Screen Capture and Annotations



For MAC and Android devices

Those of you who use Evernote to organise your notes and ideas may find Skitch a useful  tool. It allows you to annotate, edit and save your photos & scribbles. Everything you create on Skitch can be shared directly with Evernote, saved to a drive or emailed. Annotate an image with arrows, shapes and text. Sketch something new and markup an existing photo, then save your creations to Evernote or share them with other applications.

Skitch is available for the MAC desktop from the MAC App store, for the iPad  from iTunes app store and Android mobile devices.

A look at Skitch

Drawing attention to your images has never been easier. Here are some ways to use Skitch:

  • When you’re at a conference, take a snapshot of the people you meet, annotate it with their names and save it into Evernote.
  • Annotate any image, screenshot or photo saved in Evernote thanks to a streamlined Skitch/Evernote integration.
  • Download a screenshot attached to email. Open it in Skitch and add your comments. Save to Evernote for later review.
  • Take a snapshot of something awesome, resize it, draw an arrow, add a caption, then post the image on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Grab a picture of a whiteboard in a meeting or lecture, add a comment and save to Evernote.
  • Quickly sketch out a map or a diagram.

There are powerful features to help you get even more out of Skitch:

  • Zoom and crop images.
  • Create smooth, lines and scribbles to explain an idea.
  • Add text using a special high-contrast colouring scheme for readability.
  • Markup text with the semi-opaque highlighter tool.
  • Re-position and delete shapes, text and drawings at any time.
  • Share your work with with any application that accepts images.

Skitch for iPad

Skitch for iPad allows you to capture photos, screenshots, web pages, maps or just doodle on screen. Once captured, Skitch has a full set of annotation tools to mark up any images with lines, shapes arrows or text.

Once you’ve annotated your images, you can share via email, Twitter or save them to your camera roll. If you’re an Evernote user, you can even save then directly to your Evernote account.

With full AirPlay support on iPad 2 and 3, Skitch turns your iPad into a really useful presentation device. Annotate images in real time and have the display appear on a remote HDTV or Projector via an Apple TV.


Skitch iPad home screen


 So how could you use Skitch for genealogical research?

Locating a relative’s grave

I know what cemetery  this relative is buried in but I don’t know where the grave is. Using Skitch for iPad,  I can take a screenshot of a webpage by clicking the Web button on the Skitch home screen. In this case, I used Google within the Skitch app to search for Springvale Cemetery. Browsing through the cemetery’s site got me to Deceased Search.  I then annotated my search results  using the Skitch tools and then saved the image to my Evernote account. If I didn’t have an Evernote account, I could email the image or save it to my camera roll. I could also do the same thing using the Skitch desktop app. However, the mobility of the iPad makes this a better tool to conduct research.


 This image gives the location of the grave, and by using Skitch’s annotation tools, I can highlight information, make some notes and then save it in my Evernote account.

Another web search  and I was able to find a map of the cemetery and, using Skitch, highlighted the location of the grave and cropped the image.  The toolbar along the left provides the option to send this image to Evernote, along with other options for sharing and storing.

ipad annotation tools


When I found the grave, I took a picture of the gravestone with the iPad camera, and added some annotations to the photo with Skitch before sending it to Evernote. I now have a collection of research items in Evernote that I can organise into a notebook and use later for my research.

Grave annotated with Skitch


 How to use Skitch on the iPad


Skitch Drawing Tips and Techniques

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WorldCat: a window for your genealogy research

Researching without Google

Searching for information to assist in my genealogical research often requires a Google search using  search terms that I hope will provide some useful hits. Most of the time, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for; I’m just hoping something useful will eventuate. In addition to the benefits of  Mocavo, I’ve now found Worldcat. lets you find an item of interest and then locate a library near you that owns it. Usually you will link directly to the item’s record on that library’s Web site. The actions available to you on that page will then vary from one library to another. You may be able to join a waiting list, reserve the item, check it out or view it online. Your search  may produce direct links to articles and other resources in a library’s  database. To access these resources, however, you may first be required to log in with a valid library membership.

For example, a search for an item on the history of Lancashire  found a book that was held in the State Library of Victoria. As a member of this library, I can request the book or view the book online if it has been digitised.

What is Worldcat?

Libraries help people in their communities connect to a larger world. WorldCat does the same thing for libraries: Individual collections are linked together in a massive virtual collection. World Cat itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries  which participate in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) global cooperative. It is built and maintained collectively by the participating libraries.WorldCat holds tens of millions of bibliographic records that represent more than one billion items. It encompasses hundreds of languages and all formats, including rapidly growing numbers of electronic resources and digital objects. As such. it offers web access to the largest repository of bibliographic data in the world.

WorldCat takes data about items in a library’s collection, relates it to basic institutional data such as the Web addresses of the library’s catalog, electronic content servers and other online services, and actively spreads it all across the Web via the cloud. It includes records for books, videos, serial publications, articles, recorded books and music, electronic books, sheet music, genealogical references, cultural artifacts, digital objects, Web sites and much more.

You can search for free or create an account which will allow you to create lists, tag items and create bibliographies. If you have a website or blog, you could also add a Worldcat search widgetwhich will allow your users to conduct a Worldcat search directly from your site. I have one on the sidebar of this blog.


The Search Process

Worldcat advanced search provides more granular ways to search, especially if you only have some vague search terms to start with. I used the search term: a genealogical gazetteer of England  as a title search but I could also have added networked and author searches. There are also other options to narrow your search.


Your search results will provide some links to some items of interest. In this instance, I located a periodical of the Historic society of Lancashire. There is a copy available online and at the bottom of the results screen, a list of the libraries which hold a copy. If you enter a postcode in the ‘Enter your location’ box,  Worldcat will include libraries near you in your search results, There is a copy of this periodical at the State Library of Victoria.  As I am a member, I can locate and request this item.

Click image to enlarge it.


Searching for the item on the State Library of Victoria catalogue.

Click image to enlarge


How to search Worldcat


Creating lists with Worldcat

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Cut the ties: online storage for Genealogy

Online storage in the cloud


These days we live online, work online, store personal files online, and more. It’s not about locking into a single IT platform – it’s about releasing us from platform dependence. It is a really important concept, or concept shift, that is happening in the world of technology and social networking. Moving digital files between your work and homecomputers can be a nuisance, and when you add smartphones and tablet computers to the mix, you’ve got yourself a giant headache. There are many options available to us now for storing, collaborating, sharing and accessing our data. This post will discuss three of them: DropboxGoogle Drive and Microsoft Skydrive, for which you need a Windows Live account first.

The idea behind online storage is to leave your files on ‘cloud’ computers, so that you can access them from any Internet-connected device, wherever you are. That means you can stop emailing big files to yourself, and you can stop carrying those USB thumb drives that fill up quickly, especially when transferring photos and video. These services also make it easier to share documents with others.

The three apps share some common features. You can store just about any type of file — photos, videos, songs, spreadsheets and more — on distant servers operated by those companies. All you need is a Web browser and an Internet connection. To upload a file to the online storage service, you simply move the file’s icon to the browser window. The original file remains on your computer.

To access a file from another computer, go to the service’s Web site and log in. You can make changes on that computer and move the file back online. You can create Web links to entire folders or specific files for sharing.

You can install free software to simplify these transfers. The software creates a special folder on your computer for that particular service. Anything you add to it will automatically get transferred to your online storage. If you or colleagues make changes from another computer, the original version gets automatically updated.

What is the cloud?

Part 1: Test driving Google Drive, Dropbox and Skydrive

Google Drive

The list of documents you’re used to seeing when you sign into is being replaced by Google Drive. Just like before, you can upload, edit, share and create files online. But with Google Drive, you can access your files wherever you are, from any device, and you can work with even more file types by installing Google Drive apps.

To access all of your files, folders and Google Docs, you have three options:

  • Sign into Google Drive on the web at
  • Open the Google Drive folder on your computer (created when you install Google Drive for your Mac/PC)
  • Go to the Google Drive mobile app on your Android device.  It’s not yet available for iPhone /iPad.
  • From An excellent article on how to create your Google drive, set it up and enable it, as well as some useful things you can do with your drive.
Test driving Google Drive


Dropbox is an online virtual storage utility that allows you to make your files accessible from almost anywhere. Here’s how it works. After installation and connecting to the Dropbox server, the Dropbox interface is just like any folder on your computer. You simply drag and drop to move files around and any files or folders that are uploaded to Dropbox will immediately be synchronized within your account. In addition Dropbox also keeps track of every single change made to the contents of your storage and any changes are instantly updated to all computers linked to the account.

If you are not on any of my computers? Absolutely no need to worry. Just get on the Dropbox web interface and you will be able to access your files from anywhere in the world. The Dropbox web interface also remembers all the changes you make to your files and allows you to restore to any previous versions of the file. You can even un-delete files that you may have accidentally erased.

Where Dropbox really shines is the way it allows you to share whatever you want with other people. Every individual folder can be shared with other people and every member of a shared folder will be able to add, edit, and delete the contents inside but will not be able to access anything outside of that specific folder. This file sharing system is perfect for team projects, or for anything which needs collaboration among its members. There is also a public folder that allows you to share files with non-Dropbox users through the use of a hyperlink.

 Test driving Dropbox


Microsoft Skydrive

You need a Windows live account  to access  Skydrive. There are also  mobile apps available for the iPhone, iPad and Android  phones. In addition, you can also install on your phone the Microsoft OneNote app to take notes on the go. Your notebooks will automatically be stored to SkyDrive and synced, so they’re always up to date and available from your phone, PC, or web browser.

Install the free SkyDrive app on your computer, you can access your photos and files from almost anywhere, store them, and securely share them. Put theSkyDrive app on all your computers—Windows 7Windows Vista, or Mac OS X Lion. As with the other options, You can access Skydrive either online or in the Skydrive folder on your desktop.


Access files across PC or Mac

With SkyDrive installed on all your computers, you’ll have automatic access to the latest version of your files wherever you are.


Simple sharing with anyone

Share even large files and photos with your friends. All they need is a web browser—no worrying about attachment limits or what software they have.


Mobile access

Photos and files in the SkyDrive folder on your PC are automatically available on your phone. Get the app or just use the phone’s browser.


If you already have a Skydrive, you can upgrade your storage space from the free 7gb to 25gb. Otherwise the costs are as follows:

Free storage is 7 gb without the free upgrade

Test drive Windows Skydrive

 Part 2: Differences between Dropbox, Google Drive & Windows Skydrive


All three let you share by creating links. On Dropbox, friends with that link can view the content, though you’ll have to go through extra steps to create a “shared folder” for others to edit documents.

With SkyDrive, you can give people editing capabilities with that link. In fact, you can give some people a view-only link and others a link with editing privileges. You can share via email and decide whether recipients can edit documents. You can also post content to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks directly from SkyDrive.

Google Drive also lets you choose whether links come with editing capabilities. But unlike SkyDrive, you can’t create view-only links for some and editing links for others. It’s one or the other for particular files and folders. You can also email items as attachments or as a link to your Google Drive account.

Dropbox and SkyDrive can automatically turn the photos you share into galleries, so that friends can view them through an interface that resembles what you’d get on Facebook or a photo-sharing site.


Searching on Google Drive is fast and versatile. You can search not just by file name, but also the contents of documents. It uses an optical-character reader to pull out text from newspaper clippings and brochures. Dropbox searches based on file names only. SkyDrive searches contents of documents in Microsoft formats — Word, PowerPoint and Excel — but it won’t even index the file names for other types, including photos.


Dropbox has the most software options.

For desktops, there’s a Linux version besides ones for Windows and Mac computers. Microsoft and Google support Windows and Macs only. Microsoft’s software won’t work on Windows XP, or on earlier versions of XP’s successor, Vista. So many SkyDrive users will be stuck with the Web-based interface.

Dropbox  and Skydrive offer phone apps for both Apple and Android devices. Dropbox also the only one to support BlackBerrys. Google doesn’t have a version for iPhones or iPads yet; its app only works on Google’s Android system. Dropbox has a feature for restoring files you accidentally deleted or overwrote. That means you can go back to an earlier draft of a document if you change your mind — up to 30 days, or forever if you have a paid account.  Perhaps Dropbox’s  greatest strength is the API it’s built on, which hundreds of developers have used to create apps that utilize Dropbox. For example, the app, 1Password uses Dropbox to sync all my passwords,logins and software keys across all of my devices.


The services give you plenty of free space for word processing, spreadsheets and other basics, but not enough for extensive storage of photos and video.

You get 2 gigabytes for free on Dropbox, 5 GB on Google Drive and 7 GB on SkyDrive. Those who used SkyDrive before April 23 can claim 25 GB of free space, though others might be eligible too. Dropbox lets you earn additional free space by recruiting friends or performing such tasks as installing Dropbox’s software.

Signing up for additional free accounts gets cumbersome, so count on paying if you need more. An extra 100 GB will cost $50 a year on SkyDrive and $59.88 on Google Drive, while 100 GB including the free space will cost $199 on Dropbox. Cheaper plans with less storage are available.


Comparison table. Summarises cloud storage options for each of Skydrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud.

For a more in-depth  discussion of all the sharing and syncing options available, see the article: Google Drive vs. Dropbox, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and others: a cloud sync storage face-off.

Whatever you choose,  you should ensure that you keep local backups of your files on external drives or network drives in addition to files stored on your computer’s hard drives.All three of these options have their merits and I am using all of them. You can never have enough storage.



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Mirror your iPad / iPhone screen to your MAC or PC

Capture your iPhone / iPad screen to your PC or MAC

Have you ever wanted to mirror what is on your iPhone or iPad screen to your PC or MAC? For example,  demonstrating an app with all the taps and screen changes on your iPad to an audience using a projector  or capturing your iPad screen to share a game. In the past, this has been very cumbersome and involved a variety of cables, connections and too much geekiness.

In writing blog posts, I often want to demonstrate an app which has assisted with my genealogy research. For example, the Wolfram Genealogy and Research Assistant app is a tool  that lets you discover what was going on while your ancestors lived.

wolfram genealogy app start screen

It allows you to, for example, map family relations and expand on what you already know about any of your ancestors. See my blog post, Travelling though time with the tip of your finger  for more information on using this app.

Demonstrating this app on a larger computer screen which may then be projected onto a larger screen or TV would involve the audience being able to see what my finger is tapping, as if they are looking over my shoulder. This can now be achieved with the software, Airserver. Airserver  is the first software that can mirror your iPhone/iPad to your MAC or Windows PC.  It is available for both PC and MAC and costs $14.99 on the MAC and $7.99 for the PC for 5 computers. Airserver can be used for streaming audio, Youtube, video, ebooks, photo and slideshow streaming. Download and install Airserver on your PC/MAC.

Mirroring what is on your IOS device works only with the iPhone 4s, the iPad 2 or iPad 3. It requires the following:

Mirror your ebook onto your MAC or PC

  • A Mac running OS X Tiger / Leopard / Snow Leopard / Lion  or a PC running Windows 7 or Vista.
  • iPad, iPhone ( 3GS or later) or iPod touch (second generation or later) running the latest iOS software.
  • Alternatively, you can use an Android device running doubleTwist+AirTwist. Note: Mirroring is only available for iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPhone 4S.
  • Wi-Fi connection for activation and  operation.

Airserver: What it can do


How do you set Airserver up?

Watch this video from MacMost Now, episode 702



Once you have Airserver installed on your MAC/PC,  Open your iOS device and double-tap the home button. A sliding menu will appear at the bottom of your screen. Scroll left until you see the circular AirPlay button. Tap the icon and a list of AirPlay enabled devices will appear. The Mac you installed AirServer on will show up on this list. To connect, simply tap the name of your machine. you can then turn on / off  Mirroring.


Setup my iPad screen to mirror onto my MAC


What relationship is that person to me?

My father’s great uncle’s daughter has a spouse with a very ‘regal’ name. In fact, his whole family have quite unique names. It made searching for him and his family in the UK census quite simple. But what is his relationship to my father? The wolfram Genealogy Research Assistant  will tell me the relationship as well as provide the genealogical chart.
This video (no sound) was created using Airserver and shows the process.

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Clues from Certificates

How death certificates can advance your research

Millie Green

It is never a good idea to rely on family members for information. Memories can become distorted and stories, once erroneous, may have now become family lore. I have been researching my Great Grandmother, Millie Green. My father’s memories are hazy to say the least, and there are no other siblings still alive to corroborate the information I’ve collected. There were so many things I could not find from his memories of his grandmother. As a member of,  I could find Emily Green in the 1911 UK census, and find details on her death in Melbourne. However, it was not until I actually downloaded the death certificate that all the clues my father had thought were correct were either proved or invalidated.

In addition, the certificate provided many other facts which enabled my research to continue.

Information provided on the certificate

  • Age: you can  then work out a more specific date of birth. So use a death certificate to find a birth certificate. My problem is that my Great Grandmother was born in Russia and her maiden name  could be spelt a number of ways or be completely different in Russian. This is my next brick wall.
  • Occupation: May prove useful.
  • Address: Use census and electoral rolls to track down residence information.
  • Cause of death: More important here is  whether  or not there was an inquest to follow up.
  • Date of death and burial: the cemetery  where the burial took place. Exact dates are also useful instead of approximating them.
  • Names of parents: This provides the names and maiden name of the parents, as well as the occupation of the father. For me, as I know my Great Grandmother emigrated from England, I could go the census and find her parents, and from there, more siblings, residential information etc.
  • Place of birth and how long lived in Australia: Locating an approximate date of arrival means you can search the shipping lists into Australia and, conversely, shipping lists into Canada, UK or the U.S, which may indicate when they left their country of birth.
  • Marriage: the name of the spouse,  at what age they were married and where they were married. This provides a more specific starting point for locating marriage certificates and a time period  when the first child may have been born.
  • Condition of the marriage at death: if the spouse is not dead, further clues can be searched.
  • The  number of children and ages, in order of birth: As my Great Grandmother had 12 children, this little nugget of information was priceless.

Before I received the death certificate, all I knew about my Great Grandmother was that she came from England, her maiden name was Baskin and she had a lot of kids.

Locating the death certificate

Births, Deaths and Marriages in Victoria, Australia has a family history link where you can search for and order online death certificates. An uncertified image is specially designed for family history research. It is a scanned image of the original registration record which you can download to your computer immediately. To find your certificate, you need the registration number of the death and the year  the death was registered.

The registration number and year of death

To search their index to obtain the registration number costs money. So annoying!  If you have an ancestry subscription, you can find the registration number on its database and then order the image. However, if there is no other way, this is the information provided in the Victorian historical and marine indexes.

  • births in Victoria from 1853 to 1911
  • marriages in Victoria from 1853 to 1942
  • deaths in Victoria from 1853 to 1985
  • church baptisms, marriages and burials in Victoria from 1836 to 1853.

Each entry includes the:

  • name of the person or people the entry relates to
  • type of event (such as birth, marriage or death)
  • name of the ship the event happened on (if in the marine index)
  • registration year and registration number
  • other information relevant to the type of event.

Reliability of the death certificate

Death certificates are accurate for the date and place of death. From there, however, the information on the certificate is only as good as the person providing the information. The registrar records what he / she is told. There again, there may be errors, or cover-ups. However, despite this, whatever is provided on the certificate still gives further clues and directions for your research.

Obtaining a death certificate elsewhere

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Beware new technology: iPaditis

Do you have ipaditis?



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Voicethread – Family History conversations in the cloud

 Sharing Family History in the Cloud

What is Voicethread?

VoiceThread is a totally web-based digital story telling application that allows you to place collections of media like images, videos, documents, and presentations at the centre of an asynchronous (not occurring at the same time) conversation. A VoiceThread allows people to have conversations and to make comments using any mix of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file. VoiceThread runs inside your web browser, so there is no software to download, install, or update.


Voicethread promotes asynchronous discussion about posted subjects. Stories, maps, personal albums, advice columns, everything is possible. This utility leapfrogs all other applications because of its inclusiveness and simplicity. Once a photo, video, graphic or document is posted, visitors can comment on it by recording audio and video files or entering text. You can even phone your comments to the site. You can also make graphic notations and “live” annotations on the item of discussion while talking.

There is also an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch app available.

Voicethread has long been used in education. The collaborative nature of sharing in Voicethread makes it an ideal tool. As an example, the Voicethread below demonstrates how users have added their comments, and developed the sharing and collaboration in learning a language.

View this Voicethread in full screen

How can Voice thread be used for Genealogy

The Voicethreads below are examples of using Voicethread to share information about your family history with members of your family. The first Voicethread has 13 slides,each of which has a number of family photos with an audio comment by the author to explain the relationship of the people in the pictures. As you view each slide, you can add your own comment – type it, or record and upload an audio comment, record a comment using your webcam. To do this, you need to have a Voicethread account. See the video, An Introduction to Voicethread further in this post on how to do this. The Voicethread can be shared with family members. Send them a link, email or embed it on your web site. It is a different way of developing your family history, publishing it, sharing it with family members and obtaining some input from family members to share their memories of the photos.

View the Voicethread full screen


View the Voicethread full screen


Voicethread and Family History

There are many examples of family history Voicethreads on the Voicethread site. Here is a link to them.

An Introduction to Voicethread


How do you get started?

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My cautionary tale: John turned out to be Joseph

Backtracking through the census to find ancestors

The UK census has been instrumental in uncovering ancestors on my father’s paternal side of the family. All I knew at the outset  from my Grandfather’s death certificate was the name of his mother,  and his father – including his father’s date of birth and place of birth. That was enough information to get started.

The 1911 Census

In this census I found my grandfather; the names of his siblings, his mother and father. I ordered my grandfather Stanley Forshaw’s  marriage certificate which gave me my great Grandfather’s name – Henry James Forshaw. Working backwards through the 1901, 1891, 1881, 1871 censuses provided names of siblings and wives. I could also get an idea of the type of life my ancestors were living because of the occupations listed on the census.

The searching process is somewhat like a set of dominoes. Once one clue is solved, another falls into place.  Each successive marriage certificate gave me the name of another parent and searching through the census from 1911 to 1871 was providing me with a detailed family tree. I had traced the FORSHAW line back to 1851. Or so I thought.

Don’t these people have any imagination?

My surname: FORSHAW is not that common in Australia. However, in Lancashire, England, FORSHAW is a very common name. And because in those days, families appeared to have hordes of children, the number of FORSHAWS  kept multiplying exponentially; all with similar forenames. John Forshaw , my Great Great Grandfather was born in 1850, in Ormskirk, Lancashire. So were many others. I believed I had the correct John Forshaw, born in 1805. A public tree on also seemed to verify this – everything fit so I  entered all the data about this John and his family.

When the marriage certificate finally arrived, my Great Great Great Grandfather was not who I’d thought: John FORSHAW – it was a Joseph FORSHAW. Oh Dear!.

To correct this mistake would take many hours and, in effect, it was like starting again. All information from 1881 back to 1851 needed to be deleted.

Now begins the breadcrumb trail.

The 1851 UK census:

1851 census - Joseph Forshaw

knew nothing about my GGG grandfather other than his name and that he was deceased at the time of my GG Grandfather’s marriage in 1873.Joseph’s occupation is listed as a Beer House Keeper which fits with the information on my GG Grandfather’s  marriage certificate where he is listed as a Beerseller. His wife is Alice – some information I hadn’t known. The eldest son, Peter is 3, therefore I can assume they have been married for 3 years. I can now search for a marriage certificate  from 1846 – 1850. My GG Grandfather, John is 11 months – this all fits as he was born in 1850.

The 1861 UK Census

By the 1861 UK census, Joseph Forshaw was deceased as Alice is listed as a widow. However, there are more children, all born between 1851 and 1861. All these children can be entered onto the tree to be researched at a later date. The last child, Margaret is just 3; therefore I can search for a death certificate from 1859-1861.

1861 Census - Alice Forshaw - Widow


The moral of the tale

1. Don’t get  drawn in by the winking leaves on as they could possibly be leading you astray.

2. If you have access to public trees, be very careful about what information you  take from someone else’s tree. This is what I did and look where it got me. What’s more, someone else took the incorrect information from me and added it to their tree. These errors will self perpetuate across the webosphere.

3. Check your sources and then check again. Order the marriage, birth and death certificates to verify your information.

4. If you’re using software to build your tree, like Family Tree Maker, make sure you have adequate backups and backups (versions) made at different times during the life of your tree. For example, once I’d discovered I’d been following the wrong family, it was easier to delete the tree and restore an earlier version which did not include the incorrect information.

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Travelling Through Time with the Tip of your Finger

Genealogy & History Research Assistant


This is an iPad app available from the iTunes store for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

To develop my research into my family’s history, I want to know more than just dates and basic relationships.  A more comprehensive understanding of the history and social conditions of an ancestor will give me a better picture of them. I can explore the world of my ancestors with the Wolfram Genealogy & History Research Assistant app on my iPad, with a simple, easy-to-use interface

I might want to know such things as:

  • What  else happened on a particular date?
  • What are the variations of a name?
  • How old was my ancestor on a certain date?
  • What relationship is an ancestor four times removed to me?
  • Were their names common at that time?
  • What happened on their birthdays?
  • What was the weather like on my grandparents’ wedding day?
  • What were the towns they lived in like, including demographics, and how far are they from where you live?
  • What was 20 dollars worth the year my great-grandmother was born?
  • What is the technical relationship between me and my grandfather’s sister

The Genealogy & History Research Assistant provides answers to all these questions and more. The Wolfram Genealogy & History Research Assistant is powered by the Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine and is created by Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica—the world’s leading software system for mathematical research and education.

Below are screen captures of some of the many options this app provides.


The main sections of the app


Family Relationships

Criteria selected: what relationship is my father’s father’s uncle to me?


The output of a family relationship search: a visual chartNO#3

Geographic information

Want to know about a city, town or country?

My search term is Ormskirk, Lancashire, United Kingdom.
You must put the country if your search criteria is outside the United States

This option provides several screens of information on your town. Here is another example of the output.NO#8

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TechTool: Getting information onto your blog or website – Embedit.In

Embed and share information using Embedit.In

If you have your own blog or website, you may have included an image, a video, a Powerpoint presentation, a .pdf file, a WORD, EXCEL document. It is often a messy, convoluted process. Do you need a more efficient process?

This is the first in a series of posts on tools you can use to embed information onto your blog post / page or web site.

What does embed mean?

In computer jargon, it means to insert something into something else. For example, you can embed an image into an email. When the recipient opens the email with an embedded image, the image shows up inside the email (as opposed to being a separate attachment to that email). On a post or web page, an embedded document or video will show up on the page without being stored on your server.

Incorporating media into your site like documents, images, presentations and  .pdfs   can eat up much of your bandwidth or storage space on your server. If you have limits on how much data you can upload to your server, then this becomes a problem.

A solution is to have the files hosted on some other server – using the cloud and embed the file onto your site using html code. The code can be placed into  a text widget or directly into a post in the HTML view. In my post WDYTYA Live 2012, I wantted to have available for download all the speaker notes and presentations. I didn’t want to upload these files to my server and so  all the files were uploaded to Embedit.In and embedded using the Link option. When you click on a link the  document opens where it can be printed, viewed or downloaded.


What type of files can you embed?

Pretty much any kind of document, image, or text file. To be specific:

  • Documents: Word (DOC/DOCX), Excel (XLS/XLSX), PowerPoint (PPT/PPTX), WPD, ODT, ODP, ODS, PDF
  • Images: GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, PSD
  • Text: TXT, RTF, CSV
  • Code: HTML, SQL, JS
  • Web: Web pages or other URLs

You can embed files up to 20 MB.

Using Embed it.In

To use Embedit.In, you sign in using an online ID – like Twitter, Yahoo, WordPress, Google or AOL and select the file(s) you want to embed.

Sharing the file using a link

Sometimes , embedding a series of documents on a page may take up too much room. Embed each document as a link to the file. Clicking on the link will open the file where you can view, print or download it.


Sharing the file by embedding it

If you want the file to appear on your page / post / web site, embed it. You can change its size or background colour according to your needs.

Sharing the file using a thumbnail

Clicking on the thumbnail will open the file full size. The thumbnail view can be embedded within a post, for example, and aligned with your text.



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