Saturday, March 31, 2012

Create an Online Genealogical Survey to Capture the Interest of Your Family

Asking your relatives a lot of questions to aid your genealogical research can be an overwhelming, tedious or boring experience for them. What if you created a colorful survey to capture their interest and enthusiasm?

Google Docs will allow you to create an online survey that is so fun to fill out, your family will be asking you to send them another.

Here's how to do it:

Sign in or Create an Account and then click on the red "Create" button. 

From there a dropdown box appears where you will click on "Form".

When you click on "Form" you'll be brought to the page where you write your survey:

After filling in the survey form, you can share it with the people you want to fill it out. Click on the Google+ share button to share it with your Google+ Circles. Click on "Email this form" to send it to people through email. Be sure to UNcheck the "Include form in this email" if you want people to see the pretty background as they fill out your survey.

 This is what the email looks like when you send it to someone:

If they click on the link, they'll see a survey like this: 

When you go back to your Google Docs, you'll see the survey you created in your list of documents.

Click on it to be brought to a spreadsheet of responses to your survey.

The answers your respondents give will be in the spreadsheet. You have all their answers in one place!

From the spreadsheet you can also edit your form or view it live by clicking on "Form" at the top.

And that's how you make a survey that can be used for family history.

If you'd like to see the Family History Photo Survey I created, CLICK HERE.

You may find survey making has other useful applications, too. I used it to find out what kind of Easter treats my family want this year. (We're at 17 descendants and still counting so holidays are getting a bit more complicated!) If you want to see it, Click Here to see the Easter Treat Survey. You can fill it out, but I can't guarantee you'll get a treat!

Now try making a survey yourself!

Thine in the bonds of family history fun!  Caroleen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blogs - They're not just for reading...

This is the symbol for Blogger, a blog hosting service offered by Google.

Ever thought about starting your own blog?
Here are some good reasons to do it:

1. Just like you can learn a lot by reading others' blogs, others can learn a lot by reading a blog hosted by you. Be a giver of information!

2. Blogs are an easy way to get started using the cloud. The data you upload to a blog is saved in "the cloud". Who knew?!

3. A blog is a cheap (as in free!) way to back up your data. Everything you put on the blog is backed up by whatever blog hosting service you use.

4. Sharing your family history finds on a blog gets the info to interested family members quickly. Find it, post it - it's that easy. Forget the photocopies! Eradicate the emails! Lose the links! It's all on the blog for whomever wants it. They can print the images and documents you post or they can save it to their own computer.

Following are a couple examples of using 
a blog to share family history information.

The first blog holds images from a scrapbook. Sharing the scrapbook on a blog has several advantages over printing books for family members. One, it's free; two, it can be shared widely; three, it can be printed or downloaded by others...saving you time; and four, distant cousins (whom you may not even know) can find it on the web.

The second blog holds documents and images. It's organized more like a file cabinet of information than like a scrapbook. Viewers can download or print anything from the blog.

Watch these short videos about
how to create a blog on Blogger:

Blog your Family History Part 1

(Click on "YouTube" at the bottom of the screen to 
watch it on YouTube with a larger screen.)

Blog Your Family History Part 2 

(Click on "YouTube" at the bottom of the screen to 
watch it on YouTube with a larger screen.)

Blog Your Family History Part 3

(Click on "YouTube" at the bottom of the screen to 
watch it on YouTube with a larger screen.)

Now go share your family history with your own blog!

Thine in the bonds of family history fun!  Caroleen

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dropbox - A Virtual Flash Drive

As great as a flash drive is for storing and easily moving your data, Dropbox is even better. Dropbox is a cloud based data storage site with benefits far beyond the basic storage a flash drive can deliver.

Reasons to Use Dropbox

1. Unlike a flash drive, you can't forget to take your Dropbox with you. You can't drop it in a sink, a puddle, or a bowl of soup. You can't step on it, drive over it, or mow it with your lawn mover. In other words...since you can't physically hold it, you can't physically lose it.

2. Your Dropbox can be accessed from any computer you've installed it on. If you're not connected to the Internet when you access your Dropbox, it will be synced to all your devices next time you're online.

3. Your Dropbox can be accessed from any computer that's connected to the Internet, whether or not Dropbox is installed on that computer. Just go to and sign in to your account.
Image from Dropbox

4. Dropbox has an app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. You can access your files on the go!

5. Dropbox allows you to share folders with others who can collaborate with you and edit files. No more emailing files to others and getting lost in multiple revisions.

6. A "Public" folder is available on your Dropbox which enables the sharing of files or folders without allowing edits or alterations.

7. A "Photos" folder is available on your Dropbox for sharing images with others by way of a unique link. They can only see the images you allow them to access.

Are you convinced? It's time to get started.

Go to the Dropbox website and watch the demo. Then download it to your computer and create an account.

Just about anything you need to learn about Dropbox can easily be found in videos at YouTube. Some users of Dropbox upload videos to YouTube (usually just out of the goodness of their hearts) in order to help others learn more about the service. Some are more professional than others, and some are in languages other than English, but you're sure to find a few that are beneficial to you.

Go to  YouTube (click here) and search topics such as "using Dropbox" or "Dropbox tutorials". 

Watch for further posts on FHClassNotes about specific features of Dropbox that are beneficial to your efforts in genealogy.

- Caroleen


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flash Drives

A "flash drive" (aka thumb drive, jump drive, pen drive) is a portable device that allows you to carry your digital information with you. 

There are many reasons and ways to use a flash drive:

1. If you ever work from more than one computer, a flash drive is a great way to transfer your information from one place to another. A flash drive will allow you to keep your files at hand without having to email them to yourself or worry about which file is the most current.

2. You can share files with other people by giving them digital copies of photos or documents on a flash drive. At about $4 for a 1 GB flash drive, it's an inexpensive way to give someone a lot of information.

3. Flash drives can be erased and new information can be added, making them a better alternative to cds that cannot be overwritten.

4. Digital photo displays sometimes use a flash drive as a storage device for the photos on display. Photos can be changed or added to the flash drive.

5. Flash drives can be password protected in order to secure the data on them.

6. Flash drives can store all kinds of, executable files, documents, photos, videos, etc.

How to use a Flash Drive

A flash drive plugs into a USB port on your computer. After it is plugged in, "plug and play" software makes it viewable and usable on your computer. The computer assigns it a "drive" such as "E", "F", "G", etc. The drive assigned to the flash drive will not necessarily be the same on any one computer, nor across multiple computers. Pay attention to the drive assigned to your flash drive.

When you first plug the flash drive into the computer, a box like this will probably appear:

 You may either close it or click on "Open folder to view files" if you'd like to see what's on your flash drive.

When you look at the "My Computer" view on a PC, you will see something like this:

Image from the SanDisk website:

 You can see that this flash drive was assigned drive "J". You can see that there is a default name for the flash drive which was chosen by SanDisk, the company that manufactured it. In this case, the name of the flash drive is "Cruzer 32 GB".

How to Change the Name of your Flash Drive

In order to help you recognize your flash drive and the contents of it, you may change the name of your flash drive. Right click on the flash drive name and choose "Rename". You can then choose a short name such as "Fam History" or "Genealogy" or "Carole Flash". That way when you plug it into a computer and look for it, it will be easy to recognize no matter how many other devices, removable disks or flash drives are installed.

You can see in this photo of the "Computer" or "My computer" screen that the drive assigned to this flash drive is "E" and that the flash drive was renamed from "Cruzer" to "CKELLY FH" for "Caroleen Kelly Family History". Renaming it makes it a lot easier to recognize.


The Flash Drive Contents are Organized the Same as any 
Other Drive on Your Computer

When you double click on the flash drive in "Computer" or "My Computer", you'll see all of the folders and files as in the photo below:

 The arrow points out the flash drive and the area to the right shows the contents of the flash drive. Access these folders and files just as you would any file on your computer.

 Remember the Drive Name Assigned to Your Flash Drive (E, F, etc)

Be careful when working from your flash drive that you really are working from it! Check the file location at the top of whatever program you're working in to be sure you're working from the drive assigned to your flash drive:

When you save your work be sure you're saving it in your flash drive and not on the computer's hard drive: 

Where to Purchase a Flash Drive

You can purchase a flash drive at just about any store that sells computer accessories, including online stores like Prices are very reasonable and have come down in the last couple years. A 32 GB SanDisk Cruzer can currently be purchased for about $26. A 4 GB SanDisk can be purchased for just under $7.

How Much Data Will a Flash Drive Hold?

The amount of data that will fit on your flash drive depends upon how many GB the flash drive will hold and how large your files are. Video files at a high resolution take up more space. Documents take up very little space. According to, a 32 GB flash drive will hold over 50 hours of high quality video; or 30,000 photos; or 6,000 PowerPoint Presentations. For smaller flash drives just divide by the number of GB available. For the average person storing family history information without much video, a 4-8 GB flash drive should be large enough, but with the price so low on even the largest flash drives, it doesn't hurt to go bigger. If you buy a smaller flash drive and run out of space, all you need to do is buy a larger one and transfer your information to the new one.

Removing (or Ejecting) your Flash Drive from Your Computer

When you're on the go again and want to remove your flash drive from the computer, don't just pull it out! If it's removed when a file is being accessed, the file may not be saved correctly or, even worse, may be damaged. 

There is a protocol for removing a flash drive from a PC:

1. Close all files being accessed from your flash drive. For instance, if you're using a family history program and the file used is stored on your flash drive, save it and close it.

2. Right click on the "Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media" icon on your toolbar or the hidden icons area of your toolbar:

The cursor shows where to find the hidden icons.

Clicking on "Show Hidden Icons" will bring up a box where you may find your "Safely Remove Hardware" icon shown with the red arrow below.

Right click on the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon to open a box like the one shown below:

 Click on "Eject Cruzer" (or whatever your device was named by the manufacturer). The name you gave your flash drive will appear below it to help you recognize your flash drive. If it's safe to remove your flash drive (meaning your flash drive is not being accessed by your computer), the following message box will appear on your screen and you may remove your flash drive from the computer:

The "Safe To Remove Hardware" message

If you get a message box that says the device cannot be stopped, then make sure to close all programs that may be accessing the flash drive and repeat the process to safely remove your flash drive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Early Adopter of Family Tree

Logo registered to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New FamilySearch will soon be Old FamilySearch and users of the New FamilySearch system will be signing into their "New FamilySearch" account at the "Family Tree" tab at the top of the website. At present, the "Family Tree" tab will allow access to those who sign up to be "early adopters" of the system. Early adopters can view their tree and see all that they are able to see at "New Family Search", but the system is not fully functional.

As of March 14, 2012, the "Family Tree" will allow you to add dates and locations to events (such as birth, christening, and death) which don't yet have dates assigned, change dates and locations (but not contribute additional dates), add sources, add names and "other information", and participate in discussions. You may also "unreserve" or "reassign" temple ordinances. The "Family Tree" will not yet allow you to reserve temple ordinances, add individuals, combine individuals, nor upload gedcoms.

Eventually the "Family Tree" will be fully functional. It has an intuitive interface and is much cleaner and more user-friendly than "New FamilySearch". All those benefits aside, the biggest difference I expect to see between "New FamilySearch" and the "Family Tree" will be the the attention paid to source citations, evidence, and analysis. The current "New FamilySearch" is full of mistakes and conflicting information. Those who put the effort in to correct the mistakes have their sources (if they bother to add them) buried deep and virtually not accessible to others. With the words "source", "evidence" and "analysis" everywhere on each "ancestor" view, it should be obvious to those collaborating on an ancestor that verification of information is a priority. Those adding or changing information will easily be able to add their sources and those accessing information will have sources and analysis front and center.

If you would like to be an "early adopter" of the "Family Tree", click below and sign in with your LDS Account:

Click HERE to be directed to the "Early Adopter" invitation!

This is the page you will be directed to when you click on the link above:

Notice that those who sign up are known as "early adopters" of the system. Eventually everyone will use this new system. When you get to this page, sign in with your LDS Account, if you have one. If you don't have an LDS account, click on "Register". After signing in you will automatically be brought to the "Family Tree" on the site.

When you want to access the "Family Tree" again, you will go to the FamilySearch website where you will see a screen like this:

You can see from this screen shot that no "Family Tree" shows up at the top of the page between the FamilySearch logo and the "Learn" tab. You will need to sign in. After signing in the "Family Tree" tab will appear as seen below:

After signing in you will see the "Family Tree" tab to the left and the name you registered with your LDS Account to the right. Click on the "Family Tree" to access your family tree. Remember the site is not fully functional, but it's worth spending your time in as it is developed.

If you're on a shared computer, remember to "sign out" when you are done so that the next person to use the computer will not be able to access your account.