Shake That Family Tree Event

Blog Post Banner for "Shake That Family Tree" Event

On 14 October 2023 the Howard County Genealogical and Historical Societies and the Howard County Public Library System organized the “Shake That Family Tree” event at the Miller Library in Ellicott City, MD. This was intended as a beginner-level event, but there was certainly great information for all the genealogists who attended.

I was delighted to have been invited to host a table about military research and my books. All day long there were interesting talks, and a room full of tables with representatives from local history and genealogical societies who were eager to share information about what they were doing and offer help to genealogists at all levels.

Many of the people who stopped by did not know if they had ancestors who served in WWI. The best place to check is the FamilySearch database for the VA Master Index, which has been covered in this updated blog’s post “Did My Ancestor Serve in WWI?” to reflect the changed search interface.

The Howard County Genealogical and Historical Societies and the Miller Library hosted a wonderful event, and it is certainly my hope that this might become an annual event!

"Shake That Family Tree" tables

Back to School: Genealogy Style

Blog Post Cover: Back to school genealogy style

When autumn comes, we think of going back to school. Genealogists are always learning, and webinars are a great way to do that. Presentations give us information, introduce us to new techniques or provide a new way of looking at our research. These resources in the blog post offer great classes and more.

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library hosts the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) and has many recorded webinars available on its YouTube Channel. You can even send them an email if you have a question.

ACPL Genealogy Center Home Page

The Midwest Genealogy Center at Mid-Continent Public Library offers a variety of resources. You can even request an Appointment with a Genealogy Consultant. Be sure to check out their upcoming and register for them on their events page. You can view their recorded talks on their YouTube Channel.

The Midwest Genealogy Center at Mid-Continent Public Library Home Page

BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library offers new webinars every week. They also offer a large library of recorded webinars.

BYU Library Webinar Page

Of course for the more adventurous, consider a class at your local community college.

When everyone around is going back to school, join them!

ChatGPT Shared Links

Blog Banner Blog Post - ChatGPT Shared Chat

NOTE: DO NOT ENTER PRIVATE OR SENSITIVE DATA INTO ChatGPT. Your data is used for training, and is reviewed by OpenAI to verify that content complies with their policies and safety requirements. Data may be used for training purposes.

ChatGPT has a new feature, and it’s pretty nice! Next to the name of the chat there are buttons to edit the name of the chat, share the chat and delete the chat.

Buttons next to chat name

Now you can share your chats via the click of a button.

Share Chat button

When you share the chat, anyone with the link will be able to see what you and the AI chatted about, up until the time that you generated the link. If your conversation with the AI continues after the link has been created (by sending new messages to the AI), the new part of the conversation will not be shared.

When you click on the button to share the chat, you are able to see a preview of what will be shared.

Click on the three dots (sideways snowman) to share your username when the link is opened.

Option to share your name with the link

The other option is to share anonymously.

Option to share the link anonymously

Click on the Copy Link button, and the link can then be pasted in an email, or by other means.

A really interesting feature is that the person with the link has the option to Continue this conversation if they are logged into their OpenAI account.

Continue this conversation button

A user with the link can import your conversation into their own chat history. They will have that part of your conversation, even if you delete the conversation in your account.

You can delete the link, and it will no longer work.

In addition to sharing a chat, I found the shared link feature helpful for copying the text of a conversation and pasting it into a word processing document. I opened a new tab in my browser and pasted the link.

Screenshot of a Chat

When you click on More Info, a browser tab will open to the ChatGPT Shared Links FAQ page.

The first piece of information on this page is that this feature may not be available on your account yet. The feature is being rolled out gradually.

Let me know how you do.

Artificial Intelligence: Google Bard vs. ChatGPT

Blog Post Banner: Google Bard vs. ChatGPT

It is inevitable that similar AI tools will be compared. This blog post takes a look at comparing OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Bard.

When Google Bard was asked how it was different from ChatGPT, it answered that its training data contained images, that it could access the internet, and that it was a more general AI rather than a text-generating AI. Bard also told me that while ChatGPT was creative, it was more creative.

Google Bard has an interesting approach to answering prompts. Unlike ChatGPT, its training and knowledge does not end at 2021. It can go out and get content from the web to generate its answers.

Like ChatGPT, Google Bard can also hallucinate and authoritatively state inaccurate information. The “Google it” button found under a Bard response can help comfort you that the answer is not a hallucination.

These two AI tools do have some differences.

ChatGPT offers multiple conversations so that a user’s conversations can stay organized. It also has the ability to present previous conversations and pick up where it left off. Google Bard holds one conversation. It allows users to return to their previous prompts by selecting their Bard Activity from its menu. The responses to the prompts have to be selected at the time, and cannot be recalled.

Bard responses can contain images returned from the web. The responses, without any images, can be uploaded to a document in the user’s Google Drive or into the text of a gmail. ChatGPT responses are text-only, and need to be copied and pasted from the browser into a document. (Note: browser addons or plugins to capture responses are not discussed in this blog post. Any code you add to your browser this way should be researched thoroughly!)

Given that the content generated by Bard is not owned by the user, I will probably use ChatGPT for generating text and explaining concepts. (Of course, what ChatGPT generates should be verified!) I do prefer that responses are saved, and that different chats can be active.

It is possible that I might lean on Google Bard more for research questions, and will ask Bard for its sources. Undoubtedly the “Google it” button will be used in those efforts.

Of course, we can expect that Google Bard and other AI tools will continue to evolve at a rapid pace.

Based on the versions available at the time of this blog post being written, below is a table comparing features of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Bard that I found notable.

Genealogy and AI: Google Bard

Blog Post banner - Genealogy and AI: Google Bard

Although Google Bard states that it removes personally identifiable information when using conversations to improve the model, DO NOT INCLUDE PERSONAL INFORMATION IN YOUR CHATS.

This week I spent some time working with Google’s challenger to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Google Bard is a Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), and I was working on the day that Bard began to bring images from Google Search into its results. Bard advertises that it helps you plan, solves complicated problems and supports your creative process. When it quotes content, it will cite where it found the material, or the computer code repository that was used.  

In this article you will notice that I do include screenshots of answers, as I did for ChatGPT. That is because Google owns the generated content. If anyone wants to publish the content, they have to get permission from Google; at best Google and the user might share the rights to material. (In comparison, when you generate content in ChatGPT you own the rights to that content.)

Google Bard can be found at:

I also recommend viewing the Frequently Asked Questions.

You can select to save your Bard Activity, but even if that option is deselected, your activity is saved for up to 48 hours so that the feedback can be used. You can also select whether or not your activity is auto-deleted after 18 months. In my Bard Activity I could see the prompts that were given, but could not retrieve Bard’s responses, so remember to SAVE the responses. At the time of your session you can copy-and-paste them into a document or use the upload function described below.  

The menu for Google Bard appears on the left hand side of the window.

At the bottom of each response were buttons to like, dislike, upload the response, or “Google it”

bottom of Google Bard response

When you select to upload a response, you have options to upload it your Google Drive or draft an email in Gmail. The uploaded response will include text but NOT include the images you see in Bard.

Google Bard upload options

I decided to ask some genealogically oriented questions, as I had done when testing ChatGPT.

“What are good resources for genealogy?” The answer to this prompt was a reasonable list of record databases, websites and societies.

“How can you help me with my genealogy?” This prompt was answered with ideas about genealogy research, finding resources, interpreting data and help create a family tree.

“How did someone travel from New York City to Newport, RI, in 1850?” Google Bard answered that the travel would have been by stage coach and steam ship, presenting me with images and data from the web along with its answer.

I asked what its sources were for this information, and it was listed sources. It also shared that it used its own knowledge to fill in the gaps.

When I asked how to find the source material, it provided links to places to buy a physical copy but did not provide a link to the source on Google Books. It did tell me that the book was available to view and download from Google Books. That resource was actually a very interesting discussion on travel to Newport between 1800 and 1850.

Since the user does not own the generated content, and the web is used to help answer prompts, this AI tool may be more useful to me as a research assistant.

You can always give it a try!