Whew, I've finally had a chance to dust off Tuell.net for some overdue maintenance. I've dumped the old interface for accessing GEDCOM data for a new one that is far more intuitive. Click on the "8,000 Ancestors" link to give it a test drive. After checking out the Welcome Page, type in a surname in the search box. Or just explore all the links — the on-the-fly charts are pretty cool, and you can build genealogy reports and download them as PDFs or view them in HTML.
I have the week off, so if I get really ambitious I may redesign Tuell.net before the week is over. Oh, and I'll also upload an updated GEDCOM file — the data here hasn't been updated in about six months.
Boring Under the Hood Stuff: The old genealogy CMS, Genealogy the Next Generation, was cool in that it integrated with Drupal, the CMS that powers the site. But it was so difficult to navigate that few people bothered to figure it out. The new CMS, PhpGedView, is much more intuitive — and it's open source (free). The downside is that it doesn't visually integrate as seamlessly with the rest of Tuell.net, but the "home" icon still takes you back to the right place. (PhpGedView had a Drupal module to improve the integration at one time but it hasn't been updated in years, so I opted out.) End of Boring Under the Hood Stuff.
OK, it would be more accurate to say, "So many distractions; too little time." Kathy and I seem to tumble out of hectic work weeks into weekends consumed with the usual distractions — yard work, home maintenance, laundry, grocery shopping — while still trying to find time to pursue personal projects such as this website.
That sounds pretty whiney, doesn't it? I suppose a lot of us have day jobs that suck the life right out of us, and we're all tempted to grab a jar of picante sauce and a bag of tortilla chips and vegetate in front of a 60-inch flat screen. But I think we can all agree that, unless you're retired, weekends are way too short.
This has been a maintenance weekend as far as Tuell.Net goes. Nothing visible, but a lot of under-the-hood updating. The site is driven by CMS (content management system) software, which simply means pages are built on the fly with content stored in databases rather than than a collection of HTML documents linked together. Here, there are three applications dovetailed together — the main CMS that provides the structure, a photo gallery application for photo archives, and a genealogy application that contains all the data on 3,000-plus ancestors.
They usually play nice, though user registration can get a little tricky.
A continuing project has been linking Google maps to places associated with ancestors (see The Catacombs area). This is a really cool feature, but it must be done one person at a time — and there are more than a thousand ancestors to go. Where photos exist, we're also linking those to individuals.
Simultaneously, we are plodding through the desktop software we use for research, Family Tree Maker, to reconnect the hundreds of linked media that became scrambled during a merge of two database files. So bear with us. We don't want to get in a rush and spill picante sauce in the keyboard.
— Tom Tuell
After an e-mail discussion with newfound relative, Anna DiMascio, Kathy realized that we had not reinstalled the antique postcards album in the photo gallery. My bad, since I reinstalled the gallery application when I moved the website to a new host company some months back, and never restored all the albums.
Anyway, we stayed up late tonight to upload images of postcards from Italy, Arizona, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Of course, that meant writing captions, too.
This weekend, I'll upload a "places" album, though it's pretty limited right now — Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Territory.
As a footnote, I have continued my war with the spambots, which had created a hundred or so bogus forum topics containing spam. So I have again limited creation of new topics to registered users and reactivated CAPTCHA, which makes you answer stupid math questions in order to ascertain that you are a human being rather than a spambot. New users also will have to wait for approval before their registration is complete. I know all that is a pain in the butt, but it keeps the spammers from taking over the website. Sorry.
— Tom Tuell
Sometimes it seems so strange to me that, when we are gone from this life, all that is left of us are the bits and scraps of paper that carry our name, the photos (the good, the bad and the ugly), and whatever documents that are required by the government. It is those government documents that become the backbone of genealogical research. Birth, death, marriage, divorce and property records are priceless. But when it comes to verifying the residence of a person or family in a given location, or tracking the movements of families across and around the country, nothing beats the census. Through the census images available on Ancestry.com and other sites, I've found family members I didn't know existed. I've followed my 4th great grandfather, John Rossiter Smith, from Hebron, Conn., to Armenia, Penn., and learned how he and many of his neighbors moved to the same place at the same time around 1833. I would never have been witness to this if I did not have access to the original images.
That's why I cannot fathom why the federal government has decided not to digitize the current census documents, but instead, to simply do a statistical summary and have the documents destroyed. This was proposed in 2000 but defeated by tremendous public outcry.
Congress can persuade these agencies to reconsider. Send letters supporting the imaging of the 2010 census forms to:
Rep. Ed Towns
Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Rep. Darrell Issa
Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
B-350 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C, 20515
Senator Tom Carper
Chairman, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security
432 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator John McCain
Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government information, Federal Services, and International Security
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
You can also address your concerns to:
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20741-6001
U. S. Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, D.C. 20233
Kathy has relapsed with the cold from hell today, so I've wasted the entire day redesigning Tuell.net, trying out several antispam modules and fixing the photo gallery. I also avoided priming and painting my house — I'm mid-project with the entire place in disarray, and experiencing an acute lack of motivation.
I hadn't realized the gallery was broken until today. It likely has been nonfunctional for months — ever since I changed an unrelated link setting.
The new redesign is a bit brighter. A new header features a photo of my great aunt Rosanelle Frost near Sierra Blanca, Texas, around 1915. It was there she fell in love with a young cavalry officer named Edwin O'Connor who was part of a detachment sent to find and capture the Mexican outlaw Pancho Villa.
I've set up a new anti-spam module that may or may not defeat the spambots that previously left hundreds of posts in the forums. So I've turned the forums and comments back on, and will keep a close watch for the next few days.
We've negected the Catacombs area (actually, it's a seperate application nested in the site), where a lot of links lead to blank pages. I hope to create a some reports and charts to post before long.
I've had to turn off the registration feature for the time being due to the persistence of a spammer or spambot that repeatedly registers as users in an attempt to post spam on the site. Rather that delete a couple dozen fake users every day, I've turned off registration until I have a chance to research more security plug-ins.
If you'd like to register, please send me a message using the contact link at right and I'll create your account manually. Most everything on the site is accessible to everyone, but registered users can create forum topics and post comments in the forums.
Sorry for the inconvenience.
We've made some progress in uploading data and images to the catacombs, but much of last weekend was spent battling spambots — those evil automated Web robots that try to post spam in forums and comment areas, and that suck up e-mail addresses for nefarious purposes. I've been installing various security plugins, such as CAPTCHA, but spambots are still managing to register as fake users.
I have tried to be careful when deleting the hundreds of phony spambot user registrations, but I may have accidentally deleted a legitimate user or two. If your account was deleted, please accept my apology and please register again.
CAPTCHA, which requires you to prove you are a human being by typing in characters, seems to have stopped the spam posts in the forums. But it also makes it harder for legitimate users to create forum topics, and I'm sorry for that. I'm still looking for the best and least onerous security solution.
Regarding the genealogy data, we discovered that the birthdates are missing from many of the 6,000-plus individuals in the catacombs (database). If I have time next weekend, I'll upload an updated GEDCOM file in hopes of correcting that.
Meanwhile, thanks for your patience.
Genealogy is such an adventure! And you never know where it will take you. My paternal grandfather, Vincenzo DiMascio, came to the United States in 1904 from Pescina, a small village in L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. The story is that Vincenzo's father became widowed, remarried, and Vincenzo and his brother (who remains nameless to this day) left home - Vincenzo coming to the United States and his brother going to South America. There is virtually no information on his family. From time to time I would ask my father if any of his father's other family members ever came to the U.S. and he'd say no.
Then I found my grandfather and family in the 1930 census on Ancestry.com. A closer look showed a Joe and Anna DiMascio and family just down the road. People I'd never heard of. Too close to be a coincidence, I thought, so I said to my father on the phone next chance I got: "So, Dad, when you were living on the farm in Clarendon, Orleans County, New York, who were those DiMascio's who lived down the street? You know, Joe and Anna and ...?
"Oh", he says, "that was my father's cousin, Joe." Hmmm ... if I could find out about them, perhaps they might have a bit more information. But, how do you approach people you've never met, and how do you find them? Thank goodness for Google and the Internet. I searched for each child listed and came up discouraged — until I found Frank and Barbara, son and daughter-in-law of Joe and Anna, in California.
I sent a letter (explaining that I'm not a nut case, providing information about my family) and got an excited phone call in return. One thing led to another and I have family — Linda, daughter of Frank and Barbara — and we are sharing photos and information. (See her christening photo at left).
Then I saw a family tree on Ancestry.com — DeMascio — and met Dave, who is an even closer relative to Linda (and somewhere along the line the spelling of the last name changed!), and now Linda and I have another cousin! But wait, there's more! Dave's grandmother, Helen, is holding Linda in the photo!
My maternal fourth great grandmother is Delight Church (1783-1864), daughter of Samuel Church and Hannah "Polly" Rogers, and wife of John Rossiter Smith. Delight's next older sister was Dierdama Church, who married Daniel Smith (I suspect that Daniel and John Rossiter Smith are related, if not brothers — but that's another adventure). Daniel and Dierdama had a daughter, Phoebe, who married Isaac Dodge Bailey — and one of their descendents, Doug Bailey, answered a surname post I posted quite a while ago. He sent me wonderful photos of Dierdama and Phoebe — and now I have an idea of what Delight might have looked like. And I have a new cousin! It's just so darned exciting!
— Kathy Tuell
Tuell.Net is now up and running, for the most part, on faster servers at a new hosting company (bluehost.com). We've got the GEDCOM information reloaded in the Catacombs area, but a lot of the detail (such as the Google Maps data) must still be reentered. We hope to have a new photo gallery (about 1,600 family photos) installed by the end of the weekend.
Kathy recently has connected with relatives in California and New York (surname DiMascio), and she is adding new data. We now have more than 6,700 relatives and ancestors in our genealogy database.
I'm still chasing down bugs with the new installation, so don't hesitate to e-mail if you encounter problems.
If you were just redirected here from a temporary page, don't worry. We're moving the site and we haven't permanently shifted the Web address yet. (Don't bookmark this page because the URL is temporary.)
This is the third incarnation of Tuell.net in the past couple of months. This time, the site is hosted by a different company that has servers optimized for Drupal, the content management sofware that runs Tuell.Net. I'm hoping that fact will mean an end to the problems I've been experiencing.
And, since I'm having to build it again from scratch, it will only gradually assume the functionality it had previously. By the end of the day (Sunday, Oct. 18), I hope to have it fairly functional and a link posted from the old site — I won't change the actual Web address until I have all the e-mail accounts moved to the new host.
Sorry for the inconvenience.
Kathy and I have spent the past two weeks in Duncan, Okla., with my parents, Henry and Eunice Tuell. Both are 92, and in relatively good health. I again conducted videotaped interviews with them, asking them to tell me everything they can remember about a long list of relatives, and about growing up in Oklahoma in the 1920s and 1930s.
I learned a few things from my previous videotaping that helped me improve this week's interviews. First, the built-in microphones on consumer video cameras do not produce high quality audio, and they pick up ambient sound in the room -- such as air conditioners, ticking clocks, etc. I purchased a relatively inexpensive RODE shotgun mic that does a much better job of picking up the voices of interview subjects without the audio clutter.
Second, my earlier interviews shot indoors were a little dark. I purchased a shoe-mounted camera light that runs either on battery or AC power. It was better, but not great. Then I adjusted the gain on the camera and that brightened the entire scene, including the background. It produced much better video. Unfortunately, it will be a challenge to mix clips from the previous interview with the new video. I may be able to improve the older clips with the editing software (Avid Media Composer) by adjusting gamma, brightness and saturation.
Another challenge I'm facing is the size of video files. After a about an hour and a half of interviewing, I had 74 GB of raw HD video (in JVC''s proprietary condensed format). I thought I'd get a jump on converting it to Quicktime for editing, but that was a mistake -- the conversion tied up my laptop for about 24 hours, and I had to plug in a portable drive after running out of disc space. I'm reasonably sure I'll be investing in a couple of 1.5 TB drives for my editing station before my family genealogy documentary is ready to burn to DVDs.
On a related note, I'd hoped to shoot more B-roll for that project while here on the Lower Plains, but we so enjoyed being with family that it slipped down on our list of priorities. Now we're out of time and reluctantly catching a plane home to South Florida this afternoon.
I had no intent of spending the entire weekend reworking the site, but once I waded in it was too late to back out. I created a new theme and better integrated the photo galleries into the site using a WordPress plugin, WPG2. The menu tabs also are now consistent throughout the site.
However, the Cooliris slideshow function is harder to find — it's a slideshow link on the side rather than the customary icon on the photo — so that will take some more tweaking later. The hardest part was trying to edit HTML pages using Microsoft's Web editor, "Expression Web," which is the worst wysiwyg editor to come along since FrontPage. Buying it was a gamble, and I wasted my money.
Despite the frustration, I think it turned out pretty well. And I can always renovate the guest bathroom next weekend.
First, our apologies for neglecting tuell.net lately. Life is full of distractions from work, family, home projects and too many interests. Genealogy pretty much slipped to the back of my mind until our annual genealogy.com subscription came due — a significant financial reminder that I should be getting my money's worth from it.
However, I became distracted updating a home theater, eliminating lots of obsolete equipment. It was nice to get all those bulky black boxes off the shelf, but the downside of eliminating a 200-disk CD changer is ripping a couple hundred CDs (plus 50 or so more that weren't in the changer) onto a hard drive.
Also, during a reinstall on my laptop, I inadvertently deleted my backed-up database of movies. That meant reentering the info on about 250 DVDs.
We're gradually posting photos — which also means organizing them. We've got photos scattered across two laptops, a home server and a network drive, and we're trying to get everything synchronized and organized into a consistent system. Good luck with that.
We cleaned up the photo gallery a bit this weekend and better organized some of the family groups. But for the most part, I've been distracted lately learning new video editing software. I made a big jump from the simple $100 off-the-shelf software to Avid Media Composer, a professional editing application that may take me years to master. Of course, I've rationalized the upgrade by convincing myself it's needed for a family genealogy documentary. My Christmas DVD project was a little hinky — jerky pans and zooms, etc. — so I convinced myself that the off-the-shelf stuff wouldn't do.
Of course, it required a new workstation, too, but that's another story.
Kathy and I visited my parents (Henry and Eunice Tuell) in Oklahoma in August. I purchased a high definition video camera to do some genealogy interviews with Mom and Dad, as well as to shoot B-roll video of prairie and family cemeteries for my ongoing project -- a personal documentary of my ancestors who settled in the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Territory.
My parent's home serves as the family depository for old photos and family artifacts, and I've spent more than one vacation with a scanner and boxes of old photos. However, this trip I was surprised to find a previously undiscovered cache of old photos, ranging from tin-types of my great grandfather to school photos of my parents. There also were boxes of crumbling newspapers and clippings that were evolving into dust. I found more than 500 photos in all, so I quickly borrowed a scanner from my sister and went to work.
We also purchased a half dozen or so photo boxes of various sizes, reams of acid-free paper, a portfolio for the newspapers and Kathy set about archiving everything to slow deterioration as I scanned.
It will take months to finish embedding caption information in the photo files (I spent hours getting Dad to identify people), but I'm trying to post them in our gallery as I find time. I've already posted lots of photos from the Frost-White branch.
I'm working on about 200 photos of Mazie Frost and Henry Offord Tuell (my paternal grandparents). They purchased cameras when they were courting and obviously had great fun documenting their courtship and brief marriage -- he died in the 1918 flu epidemic after they'd been married only two years.
I'll try to get those posted soon, but I'm also renovating two bathrooms ... I'm sure you know how that goes.
I spent this weekend writing photo captions and uploading hundreds more photos, mostly in the Frost and Tuell branches. Adobe Bridge allows me to write metadata, including captions, for multiple photos simultaneously, which is really handy when dealing with several hundred images. MS Pro Photo Tools, a free utility you can find on Microsoft's download site, does the same but not as easily as with the Adobe product.
The Gallery 2 content management application is agonizingly slow, especially with the large number of images I've posted. I like the PicLens compatibility, but I don't know how many people use that browser add-on. I still think a flash gallery might be better — certainly faster — but it would take some time to put one together with all the nested family branches and other photo subgalleries.
On Saturday, I located lots of period music for the genealogy documentary I'm working on. One great site for public domain and open source audio is http://www.archive.org. There is a phenomenal collection of old 78 and cylinder recordings dating from late 1800s through the 1920s. The site also has archived video and books. It's really worth checking out. The Library of Congress is another great source for both audio and images.
I'm also thinking of putting together some sort of family photo DVD for Christmas, using some of the period music I found. That's probably next weekend's project.