Scott_J on FamilyTreeCircles - journals

Scott_J on Family Tree Circles

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Journals and Posts

New Feature: Private Messages OUTbox

When I built FamilyTreeCircles so many years ago, I had no idea how popular the private messages feature would be.

As of today, there have been over 18,000 messages sent through the private message system. I never would have guessed.

One of the most requested features that I get is for people to be able to see the messages that they have sent to others. Did I contact so-and-so about such-and-such? What did I say? Did she open it?

I'm happy to announce that I have added a new feature allowing you to view your outbox. In it, you can see all the messages you've ever sent.

Where is it? You'll see conspicuous links to your "Inbox" and "Outbox" in your private message area.

Here are a few notes about the new feature:

  • You can view them, but you cannot delete them. (They don't belong to you any more!)
  • You can see if the recipient has opened them
  • You can still see them if the recipient has deleted them.
  • I haven't structured the messages in any sort of "conversational" view.

Like me, you'll probably be a bit surprised at the number of messages that have gone un-opened. Honestly, I was quite disappointed at some of them. But at least now I know, and maybe I'll follow up again with some of them.

Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any questions.

1 comment(s), latest 5 years, 1 month ago

New Features on Family Tree Circles

If you’ve been reading the FamilyTreeCircles newsletter, you know that I’ve been working on some new features on FamilyTreeCircles.

If you don’t currently subscribe to the newsletter, you can sign up here.

I’m happy to say that a number of them have gone live today.

Here’s an overview of what’s new.

New Journal and Comment Views

You’ll notice a new menu item called “Journals”. That brings you to a new series of pages that give different views of journals and comments:

  • Newest: All of the new journals
  • Unanswered: Any journal that does not have a comment
  • Last Activity: All journals sorted by last activity (either a new journal or a comment added)
  • QuickSearch: search in all journals, more on that below
  • Latest Comments: View just the latest comments, not journals

This functionality replaces the old tried and true “Active Posts” page, which remains available if that is what you’re comfortable with.

Take a look through these menu items and see if these offer you any improvement in how to view the journals on Family Tree Circles

Quick Search

While you can use the search box in the upper right, the new Quick Search gives you a fast way to quickly sift through journals in the system to find keywords that you’re looking for. Looking for a surname? just start typing it in to the quick search box and you’ll immediately see any journals matching your search term.

Note: You can also search in just your own journals by accessing the quick search link from your own Journals page from your profile.

Journal “Thanks” and “Flag”

In order to reward people who are writing great journals, I’ve added a “Thank” button to the bottom of all journals.

If you like what someone wrote, just quickly click “Thank”. I’m quietly keeping track of these for now, but soon I’ll be exposing these numbers in the form of “popular journals” or people who get the most thanks. For now, just feel free to use it!

If you have any questions about these features, please drop a comment.

15 comment(s), latest 5 years, 5 months ago

New Features: User Search, etc.

Here's a quick update on some changes I've made to Family Tree Circles recently...

  1. User Search - I've added a user search section to the search results page. So if you're looking for a user whose username you can't quite remember, put a partial name in the search box. Like this search for "ally" turns up our favorite FTC editor Allycat, and 74 others.

  2. Email Address protection. We can warn and warn and warn, and people still put their email addresses in journals. This is a bad idea in general because spammers scan the web for email addresses to send horrible email to. I've coded things up so that if you're not logged into FTC, you won't see the email address. Just some indication that there's an email address there and that you must log in to read it. It is too much trouble for spammers to create an account just to get a few email addresses, so it should be effective.

  3. Disappearing Newsletter Signup Box. You've probably noticed me experimenting with lots of different newsletter signup form designs in the right margin of the site in the past month. I've now set it up so if you have ever subscribed to the newsletter (and even subsequently unsubscribed), the form no longer shows on every page of FamilyTreeCircles (except on the blog).

If you have signed up for the newsletter, thanks! If not, and you'd like to, there's a signup box right over there to the right. And you won't have to look at that form any more on FamilyTreeCircles. :)

New FTC Features...

Some new features have been added to FTC...

- Profile pictures. Now you can upload a picture to show with your posts. Can be a picture of you, or anything you want.

- Image attachments to journals: You can attach a single image to a journal. Your image will be uploaded to the server, resized, and shown with your journal entry. Please don't upload any copyrighted images!

- Updated search: The search now includes the new Surname Wiki content.

Enjoy, and feedback is always welcome.

5 comment(s), latest 2018 years, 2 months ago

New Journal Type: Query

FamilyTreeCircles is growing and in an effort to better organize the large volume of journals that get posted here, I've added a new Journal type: Query.

Queries are simply a request for information on a particular ancestor or family. These get posted all the time in both the existing regular journals and questions, so I thought it would be worthwhile to try to get them separated out into their own types.

You'll notice them as the highly recognizable magenta-colored posts.

I've also made the Journal Type field available in the journal edit page, so you can change the types of your own journals if you'd like.

I'll be actively changing journal types as people get used to the new classifications.

This is another small step toward making it easier to scan through the growing list of journals at FamilyTreeCircles. Questions and the new Query types are posts that are specifically looking for help, and hopefully this will ensure that they get seen and hopefully get answered.

54 comment(s), latest 2 years, 11 months ago

New Look...

We've given Family Tree Circles a whole new look to better reflect the direction we're headed with FTC as a Web 2.0 application.

I hope you like it!

Newsletter: Lookup Requests! ...and the first FamilyTreeCircles Digest

The following went to the FamilyTreeCircles email list today.

If you didn't receive it and would like to, you can subscribe here


We continue to invest in FamilyTreeCircles improvements, and the latest is a new post type for Lookup Requests. Most of the posts on FamilyTreeCircles are actually this, and by segmenting them, I think we can increase the quality of all posts.

We now have Journals, Questions, and Lookup Requests, all color coded so you can easily tell them apart in the various places to view posts. And if you have questions, lookup requests, or stories to share, please do!

Here are some posts from the past week. Is yours in here? It could be next week if you just ask.


Here's this week's featured question. Can you provide an answer?

What's the most interesting story in your family tree?

I've got a few mayflower ancestors, but none of those stories feel very unique or "real" to me. Maybe because they're so well known. Do you have a great story?

And here are some great questions from this past week...

What's the best piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their family tree research?

Are there any tools that they can't live without or blogs they need to read? How would you recommend they keep from getting overwhelmed?

kirbycraw , from Marshall, Calhoun, Michigan, has been a Family Tree Circles member since Jul 2013.

My great grandfather was Thomas Smith Williams (1855-1935) and his family resided on "Broombank" farm back in the 1900's or earlier. His daughter Florence Grace Williams(Grace)had a son Leslie John Williams (Lesley on his birth certificate) - 10/5/12...

Looking for Alfred Pimm's arrival in NZ. It is thought he was in the British Merchant Navy.

My father in law Robert Hart was born in New Zealand. We only have his fathers name, Solomon Hart.I can,t find any birth records etc. I did find a Robert Hart, that was in the military file recordsfor WW1 N/N Army, but his birth date was 1889, which is 12 years earlier than we have. The rest of the record has a lot of coincidences. Birth date, 6/4,born Auckland, fathers name Solomon,trade or calling, farmers.these are all the same as info we already have on our Robert Hart! His hair colour was l...

Got Questions?

If you have any genealogy questions -- general questions, or specific lookup requests, post them on FamilyTreeCircles. The best questions will get sent out in the email digest each week.

And if you have answers, please help! Go here to see all the latest posts.


1 comment(s), latest 8 months ago

Pearl Harbor Day, and My Own Great Uncle Lost at Sea in WWII

Today is Pearl Harbor Day here in the U.S., the anniversary of the day Japan executed a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941, killing and wounding thousands, and ushering the U.S. into World War II.

I can imagine that day must have felt a lot like 9/11 to the people of the US, though news surely travelled much more slowly in 1941 than it did 60 years later in 2001. Most Americans surely learned about it in the daily newspaper.

While I had no family members directly affected that day, the course of events led to both my Grandfather and my Great Uncle serving in that great war. I think of my poor grandmother who had both a brother and a husband serving in the war. My grandfather returned home after the war (thankfully, as I would not otherwise exist), but my grandmother's brother did not.

Corporal Arnold Gene McIlwraith was an Engineer gunner on a B-24. He was on flight from Mather Field in Sacramento, CA to John Ridgers Field in Hawaii on Feb 28, 1945 when his plane went missing somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

I discovered this image recently in the Missing Air Craft Reports (MACR), available in the National Archives, and indexed on

What's odd to me is that by my reckoning, the coordinates on the report put their airplane well beyond Hawaii, close to Japan.

Did routine B-24 flights from CA to HI have them going via Japan? I don't even think their plane's final point was in range from California. I guess we'll never know.

5 comment(s), latest 4 years, 7 months ago

Permission Required for Cemetery Photos?

While it may seem like tombstones are public things that should be free for photographing, that may not always be the case.

Apparently, in some cemeteries, photography is not permitted. It's not an issue so much of the photographs themselves, but of what you're allowed to do on private property...

So what this comes down to is not ownership of the images of tombstones, but the photography activity on private property.

A museum may prohibit photography of artwork that they don't actually own the rights to.
The artist may own the copyrights of that image.

A live performance venue may prohibit video recording of performances.
The band owns the copyright of the performance itself.

I wonder if, from a legal standpoint, there is ever copyright ownership of the actual tombstone image itself? Is it a work of art?

Fascinating subject.

12 comment(s), latest 3 years, 12 months ago

Policy Reminder: Don't Post Other People's Content Publicly

Please let me remind you that it is wrong to post other people's content on FamilyTreeCircles.

We state this simply in the terms of use

8. You will not post any copyrighted material on this website.

But maybe this isn't clear enough, so let me explain a bit further.

If someone has a website or a webpage posted somewhere on the Internet, the information they post there (unless they copied it from somewhere else) is theirs. You are not allowed to copy it and post it elsewhere without their permission.

I am not an intellectual property or trademark attorney, so I won't get into the legalities of this, but as the owner of this site, I will remove content that I believe has copied someone else's property. This can and will be just a judgement call by me.

Genealogy data gets copied around all the time, so I'm not talking specifically about names, dates, etc. I am talking about written prose, and larger collections of information that someone else has created.

As a general rule, if you find yourself copying and pasting large amounts of information from another website to post it on FamilyTreeCircles, and you don't have the permission from the original author, it is probably wrong. Please don't.

If you have any questions about specific cases, please just ask.

thank you.

57 comment(s), latest 2 years, 11 months ago