Sunday, October 20, 2013

SLCC Genealogy Course: Post #9 - Online Trees vs. Personal Software & Extra Credit

Last Saturday, when I wrote my article on my assignment for the Salt Lake Community College Genealogy Course, I was just coming down with a cold. Every day this past week I have progressively got worse. Besides a head cold, cough and fever I've also have a bad case of laryngitis. I thought yesterday I was actually getting over the fever and starting to mend. Today, instead I am sicker than any of the previous days. I guess I will need to go visit the doctor this coming week.

The only bright part about being sick and cancelling all your obligations, is when your not sleeping you get to sit really quiet and do restful things. Of course, that includes genealogy for me.

As I attempted to recap this weeks lesson, I realize how much jumping around we did. The lesson finished up on Sources and covered Transcripts, Extracts and Abstracts. We also went over Online Family Trees and how they can be a "Blight or Blessing" at times. We needed to explore several online family tree sites. The list included: FamilySearch Family Tree, (Public Trees),,,, and The next step was learning how to add sources to FamilySearch Family Tree and it was recommended to include a complete transcription of the family record.

I was reminded of a great free program that I hadn't reinstalled on my current computer. It's called Transcript. It allows you to view a document and make the transcription from within the program. Needless to say it's back on my computer again.

We covered sources in RootsMagic and where to add the transcription in the detail text, how to analysis the source in the comments area, and mark the sources evidence quality. The RootsMagic webinar #31 "New Source and Citation Features in RootsMagic 5" explains how to do this. Plus we had other videos to watch and articles to read.

After all that, the actual assignment didn't have us submit our sources we worked on.  We were just told we need to continue this process on all future sources. So it's one of those we'll catch you down the road if you're not actually doing what your suppose to later.

The real assignment was to participate in a group discussion about "Online Trees vs. Personal Software". We needed to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Online Family Trees like Family Tree and Ancestry Tree and Personal Family Tree Software like RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest or Legacy. Can we use just one or the other? Why or why not?

There were some great comments. I especially loved the ones saying what a great program RootsMagic is. They would have made great ads.  I am only going to share mine with you though.

Just this morning I experienced the frustration of working with an online family tree.  I was on FamilySearch Family Tree and discovered that someone simply deleted a couple. The husband was no longer with his parents and siblings. His wife was gone too. All their children were still in Family Tree but unlinked. I added the couple back in but all their temple ordinances would have to be redone. I had to call FamilySearch to have them recover their temple ordinances. I was able to give them exact dates when their temple ordinances were done because I had a copy of them in my RootsMagic database. Online family trees are great for collaboration but there are just so many reasons why you need your own database too.
Last May I wrote a blog article "Do I Still Need a Desktop Program or is Family Tree enough?" It lists 21 reasons why we still need desktop software. Here are some of the highlights and a few added comments.
  1. More features and reports available in desktop programs. This makes a big difference on how you can use the data.
  2. Privacy issues - It's best to keep living people's information off the internet and only store them in a desktop program.
  3. A desktop program helps with the research process. You have time to prove your conclusions before sharing with the world your findings.
  4. You can organize and analyze your data in a particular way on the desktop that online trees can never do.
  5. It's easy to stop and restart your research on a desktop program. You can use To-Do Lists and Research Logs to help manage and track your research efforts.
  6. Online websites can come and go. In our list FamilyPursuit's website was already gone. What happened to everyone's data?  When FamilySearch moved their data from NFS to FT there was data loss too. Your database is actually safer in your own hands then completed trusted to one website. You can store your database is many formats and methods to preserve your data and keep it intact.
  7. Online Family Trees are evolving. Sometimes you do need to go back and see an earlier version of your database. What your conclusion was at a given point in time. Keeping backups of your database helps you do that. I have all my backups since 1995 and have had to actually go that far back to look at my data for various reasons.

I love online family trees. It's a great way to find other individuals researching your same line. I've learned great things from other researchers. Both the online tree and the desktop program data can be full of junk or be wonderfully researched. The quality of data in both cases depends on the researcher. Just because an online tree contains no sources it doesn't necessarily tell you the quality of the research. I know many genealogist that never submit their sources to online trees just because they want people to contact them instead. 
My conclusion is there is a need for both Online Family Trees and Personal Family Tree Software, but if given the choice I will stick with my RootsMagic.

There were opportunities for two different extra credit assignments. I did both, even though I didn't need to. So far I've received 100% on all the assignments I have turned in.

1. We needed to participate in FamilySearch Indexing. To earn credit we needed to index 50 records and show a screen shot of our stats and write a little summary of our experience.  It's been a while since I indexed so I really thought it would be a piece of cake and fun. I ended up indexing 318 records, but you can see by my comment how much fun I had. NOT! It was nothing like my previous experience indexing.
I haven't indexed in a while so I was excited to try it again. My plans were to just do the 50 that I could get credit for. I got instead this monster batch with all these foreign names I couldn't figure out. It took me FOREVER to get this batch done. I think I was to tired and cranky to be indexing. So this was basically the worst indexing experience I have ever had. Really sorry to say that and I hope you never use this for a quote about our indexing experiences.
2. We needed to attend a Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) Virtual Chapter Meeting and take a screen shot during the webinar to document it. Then write up our experience. I attended last months virtual chapter meeting with Ron Tanner but I didn't realize you needed to take a screen shot during it, so I couldn't get credit. This month's virtual chapter was by our genealogy course teacher Janet Hovorak, "Zap the Grandma Gap: The Ten Best Ideas to Bridge the Generation Gap From Your Ancestors to the Coming Generation".

I think this was about the 5th time I have watched this particular presentation of Janet's. I can honestly say it has never become stale, it just matures and gets better each time. The whole subject matter of the importance of sharing our family history with the younger generation just touches my heart. Janet does a wonderful job explaining why it's important for youth to know their family history. Then she gives wonderful tips on being sneaky about teaching the younger generation about their ancestors and possibly turning them into little genealogists. It makes me wish I heard this presentation when my kids were little. I would have done things so much differently. My only grandchild is almost 18 months, but boy, do I have plans for her. I want her to fall in love with her ancestors and know what she is made of, and what a great future and potential she has. I always cry in Janet's presentation when she tells the story of her grandma's quilt and how it helped her get through a difficult period in her life. She could feel her grandma giving her a hug as she wrapped the quilt around her. I'm not sure how or when, but someday I want my granddaughter to feel me giving her a great big hug from beyond the veil to help her through the rocky roads of life ahead.

Sorry, to jump around so much in this article. We did cover a lot of ground this week.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!


Ann said...

I hope you are well soon, Renee! I am enjoying your accounts of working on your assignments for this family history class.

I like Transcript too and am a great believer in including a transcript or at least the indexed information in notes in my sources for Family Tree.

Another way to add notes to those sources in Family Tree while making them is to use the Tree Connect button on your browser (it works with Chrome, Firefox & Safari) from . It is one of my favorite tools! You can use it on any website that has information you want to save. From Tree Connect saves the same URL for the source that FamilySearch uses. And on any site, if you highlight the information you'd like in the Notes then click on Tree Connect, that highlighted information is copied into the notes.

RootsMagic is a great program but I use Ancestral Quest because I can set the summary in Using AQ you can see all the variations in names, dates & places that have been submitted via Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, etc. Some of the best information is hidden in Family Tree because it is not set in the summary. I don't know what will happen to this feature when the link between nFS and Family Tree is severed in a few months.

Keep up the good work and get better soon!

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