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Computer Users’ Group

April 17, 2013

Genealogy research has come a long way since we used to research through town halls, history centers and libraries. Looking for ancestors in rural New England was always a challenge. Libraries only open 2 days a week, town halls open only Wed afternoons, history centers by appointment only. Our presentation 8 years ago, on April 20, 2005, entitled How to Find Your Family History Without Ever Leaving Home is in sharp contrast to what it used to be like. There’s a load of information out there just waiting for your to find it. Staying abreast of what’s new will go a long way toward getting you toward your goal. There are several ways to keep up to date; they include newsletters, blogs, podcasts, mailing lists, webinarsgroups and conferences. We’ll try to cover them all.

Newsletters: A newsletter is a document generally published as email or email attachment and distributed to those who have subscribed. Genealogy newsletters may cover genealogy in general or a specific subject although most are general as you can see by going to this site: .Some listed here no longer exist. Try the Pine Cone and Tassel, for instance. It hasn’t been published for 5 years but there’s a nice replacement. You can go here for a list of Family Newsletters. Maybe there’s one published about your ancestors. If not, you could start one. Many sites have templates and instructions such as this one.

Newsletters are a great way to stay up date with the latest happenings in the field of genealogy. You can go through the list of newsletters and try as many as you want and you can then choose any that you would like to subscribe to. Most allow comments so you can add your two cents worth.

BLOGS: Similar in many ways are BLOGS except that they are generally published as a web page that you have to visit. Since many are not published on a regular basis, checking back often is required unless you use RSS. (Rich Site Summary, although many say it means Really Simple Syndication). Using a reader capable of running RSS, you can subscribe so as to be informed every time the site is updated. The reader of choice for many was the Google Reader that Google has just announced it will no longer run. One option is to use your browser as a site aggregator to collect information on updates. In IE, just click on the RSS Icon on the toolbar when you are viewing the site you want to aggregate and it will be informed of any changes. In Firefox, you have to make sure that under Tools/Options, the Navigation Toolbar is selected and then select Toolbar Layout, find the RSS symbol and drag it up to the navigation toolbar. Click on that when you find a site displaying the RSS symbol that you want to subscribe to. Go here for a list of Blogs: .

If you prefer a different reader than your browser, the following are recommended replacements for Google Reader: Pulse, Feedly and NewsBlur .Pulse displays feeds as tiled images similar to Win 8, Feedly has a training option that selects what you tend to favor and NewsBlur has a display similar to Pulse’s but is a bit more customizable than Pulse.


Podcasts: Podcasts are audio broadcasts that you can hear on a computer or portable device. There is no restriction as to who can create one so you can start your own if you want. There are thousands of them and Cyndi has a list of some genealogical ones, many about specific places or topics. The longest running and very informative Podcast is conducted by George Morgan and Drew Smith. Much of what we covered today came from Drew Smith’s book, Social Networking for Genealogists. He is an Acedemic Librarian at the University of South Florida in Tampa..With many Podcasts, the subjects to be covered are written so you can see what’s to be covered.. Then you click on the to open the Podcast sound.and listen to the presentation. Itunes has a listing of Podcasts but the genealogy group is no longer distinct. You can use Itunes to listen to Podcasts.

Message Boards: There are message boards on both Ancestry and Rootsweb that appear to be the same you can search from either one. In Ancestry, at the top of the page, click on Collaborate and then click on Message Boards. In Rootsweb, Scroll down until you find Message Boards Home Page. You can find a message board by topic, such as location or by surname.You can then post an enquiry on the board of your choice and see if anyone responds. By default, you will receive an email when someone replies. In Ancestry, you can press the RSS symbol next to the name of the board that you want and be notified if anyone posts to that board. In Rootsweb, you can click on Add board to Alerts in the upper right corner. You can search for a subject either on the board of your choice or on all boards. When you post a message, it’s helpful to be somewhat specific if you want to interest someone in reading it and answering. Looking for ancestors doesn’t get anyone interested . Include a name and location.

Genforum also is a message board so it pays to search this one as well. You can search for boards by subject such as Surname or Location and post messages on that board. There is no RSS symbol shown so you have to visit often if you want to see the latest posts.


To see what others may have posted you can enter a search term and search just that board or all boards. Searching for David on the Dill board may find a David Dill but searching for David on all boards will result in an overwhelming response. Include search terms that will limit the response to what you seek. Note that when you search any Message Board, the search is not just for what’s in the message but the poster’s name as well so if you want to see messsages posted by a certain person, find the most unique way get to the results you want without overwhelming yourself. My half-brother’s name is James Clarkson Dill and he uses all of that when he posts. To see what he’s posted, I just search for Clarkson. Many boards go back to the 1990's and a search willl search all of them.

Once a message is posted, responses become part of a chain where you can track questions and responses through all of the replies. Using a message board is a good way to find living relatives who may respond to your query. They may have a lot of information to share with you.

Mailing Lists: Mailing lists are like message boards except that anything posted on the list that you chose will be sent to you either when it is posted or as a daily summary, which ever you choose. I had ancestors that lived in Massachusetts on both sides of the Connecticut River and also in New Hampshire and Vermont near the river. The Connecticut River Valley Message Board was a natural for me and I subscribed and read much interesting information. But over the years, the content dwindled to only about one or two postings a year. Here are the archives over the years. You can search through the archives of any board that you choose, searching by name or keyword.. You can subscribe to any board(s) that appeal to you and post messages that someone out there may respond to.

Webinars: Webinars are streaming video of a presentation made by someone about the subject listed for the webinar. Many are scheduled and you have to sign up for them. Often, they will be available to view for a short while after the initial presentation. You can go here to see Webinars available / They can be very informative and provide much detailed information about the given subject.

Conferences: Major genealogical societies generally have an annual conference that lasts two or three days and provides a choice of subjects that you can choose from to attend. Most have handouts of the materal that they cover so you can read over what was discussed. Many times there’s a featured speaker such as Dick Eastman or George Morgan to be the main focus of the event.

Groups: (This was noit in the handout). Yahoo has a section called Groups where many subjects are covered. One subject is Genealogy and you can find it by going to ,clicking on More Y sites in the left column, clicking on Groups and then on Family and Home and then on Genealogy in the right hand column. You can look through the list to see if there’s a group that meets your needs or you can start one of your own. I joined Chilton’s Children, a group of people descended from James Chilton who died aboard the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor. The group’s founder and I shared a common great grandfather.

Windows 8: One feature of Win 8 that can be very useful is called File History .It saves the files and folders that you select and saves changes to them as they occur. You can save them to an attached device (hard drive or flash drive) or to a network device such as another computer or the cloud. Having a hard drive attached to a laptop limits it’s mobility but a large flash drive can be used,. Using a desktop on a network, you can either save to the hard drive on that device if it has enough memory available or attach a portable hard drive and use that. Note that Win 7 doesn’t allow the use of network storage using the built in Backup system but Win 8 does.

Problems with the Tilde (~): Jody experienced some problems trying to show the URL for the Pastfinders because it contains the ~ that is required by Rootsweb. The problem is not with what Jody did but with Adobe reader. Symbols such as the ~ must have a code to show what they are and the code for the ~ is 7E with a % sign to signify it’s the code for something. When a document is opened in Adobe reader, and then a link is clicked on, it gets improperly converted to %257E7 and that occurs with both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Using the free program, Foxit Reader is one solution to the problem. You can get it here . You might find this a better choice than Adobe. If ytou don’t want to go that far, a simple solution is to just swipe across the URL, press CTRL C to copy it and paste it into your browser with CTRL V.

Windows Security Programs: In the April 4 issue of Windows Secrets, Fred Langa talks about the 6 free security programs offered by Microsoft. Most of them do the work that a good security program should be doing so may be redundant if you have a security program installed. If you don’t, shame on you. He mentions Windows Security Essentials that you can get here: It’s one program that I would consider even with another security program installed. Read about it and then install it if you want. In Windows 7 and Vista, a program called Windows defender is already installed and it runs in the background to detect malicious software. There should be no conflict with that and another security program.

There is some free security software out there if you don’t have anything. Brighthouse offers McAfee Anti-Virus for your Road Runner account..Go here: