Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How To Capture Tables of Information From the Web-And Why Would You Want To?

As you do research online, there are times when you want to capture tables of information to use in the future, sort and analyze, or use as a checklist to make sure you explore all of those records.

I use Mozilla Firefox as my primary browser, so this method works with that browser.  If you haven't tried Mozilla, you can download it for free from:  www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/ .

There is an add on called Table2Clipboard that can capture table information so you can paste it into other software on your desktop [I usually use Microsoft Excel] without losing formatting and links.  The add on is free, but the author does appreciate donations to support their work.  I cannot guarantee that this add on works on every computer, but I have personally used it with Windows XP and Windows 7 without any problems.  I have used it to capture tables from sites like Ancestry (search results), cemetery transcriptions, etc.  Please be sure to respect copyright rules and provide recognition and citations for any data you acquire using this method.

Example of Use in the Homer NY One Place Study

I am currently adding vital statistic information to individuals in the pioneer database, as well as new people, and their relationships to spouses and children through the transcribed records of the Atwater and Glenwood cemeteries (all sourced with recognition to these web sites and their awesome volunteers).  I have had to make some assumptions with this data, which I have recorded on the web site and will probably discuss in this blog at a later date.

Using Table2Clipboard I copied the cemetery transcriptions into Excel spreadsheets - you could use other products - there are some good free spreadsheet applications available.  Since I use Excel for work, it is my program of choice for home as well.  It is possible to import some lists of information into your database, but I am not going that route for this data.  I put the cemetery transcription up on one side of my laptop screen and my Legacy database on the other side, with some overlap.  I can scan the index of people in my database and compare them to individuals listed in the cemetery transcription to find possible matches.  I manually add information into the database, sourcing each detail as I go, and I can copy and paste the exact transcription text into my source detail.  I then mark the records I complete in an extra column I add into the cemetery transcription spreadsheet, and use color codes to indicate individuals I am not putting into the database right now - for example, individuals who are born after 1890 or infants who can't be tied to parents yet. 

Having these tables of information available on my computer allow me to use this information in ways I couldn't if I was accessing them only online.  If you have other means of transferring information from the web into usable tables, please share.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The World of Blogging-The New World of Oz

So I've landed in Oz with a jolt, and I've started along the yellow brick road -eyes wide with amazement. When I decided to include a blog on my website, I confess to not knowing much about this unique form of communication. Sure I've been reading blogs for some time, for work and for fun, but that didn't really prepare me for being on this side of such a creative medium.

I've gotten followers this week, and some e-mails - what excitement! I'm over the rainbow and skipping along - trying not to trip. My one place study has had me pretty jazzed on it's own, but I'm beginning to see how much fun networking through blogs can be. Every blog I have been led to has an interesting slant to it and there are so many creative individuals with stories to tell. It's easy to jump from link to link and get lost for hours. I am humbled and inspired.

In addition to creating a steady stream of new content for my web site, my goal this month is to get linked into sites where like minded individuals might be visiting. The information on my site isn't of any use if no one finds it. I also hope my site will inspire other people to create similar projects. I've made some progress, submitting either the web site or the blog to several places, including Geneabloggers, Cyndi's List, the One Place Study web site, and a few others. I've created reciprocal links on this site or my web site as appropriate. I can already see that this type of networking is a science in itself. For example, if I hadn't read about submitting my blog to Geneabloggers in a Dear Myrtle blog, it might have taken me months to realize I could do that -even though I read their tweets several times a week. Sometimes I have straw for brains. Thank you to all those individuals who share their knowledge with others - a small post can be a big revelation for a reader.

I can see I have a lot to learn about this world. Other blog sites are a feast, offering rotating pictures, interesting links, awards, badges - it's a whirlwind of wonders like the Emerald City. I hope I can get up to speed without someone sending the flying monkeys after me for a mistake. And then maybe I should add a Facebook page - and there goes Toto after a squirrel (or maybe a lion). Oz is a good place to be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pick A Direction or How Do You Stop Chasing Squirrels

I admit it. There I am, diligently transcribing or researching in a particular direction when suddenly I spot an interesting target, much like my dogs when we are moving briskly along in one direction down a trail when out pops a squirrel. Pandemonium! The chase is on! Adrenalin is pumping. Everything else is forgotten. We have to take pursuit.

Research has to be a mix of serious concentration of effort - sticking with a course of action even when it seems to go on and on - as well as fun jaunts that present themselves along the way. The trick is not to lose sight of your goal, where you've been, and where you still need to go.

I've been working on using cemetery transcriptions to add information and people to my Homer pioneer database, which I just updated online from my Legacy Family Tree database. I have transcriptions in Excel for the Atwater and Glenwood cemeteries. I already have all the heads of households entered from the1800 and 1820 census records. At this point I am using the hypothesis that people buried in Homer cemeteries once lived in Homer (I know that won't turn out to be true for everyone, but by carefully sourcing all entries we can piece that information together later). So, I have been adding death, birth and burial information to the database -as well as people - by going through the transcriptions. In some cases I am picking up relationships to spouses and children.  Thank you again to those volunteers who put transcriptions online! I color code the lines in Excel after I finish with that individual to keep track of what I've completed. At this time, I don't work with individuals born after 1890, or individuals who died as children unless the transcription indicates who their parents are and the parents are already in my database. I may be able to include these others later. I usually work on this when I am watching television because it gets a little tedious after awhile otherwise.

I try to keep a log of all other research avenues I want to travel, people I want to contact, and places I want to go.  Writing them down sometimes allows me to go back to sleep when I wake up at 3AM with an idea, and reminds me of the fun I am going to have in the future which is helpful when the current project takes a long time.  I will get to chase those squirrels someday and perhaps some other folks will show up to help.

As logical as those systems sound, they don't work all the time.  For example, I started with the Atwater cemetery, but then I saw a surname that I had spotted elsewhere in an interesting context, so I started looking at some other sources.  And then I looked at the Glenwood transcription, and added some entries from there.  Now I am bouncing back and forth between them, and I want to look into some of those interesting occupations I found in the business directory (see previous post), and I just got a digital copy of early biographies of individuals in Cortland County, and if the snow ever subsides I want to spend a Saturday at the Cortland County Historical Society, and ... darn squirrels.