Sunday 22 August 2021

Simplify your view

Genealogy life in Covid19 times

Your travel plans have been curbed, the restaurants, museums and art galleries are closed during the lockdown. It is National Family History Month so what better time could there be to review and upgrade the tools you use for family history?

Simple Software enhancements

Do you ever lose track of where that cursor (cursed thing) is? Do you sometimes give presentations to other family historians? Do yourself and other viewers a favour by making your mouse cursor visible.

In the search bar type Mouse pointer > Select from this display

If you do not have Search turned on head to Settings and type in mouse.

Simply drag the bar to enlarge your pointer, this also enlarges the cursor.
If presenting to an audience consider changing to a larger size so that viewers can easily see the pointer.Use the color wheel on the right to choose a colour to contrast with your slides or presentation.

If you do not have the search bar turned on in your bottom toolbar, right click on the up arrow on the far right hand side and select Search then choose either the icon or the search box.


Have you saved some hard-earned money by staying at home? Perhaps a treat for your eyes may help with your family history.

Yes, a second screen for your family history.

Are you working on digitizing your photos and would benefit by viewing them on a larger screen?

Perhaps you have some faded shipping lists or documents that are hard to read.

For far too long I worked only on a laptop or iPad screen. Imagine my delight at having acquired a larger monitor for editing those photos and viewing those faded documents. 

Ways to use a second monitor for family history tasks

  • Comparing data on two browser tabs, simply drag one tab to the second screen to view them side by side.
  • Family history software open on one screen, data source e.g. Ancestry, MyHeritage or any other program open on the second monitor,
  • Data in the family history program open on one screen and a spreadsheet open for filtering and sorting on the second monitor.
  • Copy from one screen and paste to the other.
  • Watch webinars and see the detail in a presenter's slides on a larger screen, while taking notes on your smaller screen.
  • File naming protocol document always open on one screen while saving files on the other
  • Photo digitizing on one screen and spreadsheet for recording them on the other.
My 21" monitor is certainly not a high-end, high-priced product, but more than satisfactory for my needs. If you have saved on expenses during the lockdown, you may like to consider doing your family history a favour with a second monitor.

After plugging the second monitor in either by HDMI or VGA cable do visit Settings to extend the display. 

For those who already have a second monitor, what other genealogy-related tasks are easier with two screens?

This post first appeared on

Sunday 15 August 2021

Three simple ways to make Family Photo collages

made in Canva

It's August 2021 and many in Australia are in lockdown to prevent the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus. It is also National Family History Month here, an excellent time to work on some of those unfinished projects.

Shauna Hicks on Diary of an Australian Genealogist mentioned a photo collage she recently made and this sparked the idea for this blog post, an activity to undertake during NFHM. 

Whether you have endless family photos or just a few, a collage is a quick visual method to generate some extra family interest. Here are three simple methods to assemble a collage whether they be all photos, a combination of photos and document images, or photos of heirlooms. Many of the mobile photo collage apps add a watermark or branding unless you pay or subscribe. These are 3 free options.


There are several online options on sites such as BeFunky and PicMonkey but Canva with an excellent range of free Photo Collage templates tops the list of those available.

From the Canva home page  simply search for photo collage. I prefer to choose from the more menu so that the free ones in each category appear as shown below.

Canva photo collage

Select a Free template then use the Uploads button on the left to upload your photos. Each uploaded photo can then just be dropped onto the template where it will replace the existing photo. Edit any text or click on any photo to adjust or remove it.

These collages are set at 25 x 20 cm. If you wish to make a larger or smaller size, choose Custom Size from the home page and add the desired dimensions. 

Add and resize the photos until the desired effect is achieved. Add some text and decorative elements by choosing these features from the left side panel.

Download choices include png, jpg or pdf print for a high-quality document.


If you have PowerPoint already on your computer it is simple enough to assemble a photo collage. If not, use the free online version.
In a new blank document choose the Design tab>Slide size

Slide size ppt

On a blank slide, insert photos, and crop to shape to add some interest.
Add appropriate icons and text boxes.
Format the background with another image, colour or pattern.
Export as pdf or image - png or jpg

Trip to central Australia - A4 collage created in PowerPoint

Google Drive

There are two options within Google Drive to use.
Slides is the Google alternative to PowerPoint.
Choose Slides>New
From the File menu scroll down to choose Page Setup
Set your desired dimensions and proceed as above.
Individual pages can be downloaded as either jpg or png.

The other alternative in Google Drive is to use Drawings with a blank canvas. In a similar manner use Page Setup to determine the size of your finished collage. Add pictures, shapes text boxes and more. Similar download options are provided or the completed canvas can be published to the web and then easily embedded in a website or blog.

Here's a collage of four generations of family weddings.

Compiled in Google Drawings

Why not compile some family photo collages this family history month?

This post first appeared on

Sunday 8 August 2021

Take time to try tech tools during lockdown

Trying a new tech tool is like trying a new recipe. Sometimes it's great from the start, or it needs tweaks and flavouring to be worth using again. Here's a tool I've mentioned before but I'm adding the Family History flavour to emphasise why I have kept this one in my genealogy recipe book of apps.

The free Office app for your Android or iPhone or tablet is useful in so many ways for family historians. If you have not tried it, let me try to convince you with this range of options. 

If you do not have a OneDrive account with Microsoft, now is the time to sign up and get your free 5GB of storage.

Download Office from your app store and log in to your free Microsoft account. 
Ensure that you also have the free Office app downloaded to your computer from the Microsoft Store.

The Home Screen on my Android phone

The Plus Button Reveal

Will you make a quick note and give it its own background colour, add an image to it, or use a note for a list?

Perhaps you just want to remember something while you are out walking. The voice option is the way to go. I find walking alone without the ubiquitous earphones is a good way to distil my thoughts. I need to record them or that brilliant sentence I thought of has been forgotten by the time I return home!!

Maybe there's a document you need to scan but the flatbed scanner is attached to your partner's computer and he/she is currently busy using it. What about those photocopies someone sent you in the post? Less clutter lying around if you scan them. One can crop, rotate, add text, add more pages then save as images, PDF or Word.

None of that suits your needs? Then let's start with Word.
Ooh, there's that Scan text option on the far left, but I just can't line up my scans nicely! Lucky me, I just drag the corners in until the selected lines of text are contained in whatever weird shape and the app will straighten the page for me.

Speak instead of type, I find the keyboard on my phone very small so the speech option is a better choice. Here's a compilation of the next two screens in Word where I have chosen to dictate my text. Notice the keyboard in the top right-hand corner in case I want to change back to typing, or need to correct my spoken text.


Not convinced? Let's try the Actions menu accessed from the Home page.
Here's the first page of Actions with some comments for you to ponder.

But wait, there's more (no not steak knives!) The second screen of Actions with some suggestions for family history users.

Choose where to save your files. OneDrive is the default location but other choices such as the local device, Google Drive, Dropbox etc. are available. 

Open the Office app on your computer to see your files and download them. Here's a link to a PDF I created in the mobile app, the covers of three books currently in my reading pile. I chose Scan to PDF.
These options are available after scanning.

No, I do not have or pay for an Office 365 account but use the free tools provided. Even with a free account, files can be shared. 

Perhaps you too will find the free Office app useful for family history.

As an aside:
I do have Office Pro 2019 on my computer purchased at a very reasonable price from MrKeyshop as a one-time payment. This was the last "on your own computer" Office software before Microsoft migrated to the every year subscription payment for its 365 product. Given that I was using Office 2010 until 4 months ago, I feel confident that the 2019 version will serve my needs for many more years. 

I purchased the 2019 edition for its many updated features and to have access to the video recording capabilities of PowerPoint, a simple but effective method for presenting and narrating family stories.

This post first appeared on

Sunday 1 August 2021

Use your voice for Family Stories

It's August 2021 and many of us in Australia are in lockdown to prevent the spread of the delta variant of coronavirus. It is also National Family History Month here, an excellent time to work on some of those unfinished projects.

Why not use the extra time at home to get ahead with family stories? Are your typing skills rather slow or are you limited by the technology you are using? Why not use voice to text? There are many easy options.


a) WINDOWS - Speech to text

On your Windows PC, press the Windows key + H. This will reveal the microphone  Simply speak to write.
If you do not have speech recognition turned on, head to Settings > Speech, to turn it on.

This tool will work in any program that has text fields e.g. Word, Blogger, Wordpress or wherever you are writing your family stories.

b) On a MAC

On your Mac, choose the Apple menu  > System Preferences, click Keyboard, then click Dictation.
Click On. If a prompt appears, click Enable Dictation.


Just type in the browser search bar to get started. You will of course need to be logged in to your Google account. From Tools > select Voice typing. The microphone will now appear on the left side of your document. 

The piece below was generated using voice typing in Google docs. I only had to make one correction. The story of course needs refining, but at least it is started.

Oh dear, No microphone on your older desktop computer!
Never mind, use a mobile.



Install the free Office app.
Choose Create Word
Tap the microphone on the keyboard to get started
Choose where to save the document your personal OneDrive, Google Drive or other cloud storage location.

Google Docs

Download from your app store
Login to your account.
Tap microphone on the keyboard
Tell the story.
Add photos from your phone, from camera or from the web.
The doc will be automatically saved in your Google Drive
Save as also provides a wide range of other formats including Word, PDF and epub.


Download from your app store
Login to your account.
Choose  your blog, tap microphone on the keyboard
Tell the story.
Add photos from your phone, Google Drive or Google photos
Publish to Draft 
If you need to refine before publishing, open the draft post on your computer. 


Download from your app store
Login to your account
Choose blog, tap microphone on the keyboard
Tell the story
Use + to add other features such as images
Publish to draft.
If you need to refine before publishing, open the draft post on your computer.

Inject a conversational tone by telling your stories with one of the many free options provided using voice typing. Now is an excellent time to get on with the task, sit in the sun, record your thoughts, edit later.

Wherever you are writing and saving your family stories, using voice recognition will help those typing woes. 

Have you tried voice typing?

This post first appeared on

Enjoyed this post? Want to see more?