Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Free Online Backup Storage for Your Genealogy Files

Google recently announced that any file type can now be uploaded to Google Docs storage. Google gives 1 GB of storage for free and more storage if you pay.  A single file upload is limited to 250 MB.  Google says  “This makes it easy to backup more of your key files online, from large graphics and raw photos to unedited home videos taken on your smartphone.”    Look for a “bubble notification” when signing in to know when this feature becomes available to you.

I created a folder in Google Docs called Genealogy Backup and began uploading to see if I found Google Docs a viable backup storage solution for my genealogy files.

I uploaded my genealogy files .ftm, ftmb, and .ged files to my Genealogy Backup folder.  All uploaded successfully and once uploaded I then had the options to download these files or to share them.

I next uploaded multiple pdf files - all the reports that I had saved which were produced by my genealogy program.  These also uploaded successfully and  not only can I download and share these pdf reports, I can also read them online and print them.

I then tried my media file which includes all my downloaded census and other record images.  I wish I could have uploaded the folder as a whole, but Google Docs made me upload them by record by record.  I could select multiple records to upload at a time, but when I tried to select all, Google Docs gave me an error message and told me to select less records to upload.  Uploading all these record images took quite a bit of time and used up a lot of my free storage space - not very practical.  I hope Google will soon allow uploading a whole folder at one time.

Overall, I am pleased to have another free place to backup my genealogy files, but I'll just be uploading my ftm genealogy files and not the individual record images.  The upload is manual and not automatic like the backup service Mozy (Mozy not only gives 2 GB storage for free, but does the back up automatically).

Here is my Genealogy Files Backup Plan.  I used to copy my files to CD's, but now copy to a flash drive.  With Google Docs, I like the idea of also having my files saved somewhere away from my house in case of a real disaster where both the computer AND flash drive were both destroyed.  I think saving to the Google Docs cloud makes a lot of sense.

The best discovery with uploading genealogy files to Google Docs is that I can now easily share my genealogy with family members by uploading and sharing my reports.  All free.

My genealogy files are small and Google Docs suits my needs for a secondary genealogy backup storage.  If Google Docs doesn't have enough online storage for your needs, Mozy offers 2 GB storage for free and has automatic backup. Microsoft SkyDrive offers 25 GB of free storage with a manual backup and ADrive offers 50 GB of free storage with manual backup. Or you can always email yourself genealogy files using your gmail account.  Gmail offers more storage than Google Docs and the amount is constantly being increased.  I suspect at some point in the future Google Docs will follow suit.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Additional Google Search Options

Google just added additional search filters to its Search Options.  You can find the Search Options side bar by clicking Show options on the blue bar above your search results on the Google Search Results Page (the page of results you get after you have entered a query into the Google search box).

Search Options helps the user filter search results by different criteria without opening a new page. Generally, Google gives what it considers the most relevant results first, but Search Options allows you to change the filter to meet your own needs.  Previously using Search Options, you could search withing a date range, get related search results, and get a Google translation.

You now have the following additional choices to further filter your Google search results:

  • Visited pages  or Not yet visited  lets you search specifically for webpages you already viewed or not viewed. You can imagine how helpful it will be to select sites that you have Not yet visited  when searching for genealogy websites so that you don't keep checking out the same sites over and over.  This feature relies on your Google Web History so make sure you are logged into your Google account when surfing genealogy sites. 

  • Fewer shopping sites or More shopping sites  could be useful when genealogy surfing if your search results keep giving book results at Amazon or memorabilia at eBay. Don't want those results?  Now you can choose Fewer shopping sites

  • Blogs  This option will restrict results to just blogs. Blogs have been added as a search filter in addition to the filters for Images, Videos, News, Updates. Books, and Forums.

If you haven't tried doing your Google searches using Show Options located on the upper blue bar on your Google search results page, try it the next time you do a genealogy search.  I found these filters to really help filter and narrow down my search results.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Look at Ancestry's Improved Search


Ancestry.com has made a huge improvement to its search wildcard functionality.

Previously, you had to enter the first three characters of a name and then the wild cards * or a ?.   Now you can use a wildcard for the first, second or third letter in a name.

The changes to the use of wildcards are:

  • You can put a wildcard in any character position including the first, second,  or third character, such as *son or ?atthew,  J?nes or Sm?th.
  • Either the first or last character must be a non-wildcard character. For example, Han* and *son are okay, but not *anso* 
  • Names must contain at least three non-wildcard characters. For example, Ha*n is okay, but not H*n 

Wildcards at Ancestry.com work only with exact matches, not soundex matches (searches that look for sound-a-like names).

Why are wild cards necessary when doing a genealogy search?  Even though you know a surname should be spelled, it doesn't mean that the clerk who wrote the original records spelled it correctly and this can make it difficult to find a record.  For example, even on my own birth certificate, my mother's maiden name is spelled incorrectly and I have given up trying to get it corrected.  Using a wildcard helps search for spelling variations. 

I have also found that some official records will record a nickname for a first name.  John* will find both John and Johnny. However, if a first name is recorded as an initial, the new wildcard search will not help since you still need 3 letters to search.  If this is a possibility, (for example, many first names in the Social Security Death Index are just first initials), it is best to search with the first name blank.

Hint:  Start a search at Ancestry.com without wildcards.  Only after your first search doesn't produce results, should you try a search with wild cards.  If a wild card search doesn't work, next try searching with only a last name in case the record is recorded with just an initial for a first name.

What is the difference between the two wildcards?

  • The ? matches one and only one character.
  • The *  matches zero or more characters.

  • M?yer will find Mayer and Meyer but not Myer, but M*yer will find Myer, Meyer and Mayer.
  • M*yer* will find Myer, Meyer, Mayer, Myers, Meyers, Mayers, Myerson, etc.

No longer will I have to make different search queries using the multiple Myer/Myers/Meyer/Meyers variations because of Ancestry's previous wildcard limitation in the first 3 letters. This is my gggrandfather's surname and I have seen his name spelled all of these different ways from document to document. 

This change will really help with Mc and Mac names also.  Now that we can put wild cards in the second position, it can be used to find both names in one search.   Search for M*Carthy to find McCarthy and MacCarthy.

The wild cards work on first names.

  • Jo*n will find names recorded as John or Jon.  Unless you specify gender in your search, Jo*n will also find Joan.
  • Jo*n* will find John or Jon or Jonathan as well as Johnny or Jonie.
Previously, we had to use a soundex search to look for name variations which often produced too many false results.  This new functionality will be a big time saver.

Look for Ancestry.com to continue to improve its search this year with additional tweaks.