Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dropbox Shoutout!



I've blogged before about the importance of saving your work in numerous places and trying to practice what I preach, but I goofed big time!

There are several cloud based companies that you can use as another place to store your genealogical research, or anything else, for that matter.  I've used the free versions of Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive and Dropbox.  Earlier this month I received an email notice from Dropbox that my "free" account was going to come with a price tag at the end of the month.  Why?  When I purchased a new desktop system last March, it came with additional Dropbox storage space for one year.  The year was up so I had to pay if I wanted to continue service.  Dropbox offered a special price of $79.00 for 1 terabyte of storage with the understanding that the following year, the price would be $99.00.

The email notice came the week we were having the tile removed from our home so I saved it with the intention that I would look at it later when I had time.  Here's where the situation gets messy - I actually have 2 Dropbox accounts; one is for my primary job as an educator with a large public school district and the other is for my genealogy and personal information.  I try very hard to keep my educator business only at the workplace and my genealogy only outside of that worksite but good intentions aren't enough.  Sometime between the initial email from Dropbox and the time I decided to act on the special offer, I logged into Dropbox from my home computer with my educator account.  In hindsight, I remember doing this as I needed to print an itinerary for a field trip the night before so that a last minute added chaperone would have the information.  In my haste, I didn't log out of that account.  My bad!

So, when I decided it was time to purchase a year subscription with the special offer pricing, I didn't catch that I was purchasing a year's rate for the wrong email account.  Unfortunately, as soon as the confirmation came through and I clicked to open my account, I realized the mistake.

I searched high and low on the Dropbox site for how to switch the  accounts but it wouldn't allow me to as the popup stated there already was an account for the email address I was trying to switch to. Yep, that would be me!  Couldn't find instructions online on what to do or who to contact to fix the problem so I cancelled the transaction, or so I thought, logged out of the academic account, logged on to my personal account, went back to the email offer and followed the link again with the intention of repurchasing a year's subscription for the correct account.  Well, that didn't work either as a popup told me the offer was "expired."

I then looked again for a way to contact Dropbox and discovered they have NO LISTED PHONE NUMBER anywhere on their site.  When you click "Contact," your options are departments and none was billing.  I selected "Customer Support" which turned out to be technical and not financial.  I online chatted with an associate who told me he would transfer the chat to the correct department.  I was transferred but I only got a form filler, no chat option available.   I filled out the form and figured I'd hear in a few days.

A week went by and I never received a response so I decided to again try the link from the original email.  Hey, maybe they reactivated the offer!  They hadn't.  I panicked and removed everything from my personal Dropbox account to my home desktop.  I resigned myself to checking out other cloud storage companies.

Here's where the situation gets even more complicated!  The following week I noticed I had a message on the Dropbox ap on my phone.  It was giving me a special offer.  I know that the phone ap is for my personal account so I was thrilled that I could continue service.  I processed the transaction through the phone, went home and moved all the files back into Dropbox and thought life was good.

Imagine my surprise when I got my credit card statement and realized that Dropbox had charged me twice with no credit for the first mistaken transaction and that the accounts were still confused.  I tried to put the transactions in dispute online but the situation didn't meet the drop down menu options.  My bank's customer service person patiently listened to my sob story; she didn't have a phone number for the organization either which I guess confirmed part of my tale.  Two disputes were placed and I am happy to report that in just a few hours, Dropbox issued me a credit for the educator account transaction AND credited the transaction for the personal account to reflect the special offer.  I am very happy with the resolution.

Lesson Learned - next year, I will definitely make sure I'm logged into the correct account before I pay!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Identifying a Possible Ancestor Via Art?!



Here’s something different to try! First, take a selfie of yourself not smiling. Next, click on the link for the Musée de la Civilisation and upload your selfie. Complete the short form and click “Find Your Double.” The database compares your selfie to statues down through history.
The museum in Quebec is preparing for an upcoming exhibit and is looking for people today who most closely match the statues of yesterday.
I didn’t expect a match so I was pleasantly surprised when a sculpture of an unidentified woman, thought to be the Empress Faustina the Younger, matched me. An unidentified woman in my family tree, of course, it would be a match! I can see somewhat of a resemblance, especially if I were younger.
Do I have Faustina in my family tree? No, my tree doesn’t go back to Abt 125-175 AD when she was alive. Roman heritage wouldn’t surprise me, though, as my maternal side is Croatian and half of my paternal side is from the Alsace-Lorraine region. Both areas have a historical connection to Rome.
Although this definitely isn’t remotely proof of ancestry, it sure is fun and unique! Plus, you may just add to your history knowledge. I had no idea who Faustina was and well, after reading about her, wasn’t really wild about the possibility of being a relative. Maybe I should reread my blog for AncestorCloud, Dealing With Genealogical Disappointment. Faustina was known as a two timing schemer who may have poisoned a few who got in her way. She definitely was a helicopter mom, long before helicopters were invented. I was pleased that in grief, her husband, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, founded charity schools for orphan girls in her honor.
My hubby tried it, too, and matched to Ahata, a woman who lived in Palmyra in the 2nd century. There was barely a resemblance which makes sense as he’s Nordic on all sides and the database is mostly collections from the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Say cheese and give it a try.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keys to Collaborative Genealogy

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I've been so busy with the home renovations that I failed to supply the link to a recent blog that I posted for AncestorCloud.  Developing a Positive Seeker Helper Relationship is a "how to" for effectively collaborating with others as you build your family tree.

AncestorCloud calls the folks who are in need of a record "Seekers" and those that assist as "Helpers."  Working with family members you may share both of those roles.  Whatever responsibility you assume, the hunt is much more productive when the parties involved are together on the approach.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saving Your Gedcom

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Spring is just around the corner and at the top of your "to do" list, make sure you backup a copy of your gedcom.  Yesterday, while hubby and I were painting away as the home renovations continue, I got a call from a former Client I had done some consulting work regarding his Irish ancestry.  He called to thank me for making this year's St. Patrick's Day even more memorable as I had pointed him in directions that saved him time and money.

I had also recommended that he always save his Ancestry.com tree in another location and we had discussed several options. Why do I recommend that?   I'm definitely not trying to start a malicious rumor here as I believe there is no problem at all with Ancestry.com but in this crazy world, you just never know.  I'm a planner (and a little paranoid) so I think about the what ifs in life - what if I can't pay for the service any longer, what if they get hacked and I can't access my lifelong work, what if they get sold and the service becomes deplorable?  (On a side note, my hubby thinks this is a little irrational and he's probably right.  I say some people fear immigrants and I fear losing mine!)  So my concern led me to find alternatives for my trees.

My Client decided to download the free standard edition of Legacy Family Tree but he had difficulty following my Ancestry.com download instructions.  I talked him through it remotely and understand why he had a problem which you, dear reader, may also encounter.

If you're new to this process it's quite simple, just follow these steps:

  1. Log on to Ancestry.com 
  2. Click "Trees" on the Ribbon and scroll and click on "Create & Manage Trees" 
  3. Click "Manage Tree" 
  4. Under "Manage Tree" in the green box on the left, click "Download your gedcom file"
  5. Be patient, it may take some time, depending on the size of your tree.  
Once downloaded, if you open the file it will be gibberish so you must install a program that can read a gedcom.  You have several options; I've listed those that I've used that allow you to save the program to your own computer and/or place in your own Cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) so you have complete control over the data:
  1. Legacy Family Tree - free with the standard edition; small cost for a program that does more. 
  2. Rootsmagic - small cost and by mid-April it will sink with Ancestry.com
  3. Family Tree Maker - small cost, used to synch with Ancestry.com but I experienced problems; supposedly works now.
Or, you can join another organization like Ancestry.com and save your tree there.  I've used My Heritage as an alternative.

There are lots more options that I'm not familiar with - for a review of the opinion based Top 10 click here.

I haven't done this but am exploring these as other options some day:

  1. Familysearch - free, however, you are donating your tree to their genealogical community and although it is a backup, you don't control it any longer.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and follow the directions under "Contribute Your Research"
  2. Wiki Tree - free, however, when I tried to upload several years ago my tree was too large for them.  Haven't checked back to see if their system will take it.
Whatever you choose is your personal decision but you have to select one so you can access your data.  

Here's where my Client got stuck - on Ancestry.com, step 4 above, he clicked "Download Tips" and got information on deleting his tree so he panicked and stopped.  That was wise as you DON'T WANT TO DELETE THE TREE!!!!  Once it's gone, it's gone.  

When I click on download instructions  I get the following:  

"If the "File Download" window does not appear and Windows automatically downloads a text file: 


Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Tub Full of Memories



Laundry - it stinks if left undone, piles up and never ends.  Kind of like genealogy!  I had to use the machines in my local laundromat recently due to home renovations.  Check out the picture above - it costs $5.00 to wash ONE LOAD.  Of course I didn't have as many quarters as I needed and the change machine in the facility jipped me which made me even more determined to get our laundry room back in order quickly.

I have several memories of laundry from my childhood which is funny when you think of how mundane doing laundry is.  My earliest memory is of my mom running among the rain drops to retrieve nearly dry sheets hanging outside on the line when I was about 3 years old.  She told me it was God's final rinse and it smelled delightful.  I imagined heaven as scented with a summer rain. We had a washer and dryer but my mom loved to hang out clothes which my father never understood.  She never adapted to using dryer sheets.

My maternal grandmother was the same way; grandpa had to make her special laundry stakes - a slit on the end of a long pole - to raise up the wet clothes on the line so it wouldn't drag across the ground.  She was barely 5 feet tall and used a step stool to reach the line, dragging it across the backyard grass from space to open space.  On windy days, I would run between the hanging clothes trying to not get slapped by the wetness.  If I made it through untouched I got a point.  Usually the laundry won.

Doing laundry could be scary, too.  My grandparents had an old wringer Maytag washing machine in the basement and occasionally, my mom would drag it across the basement floor to the double cement laundry tub which she would use to "catch" the clothes going through the wringer.  I thought it was fascinating to see the water squeeze out until mom leaned too close to the wringer and her headscarf went along for the ride.  Immediately, she reached for the wringer arm mechanism and placed it in reverse so she could be free.  That was fast thinking and probably saved her life.  Mom told me that she knew a woman who had died from a broken neck because she hadn't been able to reach the lever in time.  I've never seen that in an obit but I imagine death by laundry wouldn't be memorialized as the way to go.

Hubby's dad lost a piece of his thumb as a young man helping his mom do laundry.  As he tried to adjust the bulky, heavy clothes going through the wringer his thumb slid forward and caught in the machine.  He lived to tell of his dangerous encounter taming wet sheets.

Now when it comes to laundromats, until recently, I had more pleasant memories.  My Aunt Betty, for a short time, owned and operated a laundromat.  My cousins and I would sometimes accompany her to the business and play around by "driving" the carts, climbing on the tables to be tall and checking out the laundry product machines and the pay phone to see if there was change left.  I can't ever recall a customer while we were there which could explain why she sold the business and moved on to owning a beauty shop (now that was really fun for a young girl!).  I suppose the broken machines were another reason for the sale; we thought it was hilarious when suds billowed out of the top and down the sides but Aunt Betty never looked pleased.

My last childhood memory of laundromats is related to this time of year.  In late winter or early spring, mom would take our heavy winter garments to the then new concept of Norge Village - an upscale laundromat that housed huge machines from a child's perspective that not only washed and dried clothes but also dry cleaned.  A modern woman in the 1960's sure had come a long way, baby!  Mom would save money by doing her own dry cleaning of the winter coats; I was always glad to see them folded and stored in the attic in plastic tubs with moth balls.  Give me hot weather anytime.

And give me my own machines! In our laundry room, we have hanging an old glass National washboard that my husband purchased at his first auction for $10.00 years ago.  It serves as a reminder of how far a simple household task has evolved and I'm thankful for that.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thank You Familysearch.org!

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I love Familysearch.org for so many reasons - the wiki, the records, the tutorials, the ease of use, I could go on and on. I mentioned this at a recent local genealogy conference I attended to my tablemates and was surprised to learn that they had not signed up for a free account.  Then yesterday, I was volunteering at an Ask-A-Genealogist Day at a library where I met several folks who had never heard of the site.

One gentleman was so excited he called his wife and brother to tell them about the records we found on his grandparents.  A very sweet woman teared up when I showed her a marriage license her grandfather had signed - she had never seen his childlike signature before.  He died before she was born and had been uneducated but her grandmother made sure she had the money to go to college so she'd have a better life.  I forwarded the link originally sent out by Thomas MacEntee about the upcoming Irish research workshops that Familysearch is offering all week that I bet St. Pat would have attended if he were alive!  The man told me his wife will be so happy as he wanted to make a trip to Ireland ala WDYTYA and she told him that was ridiculous since he wouldn't have archivists drop everything for him.  So he's tuning in, learning and planning to save time and money.  Can't get better than that! Interested and want more info on this event?  Click on this for the flyer.

Trust me, Familysearch has not solicited for money or sent beaucoup annoying emails as many other genealogy based groups do.  Why should you register on the site?  After creating an account you're able to connect with others who are pursuing the same lines you are.  BillionGraves is now synching with Familysearch so there's another reason.  It's easy, it's free and it's a valuable genealogical tool.  You've lost an hour today so insure you don't lose more time - sign up at Familysearch.org today.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Youtube and the Genealogist

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A source that I under use for genealogy is Youtube.  Lisa Louise Cooke reminded me at a local seminar I attended about the valuable information that is available on the site.

There's two ways to find what you're looking for - do a Google Search (duh!) or use the search button on Youtube.  If I type in Google the following - youtube genealogy - I get 8,660,000 results.  Using the search bar on Youtube, I receive 190,000 results for the word genealogy.  Most of those hits are instructional videos.  Youtube can assist your genealogy more personally, though, and help you find information you didn't know was out there.

Try this:  In the Youtube search bar type a surname you are interested in and the words "family history" in quotes.  I did this with my Leininger surname and the first link is to a family reunion in Ohio.  Bingo!  Need to know who has the family Bible or a photo of great grandma?  The folks you've found on Youtube just might hold the key.

You don't stop there, though!  I then decided to check out video to be more specific of the location since Ohio is a large state.  I entered "Celina, Ohio" Kuhn (another family surname I'm interested in and the residence of the family) and more hits are available.

This is a wonderful way to reconnect with family that remained in the hometown, see what the area looks like today and the time investment is minimal as many of the videos are less than 15 minutes in length.  Enjoy!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Diversity in the Family Tree and Its Importance Today



Last month I took part in an activity at a workshop in New York City on Cultural Competence that’s been haunting me ever since.  The presenter, Vivian V. Lee, Ed.D. from Johns Hopkins University provided an adapted handout from M. Loden & J. Rosner’s book, Workforce America (McGraw-Hill, 1991) that opened my eyes to my family’s core values in ways that I had never experienced before.
The worksheet consisted of a Diversity Wheel – a circle within a circle that listed 12 category descriptions of an individual, such as your level of education, geographic location and gender.  Participants were asked to identify and record a word that described their personal category descriptions.  For myself, it would be master's degrees, USA, female. 

Next, participants were asked to record the complete opposite of their personal description.  So mine would be no degrees earned, anywhere but North America, male, etc.  A few minutes was provided to reflect on the recorded responses by thinking about:

  • how would the opposite from yourself identity be perceived and treated by society and by the individual 
  • how different would your present life be compared to that of the opposite individual 
  • how would you adapt in society as the opposite individual
I was shocked to discover that my polar opposite in most categories would be my maternal grandfather, Ivan “John” Kos[s] and great grandfather, Josef Kos[s].  Although they both had the same surname, these men were distant relatives.  Josef was my grandmother’s father and John was her husband of an arranged marriage.  So, my grandmother’s maiden name was the same as her married name (now that’s convenient!).  But back to the exercise…

Both John and Josef emigrated separately from then Austria-Hungary, now Croatia, to the U.S. for reasons that so many emigrants continue to come – economic opportunity, freedom, a new start.  Manual laborers with little to no education, limited English and no citizenship rights, these men, along with others like them, were the backbone of the United States' economy for generations as continue to be so today.  I never met Josef who died young; he caught the flu and passed away in 1919.  Of John, I never heard one complaint from him about his status in society.  Even after residing here for over 60 years, though, he knew he continued to be identified by a slur – I heard a shopkeeper once call him a D.P., aka a displaced person.  Although he took a citizenship oath, would never be fully accepted and remained subject to distrust by those who fate allowed to be born here. Although I've become the opposite of my grandparents, I know they would have been very proud of my children and my role in society. They would not begrudge that I am not treated as they had been.

I reaped the fruits of Josef and John’s difficult lives.  If you take a moment to think about your own roots, you most likely have an immigrant story in your family.  It may have been as long ago as 1600 or just in the last decade.   Your ancestors may have come of their own volition or not.  It matters not when or how they arrived.  What matters is that the hardship they endured afforded you comfort and security that was lacking from their point of origin.  Perhaps it’s due to my childhood interactions with and knowledge of my grandparents’ life experiences that make me thankful for their risk in immigrating and I will always have a place in my heart for those who are so courageous that they would begin again in a new land.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

DNA and National Geographic, I Remember When...

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Yesterday I received the March issue of National Geographic and as I unwrapped the cellophane, out fell an insert about their Geno 2.0 program.  This got me thinking about how far DNA has come over the past few years.

Back in the day, I'm thinking circa 2006, a co-worker had used the Society's DNA service.  I don't remember what the cost was but I remember thinking it was pricey for what she received, a slick brochure that gave her general information about her ethnicity.  It told her she was of Greek heritage; since she lived in Tarpon Springs, Florida that was not an Ancestry.com trade in your lederhosen for a kilt revelation.  I decided I'd wait until the results became more specific.

After reading the insert in the magazine, I figured the price still must be high as it was not provided, though a special $50.00 off discount was mentioned.  Checking the Geno 2.0 Next Generation site, I found that the $199.95 regular price was on sale for $149.95.  With the subscriber discount noted on the insert, the price would be $99.95.  Guess they're trying to be competitive with the rest of the market.

The results brochure looks quite similar to what my co-worker received over a decade ago.  The biggest change appears to be identification of Neanderthal ancestry which my mother would have just relished. She always swore she had Neanderthal DNA long before science proved remnants remain. If she were alive today, this would have been an awesome birthday gift.

The other updates are vague; "improved ancestral results" and "ancestral calls" but it doesn't say how the are improved and "more accurate regional ancestry" to include 60 reference populations.

What does make this offer unique is that you can also purchase a ball cap or t-shirt that provides further advertising for the project.  Not that it would influence you to test with them, just sayin'.