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Occupy Genealogy

Occupy Genealogy

Have we lost sight of what genealogy is all about? There is a movement to turn genealogy over to a select few with highly specialized skills. By making it a formal profession with strict requirements, testing, etc. they hope to give it credibility as well as allow the pros to make more money doing it. I don’t think the founders of the movement meant to push the rest of us out but some are advocating just that. Will it happen? Not in my lifetime!!!

Back in the dark ages, before we had the internet, we had CompuServe and the Roots forum. In 1987 I was looking for a program to diagram my research into those pesky later Plantagenets who liked to all use the same first name. I knew I wanted pedigree charts and family group sheets, having been raised with genealogy, but I wanted my computer to do it. That’s when I learned about PAF. Later members of the Roots forum would get involved in an experiment which resulted in The Master Genealogist, TMG for short. I began using that genealogy software when it was in beta [because I knew beta testers, not because I was one] and I used it until last year. It is a highly flexible but very complex program. I never did learn all its bells and whistles and I had regular problems. Eventually I decided I wanted to spend less time on the program and more time on genealogy. After a lot of agony and then research I switched programs.

Recently there was something I wanted to try but couldn’t find enough information in the program’s help file to do it. I posted on the program’s user forum, a pretty active group. I got the answer but I also got some that distressed me. A received a couple private emails and one forum post suggested I should spent more time learning the finer points of the program so I wouldn’t have to ask questions!

Yes, I know, what is a user forum for if not to ask questions. But it also seems to me that we should be able to expect a genealogy program that just works, keeps track of our information and then spits those pedigrees and family group sheets back at us on demand without requiring a degree in computer science. Apparently those three don’t think so. Maybe genealogy software pros are coming next?

Let’s “occupy” genealogy, from the comfort of our homes of course, and take it back for family researchers!

Slides Update

Slides Update

The slide/negative scanner came with Photo Impressions 6. I was not pleased with what I was seeing. On the advice of several people I purchased Photoshop Elements 6. I read several reviews which said the new version wasn’t a prize and also the old version was cheaper. I only wanted basic so that worked for me. The difference is incredible. Just using the basic “quick fix” option the results are so much better.

Real life has gotten in the way of my genealogy. I spent the time I had reminiscing over the slides I had scanned. It was worth it. As a result I’ve probably gone through 100 slides, haven’t even tried the negatives with Photoshop Elements.

Viewing the Slides and Negatives

Viewing the Slides and Negatives

I had a wonderful day, out and about in the perfect weather. I picked up the slide and negative viewer, came home and installed it. Then I spent a couple enjoyable hours looking at slides. Ah the memories!

I’ve only made a dent. I estimated I had 300 but 500 appears to be more likely. So far I’ve found some slides which I believe my college roommates would pay to have destroyed. 🙂

I’d say the device works pretty well. The slides are old and definitely have deteriorated to some extent. But I can view them and determine if I want to save the picture or toss with ease. It comes with photo editing software called Photo Impression, version 6. I am not a photo editing expert, looks decent.

Negatives are a different story. Pre 35mm negatives come in an assortment of sizes. The plastic negative holder is designed for 35mm negatives both in size and spacing. This can probably be overcome with some dedication. The bigger problem is while I can see the negative on my screen the software often gives error messages trying to copy the negative. I don’t know enough about the software to determine why but I will see if I have the same problem with another software.

Instructions are minuscule but the device is fairly mechanical — you put the slides or negatives into the appropriate holder and manually push it through. I can hear a little click when it is centered over a slide. Presumably that is true for the negatives too although I haven’t gotten to any negatives that are really the “right” size so I haven’t used that notification. You have to give it a minute to provide a digital image on your computer screen. You can push a button on the device to save the image. After that it is all up to the software — this is where it says it can’t get the image on many of the negatives I’ve tried so far.

Genealogy and Vista

Genealogy and Vista

Have you updated to Windows Vista yet? I was forced to when I needed a new computer. Fortunately I have an older laptop running XP or I’d probably have jumped out the window. [It’s only about 6″ to the ground.] As it was I tore my hair out. Six months later I still prefer the old XP computer.

Several programs I use daily [not genealogy programs] do not work and were expensive upgrades, Adobe Acrobat Pro being one of them. There were some problems with hardware too including drivers for printers, scanners, etc.

I use TMG [The Master Genealogist]. The current version works with Vista with a few minor tweaks. I did check that out in advance of the install because in this case you need to know those things before installing. I also own Second Site, a program that works with TMG to create web pages. It works with Vista.

The latest version of GenSmarts works with Vista. GenViewer from MudCreek seems to work but GenMatcher does not. I like GenMatcher for comparing two GEDCOMS. Yes, I know other programs I own, including TMG, can do it but I like the way GenMatcher does it.

I have an old program which I believe is called Places. You type in a town name and state. The program tells you what county that town is in. Surprisingly it works just fine. I don’t have a place in the US without a county in my TMG database because of this nifty program.

I use a Palm LifeDrive and GedStar Pro. GedStar Pro contains my entire TMG database in my pocket. Palm does not work with Vista and therefore neither does GedStar Pro. The only option is to switch to a Windows based PDA and a Windows PDA genealogy program. That’s expensive, not to mention replacing all the other software I’ve come to depend upon in my 10 years with Palm. I also have several genealogy books on my Palm for reading on the go. I’m not giving it up any time soon.

Family Tree Maker says it works with Vista. I haven’t tried it.

If you are considering a new computer it is going to come with Vista and you are going to have as much “fun” learning the system as you can stand. Vista is to XP as a dog is to a spider unfortunately. Make sure you know upfront what programs and hardware you need to replace, update or learn to live without. More importantly, make sure your genealogy software is compatible or can be made compatible with an upgrade or a tweak. Changing programs with database is not something to take lightly.