will target the chairperson and the other members. It should go to the Public Health and Welfare Committee as it did twice before and it looks like it has the same members as last session. Thanks for all the help."