Virtual Gramma – Look Her In The iPAD!


As a genealogist, I come across many family migration stories. Several generations ago, many people left everything and everyone behind for a new life; often to never communicate again.

Women sometimes left small children behind, men left entire families, with the intent to one day bring them over to reunite with him. There are many happy endings to these journeys; there are also relatives who were left behind posting in newspapers, searching for loved ones who they hoped made it to the promise land. The heartbreak that occurred would be insurmountable I imagine, regardless of how tough and brave our ancestors were.

If they did connect again, it was through the postal service and what we call “snail mail” now. And the letters traveled on ships and took what must have seemed a lifetime to reach home. And then traveled by plane. I’ll spare the history lesson right there; it took a long time by todays standards. I myself recall buying¬†special air mail paper to correspond with friends who left for Europe after college.

Now for my own family’s migration story which I never could have foreseen. It’s been a year and a half since our small family including three pets (two cats and a dog) boarded a plane for Australia. This decision was a big one, especially in the sense of being an only child and taking the only grandchildren away from their Gramma in the States. She was devasted when my husband had a job offer in Pittsburgh, but this? We ripped her heart out, but we took it with us.

Gramma is with us virtually now. She’s on Facebook and I am a super poster with her and the rest of family and friends we left behind in mind. We FaceTime on a near daily basis. She joins us for breakfast, sometimes lunch, occasionally¬†dinner (during daylight savings) because she’s sleeping on her side of the world. She joined us just today when I brought my eldest daughter to lunch. Good thing I have a great data plan on my iPhone! She is there with us at swim lessons, our hotel stay this past weekend, and we are there with her when she travels to Colorado to see her sister, and when she sings with the band on a night out. Gramma even gets captured in family photos while on the iPad.


Things you hear around our house:

“Look her in the iPad when she’s talking to you!”

“Take Gramma with you upstairs to watch you play.”

“Don’t moon Gramma and Papa!”

“Talk to Gramma first and then you can play on the iPad!”

Gramma has watched them grow in height and vocabulary and she hears the ruckus of us trying to get them ready and out the door for school on time. She’s there for the yelling, the tears, the injuries (although she was spared of the head getting cracked open on a rock because we were FaceTimeing with her Colorado sister at the time!!) and the living room dancing, plays, and songs.

When we ask our kids which country they like best to live in, the lightning-fast response is the U.S.. Why? Because Gramma and Papa are there. They don’t mention other reasons like friends or places they miss (no offense folks!). And it’s not just because they are family and visited for 2 weeks last year. It’s because they are a constant in their lives and share stories every day. Maybe it’s also the care packages…

Technology is our lifeline and I don’t use that term lightly. It is the bridge between us and family in the States. Our own iPads and iPhones, and all of our Apple products really, are worth every pretty penny. In pennies-per-use and the family glue as a result, these devices pay for themselves again and again. The best thing is being there and we will see Gramma when we travel to the States next month!

No doubt you have your own virtual stories, so feel free to share!

Data driven crazy…by Google


That’s me currently. I’ll admit, I do love research and technology. It’s the behind the scenes data and interconnectedness that amazes and perplexes me. Sure I hit roadblocks like any other genealogist, but the ones I am finding myself up against lately are of a technology nature as it relates to starting my business.

I get asked pretty regularly, how’s your website traffic, what’s your reach? I just assumed I could go into my web hosting service and see the data. It must be buried pretty deep because I couldn’t find anything and the support boards weren’t any help either. Time to spend some time and do this right.

Google Analytics was the recommendation I found at every turn. What, it’s free?! I’m sure the catch is that Google has access to my data in my website, maybe more. I can deal with that, I think… So I pulled the GA switch this weekend. From there, I went to my Facebook company page and figured what the heck, let’s promote this page and I created a paid ad with a fixed budget not the crazy $5 per day. I set up target audience demographics, interests etc… I thought, this is way too easy. And it really was! I downloaded both the Facebook Insights and another analytics app that pulls in the GA data. Now, I’m hooked. I can tell in an instant how many unique visitors, what’s my bounce rate and how long they stay on each page of the website. Just plain cool.

Google has some cool technology typically so I thought I would check out the Google Glass tour that started in Durham, NC. This proved to be an underwhelming experience compared to all of the great tech endeavors Google has been part of. After waiting in an hour long sun-baked line with my children (2 under the age of 5) and our caregiver, it was finally our turn to see what the buzz was about. I put the Google Glass on, it kept trying to find a connection. It didn’t understand my commands, or actually my question “Ok Glass, where am I?” until it was my last moment with this contraption. Finally the screen above my right eye displayed the words “Durham NC” and then showed me on a map. Hmmm, do I need a small piece of glass monitor over my right eye to show me where I am? Perhaps I should have asked how to say “good evening” in Japanese. As a genealogist, the most practical purpose i considered this Terminator type eye piece would provide was the ability to take photos of graves and dictating what was being viewed. I could easily pull out my iPhone for this and as far as pics, the $1500 current pricetag of Glass would more easily translate to a new Nikon.

While I continue to build my business, I will be keeping stock of the steps and technology along the way. Watch out there could be a lecture in my future! In the meantime, I wonder how many new visitors liked my Facebook page or visited my website while I wrote this? Ok Glass, where am I?