Thursday, 4 February 2021

Virtual Bookshelves for Genealogy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Collections in LibraryThing

A lively discussion on #ANZAncestryTime about genealogy books prompted me to revisit a 2018 post Once upon a shelf wherein I discussed the use of LibraryThing and its associated OPAC TinyCat for listing both personal and institutional collections of books. Tim Spalding, the founder and LT guru, just mentioned this feature again on Twitter.

In the last 12 months my local genealogy group, Cooroy-Noosa Genealogical & Historical Research Group, approved the move to to this online catalogue and one can now search the collection through the TinyCat OPAC. or view the traditional LibraryThing entries. Some other Australian groups I have found using LibraryThing include:

My own genealogy books and genealogy based fiction titles I have enjoyed, feature as links on my TinyCat page. If I have them stored in Evernote they have a tag to indicate that. I have very few paper books as I find membership at a range of libraries provides me with access to a wide range of both paper and ebooks. But what does one do with purchased or free ebooks once downloaded? 


Calibre is a free, open source cross platform program for storing ebooks that come in a variety of formats. This is always my first port of call and books stored here can be read on the computer in a wide range of formats or transferred to other devices. There is a built in function for converting books to alternative formats, e.g. PDF to ePub is one of the many conversions available.

Calibre Companion app for both iOS and Android enables the transfer of ebooks to your device where they can be read with your preferred ebook reader.


When I wrote about Evernote in 2016 the basic version allowed one to sync notes across several devices so I put it on my Android phone, my iPad, and laptop as well as being able to log in to a web version.

The basic version of Evernote is still free but time moves on and now one needs pay $A89.99 per year to use Evernote on more than 2 devices. I am currently reviewing the frequency of my Evernote usage on various devices.

Evernote for storage of ebooks 

Evernote has an excellent search function which retrieves tags or titles of notes or words within notes.

3 methods of getting files into Evernote
  • PDF ebook files can be sent to Evernote via one's own Evernote email address. 
  • PDFs open on the web can be saved to Evernote via the web clipper extension available for most browsers 
  • Files on computer - Start a new note then drag and drop the file into the note
Any other formats will need an additional app to open them but PDFs can be opened and searched within Evernote. 
Either allocate each book a tag of 'book' or place them in a single dedicated notebook, depending on your preferred method of working within Evernote. 
I have allocated a tag book so they are all easily retrieved.

Each book is stored within an individual note.
Each note has an individual address within Evernote so it is simple to create a separate Index note to list all the books stored within Evernote. 
  • Create a new note, name Index Genealogy Books
  • Go to the note where an individual book is stored
  • On Desktop version choose Share and under More Sharing - Copy Internal link 

Desktop sharing options
  • On mobile version go to share note and under More sharing options or the three dot (hamburger) menu choose - Copy internal link
  • Paste the link just copied into  Index Genealogy Books note
  • repeat for all the other books to generate a simple clickable list for quick access to any one title
Sample from my Index of Genealogy titles in Evernote

A brief list of free sources I find useful for family history and genealogy related titles

1. Local Library collection -  242 titles listed under genealogy Search by Family History, filter with topic History, sort by date latest, first or newest. 
2. NLA via Trove Digital Library, many historic digitised titles now available e.g. A Genealogical History of the Pioneer Families of Australia 
3. Internet archive - texts e.g. search genealogy or history, narrow by location - Free login to borrow or download depending on title.
4. BorrowBox for general limited time ebook borrowing- via local library Browse by category - History, many Australian titles
5. Google Books - Use drop down menu to choose Free e.g. Australian history then download as PDF or ePub

No matter the source of the book, I try to remember list it in LibraryThing with an appropriate tag so that I know whether I own it, whether it is an ebook or paper copy, where it is stored or whether I have just read it. 

How do you keep track of your family history/genealogy related titles and do you distinguish between those you own and those you have just read?

This post first appeared on

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Revisiting the AJCP in Trove

Australian Joint Copying Project

In my preparations for a webinar for the Society of Australian Genealogists about the Australian Joint Copying Project now available through Trove, I uncovered many treasures awaiting the family historian, too many indeed to include in a presentation.

My points emphasised the need to browse the Finding Aids to make best use of this huge resource as so much of it is manuscript, inaccessible via text searches through the current limitations of OCR technology. There are more than 8 million digitised images along with over 10,000 digitised text pages.
The Finding Aids accessed from the AJCP portal provide a comprehensive view of the kinds of resources within both the PRO (Public Records Office) and M (Miscellaneous) series.

One should not be discouraged if searching by name but rather think about the types of records that may have recorded the names or other details about one's ancestors. Some examples:
  • By browsing within the emigration records housed within the Colonial Office records, one can find individual letters of application as well as registers where emigrants names, occupations, ages and place of origin are handwritten.
  • Looking inside the Finding Aid for the Board of Trade - registers of seamen with their qualification as mate or master can be found.
  • Job applications for missionary positions in the colonies provide a wealth of personal details about the applicants. These are found through various organisations listed in the M Series.
  • The records preserved by a wide range of societies and businesses provide rich background material for family historians
  • County Office archives Finding Aids provide a window into the various resources that have been digitised, so if you know the county from where your emigrants came, browse that finding aid.
  • Personal letters exchanged between family members give details of trips, living conditions and sometimes include photos. Signatures are a treasure to collect.
To whet the appetite to explore more here are a few finds that were not included in my webinar.

Enjoy exploring these vast resources not just from the AJCP portal page but also by searching within the Diaries, Letters &Archives category in Trove where all this material in now available.

This post first appeared on

Monday, 16 November 2020

Mission Creep in Family History

FHF Really Useful family history Show
Logo on FHF Really Useful Family History Show

Mission Creep : a gradual shift in objectives, when one sets out on a certain research path and gets  taken down another path into side issues.

I learnt this definition this weekend while watching the presentation by Helen Tovey of Family Tree magazine as part of the FHF Really Useful Family History online conference. 
"While on a mission to find out one thing, it's all too easy to get side-tracked when tracing our family histories. Helen Tovey takes a look at how to make a 10 minute task take 10 hours, and learns some salutary lessons along the way."
Helen outlined her research question and then showed the many paths taken as her research expanded to cover social circumstances well beyond her original enquiry. This was a delightful presentation with reflection along the way phrased as “What have I learnt?” 

Time to pause and reflect of what have I learnt from this conference. 
  1. This was just one of the many excellent value learning opportunities provided online for family historians. For just 7 pounds (about $12.70 Australian) 21 talks were provided, all available across 48 hours. I watched 10 of those talks, the ones that interested me most, so for less than $2 per talk I had access to experts in a variety of fields in English and Scottish research. One should choose wisely how to spend online time. I would not have attended 21 talks in a one day, or even a two day conference, so do not expect myself to attend every talk in the online environment. [edited; 24 hours later now and I see 23 videos available]
  2. Once again I was reminded of the importance of recording every detail from available records to save wasting time by having to revisit searches, no matter how trivial the information may appear at the time.
  3. The FamilySearch wiki is always worth a revisit as a wealth of information is continually added there. The England Genealogy page provides an excellent list of all the likely sources and record types one needs to exploit when investigating family history. Navigating the wiki is simplified by the use of a similar boxed layout on all pages with multiple access points provided throughout.
  4. It is always worth learning new skills and attending presentations from experts in fields other than one's own interest to look afresh at different ways of doing things. The Trade and Occupation Sources presented by David Cufley and the My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer by Ian Waller both provided a wealth of sources along with useful background information about terminology and occupations in the UK.
  5. A comprehensive coverage of a variety of ways to search the three Free UK Genealogy sites, Free BMD, FreeCen and FreeReg was concise and clearly presented by Graham Hart with an important reminder to always check the coverage of any database one may be searching.
  6. Not all organisations have yet managed to provide a seamless online experience by providing videos, chat and links to speakers' notes in a single platform. The push to sign up for yet another platform was less than optimal with a flurry of underlined words in emails that were not links. However I am thankful to the Family History Federation for providing the opportunity to attend this conference from Australia, an opportunity I would not have had, had the conference not been online. 
To return to Mission Creep, that gradual shift in objectives. I started researching family history in 2013 with the objective of finding and recording the stories of direct ancestors. Over time this has expanded to distant relatives on both sides of our families. Whilst the hunt for sources is half the joy of family history for those of us who enjoy the research process, it is the recording of those ancestors stories that should be my focus. 

Time to move back to that objective, know that many sources are out there, but stories need to be told to be preserved for future generations.