Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Week of Webinars

All webinared out
In the past seven days I have watched four webinars from different providers in Australia and the US.

1. Evernote for Genealogy, Cyndi Ingle for The Society of Australian Genealogists $10

2. Golden Genealogy Rules, Shauna Hicks for MyHeritage FREE

3. Getting started with Research, Joanne for Queensland State Archives FREE

4. Staying Safe Using Social Media, Thomas MacEntee for Georgia Genealogical Society  FREE

I learnt a little from each presentation and a lot from the Queensland State Archives as I was not at all familiar with that institution amd its holdings. I learnt about presentation techniques from Thomas, he is an excellent and experienced presenter who speaks slowly and clearly with lots of humour (although having known Thomas for a while I have heard some of those oneliners before). He does not rely solely on slides but gives live demonstrations showing how things work on his computer. He engages with attendees during his talk by naming some of them, we realise he can't do a full roll call.

Three of the presentations used the GoToWebinar platform while the Queensland State Archives used another that I much preferred as it showed a video stream of the speaker as well as her slides, this webinar was recorded in front of a live audience and the moderator did a great job of involving the online attendees in the event. I did not realise that one could show a livestream of a presenter on GoToWebinar but Thomas came on screen at the beginning and end of his talk giving it a more personal touch.

This was Shauna's first webinar, she commented on her blog afterwards " I found it a bit strange just sitting in my study talking to my laptop knowing that there were about 120 people out there listening to me."  Shauna and Joanne were first time presneters and did an awesome job in their debuts. 

Having become used to Google Hangouts on Air, where there is video of presenters and panel and more interaction,  I find that, although I learn from them, some webinars are real "chalk and talk" formal lecture sessions. I fear that the moderators do not realise that they are using social media tools and that they have a role to make presenters feel comfortable and to interrupt presenters occasionally to ask questions and pass on comments from attendees.

While my $10 for the The Society of Australian Genealogists wasn't too expensive there were empty seats in the room (webinar lingo) I can't understand why SAG don't offer seats to non-members. This could be done as a last-minute offer via social media once members have had a reasonable time to enrol. I know my mates in country Queensland and the Northern Territory would be happy to add to SAG's coffers if they had a chance to attend the webinars.

Thank you to those three organisations who used their webinars as outreach or marketing tools, I appreciate being able to use your services. Getting a freebie leaves me with a good impression of your organisations.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion around spreadsheets with DearMyrtle hosting a couple of Hangouts on the subject and other bloggers writing posts.

I am a bit of a spreadsheetaholic and use either Excel or a Google Sheets every day to organise my personal life and for some genealogy applications. I was however surprised when I saw some people using spreadsheets for things that my genealogy program does.

One of the main views on Family Historian, the genealogy software database I use,  looks just like a spreadsheet with data displayed in colums each one of which one can sort. One is able to add or remove columns from this display to suit one's needs, any field in the database can be added as a column.

At present these are the colums I have in my display:
Name, Record ID, Sex, Living, Dates, Birth Place, Death Date, Burial Place, Relationship to Root (me), Updated.

If I want to see who is buried in a particular cemetery prior to a geneajourney I just sort by that column by clicking on the column header. To see those entries I haven't updated for a while I can sort on the Updated column. Sorting by the Relationship to Root Column allows me to cluster all my closest relatives together.

 I often add or delete columns when I am after particular information. If I wanted to find all the School teachers or Plumbers in my list I could add an occupation column and osrt on that, If I wanted to find all the Methodists I could add the Religion column and sort by that.

This display is also very useful for identifying where gaps appear in one's data, white spaces (and I have lots of them) indicate that work needs to be done.

So because of this feature in Family Historian I don't need to use external spreadsheets as much as I would if I was using another software package.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Makeover Madness

Last week I wrote that I was Tarting up the Template for this blog. Following on from that Alex Daw in her post, Pimp your blog this weekend, suggested that geneabloggers as a #NFHM2104 activity seek feedback from other geneabloggers on how they could improve their blogs.

She suggested "we could say one thing (or more of course) we really like about each other's blog and then maybe one thing that we think the blogger could lose or improve."  About half a dozen brave bloggers signed up, I think we and our blogs all benefitted from others' suggestions. I fiddled and faddled over a few days and think that the GeniAus blog has a cleaner, less cluttered appearance.

Thanks Alex for setting the challenge and to those brave souls who offered their blogs up for evaluation and politely made suggestons for improvement.

Co-incidentally today I was updating a presentation I had given around 18 months ago in which I showed screenshots of several blogs. I had to do new screenshots of most of the blogs as they had nearly all undergone some sort of facelift. In all cases the newer designs were an improvement on the old.

Do you continually update your blog/s layout and design? Do you set aside a few hours every so often for this task?  Have you made no changes and kept the original layout and design?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Running in the Family

Some weeks ago I finished reading a book that I had picked up from the swap section in a cruise ship's library. When I travel I take a bundle of op shop purchases away with me and dispose of or swap them along the way but I could not bear to part with this one so it travelled with me over many days and through a dozen countries. It has now been reposing on my desk waiting for me to tell you about it

On our trip we visited Sri Lanka and that was what made me select this book that recounted the author's return to his native land of Sri Lanka. I imagine that the fellow traveller who had ditched the book purchased it for local knowledge. I did not realise until I reread the blurb that it was actually a family history book.

In Running in the Family Michael Ondaatje (first publishedin 1982 - my edition was published by Vinatge Books) tells in a series of short vignettes tales of his parents, ancestors and families. As he travelled around Sri Lanka Ondaatje met and interviewed family members, friends and work colleagues of his parents. There emerged stories of  love, passion and divorce, drunkenness, wild parties and hair-raising car and train rides. For me the stories didn't flow so well from one to the other but the writing was superb. After reading a few ordinary crime novels it was a treat to read this small book and savour the stunning use of language, the prose was delectable.

If you ever contemplate writing a family history book take a peek between the pages of this tome to see how beautifully you can telll your family tales.


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