Putting your ancestors’ lives in context

HistoryLines can help you create a timeline for your ancestorsOne of the ways I want to explore my ancestors as I try to dig deeper into their lives (learning more about my ancestors, rather than learning about more ancestors) is to put their lives in social context. I’d like to learn more about how they lived and what life was like for them.

At RootsTech, I learned about a new service, HistoryLines, that helps me do just that. I think it’s pretty exciting. You enter in an ancestor name or link a Family Search tree or upload a GEDCOM and you’re presented with a timeline of information about what was going on around your ancestor at the time he or she lived.

The service is in Beta now, but I signed up as a Beta user (as can you) and have had a good time exploring it.

Here’s a video they debuted at RootsTech.

The timeline that HistoryLines produces includes historical events that may have had an impact on the ancestor’s life, as well as more personal information, like how childbirth might have been for the ancestor’s mother, and what education, hygiene, clothing, medicine and entertainment were like at the time. (That’s just the tip of the iceberg of available information.) There’s also an interactive map, so that you can see their migration patterns. You can edit the timeline, which allows you to quite easily create a meaningful story to share with others.

My ancestors are all from the U.S. and the U.S.-related information on HistoryLines is plentiful. They also have information from Germany and Denmark and data for Canada and France are in process. I’m sure they will be adding data from more countries.

Timelines can be a great organizing aid. Adding social to the context makes this a really fun, and potentially very meaningful, tool.

Digging out after a conference

Diggin out after a conferenceI love going to conferences. Between organizing and genealogy conferences, I attend at least three a year.

Conferences are wonderful learning and networking opportunities, but they can present an organizing challenge. When I return home from a conference, I’m usually behind in my work and it’s so easy to leave everything I learned on a back burner. The biggest challenge is probably dealing with the literature I bring home from conferences. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that, in the past, items I picked up at trade shows have stayed in the bag untouched until they’re thrown away months or even years later.

Last month, I attended RootsTech. It had a gigantic trade show and I learned about so many new resources I wanted to explore. I was bound and determined that the information I bought home with me would not languish. Here’s how I handled it this year. (Spoiler alert: I’m feeling pretty good about it!)

  • I minimized what I brought home by carefully going through all the paper before packing my bag at the hotel room in Salt Lake City.
  • Once I got home to St. Louis, I put all the literature together until I could process it.
  • I spread it out and scanned it for the photo to go with this post (something non-bloggers wouldn’t have to consider!).
  • Then I gathered it into a pile and went through it piece by piece. I looked up the websites for each of the flyers I brought home. If the product or service still interested me, I added it to a note I created in Evernote called “Interesting resources from RootsTech 2015″ that I placed in my Evernote “Genealogy Resources” notebook.
  • For a couple of the resources, I created a follow up task in Things, the task management application I use.  I can assign a due date, so these tasks will pop up on my Today page next year  (helpful for reminders about conferences I might want to attend in 2016).
  • I jotted down some blog post ideas sparked by the literature and put them in my Blog Post Ideas notebook in Evernote.
  • I recycled all the paper, except two items I decided to file

The whole process took me about 30 minutes. It feels great! There were some resources I’d forgotten about already, but now they’re safe inside Evernote. I took action on a couple of items, signing up for newsletters and other services and making one inquiry about working with someone. And, perhaps best of all, I got rid of a pile of paper.

Taking 30 to 60 minutes to process this information really adds value to what I brought home from RootsTech. It’s an amazing return on the investment of time spent! I’m grateful for Evernote and Things which help me free up my memory so I can find this information when I need it.

I can’t wait to do it again after next month’s National Association of Professional Organizers conference.

Do you have a better (or different) way of digging out after a conference?

Can’t be at RootsTech? Watch from home

Crowds at RootsTech 2015I’m at RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City, with 22,000 of my closest friends. Seriously, this is one large conference.  But it’s amazingly manageable. One day in, I can say that the sessions are really valuable. And I’m happy to tell you that even if you’re not able to attend in person, you can remotely watch a selection of the sessions.

The streaming schedule is posted here. If you’re not available when they’re on live, have no fear. The website indicates that recordings of these sessions will be posted for a limited time on the RootsTech website after the conference.

One of the great aspects of the conference, the ginormous trade show, has to be experienced in person, alas. I’ve only scratched the surface my first day here, but I’ve already learned about some new products and services and had a good time talking with vendors. I’ll post some highlights at a later date.

If you have the chance to watch the live stream, I encourage it. This conference offers quality content that’s well worth the time investment.

This photo of the corridor at RootsTech on Thursday was taken by my friend, Lori Hanson Krause. Used with her permission.

FTU’s week-long genealogy organizing course

organize your genealogy in a weekIf you’re reading this blog, I know you’re interested in organizing your genealogy research. That’s why I wanted to let you know about an online course I just signed up for: Organize Your Genealogy in a Week, from Family Tree University. It’s being taught January 24 to 31 by Denise Levenick, The Family Curator. I’m a big fan of Denise’s blog and her book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes.

As a professional organizer and genealogy enthusiast, I have lots of ideas about how to organize genealogy research. But I’m very excited to learn what Denise has to teach and I’m sure I’ll pick up great ideas. Plus I’m sure I’ll benefit from the questions course participants ask Denise.

The workshop tuition is $129.99. It takes the form of six 30- to 60-minute videos and two written lessons, to watch/read at your leisure, along with expert advice from Denise in the message boards.

If you plan to attend as well, let me know in the comments!