Genealogy Data Entry Techniques

I have been a subscriber of Dick Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter for many years now. One of his articles in today’s edition really struck a cord with me, Genealogy Data Entry Techniques. The article reads:

In the course of a week, I get to see a lot of genealogy data. Some of what I see is abysmal. Many otherwise highly-skilled genealogists do not seem to know that their keyboards have a SHIFT key! Instead, they simply turn on CAPS LOCK and then ignore upper and lower case after that.

Of course, the use of UPPER CASE text has a long history in the computer business. The mainframes of the 1960s and 70s only used upper case text. Data typically was entered on 80-column punch cards. The IBM 026 keypunch machine, the most popular keypunch machine ever built, indeed did not have a shift key and was incapable of entering lower case text.

By the late 1970s, all of this had changed, and data was being entered from computer terminals in normal upper and lower case. However, not everyone got the word. It seems that a number of people do not realize that the keyboards of the twenty-first century have improved since those “stone age” computers of 40 or 50 years ago.

Here are two short examples produced by a popular genealogy program. Which one do you find easier to read?

Example 1:

4. JOSEPH PATRICK KENNEDY, SON OF PATRICK JOSEPH KENNEDY AND MARY AUGUSTA HICKEY, WAS BORN ON 6 SEP 1888 IN BOSTON, MA,2 DIED ON 18 NOV 1969 IN HYANNIS PORT, MA, AT AGE 81, AND WAS BURIED IN HOLYHOOD CEMETERY, BROOKLINE, MA.

GENERAL NOTES: FROM THE TIME HE WAS A SCHOOL BOY HE WAS INTERESTED IN MAKING MONEY. HE HAD AN INTERESTING HOBBY OF TINKERING WITH CLOCKS. JOE WAS A POOR STUDENT, BUT GOOD AT ATHLETICS AND HAD AN ATTRACTIVE PERSONALITY. HE WAS ABLE TO OVERCOME MANY ETHNIC BARRIERS DURING HIS SCHOOL YEARS AT BOSTON LATIN, A PROTESTANT AND PRIMARILY YANKEE SCHOOL. WAS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST BANK PRESIDENTS IN US HISTORY. HE WAS FIERCELY PROUD OF HIS FAMILY. HE WAS QUOTED AS HAVING SAID HIS FAMILY WAS THE FINEST THING IN HIS LIFE. JOE KENNEDY WAS A VERY HARD WORKER, WHICH OFTEN DETERIORATED HIS HEALTH. AT TIMES HE WAS HOSPITALIZED FOR HIS RUN DOWN CONDITION.

Example 2:

4. Joseph Patrick Kennedy, son of Patrick Joseph Kennedy and Mary Augusta Hickey, was born on 6 Sep 1888 in Boston, MA,2 died on 18 Nov 1969 in Hyannis Port, MA, at age 81, and was buried in Holyhood Cemetery, Brookline, MA.

General Notes: From the time he was a school boy he was interested in making money. He had an interesting hobby of tinkering with clocks. Joe was a poor student, but good at athletics and had an attractive personality. He was able to overcome many ethnic barriers during his school years at Boston Latin, a protestant and primarily Yankee school. Was one of the youngest Bank Presidents in US history. He was fiercely proud of his family. He was quoted as having said his family was the finest thing in his life. Joe Kennedy was a very hard worker, which often deteriorated his health. At times he was hospitalized for his run down condition.

I certainly prefer to read the second example. The first one is much more difficult to read – so difficult that I may miss important information.

If you are entering genealogy data, please take pity on the future readers of your text. Please use upper and lower case characters, the same as you learned in grade school. Your fourth-grade teacher probably would have flunked you if you used all upper case in her class. Guess what? I’ll also give you a grade of “F” if I see your genealogy data in all upper case!

Yes, there is a shift key on your computer. In fact, you can probably find two of them. Please use them only when appropriate.

You can read this article and many others on his site Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.  Thank You Dick Eastman.

Publish Your Genealogy Database on the Web with Dropbox

I’ve been a reader of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter for many years now and Dick Eastman’s recent article, Publish Your Genealogy Database on the Web with Dropbox intrigued me as I had just created a free Dropbox account.

The article basically discusses how to use the public folder of your Dropbox account to publish a genealogy website without having advertisements inserted into your pages as they are with RootsWeb hosted accounts and other free hosting services. Yes you can do this by obtaining your own hosting account but that will cost you a monthly or yearly fee.

If you are already using the free Dropbox program, you already have a free solution that does not insert any unwanted ads into your pages.

It seems that Dropbox has a PUBLIC folder. Anything placed in that folder will appear on the World Wide Web. The files you place in the Dropbox PUBLIC folder will be copied to Dropbox’s public web server. The files you place there will be exactly as you created them without any extra advertising or other unwanted additions. You should only place files in the PUBLIC folder that you wish to share. The files you place under PUBLIC will become visible to everyone on the web within seconds at no charge.

I already have my own server space on Bluehost so this is not an option I will probably use BUT it may be something you would like to try. First you will need to create your website pages. You can use your genealogy program to create a website or use your regular HTML editor.

Once you have created your pages and make sure they actually work, then you will need to move them to your public folder. This is a two step process.

Step 1:  Drop a file into the Public folder.
Step 2:  Right-click/control-click this file, then choose Dropbox > Copy Public Link. This copies the Internet link to your file so that you can paste it somewhere else. You are not going to “see” any kind of notice that this worked. Just paste the link which was just copied to an empty document or email. Click on the link below to see the one page site I created as a demonstration.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/33388407/dropbox-test/index.html

You can read Dick Eastman’s entire article Publish Your Genealogy Database on the Web with Dropbox with all of the details. You can also sign up for his Newsletter which contains many useful articles.

Install multiple web designer based apps with one click

Thanks to Chris Hanscom of Unhandled Perception for making me aware of this neat program, Ninite Easy PC Installer

Ninite lets you pick your favorite software from among an extensive list (Web browsers, messaging, media, images, documents, security, runtimes, file sharing, utilities, compression, developer tools and more), creates a batch installer for them and then installs them for you automatically.

Install multiple apps at once without toolbars or clicking Next. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Pick your favorite software below.
  2. Click “Get Installer” and run it.
  3. You’re done!

Since I had just purchased a new desktop computer and still had some setting up to do, I decided to give it a try. Worked perfectly and saved lots of time.

Tables: The Next Evolution in CSS Layout

Tables are used extensively by the genealogy community in both the layout of their sites as well as presently data for their viewers.

Crafting CSS layouts is tricky. In this article, Kevin Yank introduces CSS tables (which, once IE 8 is released, will be supported by all major browsers). They promise to make CSS layouts much easier for everyone.

Today, a talented web designer must be a modern-day MacGyver-that 80s TV action hero who could turn a rubber band and three tin cans into a serviceable aircraft. Turning the average site design mockup into a living, breathing slice of HTML and CSS is a comparably delicate miracle, which must be accomplished using whatever makeshift tools happen to be lying around in current browsers.

That’s exactly why so many professional designers still choose to use HTML tables for layout. How can we expect beginners to adopt CSS for layout when it takes someone with the resourcefulness (and snappy dress sense) of MacGyver to fully understand the techniques involved?

Thanks to the imminent release of Internet Explorer 8, CSS layout is about to become something anyone can learn to do-no chewing gum or makeshift explosives required.

Read Tables: The Next Evolution in CSS Layout

Take a Screenshot and Send By Email

Quite often when I am helping someone with their website, I will ask them to send me a screenshot of what they see on their computer screen. If they happen to have SnagIt or another screen capture utility, they will usually know how. Others have no idea. This came through on a mailing list I am on so though I would share it. The article comes complete with screenshots.

Built into both Microsoft Windows and Macintosh operating systems is an easy way to capture the contents of your computer screen into an image file, often referred to as a “screenshot.”

A screenshot can be helpful when you are trying to obtain assistance as it allows your support person to see exactly what your computer screen was showing (a long error message, for example) at the time the screenshot was taken.

Read How to take a screenshot and send it via e-mail.