Getting Back in the Swing of It – 2017 NGS Conference: Family Lives Here

My blog has suffered a bit since I began ProGen 18 months ago but I’m happy to say that I completed ProGen last month and it was absolutely worth all the work! Just in time too because I was, once again, fortunate enough to attend the NGS conference this year.

The ability to attend national conferences such as NGS is always an eye-opening and educational experience. The conference host city was Raleigh, North Carolina and the theme was “Family Lives Here”. Attendance was close to 2,500 this year and eleven hotels reserved room blocks for conference attendees. Most of those room blocks were sold out early last year! Normally I opt to stay in one of the room blocks, but this year the spousal unit came to North Carolina with me. So we chose to find lodging through AirBNB. I love AirBNB, you meet some of the most interesting people and many times the places you stay are far more comfortable than a hotel room!

The spousal unit and I decided to make a mini-vacation out of the trip to the conference so we left home a few days before the conference started. We had a great time making visits to Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and the American Civil War MuseumTredegar Iron WorksHollywood Cemetery and the site where Libby Prison once stood in Richmond, Virginia. While I was attending the conference, the spousal unit was able to visit with friends and made trips to a few battlefields. I wish I’d been able to clone myself and go with him!

NGS did a great job of getting presenters for a wide variety of topics. There conference had a heavy emphasis on North Carolina and southern states research, which wasn’t surprising considering the conference’s location. Since I don’t have any (currently) known North Carolina or southern ancestors, I opted to attend more methodology and organizational education sessions. Choosing education sessions are sometimes hit-and-miss so some of them were less applicable to my current level of knowledge than others, but I was able to take at least one item away from every session.

Some of the more notable sessions I attended this year were:

  • Scots-Irish Research Methodology and Case Study (speaker: David Rencher)
  • Your Portable, Sortable Research Log (speaker: Jennifer Dondero)
  • Using Third-Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA (speaker: Blaine Bettinger)
  • From Record Group to Community: Analyzing Data Sets (speaker: Amy Giroux)
  • Clueless? Maybe Not (speaker: Jennifer Dondero)
  • The Genealogical Proof Summary: What It Is and Is Not (speaker: Gail Miller)
  • City Directories: The Solution to Finding Family Members In-Between Federal Census Ten-Year Gaps (Terry Koch-Bostic)

Out of this list of most notable sessions, I would say the top three (in order) were:

  1. “The Genealogical Proof Summary: What It Is and Is Not” with Gail Miller
  2. “Your Portable, Sortable Research Log” with Jennifer Dondero
  3. “From Record Group to Community: Analyzing Data Sets” with Amy Giroux
Unfortunately, the meal lectures were all sold out by the time I registered for the conference so I wasn’t able to hear any of those topics. However, the trade-off for that was more time on the exhibit floor. The exhibit floor was as busy as ever and it was fun visiting with all the vendors. Thomas Jones released a new book this year at the conference which NGS was selling at their booth called “Mastering Genealogical Documentation” and I decided to purchase it. I haven’t started reading it yet, but I’ll let the genea-hood know when I finish it.

I also decided to jump on the Evidentia bandwagon. I’m excited to learn how to use Evidentia; it looks like it will be a great help in my research!

New discoveries this year included a new app for mobile devices called JoyFLIPS and Atlas Preservation, Inc.


JoyFLIPS is promoted as an unlimited scanning and cloud storage app. The interface looked really good on what I saw at the booth display. App functionality includes:
  • Automatic scan and save
  • Organize and share albums
  • Download copies anytime
  • “Tap and talk” (tell stories and create slideshows)
  • Ability for friends and family to comment by voice or text
  • FamilySearch direct upload
  • Optional physical memory stick storage
Their website indicates that they’ll be releasing an in-home photo scanning service soon, which is an interesting thought and I’m curious to see the specifics on that. JoyFLIPS is available via the web and mobile devices. I downloaded the app to my iPhone and I’m excited to try it out.

Atlas Preservation, Inc.

Atlas Preservation, Inc. is a monument and restoration supply vendor. It’s possible they may have exhibited in past years and I just missed them, but Atlas Preservation was a new discovery for me this year. I’ve been considering purchasing some D/2 cleaner for some family tombstones that have been blackened by tree sap but hadn’t really looked into it much. Having the opportunity to speak with someone knowledgeable in the use of D/2 was helpful. While the only thing I inquired about was D/2 cleaner, I did notice that Atlas Preservation had a large selection of supplies available for purchase.

Again this year I stopped at the BCG booth a couple of times to try and get a look at some of the portfolios they bring along for attendees to look at but, once again, the booth was always too busy for me to get a look at anything.

It was great to have the opportunity to greet current friends and make some new ones. I’m looking forward to attending NGS 2018 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Oh, and I almost forgot! NGS announced that the 2019 conference would be back in St. Charles, Missouri! YAY, I can’t wait for 2019!

And because I couldn’t pass up the chance to stop and view it in person, the spousal unit and I stopped at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, Indiana on the way home to see my second great-grandfather’s Civil War letter that’s on display there.

Civil War era letter from Chester E. McCabe to parents Doddridge McCabe and Olive Knapp McCabe
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Productivity Progress Follow Up

My last post, Productivity Progress and Tackling Time Management, showed how I conquered my email inbox and started using some productivity tools to help me start managing my time a little better. I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to maintain this system for just over two months now, which is HUGE for me because life has gotten absolutely insane! The spousal unit and I decided to sell the his and hers homes and purchase a new-to-us home. How exciting!

Some of you wonderful Geneatalkers inquired about my process for bypassing my inbox and using filters to help conquer my inbox. So kids, this post is for you. I’ve gone through and created some screen shots of my inbox (marked up to protect the identity of the innocent…er, guilty?) and provided some instructions on what worked for me.

Step 1: Go into your Gmail settings and create your labels. You can do this during the process of setting up your email for import but I prefer to have everything set up first. Your settings can be accessed from the Gmail inbox by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right (near) corner.

Go To Settings Menu

Once you get into settings click on the “Labels” menu. Find the “Labels” section and the first option will be a button that says “Create new label” which will allow you to create new labels that will appear on the left side of your inbox. If they don’t show up right away, make sure you’ve selected the “Show” option in the “Labels” menu for the label you want to show up. This is also where you can make unused labels disappear from your left side menu!

Label Settings

Step 2: Now that we have our labels created we’re going to set up the import from your secondary email into your primary email. This process is done in the settings menu as well. If you haven’t left the settings menu, great! If you went back to your inbox just find the gear icon again and go back into your settings menu. Once in your settings menu click on the “Accounts and Import” menu option.

Check Mail From Settings

From here you want to click on “Add a POP3 mail account you own” at the bottom of the “Check mail from other accounts (using POP3)” section. Then you’ll walk thru the process of adding your secondary email address.

Add Check Mail Part 1

Add Check Mail Part 2

Something to note here: the check box for “Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server.” is currently checked. That’s a default option and I received an error message that this option couldn’t be used with a Gmail account. Unchecking it will allow you to proceed setting up the import. This is also where you specify if you want to label your incoming messages. If you want the messages to bypass your primary email inbox and go into a separate label (i.e. Gmail’s version of a folder, similar to the folders in Outlook) make sure the “Label incoming messages” check box is checked and that you’ve selected the label you want to use. Here’s what my inbox looks like, make note of the labels on the left side of the screen:

Gmail Inbox

The labels I added for additional email addresses are labels that I’ve added a color code to. Gmail will show me when there’s unread mail in those labels and clicking on the label will open up the appropriate label and show you the emails in that label. I’ve circled the label I set up for my secondary email address in red as an example. Remember, you may need to go into your settings to show or hide labels to make them appear or disappear from the left side of your screen.

Step 3: Don’t stop yet! You’ve gotten your import set up but there’s one more thing to do that will make your life easier! Set up your send mail as settings. Send mail as will allow you to draft, reply to or forward emails from your imported secondary email while using only your primary email folders. For example, your primary email address may be but you can send email from when you set up this option. This can be set up for multiple email addresses and you do not have to set up the import for that email to use the send mail as functionality. They operate as completely separate functions. This option is also under your “Accounts and Import” menu.

Send As Settings

To do this you’ll click on the option to “Add another email address you own” and follow the instructions. It will require you to verify the secondary email address that you’re adding so make sure to go click on the verification email that Gmail sends you!

Add Send From Part 1

Add Send From Part 2

I did initially have an issue getting Gmail to allow the import and kept receiving a “Server denied POP3 access for the given username and password. Show error details Server returned error: [AUTH] Username and password not accepted.” but a quick search on Google turned up that this problem is typically resolved by using this unlock captcha link: Poof! Import problem fixed and everything now imports appropriately.

I hope these instructions are helpful to anyone who is interested. On a side note, Gmail does also offer an option to forward email from one email address to another which is another option for getting your secondary email into your primary email inbox.

And remember! Inbox zero doesn’t necessarily mean there are no emails in your inbox at all. It means you have reclaimed your email inbox. According to Merlin Mann, who coined the phrase “Inbox Zero”: “It’s about how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many messages are in your inbox – it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” So don’t stress! You’ll know when you arrive at your own Inbox Zero.

Iceland by Jared Erondu

Iceland by Jared Erondu

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Productivity Progress and Tackling Time Management

“Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle.”1

"Lucy Does a Commercial"

“Lucy Does a Commercial”

Wouldn’t it be great if the solution to all your problems really was in that Vitameatavegamin bottle? Can’t find that ancestor? Take a spoonful of Vitameatavegamin! Struggling to figure out that source citation? Missing records from the courthouse? Don’t have enough time in your day for everything you need to get done? Another spoonful of Vitameatavegamin to the rescue!

Did someone say not enough time in the day? Oh what truth! At my full-time job I’m pretty close to a productivity and time management guru, but it seems like once I get home that guru is nowhere to be found. It’s always been a source of frustration for me. And it’s a frustration that I’ve finally been forced to meet head-on thanks to last month’s ProGen assignment. Spending time identifying “time bandits” may seem counter-productive at first glance (because, why would you use time identifying what sucks away all your time when you could be researching???) but it actually helps save time in the long-term. Once you’ve identified what needs to be changed (and accepted that you’re having the same struggles as thousands of other people!) you can begin to make the schedule changes necessary to more fully use your free time (and I use the term “free time” very loosely). I was able to complete and submit my ProGen assignment early, which I was very proud of! Baby steps to better time management, right? But that wasn’t good enough. Once that assignment was submitted it occurred to me that I shouldn’t just stop there. As Oscar Goldman said “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.”2

Or, in this case, myself. I could rebuild my productivity and time management skills. I had the technology. I could make myself better than I was. Better, more productive, a time management master at home as well as at work! So I sat down at my computer and continued researching best practices for productivity and time management. I had already implemented email and calendar access on my smartphone. My smartphone is my brain. I don’t leave home without it, I make sure it’s always backed up and updated and it serves as my personal assistant in all things. But what I discovered, as I read about different productivity and time management systems is that there were people in the world who were using their smartphones far, far better than I was. Then, I ran across a post about Inbox Zero and became obsessed. Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert, Merlin Mann and it’s goal is exactly what it sounds like…an empty (or close to empty) email inbox. Could I reach Inbox Zero, I wondered? I couldn’t actually remember the last time I didn’t have emails just sitting in my email waiting for me to deal with them.

As I continued to read articles and blog posts and responses to the time management assignment in ProGen I heard about the time management method called “Getting Things Done” and was intrigued. If you’ve never heard about “Getting Things Done” by a productivity consultant named David Allen. Wikipedia has a good description of the method here and Lifehacker has a great post that breaks down how to get started with GTD here. But my “AHA!” moment came when I read Jamie Todd Rubin’s post Going Paperless: My Process for Keeping Evernote Clutter-Free. Jamie provides a graphic illustrating his clutter-free process in the post that really hit home with me and it was exactly what I’d been looking for to help me understand what to do next. So I combined bits of GTD with Jamie Todd Rubin’s clutter-free process and…drum roll please!…actually achieved Inbox Zero!!!!! But not just on my emails, I also managed to completely clean out my Feedly newsfeed as well!

No unread emails!

No unread emails!

No unread blog posts!

No unread blog posts!













My dear friends, I can’t tell you how good it felt to see this! And now that I’ve successfully achieved Inbox Zero it feels less overwhelming whenever I open my email or Feedly. I’ve now scheduled time each day to review and act on all (or most) items in my inbox and Feedly. My next project is cleaning up my Pocket feed.

So, here’s the specifics: it took me two days of research and reading to determine what I thought might work for me. I had many of the services already set up or in use so I didn’t need to spend any extra time doing that. Here’s the list of services I’m currently using:

  • Gmail – I have a couple of Gmail addresses that I use, one for personal items, one for genealogy, one for my HAM radio-related emails and one for junk. I set up my personal email to also accept my genealogy and HAM radio emails, using filters to give them special labels and by-pass my inbox completely. I can then review each set of email separately without having to log in to the different accounts. I looked at the multiple inbox lab option in Gmail but just didn’t love the way it looked.
  • Trello – Trello is a service that helps organize your projects. It’s well-known in the business world as a project management and collaboration tool that utilizes boards, cards and lists. I set up a board for my to-do list and used the email to board feature to start creating cards from my emails for items that needed to be handled. I also use it to collect and organize ideas for my blog as well as use it to collaborate with my family on our genealogy.
  • Zapier – Zapier is a service that connects together two web services. Think cause and effect for the digital age. You select the services you want to integrate (for example, Gmail and Trello), set up a “Zap” (basically a recipe) and turn it on and it helps you automate tasks. So in the example of Gmail and Trello, I told Zapier whenever an email came into my inbox that met certain criteria a new Trello card should be set up on my to-do board. One less thing I have to manually do which means time saved.
  • Pocket – Pocket is a service for managing items you want to review at a later time. You can save articles, videos and more. This is my “middle man” for items I want to read later but don’t want to clutter up Evernote with until I decide whether I want to keep the item permanently or not.
  • Feedly – Feedly is a news aggregator that compiles news feeds from various sources for a centralized reading location. I use it for reading blog posts from other bloggers.
  • Evernote – Evernote is a service for note-taking, organizing and archiving. I use this to store items I want to keep permanently and refer back to later.

This may sound like a lot of things to use but once you get everything set up correctly it actually saves time.

The next step was to sit down with my email inbox and just start slogging through it. I adhered strictly to the “Two-Minute Rule” in GTD. The two minute rule basically states if you can read and reply to an email in two minutes or less you should take care of it immediately. Otherwise it goes into a follow up area. Then you schedule time to take care of items that you’ve filed in your follow up area. I spent a full day going through my email inbox learning how to identify items that could be handled immediately, what needed to go in follow up, what could be added to my calendar, task list or Trello board and what needed to be stored in Evernote. I did the same with my Feedly news feed using Pocket as my “middle man” for things I wanted to save and read but would take longer than a couple of minutes to review. Once I finished weeding and organizing my email I determined what items I could use Zapier to automate and set up Zaps for those items. In Trello I use the reminder feature, tagging and email to board or email to card features. In Evernote I use the notebooks and tagging features. In Gmail I use filters, labels and the check mail from other accounts settings.

While this system may work for me others won’t find it so useful. A system of organization is a very personal thing and, unfortunately, a spoonful of Vitameatavegamin won’t fix productivity and time management problems. If you’re looking for a way to reach Inbox Zero, spend some time looking at the different systems out there right now. Maybe whiteboards and post-it notes are your thing or you’d rather have a spiral-bound notebook next to your computer. Whatever system you try, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work for you on the first try. Keep trying other systems and eventually you’ll find something that works for you. If I can do it friends, so can you!

And now, my dear friends, I think a celebration is in order 🙂

South Lake Tahoe, United States

Photo by Kimson Doan (Unsplash)


1 Oppenheimer, Jess, Madelyn Davis, and Bob Caroll, Jr. “Lucy Does a TV Commercial.” I Love Lucy. Desilu Productions. Hollywood, CA, 5 May 1952. Television.

2 Schwartz, Elroy. “Population: Zero.” The Six Million Dollar Man. Silverton Productions. Universal City, CA, 18 Jan. 1974. Television.

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Let’s Talk Goals

The end of each year always brings with it a whirlwind of activity and with all that activity comes the realization that the list of things you meant to complete continues to grow in length. Then come the New Year’s Resolutions, those items you want to see happen or get done in the coming year. In 2013 Forbes posted an article titled Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It. which stated “But for all the good intentions, only a tiny fraction of us keep our resolutions; University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.” Wow, just single digit successes. And, sadly, I’m among the double digits who did not succeed with New Year’s Resolutions. Thus, I stopped making resolutions years ago because of this. A few years ago I began to realize that maybe it was simply time for a reorganization of my resolutions. Instead of resolutions, I would set goals to be completed throughout the year. Well, it’s taken a couple of years but I think I’m finally beginning to understand how to create goals that I can complete successfully. And now I feel like I can go back to creating a list of goals at the beginning of the year for completion during the year.

And it seems to be that type of year. Amy Johnson Crow recently posted about setting SMART genealogy goals in her post How to Set a Smart Genealogy Goal. Family Sleuther also referenced the SMART goals system in his post Genealogy Goals in 2016. These posts were a great reminder about the structure I should be using for my goals for the upcoming year. The concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals has been around for many years. One of the earliest references to S.M.A.R.T. goals is found in a November 1981 issue of Management Review. According to Wikipedia “The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them.” The S.M.A.R.T. goal system has stood the test of time and still provides a good structure for goal setting. So I decided to use the S.M.A.R.T. system along with the information from Five Golden Rules for Successful Goal Setting which was posted on to set my goals for 2016. Here’s what I came up with for my 2016 genealogy goals:

1. Submit assignments/homework for my ProGen class on-time or early each month.

2. Watch or participate in at least 3 genealogy education events each month. This would include things like webinars, online discussions, society meetings, etc.

3. Genealogy Do-OverFully participate in and complete the 2016 Genealogy Do-Over. I’ve been playing with getting my genealogy file cleaned up for the last year. Since the announcement of the discontinuation of Family Tree Maker I’ve been considering whether to change to a different software program for my family tree information. I downloaded and played with several programs and finally made the decision to change to Legacy Family Tree software. It was a difficult decision between RootsMagic and Legacy but Legacy seemed to fit my needs better. And since I was switching software and it seemed like a good time to go all in on the Genealogy Do-Over. Plus the new timeline of the Genealogy Do-Over suited my current work load much better than the previous timeline.

4. Get OrganizedActively participate in and complete DearMyrtle’s FINALLY Get Organized challenge. I struggle with organization anyway so interests or hobbies that require storage of anything really tax my few organizational skills. DearMyrtle has created a weekly checklist challenge to help those struggling with organization to finally get organized. I’m interested to see what DearMyrtle has in store for this challenge. It sounds promising and I can use all the help I can get!

These are the goals I’ll be starting out with in 2016. Since I’m participating in ProGen, the Genealogy Do-Over and FINALLY Get Organized I’m not setting any goals specifically for researching. I may set these types of goals after seeing where my time falls between family, work and the goals set out above but I want to set myself up for success on my goals this year instead of failure. And my wish for you, dear reader, is success as well. Success in whatever goals you may choose to set for yourself.

Here’s to all those that I love.
Here’s to all those that love me.
And here’s to all those that love those that I love,
And all those that love those that love me!
Author Unknown

Photo by Glen Carrie (Unsplash)

Photo by Glen Carrie (Unsplash)

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The Sky Is (Not) Falling

Ancestry succeeded in rocking the world of a large number of genealogists today with their surprise announcement that they would be retiring Family Tree Maker genealogy software at the end of 2015.  Cue Chicken Little and hoards of unhappy genealogists bearing pitchforks and flaming torches.

Angry Mob (

Angry Mob (

But hold fair citizens of Genealogy-land!  All is not lost and, nay, the sky dost not fall today!

First dear reader, I strongly encourage you to go read Ancestry’s blog post here.  Knowledge is power and Ancestry spells out exactly what their short-term plans are for Family Tree Maker software.  If you didn’t run off to read their much-discussed blog post and are still with me, dear reader, here’s a short recap of what Ancestry said:

  • Ancestry will stop selling Family Tree Maker software as of 31 December 2015.
  • Ancestry will continue to support the Family Tree Maker software at least through 1 January 2017.
  • All software features (including TreeSyncTM) will continue to function and Ancestry will offer support, bug fixes and compatibility updates at least through 1 January 2017.

So take a breath, dear reader, your Family Tree Maker software will not turn into a pumpkin at the end of December.  As a user of Family Tree Maker myself I freely admit that losing FTM sucks.  A few years ago I reconsidered whether I wanted to continue using FTM, tried out some other programs and discovered I was still happy with FTM so I dove into learning to utilize all available features in FTM.  I recently had started going through and making sure I had all my sources attached and properly cited (a project that I’m still currently working on).  Having put all that effort into my FTM file I was initially devastated when I read about Ancestry’s intention to discontinue FTM.  Genealogy isn’t just a hobby for many of us.  It’s a very personal crusade to find and remember our ancestors.  When we partner with organizations and allow them to be a part of our genealogical passion it becomes the ultimate betrayal when said organization doesn’t behave as genealogists feel it should.  But no matter how personal of a relationship we believe we have, these organizations are still businesses in the end and must do what they can to survive and thrive.  And there’s always another side to every story, though we may never know what it is.

At this point you may be grabbing your pitchfork or flaming torch and asking yourself what the point of this post is.  Quite simply the post is merely my opinions and intentions as a user of Family Tree Maker.  Change is never easy, but sometimes it’s for the best.  There are several other programs and apps on the market to try and choose between.  And here we arrive at my first opinion: there is plenty of time to research, review and choose new software.  There’s no need to dive headfirst into purchasing new software right away.  Many of the companies that are still offering genealogical software provide a free trial of their software.  Go download the trial versions and use them to the fullest capacity allowed by the trial version.  Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy is writing an ongoing series called “Plan ahead for genealogy research without Family Tree Maker ~ Part 1 of an ongoing series” that I highly recommend following along with.  She lists several good resources that have already been posted on the WWW.

Which brings us to my second opinion: look at this as an opportunity…an opportunity to wrangle those loose ends and clean up your genealogy.  Thomas MacEntee started a great, free program called the Genealogy Do-Over.  There are different ways to participate in this program and it’s an excellent way to check your research, make sure everything fits the way it’s supposed to, cite your sources and (in general) clean up your genealogy.  Besides the Do-Over website, Thomas has created a Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group which is a great location for discussion and resources (even if you don’t plan to participate in the Do-Over!)

And for the trifecta, my third opinion: continue learning and trying new things.  Sometimes as genealogists we get stuck in a rut.  Running the same searches, looking at the same databases, checking the same sources over and over hoping to find some new information.  We must be careful to avoid becoming stagnant and try hard to remain flexible.

Also keep in mind, Ancestry hasn’t really made mention of long-term plans.  While they may be choosing to discontinue FTM at this point in time, there may be another idea currently in development.  Or they may choose to focus on other things instead.  New technology isn’t an overnight creation.  It takes time, effort and manpower.

So, dear reader, take a breath and look to the future.  It has a bright and beautiful sky.

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

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