Pastology @ Charleston - NGS 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

For those of you heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for the National Genealogical Society annual conference, be sure to stop by our booths! You can find us at booths 614 and 616. Due to some unforseen obstacles, we will be arriving a bit late on Wedesday, but we would love to have you stop by for some more information and perhaps a chat about your digitization/organization needs! Periodically, throughout the conference you might run into Chris, Cheri or Brandon....all ready to discuss what you would like to see in our future development. Also, stop by for a free bookmark with fun historical links! We can't wait to meet all of you and get reacquainted with this beautiful southern city! For those of you not attending but still wanting to feel some of the conference atmosphere, follow us on Twitter as we tweet some of our fun encounters and genealogy tidbits learned throughout the week. @Pastology

Pastology Heading to Rootstech 2011!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Congratulations to our very own CEO, Chris Starr, who has been slated to give two presentations at the first annual Rootstech Conference this February held in Salt Lake City Utah! Hosted by Family Search, Rootstech is touted as "A New Family History and Technology Conference to Define the Future of Genealogy". To paraphrase, this conference is designed to bring programmers and genealogy tech users together in one place to learn from each other. If both sides get together, the future of genealogy tech design will be much more intuitive to the users needs. Anyone interested in the present use and future development of genealogy technology should try to attend.

Here is a sneak peak at the two presentations given by Chris on Friday and Saturday:

2/11 - 11:00am: Semantic Web Meets the Family Social Graph (FSG)
Social networks are linked through “friends” to form “social graphs”, while ignoring the oldest social graph of all - the family tree. This paper will focus on the Semantic Web’s relevance to genealogy, followed by the exploration of “Family Social Graphs” (FSGs), and how they can facilitate genealogical research and collaboration.

2/12 - 9:45am: Family Social Graph (FSG) Mashups – A Family Gathering
This presentation shall demonstrate web-based genealogical mashup techniques and technologies (e.g., XML, JSON, REST, Ajax). Specifically, the presentation will show how Facebook, Twitter and genealogical information can be combined in a single view to provide improved knowledge discovery, deeper insights on the past and richer ties to current family events.

Congratulations again, and we look forward to this exciting new kind of conference!


Those Cincinnati Beauties from 1848!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

By now, I'm sure you've all been made aware of the amazing riverfront daguerreotypes that have recently been scanned and made available by the University of Rochester! As a native Cincinnatian, I was enraptured by their beauty. As a historian, I was enraptured by their depth and detail. All around, these photos have suddenly earned a more important place historically, as well they should. Taken in 1848 by Charles Fontayne and William Porter, these are one of the earliest photographic images of an urban locale. The well-known panorama taken in a series of 8 dag plates has always been an important part of photographic and American history, but with this project, the information contained within the images has been amplified.

Amazingly, the scans have been accomplished at such a high resolution that in comparison, a digital camera would have to take a similar photograph at 140,000 mega pixels. After a detailed quadrant scan, new details have emerged at this 30X magnification: wording, people, carriages, shadows of motion, time. There have been several articles about these beautiful images within the past few days and I'll list those direct links at the bottom of the post. However, just a couple of points to ponder:

1. The exact date of when these images were produced had been a mystery until some Cincinnati researchers in 1947 examined the steamboat records to find the precise date that every one of these steamboats were docked at the riverfront - September 24th, 1848. They even studied the shadows to give a guess as to the time - which turned out to be stunningly accurate once these new scans were examined to see the time on the clock. That is some serious research dedication, but it goes to show you that while technology is fantastic, nothing can beat good old fashioned research in many instances.

2. If you've ever visited this fair city, be sure to take a look at all the photos as they scan down the length of the river. To see the seven hills in such an early state of development is quite priceless! How about those beautiful homes up on top of the hills? C'est vraiment magnifique!

Here is a sampling of the photos:

To read more from the original sources:
Wired Magazine:1848 Daguerreotypes Bring Middle America's Past to Life

NPR:Once In a Lifetime River Tour Starts Here! Unfortunately, Everybody’s Dead

University of Rochester and George Eastman House present the Cincinnati Waterfront Dataset
The official technical report on how this scanning was accomplished can also be found in pdf at this link.

The Atlantic:The First Photograph of a Human

Library as Experience

Monday, October 25, 2010

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal reported on a current trend among libraries to cut their librarians and staff in drastic ways. One of the more “innovative” ways of reducing the budget included removing all patron/staff interaction by making book ordering and delivery similar to a lock-box or vending machine type system. The reasoning behind this drastic change was not solely reliant on the current budget constraints, but rather, an attempt to mimic current technologies favored by patrons. In defense of the lock-box style of delivery, proponents cited Amazon as a current favorite among patrons. This way, the patron could browse the titles and request them from the comfort of their own home and retrieve the requested titles at their convenience without interacting with any human along the way.

The arguments against such a change include the death of the library as a “place”, the abolishment of it as a shared community space, the danger of drastically reducing our human interaction, and the loss of a uniquely American invention – the Public Library. We at Pastology argue that there would be another great loss – the library as “experience”. Despite the great advances in reading suggestions when browsing online, there is no current technology that is as thorough as LOC subject headings or as inspiring as just browsing the shelves. Serendipity is an exciting element of research, one that can be tarnished by faulty algorithms and popularity results.

When it comes to libraries, you love them, hate them or tolerate them. Most of us committed to research adore libraries. Despite a few possibly negative experiences, libraries are magical places, full of knowledge. There is that quiet solitude that is almost reverent, as though we are walking through a sacred space, and indeed, how many of us have had something akin to religious experiences in these hallowed halls? The smell of books is also something that can spark memories and inspire focus while learning. A space dedicated to learning at your own pace and dictated by your own needs, passions or fancies, is indeed a special place that should not be so quickly automated to the point of sterility.

Despite our status as a technology company, we are very dedicated to making sure your experience is one that assists, amplifies and celebrates your past. We will never advocate replacing the real experience with an electronic imitation. Technology should be used as a tool to assist, amplify, preserve, share and organize our lives, not extract the interactions and experiences that make us human. As a librarian, I personally feel that advances such as these reported in the article have their place. For convenience and a wider reach, these lock-box type systems could be used in remote areas where a full library is not possible or as a form of after hours access. In 2010, we have reached the point where technology is no longer a luxury, but has managed to weave itself into the textile of our lives. However, as convenient and vital as these technologies have become, we mustn’t let go of the past traditions that define our humanity and celebrate our cultures. Quick, grab the nearest real book, and inhale its musty scent deeply….what memories or thoughts come to mind? Unless of course you are allergic to book dust…then make your way to the nearest automated reading device and get reading! Technology and experience existing in harmony!
For your Pastology pleasure, here is a late 18th century example of early libraries in action from the Kentucky Gazette.
Happy reading wherever you prefer!
CD 10/25/10
Article: New Technologies Dispense with Librarians. By: Conor Dougherty

Celebrate Family History Month with Your Ancestor Doppelganger!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The most curious thing happened to me recently while carefully going through one of our family’s antique photo albums. For possibly the hundredth time, I came across a photo of my great great grandmother as a young woman, and as I studied her closely, I suddenly had the feeling as if I were looking into a mirror. For the first time I noticed that our mouths were identical, her eyes were also of similar size and protrusion. I looked at her hands….yep, those were mine too. The shape of her head was not dissimilar. I could not see her nose as clearly as I liked, but it was apparent that the proportion was correct enough to be my nose as well. Not to brag, but my family had always remarked at my perfectly shaped little nose and never could figure out where it came from. Believe me, our family line of noses runs the gamut of pointy to large, to roman, etc. My nose was definitely not like anyone in the most recent generations – not parents or grandparents – not even siblings or cousins. The place she and I depart is our weight. She had a tremendously tiny waist which I am completely jealous of, but in thinking about it further, this too is a similarity. Even when heavy, my weight was always distributed in the extremities….with my waist being the last place to increase in size.

With this discovery, I was immediately reminded of the celebrity doppelganger rage that has been sweeping the country. It was clear, that after studying all of our old family photos, she is the ancestor I resemble the most. She was clearly my ancestor doppelganger! But then I marveled at how lucky I was. Not everyone has a clear photo of their great great grandmother as a young woman from the 1870s. Let’s face it, seeing yourself mirrored in the face of a very old person’s photo can be nigh on impossible. Yet, some people may have ancestors alive today who are their clear ancestor doppelgangers. Then there is the inside doppelganger. Sometimes we may resemble one person on the outside, but someone entirely different on the inside. That is where this event is a little different!

In honor of Family History Month, Pastology invites you to take a closer look at your ancestors in relation to your own image or personality. Once you find the person that you most closely resemble, join in the fun! You may blog about your ancestor doppelganger and post a link to our Facebook fan or event page, or for a portion of the month of October, change out your Facebook profile picture with a picture of the ancestor you have chosen to represent you. Full instructions will be given on the events page in Facebook, and on our Doppelganger tab at the top of our homepage and blog, but for those of you who do not belong to Facebook, and would rather just blog about your selection, feel free to do so, but please be so kind as to include a link back to this post in your entry so we can get as many participants as possible. The more people that join in this event, the more fun is likely to be had! If you want to share your blog post, just send Pastology an email with the link to your ancestor doppelganger post and we’ll include it in a post update that features some of the best submissions!
Let's honor our ancestors by celebrating the heritage our existence continues!


Welcome to's blog! As we continue developing the beta edition, we don't want to stop sharing some of our gems, tips and updates. This blog, along with Twitter and Facebook should serve our purpose nicely. To stay informed as to our progress, and catch some of our educational news, be sure to join our Twitter feed or Facebook page....or follow this blog. Whichever method is your favorite will do the trick! As new members of this vibrant community, we want to contribute right away. The majority of our posts will focus on industry developments and interesting historical tidbits from around the world. However, we also want to hear from you!
Pastology...our past awaits!