Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Spreadsheets

In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion around spreadsheets with DearMyrtle hosting a couple of Hangouts on the subject and other bloggers writing posts.

I am a bit of a spreadsheetaholic and use either Excel or a Google Sheets every day to organise my personal life and for some genealogy applications. I was however surprised when I saw some people using spreadsheets for things that my genealogy program does.

One of the main views on Family Historian, the genealogy software database I use,  looks just like a spreadsheet with data displayed in colums each one of which one can sort. One is able to add or remove columns from this display to suit one's needs, any field in the database can be added as a column.

At present these are the colums I have in my display:
Name, Record ID, Sex, Living, Dates, Birth Place, Death Date, Burial Place, Relationship to Root (me), Updated.


If I want to see who is buried in a particular cemetery prior to a geneajourney I just sort by that column by clicking on the column header. To see those entries I haven't updated for a while I can sort on the Updated column. Sorting by the Relationship to Root Column allows me to cluster all my closest relatives together.

 I often add or delete columns when I am after particular information. If I wanted to find all the School teachers or Plumbers in my list I could add an occupation column and osrt on that, If I wanted to find all the Methodists I could add the Religion column and sort by that.

This display is also very useful for identifying where gaps appear in one's data, white spaces (and I have lots of them) indicate that work needs to be done.

So because of this feature in Family Historian I don't need to use external spreadsheets as much as I would if I was using another software package.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Makeover Madness

Last week I wrote that I was Tarting up the Template for this blog. Following on from that Alex Daw in her post, Pimp your blog this weekend, suggested that geneabloggers as a #NFHM2104 activity seek feedback from other geneabloggers on how they could improve their blogs.

She suggested "we could say one thing (or more of course) we really like about each other's blog and then maybe one thing that we think the blogger could lose or improve."  About half a dozen brave bloggers signed up, I think we and our blogs all benefitted from others' suggestions. I fiddled and faddled over a few days and think that the GeniAus blog has a cleaner, less cluttered appearance.

Thanks Alex for setting the challenge and to those brave souls who offered their blogs up for evaluation and politely made suggestons for improvement.



Co-incidentally today I was updating a presentation I had given around 18 months ago in which I showed screenshots of several blogs. I had to do new screenshots of most of the blogs as they had nearly all undergone some sort of facelift. In all cases the newer designs were an improvement on the old.

Do you continually update your blog/s layout and design? Do you set aside a few hours every so often for this task?  Have you made no changes and kept the original layout and design?




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Running in the Family

Some weeks ago I finished reading a book that I had picked up from the swap section in a cruise ship's library. When I travel I take a bundle of op shop purchases away with me and dispose of or swap them along the way but I could not bear to part with this one so it travelled with me over many days and through a dozen countries. It has now been reposing on my desk waiting for me to tell you about it

On our trip we visited Sri Lanka and that was what made me select this book that recounted the author's return to his native land of Sri Lanka. I imagine that the fellow traveller who had ditched the book purchased it for local knowledge. I did not realise until I reread the blurb that it was actually a family history book.


In Running in the Family Michael Ondaatje (first publishedin 1982 - my edition was published by Vinatge Books) tells in a series of short vignettes tales of his parents, ancestors and families. As he travelled around Sri Lanka Ondaatje met and interviewed family members, friends and work colleagues of his parents. There emerged stories of  love, passion and divorce, drunkenness, wild parties and hair-raising car and train rides. For me the stories didn't flow so well from one to the other but the writing was superb. After reading a few ordinary crime novels it was a treat to read this small book and savour the stunning use of language, the prose was delectable.

If you ever contemplate writing a family history book take a peek between the pages of this tome to see how beautifully you can telll your family tales.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cyndi's Other List

Most genealogists should have heard of Cyndi's List, a huge directory of genealogy resources on the internet. I have been lucky enough to have met Cyndi Ingle in person at Rootstech.

http://www.cyndislist.com/

I am a huge fan of Evernote who is always looking for further ways to further use the product. When I heard that Cyndi was presenting a webinar for SAG members about Evernote for genealogy in National Family History Month I signed up and joined 74 other members and moderator, Heather Garnsey, online for the gig.

If one thinks of Evernote as list of things then this presentation could have been called Cyndi's Other List. Cyndi packed a lot into the allocated time talking at a rate of knots to get through her topic, thankfully she speaks clearly and well. She quickly outlined the structure of Evernote before launching into live demonstrations using her Evernote account.

It was interesting to see the way Cyndi uses Evernote in her genealogy. She uses it heavily for tracking her research and saving resources. I picked up a couple of tips from Cyndi that I will find useful.  I like the way she sets up a folder and saves related stuff into it when she is doing freebie research for friends and that she can then share the bits in that folder to the friend via a link.
I hadn't used the Table of Contents feature and will find that useful for one notebook I have. I was also reminded that one can save notes to different formats - something to explore.

Having grown used to Google Hangouts on Air I found it strange going back to the Goto Webinar platform, I missed the interactivity and video components of Hangouts. The webinar felt like a formal lecture, a "chalk and talk" activity. There was time for five minutes of questions at the end of the lecture, I wish this could have been extended to allow for more discussion. I was lucky to have had a couple of questions answered but I should have asked if Cyndi uses Evernote as an organisational tool for Cyndi's List.

Thanks Cyndi for sharing how you use Evernote and for the handy handout you prepared for us. It was great to catch up with you from downunder.

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