Thursday, November 21, 2013

Family Tree DNA Sale Prices--NGS Family History Conference Registrations Opens 1 Dec--Mocavo Attempting to Develop Handwriting Recognition Software

--Family Tree DNA Holiday Sale
--NGS Family History Conference Registration Opens 1 Dec
--Mocavo Attempting to Develop Handwriting Recognition Software


Family Tree DNA Sale Prices

I received a notice today about Family Tree DNA offering special sale prices until December 31.  More information at their web site.  Their Family Finder test is only $99 and includes a $100 gift card from Restaurants.com.

Family Tree DNA Web Page

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The NGS 2014 Family History Conference
7–10 May 2014 in Richmond, Virginia
Registration Opens 1 December 2013


I received the following notice from the National Genealogical Society.  I attended two years ago in Charleston and had a wonderful time.  I read over the list of speakers and topics and this looks to be another great conference.  If you think there is any chance of attending, I highly recommend booking a hotel reservation now.  If you change you mind you can always cancel later.

The sixteen-page Registration Brochure for the NGS 2014 Family History Conference, 7–10 May 2014, is now available and can be downloaded at http://goo.gl/KwHTix. Conference registration opens on 1 December 2013. Register online at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/event-registration/


Have you made your hotel reservations yet? Up-to-date information about the hotels can be found at: http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/attend/accommodations/.  
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Mocavo Initiates Project to Develop Tool to Read Handwriting 

Many of the bloggers, including Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver, and James Tanner, have talked about Mocavo's recent announcement  to develop a computer program to read historic handwritten documents just as today's programs have OCR technology to read printed text.

This would be a tremendous breakthrough because there are probably millions of handwritten documents that could be digitized if this technology could be developed.  

I hesitate to say that they won't do it, knowing all the amazing things that computer technology has done within the past half century.  However, having spent some time translating just a few handwritten documents in my possession, there are some challenges that come to mind.  I imagine the computer programs would attempt to use some sort of logic in the translation process; but the spelling of many of our ancestors wasn't always the best.  Also, the structure of sentences and terminology has changed considerably over the years and varies greatly depending on the education level of the individuals.  

The most obvious challenge is the handwriting itself.  I had a three page letter on 5" by 7" stationary and it took me over an hour to translate and type it because the handwriting was so difficult to read.  I would leave blanks for words I couldn't read and then would go back and see if I could determine the word based on context and/or letters that I could identify by comparing them to other letters in the document.  To further complicate the process the handwriting often fades in and out with differing shades of darkness.

I am not saying it can't be done; but there are certainly going to be some formidable challenges.  I wish them well and commend them for taking on this task.  As James Tanner commented, "Is Handwriting Recognition the Holy Grail of Genealogy?"  I think it certainly has the potential to be!
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Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Family Tree DNA or Mocavo, nor have I received any compensation from them.  I have done DNA testing with Family Tree DNA and have been very pleased with the results and the follow-on support.