Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cyndi's List Boutique on CafePress.com

I'm pleased to announce the launch of the new Cyndi's List Boutique on CafePress.com. You'll find t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, mugs, glasses, and even Cyndi's List pajamas and a stadium blanket to snuggle up with as you do your research from the comfort of your home! We plan to have more genealogy-related graphics available in the boutique in the future. Get your Cyndi's List gear today! Or put it on your wish list and tell Santa he can find it here:  http://www.cafepress.com/CyndisList

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Process for Adding New Links, Part 2

Last week I gave you a quick run-through on how I process new links: My Process for Adding New Links. This week I realized that there are a lot more tedious steps that I go through, so I thought I'd list them here to give you an idea of what it is like to maintain an index like Cyndi's List. Consider this: I go through each of the steps outlined below for every link that I add or update on Cyndi's List. Many times I do this a hundred or more times a day. Yes, my job is tedious. And no, there is no staff working for me.

I have guidelines on the site for submitting new links. But, not everyone reads or follows them. Because of that I generally have a lot of extra steps I have to take when categorizing links. You can see the general guidelines, the URL Guidelines, and the Description Guidelines on this page: http://www.CyndisList.com/submit/

URLs - Addresses
  • I have to confirm that the address given is correct.
  • Sometimes incomplete URLs are submitted.
  • Sometimes URLs are submitted with typos.
  • Sometimes a URL is given that points to the top level of a site, but the link is actually intended to point to something deeper within the site. So, I have to search to find the correct URL for that deep link.
  • If no description is submitted, I have to find one.
  • With personal web sites, I like to have a description that includes 10-20 of the top surnames to be found on the site. If those aren't already included in the link submission I will do my best to find them and add them myself. I think having the surnames with the link make the search & find process easier for those of you who are browsing.
  • If the text given in the description is repetitive or redundant I edit that out and strive to make the description as concise as possible.
  • If the text in the description is too much of a "commercial" and has too much marketing buzz, I remove that. Instead, I focus on the available content when I edit the description.
  • Sometimes I have to e-mail the submitter or owner of a site to get clarification.
  • Titles on web sites give me fits every day.
  • Sometimes there is no title on a web site.
  • Sometimes there is a title in the body, but not in the Title tag (top of the browser window).
  • Sometimes there is a title in the Title tag, but not in the body of the text.
  • Sometimes there are multiple different titles in the body, in the Title tag, and in the link submission. At this point I'm usually pulling my hair out.
  • I often have to treat multiple titles as if they are a title and sub-title. So, I include them both in my link title, separated with a hyphen.
Editing and Proofreading
I have to do a lot of editing and proofreading of link submissions. These are some of the things I have to fix on a regular basis:
  • Remove extra unnecessary blank spaces.
  • Insert blank spaces after commas or periods.
  • Remove extra unnecessary punctuation.
  • Insert punctuation like commas or periods.
  • Capitalize words that need it.
  • Change capital letters to lowercase letters where necessary.
  • Remove extra line breaks - all of my descriptions are just one paragraph.
  • Fix spelling errors.
  • I have to determine the location for a web site in order to categorize it.
  • Sometimes all that is supplied is a name of a cemetery, library or society, but not the location.
  • I determine the country, the state/province, the county, the city/town/village.
  • In order to do this I have to consult maps, gazetteers, and other online geography tools.
  • Sometimes I have to e-mail the link-submitter or the owner of a site to get clarification.
  • Sometimes web sites are in a foreign language.
  • I use online translation tools to help me determine the purpose, title, and description of a site.
  • Sometimes I consult with friends that have knowledge of foreign languages to get their help with determining specific information about the site.
Duplications, Spam, and Fraud
  • I often get duplicate link submissions. 
  • Sometimes people don't bother to check and see if the link already exists on Cyndi's List.
  • Sometimes people think I won't notice that they are sending a duplicate, hoping for additional exposure for their link. Trust me, I notice.
  • With a duplication, I generally check to see if I might need to update any of the addresses or descriptions for those links already on Cyndi's List.
  • Every day I get dozens of link submissions that are just plain spam. The public never sees them. I delete them and send out a rather testy "reject" message.
  • Sometimes I get links for sites that I know to be fraudulent, or to have participated in something fraudulent in the past. The public never sees these.
  • Sometimes I get links for sites that are bordering on fraudulent and are just plain "iffy." I generally try to investigate the sites to determine who owns them, what genealogical content they actually contain, etc. If it doesn't feel right to me, I delete them.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Little Green $

Two days ago I posted a quick poll on the Cyndi's List Facebook Page. The question for the poll was, "When you see a green $ at the end of a link on Cyndi's List:..." with the following three possible replies:
  1. It is clear to you what it means
  2. You have no idea what it means
  3. You wish there was also text in the description to tell you what it means

255 people replied: 205 understand, 35 don't, and 15 want a text description. My purpose in asking the question was to help me determine how much work I really need to do when I write a description for a link. I had hoped that the green $ at the end of a link would make things so clear that I wouldn't have to do much more. But 13% of the people who responded don't understand the $, therefore I need to always clarify things in the written description for the links.

And what does the little green $ mean? It means that the link points to a commercial web site that may charge a fee to use the site or to view certain search results and/or digitized images on the site. And no offense is intended toward my genealogy friends outside the United States by using the dollar sign. I assume it is a symbol that is widely recognized worldwide.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Process for Adding New Links

Here's a quick walk-through of what I do when I work on adding a new link to Cyndi's List.
  1. Check to see whether or not I already have the link somewhere on Cyndi's List.
  2. If I already have the link in question:
    • I check to be sure the URL (address) is up-to-date.
    • I check the title to be sure it is correct.
    • I check the description to see if I need to add or edit anything.
    • I check to be sure I have categorized and cross-referenced the link in the appropriate categories. Sometimes I find old links that need to be re-categorized since the last time they had been edited.
  3. If I don't yet have the link in question:
    • I visit the web site.
    • I check the URL (address) to be sure it is correct. 
    • I determine the correct title of the web site.
    • I determine the purpose of the web site.
    • I check and edit the description, if provided. If not provided, I find a quick description that I can use from the web site.
    • I determine the categorization I will use for the site. This is based on the topic and any localities for the site. I will cross-reference the link under as many categories as are appropriate. For example, a web site for a U.S. Civil War regiment from Iowa will be categorized under "United States » Iowa » Military" and under "United States » U.S. Military: Civil War » Regimental Rosters, Histories & Records: The Union » Iowa"
    • If a location is part of the categorization I have to determine the country, state, province, and/or county. This often means using an online tool to help me place the link under the correct location.
  4. Once I'm done adding or updating a link it will appear in the daily What's New on Cyndi's List. The What's New is also sent out daily to the Cyndi's List Mailing List.
Do you know of a web site that isn't yet linked on Cyndi's List? If so, Submit a New Link here: http://www.CyndisList.com/submit/. Please take the time to check Cyndi's List first and make sure the link won't be a duplicate submission. And, if possible, please submit a description for the link.

For links that are submitted through the form on the site, each day I first look for any that are inappropriate, non-genealogical, or duplications. I delete those and the public never sees them.

If you are a webmaster, you might want to read my past blog posts about using titles on web sites:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Age of Fraternal Organizations

Every Saturday, for several years now, I drive to downtown Tacoma to take my son to his Tacoma Youth Symphony rehearsals (he plays the viola). As I get off the freeway I pass by the old Elks building—the local B.P.O.E building (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks). I have the same thought every time I drive by: how sad that the building is empty, old, and rundown and the poor elk head has lost his antlers. There is a great photo of the front of the building here, 3rd photo from the top: http://kathrine-folieadeux.blogspot.com/2008/01/565-broadway-tacoma.html  Click on the photo to enlarge it and see how the poor elk head hasn't well weathered the passing of time. I found another image of an old postcard with a view of the Elks building: http://activerain.com/image_store/uploads/4/2/4/2/7/ar122673376572424.jpg.  There is another building downtown that has an old neon sign that says something about the Pythian temple on it. Every time I see it I think I should remember to look up the history of the Pythian group, but I never remember to do it once I get back home.

Today these thoughts reminded me to let you all know that I have a category on Cyndi's List for just this topic.
While many fraternal organizations are still around today, they were at the height of their popularity during the 19th century and into the mid-20th century. There are a couple of great articles about them online:
You might find that learning about your ancestors' memberships in fraternal organizations is a wonderful new source of information for your research. There are a number of different types of organizations, all founded for a variety of reasons. Many of them have their roots in community fellowship, benevolence, and charity. Some were founded for veterans of military service to continue their sense of brotherhood years after their service ended. The list is too long to post here, but you'll find several examples through links on Cyndi's List. There are several different names for these societies, which include words and phrases such as the following examples:
  • benefit society
  • immigrant society
  • brotherhood
  • fraternal
  • the order of
  • ancient order
Do you have photos of ancestors wearing pins or jewelry with special symbols or artwork that you don't recognize? Have you seen a tombstone at a cemetery with such symbols and always wondered about them? Or have you run across acronyms in documents and on tombstones that you aren't familiar with? Check out the various resources online to help you identify those symbols and acronyms in order to determine in which organizations your ancestors may have had membership. I have a sub-category on Cyndi's List for just that: http://www.CyndisList.com/societies/fraternal/acronyms/

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Cyndi's List Mailing List

The Cyndi's List Mailing List is a free, daily, read-only newsletter that reports my activity on Cyndi's List. Sometimes I take a day off, but in general I work on Cyndi's List 7 days a week. Every day I receive new link submissions and broken link reports from users of the list. I also have my own to-do list of links to work on. So, adding and updating links on a daily basis means that Cyndi's List is in a constant state of change. From the very beginning of the site in 1996 people wanted a way to find out what had been changed each day, so the Cyndi's List Mailing List was born. The mailing list receives two types of messages: personal messages from me when I have something I want to share, and automated messages from the Cyndi's List server.

The most popular daily automated message on the CLML is "What's New on Cyndi's List." It is a recap of all of the new and updated links throughout the site for the previous 24 hours. The message supplies the title, the address, and a description for each link. The What's New message is created at about 8:45pm Pacific Time Zone. I have to approve distribution of the message to the mailing list. I try to do this every night before I head to bed. On a rare occasion I forget to do it, so the message goes out the next day. Here is an archived copy of a typical What's New message: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CyndisList/2011-10/1318392303

The other daily automated message on the CLML is the "Link Activity" report. The Link Activity report is intended to show subscribers where update activity has occurred on the Cyndi's List web site. The report details the number of new and updated links available by individual category and sub-category page, with a link to each of the updated pages. Genealogists with an interest in a specific topic or location can use the Link Activity report to find out when a category of interest should be revisited. Here is an archived copy of a typical Link Activity message: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CyndisList/2011-10/1318391104.  In that example, you can see that the Australia-Military category had one updated link. You can click on the link to that category and look for the green "Updated" graphic to see what has been updated and whether or not it might be of interest for your research.

If you haven't yet subscribed to the CLML, give it try. It is free and easy to subscribe to. Archived copies of the messages can also be browsed or searched.

To subscribe, send an e-mail message to:
In the subject line and the body include only one word:      subscribe

More information on the Cyndi's List Mailing List page at: http://www.cyndislist.com/mailinglist/

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tools I Use Every Day: GNIS Database & Others

Every day as I work on Cyndi's List I have to determine how to categorize the links I'm adding to the database. I cross-reference the links in as many categories as are appropriate for the topic of the web site. In almost every case I will have to determine a geographic location for a link. In some cases this is easy to do. A good webmaster will clearly identify the location on the web site. For example, a web site for a cemetery should supply the name of the cemetery plus the city, county, state/province, and country in which that cemetery is located. To be very comprehensive the GPS coordinates might also be included, particularly for those country cemeteries that are out in the middle of a cow pasture. More often than not I end up with links that give partial location information. And many times I get links with no location supplied at all. This makes for a challenge when it comes to indexing the site. This can be just as frustrating for the researcher as it is for me.

To aid me in determining a location within the United States I use the GNIS database interface supplied by the Yale Peabody Museum. GNIS is the Geographic Names Information System from the U.S. Geological Survey. You can also use their search interface here: GNIS Feature Search. I prefer the simplicity of the Yale Peabody interface, so it is what I will use in examples here.

Today I had to categorize a link for "Cemetery Index, St. Mary's, Maryland." That is all the information I had from the title and the description given. So, I first indexed it under my Cemeteries category. I want to also index the link in the proper location under United States - Maryland. Using the Yale Peabody GNIS, I entered "St. Mary's" and chose Maryland and ANY FEATURE from the menus.

The results returned schools, a hospital and a stream, but didn't supply any type of cemetery:

I assume the lack of results I received might be because the query I was using was for "St. Mary's," which includes two items that the database might interpret different than I do: the abbreviation of St. instead of Saint, and the possessive apostrophe in Mary's. To simplify my query I did a search on only the word "Mary" taking out any St./Saint issue, and removing the possesive apostrophe. In the feature menu I also chose "cemetery" to help narrow down my search results.

This time I had more success. The search resulted in six possible Saint Marys Cemetery hits. You'll notice that Saint is spelled out in the database and the apostrophe isn't there either. Keep this in mind for searches you do in the future, in this database and in others you find online.

Now I have a new problem. Which of these six cemeteries, shown to be located in five different counties, is the correct location for my link? The only way to know for sure is for me to contact the web site owner and ask them. Most of the time using the GNIS database gets me the answer without having to go this one step further.

The GNIS database contains several geographical features that you may need to use when doing a search for your family members. You might know about a specific place or feature that existed near your ancestor's home, so use this database to search for any of the following:  airport, arch, area, arroyo, bar, basin, bay, beach, bench, bend, bridge, building, canal, cape, cemetery, channel, church, cliff, crater, crossing, dam, falls, flat, forest, gap, geyser, glacier, gut, harbor, hospital, island, isthmus, lake, lava, levee, locale, mine, oilfield, other, park, pillar, plain, ppl*, range, rapids, reserve, reservoir, ridge, school, sea, slope, spring, stream, summit, swamp, tower, trail, tunnel, valley, well, woods. (*ppl stands for "populated place," such as a city, town, etc.)

The search results shown in the examples above show you six columns: 1) the name of the feature, 2) the type of feature, 3) the current county in which the feature exists, 4) latitude, 5) longitude, and 6) the name of the topographical map on which the feature can be found. 

For the United Kingdom, I use: Gazetteer of British Place Names

For more help there is a Maps & Geography sub-category under every location category on Cyndi's List. You can also see the main Maps & Geography category here: http://www.CyndisList.com/maps/

Ancestry.com - Maps, Atlases & Gazetteers

WorldVitalRecords.com - Search All Historical Maps And Gazetteers Databases

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Society Calendars, Events, Seminars, etc.

It might just be a coincidence, but I've received several new links over the past few days for genealogical events - seminars sponsored by societies, etc. I have a couple of issues with links to genealogy events, so I thought I should post them here. That way I can refer to this article whenever I need to do so in the future.

Cyndi's List has a couple of categories that are specific to genealogical seminars and education:

The first, Education (Genealogical), is the newer category. It contains these sub-categories:
The Conferences sub-category is generally for the larger annual conferences, seminars, and workshops that offer major genealogical education opportunities. Hopefully, the rest of the sub-categories are self-explanatory.

The Events & Activities category is one of the earlier categories found on Cyndi's List. It has the following sub-categories:
The Events Calendars sub-category is for links to web sites with genealogical events calendars. Some of them are for specific societies or organizations that publish their own, ongoing calendars online. And others are for calendars that are hosted by a person or group that allow you to post your own genealogical events. The links I place in this sub-category should be only to calendars, not specific events. 

The Seminars & Classes sub-category is the tricky one, and the one I want to talk about most. This is where I would link to specific events. The links here can quickly become outdated once an event's date has passed. Early on I often posted links with date-specific descriptions. I learned the error of my ways in doing that when I had to update or delete the links on a regular basis. There is no way I can link to hundreds of specific events and update the descriptions over and over again to keep them updated with current date information. I have found myself avoiding these types of links.

Over the years I've found that most societies would have one of two types of web pages for their events:  either one web page for all of their seminars, with one static web address (updated yearly) or a new web page (and new web address) for every new event, year after year. My preference is the former. It makes more sense for the society, and for me as an indexer, to have one, static web address and web page devoted to their annual educational events. The page can be updated by the society's webmaster once the old event has passed and the information for the new event is available. For me, on Cyndi's List, it means I only have to add the link once and I'm done. Any updating that has to be done is taken care of by the society's webmaster on their own web page. They don't have to worry about contacting me over and over again with new, updated information for a link and my links don't become outdated and stale. For the society, having a static web address means that they can publish that address in their newsletter, on their blog, and in other PR publications without worrying about a stale link.

Therefore, my general rule is that I won't link to event pages that have a time-specific deadline. Because I can't guarantee that I will be able to remember to remove the link or update the link after that deadline. I will link to the society web pages about conferences and seminars as long as there isn't anything time-specific in the link description or on the web page that will make the link outdated at some point.

I've often considered adding a calendar widget or application to Cyndi's List that would allow the public to post their own events. I'm still considering it. There are a couple of downsides to doing this. First, I will probably have to spend money to have something like this incorporated into Cyndi's List. And I'm not loaded with extra cash. The other downside is that I worry about people/groups abusing a forum of this sort. I can envision people overloading the calendar with way too much stuff for specific groups, or even with inappropriate items. And I have no extra time to monitor and moderate a publicly-edited calendar. If any of you have ideas, please let me know: cyndi@cyndislist.com

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tools I Use Every Day: Copy & Paste

There are a specific set of tools I use every day when maintaining Cyndi's List and I couldn't get by without them. I thought I might share them here with you in an ongoing series of blog posts. These tools make my work faster and easier, and they should do the same for you.

We're starting with the basics today. The first tool is the good old "copy & paste" (C&P) function. This is one of the most basic computer functions we should all know and use on a daily basis. There are probably a lot of people out there who think that it is silly for me to bring this one up because everyone must already use C&P. So, why bother mentioning it? Because I still know a large number of people who don't know how to C&P. And some people don't realize you can C&P between different applications. For example, you can copy from a web browser and paste into a Word document or into an e-mail. I rarely retype anything. If I can copy it and paste it, I do it. I do this for web addresses – some are short and simple, but many these days are long and complicated. I use it for web site titles and descriptions. Anything that will save me time while building a new link.

To copy and paste you have to first highlight the text that you want to copy. Insert your cursor in front of the first character, hold down the mouse button and drag the cursor to the last character you want to copy. The text you want should now be highlighted.

To copy, Windows users can use any of the following commands:
  • Edit, Copy
  • Right-click, Copy (click the right mouse button)
  • Ctrl+C on the keyboard

To copy, Mac users can use any of the following commands:
  • Command+C (Apple/propeller key) on the keyboard
  • Right-click - hold down Command and the mouse button, Copy

The text you copied has been placed on a clipboard in the background. You can't see the clipboard. It is invisible. Trust me, it is there.

To paste, you need to place your cursor in the spot into which you want your text to be copied. For example, if you are copying something from a web page and into a Word document, you first need to open that Word document. Place your cursor in the Word document and paste.

To paste, Windows users can use any of the following commands:
  • Edit, Paste
  • Right-click, Paste (click the right mouse button)
  • Ctrl+V on the keyboard

To paste, Mac users can use any of the following commands:
  • Command+V (Apple/propeller key) on the keyboard
  • Right-click - hold down Command and the mouse button, Paste
There are numerous helps online. If you need more information search on Google for how to copy and paste

Now that I've explained how to C&P I should also tell you this - just because you can copy and paste doesn't always mean you should copy and paste. Please be sure to respect the work and the copyrights held by others. It is very easy to copy the research from someone else and paste it into your own. But, that work is the intellectual property of the author. You need their permission to use their work before you do so. If you are only using the information for your own personal research you can do so in small portions, especially if that information is not going to be published anywhere. That is a very brief disclaimer on copyright. For more information on copyright see: Cyndi's List - Copyright

Examples of when and where you might use C&P in your daily research:

  • research notes
  • web browser
  • e-mail
  • a word processor document
  • notes software such as Evernote
  • your genealogy software program

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FamilySearch Learning Center

It seems that every time I visit FamilySearch I find one more nugget of wonderful genealogy treasure that I didn't know existed. Today I ran across the FamilySearch Learning Center at: https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/home.html. There are lessons, videos and slideshows for a variety of genealogical topics: locations, record types, and research skill levels. These are all free. Take some time to learn something new today!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reporting a Broken Link

On every page of Cyndi's List, on the purple tabs running down the left side of the page, you will find "Report a Broken Link." There are a couple of reasons that you might report a broken link to me. The first is that you have an interest in the link and you would like to see it fixed so that you can visit the site. The second is that it helps me, Cyndi, to keep the web site as current as possible. I spend a large portion of each day fixing broken links.

For those of you who aren't quite clear on what constitutes a broken link, here is a brief explanation. A link points you to a web site address (a URL) for a specific web page. If someone moves their web pages to a different server the address changes. The address might also change if they rearrange their web site or start using a different organization scheme or a different file naming system for their pages. Address changes mean that my links become broken. I have to find the new/updated address in order to fix the broken link.

Today I received a broken link report with this message, "Your page is not secure why would I give my e-mail?" I'm not sure why a secure connection is necessary in this case. The form just sends me an e-mail message with the details of the broken link. I do not use e-mail addresses for any other reason. I don't keep track of them and I don't sell them to anyone else. Including your e-mail address is made a requirement in the broken link form for a couple of reasons. I like to send a thank-you message to let you know that I appreciate the help. And, if I can find a new, updated address I will write back to you with the new link information. I do this because I assume you want the chance to use the link that you had previously tried and found broken. The person who wrote this message to me today will not benefit from the new address. And because he/she gave me a dummy address I can't even reply to let them know that they missed out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Please Review Cyndi's List

I need your help. It has just been brought to my attention that there are poor reviews about Cyndi's List on Alexa. It looks to me like they are old reviews too - from prior to the site upgrade. Also, possibly not long-term genealogists doing the reviews. I would appreciate any help you might give providing your own review of Cyndi's List. Look under the Reviews tab here: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/cyndislist.com. Thank you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Free Access to Swedish Records this Weekend

I received the following today from Thomas Hermelin, ArkivDigital, SWEDEN:

"The Swedish Genealogical Society celebrates their 25th anniversary the 27th - 28th of August. As usual there will be a big convent and a lot of public genealogical activities, mainly during Saturday and Sunday.

We will of course be there and to make it easy for everyone who wants to try ArkivDigital we will open up our service globally between Saturday 01:00 AM Swedish time until 01:00 AM Monday (probably a bit longer) - that correlates to US time, CST: 7:00 PM Friday 26th - 7:00 PM Sunday 28th.

To be able to take advantage of this free offer one must register at our homepage: www.arkivdigital.net and install our software ADOnLine2."

For more resources for Sweden/Sverige: http://www.CyndisList.com/sweden/

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Historical Perspective is the Key

One of those new Facebook pages popped up last week, "You know you're from Edgewood if..." The purpose is to post trivia and memories about our little town. I've lived here since 1972, so I thought I had some nice old memories until I read a thread by two ladies who have lived here longer. The ladies both graduated from the 8th grade at our local junior high school (the same one I attended, and that my son now attends). They graduated in the mid-1950s. At that time they had a choice of 5 different high schools they could attend: Puyallup, Fife, Auburn, Sumner, or Federal Way. Today, there is no choice for students, because they all attend Puyallup. The surprising part of learning this is that those 5 high schools are in what today represent 5 different cities and 5 different school districts. The genealogist in me started thinking about that.

We often get stuck in our perception of geographical or political boundaries. Some genealogists would hear that their ancestor attended Edgemont Jr. High and they might assume that meant the person then attended Puyallup High School. But, depending on the time period, they might be making the wrong assumption. Even today I have known many students who have transferred into or out of our school district without moving to a different address. So, the assumption that a student attends a specific school because of where they reside would be incorrect.

The important thing to remember is that we should never assume anything. A successful researcher is one that does background historical research in addition to the records retrieval for their ancestor. To truly understand your ancestor and the record you are looking for, you need to be able to put yourself in a position of understanding the time, the place, and the reason that the record was made. Historical maps, topographical maps, and histories written about a city/county/region should all be consulted as part of your regular research routine.

Need some pointers for schools and yearbooks? http://www.CyndisList.com/schools/

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Category: Directories: City, County, Address, etc.

I decided to rename my City Directories category and sort some of the sub-cats into locality specific sections (this is all long overdue). New name and address: Directories: City, County, Address, etc. http://www.cyndislist.com/directories/

I've been working on a lot of links into this site recently. Lots of great historical resources including several county directories. Library Ireland: Irish History and Culture, http://www.libraryireland.com/. A free online resource of Irish history, culture, folklore, genealogy, music, literature, biography, and all aspects of Ireland.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You're Probably Not Even Reading This

Remember the Carly Simon song "You're So Vain" and the lyrics "you probably think this song is about you?" Well, this article is for you too. You probably think I'm talking specifically about *you* when I actually mean the collective *you* instead. So, don't take this article personally unless, of course, this really is about *you*.

You don't read. You skim your incoming e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and G+ posts. I don't know if you skip every other word or every other line, but you definitely skim. And once you skim-read something you quickly jot a reply and hit send without reading what you just wrote. Your reply doesn't make sense and it is studded with inaccuracies or misspelled words. All because you don't read.

Three times this week I've sent you a message with details in the body of the message. And you quickly replied asking me for those same details. Seriously? Why don't you read?

Dozens of times each day I reject new links you send me. Some are inappropriate and many are just repeats of what I already have. Why do you do this? You ignore all the guidelines I have in place. Because you don't read! And when I write to ask you not to do this again you reply with something sarcastic or flippant. You need to read and then absorb what you just read.

Because you don't read you end up wondering why no one ever replies to your messages. You wonder why some replies you do get aren't all that helpful. You need to read.

Because you don't read you are missing valuable details and little nuggets that might extend the branches of your family tree even further. You need to read.

Because you don't read, and especially not with any care, you are missing out on so many important topics, so many helpful threads, and so many potential tips and tricks that might be just what you need.

Who am I kidding? You're probably not even reading this.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Change is good. Quit your belly-achin'!

Today Footnote announced it has changed its name to Fold3 (http://blog.fold3.com/footnote-is-now-fold3/). There is also a slight rearrangement of the web site. Reactions from the public have ranged from "how dare they!" to "I don't like it because --fill in one of several reasons--." Some of the reasons are about the new look, the search function, and possible problems when trying to find things on the new site.

My reasons for concern over news like this are usually very different from others. The first thought I have is, "Oh no. Broken links." I checked and learned that the only change is the domain name and title name, so I can do a relatively easy update on that. My second thought is about the identity of Footnote as a genealogical resource. The name Footnote always felt scholarly to me. It feels solid. And my first knowledge of Footnote was in regard to their unique relationship with the U.S. National Archives. The identity of Footnote, in my mind, was "U.S. government records source." As such I've always held a private wish to eventually see the U.S. land entry files on the Footnote site. Today's news indicates that Fold3's genealogical identity will now be focused on "the finest and most comprehensive collection of U.S. Military records available on the internet." I'm not crazy about the new name, but it isn't a life-altering issue for me. My two questions/concerns were answered, so I'm fine with things.

Getting worked up about a commercial entity online that changes their look, their name, and their functionality doesn't do you any good. They are a business. Of course they are going to periodically switch things up. If they didn't their business would go stale. I'm not concerned with the search function or the arrangement of the web site. I've seen so many changes to so many sites throughout the past 15 years that I've learned there is no point in worrying about them. Changes come. It is part of life. And sometimes changes on a web site are a good thing. It shakes up the way we do things, makes us a think up a new routine, and gives us a new perspective. That new perspective often leads to good things for our research. Falling into a monotonous routine means we stop seeing new things and possibly miss seeing something we really need.

And the final thought I usually have when I see the uproar over things like this is about perspective. Does anyone remember when we didn't have the Internet? Does anyone remember driving to a cemetery/courthouse/library/archives to do research? Does anyone remember that in the old days getting a specific type of record might take you months, postage, shipping, and patience? How spoiled we have become. My great-grandmother lived in a sod house. She raised children, cooked meals, and lived daily in a house made of DIRT. My grandparents all lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. I try to remember them when I find myself unhappy that my microwave light-bulb has burned out or when my cable TV isn't working. Similarly, we need to remember just how far genealogical research has come thanks to the Internet. And quit belly-achin' about changes on a web site that serves up digitized records many of us would never have access to in the old days.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Casefile Clues deal for Cyndi's List Users

Casefile Clues is Michael John Neill's weekly genealogy how-to newsletter. Geared to researchers with some experience it discusses in clear detail research sources, methods, and procedures in an eary to read and follow fashion. Fans of Cyndislist can subscribe to Casefile Clues for 1 year at a discount rate of $14 http://www.casefileclues.com/cyndi14.html

Deep Linking makes Cyndi's List Unique

I saw this on a Google+ stream from July:
"(P.S. I don't use Cyndi's List so much since most things can be found with search.)"
This statement isn't quite true. One of the unique things about Cyndi's List is that I deep-link into web sites that contain genealogically-specific information. Google doesn't always return hits for pages deep within a web site. Sometimes even I have to look for some links the hard way - browsing and digging my way down through several layers in a web site's hierarchy. Use Cyndi's List in conjunction with your Google searches for a broader success rate.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cyndi's List is 15 Years Old

Cyndi's List was first published on March 4, 1996. I have a hard time believing that was 15 years ago. One of the questions I get asked a lot is how Cyndi's List got started. Each fall our local society meets to share what we did over the summer. In the summer of 1995 I bought a new computer with a blazing fast 9600 baud modem, preloaded with AOL software. I immediately started looking for genealogy resources online. I took what I had found to our society meeting in September 1995—one printed page of everything I found online. I had ten copies to hand out just in case someone else was interested. They were. They jumped on me like a pack of ravenous wolves! Our society's quarterly editor, Nancy Peterson, asked me if I would be willing to turn that into a 5 or 6 page article for the fall issue. Unwittingly, I did. And I decided I should probably categorize the web sites to make things tidier. This is how Cyndi's List was born. The following January I taught myself how to write HTML and I created a personal web site. When building the site I thought I would share my article with the links just in case anyone might find them useful. It was one long web page with about 1,025 links. The name I gave it wasn't very creative, but it stuck: Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet.

I shared my new web site and the list of links with others online via genealogy mailing lists. People started asking me to set up links to their web sites as well. So, I did, adding dozens of new links every day. I recall early on in 1996 that a gentleman told me that my page of links was too large and took too long to load. Remember, this is the early days when most people were using a dial-up connection. He had a good point, so I started building separate pages for each category of links. From that point on Cyndi's List took on a life of its own. It was a snowball, heading downhill. It was the Roadrunner and I was the Coyote. In those first days I worked on the site for a couple of hours each day. Before long I was spending 4 hours, 6 hours, and then 8-12 hours a day.

I also spent time on several genealogy mailing lists and helped by answering research questions. Between that and the link requests I was inundated each day as my e-mail grew to 500-600 messages daily. I spent less time on mailing lists and all of my spare time building Cyndi's List. My own research and my personal genealogy web site have gone virtually untouched since then. I created a FAQ and put up a "Before You E-mail Cyndi" page to try and stem the incoming flow of messages. I currently receive 200-300 messages a day, many of which can be answered with some pre-written templates.

In 1998 I was fortunate to receive sponsorship that lasted about 4 years with Sierra Software. That same year I registered the domain name and was offered web hosting by RootsWeb. Cyndi's List had become a more than full time job and business. Over the years I had some part-time helpers here and there, including my sister-in-law whose only job was fixing broken links. Five years ago I redesigned the site, as it appears today, with cleaner navigation. As of October 2007 I was on my own again, a one-woman show. I had to move the site to a paid server and advertising income drastically dropped along with the economy.

Today, Cyndi's List exists on more than 680 individual web pages, 180+ categories with more than 292,000 links for genealogical research. And I have been maintaining it the same way for 15 years—handwritten HTML. It is time for a new look. It is time for Cyndi's List to join the 21st century. I did something that is both personally and financially very scary for me. I hired fusionSpan, a web development company, to transform Cyndi's List into a database driven site. The upgrade will result in easier navigation for you and much easier maintenance for me. It should also mean a much greater reduced wait time for new links to make it into the appropriate categories. With time I hope it means I'll be able to do more writing, blogging, and researching. We had hoped to have the upgraded Cyndi's List online for today's anniversary. But, as you might imagine, transforming 292,000 links into a database is a tricky thing. We're close to having the site ready to go and might soon have a pilot version online for you to see.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Cyndi's List through the past 15 years. I hope you'll stick around for the next 15 as well! Keep an eye on Cyndi's List over the next few months because there are good things coming!