Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Seven Genealogy Related Ideas That Might Make Your Life Easier

Here are some of the shortcuts, ideas and procedures I have used to cut down the time it takes me to work on my computer. If you know about these things, it just might make your life easier.

Number One:
Use Voice Recognition software to enter large amounts of text. This is probably one of the best high-tech developments that has affected my ability to use the computer. I often feel pressed for time. When I do, I plug in my microphone and begin using Dragon Dictate on my iMac. The PC version of this program is called Dragon Naturally Speaking. As I have written previously, I began to be fascinated with this technology back in 1962 at the Seattle World's Fair. Even today, the technology is not perfect but the accuracy of the voice recognition allows me to enter text much faster than I could using the keyboard even taking into account the need to proofread carefully for words that were misinterpreted by the software. I accomplish the editing process by carefully watching what goes on the screen as I speak the words.

Number Two:
 I would guess that the second most important technological innovation that affects my ability to do genealogy is the effective use of the Google search engine. I am always surprised at how few people have tapped into the tremendous power and innovative support offered by Google. If you would like to find out some of the innovative ways the program can be used, you need to carefully examine the Google Inside Search website. It may seem like a trivial issue but I use Google search to define terms almost constantly. I do this by typing in the word "define" followed by a space and the word that I want defined. Likewise, whenever I encounter a foreign word, phrase or website, I can use the Google Translate program to translate the unfamiliar term into English from over 60 languages. When searching for documents in languages other than English, I use Google Translate to translate the search terms into the target language.

Number Three:
I have almost completely moved from using a mouse to using a trackpad. Presently, I only use a mouse if a trackpad is not available. However, I have converted from mouse to trackpad because I like the Apple trackpad. If I had to use only a trackpad on a PC laptop, I would probably still be using a mouse. The trackpad is faster and less stressful on my wrist and arm. It took me more than a year to transition completely away from a mouse, but now the transition is complete.

Number Four:
Learn how to effectively use the keyboard. Many older people involved in genealogy do not have basic keyboarding skills. There are programs that teach keyboarding (typing) in a fun way. It is painful to watch someone who is motivated to doing genealogical research struggle with the basics of finding the keys. If you want to overcome this disability, try the old standard program, the Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor.

Number Five:
Practice, practice, practice. Using a computer is a skill. If you are motivated to do genealogical research, then using a computer is now an essential tool. If you have disabilities that restrict your use of the a keyboard, see Number One above.

Number Six:
Learn how to use maps and the online mapping resources. Valuable genealogical records were created at or near the time of the event by the record keeping jurisdiction. I have found that many of the so-called brick wall issues faced by researchers comes from a failure to begin researching in the right place. Identifying the place is the key to finding pertinent records.

Number Seven:
Expand your view of your ancestors to include their social, cultural and historical environment. Who were their neighbors? Who were their friends? What schools did they go to, if any? What fraternal organizations were they associated with? What language did they speak? What other organizations did they belong to? Genealogy is not a list of names and dates. We have moved beyond the pedigree chart phase of our genealogical childhood and now we need to grow up and learn to expand our interests.

I can probably think of more related ideas. But right now it is time to move to another topic.

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