A.C. Ivory: How I Hack Genealogy

ac ivory

[Editor’s Note: A.C. Ivory, a professional genealogist and  creator of the acivory.com site, is the subject of this week’s How I Hack Genealogy Interview. Learn how A.C. has incorporated many different types of technology into not just his pursuit of genealogy but the everyday aspects of this life.]

About Me

Name: A.C. Ivory

Title or position: Associate Genealogist

Company or Organization Name: ProGenealogists

Website or Blog: http://www.progenealogists.com

Other social media links:

Age (optional): 26

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Technology I Use

Hardware (computer, laptop):  I am just an overall technology geek! I use anything that has a power button and a screen. I have always thought that Macs were “cooler” than PCs, so about 5 1/2 years ago I purchased my first Mac – a Mac Book Pro.

Even though computers and technology become “outdated” several months after you purchase them, I have thoroughly enjoyed my Mac Book Pro and it has served me well.

However, it is about time to buy a new computer because I can tell mine is dying. If you would have asked me five years ago I would have told you that I would NEVER go back to a PC after having a Mac. Although, the last two years working as a professional genealogists has changed my mind and the next computer I buy will indeed be a Windows laptop.

Cloud storage: Dropbox (paid subscription), Google Drive, Flickr

Backup program or routine: I am paranoid about backing up my data! I use several different resources for making sure my information is safe and accessible.

I have an external hard drive that backs up everything on my Mac using Apple’s built-in Time Machine feature. I have loved to feature because I don’t need to worry about doing anything – all I do is plug in my external hard drive into my laptop and it does the rest. In other words, you don’t need to be techy or know whether or not your files are getting backed up – because they are!

I have another external hard drive that I manually backup specific files to.

When I scan images and documents I save them as TIFFs because the TIFF image format is known as an “archival” format. It is the file format that archives, libraries and digitization companies will usually save their digitized documents in because they don’t lose image quality like JPG file formats.

I am a huge movie buff, so I like to put many of my DVDs onto my computer so I can the. Put them on my iPad, Andriod phone, etc. However, copying my DVDs onto my computer takes up a LOT of space on my computer’s hard drive. Rather than storing them on my laptop I keep them on this second external hard drive.

Since my genealogy documents are some of my most important and valuable information on my computer, I also back up all of those files manually to the second external hard drive – just in case my Time Machine hard drive breaks, gets stolen, lost, etc.

Like mentioned above, I use Dropbox for one of my online cloud services

Many users of Dropbox have the free version, where you can get 2 free Gigabites (GB) of storage space. You can also refer friends to get more free space.  I opted to pay for my Dropbox because I now have over 100 GB of storage space

My dad’s cousin and I are the genealogists in the family and we collaborate frequently on what each other has found and share pictures and documents. Rather than emailing each photo or document to each other, we can simply put the documents in our Dropbox (which is where every genealogy file I have is stored anyway) and my cousin can access the entire folder, which I have shared with her.

Lastly, I use a service called Backblaze. Backblaze is an online backup service that acts similar to my Time Machine external hard drive. They are similar in the fact that I don’t ever have to worry about making sure it is backing up my computer. As long as my computer is connected to the Internet it is backing up my computer.

Printer: I tend to only print things when I’m at work or for school assignments. Everything else is just digital.

Are you “paper” or “paperless” or in-between?: Mostly paperless. Sometimes I’ll scribble some notes on a scratch piece of paper, and later if the note was something important I’ll end up typing it somewhere in an app, email, Word documents, etc.

Email program: Gmail! I use Microsoft Outlook at work, but I enjoy using Gmail for my personal stuff because it syncs so well with all my other Google accounts!

Smartphone model: I currently have the Samsung GAlaxy S III but I would really like to get the Nexus 5! (It may not even be out yet when this is published)

Fave mobile app: Hard question!! How can I pick just one? I use multiple apps every day for various tasks. It also depends on if I am using my phone or my iPad. On my phone, I really enjoy using Instagram (photo sharing social network), Google’s My Tracks for when I go running, Gmail, Dropbox and Duolingo (to help me practice my Spanish). On my iPad I like Feedly to keep up with my blogs, Microsoft OneNote (for school, work, personal and genealogy), Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos, Drobox and Google Drive. However, on both my iPad and my phone I really like using the Andestry.com mobile app because I can access my family tree on Ancestry.com. I can view my tree, edit my tree, share documents and photos and show my grandparents new things when I go visit them.

E-reader: I use Feedly for all of my genealogy blogs. When It comes to books I use both Google Play Books and the Amazon Kindle app for both my phone and iPad. I usually search Google Play Books first to see if they have what I want, but if they don’t have it I then search Amazon.

Web browser: Google Chrome. (Can you tell I like Google?) I like the simplicity of it and the ability to login with my Google account and sync my bookmarks, history and extensions. I really like all of the extensions and apps available in Google Chrome. There are quite a few genealogy extensions as well as thousands of other great extensions for photos, graphics, organizations, maps, bookmarks and so many more!

Calendar program: Would it surprise you if I said Google? On of the reasons I love Android phones and tablets is because they sync seamlessly with your Google accounts. I always had trouble getting my Apple calendar to properly since with my Google calendar.

RSS feed reader: Feedly

Photo storage and editing: I store all my photos in two or three places – external hard drive (all photos – both the archival TIFFs and JPGs), Dropbox (my genealogy photos and documents) and Flickr. I have always had a paid Flickr account, but back in May of this year Yahoo announced that every use gets 1 Terabyte of FREE storage space! I use Flickr for backup, storage, sharing and accessibility. I have apps on both my phone and iPad that access my photos stored on Flickr. Therefore, I have access to all of my photos as long as I have an Internet connection!

Fave social media: This is hard. I use different social media for different reasons. I think I use Facebook the  oat and have the most friends/followers on Facebook, but I really like Instagram since it is focused on photos (and now videos).

Accounting or financial app: My credit union has a great mobile app! I use this to check my balances, transfer funds from one account to another and even deposit checks! I love the fact that I can take a photo of a check and have it deposited in such a short amount of time. It saves me from going into a local branch if I am running low on time.

Virus protection: I don’t have anything on my Mac, but once I get a new Windows computer I will need to do some shopping. Any advice?

Firewall or security program: Same as above.

Genealogy database program: I don’t have a favorite. I like features of almost every program I have worked with, but none of the. Fulfill my needs or wants completely. I say all the time that I wish I could program my own and customize it exactly how I want! Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I can do so.

Music player: I mainly use Google Play Music. I can purchase music from Google, just like iTunes, or I can stream music online, create custom playlists and use the radio feature which is very similar to Pandora.

Blog platform: I have used many different platforms over the years. I mainly use Weebly. You can either use Weebly for free or have a paid subscription for additional features.

Other tech stuff (headset, mouse, etc.): One of my favorite pieces of tech gadgets is my Zagg Sparq. It is a small battery that I can charge overnight and later charge anything via USB like my phone and iPad. This is very handy when I am at the university all day and don’t have easy access to a wall outlet (because all the other students are hogging them all). The Sparq has saved me from a dead phone so many times! You can learn more at www.zagg.com. There are also many other types of chargers like this available. You can search the Internet for “portable phone charger” and find similar items.

Me and Genealogy

Number of years involved in genealogy: About 7

Professional or non-professional?: Professional

What I do (describe your role in the genealogy community): I strive to be involved in the genealogy community as much as I can. Sometimes it is difficult since I am a full-time student, work part-time and try to have a social life. 🙂 I began teaching at genealogy conferences about 4 years ago. I have taught classes on various record types as well as many different tech aspects in genealogy at national conferences such as RootsTech and the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree. I have been part of a couple of committees in genealogy societies over the years.

I currently work for ProGenealogists, Ancestry.com’s official research firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have worked there for about two and a half years. I conduct research for clients all over the world and have participated in research on the hit TV series Who Do You Think You Are? For the last two seasons.

What I enjoy most about genealogy and family history: I enjoy the hunt! Every time I research my own genealogy or start a new case at work, I get so involved in the people’s lives and strive to identify everything I can about each person. The more I learn about a person or a family the more real they become to me.

What annoys me most about genealogy: Those who meaninglessly add people to their family trees without conducting proper research and those who are just name collectors rather than genealogists.

Genealogy super power(s): Being a Genealogy Geek! (Fusing genealogy and technology together)

Biggest advance in genealogy in the last five years: The amount of records becoming available online! Not only are commercial companies like Ancestry.com continually adding new digital images and databases to their websites, but many genealogical societies, libraries, archives and individuals are as well. It is just amazing the amount of information and records have been digitized and indexed over the last 5 years.

Biggest flop in genealogy in the last five years: Government agencies, libraries and archives that are either beginning to restrict access to records or who have restricted access for so many years.

What will always stay the same in genealogy: Well, records that have already been created. Unless someone develops a time machine, those events in history that have been recorded won’t change!

What will need to change in genealogy: Some people’s mentality that genealogy is “just for old people.”

My vision for genealogy in the year 2020: Most if not all the records on microfilm in the Granite Mountain Vault in Utah will be digitized – maybe not available to everyone online, but digitized and ready to access when copyright and other restrictions allow. I see many, many more people getting involved with genealogy over the next few years; especially with all of the technological advancements that will occur.

Closing Thoughts

My Secret Hack for Genealogy (a tip or trick): Learn how to use “wild cards” in your searches online. If you are searching for a name like Larsen, it is possible that people’s names could have been recorded or index as either Larsen or Larson. Rather than conducting two different searches, use an * in place of the “e” or the “o.” Many websites like Ancestry.com will search for both names in one place. Here is a great article that explains more about wild card searches: http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2010/01/04/ancestry-search-improved-wildcard-flexibility/

Advice to a beginning genealogist: Start with yourself and work your way back. There is no rush to get 15 generations back in time. Even if your family history has “already been done” and family trees are available online, spend the time researching your family yourself. Verify the research that has already been conducted. You may just find something someone else has not! Plus, most of the fun in genealogy is learning about each of the individuals, who they were, what they were like growing up, their happy times, their sad times and overall character they were. You’d be surprised at what traits you might share!

Advice to a lifer genealogist: Keep on searching! If you are completely stuck, help others with their genealogy. Share your knowledge with them. Get involved in your genealogical society and the rest of the community!

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee