Have you been looking for a way to share your genealogy efforts with family and friends? If so the latest tool set on GenerousGenealogists might be what you need.
Recently GenerousGenealogists announced that Family Echo became part of their family of no-cost genealogy support offerings. Based in Tel Aviv, Family Echo is an open source, web based Family Tree tool set.
If you have been looking for a zero cost, secure option for sharing your Family Tree with family members and friends, over the Internet, this tool set may be exactly what you are seeking.
Be advised that you will be required to create and register an account on Family Echo, in order to used use the tool suite. Instructions, guidance and associated support are available directly through the Family Echo tool itself.
The folks at GenerousGenealogists have recently made available a new and unique Genealogy question and answer site. In many ways the site functions like YahooAnswers. The notable difference is that this Q&A site is geared towards genealogy only.
The new GenerousGenealogists Q&A site is not oriented towards finding lost relatives, or solving brickwalls; they do that in their Brickwall Forums. This new function, site, is set up as a self-help area for the development of genealogy skills and knowledge. In keeping with their philosophy of equipping genealogy buffs with the tools and knowledge needed for success, this fits perfectly.
Thus far the user traffic is very light. Hopefully though that will change as word of the site’s existence spreads. If you get an opportunity stop by and ask a question or two. See what happens. Better yet, stop by and become an active contributor.
As is often the case, I sign-up for more than my family thinks is good for me. This time I agreed to reconstruct a new and hopefully improved version of what used to be Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK). The renewed incarnation of RAOGK is named: GenerousGenealogists. Our activities, site, and purpose are largely modeled after that of the original RAOGK group which was founded and managed between 1999 and 2011 by Bridgett and Dale Schneider. Although I have to admit, I took license and expanded things ‘a bit’. If you were familiar with the old site, all I can say is that the new one looks a lot different.
As a service, we represent a group volunteers who agree to provide free genealogy research and assistance, as an act of kindness, to “those in need.” As you might expect, when the old RAOGK site went down its database went with it; so we are looking for new volunteers. And oddly enough, GenerousGenealogists is looking for Team Members as well! It is our hope that GenerousGenealogists outlives its founders, creators, maintainers, and carries on the tradition of generosity and giving that was begun in 1999 by the original Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website.
GenerousGenealogists volunteers agree to donate their time for free; recipients of our assistance agree to pay/ reimburse our volunteers for any/all expenses incurred in the fulfillment of “their” requests. The assistance, research and networking we provide is made available freely and without respect or intent of financial gain. All any of our volunteers will ever request of you is expense reimbursement and a “Thank You”.
As many of you may have already guessed, our families and ancestries are crowded with Mennonite and Amish peoples- Anabaptists. For years, we knew of the Rich (Henss Family Branch) connections to the Swiss- Elsass/Alsace, Montbeliard/ Bern communities. More recently, we have come to understand quite a bit of the Senger (Rabideau Family Branch) connections to the West Prussian / East Prussian Mennonite communities.
Because of the smallish nature of these original communities, we (Becky, my wife, and I) have elected to purchase DNA tests from 23andMe and submit our DNA test results for inclusion in the Mennonite DNA Project. This past weekend our 23andme DNA test kits arrived! Now all we have to do is study hard and take our tests. ;^) Which actually means, we have to ‘spit in a tube’. It is our hope that we will both contribute useful research data as well as benefit from the new information we obtain regarding our heritages & lineages.
As our adventure progresses, I will post more information regarding our DNA ‘project’. But for now, if you, like we, are genetically linked to any of the Anabaptist, Mennonite, Amish communities, please consider participating and adding your ‘voice’ (read, DNA) to this worthwhile research project.
Who knows what kind of insights and discoveries might arise from our collective efforts!
After about 2 weeks of work, I have found what seems to be a solution. Yay! Perhaps that means I am tenacious… I rather prefer to think I am not stubborn, but maybe I am that, too!?? Nevertheless, here is what I have come up with for a solution to build a clean, safe, pristine environment within which FTM2012 ‘seems‘ to be able to run, with greatly reduced breakage and much improved stability.
This solution may not necessarily be well suited for the feint of heart, but it is worth consideration given the frustration involved in having non-functional software, which you want to work.
First and foremost, I created a single function Windows 7 Virtual PC running in isolation on a guest host (see Wikipedia for more information on this); my guest host happens to be a Debian Linux PC running Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 201204. You could do this just as easily on a Windows or Apple Machine. My FTM-exclusive Virtual PC is run within an Open Source Oracle application called VirtualBox. It is essential to note that this creates an isolated Virtual PC, not a PC application emulator environment (like WINE or CrossOver). All applications within the Virtual PC are run in native mode, not in emulation or compatibility or simulation modes. (For more you can read what VirtualBox offers on the topic.)
To begin with, I decided I needed to create and then backup a complete, clean, fresh install of Win7Pro (running as a Virtual Machine under Linux). My Windows 7 Pro Virtual Machine environment included the following:
1.768 MB of RAM (memory)
64MB of Video RAM
20 GB of dynamically expandable Disk space
Once I built my Virtual PC, with Win7Pro, I performed a full Windows set of updates; this took 4+ hours. It should be noted:
I only allowed for Win7Pro default security settings.
No third party firewalls, anti-virus or the like were used or set; none were required because the entire environment was run within the control and protection of my Linux host. I also wanted to avoid these as they often will conflict with unstable applications like FTM2012.
After the OS was built and current, I created/ built an initial install of FTM 2012 (no FTM updates were allowed, yet.)
As the FTM install began, FTM requested/ required the installation of Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0. This set of installs also turned out to be a leisurely event; taking several hours to accomplish.
After my basic FTM install completed, I performed three rounds of updates, getting all the “necessary” MS .NET environment updates.
It is worth noting that after the initial .NET install, FTM2012 died while attempting to connect to the FTM site for its own updates, but, that happened only after I had completed all the Microsoft required .NET updates. In the end, FTM made its way to its home base for the update package(s); and those updates were completed, as well.
Once FTM was installed and current, I rebooted my FTM2012 Win7Pro Virtual PC… and “surprise!” on exiting the Win7Pro system wanted to install 13 critical updates, mostly involved with .NET. This process added 1.25 hours to my journey (according to a Microsoft download message). This was not a quick reboot!
Much to my chagrin, the first set of Microsoft Win 7 updates was followed by yet another huge update set, mostly involving .NET. In total there were nearly 2 hours of .NET security updates. I rebooted the Win7Pro PC after each major update set.
Because I run Win7Pro in a Virtual Machine as a guest Operating System – I was able to back up my “newly created, updated and as yet unused” Windows environment after each major update. I think this is much better then relying on a simple Microsoft Restore point, however, these backups ate a lot of disk space at about 11GB per Virtual Machine Backup…
Once I had my environment built and up-to-date, I opened a ‘live’ session of FTM2012.
I ran a restore from a recent backup of my previous FTM2012 data (media included).
The entire ‘restored’ database was about 3GB in size.
Following the successful creation of a clean ‘new’ database in my Win7Pro Guest PC, I linked my database to Ancestry.com.
The initial phase of the update was fairly fast, under 10 minutes.
The media upload to Ancestry.com was slow, although much faster than in my previous environment. Sadly in the middle of my large media synch, Ancestry.com logged me out. I restarted the synch after logging into Ancestry.com once again, and things ran cleanly.
I ran this environment for two days without difficulty.
In the end I decided to rebuild the whole thing yet once again, this time using a copy of Windows 7 Home Edition (rather than WIn7Pro). I followed the same process and thus far have received the same positive results.
My conclusion is that FTM 2012 is generally not well tested. There appear to be some serious conflicts with either applications or dlls that are neither identified nor reported to mere mortals like me, the FTM 2012 customer/ user. Running FTM 2012 in its own isolated PC environment seems to avoid most of the more serious ‘unidentified and unacknowledged’ conflicts and allows for more successful use of the application at little financial cost; but at considerable time expense, in terms of setup (this took a long time to figure out and build). In the end, I am almost comfortable in recommending this approach, if you encounter problems resembling those I reported earlier and have read about elsewhere… but, your mileage may vary.
There are no guarantees, warranties expressed or implied…
Well it has been a bit more than a month, now. I am still using Family Tree Maker 2012; but I must admit that a LOT of the luster and shine has worn off. My initial enthusiasm and excitement has been significantly enhanced with personal experience and tribulations.
As you may or may not know, in my day job I am a engineering process improvement consultant. And, my greatest area of involvement, dare I say strength, is software engineering, design and implementation. Simply stated, I worry about making it possible for engineering endeavors to be implemented successfully, reliably and predictably.
Enough for the advert (you may read more on another site of mine if you like)– now back to Family Tree Maker 2012.
Sadly I must report to you that the 2012 version of FTM software is astonishingly buggy and unstable. The most bizarre encounter I have experienced thus far involves a required upgrade patch, one without any identifier, that causes the software to become totally non-functional even “invisible”. No error messages, no warnings. The patched version of FTM2012 simply ceases to function without leaving a trace; the desktop icons are there, you simply click and nothing. If this were open source software, a solution would be discoverable; but sadly such is not the case with FTM. I have scoured ancestry.com and the web only to find that others have experienced similar joys and similar success to mine in finding answers. In other words, there’s a lot of web ranting about FTM 2012 to be found but not much else.
In an effort to stabilize my environment, I have installed and patched FTM on a standalone Windows XP PC. I also have built installations in Windows 7 and Windows XP on Virtual PCs running under Linux in Oracle VirtualBox and the problem is always the same. All I ever get is a disappearing release of FTM. Although happily, I have figured out some interesting and fast ways to build Windows Virtual PCs on my Linux hosts. The only viable solution I have discovered with FTM, however, is to ignore the FTM 2012 required patch. Now every time I run FTM 2012 I watch the dire warnings as I select the unacceptable options, by FTM’s report, all of this in an effort to keep FTM moderately functional.
So if you are considering buying FTM 2012 consider my small tale of woe. If it were not for the ancestry.com media synch functionality, I would have placed FTM 2012 along with my $40 in the dust bin of failed software a few weeks ago. But for now I’ll run it minus its critical and required updates, in hopes that the folks behind the development of this software stumble upon a workable and stable solution.
On the other hand, maybe Ancestry.com will release its database API (Application Programming Interface) and allow other software groups an opportunity to provide a reliable solution… I can hope.
Update #1: 15 May 2012
Well I added 2 GB more memory to my Win7 install to see if FTM2012 (after the ‘patch’) might simply be hung up due to lack of memory. I guess it still might need more memory; but with 3GB of memory, the situation remains the same. FTM (updated) continues to hang and freeze without any notification as to why or what is wrong. Oh well…
Update #2: 15 May 2012
I tried upgrading to a more “robust” version of Win7, Win7 Pro. Aside from using up 5 additional hours for upgrade and testing, nothing changed. FTM2012 still hangs up without any report or notice after I run their ‘required’ update. I know several folks say that the software works for them; well, I certainly wish I were in the ‘working’ group and not in my special user category.
Like many of you, I rely heavily on Ancestry.com to provide me access to genealogical source materials. The difficulty I have had with these materials over the years is in simultaneously getting source media objects/images onto my desktop and linked to a viable copy of a family tree. Well, it looks like Family Tree Maker 2012 (FTM 2012) finally has solved that problem for me.
Given that most of the ManyRoads readership are Windows users, the following section may have only limited value to you. However if you are a Linux or Mac user or if you are contemplating transitioning operating systems environments (or mixing them), I think you might find my journey of value.
I think most of you know, by now, that I am primarily a Linux user. Currently my business and personal PCs are running Ubuntu variants for our general computing and technical development needs, most generally Xubuntu 12.04. As a rule, I do not buy Windows software. My typical experience has been that I can easily find Open Source software with the same or better functionality than that available on either Windows or Apple at a much lower cost (read, Free). However, when I read that FTM 2012 was able to synch with Ancestry.com and synch across my PC and tablet platforms; well, I just had to give FTM a try.
My initial attempt at installation involved using Wine (Windows Emulator Environment). To quote the folks at Wine:
Wine lets you run Windows software on other operating systems. With Wine, you can install and run these applications just like you would in Windows.
Wine is still under active development. Not every program works yet, however there are already several million people using Wine to run their software.
Sadly, FTM 2012 failed to run for me after installation under Wine. Because I had yet another installation option available to me, I did not bother to figure out why Wine did not work (sorry).
My next attempt involved installing FTM 2012 on my Windows XP Virtual machine running under Xubuntu (My virtual WinXP PC is installed in an environment using Oracle Virtualbox OSE.). For those who are unfamilar with VirtualBox, here’s what they say about themselves:
VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.
Now back to my tale, this second installation went very well. Although I did decide to make a few modifications to my WinXP Virtual environment for a better operating experience as well as an improved look & feel, specifically:
I modified my standard WinXP desktop settings to use Clear Type (prettier fonts)
I upped my Virtual PC memory from 256 to 768 MB, to speed things up because FTM seems a tad memory heavy to me (in terms of ‘apparent’ response time)
I added additional disk space to allow for smoother operation (another little improvement to response time was noted)
Because one of the major reasons I spent money on FTM was the synch between my Desktop and Ancestry… I began with a link to my Ancestry account. Here are my basic, ‘initial’ observations:
FTM 2012 synchs quite well with pre-existing Ancestry data. Not fast but thoroughly!
Media does indeed download! Yay!
Finally, to my joy and surprise, I have an easy method to correct errors on my Ancestry Trees.
Other nice features/ options I have noticed thus far include:
You can exclude Ancestry family Trees from automatic searches (the little leaf thingees)! Those error-prone, inaccurate Family Trees can now be easily ignored. As they say in Germany: Gott sei dank! (Praise to God!)
FTM allows “enhance record images” to be downloaded from Ancestry.com; so much better to see them with…
It is easy to define a specific location for your FTM files, data, images, etc.; this allows me to place everything in a shared Linux/Windows file area.
In the main, this seems to have been money well spent! As I learn more about FTM 2012, I will post noteworthy items on ManyRoads.
For years I have had the need to share information, applications, and desktops across the miles. Just recently, I stumbled across two viable, and affordable solutions that should work for people like me who are:
poor (and prefer to stick with Open Source – Free- software),
multiplatform (Win, Mac, Linux) users and who also…
desire a better “hands on approach” to sharing information and coaching folks on system’s usage across the miles.
The applications I have found to be most workable for me are:
Google Chrome Remote Desktop Beta
Google Chrome Remote Desktop Beta
Briefly, Chrome Remote Desktop offers the following functions, including:
OS independence (it runs on Win, Mac, Linux)
Internet browser dependant (it requires Chrome on Win,Linux, Mac; Chromium on Linux also works)
A 2 user Desktop Sharing limitation
No obvious license restrictions or encumbrances
The Requirement of having a gmail account to install and access the application (no charges incurred or required)
An apparent arbitrary 15 minute time-out restriction.
Application accessible through the Chrome/Chromium Applications screen
“While most competitors offer different packages for spontaneous support,
remote maintenance, presentation, online training, team collaboration and
VPN (and also charge for them), TeamViewer combines all of these modules
in a single, extremely affordable application.”
“TeamViewer is a very secure solution for remote maintenance. Your connec-
tions utilize completely secured data channels featuring 1024-bit RSA key
exchange and 256-bit AES session encoding.”
After a couple of trial uses, here are my general observations and opinions (assuming anyone cares).
Generally I prefer Teamviewer 7 both for its browser independence and link security management. Heaven knows my top-secret online meetings require 1024 RSA key exchanges and 256-bit AES (encryption).
On the other hand given that Teamviewer7 is restricted to personal or non-commercial use, I also plan to continue to use Google Remote Desktop Share for those short duration 1 on 1 commercial desktop sharing sessions.
Who knows, someday there might be a single solution for me…. the impoverished genealogist, geek user. But for today, two solutions are better than none!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, recently I came across a VERY promising research tool to assist in gathering, sorting, and sharing research source materials. That tool is called Mendeley . It enhances, compliments, and can even replace tools like Zotero. It, also, links interactively with desktop word processing tools like LibreOffice/OpenOffice and perhaps even M$Office (although I don’t own a copy of that to test). Mendeley, also, allows me to share its content across multiple platforms including my Linux Laptops, my iPad and, according to the provider, Mac and Windows. Finally, the tool itself tracks, inventories and gathers information from within Firefox and similar web browsers or directly from my Desktop, if I happen to have my information there.
Oh, and before I forget… did I mention the tool allows for socializing selected information and publications (individually or through Groups of Common Interest). Oh yes, and basic Mendeley usage is Free.
Three quick additional items:
If you are performing genealogy research and want to join in sharing resources and source materials with me, please join Mendeley and my “Mennonite Genealogy Researchers” Group (Note: this group requires a Mendeley Account to View).
If you are interested in following some of my exploits in using the Mendeley Toolsuite you can my publicly available ‘research’ (meaning you don’t need to use Mendeley to see these HERE).
I have begun to rely on this tool for all my Prussian Mennonite research and find it very useful and easy to use. I plan on continuing to expand my use of Mendeley into the future. This tool is now ‘officially’ a standard part of my genealogy research tool-kit.
As many of you may know, my Recht family line (Hermann Recht’s family) has strong roots within what was once the Mennonite Community resident near the former Elbing and Marienburg, Westpreussen. As I conduct my Prussian Mennonite family genealogical research, this page will evolve and develop into something a bit more robust.
I am using Mendeley to gather and manage my research findings and source materials (I am also using the tool in an effort to evaluate its effectiveness for genealogy work.) If I end up writing something profound, perhaps Mendeley will also manage my writings. In any event for those interested in viewing and accessing most of my source materials, access to them will be provided here.
As a genealogist that conducts much of his research on the web, good data and image gathering tools are extremely helpful. As a person who relies heavily on the PC as a genealogical repository and information processor, tools that help me sort and process the information I gather are highly valued (prized). In all fairness, I also ought to restate that I rarely (VERY rarely) work with any software outside of the OpenSource (or Free) realm unless I have a hugely compelling reason to do so.
I must, additionally, admit that I am very new to many (read almost all) of these tools. It is also worth knowing that several of these tools are brand new to the world (or perhaps even a little bit newer than new). Nonetheless, I thought archiving and sharing these pointers might be useful. It is my hope that you, too, might be willing to share additional information or insights you might have regarding these or other, even better tools. With mutual sharing, we will all learn and benefit.
Having said all that, here are the innovative tools which most recently appeared on my radar screen.
I have recently come into contact with a family member who luckily has a long and detailed memory of the times and travails of my “German” family in and after WW2. Because of the information from that source plus the information I have gathered from my immediate family over the years, I am attempting to use this tool to understand and write the overall story/ flow of events of that place and time. Obviously Storybook is intended for novels but then family histories are stories, too; they just are not fiction. To quote the Storybook site:
Storybook is a free Open Source novel-writing software for creative writers, novelists and authors which will help you to keep an overview of multiple plot-lines while writing books, novels or other written works.
This tool (and others like it) are useful when you want to write and be uninterrupted on your PC. Hard to believe but electronic interruptions can and are a major distraction. Sometimes you just want to write…
As their site states: FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free writing environment. It utilizes a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work. It’s available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X, and has been translated into many different languages.
As I mentioned at the outset, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on any of these tools or their competing products. After all as the Beatles once said, sometimes:
In keeping with the theme of my previous posting, here are some additional pointers to genealogy software and software reviews. Be aware that none of the listings are complete, nor do they over-lap to any significant amount. Each list is “somewhat” to “a lot” unique.
Additionally you should note, not all the listings or reviews have been “conducted” or “written up” by software professionals or genealogists. Many are simply a compendium of personal opinions or available happenstance; but that does not mean they are not helpful or informative. In total the articles should paint a reasonably complete portrait of options and considerations.
The bottom line is, if you are in search of new, improved genealogy software or options, these links/ articles may help you in your search:
As most of our readers know, I belong to numerous on-line forums and discussion threads. Lately there have been numerous requests for assistance in the selection of Genealogy software. Hopefully this post will provide some help in that vein while making the responses obtained via email from the discussion forums both more meaningful and valuable.
The first thing to be aware of when you ask for help in picking software is that you will get your respondents biases along with their recommendations, even if they don’t mean to provide you their biases. Software after all is a reflection of both its users and authors. To help you sort through that challenge, you ought to think carefully about:
what you have,
what you need,
what you want,
what would be nice to have and also about
what inconveniences you are willing to put up with…
To start, you need to think about the all functions you have currently, and those that you want to preserve going forward. Once you know those, you need to be very clear about what you hope to accomplish with the new tools you desire to evaluate/ purchase. Here are some items worth thinking about although I’d be remiss were I not to point out that this is neither a complete nor prioritized list (oh, and it reflects my biases).
Do you prefer a single user PC-based solution? If you do, then you need to consider the operating system you prefer to use (For example, I am a Linux user with little interest in either Windows or Apple OSes.)
The major Operating system options are:
Blended OS environment (which OSes do you want…)
Do you want your genealogy information/ data published or shared on the Web? If so,
Do you want everything hosted and managed on-line exclusively? (e.g. Ancestry.com)
Do you want your genealogy information to be self-hosted? (e.g. TNG)
Or do you prefer a blended site providing a subset of data from a PC application and reformatted for web based sharing? (e.g. ManyRoads)
Are there special functions you want to retain from your current or earlier systems, like your data? If so, then you need to consider how you will transfer the data from your old environment to the new one. Here are some other items you might consider:
Do you have printers, scanners, multimedia devices, etc. that you want to use in the new environment? If so, you ought to test them out.
Do you want to run your new system alongside some other system (maybe even your old one)? If so, you need a plan to make sure that happens successfully.
Are you certain your old system can output data in a format that the new one can read/ understand? You should test that out or you’ll risk a serious failure.
How much money are you willing or wanting to spend on the new system? Here are some items that can impact your costs:
Does the new software system run on your existing computing platform?
Do you need to buy a new computer to make the software run?
Do you need training to get the new system operational?
Do you have a family geek to help you with your technical problems or will you need to pay someone for the help?
How much does the software cost? (Remember Open Source software is free… e.g. GRAMPS)
Does the software provider provide support? What does the support cost?
If you answer the above to your satisfaction, then you need to consider human factors… and don’t trust strangers to interpret ill-defined requests correctly for you. Questions like:
Is it easy to use?
Is it fast?
How stable is the system?
Does the software require a lot of technical know-how?
Responses to questions like these most certainly involve personal opinions and biases. One person’s “technical” is another’s “light-touch” user. “Complex” for one is “essential” or “robust” for others. You need to use and experience software in order to get a decent answer that fits your true needs and concerns. Asking is a start but it is just that, a start…
We all have languages we do not understand or read. Some of us struggle along in our native tongue only; others have a small or large suite of languages with which they are able to work. In the end though, we all hit a language wall and need to rely on tools other than our personal skills.
And… that’s where the challenge begins.
Today, I was translating a small German paragraph for use here on ManyRoads. So for grins and laziness reasons, I thought I’d attempt to use Google Translate to help speed up my effort. Boy was I surprised! Let me explain what happened.
The paragraph I wanted to translate involves a particularly new, and what will be hugely difficult, branch of my mother’s family- the Szczepanskis. For the record, I had obtained this, for me significant, paragraph from the Sczepanski Family Archives (in Germany). Here’s what the “German” paragraph reads:
Vorbemerkungen: 1. Mennonitenfamilie. Nach der mündlichen Familienüberlieferung war der Stammvater ein katholischer Knecht namens Szczepanski (Szepansky), der bei einem mennonitischen Bauern von der Mennonitengemeinde Plauschwarren, Kreis Gumbinnen (Ostpreußen, auch “Preußisch-Litauen” genannt) arbeitete. Dieser Knecht ließ sich mennonitisch taufen und heiratete eine Mennonitin. Als später einige Familien aus der Mennonitengemeinde Plauschwarren ins Weichseldelta nach Polen übersiedelten, schloß Szepansky sich ihnen an und kam etwa 1730 nach Thiensdorf im Kreis Marienburg, wo er einen Bauernhof erwarb. Thiensdorf im späteren Westpreußen gehörte zur Mennonitengemeinde Markushof, Kreis Marienburg.
So with that text in hand, off I marched to Google Translate. I entered my text into the handy translate box and Voila! Here’s what I was given:
Preliminary remarks: 1 Mennonite family. After the oral family tradition, was the progenitor of a Catholic servant named Szczepanski (Szepansky), the (called East Prussia, also called “Prussian Lithuania”) at a Mennonite farmer from the Mennonite community chat Warren, district Gumbinnen worked. This servant was baptized and married a Mennonite Mennonite. Later, when some families from the Mennonite community in the Vistula Delta chat Warren moved to Poland, joined Szepansky on them, and came about after 1730 Thien village in the district of Marienburg, where he purchased a farm. Thien village in West Prussia, later belonged to the Mennonite community Markushof, Kreis of Marienburg.
Unimpressed with that translation (and honestly quite curious), I next went to Babelfish. In someways Babelfish is better, but in truth it is just as funny and inaccurate. Anyway here are the Babelfish results:
Prefaces: 1. Mennonitenfamilie. After the verbal family excessive quantity the master father was a catholic farmhand named Szczepanski (Szepansky), which worked at a mennonitischen farmer of the Mennonitengemeinde Plauschwarren, circle Gumbinnen (East Prussia, also “Prussian Lithuania” mentioned). This farmhand let itself baptize mennonitisch and married a Mennonitin. When some families from the Mennonitengemeinde Plauschwarren in the Weichseldelta to Poland moved later, Szepansky attached them and came themselves about 1730 to Thiensdorf in the circle Marienburg, where he acquired a farm. Thiensdorf in later west Prussia belonged to the Mennonitengemeinde Markushof, circle Marienburg.
Please understand, I do not think my German is perfect and certainly there are readers out there who can and should correct my translation. But here’s more what I think the paragraph is trying to tell us.
Introduction: First Mennonite Family.
Family oral history maintains that the family’s progenitor was a Catholic servant by the name of Szczepanski (Szepanky) who worked for a Mennonite farmer in the Mennonite community of Plauschwarren in Gumbinnen County (East Prussia, also known as Prussian-Lithuania). This servant was baptized into the Mennonite Church and married a Mennonite woman. Later when some of the Plauschwarren families emigrated to the Vistula delta region in Poland, Szczepanski joined them, arriving in Thiensdorf, Marienburg County about 1730. Once there, he acquired a farm. Thiensdorf later became part of the Marcushof Mennonite community in Marienburg County, West Prussia.
Now understand I am not picking on Google Translate or Babelfish, at all. But, these tools are a long way from perfection. In many ways, these tools actually seem a bit closer to comedic perfection rather than translational perfection. Certainly though they are good enough to give you the gist of a foreign document, especially when more than one automated translation tool is employed.
So by all means use the tools… but just don’t expect that complex translations or terms will be very precise, or accurate the first time.
Presenting readable, genealogical information, data, and stories is a complex challenge. It seems to me that people’s lives ought to be expressed as more than family trees, dates, and lineages. I have been struggling with this problem for quite a while. Perhaps you have as well.
Over the years, I have noticed a few ‘special’ difficulties in making this type of information, useful, accessible, easy to find not to mention human. The major problem areas, for me, have centered around the following:
genealogical data & stories can run deep & wide (they may, and often do, involve a lot of data from many locations, sources, and media)
genealogical data/ information itself evolves and changes. It changes often (even more than often for those of us who make lots of mistakes or find new things frequently); AND! the changes are irregular or unpredictable.
my personal belief is that genealogy information is best when it is humanized with stories, histories, oral traditions (now written down), images, maps, etc.
Given these challenges and the fact that I use a website environment, one built using WordPress plus GRAMPS; I thought I’d attempt a melding of several techniques and technologies in order to make a more user friendly presentation format for my genealogy information. Three example pages, of my latest ‘integration’ efforts, may be viewed at:
am I succeeding, am I heading in the right direction???
does this presentation style (format) seem generally helpful, useful, easy to use?
I would greatly appreciate your input. If you are willing to share your thoughts with me, you may either use our Contact page or Comment below to voice them.
If there is demand for pointers on how this was all built, I am happy to provide that in another posting or set of postings, for now suffice it to say I have done some minor tweaks with WordPress and GRAMPS to build the example pages above; oh, these pages will largely maintain themselves automagically.
Some of you may be aware that my ‘day’ job involves benchmarking organizations against various process and business improvement models (see: PEP) . If you are reading this note on ManyRoads, you most certainly are aware that I have a passion for genealogy (as my daughter might say: “No Duh.”).
What I am curious about is… do you feel, like I do, that the genealogy industry (e.g., Ancestry.com, familysearch.org, etc.) would benefit from having more reliable, accurate, and predictable data management practices? If this thought piques your interest, please read on.
Data Management Maturity Model
The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and the Enterprise Data Management Council (EDM Council) have formed a strategic partnership to create a new Data Management Maturity (DMM) Model for the information technology and financial industries. The new model will define the components of data management at the specific business-process level so that organizations can assess themselves against documented best practices and upgrade their management of essential data resources.
The overall goal of this new collaboration is to help the information technology and financial industries become more proficient in their management of critical data and to provide a consistent and comparable benchmark for regulatory authorities in their efforts to control operational risk. The DMM will be constructed based on the foundational process areas found in Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) developed by SEI and funded by the Department of Defense and in the CERT Resiliency Management Model (RMM) developed in collaboration with the Financial Services Technology Consortium. It will result in a framework and accompanying assessment methodology for evaluating the efficiency of data management practices, measuring the maturity of operational integration, and establishing standard best practices that can be adopted by information organizations worldwide.
The goal of managing data as a corporate asset where precision, consistency, comparability and standardized meaning are assured is just now emerging as a business priority among organizations. And while the objectives of data management are conceptually understood, the practice of data management is difficult to implement because of the difficulties in unraveling and reconnecting systems, processes and operational environments that are required to gain control over data as it proliferates throughout large organizations.
At the core of the challenge is the lack of practical expertise and fact that there is no proven operational route map to guide organizations in their goal of enterprise-wide data management. The Data Management Maturity Model objective has been crafted in conjunction with information technology and financial industries practitioners to help respond to the twin forces of need and complexity that characterize the data management challenge. The objective of the DMM is to help organizations turn the ‘art and practice’ into the ‘science and discipline’ of data management.
Any thoughts, comments, questions you might have are most welcome. As this effort gets underway, what would you like to see brought to bear in this realm? If you have ideas, concerns, or would like to participate in any way, please either leave a comment here or contact me directly from our Contact page.
In the end, we will all benefit from improving the reliability of our information sources, databases, and systems.
Mocavo is embarking on a new extension of their already exceedingly useful services; one where they conduct automated research and linking between family trees.
According to them, once you upload your GEDCOM File(s) you will begin to taking part in the future of genealogy research. Mocavo plans to send out fully-automated search results to your email and will make new connections for your tree(s) from all over the web! Each uploaded Family Tree will be rolled in to the Mocavo search index to help the genealogy world discover each other and uncover some of the vast array of data/ information available. All you need to do to take advantage of this is to sign up (Free) and upload your Gedcom file(s). From that point forward everything is going to be ‘automagic’.
I have uploaded a particularly challenging tree of mine. We’ll see when the data begins to start rolling in. When it does, I’ll report what I uncover/discover here on ManyRoads.
This week I used the new FamilySearch.org microfilm (microfiche) ordering system for the first time. As you might expect, like any new service there are a few wrinkles but overall the new system is simply a magnificent advancement. Here’s what I learned with my orders.
If you did not already know, recently FamilySearch.org placed a new online ordering mechanism on their site. According to their site this offering is being rolled out across the world and is currently available in my area (Colorado). Click this link to read the complete announcement.
As most of you know, I do a lot of Prussian research (which means I order quite a few German tapes). What you may not know is that German copyright law is different from that in the US; and as a result, certain tapes are restricted from areas and durations within varying geographies (I will not attempt to explain the details of this set of regulations.) The net result is that I was not able to easily gain access to all the tapes I needed and should have been able to order easily. Certain of the tapes I attempted to order had some form of odd blocking mechanism in place based upon inaccurate criteria. That was the bad news, here is the good news:
Undaunted by the system (software) denial, I contacted the FamilySearch telephone help desk. I spoke with Sister Jones (not her real name). She patiently listened to my song of woe and contacted the appropriate Archive support help desk. Since the queue was over 10 minutes long, she asked if it was okay to have the Archive/ systems support folks contact me directly, later. I agreed and she gave me my ‘ticket’ number and assured me I’d hear back shortly.
I did! Within less than 2 hours, I received an email from Elder Bob Snow (not his real name) requesting that I provide some additional information on my account (like my local Family History Center-FHC) and he said once I did that, he’d give me special release on the tapes I wanted.
I completed the tasks, and sure enough I received another email from Elder Bob Snow stating that my account was now granted specific access to the desired tapes. I could immediately order the tapes I needed, the earlier blocks were removed, an apology was provided as was assurance that they (their software folks) were aware of this problem and this problem was in the queue to be fixed.
Other facts I have learned in this process include:
Charges for microfilm loans have been lowered from what they were in the manual system. (Hooray!)
Duration of short term microfilm loans is now at 90 days (an extension from the previous system) and the rates have remained constant.
All in all, this new ordering process is a huge leap forward in accessibility and customer service. Good job FamilySearch! If you are in a served area and would like to test this new service out, or if you are simply curious about what’s coming to your area, here’s the link.
Keeping notes, reminders and tasks synchronized as I move from place to place has been a real dilemma for me. Not surprisingly, I really need a place to take notes, add reminders when I am browsing the web or reading my email. I also need these notes, reminders, todos to be available wherever I am and on whichever PC I use. Recently, I found what seems to me to be a good solution. Perfect no, good, yes! This solution involves the use of several free, open source tools:
ThunderBird (email system of choice)
FireFox (internet browser of choice)
ReminderFox (todo list and reminder system)
and one file synchronization (Cloud) toolset:
The environment I am synchronizing across includes:
Multiple PCs (all my laptops, I have a few)
one Netbook (an eeePC)
one iPad (which does not play into this, see my side comment below)
my email system
my internet browser(s)
If you are not able or willing to use ThunderBird and FireFox you should stop reading here… If you don’t have them but are willing to try them, please continue reading:
If you haven’t already done this, you will need to install and setup ThunderBird, FireFox and ReminderFox. So far as I know these will all run on Mac OS X, Linux, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 7, Windows Vista 64-bit. (Note: There is no cost for the ThunderBird, FireFox or ReminderFox software.)
Next, create a ReminderFox directory in DropBox. If you don’t have a DropBox account already, go to to DropBox to learn how to get & install one. Setup DropBox first! (A 2GB account is Free. You may use another Cloud file server provider if you choose. I like DropBox for this sort of thing because it is very fast and easy.). Remember the name of the DropBox Directory you created! (If you use something else the same caution applies.)
Go to either your Thunderbird or FireFox account (this location will vary based upon your operating system, for help in finding this information out follow these links: FireFox user profiles — ThunderBird user profiles.). Next, copy the file contained in either your Thunderbird or FireFox ReminderFox Directory into your newly created ReminderFox DropBox directory. The file you want is called: reminderfox.ics. You do not need or want to copy two files; just one!
Start (Invoke) ThunderBird and FireFox (singly or together).
Go to either Thunderbird or FireFox
Look on the bottom right for the ReminderFox pink ribbon (Note: You will need to do these same steps in both FireFox and ThunderBird.)
Click on the ReminderFox ribbon
Select Options on the bottom right side of the ReminderFox window.
Select the File tab.
De-select the Use Default Option. (click on the Green Check/Tick mark)
Click on the File icon to the far right on that same line. This will allow you to browse to your ReminderFox DropBox location. Do that and select the DropBox reminderfox.ics file.
Add a Test Task/Todo or Reminder to ReminderFox… just to see that things work. Make sure you add something identifiable to both the FireFox and Thunderbird platforms for identification purposes later.
Make certain you complete the preceeding 7 steps (2 through 8) for both FireFox and ThunderBird.
Once steps 1-7 are completed for both FireFox and Thunderbird, Open ReminderFox in each. You should see your test items from both tools in each window. In other words they will be identical for both ThunderBird and FireFox.
If you want to share these data across systems, simply perform the identical steps on your other machines. All of your similarly configured environments will now synchronize with each other, independent of location, platform type, or operating system– so long as you are able to run ReminderFox on each and access your DropBox account.
And there you have it… notes and todos across the universe! Oh, except not all of the apple corner.
iPad Comment: It is worth noting that because of Apple’s restrictions on various standards and tools FireFox is not available nor allowed to be available on iPads/iPods. There are some ics readers but ics readers do not provide bi-directional interaction with tools like ReminderFox. So… as I noted in one of my earlier posts, I use my iPad as an Internet consumption device only. Maybe someday… now back to the topic.
ReinderFox Developer Comment: It is possible to synch with Google Calendar, but it is a ’1-way’ synch. That is, you will be able to pull in reminders from your google calendar, but ReminderFox cannot ‘push’ reminders back to your google calendar. [...] We have wanted full-featured support for Google Calendar for a while now, and we are currently working on it. Stay patiently tuned! [Feb 2011]
I have put this little reminder checklist together to help me and others quickly examine our obvious options when we either are stuck or just getting started.
This list is hardly exhaustive and if you try everything here without success you should not feel like you have to throw your hands up in despair, there are still many avenues to examine. Hopefully though, using these tools will prove useful and productive and fun.
Have you checked?
For basic name searches try these out. Not all of these tools are genealogy focused but they are all quite robust and helpful.
Although many of these site pages offer English translations, I find the translated documents to be only marginally easier to use than the Polish original pages (and my Polish is limited to the ever present and marginally accurate Google Translate). Nonetheless, these archives look to be a very positive resource and representative of a very hopeful trend!
Should you know of other online Polish Archives you believe we should share, please let me know and I will review and add them to our list for all to use.
It is hard enough finding genealogy information and losing it has always seemed like a bad idea to me. I am writing this post today in hopes of helping you save your genealogy data… and just perhaps, just perhaps, you will take advantage of this risk-free, cost-free suggestion and back things up before you lose them! (Did you notice the shameless, shy-less, cheap plug in that paragraph?)
About two months ago, I wrote a posting entitled Whoa, Backup! In that posting, I discussed backups in a general or generic sense- I attempted to provide some insight into the benefits and wisdom, etc. of backups. So I won’t repeat that material, you may follow this link to read what was said then: Whoa, Backup!
This update posting will hopefully give, those of you who decide to follow my recommendations, a bunch of free online storage. How much will depend on your specific situation but it could be as much as 100GB. Wuala is an online backup service by LaCie. Their desktop app works on Windows, Mac, and Linux (I’m running it on Ubuntu Linux).
You should note that your encrypted (encoded) data is distributed across numerous servers around the world. To quote the Wuala site:
Wuala protects your privacy.
All files are directly encrypted on your desktop. Your password never leaves your computer. Not even we as the provider can access your files or your password.
Wuala provides bank-level security.
Wuala employs proven encryption technology (AES, RSA and SHA) to secure your data.
Wuala stores your files in multiple places.
To keep your data safe, your files are stored redundantly in many different locations. Our servers are based in Switzerland, Germany and France.
Wuala is based on unique technology.
Our technology has been developed and researched at the ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
Your password and security keys are stored locally on your computer only, not even the folks at Wuala have access to them. I am personally very satisfied with Wuala’s security measures, but perhaps others are not. You may read more on Wuala here.
(Please let me know if any of the codes fail so I may remove them. Also please let me know if you find any new ones and I’ll place them here.)
Also, you can get up to another 3GB of free storage by referring 12 friends (you will receive 250MB per referral). If you total all that up, you have a potential of 19GB of free and secure (my opinion) backup space.
Beyond that, you can elect to trade your on-line hard drive space to the Wuala cloud (I do not do that because of my slow DSL connection.). Whatever amount you trade you will receive an equivalent amount in on-line storage (up to 100GB). This calculation, however, is based on your computer’s on-line time. So it is unlikely that you will get all of that space but rather a lesser percentage. Ultimately, if you use all the above codes, and trade your ‘on-line space’ you have the possibility of achieving 119GB backup space for free.