Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Demonstrating GenSmarts

Demonstrating GenSmarts

This past Saturday, Ol' Myrt had the distinct pleasure of giving a
presentation about GENSMARTS, the artificial intelligence software that
helps researchers look at their genealogy database and come up with
suggestions of books and online resources that might provide documentation
to prove an event or family relationship.

Ol' Myrt knew she could rely on her PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate
what happens when one does a GENSMARTS SmartSearch for an online census
record, etc. (One never knows if wireless internet connections will work in
real time during the class.)

BUT THE INTERNET CONNECTION DID WORK Saturday, so I had a blast showing the
class how fantastic GENSMARTS really is! On your command, GenSmarts opens a
new window, goes to the appropriate census search at Ancestry (or
HeritageQuest) and literally types in the ancestor's name, and clicks the search button, while you sit back, and watch the action!

Ol' Myrt demonstrated how to save the census graphic, switch to RootsMagic
(or other genealogy software) to immediately attach the graphic to each
person in the family mentioned in the census record. I also showed how to
copy/paste's database description and URL for proper
bibliographic citation. It is also wise to make a transcription of the
census record in an ancestor's notes in RootsMagic, and then copy/paste that
typed descriptive paragraph from the head of household's notes to each of
the other applicable family members' notes.

-- how to narrow the search to one root ancestor (Ol' Myrt gets over 40,000
GenSmarts suggestions with her database of 16,000+ names)
-- how to mark entries as FOUND, NOT FOUND, IGNORE (Ignore is what I do for
irrelevant suggestions, such as looking for a marriage record in one place
when I've already found it in another state.)
-- how to pull up PLAN TO SEARCH marked items
-- how to search just for MISSOURI +marriage, etc.
-- how to narrow the search to a specific research facility
-- how to print a list of entries to search on the shelves at the Dallas
public library (or any of the listed research facilities for that matter)

NOTE: The comment on the GENSMARTS website about GENSMARTS not working on a
Mac with Windows emulator might need to be changed. One class participant
has a brand new MAC, and reports that GenSmarts does work according to his
experience. I asked GENSMARTS creator Aaron Underwood to comment on this,
and will let my readers know ASAP. I want to be sure that all elements of
GENSMARTS work properly before recommending it to my MAC readers and

BTW I NEVER recommend hitting GENSMART'S "AVAILABLE ONLINE" button, as there
can be more than one database to search, and I don't want people to miss the
opportunity to search each. OL' MYRT INSISTS that people hit that down-arrow
button to the right of the "AVAILABLE ONLINE" button. Then check out the
list of applicable online resources, being careful to work through each
database. During class Saturday, I also explained the differences between
Browse, SmartLink and SmartSearch.

HOW DOES GENSMARTS WORK? In layman's terms, GENSMARTS looks at the names,
dates and localities you've typed into your genealogy management program and
compares each with databases online at a variety of places including
Ancestry, HeritageQuest,, etc. GENSMARTS also looks at online
catalogs of books held at libraries throughout the US. GENSMARTS is
particularly strong for the US, with some Canadian and British entries as
well. The RESULT OF THE COMPARISON is a "to-do list" that you work through
to find indexes and ultimately documents that prove family relationships.
Locating a christening record could list the parents of your ancestor. Of
course not all documents are scanned and available online, so GENSMARTS
points researchers to offline resources.

GENSMARTS EXPLAINS THE LOGIC behind each suggestion and includes the ability
to email the suggestion to someone (perhaps a distant cousin who will be
visiting Salt Lake's Family History Library next week.) I've sent a carbon
copy email to my own "Gmail" account, so that I could access the GENSMARTS
suggestions without bringing my laptop or printing them out. I merely signed
on to my Gmail account using the Family History Library's computers to
remind myself of a specific call number for an index book.

Saturday's GENSMARTS presentation was well-received, with over 100 people
attending the class, standing room only. At least ten people mentioned they
purchased the program a number of years ago, but never really knew how to
use it. The class sparked interest in using the program to effectively work
through research possibilities tailored to one's particular ancestors. Two
Family History Centers (including the Bellevue Washington FHC) are
interested in getting their free copy of GENSMARTS for their FHC computers.

I've asked Aaron to send me a new GENSMARTS CD since it includes several
free training videos - one is about 15 minutes long, the other is 60 minutes
long. This is just the sort of thing you might like to share as a program
for your local genealogy society. Ol' Myrt plans to provide a 90-minute
training session on GenSmarts 19 Dec 2006 as part of the continuing
education program I am teaching on Tuesdays at our local FHC. I'll use excerpts from the videos to provide a
different voice for my students' learning experience.

BTW, I moved my podcasts, including my interview with GENSMARTS' Aaron
Underwood, to

OL' MYRT DOES HAVE A QUESTION FOR GENSMARTS: Is there any way to transfer
the results of my GENSMARTS work from one computer to another? For instance,
I don't want to rework the list just because I am moving from my old desktop
to this new laptop. I can see this sort of utility would be useful as
genealogists, like the rest of the world, tend to replace our computers
every few years or so.


Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE, your friend in genealogy

Snail Mail Address:
227 Bellevue Way NE PMB 544
Bellevue, WA 98004

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