Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tools and Views

I've spent part of two days helping some cousins get started in family history research this week. Both of them had some experience with family history software, so we focused on some other software tools to help in their quest.

Both of these sisters and I are now in a research 'team' working on our common ancestry. We are using e-mail and the telephone to coordinate our research efforts and have already enjoyed several research finds. Team up with your cousins whenever you can... you'll be surprised with your joint 'finds'.

Here is the free software they installed to assist in their research efforts. (The titles are links to the software web sites)

Faststone Image Viewer

This free photo editing / organizing software is Powerful. It is amazing that it is free. If you decide to use it, the controls are found by pointing to the 4 sides of the screen.

The new team mates love this tool and are already using it to clean up, crop, etc. old family photos. (and they are sharing the results with me!)


Free .... A fast, easy to use Image Viewer. Add the plugin's from the site and you can also use it to listen to music, view video's. It is a great program that I've used for several years.


Free -- View census images, hand written documents, etc. in the upper window while you type the transcription in the lower window. You can save the transcription as a text file or copy and paste the text to an event in your family history software. Try it. You'll like it. The link on this page is new. I talked to the author in the Netherlands yesterday and he has just moved his website to this new address.

Opera Web Browser

Free -- Firefox is my web browser of choice, but I use Opera more and more. It is extremely customizable. I've found that I use it most by having Opera 'read' web pages to me by using a simple voice plug-in from the Opera site. Now when I'm working on my records and have found a site with a history about my ancestor, area history, etc., I just highlight the text that I want to hear and let Opera read to me while I continue to work. (I even 'read' the histories on my own site when working on that individual... They bring many clues and 'To-Do's' to mind, thus enhancing my ancestor detective efforts..)Opera voiceera has built in e-mail if you want an 'all-in-one' program. If not, just don't turn it on in the settings. You don't hear as much about Opera, but it is a solid program that usually 'pushes' the other popular browsers to keep up...

Google Earth

Free -- If you have a fairly fast Internet connection and aren't using Google Earth already get it! Google Earth lets you tour the world from your chair at home. I use it to plot the homes, headstones, migration, etc. of my ancestors. The new FamilySearch website has integrated Google Earth photos with family events plotted on them. I use Google Earth to scan the area for rural cemeteries, battle grounds, etc. associated with my family. You can often find them looking at aerial photos when an address description is almost useless.

Already have Google Earth installed? Great. Click on the attached file and press the 'Play' button in Google Earth to tour a few burial locations for some of my family. Now it is your turn to plot your own family homesteads, graves, etc. It is easy. Just read the help file... My attached file is simple, but you can easily make very detailed files if you want...

I have plotted all of the current temples and most of the announced temple locations in Google Earth files. Connie and I will never physically visit all of them with so many now in existence, but with Google Earth, we can 'visit' them from a satellite view..

When you are looking for towns, etc. surrounding a known ancestral location, consider using Google Earth. You'll be surprised how much a visual 'lay-of-the-land' can help you determine which little town or or larger city might have been the repository of family records, etc..

Lastly, a reminder to visit the Utah Digital Newspapers or a similar site for other locations. Thousands of new images have been added to this site recently. In less than an hour, I found the obituaries of my great grandparents and my wifes great grandparents, as well as many other references to family members.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info.
On Google maps: Depending on the city, Google may have added a historical map which you can superimpose over the current terrain. I discovered this feature doing work for a family from South Philly (and found a 1942 land use map that supported the family story).