Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thomas' Morning Tech Routine

I know you all have been waiting to find out just how I do it each morning. Well, at least Jill Ball over at Geniaus wants to know and with her prompt, Genealogists - What's your Morning Tech Routine?, I am only too glad to oblige.

Believe me, it is not a glamorous routine. I don't have a staff of minions to do my bidding so all the work falls on me each morning. Much depends upon how I've slept the night before and whether I had a bout of insomnia or not. Here goes:

1. Must make a pot of coffee.  I grind my own beans, am particular about the bean to water ratio, a dash of cinnamon.  I have my ways.  And don't even try to call or talk to me until I have that huge cup in my hand.

2. Computer boots up while I am making coffee. Check Yahoo News and the Chicago Tribune websites.

3.  Go to Google Reader, log in as GeneaBloggers and tag all the blog posts that match that day's Daily Blogging Prompts. Skim over all the other posts that have come in overnight.

4. Check the blogiversaries for that day and give a shout out/share via Facebook and Twitter.

5. Login as myself and check Google Reader for technology posts and all my Google Alerts (I have them go to my Google Reader instead of email).

6. Then check email via Microsoft Outlook - 10 different email accounts (between personal, business, GeneaBloggers and all my volunteer groups). Do a quick "triage" and determine what needs to be answered right away.

7. Then get ready for the rest of the day. This means taking a quick shower (a body is a temple that must be maintained - even if mine resembles a Temple of Doom), trying to look half-way decent so I don't scare children and small animals whilst out on the street, and then getting dressed. Yes, a big part of working at home is routine and getting dressed each day!

8. Turn on iTunes and play some music, see if I have any conference calls for the day and then start planning out the rest of the day.

This routine usually starts at 9:00 am and I work straight through until 6:00pm each day, weekends included.  Evenings are taken up with conference calls for volunteer groups, webinars or just watching television.

Exciting, no? Glamorous, right? Hardly.  But this is what works for me right now. So what is your morning routine?

© 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thomas MacEntee and The Tech Savvy Genealogists' Meme

Another great meme this time about genealogy and technology and originated by Jill Ball of Geniaus. Here's mine:

The Tech Savvy Genealogists' Meme

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
  • Things you have already done or found: bold face type
  • Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
  • Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item!

Which of these apply to you?
  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
  3. Have used Skype for genealogy purposes
  4. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor's home
  5. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree
  6. Have a Twitter account
  7. Tweet daily
  8. Have a genealogy blog
  9. Have more then one genealogy blog
  10. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic
  11. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise (Note: I am a member but not active)
  12. Have a Facebook Account
  13. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook
  14. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page (GeneaBloggers, FGS, ISGS, ISBGFH and about 10 others!)
  15. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
  16. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
  17. Have registered a domain name (several - some I'll never use but wanted to snag them)
  18. Post regularly to Google+ (I'm not a big fan of Google+ right now - the jury is still out in my mind)
  19. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
  20. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
  21. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner
  22. Can code a webpage in .html
  23. Own a smartphone
  24. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
  25. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
  26. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
  27. Use Chrome as a Web browser (since the first day Google Chrome was available!)
  28. Have participated in a genealogy webinar (I think so . . .LOL)
  29. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
  30. Have a personal genealogy website
  31. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive
  32. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
  33. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files
  34. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs (Follow over 2500 genealogy and technology blogs each day - read about 500 posts each day)
  35. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry (WikiTree at
  36. Own a netbook
  37. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
  38. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
  39. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget (It wasn't successful . . . well not yet)
  40. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
  41. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening
  42. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
  43. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
  44. Know about Rootstech (An Official Blogger and Speaker for RootsTech 2012)
  45. Have listened to a Blogtalk radio session about genealogy
  46. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud 
  47. Schedule regular email backups (Use Backupify and Outlook 2010 archiving)
  48. Have contriibuted to the FamilySearch Research Wiki (yes and I'm trying to crowd source the concept with the genealogical societies!)
  49. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs
  50. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format (Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker on
© 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

About Those Predictions of Doom

Don't reach for your tinfoil hat right yet or get your genealogy data bunker ready. Despite all the hubbub about comments made by Curt B. Witcher at the recent BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, I have to respectfully disagree with those comments as they pertain to genealogy data and its preservation.

Perhaps it is the fact that I usually take a dim view of any predictions of doom, perhaps it is my self-characterization as a "glass half-full" kind of guy, I'm not sure.  But if anything, the use of the word doom so close to the words genealogy and data, will absolutely catch my attention and force me to investigate further.
  • Should we be worried about the destruction of records at court houses and other governmental institutions?  Of course, but is this worry a new one?  There has always been the need for vigilance and outside watch dogs to keep tabs on these vital sources of information.
  • Should we be concerned that people are not preserving their communications as they once did, say in the letter writing days? We communicate in a variety of different ways in the 21st century and while letter writing is not among the top methods, as new modes of sending information develop, so too do means of archiving and saving such data.  Take Twitter for instance: the Library of Congress recently announced that it has acquired the entire Twitter archive.
  • Are we doing enough personally to preserve our own information, such as email? Even for a techie like me, email management is a nightmare.  But the focus should be on backing up ALL of our own data - whether it be genealogy-related or not.  This is my monthly rallying call on the first of each month at GeneaBloggers when Data Backup Day arrives.
One comment with which I agree whole-heartedly, especially as a blogger, is the advice to just write.  I've said this hundreds of times when someone says, "I don't want to get into blogging about my family history because I am such a poor writer."  Nonsense, I say.  Don't write for anyone but yourself.  Write from your heart.  Write to give your ancestors new voices in these modern times.  Write to preserve their memories, and your family's memories, and your memories of all of them.

These are hopeful times in my opinion especially with all the technology available for us to digitize and preserve records.  But we should not become complacent in the fact that technology will take care of this all by itself.  Data preservation does require vigilance, it requires watch dogs and it requires rallying calls.  I just don't know that a doomsday prediction is the right call.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Friday, July 9, 2010

Are You A Connected Genealogist?

After months of preparing, writing, and researching and with much "pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth," I am pleased to announce my new genealogy business venture: The Connected Genealogist℠, a division of High-Definition Genealogy.  You can read more about the concept here, but in brief this is what you'll find:
  • All "cheat sheets" posted at my various sites such as GeneaBloggers have been retooled and are now located in The Connected Genealogist Store.  They are in large type (14pt) and in PDF format.
  • Don't think "store" and then think $. The cheat sheets which have been downloadable for free in the past will remain that way.  The store is simply and easier way to organize them.
  • The newest product - available for a small fee - is Genealogy Speaking Templates.  A package of six Word templates you can use for genealogy speaking engagements.  I'll have more details on the specifics over the weekend, but the templates include:  a contract, spec sheets for travel and hotel, a transmittal letter and even a summary description and a syllabus.  These are easy-to-use documents with "click and type" fields and can be customized to suit your specific needs.
  • In the coming weeks and months you'll see more products including templates to create a genealogy resume and bio, books on how to become a genealogy speaker and on 21st century marketing techniques for genealogists and genealogical societies and more.
  • Beginning in August 2010, The Connected Genealogist will be offering a variety of webinars (virtual presentations) at our Webex site.  Topics will cover Facebook, Twitter, how to use Dropbox to store your genealogy data "in the cloud," and more.  And in an exciting marketing twist, my intent is to make all webinars free to attend - you pay only for the syllabus materials including templates, guides and books.
The Connected Genealogist is the culmination of about a year's worth of work.  I want to bring a variety of educational tools to the genealogy community, especially ones that can "raise" the technology quotient.

While I would love to give away this knowledge for free, with over 25 years experience in the Information Technology field and my recent experience with social media, financially I can't survive on free.  I will always try to make as many of these items free whenever possible but some items will have a nominal fee.  My mantra in this endeavor: I want to make a living, not a killing.

* * *

I hope you'll check out The Connected Genealogist.  You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook as well.  And remember, let The Connected Genealogist be your guide to connecting genealogists with new technologies.

The Connected Genealogist is a registered service mark of High-Definition Genealogy

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I Do

There is a new Internet meme making the rounds (it might be an old meme for all I know) and here is its genealogy in terms of how I found it: The Presurfer got it from The J-Walk Blog got it from Cory Doctorow at Locus Online.

The idea is to list what tools you use for either your profession of your hobby such as genealogy.  For me, working at home as a professional genealogist, here is what I use day-in and day-out to "get'er done."

* Hardware:  Dell Dimension DXC061, Intel® Core 2 CPU 4400 @ 2.00GHz, RAM 2.00 GB

* External storage: 250GB external hard drive, mostly stores 140 GB of iTunes files

* Online storage: DropBox (free and amazing!)

* Backup: DropBox and Backupify

* Printer: HP 1200 All In One (printer, copier, scanner)

* Phone: iPhone 3G for mobile, a Uniden cordless phone system for home and office, Skype for computer

* E-mail: Outlook 2007 with 10 different GMail and Hotmail accounts patched through

* Mobile device: see Phone above

* Mobile media: iPod Nano

* eBook Reader: Kindle for the PC

* Browser: Google Chrome

* Calendar: Outlook, Google Calendar for GeneaBloggers items

* RSS: reader is Google Reader, burner is Feedburner

* FTP: Filezilla

* Text editor: Notepad

* Graphics: Microsoft Photo Editor, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, PowerPoint (don't laugh - it is amazing what PowerPoint can do!)

* Screen capture: kickin' it old skool with PrtScrn and paste into Microsoft Photo Editor

* Social media: Facebook, LinkedInTwitter using TweetDeck

* Social bookmarking: StumbleUpon

* Social profile: Retaggr

* URL shortener:

* Office suite: Microsoft Office 2007, Google Docs

* Accounting: Excel, soon to be QuickBooks for my business

* Web Conferencing: Webex

* Firewall: Comodo

* Virus protection: AVG Free

* Spyware: SpyBot

* File cleaner: MRU-Blaster, CCleaner (cleans temp files and junk off your system)

* Genealogy database: Family Tree Maker 2009, RootsMagic 4

* Genealogy tools: Evernote, Obituary Filer, Surname Suggestion List, Transcript,

* PDF generator: PrimoPDF (free and amazing app!)

* Music player: see Mobile media above - hooked up to bookshelf speakers, iTunes on computer

* Blog: Blogger, WordPress

* Car audio: Thomas doesn't drive. Thomas is driven. But Driver uses a Blaupunkt stereo.

* Other tech stuff: Logitech headset to use with Skype and listen to music, Logitech webcam, ASUS Netbook for travel

I think this meme is important to the genealogy blogging community because it gives others an idea of how we achieve the genealogy "voodoo" that we do do so well.  I've also included links to the programs where possible, making it easier for readers to explore these options.  I am a big fan of "free over fee" when it can get the job done and many of my apps are free.

Note: for some reason Printer was not included in the original list.  I take it that these "kids" just don't do paper anymore. I also took the liberty of adding my own items such as genealogy database, genealogy tools, PDF generator, spyware, virus protection, etc.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Monday, August 10, 2009

Under Construction

Well folks, I am revamping the "look" here at Destination: Austin Family today so don't be surprised if you see some odd layouts - it all depends at what point of our "makeover" you decide to visit.

Given the recent feedback on my GeneaBloggers site, I don't think the "magazine" format - where you get a snippet of a post and have to click "read more" - works and the font size was too small. As I get older, I am finding those blogs that are easiest to read and navigate have a larger font as well as a white or light background.

Thanks for your patience and feel free to let me know what works and doesn't work with the new layout.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

thisMoment - Social Media Scrapbooking

I stumbled upon a new site this morning called thisMoment which bills itself as a way to "save and share life's moments" allowing you to easily create multimedia journal entries and then share them with friends and family.

With the concept of "you over time" thisMoment wants users to capture a moment such as a graduation ceremony or a day at the zoo and build a mini digital scrapbook using video, photos and commentary. There are some great privacy features built in so you can only share your "moment" with those you desire. And thisMoment is collaborative meaning you can have others add content as well as comments via Facebook connect.

It will be interesting to see if and how the genealogy community embraces thisMoment as a way to transform their research into multimedia presentations. Another interesting concept would be to create a collaborate scrapbook of a genealogy event like the upcoming Jamboree in Burbank this weekend.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

How I Use Technology With My Genealogy

[This post was written as part of the series of Weekly Genealogy Prompts proposed by Amy Coffin of We Tree.  This week's prompt: Talk about the different types of technology you use in your genealogy research. Whether it’s a new search engine, a special application, or anything else “2.0,” let readers know what you’re working with, and how it’s working for you.]

About the time I picked up the genealogy bug, I was already firmly established professionally in the information technology field. So for me, there is no real time when I didn't pursue my technology using some gadget such as a computer or Internet application.

This doesn't mean the way in which I trace my roots is better than any other method. And it doesn't mean - as one might think - that my way is easier. Simply put, it is just my way.

I think over the past two years of blogging about genealogy, writing articles about the use of technology and genealogy, and promoting the use of blogs in the genealogy field have brought me to this conclusion: the field of genealogy is at a cross-roads with two distinct "camps" or "schools of thought."

One group's experience with genealogy is that of attending genealogical society meetings, attending conferences and workshops, visiting local Family History Centers, using the resources at libraries and archives, and documenting much of their findings through photocopies, hand written notes and copies of documents requested from government agencies. This group tends to be very well versed in the importance of source citations, they know how to interact socially with other genealogists, and while technology may be involved in their genealogical pursuits, it isn't the main focus of their work.

Before I get to the next group I want to pause and urge readers to avoid labels such as "old timers" or "old fashioned" or "luddites" when mentioning this group or their methodology. Besides being ageist it really is untrue since I know several people "young of age" who prefer to work with forms and charts more than computers and applications.

The other group's experience with genealogy is almost solely based in the world of technology and many members may only have decided to pursue the search for their family history after already having a strong foundation with gadgets and computers. Members of this group tend to embrace and even seek out new forms of technology, are often called "early adapters" who test out new appliances and programs and then spread the word to others in the genealogy community. They are a social group but socialize at their convenience using various forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter and they are all over blogs and websites - many with more than one of each to their name! Some members will attend local society meetings, travel to genealogy conferences or perform research in libraries or archives but most often will try to do so on the Internet first.

Again, try to avoid labeling this group with terms such as "pajama genealogists" or "young folk" or "genea geeks."  As I've stated in Facebook Is NOT The Domain Of The Young, technology does not favor the young - but we all should be open to learning new things and not let others discourage us. Technology does not necessarily make your research easier - in fact it allows you to access much more information which you then need to read, understand and filter through in order to determine what is or is not useful.

At times I experience great frustration with the fact that there even has to be a division between the two groups. In my mind, I have much to learn from those who continue to pursue genealogy with less of an emphasis on technology. They've taught me the importance of process and discipline, the importance of sources and citing sources, as well as the importance of getting off my duff and meeting other genealogists in person.

And since I tend to affiliate more with the group that pursues genealogy with an emphasis on technology, I know we have much to offer and to teach others who may not feel as comfortable with technology as we do. We need to take time and explain new applications and features. Many of us take a mentoring role with not only those new to genealogy but those new to certain aspects of technology. I take no greater pride in hearing about a recent retiree who can amaze and stupify her "know it all grandchildren" (as one person recently told me) with her use of Twitter. And when someone e-mails me and says "my children are embarassed that I'm on Facebook," I know I've done some good work.

Let's try to get away from an us vs. them mentality which really doesn't serve the genealogy community at all and detracts from our mission to help others trace their own roots. Remember that technology itself is innocent and impartial. It is how we choose to use it - or not use it - that determines how we pursue our research and how we relate to our fellow genealogist.

copyright 2009 Thomas MacEntee

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

National Genealogy and Technology Examiner

Last week, I mysteriously alluded to some good news in my Facebook status and on Twitter.  Well I can finally let the cat out of the bag.

Starting this week, I'll be writing for the website as its National Genealogy and Technology Examiner.  When I applied for this writing gig a few weeks ago, was looking for local writers from here in Chicago to create content on Chicago events, issues, etc.  Failing to have any angle on genealogy or technology as it applied to Chicago, and never being one who is easily deterred (I am my mother's son after all), I convinced to add a new sub-category for genealogy and technology under its Gadgets and Tech section.

With a minimum of four posts a week, it is my goal to still provide engaging content here at Destination: Austin Family as well as at Geneabloggers and many of my other blogs.  If you have any topic suggestions as they relate to genealogy and technology, please send them on to me and I'm sure I can come up with one or more posts about them.

Try to take a visit over at my site from time to time - I'd appreciate your visit and your comments!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Once Again It's Data Backup Day!

Have you ever considered what would happen if you had one of the following situations occur with your computer?
  • hard drive crash
  • damaged database file
  • virus infection requiring reformatting of hard drive
  • dropping your laptop or CPU
  • zombie attack
Participating in Data Backup Day and following consistent backup practices can prevent almost all of these frightening situations.  Except for the zombie attack - you are on your own with that one but you might find some good tips here.  And remember the worst place to sit out a zombie attack is a cemetery.

What To Backup
  • genealogy databases
  • photos
  • bookmarks
  • blog template
  • blog posts
  • other files related to genealogy
How To Backup
  • purchase a storage device such as an external hard drive or a flash drive
  • copy data to CDs or DVDs
  • utilize an online backup service
When To Backup
  • at least once a month
  • when you've made major changes to your database or blog template
  • more frequently if you feel the need
Backup Resources

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Article in Digital Genealogist

Just a quick note: an article that I've written about preserving not only one's genealogy data but the means by which to access it has been published in the latest edition of Digital Genealogist magazine.

Entitled "Future Proofing Your Data," it discusses various methods for ensuring that you will be able to access your data for years to come and provides tips on how to guard against common mistakes and pitfalls.

Please check out Digital Genealogist which is published by Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens. It is one of many "green magazines" to which I subscribe these days and speaks to both of my current passions: genealogy and technology.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tech Tuesday: I Dream of Genea-Computer

The survey results are in on several computer-related questions that were posted over at Facebook Bootcamp for Genea-Bloggers.  Here is a summary of how readers answered:

Are you considering purchasing a new PC this holiday season?
Yes - 16%
No - upgrade current system 4%
Maybe - 8%
I wish - 8%
No - 62%

New PC: Windows Vista or MAC OS?
Windows Vista - 37%
Mac OS - 18%
Other - 43%

New PC: Desktop or Laptop?
Desktop - 31%
Laptop - 68%

New PC: Monitor
Flat Screen LCD - 52%
Use current monitor - 29%
Other - 17%

New PC: Memory (hard drive and RAM)
Hard Drive 80gb or more - 85%
Hard Drive 80gb or less - 14%
RAM 2gb or less - 7%
RAM 2gb or more - 78%

New PC: Wish List
External Hard Drive - 61%
Wireless Network - 55%
Highspeed Internet - 55%
Wireless Keyboard or Mouse - 22%
Web Camera - 16%
Headset (for telephone or media) - 16%
Printer - 22%
Photo or Document Scanner - 38%
Slide or Negative Scanner - 22%
Combo Device (fax, printer, scanner, copier) - 22%
Other - 0%
(note: results will not add up to 100% since voters could select more than one item)

So what can we deduce from the information above and what kind of computer would most genea-bloggers purchase?

Well it seems that most of us are willing to hold on to what we have, we prefer laptops over desktops for their portability, most of us are still using Windows XP rather than Vista, and we like lots of memory.  And #1 on our wish list is an external hard drive!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks - What I Am Thankful For

Julie Cahill Tarr over at GenBlog by Julie has a great meme started called "Thanksgiving Meme & a Game of Tag." You can get more information over at the Genea-Bloggers group at Facebook by clicking here. And if you aren't already a member of the Genea-Bloggers group consider signing up!

It is difficult for me to slim my list of items for which I am thankful down to just two. Even with a tough holiday season coming up due to unemployment and trying to start a new business, and some health issues - I always try to see the glass as half full and my basket filled with thankful items.


This is a no-brainer for me, but by listing it I hope others will think about even the little bits of technology they take for granted. I am thankful I live in an age where technological advances are made every day. Having worked in the Information Technology field for the past 25 years, I've come to appreciate the many changes and innovations made in the computing field. What I hope is that we can place these creations in perspective both from a personal standpoint and in a historical perspective.

Right now I can't conceive of a world or my life without an Internet connection. But I think about what life was like before the Internet and consider how people interacted differently, for better or worse. I worry that my Internet usage can easily disconnect me from people but at the same time I look at groups like Genea-Bloggers on Facebook and realize I would never have been able to connect with so many wonderful people otherwise.

I try to remember that the technology itself is "innocent" and the good or bad comes from how we choose to use it, or not use it, in our daily lives.


This has been a tough year for me battling increasingly painful osteo-arthritis in both hips and weight gain. I am improving and in fact November has seen great strides made especially at the gym, working with a trainer, etc. Even with these issues, I am grateful I have full use of most of my body parts and all five senses are still intact despite the ravages of age. I am able to get up each morning, get out of bed, dress myself, prepare a meal, look out my patio window and get started with my day. In keeping with my upbringing and what my mother and great-grandmother taught me, there are many people who have it much worse than I do. I consider myself blessed and trust that I am where I am and in the state of health I am for a reason.

There is so much more to be thankful for and I'll think about those things on Thursday as I sit down with family and celebrate.

And I now tag Apple over at Apple's Tree!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spoonflower: Print Your Own Fabric

I know this might seem out of place, but stay with me - this truly is a means of looking at a new technology and combining it with genealogy!

Spoonflower is a new website that allows you to print your own fabric. Based in North Carolina, it advertises the ability to have your own designs printed on cotton fabric for $18 per yard with no minimum. The site already has 10,000 crafters signed up, has its own blog, and has Gart Davis who used to run LuLu on its board. Now Spoonflower is out of closed beta and is available to the public plus it appears that many Etsy users are now big fans of Spoonflower.

Now, I know there are kits from places like Michael's and JoAnn Fabrics that allow you to run a small piece of cotton fabric through your printer. But there are many limitations include size and type of printer, etc.

The concept of a memory quilt or an ancestor quilt has intrigued me for some time. But with the limited methods of printing on fabric, the idea was a no go. However, I could see creating digital scrapbook type pages and having them run on fabric in small groups for a wall hanging or a quilt.

This seems to be the creative season for holiday gifts - go check out Spoonflower and leave us some of your ideas in the comments section!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Today is Data Backup Day!

Wow, another month has flown by and here it is time to backup data once again! As I do (and I hope many of you at least entertain the idea of doing), I will spend some time organizing files and backing them up to my 250gb External Hard Drive.

I've decided to wait until next month to highlight external hard drives, thinking that many of you might want to ask Santa to slide one under your tree this Christmas. I'll also be highlighting other hardware and software apps which make up a genea-blogger's "dream machine."

This month, I want to highlight the many options available for online storage. Many of the programs listed below have a free option - with a limited amount of storage such as 2GB or 5GB - and they also have a paid option. Your only limitation is your "upload" speed which is usually 25% of your download speed (example: if my download speed on DSL is 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second) then the upload speed will be about 360 kps).

The list below is posted, maintained and constantly updated at Lifehacker.

Photo: Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores at Flickr courtesy of Topato

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Changes at Geni - GEDCOM Limit Increased

The size limitation on GEDCOM files which could be imported into Geni has been an issue and it looks as if their developers have addressed this.

The old limit of 15,000 records has now been raised to 50,000 records and the press release/email blast from Geni states, "We hope that this will attract many more genealogists to Geni to share their research with their family and collaborate with others."

Curiously this news hasn't yet been posted to the Geni blog or in the Knowledgebase/Help section of Geni itself.

As I've said before in previous posts, to me Geni is the web application that best reproduces the Facebook experience for genealogists and family historians. If you have a chance today, check out Geni.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New AllTop Widget Delivers Topic-Based News

In an email from Guy Kawasaki, a co-founder of Alltop:

"We recently created a widget that displays the five most popular stories from an Alltop topic in the sidebars of blogs and sites. This widget is simple and automated way to provide fresh news content for your readers.

For example, I've integrated the venture capital widget in my blog at in the right sidebar. Thus, my visitors can read my postings about venture capital and also see timely venture capital news from other sources.

So if you have a food site, you can add the Alltop food widget and show more foodie stories. Or, if you have a Macintosh site, you can show more Macintosh news. I've found that adding a news widget like this is an easy way to provide more fresh content to my readers.

With a few clicks, you can design and implement a widget. We have over 250 topics, so you're very likely to find something that will interest your audience. Information about the Alltop widget is here:"

I've taken Guy up on the offer and I can tell you that it took me all of 30 seconds to set up the widget you see on the right! Now I am off to tackle my other blogs!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My New Genealogy Page - And More!

Well, I've been working much of the weekend on my new website, thomas 2.0 including thomas 2.0 - The Blog. I think I'm ready to let the cat out of the bag on this one!

First, thomas 2.0 is basically a way of pulling all my various projects, both career and genealogy, into one area of easy access. What I am excited most about are these two parts of thomas 2.0:

thomas 2.0 - Genealogy: I've greatly expanded my genealogy page especially the links portion. There are now over 100 links that I find useful for my genealogy research. Take a visit and perhaps you will too. Special shout outs to Lorine of Olive Tree Genealogy and Jennifer of Rainy Day Genealogy Readings. As you can see, I find their sites very useful and have bookmarked a few of their posts!

thomas 2.0 - The Blog: I found the need for a more personal blog about me and about technology. With the byline "A treasure trove of technical tips, tricks, tweeks and treats" (talk about aliteration!), this site will contains posts pertaining to new technologies, many of them freeware, open-source or Web 2.0, and how to apply them to your own desktop, blog and more.

While you are at thomas 2.0 take time to look at my current Ventures or any other are and send me some feedback if you have a chance. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Genealogy Filing System - Data Files

Randy Seaver at GeneaMusings has a great post today about organizing and re-organizing the data files one uses for genealogy.

As I said on my Data Backup Day post for October, very often I find the need to do "cleanup" of my files and file structure before I perform my monthly backup.

Here is the structure I currently use and at the end of the listing I'll discuss some reason to the madness:

TJM Genealogy
- Applications
   - Footnote
   - Geni
- Associations
   - AFAOA (Austin Family Association)
   - Crandall
   - Huegenot Historical Society
   - NEHGS
   - Schenectady Historical Society
- Blogging
   - Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
   - Alltop
   - Blog Templates
   - Bootcamp for Genea-Bloggers
   - Carnival Graphics
      - COG
   - Destination Austin Family
   - Genea-Blogger Games 2008
   - Genea-Bloggers
   - Grandma Austins Diaries
   - Photos for Posts
   - Scanfest
- Field Trips
- Genealogy Pictures
   - Arvanites
   - Austin
   - Baushke
   - Farren
   - Freer
   - Houses
   - Lowville
   - MacEntee
   - McCrickert
   - McGinnis
   - Scanned
   - Sullivan
- Projects
   - Continuity Plan
   - County Converter
   - Lowville Long Ago
   - Obit Daily Times
   - Unclaimed Person
- Records
   - Birth Records
   - Book Pages
   - Census Records
   - Death Records
   - Family Bible Records
   - Forms
   - Immigration Records
   - Marriage Records
   - Military Records
   - Newspaper Articles
   - Passport Applications
- Sources
- Surnames
   - Arvanites
   - Austin
   - Baushke
   - Crandall
   - DeGroodt
   - Dence
   - Dodds
   - Finehout
   - Henneberg
   - MacEntee
   - McCrickert
   - McGinnis
   - Putman
- ToDo


1. My main folder is named TJM Genealogy since it is on the home computer which is shared with other people in my household. I don't care for Windows option of having "accounts" for each person so instead we all place our initial in front of folders with our data.

2. The reason I use "Genealogy Pictures" instead of "Pictures" is that when I am managing photos or using the Microsoft Photo Manager or Adobe Photoshop Elements, I can differentiate that folder from the basic default "Pictures" folder.

3. I do leverage the Tag option with most of the Pictures and Records entries. See my articles on photo metadata at Bootcamp for Genea-Bloggers:
- Metadata Tags for Photos - Windows Vista
- Metadata Tags for Photos - Windows XP

4. For naming items in the Newspaper Articles folder, rather than embed the date of the article and the name of the newspaper in the metadata, I prefer to see it somehow in the title field. Ex: Austin_Robert_19240924_LJR means the article is about Robert Austin, was printed on September 24, 1924 and is in the Lowville Journal Republican (LJR).

5. Since, like Randy, I have been using data files since The Flood, I still don't use spaces in file names but use the underscore - old habit. Also, I've learned to enter dates as YYYY_MM_DD instead of MM_DD_YYYY since it assists me when sorting files.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Today Is Data Backup Day!

Today is Data Backup Day, being the first of the month. As many of my fellow genea-bloggers know, being in the Information Technology field, I am a big advocate of backing up systems and servers and data. I have experienced data loss first hand both at home and in my profession. If you don't think it will happen to you, you are only kidding yourself and you risk the loss of years of genealogy research. Here are this month's tips on how to formulate a backup plan and how to carry it to fruition.

Have a Plan

One of the events in the recent Genea-Bloggers 2008 Games was Back-up Your Data! and many of us developed plans as to how to backup our data.

If you don't have a plan, you really need one. And don't feel bad if your plan gets diverted - mine did. I started reviewing the data I needed to backup and saw how dis-organized it was, so I opted to spend one evening just refiling and cleaning up.

The next step is to decide what really needs to be backed up. If you have an external hard drive system which uses "one touch" backup then you can skip this step. The "one touch" concept will look for data that has changed and make sure that it is backed up.

Others prefer to do what is called an "incremental backup":

- take the current backup data and put it in a folder called "old backup"

- backup data to a folder called "current backup"

- next month, delete "old backup," rename "current backup" as "old backup," and then backup that month's data to a new folder called "current backup."

However you do it, just do it. You worked hard to find this data, perform the research and probably annotate it as well. You deserve to have it available to you in case of disaster or other hard times.

External Storage

I can't believe the options available currently for external storage! The prices have come down, the storage amounts are nearing 1 terrabyte (which is 1,000 gigabytes) and the size of the units are decreasing.

Kathryn Doyle at the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog recently purchased an external hard drive and she will be posting about her experience sometime later today!

Cnet - external hard drives sorted by user rating

Costco - a great source for external hard drives. Check out the 1tb drive for $199!

Amazon - carries quite a few external hard drives, many with free shipping and no sales tax!

Remember to tell Santa that an external hard drive makes the perfect stocking stuffer!

Online Storage

You can use a free online storage website if your storage needs are less tha 5gb. Many websites require users to pay a fee, but some are free and some have a limited amount of room for free. Here are a few:

Xdrive (5gb free) -

Mozy (2gb free) -

Box (1gb free) -

DropBoks (1gb free) -

Remember that how quickly you can backup will depend greatly upon the processor/RAM on your computer as well as your DSL/dial-up Internet connection.

One area of confusion is that download speeds (when you access a website or download a file) are vastly faster than upload speeds. For example, my current download speed is up to 1.mbps but my upload speed is only 384k, about 25% of the download speed.

If you have a slow connection, external backup may be a better alternative for you.

Read more about online storage:

Photo: Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores at Flickr courtesy of Topato.