Have you checked out TimeMapper?

Recently, one of the people I follow on Twitter mentioned using TimeMapper to create timelines with maps. If you have attended one of my lectures, or read my books, you will know how important it is to build timelines. Maps are also vital to understanding our ancestors. So imagine how exciting it would be to combine timelines and maps together. TimeMapper is a is free, open-source tool that is a product of the Open Knowledge Foundation Labs. TimeMapper. can be found here.

On the main TimeMapper page there is a 1 minute tutorial to show you how it work. I recommend taking the minute to watch it.

There are three steps: Create a Spreadsheet; Connect and Customize; and Publish, Embed and Share.

You can create an account by signing in with your Twitter account. Ny using your Twitter account, you could use TimeMapper as a Twitter app. As an app, it can read the tweets from your timeline and see who you follow. I chose to use it anonymously, using a spreadsheet published on my google drive.

You don’t have to sign in, or upload your own spreadsheet to see how this works. You can use an example spreadsheet on the webpage to view a TimeMap for “Medieval Philosopher’s Timeline”. Using their sample is a great way to get started. On the left you can scroll through the events in the spreadsheet, with the timeline under them. On the right is a map with the events.

It is easy to use the spreadsheet template, by copying it to your google drive. The spreadsheet with the TimeMapper Template can be found here.

When you create your own TimeMap, the locations for events have to be given in latitude/longitude (or JSON) format. The google spreadsheet contains a google docs formula to look up latitude and longitude, so that the location names can automatically be translated. Add the web addresses (urls) of any images you want to appear with an event in the spreadsheet. You have to delete the top row in the spreadsheet with the instructions. The last step is to publish the spreadsheet to the web. 

I copied the timeline to my google drive, then entered data into the fields to create a timeline for my Grandfather. I followed the instructions in Step 2 to Connect and Customize. Step 3 was to publish.

Use the arrows to cycle through the events, and a corresponding caption location on the map will be displayed. There is a timeline under the events.

The map can be expanded portion can be expanded to get a view of locations that are close together.

 

The TimeMap cannot be downloaded to your computer., but the link to it can be shared. There are options to share your TimeMap to Twitter, or you can copy and paste a link to your TimeMap.

Many thanks to @MNdoughboy1918 for sharing this tool on Twitter.

3 Ways to Find WWI Officer Experience Reports on Fold3

This week I have been working with an interesting record set, the WWI Officer Experience Reports-AEF on Fold3. These records are reports from officers about engineering activities in the AEF. Although there are names in these records, their usefulness goes beyond individual names because they hold information about the military organizations. The names are those of the officers filing the reports to the Chief Engineer of their Army, but the activities are those of the whole military organization to which they were attached.

If you had a WWI Ancestor who served with engineers in the U.S. Army, you might want to check out these records.

The reports are individual accounts of the activities of the engineering officers. It is interesting to read the approach each officer took to telling his story. Some accounts are written in first person, some in third person and there are even poems. Comparing the different accounts of the same event is also interesting. One example is the 816th Pioneer Infantry experience on the trip to France. The Regiment traveled on three ships; one of which had engine trouble and fell out of the convoy. The reports differ on which day the engine trouble began, and how it was remedied. One report gave an officer’s impressions of sub-watching duty in a crow’s nest with a group of sea-sick men.

Most accounts discuss the work done by the engineers, and the officers give examples of the contributions of their men and how proud they were. A few officers express disappointment at arriving in France just before the cessation of hostilities. Then, there are personal accounts like the Lieutenants who hitched a ride to the front with some performers and ended up at a village between the lines. The WWI – Officer Experience Reports can be found here.

 

1) Search by name and/or keyword

When we try a new database it is natural to search for a name or a keyword. For best results, enter your engineering soldier’s name with his military organization.

2. Browse the records.

After you have searched for names, you may find that a better way to go through the records is to browse them. Next to the search box is a “Browse” button. You can also browse the records here.

When browsing these records:
Category = WWI
Publication = WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF
Unit, select your ancestor’s unit from the list
Name, select names from the list within the unit

When you select a name, you will find that officer’s experience report. The reports may be typed or handwritten. You may find that there the officer made duplicates of the reports.

3. Combine browsing and searching

Browse to the military unit and search the subset of records by entering keywords and selecting the keyword option from the drop down menu. In the example below, with the 806th Pioneer Infantry Regiment records selected, I entered the keywords: 806 pioneer headquarters and selected keyword search from the dropdown menu.

The results of the example search are shown below.

No matter how you get to the records, click on the thumbnail of a page to see a larger image of the page and interact with it. You can read the page online, download it, bookmark it on Fold3 (when signed into an account) and save it to an individual on a family tree at Ancestry.com (when signed in). You can also use the arrows on that appear at the bottom of the page to move forward or backward through the pages of the record set.

For those who share my interest in the Pioneer Infantry, you will find that there are reports from the 59th, 806th, and 813th Pioneer Infantry Regiments.

The value of personal accounts cannot be overstated. By committing these stories to writing, the officers are able to share what they did and saw and felt. These reports bridge the century between both of you, so you can spend time to hear the stories they tell.

 

 

Are you a “Genealogy Detective” or a “Genealogy Engineer”?

At a conference a while back, I noticed how many of the presenters were engineers. That got me thinking about how engineering skills help in genealogical research. Then I wondered if genealogists might be more like engineers than detectives.

Usually, genealogists think of themselves as detectives. That makes sense as we interview people, dig through records, and scan for the smallest details of an ancestor’s life. We try to connect the dots and align different versions of an ancestor’s life to establish the truth. We use timelines. We look for good quality resources to use in our exhaustive searches. We focus on including the largest and the tiniest details to build our case.

Engineers and detectives use similar practices in their work. Detecting is certainly a part of engineering. Like detectives, engineers stay focused on a problem. Engineers also bring all the resources that they can to bear on solving a problem. In flight test engineering, I have had to research a system and all its details, employ strategies to compare and combine feedback, and interview participants to solve problems.

Engineers know when to use an estimate and move on with the bigger problem. They keep a list of assumptions and revisit the estimates to make sure that they remain reasonable. Seeing the similarities then brought me think about the differences between detectives and engineers.

How are detectives and engineers different?
I asked several friends what they saw as the difference between detectives and engineers. There were interesting themes that emerged. While there are different goals in their work, engineers and detectives employ a similar skillset.

However, detectives are limited to interpreting the facts in front of them, and engineers look at what can be built using what is available. Engineers look to the future and have to consider safety.

A case for being a “Genealogy Engineer”
Engineers have to look backward to analyze requirements, solve a problem, then look forward to prevent the problem from happening again.

Like an Engineer: In genealogy, we want our conclusions to be relevant in the future. We also do not want to make the same mistake twice.

Detectives can usually go into the field to observe clues. Sometimes engineers don’t get this luxury. They are told what went wrong and have to figure it out without touching the original system. In flight testing some reports simply cannot be duplicated on the ground. It can take a good amount of research, dissection and imagination to figure out what caused these problems.

Like an Engineer: Until there are time machines, we cannot return to an ancestor’s lifetime to view all the facts right after they occurred.

Engineers focus on reproducibility. An example of this was in the recent series about Tesla and his Death Ray. After the engineer proved that a scale model of the death ray would work to destroy a flying drone, his first thought was to see if he could have the same results again. (Spoiler: he did!)

Like an Engineer: Given the same information, would other genealogists reach the same conclusion? If you reanalyze all the information starting over, would your conclusions be reproducible?

Result: Perhaps, I am more of a genealogy engineer.

Special thanks to: David, Dave, Andrea, Beth, Deb and Mark for your insights.

Genealogy at the Movies

There are many movies about families, and while they naturally put us in mind of genealogy, there are some movies where genealogists, or genealogy plays a major role.

Recently, I watched “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. In that movie, James Bond posed as a genealogist to infiltrate the lair of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE. Blofield had been communicating with a London College of Arms’ genealogist Sir Hilary Bray in an attempt to establish his claim to the title of ‘Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp’. James Bond poses as a knowledgeable and irresistible genealogist, with beautiful ladies more interested in seeing his genealogy book that we usually experience. Although there are many camps about who is the best Bond, this one starred George Lazenby as Bond.

“Murder on The Orient Express” always makes me think of genealogy. The connections between the passengers definitely needed a family tree as well as a chart of the Friends, Associates and Neighbors (FAN) Club. The connections to the child and the family were intertwined to the plot. Even people who connected to the family after the event became entwined with the plot.
The Star Wars movies are the ultimate genealogical movies. They encompass a truly large FAN Club, of a multitude of beings. For those family members who do not yet know they are interested in genealogy, teach them about family trees by sketching out Luke and Leia’s genealogy. Perhaps they will want to know how their own genealogy compares.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” is back

Season 9 of “Who Do You Think You Are?” is here! The episodes are airing Monday night on TLC.

Last Monday had two strong episodes with Jon Cryer and Laverne Cox. Discussions with genealogists and interpretation of DNA results were a part of both episodes.

If you would like to stop by and comment during (or after) the episode you can stop by our Facebook page: A Week of Genealogy Facebook Page

Full episodes from this season and Season 8 can be viewed online at:
https://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/full-episodes/courteney-cox
Scroll down to find the links to the other episodes.