30 March 2011

Maryland State Archives - 100% Digital

Maryland Archives went digital, no more microfilm printers

I noticed when I was at the Maryland Archives yesterday that the microfilm printers were not being used. I thought, "Great! Now we can get something done." Then we noticed a sign. It went something like this:

Due to cost of microfilm printer maintenance this service has been discontinued and printing must be done from the computers in the search room. Type in a film number to see if it has been digitized. If not, file a digitization request which will be completed in approximately 1 hour...

We went to the front entrance desk to set up our printing account. You get a Patron # and choose a pin. Every time you find a page you want and click print you will type your Patron # and pin. It subtracts from a pre-paid amount which can be added to the account in multiples of $5. One of my research partners and I shared an account. Each copy is $1. Those who are familiar with the archives will remember microfilm copies were 50 cents and while this %100 price increase may seem steep to some I felt it was a small price to pay for the modernized system.

I was unable to find any press releases or information about the digitization process at the Maryland State Archives website or anywhere else online for that matter. I hope readers and bloggers who read this will help spread the news about the changes.

Even though most of the digitized records are not online, to me, this seems like a huge step towards getting it there. The records that are online are mostly browsable only, with no index provided. Finding the records you want takes a lot of patience both with the website and with browsing the records. You can use the same page to find the film numbers you need for your search at the archives to find any online copies of the records you want. From the main page, clicking "Family Historians" and then clicking "How to find specific records" will take you to the best place I know of to find what the archives has.

22 March 2011

Tech Tuesday - FamilySearch Family Tree

NOTE: This Family Tree has not been released officially to the public yet. In order to view the family tree you may have to try a method listed in my "...Sneaking up on you?" post linked to below. One user reported not being able to access the tree with that method due to not having access to new.familysearch.org.
Those with new.familysearch.org access are currently able to access this tree.

On Sunday I stumbled upon the long awaited FamilySearch Family Tree when using the FamilySearch.org website.

You can read more about my experience Sunday in my post:
FamilySearch Family Tree: Sneaking up on us?
For screenshots of the new tree see my post:
FamilySearch Family Tree Leak!

In this post I provide you with some similar technologies to compare this new Family Tree with so you can better understand what is different about this new way of viewing a family tree.

This Family Tree is one big collaborative tree built on the submissions of FamilySearch users.
The technology is not entirely new in the world of genealogy. In fact some impressive ventures have already happened and died out trying to do this same thing.

OneWorldTree was one of the sites I remember using and then it was taken on by Ancestry.com and it changed a bit in navigation and editing ability. It no longer accepts direct submissions.
OneGreatFamily is another service designed to provide one big tree for everyone, but it is less popular than others, partly due to the immediate use of screens asking for payment.

Current successful family tree ventures include sites like
MyHeritage and Geni

More than these other services I would compare the FamilySearch Family Tree to the Ancestry.com Member Trees except the Ancestry trees are maintained separately and linked through "Member Connect" while the FamilySearch Family Tree is one big inseparable tree.
While I spend less time with the MyHeritage and Geni services I understand that they are like Ancestry.com's Member Trees in that they are separately maintained and can be linked to other trees.

Current features of FamilySearch Family Tree
  • Navigating the tree currently available at new.familysearch.org
  • Searching the tree currently available at new.familysearch.org
Some of the features to be added in the future
  • Discussing individuals on the tree
  • Adding sources
  • Adding photographs 1
  • Editing the Family Tree
  • LDS Account related services
This Family Tree has been in development for several years in the form of new.familysearch.org which has been available to select individuals in my area since late 2008. Officially it is still in beta on the new.familysearch.org system.

The goal at FamilySearch is to move the functionality of that beta system into the more user friendly "Family Tree" system at FamilySearch.org

For this Family Tree to do everything users want it to do we will have to learn patience. Keep in mind that this technology will replicate much of the best of several family tree sites while remaining entirely free. This takes time. For now, the public may wish to stick with some of the other services I mentioned.

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

20 March 2011

FamilySearch Family Tree Leak!

NOTE: This article contains screenshots which can be clicked for a larger view of FamilySearch.org website changes.

Read my post from earlier today to find out how I stumbled upon this.

The first page you'll see on the new Family Tree is the "Tree" page:

After clicking any name you'll be able to view the tree from there or see the individual's details ("Ancestor" page).

Here is the "Ancestor" page for my ancestor Moses Cherry:

Because the link to this page was in a less noticeable place - the wiki - I am assuming FamilySearch does not expect the public to be using this yet. Not to mention I had to trick the system to get logged in.

The ordinance function for LDS Account holders is not ready yet so we will still be using new.familysearch.org.

There are some definite pluses to this new version of the FamilyTree moving away from new.familysearch.org
  • Navigating the tree is much easier than on new.familysearch.org
  • There is already a working search function which could be used by the general public soon
There are also some signs of coming improvements.
  • There is a place for individual photographs
  • A sources tab for each person
This is not the Wiki style many of us bloggers have been anticipating, but SCOE will likely be an issue for some time.
Learn more about the wiki concept and SCOE here & here.

My conclusion? The functionality clearly needs some work, but the fact that it is online at all amazes me!

FamilySearch Family Tree: Sneaking up on us?

NOTE: This article contains screenshots which can be clicked for a larger view of FamilySearch.org website changes.

After reading GenealogyStar James Tanner's post from earlier today I decided to do a little digging around on FamilySearch.org and see what is new.

Keep reading for the secret of how to view the new FamilySearch Family Tree before anyone else knows it is online!

First off I have to say that I notice little changes almost every time I go to the site which happen so often that I think several things get missed by us bloggers.

The biggest change I noticed today was a link which did not appear at FamilySearch.org, but appeared when I went to the wiki - "Family Tree" (the first link next to FamilySearch logo)

Clicking on this Family Tree link takes me to https://familysearch.org/tree/
This page asks me to log in, but that function is not working for me so I am stuck there, but I noticed something...

Above the sign in box are three links: Tree, Ancestor, and Search.
What could this all be?

It seems like new.familysearch.org is closer to being part of FamilySearch.org than I guessed.

Some websites load annoying boxes asking you to authorize or log in in order to continue viewing the site. I have a trick for you, but it is hard to time - click the stop button repeatedly right after clicking refresh and before the annoying log in box appears. This way you will be able to see stuff otherwise restricted. In this manner you can trick the system into letting you preview the 3 different tabs. :) hehe... I'd tell you what I saw, but I'll let you try it.
I'm excited...

Oh, and if you want to do it the easy way you can log in by clicking https://familysearch.org/, signing in at the link on the upper right of that FamilySearch.org page. Then add /tree so that you are at http://www.familysearch.org/tree. The pop-up log in does not work for me, but if you log in the way I just explained you get access to the Family Tree already. Wow!

I am going to give you a few minutes to take this all in... Okay, I can't help it anymore, I'm going to do another post with screenshots of the Family Tree.
A couple other website update tid-bits:

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.

The new YouTube channel has been preparing for the past couple months so that the "Getting Started" videos could be integrated into the Learn tab at FamilySearch. They have finally been integrated and can be watched from the comfort of FamilySearch.org

07 March 2011

Maine Bill LD 258 on Open Access to Vital Records Passes Committee Hearing

Please read Maine Bill LD 258 on Open Access to Vital Records Passes Committee Hearing article on EOGN. Due to copyrights I could not copy it here, but I have provided some comments below.
For the past few years I've been spending countless hours promoting a similar cause in Pennsylvania. Tim Gruber founded a grassroots organization called PaHR-Access to organize efforts to have older PA vital records made public. None of these state records are public in PA. Our bill simply asks for deaths 50+ years on file to become public as well as births past 100 years.

In Maine the goal is to change it from being vital records 100 years old that can be accessed to pretty much everything. The Maine bill is more helpful for genealogists as the options to acquire the vital records will be more open under this proposed bill.
You can read the Maine bill here.

As a supporter of the cause in PA I felt it was only right that I write about what is happening regarding such legislation in Maine. Please support both causes by contacting the appropriate legislators.

As far as PA goes this is how you can help:
We really need the support of the genealogical community. We'd appreciate blog articles highlighting our vital records bill SB 361 and we encourage everyone to contact PA legislators to promote the bill.
Learn more:
Read the bill here.
Last year it was moved through the Public Health and Welfare Committee, but the session ended and this year it has not yet moved. We are assured it is supported, but they want to hear from more of us.
Two people that influence the bill right now are:
Senator Patricia Vance, Public Health & Welfare Chair
Dwayne Heckert, Executive Legislative Specialist (PA Health Dept.)
Please call them to express your support at minimum. Your following up with them continually and your educated promotion of the bill is even better.