Fun with Time Travel, AI style

Genealogy can be serious work. Searching for unknown parents, trying to untangle twisted bits of information, and checking everywhere a reasonable genealogist would check for evidence…it all takes time and dedication.

For a diversion, I recently used MyHeritage’s AI Time MachineTM to imagine myself in other places and times. The program asks you to upload as many as 25 photos of yourself: portrait, profile, upper body and full body. Tip: Hats seem to throw if off, so upload your photos of yourself without hats! I am almost always wearing a baseball cap when outdoors, and ended up with some distorted images. I wear glasses and did have a recent passport photo of me without glasses which seemed helpful. In some images there are ghosts of my glasses. I did use the photo program on my Mac to clean up a few with weird blotches that were ghosts from either my long hair or my glasses. The program takes some time and uses Artificial Intelligence (that’s the AI part). More about the technology here. When the program is ready, you then choose various places and times and have yourself placed in the style and clothing of that era.

Here are some of my favourites starting with the furthest back in time:

16th Century Royalty

The fact that so many of the choices provided in the AI Time MachineTM involve royalty reminded me of this quote from the movie, Bull Durham: “How come in former lifetimes, everybody is someone famous? How come nobody ever says they were Joe Schmo?” –Crash Davis

I’m pretty sure my family were serfs.

18th Century France

This one from 18th Century France was kind of fun. This would be the last part of the 18th Century when hairstyles were tall and exotic. The hairstyles of the day sometimes made political statements or included a ship model. If you decide you want do your hair like this, here’s a tutorial.

US, Civil War Era

By the time we get to the Civil War Era, it’s possible that photos of our own families have survived. I do have a copy of a photo of my 2x great-grandfather, Jesse Workman, in his Civil War uniform. He served in the 119th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry. There are also photos of some of my 2x great-grandmother, Sarah Jane (Ellis) Davis around this time period.


By the time we get to the 1920’s, I have more family photos. It’s fun to see some family resemblances start to come through. The MyHeritage models were much better off financially than most of my ancestors, though!

And since it is a Time Machine, we can go forward into the future. My husband and I often talk about the fact that we really thought space travel would be common in our lifetime. Here is my fantasy future:

Future Me

If you aren’t on MyHeritage, consider giving it a try, not just for the fun AI Time MachineTM but for all the other benefits. You may find additional DNA matches (especially from Europe), helpful genetic communities, great DNA tools, and additional records you might not find anywhere else. And do have fun imagining yourself throughout history!

Research Like a Pro Week 10: Productivity and Further Education

This is the final week that I am serving as a peer group leader for Family Locket and the Research Like a Pro Study group. It’s been fun, useful and I’ve made progress on my Stoker family project! The focus for the last week was on productivity and further education.

I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach for several years now. I was introduced to it at work. I use Omnifocus for Mac to help me stay organized. It is designed around the Getting Things Done approach. I really don’t know how I would keep track of different client projects, my own work and even household reminders if I didn’t have Omnifocus.

I began keeping a yearly education plan when I was in ProGen 46 almost 3 years ago. My study buddy from ProGen and I update our plans yearly and give each other feedback. My plan focuses on genetic genealogy. New tools keep the field lively! I also continue to gain skills and experience in African American research. I have reminders in Omnifocus for weekly webinars on a range of topics. Most of the webinars I attend are sponsored by Legacy Family Tree, American Ancestors, the Virtual Genealogical Association or ICAPGen’s great YouTube channel. I have tentative plans to attend RootsTech in March of 2023.

I hope that sharing my experience with the Research Like a Pro Study group has encouraged you! It’s a big time commitment and worth the effort.

Research Like a Pro Week 9: Copyright, Proof Arguments, and Publication

Genealogy Standard 62 is about integrity and ownership. It’s a reminder to respect copyright and ownership of other’s intellectual property. The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, writes about legal matters and updates on copyright law regularly in her blog. I’ve found her advice useful. I learned about two new resources for copyright: The BYU Copyright Decision Trail and the Fair Use Evaluation Log. For this project, I did not use any images that were covered by copyright. In the past I have had good luck by contacting the copyright holder and would not hesitate to do that again.

I am getting closer to a proof argument for separating the James Stokers, but there is at least one other proof needed – that linking James Stoker born in Kentucky to Edward Stoker, the Revolutionary War Veteran. I need to search land records, probate or local histories that would support parentage for either of the two younger James Stokers. 

This seems potentially publishable eventually. The confusion between the James Stokers is evident on WikiTree, FindAGrave, and Ancestry Trees.

Research Like a Pro Week 8: Report Writing

I began writing during the research process and I’m glad I did since my schedule threw some curves at me this week. I am incredibly grateful that I took the time to do the citations when I was researching! My flow is not interrupted by that technical element of the process. 

I have a rough draft and will appreciate my classmates feedback. I’m relying on bulleted lists and tables to capture the information about the different James Stokers. I am focused on walking the reader through the evidence. I like the challenge of taking complex information and trying to make it understandable.

When I have difficulty writing, I find somewhere that intrigues me and start writing about that topic. I then go back to the parts where I had been stuck. I can re-write forever, so a deadline is helpful. My first drafts are generally too wordy and passive and subsequent drafts tighten that up. I’m finding that GoogleDocs supports me to outline documents. I am a huge fan of the header system in GoogleDocs.

Research Like a Pro Week 6-7: Research Logs and Research Time

Any professional genealogist will tell you that one thing that distinguishes professional-level genealogy is the consistent and disciplined use of a research log. In the past I’ve used spreadsheets and was marginally successful. I used them sporadically but persisted in hunter/gatherer mode in my non-professional days. AirTable has been a game changer for me. I like databases and I am still learning all the ways AirTable can support organization and analysis of genealogical information, but I am an enthusiast. Filtering! Sorting! Linking between tables! There are so many features to support genealogical research.

For this project, I used the AirTable base (database) developed by Nicole Dyer for Research Like a Pro. It includes both documentary and genetic genealogy tables. This project does not include any genetic genealogy but those tables may come in handy some day. I’ve been using and adapting Nicole’s bases for a couple of years. Since I am disambiguating men of the same name, I need the information in one table to look at each man over time, so I have relied on the timeline table and some extra fields to test different ways to sort the men. Filtering and sorting allows me to visualize the information in a variety of ways.

I learned almost three years ago to create citations when I first look at a document and that has been a boon. Creating source citations can slow down the writing process. I still occasionally miss documenting every negative search and find myself going back and doing that. It’s important to keep track of the search terms, locations and time ranges to avoid rework.

Writing is next and I did start writing as I was logging the information I found, because writing helps me sort out my thoughts and create a more coherent narrative. The course provides two weeks for doing the planned research, which was welcome.