Items of Note from the NGS Conference Exhibit Hall

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

Salt Lake City, Utah, was the site of the 2010 National Genealogical Society’s Conference in the States from Wednesday, April 28 through Saturday, May 1. The conference was attended by over 2,700 registrants. In addition to the many lectures on a wide range of topics, the exhibit hall provided conference attendees with an opportunity to see and experience the newest and best of genealogical and technological resources. Here is a sample of what caught my eye this year:

  1. Relatively Curious Internet Genealogy Toolbar. I admit that I am always a bit uneasy when I add yet another toolbar to my browser homepage,  thus reducing the readable part of the page. However, if you are tired of typing URLs for genealogy online resources or having to take the time to scan through your favorites list (or, as I am about to do, move your favorites to a new computer), then the Relatively Curious Internet Genealogy Toolbar is just the thing. The download was free, quick, and its advertising states “no spam” and “no spyware.” Based on my quick review, it would appear to be worth it’s footprint on the page. Drop-down boxes in several categories provide access to a wealth of resources. The resources category’s subgrouping of search functions includes resources such as Cyndi’s List, Live Roots Genealogy Search, All-Genealogy, and five others. Other subcategories include encyclopedias, cemeteries, how to, immigration, land records, maps, message boards, military, Native American, religion, societies, translation, and vital records. The free search category provides access to FamilySearch, Heritage Quest (through the Cabell County Public Library in Huntington, West Virginia; no library card number required), Access Genealogy, Genealogy Trails, Linkpendium, Rootsweb, USGenWeb, and many more. Links to subscription sites (full-access requires a personal subscription) include Ancestry, Footnote, World Vital Records, New England Historical Genealogical Society, Godfrey Library, Genealogy Bank and Gen Lines Swedish Research. The in-print category provides links to Family History Archives, Library of Congress, Internet Archives Text, the Making of America, and Canadian Local History Books, among others. Links to RSS feeds include Dear Myrtle and Genea-Musings, and the Connect category provides easy access to such sites as GenealogyWise, FaceBook and Twitter. Additional gadgets and options include a calculator, a to-do-list, a unit converter, Wikipedia searches, the ability to check the temperature for any location worldwide, an online radio player, and an email notifier. Try out this interesting toolbar. I think it will save you both time and effort in accessing genealogical online resources.
  1. 2.    Genlighten. Have you ever wished that you could find someone to do a lookup for you? Genlighten provides just that ability by linking genealogists with local researchers. Once you know what you need, a visit to Genlighten may provide you with access to an individual who will find your document, scan it, and upload it to your (free) Genlighten account. You then visit the Genlighten site and download or print your document. Additional information is featured in “Long Distance Research: Genlighten,” an article by Diane L. Richard in the June/July 2010 issue of Internet Genealogy.
  1. 3. Memory Medallion. This product is one of the neatest things I saw in the exhibit hall. The medallion is a small (about an inch in diameter) medallion that can be permanently attached to a grave stone. It contains coding that can be read by most mobile phones. After purchasing a medallion, you receive a username and pass code providing access to online tools in order to “build the medallion story” by connecting photos, video, audio and text about the individual commemorated by the grave stone. A visitor to the grave site accesses the webpage you have created (via his or her cell phone camera) where he/she can read all of the information you have provided. In addition, you are able to connect your Memory Medallion to family tree information that you may have created on ancestry.com. More information will be available on the new Memory Medallion website which is set to launch on May 15, 2010.
  1. 4.  War of 1812 Pension Project. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and its affiliated Malcolm H. Stern-NARA Gift Fund has launched an effort to digitize the War of 1812 pension applications located at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (Records of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15). More than 180,000 files (7.2 million pages) have been processed and now await digitization. You can become part of that important process by donating to the fundraising effort. Several donor categories are available, ranging from $1.00 to $25,000. Your donation of $25.00 will digitize fifty images; $500 will digitize 1,000 images. Donations can be mailed to FGS – War 1812 Fund, P.O. Box 200940, Austin, TX 78720-0940, or can be made by credit card by calling 1-888-FGS-1500 or through the FGS web site.
  1. 5. Games. Two games were featured in the exhibit hall. The first, called Who Begat You, is created by Ancestry Games. In Who Begat You, a standard deck contains thirty people (sixty cards). You provide black and white jpeg format pictures of family members. Three lines of information about each individual can be added to the card (for example, name, birth date and birthplace). Husbands and wives are color coded for matching purposes and a standard deck will create a four generation game. Instructions for three games are included. Story companion cards may be substituted for a standard match and provide additional space for stories or memories about a specific family member. As a child, I remember playing “author cards,” a game that introduced me to the works of writers such as Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens. Who Begat You will provide that same memory building opportunity with members of your own family. I think it would be a great way to share family information with younger members in your family.

The second game, Family Odyssey, is video-based and is in its final beta-testing phase. This game “incorporates a family’s own family tree or heritage into the game to make… [it] more interesting to the player and to help family members become more interested in the historical context of their ancestors.” After you submit your information via a GEDCOM file, the game is then based on events surrounding the exploration of a cave network in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Game character Professor Phobias Timestill discovers a way to travel to the past and is placed in historical moments from your own family. He tries to change some aspect of your family tree so that you don’t exist and he will inherit your worldly possessions. “The objective of the game is to find out what has changed in [your] history and correct it, thus thwarting the evil objectives of Professor Timestill.” Over thirty historical events are analyzed and vital records, DNA research, newspaper articles, and other genealogical documents are used as part of the investigation. The game is scheduled for release on September 1, 2010, and will be accessible on all platforms, including PC, MAC, console and social networks. Further information can be obtained by emailing Managing Member Jeff Wells at jwells@familycrusade.com.

  1. Names in Stone. This company encourages cemeteries to preserve valuable records. Individuals, however, can assist in this process by mapping cemeteries and making the information available online. Participation is free. At the basic level, you can invite your community cemetery to manage and protect their records. Ask them to complete a questionnaire at the Names in Stone site or ask them to call 1-888-464-4447. If you would like to be more active, you can build an online cemetery map that includes burial information and pictures of headstones. First select a cemetery and visit Names in Stone to find helpful suggestions about how to plan and conduct a cemetery mapping project. You will want to recruit volunteers to serve as mappers (who draw the grave location), scribes (who write down the information from the headstones), or photographers (who take pictures of the headstones). On-screen instructions are provided. This cemetery mapping opportunity seems quite worthwhile for genealogical society projects and the resulting online information will prove more accessible than printed cemetery survey publications.

Next year’s NGS Conference in the States is scheduled for May 11-14 in Charleston, South Carolina. Come and visit the exhibit hall and experience the wide array of resources available in support of genealogical research.

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