Making Genealogy Interfaces More Engaging, a Rootstech Talk

Charles Knutson, a professor at BYU, had a very enticing title for his talk, “Genealogy Meets Angry Birds: Making Interfaces More Addictive.” You can see how I picked the presentations to attend … by catchy title.

Play is part of being human and a mammal. All mammals play. Playing develops our skills in a safe environment. It’s great fun to run from a dragon in a game but in real life getting burned while you scramble over the gold would not be fun at all.

So why is genealogy like doing taxes for most people and not more like playing? In a game like angry birds, you know what you have accomplished so far and what your goals are. Genealogy programs do not save your place nor do they set your goals. They are just tools to manage your data and do not engage you the way a game does.

In a quick display of numerical scale he mentioned that there are 2.7 million paying members which sounded impressive until he pointed out that there are 2 billion Angry Birds players …

Continue reading

Getting Cousins to Test, a Rootstech Talk

I really love the title Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist, used for his talk -“Begging for Spit” …
Having test results from my two second cousins has been extremely useful for narrowing down which family line new matches are related on. So I would really like to get  more cousins to test.

Blaine suggests using these three Es to guide you:


When discussing each of these, he stressed that you do not want to overwhelm your contact. That means no three page emails filled with technical terms! Make your request specific, short, and to the point. Make it visual and informative.

Continue reading

Searching the Norwegian Digital Archives, a Rootstech Talk

UPDATE 6 June 2017 – the archives have a new look and new site at

Many of us Norwegian-American researchers have been complaining about the new archives and its search function. So I went to the talk by Finn Karlsen of the Digitalarkivet hoping to gain a better understanding. Of course the first thing he told us was that the old archive would die at the end of March as would the links we might have been using in our trees to reference data there. This is not news as we have been hearing it for a while.

After listening to him I thought I understood what I had been doing wrong with my searches at the new digital archive site – I had not understand how to correctly use wildcards there. Apparently the asterisk * wildcard can only be used at the beginning or end of a word, not in the middle. Also the pipe character | can be used as an OR.

Finn of course made it look easy with his examples of searching. He promises to have his presentation posted at his website by the end of next week. He already has some explanations of how to use the simple search on his site.

The simple search example he gave in his talk was

Bernh* nes*|næss*

So I tried that at home and got this:

DigitarkivSearch Continue reading

Congratulations to contest winner Linda Hall-Little

LindaLittleCongratulations to Linda Hall-Little who has won a free pass to RootsTech 2014 for her question for Spencer Wells, “What is the future of DNA in genealogy? – say 25 years from now….”

Linda is excited to be coming to the conference. She is also a family history blogger at and “she enjoys helping friends and family get started with their genealogy.”

She lives in New Hampshire and has deep New England roots. I look forward to meeting her!


News for Rootstech 2014: one day left in my contest, and my Saturday schedule

VideoCamMany of the Rootstech sessions will be streamed to the internet and then available for about a year online. The schedule of those sessions is at the familysearch web site: so I will add this video symbol to the sessions I am going to that will be online.

Today is the last day  for my readers to win a free pass to Rootstech 2014

In my last post I had looked through the schedule for Rootstech up until Friday at 1:00. Below I have laid out the rest of what I plan to attend.

I am excited to finally meet Daniel Horowitz with whom I work remotely on the IAJGS cemetery site. He is the Chief Genealogist at, of which I am a big fan. One of the problems for those of us with recent ancestors from Europe is finding online sources and our distant relatives abroad. MyHeritage and, who are partnered now, are two of the best sites to assist with that.

So this is a must-go-to session for me!

Finding Family and Ancestors Outside the USA with MyHeritage New Technologies RT1278


VideoCamLearn how MyHeritage tools can help break down brick walls in your research of ancestors outside of the United States by harnessing the power of an international family history network.

Friday, 2:30 PMRoom: Ballroom Hall

Skill Level


Hopefully I will find some time for the Exhibit Hall

Continue reading