Escalator Fun

Chris riding escalator next to cart.

I give all you city people permission to laugh at me. But I was completely gobsmacked during a recent shopping excursion to WalMart (of all places). We were in the Albany area and had to grab some stuff. Walking in, we commented to each other that we hadn’t ever been in a two-story WalMart before. Then we casually went on filling up our cart with food.

After we were nice and stocked, we stared at each other in an awkward “Hey, well, we obviously weren’t thinking” moment. The rest of the items we needed were upstairs. What was the best option?

  • A) Both check out together, walk to the car, unload the food and come back for the rest? It was a warmish day so we weren’t sure if we wanted the dairy products to sit in a hot car so long.
  • B) Split up and have one take care of the food while the other grabbed the up-stair items? Not ideal since we wanted to discuss purchasing choices.

We edged the cart forward, leaning toward Choice A and deciding to just shop fast then we noticed people were actually taking carts up the escalator!!! There was a mechanism you pushed the cart onto, and it rode up right next to you (actually, it kind of beat us to the top).

Human and cart entries to escalator.

Now that I am experienced in the cart escalator endeavors, I think in the future I will opt to hold my seltzer since it had a bit of a bumpy ride, but otherwise the process was extremely smooth — even on the way down with a card table and chairs overflowing the cart.

Chairs in cart going down escalator

The experience reminded me of when we country folk used to travel to visit my parents on Long Island (where I grew up). I would take my sons to the mall where we would budget at least ten minutes per visit for the kids to ride the escalators. We had to remind them to not whoop and holler on the way up and down. Now I can relate to how hard it was for them to keep quiet when it’s all so much fun 🙂

How to Use a Website to Tell Your Genealogy Story

From Feb 27-March 2 I had the privilege of talking about website creation while working at the WordPress.com booth at RootsTech 2019. Genealogy is so interesting, and the stories that come out of research are incredibly fascinating. During the conference I gave a talk about Using a Website to Tell Your Genealogy Story.

All the options I am writing about here can be done using a free WordPress.com plan. It’s important to note that one of the great reasons WordPress.com is perfect for compiling genealogy information is privacy policies. Entire sites can be private, or a site can be public but certain pages and posts can be private. This is described more on our privacy support page.

Disclaimer: The examples I used are not factual. Parts of some are, but I mish-mashed/fabricated names and geographical locations for the sake of privacy.

How can a website and/or blog help you tell your genealogy story?

Take a moment and think about the information you would like to share with others if you were writing a book. What is most important for you to pass on?

With websites, if you can dream it, you can almost always make it happen.

When I was a child, I remember learning that my aunt was delving into our family history. This was at a time where people didn’t have ready access to computers so she was doing all her research by scrolling through hard-copy records. It was an amazing gift for our family.

List of family names.

I saw the list of names, and it was kind of cool.

That is something that can be shared. After many trips to a copying center where I copied stacks of documents and mailed them to family members, I can really appreciate the thought they they can go to a site and download a copy easily.

I did this using the File Block.

File Block in the Editor.

Now my family can have easy access to those records and can download the file whenever they want.

Download button showing on published page.

What else can we do?

Something that really stood out to me when I was a child was the visual of our family coat of arms.

Family Crest

How I loved seeing this. It made me feel like I really was a piece in a big puzzle — a part of something awesome. Not only did I have a family, but we had a common goal. Yield not to adversity.

I want to share that on my site so all our family members can see it. But I also want to know more about it so I’m going to ask family members for input then share responses in a future post.

Contact Form on Family Crest.

This adds more to my genealogical story.

Last year while I was here at RootsTech I was talking with a person about the Contact Form, which I used to create that response form. The person came up with the idea for using it for photos from family events she could not label. Brilliant.

Family photo and questionnaire on favorite memories and people in photo.

A comment section can be used for that as well. Create a post with an image of a special event (maybe last year’s reunion?) and ask people to share their favorite memories from the event. The same can be done with the image of a person.

Letters delivered through door mail slot.

Decades went by and technology changed. As did family reunions. I bet you can relate. Years ago it was all about playing with cousins seen once or twice a year. Relatives sometimes kept in touch by phone or an occasional letter, but communication wasn’t constant. Reunion time was spent re-creating the family connections and re-discovering common interests.

But then social media happened.

Icons showing social media.

Suddenly reunions weren’t about re-meeting but became more focused on bonding. This opened opportunities for stories about family history. Very cool stuff. Suddenly, the names on that original family tree became real.

Another person from last year told me they were taking advantage of the option to schedule posts so they could write a post for each family member they were close to. The posts would come out on the family member’s birthday. What a gift to that person, and to the rest of the family as well, as they get to know a relative better.

Showing how to schedule posts with the scheduling tool in the editor.

This bonding can happen with a website, too. As family members talk, share treasures and reminisce, the bond grows stronger.

Imagine how this can build over time! Unlike a book, a website can continue expanding, and facts can be edited and added on to as time progresses without having to go back to a printer.

Think of the things you might share:

Poem from the early 1900s
Letter from a World War II foxhole.

Poetry from a century ago? A letter written from a WWII foxhole? Now treasures an entire family can appreciate.

With the search tool on a website, the treasures are easily found. And the menu is also a handy tool for sorting. You can set categories to highlight different branches of the family tree.

Search widget on the site.

Those can even be color-coordinated to show the family branches.

Use colors to show family branches in the block editor for the paragraph.

With WordPress.com, people can have more than one site on an account. Some families might choose to have a site for a father’s line and another for a mother’s line (or other family members). These sites can be interlinked from the menu as well.

Showing sub menu items

Searches and menus are very handy tools for telling a genealogy story in an organized fashion.

As with a book, aesthetics are important and you don’t want to overwhelm people who come to the site to learn about family treasures. You can use sub-menu items to highlight other fun family items for sharing.

Uncle Charlie’s famous eggnog recipe? Great memories.

EggNog recipe showing shortcode

Grandma’s pancakes? A family favorite.

Pancake recipe

Dad’s chicken? All now shared family recipes.

Picture of Curried Chicken

One of my favorite parts of this sort of sharing is that you an access these recipes even while traveling so the next time your family gathers at the beach house or on your ski vacation, the treasured recipes are right at your fingertips.

Menu showing sub menu items for recipes in gif

Aside from recorded posts and pages, there are also other ways families can share experiences on a website.

One family I know has a book club. This can be organized through a website, and you can add a calendar showing the date of a meeting.

There is even a countdown Milestone Widget you can add to a site to note the event. (This is also handy for family reunions).

Milestone and calendar widgets

When the time comes, there can be a group chat about the book.

Even if a family is spread out across the country, it’s still entirely feasible to start a chat using a widget to discuss a book or talk about other topics, without ever having to leave the website.

In this screenshot I used the tlk.io widget for chat.

Chat box on website

Someone can take notes and write a summary post for the family who couldn’t join to see. In that summary, there can even be a link to the book discussed

Links are one of the greatest features of a website and can be used to really enhance a genealogical story. They can be used to add details to a family story. Birth records, descriptions of hometowns, public records of events a family member was written up in.

Showing how to add links

If other family members have websites highlighting their own lives or their businesses, links to those sites fill in the gaps in the family story.

When content on a page comes from research, links are great for citations and footnotes. A simple click will lead people to original resources.

Sometimes there is nothing to link to. That’s okay. There is a tool built in to WordPress.com that you can turn on. It’s called related posts. These lead people to other posts you have written that connect to similar topics.

For example, in a post I wrote recently, I mentioned Mor Mor sewing pockets for my cousin, and the related post at the base of my current post was my article about Mor Mor from when she died. Of course, when I went to grab a screenshot, that option no longer showed. Ah well, here is another example:

Another handy way to help people experience the story you are sharing is to use images and documents to make stories real by grabbing screenshots of information you don’t want to link to that might add to a story. For example, if you wanted to write a story about a family trip on Christmas day from decades ago, you can go to a site such as https://www.weather.org/weather-history/.

Weather history for December 25, 1947 in Utah.

And take a screenshot of the weather from that day.

That way your readers will have more of a connection to the story but don’t actually have to break away from your page by following a link.

You can also connect people to stories – past and present – by using maps.

If I read a story about my grandfather from Hungary, I would think it was interesting. But if I followed a link to a page that told me about the history of the area and the cultural treasures of the area then looked at a map to see where Hungary was located in relationship to where I live, then I will feel more connected.

Maps of Hungary and NY

That’s great for stories from the past. It’s also handy to have maps that show current family connections.

Adding a map to a site shows other family members where you live. If you are traveling to an area, check the map to see if anyone is close. It’s great for a coffee and catch-up.

Map with multiple locations highlighted.

Of course, this would all be voluntary so only people who want their locations showing would have it there.

In addition to adding maps to specific stories, you can put maps on separate pages showing where family members came from in case anyone wants to take a tour through their family history.

Screenshot of DNA Explained site

That’s what Roberta Estes did. She has a blog on https://dna-explained.com and one of my favorite posts on her site is the one in which she wrote a story in the voice of her grandfather, and actually travelled to the places his story took place in.

Speaking of voices, do you have audio recordings of family history? Or videos? (Other ways of adding video can be found on https://en.support.wordpress.com/videos/).

Back in the early 1990’s I interviewed my grandmother, asking her story of the past. It was a Christmas gift for my extended family. Now I can take the cassette and convert it to an mp3 and add it to the website so we can hear her voice regale our family history.

We have videos of my father-in-law preaching from years before he died. Now we can embed them into a website so our children and grandchildren can seem him and listen to him.

I don’t have those recorded and embedded yet, but I do have examples of some fun family treasures.

I added that audio with an audio block and the video with a YouTube block.

Image of YouTube block.

If there are particular stories one might want to share, it’s also possible to turn a site into a hard-copy book for others.

Family Book

Perhaps you want to share your book with others and need them to help cover costs. Or order shirts for a family reunion.

Gone are the days where you have to call relatives and wait for checks to come in the mail as you meticulously keep a list of who gets what. You can now take payments and orders right through your website.

You can do this using PayPal on a free site:

PayPal in draft

PayPal published

Or by using Simple Payments if you have a Premium or Business Plan:

Simple Payment editor
Simple payment final

If you have the Business Plan, you can even use a plugin such as Woo Commerce to add a cart and take orders that are drop-shipped.

Not only that, but if you wanted to create some special swag for reunions you can find the most popular items or designs by setting up a poll on your website.

Poll setup

So many things you can do to share your story!

On a serious note, one question I get asked a lot is this:

What happens to my site when I’m no longer around or are too busy to maintain the site?

On WordPress.com, it will remain an active site until it’s cancelled. It’s recommended that one uses the User Role options to add a trusted few people as Administrators. They can then keep the site going if the site creator is no longer able to work on the site.

User Role options

Remember you are not alone.

You probably know this even more than I. Your genealogy story has so many facets. With our user roles, others can contribute to the family story, and you can still have the final say regarding what is actually published. A site can have admins, editors, authors, contributors, and of course, followers. Each who can contribute in their own way.

Followers can still comment and take part in polls. Contributors can submit research and stories for others to approve. Authors can submit stories and research and edit their own work. Editors can provide content review, and Admins can do anything.

User Roles explained

There are many other things you can do to tell your genealogy story. And sharing the work to get your genealogy story told can stretch across platforms.

With Publicize and Sharing tools, you can share your work to a Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media platforms.

Publicize

Sharing

There are many other things you can do to tell your genealogy story.

If you have relatives who aren’t comfortable with browsers, they can follow the site by email so they are updated whenever you create a new post.

You can also create a newsletter for the family. Or highlight a podcast.

With upgrades, you can use plugins to embed and expand family trees or share information from some genealogy software you use. You can even get a domain that ends in .family 🙂

In this session I wanted to highlight could be done for free.

If you have ideas to share or questions on something you are wondering about implementing, please let me know in the comments. 🙂

In Praise of the Google Translate App

IMG_1044If I were inclined to write poetry today (I’m not– the muse is not in the building), I would write an ode to the Google Translate app. As you may or may not know, in my job  I work mostly in mobile app support for the WordPress app. Since 27% of the Internet runs on WordPress, and many users worldwide use the app, I get a lot of issues in languages I don’t understand. Generally a cut-and-paste into a translate tool works wonders, but it gets problematic when someone send in a screenshot of an issue. That’s when this app comes in really handy.

I have the Google Translate App for both Android and iPhone.  When I get a screenshot, I open the app, download the applicable language then select camera in the app, and I get a translation. This has been invaluable in my work habits. And I’ve also found it really handy in travel.

When Chris and I were in Perugia, we hit the amazing National Archaeological Museum with fabulous history, but very little in regards to English translations. No problem. The app totally covered that, and we learned all sorts of stuff about amulets and recoveries from archaeological digs. So cool.

Now that we are spending a month in a new home in a land where we are far from fluent in the native language, we’re finding the app super handy in basic tasks such as grocery shopping. When you want to make a bean stew and aren’t sure which canned bean is which? The app comes to the rescue.

And it totally saved me from accidentally getting lemon tea when I thought I was getting mint.

It doesn’t just do images. I can type a phrase in English and have it translate to another language. I write my sentence, find a store-keeper, and point to the screen. We are all much happier and effective in our communications, I find.

Oatmeal – Aveia?
We don’t have it – Nós não temos isso.
Communication effectively achieved (I’m not thrilled with the result, but now at least I know to not keep scanning shelves fuitlessly).

Yay, app!

Favorite Chrome Extensions

I love extensions. Not too many of them, but certain ones that make my life so much easier to deal with. I thought I might share some of my favorites with you in case it makes your life easier as well. And I’d love to hear about some of your favorites (please feel free to share in the comments).

So what is a Chrome extension? It’s a small software program that makes my Chrome browser work better. You can install extensions from the Extensions URL. Here are my current favorites:

Library Extension – This might be my absolute favorite. It has saved me hundreds of dollars, I’m sure. I linked my library accounts to the widget. Now, when I look up a book on Amazon, that extension kicks into action and tells me if the book is available at my library. It even links me to the library site so I can download available e-copies.

F.B.(FluffBusting)Purity – This one cleans up and customizes Facebook, letting me filter out the junk I don’t want to see. Goodby negativity and political yuckness!

Google Voice (by Google) – Love using this as a backup phone number, and my messages get transcribed so I can read them there.

Stylus – Custom themes for any website – If I want to change the look of a site I’m viewing (changing font color or whatever), I make the CSS changes here and worry no more.

Adblock Plus – This one is controversial since I know people make money from the ads on their sites. The good thing is that this extension lets you choose which sites you want to see ads on so you can still support your friends 🙂

Honey – This one automatically finds and applies coupon codes when I shop online. To be honest, it doesn’t usually get me a better deal, but when it does work, it’s super nice.

Tab Snooze –  LOVE this one. When I find a web page that I want to spend more time on at a later date, I can click this and set the time and day I want it to show up on. At the appointed time, it opens up that tab.

How about you? What are some of your favorites?

 

Apple Watch Design Flaw

I discovered this in church, which was pretty awkward.

A huge Apple fan, I was super-psyched to get an Apple watch as a birthday/Christmas/anniversary gift. The thing is that we were traveling here and there, and I hadn’t really gotten around to my online meeting to learn about the watch. And I hadn’t much time to research it.

This didn’t worry me since I find Apple products to be incredibly intuitive. And for the most part it was. But then it happened. While I was in church, I heard some news I knew someone in my life would want to know so I texted it to him.

Confession. Yes, I text in church sometimes. I’m a terrible role model for my children.

I was okay with that conscious choice until a few minutes later when we were in the middle of prayer, and I realized that person might text me back. My phone was off, but I had no clue how to silence my watch (panicking, I forgot I could just throw it into sleep mode).

watch

I did know to click the digital crown on the right side of my watch then to swipe from the bottom to the top to open my menu with battery percentage and such, but then I was stymied. See that little icon that looks kind of like this: (( [] )) ?

Well, that sure looked to me like an icon to put something on vibrate. Apparently it’s not. It’s a button to LOCATE a phone. Like even if your phone is on silent mode it will suddenly (and repetitively) start dinging loudly.

I tried to pretend it was someone else’s phone dinging, but my son betrayed me by dramatically turning and quirking an eyebrow at me. He is currently grounded 😉 jk.

Okay so this was bad enough, but as I checked it out more and looked it up, I realized that the icon above that one is the one that mutes the device. Say what? Not an icon three icons away? Nope. Right there on top so any time you want to be quiet, you have to be SUPER-duper careful to not let your finger slip and hit the shout-out by accident.

What’s up with that, Apple?

Grabbing HTML for an Image and Link for a Text Widget

In my job as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic, I often get asked how to add an image with a link into a widget area. This can be daunting if someone doesn’t know HTML. But that doesn’t have to deter you. There is a sneaky way to get that code, even without HTML knowledge. This is how to do it:

  1. Create a draft post and insert your image.
    a-insert-image
  2. If you want to add a link to the image, click on the image after it’s inserted and click on the paperclip icon to add your link.
    b-paper-clipc-url
  3. Click on the “HMTL” option at the top of your editing page (next to “Visual”)
    d-html
  4. Copy that code. Note that your code will look similar to what I have in the next image, but the words and links will be different – specialized to your own information.
    e-code
  5. Open your Customize tool and go to Widgets.
    f-customizeg-widgets
  6. Add the Text Widget.
    h-text-widget
  7. Paste your code and save.
    i-code-in-widget
  8. And you will see your image in your widget areas (click it to test your link) 🙂
    j-final

2016 WordCamp US

You know I love WordCamps. And this one is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!!! Here I am sitting at the registration dest in Philadelphia, trying to catch my breath after 24 hrs of meeting/greeting/dining/drinking/collaborating and learning with fellow WordPress lovers. Best community EVER!!!

I’m keeping this short and sweet because there is still a lot more to do over the next two days, but wanted to check in to say how awesome this is. If you are in the Philadelphia area, come join us 🙂

These pics are a glimpse into the gathering. There were 1,800 super friendly and intelligent WordPress lovers in the room at lunch today, and a lovely jazz band playing. This is a pretty impressive event. #wcus

Feelin' the Love at CJ and Lauren's Wedding

It's official. Chris and I have a daughter.

It's official. Chris and I have a daughter.
It’s official. Chris and I have a daughter.

It’s been a pretty busy week, and it was magical. We now officially have a daughter (in law), and she is amazing! If you like watching weddings, you can see the Facebook Live recording from the event by clicking this wedding video link. Please ignore the less-than-professional filming. Things were a bit confusing. I have pics from the weekend at the end of this post. For those of you who want to be/are part of this exciting time with us, as promised, here is a summary. Enjoy 🙂

Ten Things I Learned From our Wedding Weekend Experience:

  1. When doing Facebook Live from the groom’s Facebook account, make sure the device you plan to set up early so you can start the recording is not in his pocket when he is off doing pre-wedding pictures 🙂
  2. Keep undershirts on hand for the guys. Even the non-sweaters might sweat in this sort of situation.
  3. Have more than one person write out name tags for table placement so you don’t get stuck having one person writing everything out for consistency’s sake.
  4. Keep as many vehicles on hand as possible for the bridal party/family/friends. Great for last-minute errands and carpooling to events.
  5. Make sure you have extra cash on hand for things like extra waters. That way others can help you run errands, and you don’t have to worry about forgetting who has your credit card.
  6. Find out about allergies in advance and plan food accordingly (that’s obvious for actual eating, but I had never thought of allergies that actually kept people out of rooms we were hanging out in).
  7. Have a backup suit for the groomsmen and dress for the bridesmaids in case of disasters.
  8. Practice curling hair on a day that is NOT the day of the wedding.
  9. If you are going to rent a conference room in the hotel for your guests, find out when quiet hours are (and get ready to placate managers with coffee the next morning).
  10. Request rehearsal luncheon deliveries for an hour ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about late deliveries.

As those of you who have been following my blog know, Lauren went to college in the town in which we lived, which gave us the really unique gift of getting to know her as she turned from young college student to a business-woman who is taking on the world. We witnessed our son becoming more and more attached to this friend he brought to the house to hang out with, and saw him put his own life on delay a bit so they could spend more time together.
She knew of his passion for snowboarding and the west so she learned to ski and got a job near him in Utah. From Utah, the two worked to plan this wedding where we all got to celebrate their love for each other.
Last Monday we drove to our old house to get our haircuts and to vote the next day. On Tuesday, Chris and I drove the 90 minutes to Rochester to pick up the suits from the rental place and to drop a car off with the kids. We made a date of it, hitting my favorite Indian cuisine restaurant and watching Finding Dory at a $3 theater. As a bonus we discovered it was half price night so our tickets were only $1.50 each. Score! Funny thing was that CJ was up in the air watching the same flick 🙂 Gotta love those family bonding moments. Lol
Chris and I sat in the cell lot waiting for the plane to come in. Chris wondered which direction they would approach from as a plane came in on what seemed to be about 100 feet over our heads. I saw the Delta tail and commented that it might be their flight right there. Two minutes later we got the text that they were on the tarmac 🙂 And so began an amazing week with the young adults.
We talked, laughed, baked and decorated as we planned for CJ and Lauren’s wedding. I have pics from the weekend below. And my aunt did some nice writeups on:
Gathering for a Wedding
and
A Tractor Greeting
and
Wedding of Lauren and CJ
On Friday night we gathered in Rochester to watch Here, There and Everywhere — kicking off the ski/snowboard season in style. 19 family members and friends from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, western NY, northern NY, Texas and Utah all gathered into two rows to enjoy the night together. Such fun! The next day we had a great rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, bridal shower and family gathering before we congregated on Sunday for the main event.
As the guests poured in, we were humbled by the dedication they showed. Many traveled 2-4 hrs each way — just for the day! All went well, and the reception went great. Hudi had a fun toast for his brother and his bride. 🙂
Then we were off to a final after party. On Monday everyone scattered then on Tuesday they were back on a plane for Utah. A true, amazing whirlwind. Better pics will be coming once the professional images are in. If you click on the pics, the descriptions will show. Here’s what I have for now: