Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's my Blogiversary!

One year ago today I started this blog.

Happy Blogiversary, "Twigs of Yore"!

My stated intention was to write up bits of my research in order to practice writing and to actually get some of my hard work written up. In my next blog post, Chasing a BLACK sheep, I wrote up the story of my great-great-grandfather, James Black's death. After that... there was not so much writing up. Instead, I mostly wrote about whatever (connected with genealogy) I was doing or thinking about at the time.

The only other post that I consider to be a written up family story was An Elderly Woman's Sudden Death which described the death of James Black's wife, my great-great grandmother, Frances Gertrude Lewis. I was quite pleased with that one. I think in many ways it's my favourite post for the year.

So much for my stated intention.

I wondered when I started blogging if I would keep it up. So far so good! Over the last year I've published 56 posts, or just over one a week on average.

Along the way I've made discoveries, played with photos, joined in memes, done a little study, reorganised my files, raved about the Australian Newspapers collection on Trove, and started reading many, many more genealogy blogs than I used to.

I have found that there have been two main unexpected benefits of writing this blog.

The first is the motivation it provides to keep doing the research, and to do it properly. I find it very easy to lose focus and just muck around with my database or poke around in some data collection, without making real progress. Writing the blog has helped me to keep on track, to think through the next step more carefully, and where possible to actually take it. After all, I need something to write about and week after week of "didn't do much, just mucked around" would have been a bit embarrassing.

The other benefit is the interaction with other bloggers. This is a benefit I had read about before I started. To my surprise, all the things that people have said about there being a friendly helpful community of geneabloggers out there were true.

So, thank you to all who have visited my blog over the past year, and I hope to "see" you again through the next year!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Maintaining contact with other researchers

In the course of genealogy research, we (hopefully!) get in touch with other people interested in our families.

Once the initial exchange of information has occurred, maintaining that contact can be hard. Like any relationship, you have to work at it. If neither of you are actively researching that family at the time, there's not much to write about. Weeks become months, months become years, and email addresses change. Fortunately I have not yet written to someone after a break only to discover that they have passed away.

The other complexity when several people are interested in the same family is that some are in touch with each other, others aren't, and what with half-siblings their interests don't overlap by much. Writing to every one of them separately when you find some new information, or there is something you want to ask, is time consuming and could bother people whose interest isn't quite as strong as yours.

Then, there are the people that you can't give your full attention to at the time when they contact you. Guess what - if you put information on the Internet, it doesn't automatically drop to the bottom of search results when you are busy. People just keep on finding it!

A few years ago I had a steady trickle of contacts from other researchers interested in my Stannus family. At the same time, I was starting my own family. I didn't have the time to communicate with them as I would have liked. I felt bad that my shifting priorities meant that someone could be missing out on information I had, and just as worried that I might miss out on getting a copy of something fabulous!


My solution was to create a Yahoo! Group. If you are not familiar with such creatures, they function like a mailing list with an archive, but also have space for file uploads (a pitiful 100MB) and photos (a plentiful 100GB) and a few other features, and they're free. I set the group up so that it's listed in the Yahoo! Groups directory, but the contents can be viewed only by group members. Any new members must have my approval to join. Messages and file uploads are not moderated, but they could be if there was any problem.


I invited my Stannus family contacts (they refer to themselves collectively as Stannii) to join the group and was pleased when most of them accepted. The group currently has eight members located in four(?) different countries.

It may be an old-fashioned solution compared to some of the possibilities on the web today - there are no genealogy specific features - but I'm very pleased with how it has worked.

It's not a busy group. New messages and posted material are infrequent. But, every so often, someone has a spurt of activity... and then someone else will think to contribute one or two more items... and over time the resources we have shared are building up. There are now 55 images of family photos, headstones, paintings, and locations that most of us may otherwise have never seen. One member of the group has been particularly fortunate in the material passed down to her through the generations, and generous in sharing, so special thanks to her if she happens to read this!

How do you maintain contact with other researchers?

Are you a Stannus family researcher? Please contact me at the email address on the about page so we can work out if we're connected!

Friday, July 9, 2010

What I Do

Thomas MacEntree at Geneabloggers has started up a new meme where you list the technology you use for genealogy.

Here's my "What I Do":

  • Hardware:  3.5 year old AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5200+ 2613 Mhz 2GB RAM; ancient Dell Inspiron laptop; Asus EEE Netbook.  Considering an upgrade to my desktop system as it's starting to crash now that I'm putting heavier photo editing demands on it.
  • External storage:  CDs and DVDs; External hard drive
  • Online storage:  Dropbox (free) which I have synced to all the computers mentioned above and my iPhone.
  • Backup:  Dropbox; DVDs; External hard drive. Oh yes, and hard copy. Not that I'd want to start re-entering.
  • Firewall:  Yes I do thanks
  • Virus protection:  Yes I do thanks
  • Spyware:  I hope not! I have antispyware software.
  • Printer:  Canon Pixma MP470 all-in-one. I'm considering if I want a flashy flatbed scanner, as I'm really enjoying learning to do photo restoration.
  • Phone:  Landline and iPhone
  • Mobile media:  iPhone
  • Music player:   iPhone
  • Car audio:  Ummm... the radio and CD player that came with the car... nothing special... can't say I use it for genealogy
  • eBook Reader:  Don't use one
  • Browser:  Firefox (and Safari on iPhone)
  • Blog:  Blogger
  • RSS:  Google reader
  • FTP: -
  • Text editor:  Microsoft Word 2002. I'll upgrade from 2002 at home when they upgrade from 2003 at work. I can't change what they have at work, so I'd rather not know what might be possible with more recent software. The computers at work are frustrating enough as it is! I also have OpenOffice.
  • Graphics:  Photoshop Elements 7 + Grants Tools (and a few other plug-ins). It occurs to me that when my son starts school he'll be eligible for student pricing. That takes the price of Photoshop CS5 from over $1000 to under $200 (Australian). Very tempting...
  • Screen capture:  Vista's built-in snipping tool, which I only stumbled on by accident. Type "snipping tool" into the search box on the Start menu to find it.
  • Social bookmarking:  Diigo (free), but I'm not using it socially.
  • Social profile: -
  • URL shortener: -
  • Office suite:  Microsoft Office Professional 2002. I also have OpenOffice (free).
  • E-mail:  Via my ISP; hotmail; gmail
  • Calendar:  Calengoo on my iPhone, which syncs with Google calendar
  • Accounting:  Had an excel spreadsheet but then I saw how much I was spending on genealogy so I stopped using it. 
  • PDF generator:  CutePDF, but it usually fails when creating larger genealogy charts. I guess you get what you pay for. Haven't got around to looking for other options. I'll take note of what others say in their meme submissions.
  • Genealogy tools:  Gensmarts - in particular the "customise records" feature when I've found a new resource.
  • Other tech stuff:  iPhone - for all the amazing non-phone things it can do! Roboform to manage all those passwords. Toodledo on the iPhone for my to-do list (free, also accessible by web). Starting to use Evernote (free - desktop and iPhone versions) for note taking and research planning. Wacom pen tablet for photo editing. Yahoo! groups which deserves a post of its own to tell you about what I've done there.