Posts By Dick Eastman

AncestryDNA Announces Enhanced DNA matching and a Beta for DNA Circles

This morning AncestryDNA announced some major updates to its available services. DNA Circles is the name for what was previously known as DNA match groups. This is being launched in beta as the technology is still in its early days. The help section of DNA Circles has lots of information on how this works and the company also will be posting an overview for everyone to read shortly.

You need to have a subscription (any level) and a public tree linked to your DNA results in order to see your own DNA Circles. You will be able to download your old DNA matches for a limited time.

You can read more in the Ancestry Blog at

Here are some screen shots to illustrate the new DNA features. Click on any of the following to view larger versions:

(+) Follow-Up: A Tablet Computer that Runs Windows 8.1 for $99

Yesterday I published a Plus Edition article (at describing my experiences running Windows 8.1 and a standard Windows genealogy program on an 8-inch tablet computer. Apparently, the other retailers are not sitting idly by. Now two more brands of tablet computers with almost identical specifications are being offered at the same price. All of these tablet computers run Windows 8.1 and are capable of running almost any Windows programs, including all of today’s Windows genealogy programs.

(+) A Tablet Computer that Runs Windows 8.1 for $99

This is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. Please do not forward this article to others without the author’s permission.

Want a small tablet computer that slips into a purse or (a large) pocket and yet can run RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Builder, Family Historian, Microsoft Office 365, Internet Explorer, PowerPoint, Angry Birds, or almost any other Windows program? Sound too good to be true? What is your reaction if I tell you that you can buy this tiny powerhouse for $99? Even better, you can purchase it from one of the “big box” retailers near you.

I recently purchased this 8-inch tablet computer that runs Windows 8.1 and have been using it for a while. I am generally pleased with it although it does have some drawbacks. Then again, at this price, I am willing to live with a few shortcomings.

That’s right: it is a handheld tablet computer that fits into a large pocket or a purse. It runs the full version of Windows 8.1, not a normal tablet operating system such as Android or Apple’s iOS or even Microsoft’s dummied-down tablet operating system called Windows RT. This tiny tablet computer includes the full version of Windows 8.1 and can run (almost) all normal Windows programs. You can purchase it for $99 or for $149. I’ll explain the two prices in a moment.

Follow-up: President of Turkey says Muslims Discovered America

Three days ago, I wrote (at about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claims that the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century, nearly three centuries before Christopher Columbus set foot there. Now the president has ordered Turkey’s educational institutions to adopt a policy of highlighting the contribution of Islam to global science and arts, including the discovery of the Americas.

He also slammed criticisms from columnists and cartoonists mocking his claims that Muslim sailors discovered the Americas and constructed a mosque in Cuba centuries before Columbus. However, he did not acknowledge numerous claims that still other Europeans and orientals were visiting the Americas long before the 12th century.

Twitter’s Entire Archive of Public Tweets is now Indexed and Searchable

Twitter has announced via its engineering blog that it’s making its entire public tweet archive searchable to everyone. Previously it had only made the archive accessible to select partners.

Twitter’s search engine will index roughly half a trillion tweets, including every public Tweet since 2006. The move means historic tweets will now be accessible to everyone through Twitter’s public search.

You can read the details in Twitter’s Engineering Blog at

Collin County, Texas, Clerk’s Office wins National Recognition for “Genealogy Corner”

Collin County Clerk Stacey Kemp and her staff have been awarded the 2014 Best Practices Award from the National Association of County Recorders, Elections Officials and Clerks (NACRC), according to county officials. The award was for Genealogy Corner, an online, publicly accessible archive that offers a wide variety of online research tools for anyone interested in the history of Collin County.

More than 8,000 licenses, dating from 1884 to 1949, have been scanned and indexed, and are now searchable online, including:

A New Fad Sweeps the Country in 1870s

We all know about popular fads: the hula hoops of the fifties, the pet rocks of the seventies, and body-piercing jewelry of the present time. The young people generally embrace fads with open arms while older generations wring their hands and wonder what the younger generation is coming to. However, we generally do not think about fads in the times of our ancestors. A quick bit of historical study shows that our ancestors were just as enthusiastic about new ideas and fashions as are any of their descendants. Some of these fads had far-reaching effects on future generations. In fact, some of us might not be here today had it not been for one of these fads.

One item that we take for granted today is the bicycle. Yet this two-wheeled device was all the rage when first introduced in the late 1870s. To be sure, two-wheel conveyances had been invented much earlier but were rarely seen. In 1790, Frenchman Chevalier de Sivrac conceived the idea of a crude form of a bicycle, consisting of a wooden beam with wheels attached below each end. It had no pedals; the rider pushed along the ground with his feet. It had no steering capability. Even worse, it had no seat. The rider simply sat on the beam. Apparently de Sivrac built only one of these, and it was soon relegated to a storage shed. Later models improved on the earlier design with a cushioned seat of some sort. In 1813, Baron Charles de Drais of Saurbrun, Germany, introduced a bicycle that was similar to Sivrac’s model but with a swivel head to aid steering.

(+) How to Use, MyHeritage, FindMyPast, and Other Online Resources for Free

This is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Are you curious about your family history but don’t want to pay $20 a month to join or $10 a month to use MyHeritage or other commercial services? You don’t have to! Your local public library or a nearby Family History Center may offer a free membership that provides access to census data; military, court, land, vital, and church records; directories; passenger lists; naturalization papers; and more for ancestors from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. In some cases, you may be able to access some of these huge online databases from the comfort of your own home.

Orange County, Florida, Public Library’s Genealogy Collection is Moving to the West Oaks Branch

Planning to do some genealogy research on your “snowbird” trip to Florida this winter? You might want to know that research in the Orlando area will be a bit limited for a couple of months.

The Orange County (Florida) Library System provides library services to about 1.25 million people, including everyone in the city of Orlando. The library’s large genealogy collection will soon be moved to its new home at the West Oaks Branch Library and Genealogy Center, 1821 E. Silver Star Road, Ocoee, FL 34761.

Smart PDF Scanner Pro for iPhone

Click on the image above to view a full-size PDF image of the same page

You can find a dozen or more apps for the iPhone as well as for Android cell phones and tablets that can be used as replacements for desktop scanners. Some of them can save the images as PDF files. I have several such apps installed on my iPhone and have been pleased with them. However, a new product called Smart PDF Scanner Pro claims to be the best of the bunch.

Obviously, almost every new product claims to be better than any of its competitors. However, I installed Smart PDF Scanner Pro on my iPhone and, after an hour or so of testing, I must say it is a good one. Click on the image to the right to view a full size PDF image created with the new app. This would be a good app to take with you on your next visit to a genealogy library or archive.

The Smart PDF Scanner Pro app features “Advanced Image Processing” that automatically detects the page edges and corrects for perspective. Pick full-color scans, grayscale, or black-and-white for maximum legibility. FlashAssist can take perfect scans even in poor lighting conditions. You can even change the correction and enhancement settings later.

President of Turkey says Muslims Discovered America

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this claim but it is interesting. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century, nearly three centuries before Christopher Columbus set foot there.

“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus,” the conservative president said in a televised speech during an Istanbul summit of Muslim leaders from Latin America. “Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast.”

I Received a Fake IRS Telephone Call

I received a phone call this week from the Internal Revenue Service. At least, the caller on the pre-recorded message said she was calling from the officer of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in regards to my case of being in default for payment.

In the pre-recorded message, “Officer Julie Smith” asked me to call a certain telephone number to make immediate payment. She said I could pay by a prepaid credit card over the phone or by a direct wire payment from my bank. She also warned that if I did not take action immediately I would face court action and possible imprisonment.

I laughed.

(+) How to Digitize Old Tape Recordings

This is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Do you have any old cassette tape recordings or even earlier reel-to-reel recordings that you would like to convert to digital audio files or to CD disks for preservation and possibly to share with others? That is a good idea for several reasons.

The tapes you have on hand might contain recordings made at family dinners or birthday parties or family reunions. Then again, perhaps you have all the classic Perry Como recordings that you would like to listen to once in a while. Whatever the recording, you need to convert every tape to modern media now, while you still can. With today’s technology, “modern media” usually means a CD disk or a flash drive or an audio file saved on a hard disk.

Why should you do that now? First of all, tape players are becoming difficult to purchase. Have you looked in a local department store or electronics store for a cassette player? A few stores still sell them, but cassette players are rapidly disappearing. Reel-to-reel tape players are even harder to find.

Sure, you may still have a suitable player in the closet that will play your old tapes; but, what happens if that player malfunctions? Can you find a replacement?

75% of Jews Share Roots in Middle East

Where did the Jews originate? For Bennett Greenspan, the founder and president of Family Tree DNA, there’s little doubt, and it can all be proven with a swab of cheek cells. The overwhelming majority of Jews living today should be able to trace their roots back to the Middle East with a little DNA testing, he maintains, and all those who claim otherwise, as far as he’s concerned, have their history wrong.

Greenspan was referring to the controversial book written by Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand, which asserts that the Jews of today did not originate in the Middle East and that a “nation-race” of Jews never existed. Most of today’s Jews, he argues in The Invention of the Jewish People (2008), are the descendants of people who lived elsewhere in the world and were converted to Judaism. However, a major study published two years later by Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, claims that many contemporary Jews do, indeed, have a distinctive genetic signature and can trace their ancestry back to the Middle East.

FamilySearch Adds More Than 3.7 Million Indexed Records and Images to Australia, Canada, Isle of Man, South Africa, and the United States

The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

FamilySearch adds more than 3.7 million indexed records and images to Australia, Canada, Isle of Man, South Africa, and the United States. Notable collection updates include the 1,395,009 images from the Canada, Nova Scotia Probate Records, 1760–1993 collection; the 396,405 images and 396,405 indexed records from the US, BillionGraves Index collection; and the 389,387 indexed records from the South Africa, Church of the Province of South Africa, Parish Registers, 1801–2004 collection. See the table below for the full list of updates. Search these diverse collections and more than 3.5 billion other records for free at

Findmypast releases Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Almanac & General Register of Ireland, over 1.7 million Devon parish records and over 250,000 Devon Wills

The following announcement was written by Findmypast:

Every Friday, leading family history website Findmypast reveals thousands of new records to explore over the weekend on its dedicated Findmypast Friday page. This week’s new additions include over 1.7 million new additions to our collection of Devonshire parish birth, marriage, banns and burial records, over 250,000 Devon Wills Index 1844-1900 records and Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Almanac & General Register of Ireland 1835-1845.

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Almanac & General Register of Ireland 1835-1845 has been added to our collection of Newspapers, Directories and Social History records. Pettigrew and Oulton’s was the first annual publication to include a street by street directory of Dublin. First published in 1834, the Almanac provided not simply a street directory but also an alphabetical list of inhabitants, grouped by profession. Pettigrew and Oulton’s was published until 1845. Now available on Findmypast, the index is fully searchable and contains over 6,000 search results.

NEHGS Presents 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award to Dame Angela Lansbury

The following announcement was written by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS):

On Thursday evening, November 13, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) presented Dame Angela Lansbury with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in the Performing Arts with a custom genealogy and multi-generation family tree. The event helped mark the success of the NEHGS Connecting Families, Advancing History capital campaign which has surpassed the $50 million mark of a $55 million campaign goal. Through the campaign NEHGS has acquired the adjacent building at 97 Newbury Street to expand its headquarters to include educational space for school children, a museum shop, and increased exhibition space. The campaign has also supported a major website initiative that will add more than 2 billion new records to the Society’s award-winning website,

How to Find a Lot of Personal Information about Anyone

Subtitle: How Anyone can Find a Lot of Personal Information about You

NOTE: This article is being cross-posted both here and in my new Privacy Blog as this subject seems applicable to both.

Numerous online sites have been available for years that sell personal information about you or about anyone else in the United States. However, one site seems to take this “service” to new heights: The service isn’t free, but it is low-cost. The service is available to anyone with a credit card and an Internet connection.

Instant Checkmate collects and sells an amazing amount of information about U.S. residents, including criminal records, court appearances (even where the person was judged innocent or if the case was dropped), charitable contributions, sex offender databases, information you provided on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more), professional and business licenses, real estate transactions, and even appraisals of real estate owned, voter registration records, employment records, marriage records, birth records (including birth records of the children of the person in question), residential addresses, and more.

When I did a search on my own name, Instant Checkmate found all sorts of information about me, including my FAA-issued pilot’s license.

Question: Do you want others to know all about you?

Book Review: The Lost Ancestor

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Click on the above image to view a larger version

The Lost Ancestor.
By Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Published by the author. 2014.

The book is subtitled “A Genealogical Crime Mystery” and we see that this is another Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist, story.

Mr. Goodwin has published one previous novel called Hiding The Past, where he introduces Farrier, the investigative genealogist. This is the second volume in the series, and perhaps Mr. Goodwin is cluing us in that an entire set may be in the works.

In the gardened British countryside, Farrier is called to the home of Ray Mercer, where he asks Farrier to take on the mystery of the 1911 disappearance of his great aunt, Mary Mercer. Farrier agrees, and so begins the story, tracking Farrier’s progress, discoveries, search, and revelations. And the unexpected circumstance of being spied upon himself. Farrier becomes the target of unknown persons more interested in stopping his work than letting the mystery unfold.

World War II Marine Corps Combat Recordings are Available Online

Marine Corps Combat Recordings provide an amazing and vivid accounting of the war in the South Pacific during World War II. Actual recording began late in 1943 and continued through the occupation of Japan in 1945. The recordings are some of the most historically significant collections in the Recorded Sound Section of the Library of Congress.

Click on the above image to view a larger version


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