Q&A: Lisa Louise Cooke

On Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, Family Tree University conducted a live Q&A on Facebook with Fall 2012 Virtual

Conference presenter Lisa Louise Cooke as part of our ‘Meet the Presenter’ series. Here is the full transcript:

Family Tree University: Hello and welcome to our Live Q&A for the Fall 2012 Virtual Conference’s ‘Meet the Presenters’ series. You can View the entire series schedule at the link below. Our subject is Lisa Louise Cooke, podcaster extraordinaire. Feel free to submit your own questions to Lisa by Commenting on this post.

So, Lisa, first question: Give us a clue–You’re doing a session for the Virtual Conference on the ‘Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps’. What are some of the ways in which historic maps can supplement genealogy research?

Lisa Louise Cooke: Hi Everyone! Historic maps provide critical context to your ancestors lives. They show you the lay of the land at the time your ancestors lived in a location. Old plat maps can show you how farms were delineated and often even have the owners names right on the map! Sanborn Fire Maps detail each dwelling and can tell you names of businesses. Each map has a story to tell. My favorite approach is to bring them into Google Earth and create map overlays so that I can mix and match them to get a much more complete picture. In class I’ll be covering a collection of my favorite sites that will give you access to over a half a million free digitized maps.

Family Tree University: What is your personal experience with historic maps? What have they helped you find out about your own family?

Diane Haddad: I’d like to plot my ancestors’ residences on a map using Google Earth, but I’m a little intimated now that I’m far into my research and have a lot of places spread out over many years. Does it take a long time to set up something like this?

Lisa Louise Cooke: Just last week I inherited the photo album that my Great Grandmother brought with her when she came from Germany to America. It’s filled with photos of familiar faces from both her family and her husbands. While I know the village where her family came from, I’ve had difficulty up to now determining where Great Grandpa was born and the movements of his family across Europe. I went to one of the websites we talk about in class and downloaded a map of the area at the time frame in question, and added it to Google Earth. Using the photographer studio addresses on the old CDV photos I’ve been plotting each one on the map and story literally has been unfolding before my eyes! Powerful stuff!

Lisa Louise Cooke: Diane, it takes time but can be done in stages. One of the things I recommend to folks is to create a variety of KMZ files in Google Earth rather than one big one. That means you can break down the work, plus have much more flexibility in viewing and using them.

Family Tree University:Sounds like a great tool for social history!

Lisa Louise Cooke: Yes, historic maps are wonderful but the really come alive when incorporated into Google Earth!

Family Tree University: How do I know what’s the “right map” for my research?

Lisa Louise Cooke: There are several factors to keep in mind: does the map go into enough detail in the area of interest, the year the map was created, the quality of the digitized image, etc.

Diane Haddad: It also would be interesting to see how families might’ve come into contact (so ancestors could meet) based on proximity.

Family Tree University: Any idea how so many of these maps were so well preserved?

Lisa Louise Cooke: Diane, exactly! While looking at individual genealogical records don’t always make proximity clear, it literally jumps off an old map!

Lisa Louise Cooke: Creating a map is like writing a book. There was a huge investment of time and energy. And in the past, they were often like works of art as well. Thankfully, that all contributes to them being appreciated and preserved. Thankfully there are people like David Rumsey here in San Francisco who has made their collection and preservation a lifelong passion.

Family Tree University: Changing gears, you host The Genealogy Gems Podcast, as well as our own ‘Family Tree Magazine Podcast’ each month. Take us behind the scenes of what it takes to produce a genealogy podcast.

Lisa Louise Cooke:  Probably the thing that surprises people the most is the amount of work that goes into an episode. The actual recording time is a fraction of the time I spend overall. Pre-production includes research and show prep, setting up and conducting interviews, script writing, music selection, etc. After the recording I’m a stickler for good editing because I want it to be a smooth and enjoyable listening experience. I love the entire process – it’s very creative and I always learn something new.

Family Tree University: How do you decide what topics to cover?

Lisa Louise Cooke: Allison Dolan, the publisher of Family Tree Magazine makes my job easy for the FTM podcast. She provides me with an editorial calendar for the year, with each episode carefully coinciding with the themes and articles appearing in the magazine. It’s really fun to take listeners behind the scenes of the articles. For the Genealogy Gems Podcast it’s a much shorter lead time because I want to address current issues, and questions from my listeners. There’s also a good dose of what happens to be inspiring me in my research at the moment.

Family Tree University:What made you initially decide to start podcasting?

Lisa Louise Cooke:I knew that I wanted to help people discover their family history, but teaching classes with 10 or 20 students seemed slow going. When podcasts came on the scene it was like a thunderbolt. Now I could potentially help thousands of people with the same effort. It was a no brainer. I started producing episodes and just hoped some folks would listen and find them helpful.

Family Tree University: And it has certainly taken off since then!

Family Tree University: In your opinion, what is the most interesting development in the genealogy field right now?

Lisa Louise Cooke: Yep, and nobody’s more surprised than me! I feel very lucky to get to do something I love. When I was in London last year speaking at Who Do You Think You Are? Live it kept catching me by surprise when people came up to me and introduced themselves.

Lisa Louise Cooke: I think the most interesting development in the genealogy field right now it definitely our ability to hit the road with mobile technology. The last ten years we’ve been basking in the glory of being able to do a good deal of our research in our jammies at home. Now with the iPad, tablets, and mobile technology, along with shows like Who Do You Think You Are? the genealogy field is primed and ready to really get INVOLVED in our family history. See it for ourselves – touch it – feel it! In fact, I’m really excited to announce that my brand new book coming out this week is Turn Your iPad Into A Genealogy Powerhouse! Mobile technology and walking in our ancestors footsteps go hand in hand and bring a new level of excitement to genealogy.(And yes, the book is good for other tablets as well! )

Family Tree University: Tell us a little bit about your new book.

Lisa Louise Cooke:My goal was to help genealogists develop a “tablet mindset,” that will help them leave their laptop behind and truly pack light and go mobile. The book includes an in depth look at over 65 apps that are ideal for the tasks the genealogist needs to accomplish, over 30 tips and tricks that will make them a power user, and loads of recommended online videos. And don’t worry if you don’t have an iPad, but instead have an Android tablet. No problem! Comparable apps available in Google Play are included. And the Tips and Tricks section will give you clues as to features to look for on your brand of tablet. My hope is that it will also help those who are toying with getting a tablet better understand what it could do for them and facilitate the decision.


Diane Haddad: I’m glad to hear about the other tablets part (mine runs on the Android platform).

Family Tree University: Sounds like the confluence of technology and genealogy is really getting interesting!

Lisa Louise Cooke: Diane, while the book focuses on the iPad, I provide Android app recommendations as well.

Family Tree University: To wrap up, last question: What advice would you have for recreational genealogists looking to take their hobby to the next level?

Lisa Louise Cooke: Education is always key – load up your iPad, phone, laptop with genealogy blogs, podcasts, and digital magazines. I was SO excited to see Family Tree Magazine go digital! Yea!! I would also recommend that for a real shot of inspiration and motivation pick one ancestor, in fact, one story from that ancestor’s life, and get out and explore it! Visit places, talk to people who know about the times and occupations…social context is exciting and turns names and dates into stories. And who doesn’t love a good story?!

Family Tree University: Amen to that!

Family Tree University: Lisa Louise Cooke, thank you again for participating in this Live Q&A! We look forward to your session at the Fall Virtual Conference.

Lisa Louise Cooke: Thank you, this has been fun! See you all at the Fall Virtual Conference!



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