Category Archives: Technology

Books and more books: using Trello to track them

trello book board

Trello can be used track stuff, like your genealogy (or other) books

Have you ever found yourself at a genealogy conference wondering if you already own a book?  Ever gone a step further and purchased a title you already have on your shelf?  Argh – I have!  And I’ve been looking for a free method to manage my bookshelves so I don’t ever do it again.  Trello seems to meet this need.  (You can click here to view my actual Trello board see what’s in my personal genealogical library – at least what’s been loaded so far.  Note: this board was set to “public,” but in most instances you will set your boards to private unless you wish to share with others.)

It didn’t take long to upload these books.  My workflow:

1) Grab a pile of books from the shelves.

2) On my laptop, I entered the book title (easier on a traditional keyboard), and then under description, I added the author’s name.  (This allows one to search by author as well as title.)

3)  After downloading the Trello app, I then added the image of the books as follows:






After taking the photo, click “Use photo” in the bottom right corner of screen, or you have the option to retake.  Continue to exit back to the main screen (you do not need to wait while the photo processes and uploads), and shortly you will see the image added to the Trello card.


While Trello was designed as a project management tool, it can clearly be used for myriad other purposes.   It can be used to keep lists of whatever you might have need of, such as where you are on a given task.  (I read of one user who manages his inventory in his personal wine cellar using Trello – great idea!)  I’m also giving it a whirl for my endless “To Do” list for work and home projects, hoping it’s a system that I can stick with.  So far I think this app is a keeper.

Take 1! Take 2! Take 3! Sources….again!!!!


Take one!  Take two!  Take three!

Yup, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Uh huh, “The third time’s a charm!”  But…..I am hoping it doesn’t take me three times to get my sources correct.

In my last post I shared my transition over to Leister Pro’s Reunion software for the Mac.  I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Reunion Talk discussion board, learning from other users how they utilize the software.  I’ve also been conversing on the DB about sources.  Lots of dialog about sources!  There are the supporters of Evidence Explained, and the naysayers as well.  Unfortunately, it seems like those outside the EE camp don’t understand the concepts behind Elizabeth Shown Mills’ citation formats, nor that she states citation is an art, not a science.  In other words, there is not a one-size-fits-all way to cite our sources.

Previously I relied heavily on my RootsMagic’s source templates.  This was quick and easy, and generally captured what I wanted to note for my citation.  However, when it came time to complete a family sketch with citations, I had to spend an inordinate amount of time to reformat the source citations, as templates will never be able to place the information in the appropriate format.  It made sense to me to re-write my sources when switching to Reunion, one at a time.

On the surface, may not seem like a huge deal.  I had close to 1,000 source citations in my RootsMagic database.  However, because each citation was simply the root source, it could have been utilized dozens of times, appended and modified for each individual for which it was used.  Some using Reunion are doing the same thing – using one source citation (1870 U.S. Census, for example) and then placing the detail for that citation in the individual’s event field (Monticello, Wright County, Minnesota, family no. 99, household 103, etc.).  I’m opting, however, to write out the entire citation for each use, for each individual, saved in a single source with the accompanying digital image attached.

Using the free-form text field, the complete citation can be documented in its entirety

Using the free-form text field, the complete citation can be documented in its entirety

Media is attached to the citation for easy viewing

Media is attached to the citation for easy viewing

They say practice makes perfect, and operating on that premise, I started working on groups of citations, starting with the re-write of all sources for obituaries and newspapers, and then moving on to vital record sources.

Reunion allows sources to be categorized by type for easy review.

Reunion allows sources to be categorized by type for easy review.

By writing similar citations at one time, it’s allowing me to think about one type of citation before jumping to another. I’m much closer to EE standards than I would have been otherwise, as the saturation with a group of sources and the various nuances of each has caused me to stop and consider the best way to format each citation.  While I often think I may have hit the mark, its not uncommon for me to read another section of EE only to find that perhaps a different format may be more appropriate, and hence require yet another revision.  But hopefully as I dutifully continue on these occasions will become less and less.  At the end of this exercise I will have better understanding of source citation, and will feel confident that when I share my research, others will know I’ve truly done my homework and can have confidence in my findings.

My genealogy do-over: switching from RootsMagic to Reunion for Mac

Reunion Family View

Reunion Family View

At the risk of being called a genealogical heretic, I’ve come to the resounding conclusion that my genealogy software program is just that – a program that manages data and relationships in my family tree. It does not matter which program I use – just that it works in my workflow.

Hello? Are you still there? If you haven’t closed your browser’s window on me yet, here’s my rationale: whether I use Legacy, RootsMagic, Reunion or another program, the real work is done elsewhere – in Excel spreadsheets and Word documents.

While I have been one of RootsMagic’s biggest fans (and remain a huge advocate for the program), I’ve been debating a switch to Reunion since becoming a Mac user in 2013. Reunion 11, recently released, provided the inspiration for me to do what I’ve needed to do – overhaul my database, and begin re-organizing hard and digital copies of my media files.

The process actually began last winter, when I began scanning, labeling and placing photos in archival quality storage materials. Kind of like when you are painting a room in your house and you suddenly realize you can’t paint without buying new drapery, and can’t do new drapery without new carpet, and then decide you must have new furniture to go with the paint, drapes and carpet. Well, all that scanning, labeling and archiving made me think about my current digital organization system which I’ve previous described as horribly inadequate and needing to be overhauled. With thousands and thousands of pieces of digital media, it was quite an overwhelming project to think about renaming PIC 001 to SIMPSON_Goldie_b1921_pic_001. So my first step was deciding what was going to provide value and where to start.

Like many new genealogists, when I first began entering family members many years ago, I thought if someone was related – even distantly – they should be in my family tree. Consequently, my digital tree continued to grow to nearly 5,000 individuals. Of course, that earliest research was not sourced, and I had no intention of ever going back and revisiting my 3rd cousin 10 times removed! So, I created a GEDCOM file that pruned away those distant branches, and included only my direct ancestors, and four generations of descendants for each ancestor. For example, the GEDCOM for import contained my 3rd great grandfather, Benjamin Stanwood, and his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. This should provide enough depth to continue cluster research without cluttering my database. It effectively whittled my file down to just over 2,000 individuals.

After importing my pruned GEDCOM into Reunion 11, my next step was to address the source list. I’ve been working to recreate many sources, as they were quite jumbled after import. This was fine, as I’ve decided from now on I’m using freeform text for my citations, and no longer using source templates. It’s given me a good opportunity (starting with my direct ancestors) to review my sources and clean them up using Mills’ Evidence Explained standards. To help, I’ve taken EE citation examples, and created my own templates in Evernote. These are then copied/pasted into the source’s freeform text field and then modified for the actual source.

After spending about 40 hours so far with Reunion, I’m glad I’m making the switch. I have many, many hours more to get things back in shape, but am simply focusing on lines I’m currently working on, and will eventually address the others when I resume those families. So here’s my review of the strengths and weaknesses of Reunion when compared to RootsMagic:


  • Drag and drop. Sources can be dragged and dropped from the side bar onto the appropriate event for citation.
  • Events can be copied/pasted from one person to another, and carries the source citation with it.
  • Media linked to people or events opens in Preview. I LOVE this! No more trying to see the file in the RM tiny, awkward window.
  • Reunion forces me to get detailed in my citation. By not cheating using templates, and sticking to freeform text only, I’m using good citation methods and will be confident when I share my research with others.
  • Documents and similar media is attached to sources, not to events. This makes me less likely to “cheat” by attaching media to a source that hasn’t been fully modified for that specific item. In other words, each media item has it’s own source.
  • The “Tree View” was one of my primary reasons for making the switch. Like’s trees, one can view their family by generation, not just in a pedigree chart.
"Tree View" allows visualization of many members of a generation, not just a linear pedigree chart.

“Tree View” allows visualization of many members of a generation, not just a linear pedigree chart.

  • Many different types of notes can be created, and are not limited to events or general/research.
  • “Map All Places For This Person” opens a map (you can choose Google or Bing) that shows all places in which the individual has events. Hovering over pin shows the event coded for that location.
Map of all locations for individual

Map of all locations for individual


  • Reports suck. I will likely export back to RootsMagic periodically when I wish to share various reports with other researchers. I often used RootsMagic’s “Individual Summary,” and liked how it was formatted.
  • No shared events. This isn’t such a big deal, as one can simply copy/paste an event to multiple people. Also, shared events in RootsMagic didn’t always show up in reports, so I’d found the safest way to ensure printed reports for children reflected each year they’d been found in a census was to enter each census for each individual. Consequently, there’s really no change there.
  • Price. Reunion is quite expensive compared to RootsMagic. Reunion sells for $99, while an upgrade is priced at $49.   (RootsMagic is currently $29.95 for the full program, and a modest $19.95 for an upgrade. Of course, one can also use the free RootsMagic Essentials.)

I’ve been a very happy RootsMagic customer for the last ten years, and will still use their product for reports and periodic tasks that Reunion is unable to perform. However, I am very happy with my switch. I love the look and feel of Reunion. It has many features that can’t be beat. Plus, it’s provided me with the impetus to prune, clean and get my database in good working order. That alone was worth the hassle of completing my own mini genealogy do-over.

Curio – the genealogist’s tool for organizing Evernote notes, Word and Excel files & more

Curio's Evernote tab let's you sort your Evernote notes by folder and tag so you can easily find the one you wish to import.

Curio’s Evernote tab let’s you sort your Evernote notes by folder and tag so you can easily find the one you wish to import.

Stuff. Yup, genealogists collect a lot of stuff. We save stuff from the web, stuff we’ve been emailed, and yes, stuff we’ve created.

Lots of my stuff is saved in Evernote. Lots of it is in Microsoft Word. Some of it is in Excel. (I live by my spreadsheets!) Of course, there’s stuff saved from online books, databases, microfilm images, digital maps, mind maps, charts, and graphs and…well…you get the picture. There’s S-T-U-F-F all over my hard drive.

Usually this isn’t problematic, but sometimes I forget what stuff I’ve already collected. Despite my best efforts at keeping notes and research logs, if something is out of sight, it’s out of mind.

That’s why I LOVE Zengobi’s Curio!!! It’s became my favorite Go To app – it’s a must-have, can’t-live-without app that lets me take all that stuff and organize it how I see fit. Best yet, it interfaces with Evernote, allowing me to drag my Evernote notes into folders or blank “idea spaces,” which are blank pages that can be utilized to save images or other information. (Unfortunately, the interface is only one way – you can save and view the Evernote page, but cannot update Evernote from within Curio.)

Mostly I’m using Curio to organize info. I am in the middle of tracing my Tibbetts family, a line which I’ve just begun researching.   Curio let’s me take all that info and organize it in folders or sections. So, when I find information from a book, I can either save it directly into Curio using it as a note, I can save the image on my hard drive and drag it into a Curio folder, or I can save the info into Evernote and place it in Curio….the options are quite varied. The bottom line is I can save the info however I like, in a format that makes the most sense for me. Continue reading

Photo books – share your family history (and still be invited to next year’s Thanksgiving dinner!)

The Bursley & Stanwood Family History

The Bursley & Stanwood Family History

If you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to find the balance in conversations with our relatives. While my intent is to have a casual conversation designed inspire and pique their interest in our shared history, I fear they equate me with a religious zealot trying to proselytize them. (I’m hoping my hairstylist doesn’t also feel this way; he said he was going to go home after my last appointment and sign up for I hope he was sincere and not trying to get me to shut up!) But I digress.

Sharing our interest can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. About two years ago I began working on the story of my ancestors, specifically Lavina Bursley and her husband, Albert Stanwood. I wanted to know who they were, not just where they lived and what they named their children. I wanted to share this information with my relatives, hoping to inspire them and not turn them off. I was a little uncertain how to tackle the sharing part of the project, until visiting Lynn Palermo’s Armchair Genealogist blog, where she has several posts about using photo books to share family history stories.

Photo books are great. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true. Pictures draw the reader in. They get them interested. They don’t feel “preachy.” They make the viewer feel part of something bigger, part of a legacy. Pictures are powerful.

For Christmas, I decided to make three photo books to give as gifts to my sister and my two aunts.  Each book contained two parts: a customized section with photos of the recipient’s own family and family tree, and a second, core section that was the same in each book, containing the story of Albert and Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood.  The books were designed to: Continue reading

Back when

Before this:


I drove two hours one way to get here to view census records:

National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California

National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California

Yep, genealogy was way different back then. It kinda reminds of me Tim McGraw’s song “Back When,” in which he reminisces about life in the good ‘ol days. In an era of immediate gratification, where we can download our favorite songs from iTunes and play them nearly anywhere, any time of the day, Tim laments:


I love my records
Black, shiny vinyl
Clicks and pops
And white noise
Man they sounded fine
I had my favorite stations
The ones that played them all
Country, soul and rock-and-roll
What happened to those times?
Continue reading

MacBridge for RootsMagic – two thumbs up


I’ve been a longstanding RootsMagic user.  Even after making the move to a Mac a year ago, I continued to use RootsMagic, a Windows-based program, by running it with Codeweaver’s CrossOver application.  It worked pretty well for the most part – except for one extremely annoying issue.  Despite setting up my default folders for my media files, RM didn’t remember the locations.  Consequently, each time I went to link to a picture or a document, I had to navigate to the correct folder on my hard drive.  It was a MAJOR inconvenience.  Aside from that, I really didn’t have any complaints.  So, when RootsMagic released the MacBridge program earlier this week, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth trying it out.  But I’m sure glad I did!  My folders are now retained in RootsMagic’s memory, and the program is operating as it should.

You can learn more about RootsMagic’s new release, MacBridge, here.



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