27 October 2011

What do courthouses, cemeteries, churches, and libraries have in common?

Well, for the genealogist and historical researcher, they're all great places to look for historical sources and information on ancestors, historical figures, or the local area.  And they've recently been incorporated into my Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool!  Just check the "Show Research Locations" checkbox and then select which categories you want to show, and symbols will appear on the map:

Then, you can click an icon, and an info window will appear:

The name of the place and the Website are both hyperlinks, which will open up a Google Places page for more information on the place:

I've thought about having the cemetery info windows display links directly to that cemetery's findagrave listing (or a similar site).  Let me know in comments your ideas on what site(s) I should have the places link to.

By the way, when you choose "courthouses", you'll also see city halls; when you choose "churches", you'll also see synagogues, mosques, hindu temples, and other places of worship.

TIP:  The closer you zoom in, the more places you'll see.  This is because the map limits the number of places displayed to 20 to help cut down on clutter.  So when you're zoomed out too far only 20 places will appear, and many places will simply not appear until you zoom in closer to the area you want to explore.


26 October 2011

Heads-up for those using Ancestry.com's App for iPhone and iPad

UPDATE:  Ancestry.com's App version 3.0.1 released 20 Nov 2011 has fixed the problem reported here.

After having some problems with Ancestry.com's App on my iPad 2 a few days ago, I called their support. After their support representative talked to the App developers, she got back to me later that day that she was informed that the App "broke" under Apple's new iOS 5. She said that "the programmers upstairs are working on it and you should be getting an update right on your phone" or iPad. No ETA given.

Quick background: I recently started using Family Tree Maker 2012 with it's new TreeSync that synchronizes FTM2012 with Ancestry Member Trees online, and supposedly works with the App too. The FTM to AMT sync functionality was working fine, so I went on to check out how it would work with the iPad App on my iPad 2, which I had recently upgraded to Apple's iOS 5. It didn't work. The symptoms were that the App said it was downloading 8651 people (the correct count), then it said "Processing 8671" (note the incorrect count). Then, when the tree appeared, only around 300 truly random people appeared in the entire tree and index, not even including myself. I exited, deleted the App, rebooted, reinstalled the App, and tried again. Same exact symptoms and results. That's when I called Ancestry and later that day found out the App broke under iOS 5.

So, if you use Ancestry's App, you may want to hold off upgrading your iPhone or iPad to iOS 5. Or be aware that you may not be able to use the App until Ancestry pushes an update to your iPhone or iPad.

Based on some discussions on Google+, this issue may not be happening to everyone using iOS 5.

Has anybody else ran into this issue with the App?


UPDATE:  Ancestry.com's App version 3.0.1 released 20 Nov 2011 has fixed the problem reported here.

19 October 2011

Domain Drama

My website has experienced domain drama the last day or two.

Basically, some people couldn't reach the site unless they used the www prefix (such as http://www.randymajors.com/p/maps.html), which was problematic, as most sites and searches referred to the site without the www prefix.

The site should behave such that it doesn't matter if you use the www or not (as in http://randymajors.com/p/maps.html).

Long story short, the domain host settings appear to be reverted back to the correct settings now, but please leave a comment to this post if you're still experiencing trouble reaching the site. If you're experiencing issues, let me know if the issue was with or without the www prefix.

And to think that www should matter in 2011 !?:)

07 October 2011

New and more interactive version of the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool released!

Check out the new and more interactive version of the Historical US County Boundary Maps tool!

Here's a quick run-down on what's new:

  • Show me the answer now please!  Now, when you type a Place and a Year* and click the Go button, you will be zoomed to that place and an information panel will automatically appear above the map, as highlighted here:

  • I want the details.  The information panel above the map shows the year, county name, full place name, and details about the latest evolution of your county of interest's boundaries as of the year you chose.  Source information about the boundary change is also shown in parenthesis at the end of the Details.
QUICK TIP FOR GENEALOGISTS:  Most people say that a best practice for recording locations in your family tree is to record the place name as it was at the time of a Fact or Event associated with your ancestor.  As a shortcut to typing, you can select the "Full place name" text with your mouse as shown below, and then Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste (Ctrl+V) it into a Fact or Event's location field in your favorite genealogy program or website.
Today, Cortez, Colorado is located in Montezuma County.  But in 1880 it was part of La Plata County. 

  • Hmm, what are these other places around here?  Now you can zoom and pan around the area and then click the map to see information about places in other counties as of that same year.  Late-breaking news:  Now, when you drag the map such that it's center falls in another state, you will be asked if you want to see county boundaries for that new state instead.  Can't make it much easier...
  • OK, I want to see more.  Literally.  Want a bigger map window to work with?  Just click the little + sign in the upper right corner of the map pane.

  • Now I'd like to time-travel.  Click the arrow button on the right side of the Year box to scroll forward a decade at a time and see the county boundaries change before your eyes.  Alas, you can also click the arrow button on the left side of the Year box to...you get the idea.

  • *But I know the exact date I want.  Based on feedback from Tami Glatz, you can now enter an exact date to see county boundaries in effect as of that date!  Dates must be entered in the format M/D/YYYY, or you can still just enter a 4-digit year if you want.
  • But what about the rest of the world?  Sorry, the Historical US County Boundary Maps tool is only available for the United States.  However, you can view rough historical country (with an "r") boundaries with the Historical World Boundary Maps tool.

Find the new version of the Historical US County Boundary Maps tool here.

I look forward to your comments below on these enhancements!  And don't forget to click the Like, Tweet, or +1 buttons on the left side of the map...they help spread the news about this map tool.  Enjoy!

(If anyone has trouble with this new version of the map tool, please read the Quick Tips and Notes underneath the map tool.  Also, you can still access the old version here.  But if you're having trouble, please leave a comment below so I can try to address it.)