Get Visitor Comments on Websites at RootsWeb


Enabling – and encouraging – your visitors to contribute to your website through comments is a great way to develop an interactive and engaging website, and build a regular audience. And a powerful way to gain invaluable feedback so you can adjust your website to meet the needs and expectations of your audience.

Although I had a Guestbook on my website, Chris Korte’s New Zealand Genealogy Project, it was not really adding to the website, with comments being viewed on Rootsweb. It was obtaining some comments, but relatively few.  Also, because I did not have an email link, I did not review visitor comments frequently enough.

I hope I have fixed this now by using some software from htmlCommentBox on my website.  The javascript code was flexible enough to meet my needs and has several advantages when used on free Rootsweb websites:

  • The comments are stored and the scripts processed on htmlCommentBox, not Rootsweb.  Rootsweb limits the processing of some code needed for adding visitor comments to a web page.
  • The same code script can be inserted on the pages where you want to get and display visitor comments.  Only comments for that page are displayed.
  • You are emailed when visitors leave a comment, providing an alert.
  • Moderation of comments is easy; that is approval of comments so visitors can view.
  • The code can be modified to meet different requirements.  I have a new Guestbook, and can now accept visitor comments on Family notes pages (e.g. see comments on biographical notes for Korte family).  In addition, I am able to show recent comments from the whole site on the home page.
  • Visitors can be emailed automatically when a person replies to their comment.

If visitors provide comments to the pages I have set up, it will be easy to add additional code so comments can be added to other pages.  I am waiting to see how useful it is for visitors.

Image showing Example of htmlCommentBox
Example of htmlCommentBox showing input form and a posting.

Visitors adding comments to this blog is easy.  I hope it will be just as easy now on my website, Chris Korte’s New Zealand Genealogy Project.

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Tracking Vistors to your WorldConnect Family Tree


I am interested in the demographics of who is visiting my family tree on Rootsweb WorldConnect. What country, city are visitors from? What pages are looked at most often?

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After a few unsuccessful attempts, I have now managed to set up tracking so I can answer these questions, and others. I use Google Analytics.

Analytics LogoThere are two parts to the setup.

  1. In Google Analytics you need to define the default URL – I used wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com.  This refers to the whole WorldConnect site, but only your family tree pages will send tracking codes.  You  copy the tracking code from Google Analytics for insertion in web pages displaying your family tree.
  2. You then need to log into Rootsweb, open your account page, and under Worldconnect Tree ID select Edit. Click on the tree you want to track (in my case chris_korte), then click on Display Options under Tree Settings.  I pasted the tracking code from Google Analytics into the Page Footer.  Due to restrictions on string length for the page footer, I needed to remove the existing footer.  Before pasting, I also edited the tracking code in notepad to remove formatting spaces and carriage returns – I made one line of text.

So far this has tracked visitors for a few hours successfully.  When it has run for longer I will update on what has worked and what has not.

I have been able to see number of visitors, pageviews, visit duration, audience details, traffic sources and content.  These are the normal statistics that Analytics reports.  In-Page Analytics can not be reported, but this is not a concern to me.

I presume the tracking code can be inserted in other parts of the WorldConnect page, but I have not tried.

Google Analytics reports that “The Google Analytics tracking code has not been detected on your website’s home page.” This is because Rootsweb WorldConnect does not allow users to alter the home page.

Google Analytics says “For Analytics to function, you or your web administrator must add the code to each page of your website.” Because the footer is displayed whenever my tree is displayed, the tracking code will report all instances of my tree being viewed.

In case you do not know, use of both Google Analytics and Rootsweb WorldConnect is free.

CrashPlan for Backup


Backup of genealogy data is essential to avoid loss of your work.  I have written before about backup, but have recently started using the CrashPlan service. This post is to let you know about this new service.

CrashPlan Logo

Why Backup

So far I have had to use backups to get my research back twice. My computer disk needed to be reformatted to recover from a virus the first time, and the second time my genealogy files got corrupted.  Recovery is easy from backup files if you have them.

I have been backing my genealogy research up to a local network hard drive and to Carbonite, an online service that stores your files in the US.  However I was not happy with Carbonite because backup is very slow once you exceed 200 GB.  I need to backup over 700 GB because I have a lot of digital images from photography.

CrashPlan+

CrashPlan is an automatic backup service. Files and folders of your choosing are backed up when the CrashPlan software detects a change in files. You can choose when backups occur if you want to limit the time. The selective, incremental, and fully automatic backup system keeps the latest version of everything you want backed up without you ever having to think about it.

You can backup to a hard drive attached to your computer, to another computer on your network, to a friends computer using the internet, or to CrashPlan’s servers.  CrashPlan has servers in Australia for customers in New Zealand and Australia – CrashPlan Australia.

I took the CrashPlan+ Unlimited plan.  This allowed me to backup all my files (700 GB) on their Australian server plus to a local hard drive.  I also have an additional backup of my genealogy data to their server plus my wife’s computer when it gets turned on.

I used their “seed service” where they sent a hard drive, I backed up my files to the drive, and returned the drive to Sydney.  The files were then loaded onto CrashPlan Australia.  It would have otherwise taken several month to upload all my files as my current internet plan only allows 50 GB per month.  The “seed service” is expensive – $A165.

CrashPlan has several plans available.  A 10 GB plan for one computer costs $A35 per year.  With this plan you can backup (unlimited) to hard drives and friends computers for free, you are just limited to 10 GB on the CrashPlan servers. An Unlimited Family plan allows backup of unlimited amounts of personal files from 2-10 computers for $A165 per year. A free plan does not allow backup to CrashPlan servers and has several limitations.

CrashPlan keeps old versions of files so you can retrieve them if you want to.  I have retrieved files after I made changes then wanted to go back to an old version. If you have files on the CrashPlan servers you can download to your apple or android device using an app.

I tried to backup to my network attached storage but this did not work.  Access to network storage is not supported by CrashPlan although they provide an unsupported workaround. I used the workaround, but only managed to get half my backup done.  You may have success with a smaller backup?

New Zealand Cemetery Records – CD1


The New Zealand Society of Genealogists Inc. has released a new CD – New Zealand Cemetery Records: Waikato, King Country and Taupo. Their web site says this is the first in the New Zealand Cemetery Records series. The CD has cemetery records for Raglan County, Waikato County, Hauraki Plains, Piako County, Matamata County, Hamilton City, Waipa County, Otorohanga County, Taupo County, Taumarunui County and Waitomo County.  Society members can purchase from the Society web site.

Image from CD Cover
New Zealand Cemetery Records CD

The CD contains a copy of cemetery transcriptions undertaken between 1970 and 2000. The transcriptions are primarily headstone inscriptions, and in some cases burial records too.

I purchased a copy and have been using for a few days.  The transcriptions on the CD have been available previously on microfiche. I have accessed the transcriptions on microfiche at the State Library in Melbourne, and they are available in public libraries in New Zealand too.  However, the records are much more accessible from CD than microfiche, especially when the library is several hours drive away.

The transcriptions have been scanned and turned into pdf files, with optical character recognition used to create indexes.  There is an amalgamated pdf file containing records from all the individual cemeteries in Waikato, King Country and Taupo Districts – I have found this file most useful so far for finding records.

Optical character recognition was not perfect, so searching the CD is not always accurate. It is recommended that The New Zealand Burial Locator CD is used to search in conjunction with the search available in the pdf files on the CD. However The New Zealand Burial Locator CD database does not always have the same records as the pdf files.

As with most genealogical research, several record sources are best used.  One source seldom has all the information.  Of course, related family members can speed up research with their knowledge. For New Zealand death and burial information I use the following combination of sources:

  1. The New Zealand Burial Locator CD – It is fast and covers most of New Zealand.  The database provides death year and cemetery, so you can then go on to search the appropriate on-line database or transcribed records. It is incomplete however in terms of cemetery coverage and does not have recent records.
  2. New Zealand Historical Death Records – This online database is fast and complete, but excludes deaths in the last 50 years where the deceased’s date of birth was less than 80 years ago. The records provide death year and either birth date or age; but not death date.
  3. New Zealand Cemetery Databases – These databases are very good if you know which ones to search, based on where the deceased lived – often available from electoral rolls. These databases are up to date and do not exclude deceased people excluded in the Historical Death Records. These databases seldom include headstone details, although some do. Almost all the cemeteries in New Zealand are now covered by these databases.
  4. New Zealand Cemetery Records – either on microfiche or now CD.  These records provide headstone details which can supplement other information. Like the online Cemetery Databases, it is best that you have an idea where the deceased lived to reduce the time searching. The transcriptions usually exclude recent records.

Genealogy apps for iPad: Ancestry and GedView


I am looking for an app to use on my iPad for genealogy research.  This post records my test of a couple of apps.

Ancestry app

The free Ancestry.com app looked ideal, being able to be linked to a database on my home computer if I upgraded to Family Tree Maker 2012.  The result of my trial of Version 2.0.3 released on 12 April 2011 was a fail.

Ancestry app

Description“The updated Ancestry app for iPhone®, iPod® Touch or iPad® gives you an even better way to take your Ancestry.com.au family tree with you. Now you can see your entire tree — not just names — in a more intuitive way. Using the app, just log in to your Ancestry.com.au account from anywhere to access your tree, edit information, upload photos, add a note — even add a long-lost family member. Plus, you can see shared trees and view records and source citations on the go.”

I have Family Tree Maker 2011 (FTM) on my computer, and an Ancestry.com account. My family tree has over 14,000 individuals. I used the share button in FTM to upload my tree (entire file, but no media files). The upload failed when I tried to include media files!

I installed the Ancestry app on my iPad 2, logged in to my Ancestry.com account, and tried to download my tree, Chris Korte’s NZ Genealogy Project (Oct 2011). Although the tree downloaded and processed it never displayed correctly despite numerous tries and long waits – display had no names, only part of the tree could be displayed, doubled up name entries (but still an incomplete tree). I tried numerous ways to fix – reinstall app on ipad, re-download app, reboot ipad, upload new file to ancestry.com – all attempts and combinations failed!

The app worked fine on a smaller tree (33 people) and the small sample tree.

My conclusion was that the app is not able to handle larger trees (or maybe there is something wrong with my tree on Ancestry.com?). Any suggestions on how to fix gratefully received. For now however, I have removed the Ancestry app from my iPad.

UPDATE – Ancestry.com updated the app on 20 November 2011. I have now installed the new version (Version 3.0.1) and it performs as expected.  My file loaded ok, displays ok, and shows matches with information held by Ancestry (census, electoral rolls etc).  For the updated version a PASS too!

GedView app

The other app I have tried is GedView 3.2.1 on my iPad, and a GEDCOM file from Brothers Keeper. This loads and displays fine. GedView costs a few dollars, and does not have all the features of Ancestry, but it works. The result of my trial of GedView 3.2.1 released on 20 October 2011 was a PASS. GedView has a pdf user manual that you can check.

GedView app

Description GedView is a viewer and recording tool for your genealogy database when you are out and about researching local records, or visiting locations such as graveyards looking for information.

You can quickly check up on family relationships, dates/locations of events, and record new information (including taking photos/video if your device supports it) anywhere and anytime you like without needing to worry if you have a (potentially costly) internet connection as all your data is held on your iPhone/iPod/iPad. You can even store multiple separate family trees if you haven’t established a link between groups of people.

No specific desktop application is required as standard GEDCOM files are used for importing your family tree. These can be encoded as ASCII, ANSI, ANSEL, UTF-8, or UTF-16 and can be added to GedView via WiFi, downloading from a website, via iTunes (iOS 3.2 or above), or even opened from other apps such as Mail, Safari, Dropbox etc.

Google Maps


I have just tried Google Maps, and it provides an easy way to put maps on your web site. I had some maps made in Photoshop on my site (and still there), but Google Maps allows a lot more!

I wanted to show a farm location on my page for Ruanui Farm at Matawai.  I created an outline of the farm, by tracing over the satellite image in Google Maps, then displayed both the overlay and satellite image. The result below shows the farm outline relative to the highway and Matawai.  With the simple instructions available, this was all very easy to achieve.

In addition to the map above, I was able to paste the code from Google Maps into Likno Modal Windows software to create pop-up windows with a map.   I was quickly able to generate pop-up maps linked to the several static maps on my site.

You can get instructions on adding Google Maps from WordPress support. Also search Google for further help.

Genealogy Backups!


This post is a reminder to back up your genealogy research and records regularly. Why? Because computers crash or get affected by viruses, so that you can lose all your research.

So far I have had to use backups to get my research back twice.

In 2008 a virus affected my computer and I had to reformat the hard disk to get the computer working again.  Software had to be reinstalled. My genealogy research was lost in the disk reformat.  I had to use a GEDCOM file to restore my genealogy files in Brothers Keeper. Some of my more recent research was lost because I had not been backing up frequently enough.

After this event, I purchased a subscription to Carbonite. Carbonite is online backup software that automatically and securely backs up your files to a remote backup facility using the internet. If you need to get your files back you can download them to your hard disk easily. In addition, I made backups to portable hard disks from time to time, and purchased a Stora Home Media Network Storage.  The Stora (hard disk plugged into my router) comes with software to automatically back up selected files – I back up my genealogy research 2-3 times per week at night automatically.

Last weekend I had a crash on my computer and files that were open were corrupted. Brothers Keeper no longer worked. I wa s glad to have recent backups this time, and a choice of which one to use.

I restored my genealogy files from Stora and only lost one day’s changes to the Brothers Keeper files.  Because I waited a day before trying to restore files, the files on Caronite had been updated with the corrupted versions from my hard drive. Carbonite keeps several versions of backed up files, so I could have restored from this source, but it was easier to use the Stora files.

Brothers Keeper has a backup routine, but I had got into the habit of not using it when I closed the program.  Had I done backups using this routine, it would have been even easier to restore my files (from the hard drive).

My message – USE BACKUPS – Use several backups and expect your genealogy files to get broken, your hard disk to stop working, a virus to infect your computer, your data to be lost when you reformat your hard drive, etc. There seem to be lots of things that can and do go wrong.  Backups allow us to continue and not lose several years of work.

Stora boxStora box