Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Push the Button

It is much easier to talk about doing something than to do it—even if the “doing” involves the most user-friendly tools available. Rootsweb does have a nifty system for getting your GEDCOM-converted files uploaded in a streamlined manner. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not a model user.

OK, I admit it: I’m not a geek. Like a foreigner who has learned the language in high school, I’m fine with listening. Just don’t ask me to talk that lingo. However, if I want to get my genealogy data online in a form that’s of any use to others, I’ll have to learn how to “talk” with the system that makes things happen.

Actually, the process wasn’t too bad. Except for the fact that I had to remind myself to keep breathing, everything went fairly smoothly. I already had a user name and password for the Rootsweb system—I think I’ve been a Rootsweb user since the late 1990s—so that was one hurdle I could bypass. The “door” into the system was clearly labeled—nothing like a clickable label shouting, “Start HERE.” Once “inside” it was just a matter of answering questions on their standardized form. (Rootsweb recommends that newbies use their standard form for first flights; frequent fliers are welcome to their customized options.)

The first step was to change my genealogy database from the format that my FamilyTreeMaker program uses to a standardized version known as a GEDCOM. That took a little hunting and pecking in my own genealogy program, but wasn’t difficult. Once I laid that groundwork, the heavy lifting was all done by Rootsweb.

It took a few attempts to get everything on the website the way I wanted. I had some general ideas of what I wanted to post for headers and footers for the pages, for instance, but found some typos that needed correction once I had a demo of the page up and running on the Rootsweb site. I’m hoping most everything is correct, now, though there are a few glitches I’m struggling with. I still can’t figure out how to make my blog addy show in HTML, for instance.

Taking a long look at the end result, though, caused me to scurry back and make some changes to posting instructions. I am one of those researchers who has learned to leave myself notes in my database when I’ve found something that might be a lead. If I don’t write it down somewhere, I end up forgetting what might turn out to be a valuable hint; if I don’t use the same place to store my notes, I end up forgetting where I wrote down the stuff I don’t want to forget! But a public site like Rootsweb is no place for my personal notes on what Aunt Mabel said in her last letters.

So back to the drawing board it was. Rather than hand scrub the notes for 12,500 people, I had to make the choice to not have any notes at all. Gone are all the obituaries and transcriptions of other documents. If someone just has to know about them, they’ll have to ask me. I’m fine with that, though—making connections is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

So...I did it. I pushed the button. And yeah, I’m still alive. Technology might not be so bad, after all.

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