Plus Edition Article

(+) Never Save Original Photos in JPG Format!

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

Genealogists and millions of others have saved hundreds of millions of digital photographs on their hard drives, in the cloud, and on CD-ROM disks. Perhaps the most popular file format for digital photographs is JPG (or JPEG), a commonly used method of compression for photographic images. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality. JPEG typically achieves 10 to 1 compression with little perceivable loss in image quality.

JPEG is the most common image format used by digital cameras and other photographic image capture devices, such as scanners. It is also the most common format for storing and transmitting photographic images on the World Wide Web.

(+) My Favorite Way to Easily Save Cell Phone Photos

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

I have more than 3,000 photos and videos stored in my cell phone. That includes pictures of my grandchildren, photos from genealogy conferences, images of old documents found in various archives, recipes that I “photo-copied” from magazines, bills, receipts, and even a few billboards I enjoyed and decided to save.

Of course, I want to copy all of these items to one or more cloud-based services as well as to my own computers for long-term storage and preservation. Over the past year or two, I have experimented with programs that copy photos from a cell phone to Amazon Cloud Drive (Amazon Prime members can upload unlimited photos free of charge), Google Drive (free of charge for up to 15 gigabytes), Dropbox (free of charge for up to 2 gigabytes), Copy.com (up to 15 gigabytes free of charge), and several other services.

(+) The True Expense of Genealogy Research

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

The recent story about the closing of the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection is sad news. (See my earlier article at http://goo.gl/pzZ0YI for details.) However, in this case, I have to agree with Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan. If a valuable resource at a taxpayer-supported public library is being used less and less, managers of that library need to re-evaluate where the funds are being spent. Libraries are under constant financial pressure. They obviously need to spend their meager budgets in ways to obtain the “most bang for the buck.”

In fact, Michele Reagan is correct. Anyone with a computer can now obtain more genealogy information online that what any public library in a town or a small city can provide. In fact, the computer probably can provide more genealogy information than what was in the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection in Phoenix with the obvious exception of quite a bit of Arizona-specific information that is not available elsewhere and even that can be fixed by having those specific materials digitized at an expense that is probably much less than keeping the “bricks and mortar” library open.

(+) A Lesson to be Learned From One Library’s Conversion to a Digital Library

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

ebooksOne prestigious coeducational college preparatory boarding school recently made a radical change to its library. With 140 years of academic excellence, one would expect the school to be steeped in tradition. However, a visitor to the campus might be surprised to learn that the 100+ year-old school’s library has gone almost all digital.

In a newspaper interview, the former headmaster said, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

(+) Why Reinvent the Wheel?

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

WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.

One thing that constantly puzzles me is why do genealogists keep re-inventing the same wheels? In fact, we have the tools today to reduce this duplication of effort immediately and perhaps to even drive it to zero within a few years. If we do that, the result will be peer-reviewed, high-quality genealogy information available to everyone.

For decades, the standard method of genealogy research has been to look at original records as well as compiled genealogies, looking for information about each ancestor, one fact at a time. In modern times, we typically have used IMAGES of the original records published on microfilm and, more recently, images that appear on our computer screens. We then supplement these original records with compiled genealogies from many sources, including printed books, online web sites containing user-contributed information, and even GEDCOM files found online. Experienced genealogists also understand the importance of VERIFYING each piece of information, regardless of where it was obtained. Yes, even original hand-written records made at the time of an event may contain errors.

Compiling a genealogy typically requires hundreds of hours of work, sometimes thousands of hours, sometimes great expenditures of money, and, when original records have not been easily available locally, we often spend significant amounts of money on travel.

To be kind, I will simply say that the results have been variable. Some skilled and careful researchers have produced accurate and carefully documented genealogies. Other genealogists, typically those with less-than-perfect research skills or motivation, have produced compiled genealogies containing errors. A few have produced genealogies that I can only describe as “fairy tales.”

(+) How to Make Sure Your Laptop, Cell Phone, and Other Electronic Devices are Prepared for Power Outages

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

A recent 24-hour power outage at my home brought the subject of emergency preparedness to mind. Power, telephone, cable television, and FIOS fiber optic lines all had been ripped off the telephone poles by falling trees in several different locations around town during a major wind storm. Not only was the power off but all the telephones in my neighborhood were dead, the cable television was also dead, and Internet connectivity by cable or FIOS fiber optic also was inoperative. Despite these handicaps, I was able to maintain telephone communications and Internet connectivity all the time. While this outage only lasted about 24 hours, I could have maintained the same communications for a week or more without power.

I would suggest everyone should think of their own preparedness for power outages, whether caused by weather, automobiles running into telephone poles, or any other calamities.

(+) Enjoy Internet Access Nearly Anywhere and Anytime with a Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot

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

Introduction: There is a bit of irony here. I was writing this article about how to connect to the Internet when traveling or during a power failure when the power went off! A tree fell across the power, telephone, FIOS, and cable company’s lines, landing across the street and into my front yard. It was the first power failure in the neighborhood in months, and it happened while I was writing this article about being prepared for power failures!

Power, telephone, and wired Internet connectivity were inoperative for about 24 hours. During that time, I used the methods described in this article to access the Internet via a cellular connection.

One of the phrases we often read in technical articles these days is “Internet everywhere.” Indeed, wi-fi Internet connections, often called “hotspots,” are available at thousands of coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, schools, and dozens of other places as well. I have successfully connected online from fast food burger places and while riding at 34,000 feet in an airplane However, despite the phrase “Internet everywhere,” we still cannot connect online from anywhere. A few places do not have wi-fi networks. And then there is the universal question: what do we do during power failures?

(+) The Cheap and Easy Way to Find an Ancestor’s Grave

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

If you own a smartphone (Android or iPhone), you already have all the hardware needed to easily locate cemeteries and, in many cases, even go quickly to specific tombstones within each cemetery. You will need a bit of software, but that is available free of charge from several vendors. You will also need to spend a bit of time online, preparing for the trip.

(+) Is Your Genealogy Data Insane?

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

Are you confident of the accuracy of your genealogy data? You might be amazed at how many databases I see that include mothers giving birth at the age of three, marriages at age twelve, or deaths at the age of 135. Sometimes you even find a person with a birth date prior to those of his parents. Download almost any GEDCOM file from the Internet and I suspect you can find similar problems.

Such errors are easy to create. Sometimes selecting the wrong person in original records can cause such errors. Copying someone else’s errors can cause other errors. Mistakes also occur because you had a keystroke error when entering the data; attempting to type 1835 on the keyboard can easily result in 1845 being pressed on the keys.

(+) Is It Unverified Data and Will It Always be Unverified?

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

Warning: this article contains personal opinions.

I have been fascinated with the comments posted on this newsletter over the years concerning “unverified information on the Internet” and comments about linking to family trees without verification. I agree with some of the comments and disagree with some others. I thought I would add my two cents’ worth.

First of all, I believe in verification of every bit of information I obtain. I don’t care if a fact came from the Internet, from a book, or even from an original record. I still want to verify every bit of information I read. (Most original records are correct but you will find occasional errors even in the original records.) I always look to see who reported the information or who wrote the book I am reading. Even if I recognize the author as being a leading genealogy expert, I still want to verify the claim independently. I don’t believe anyone!

So you think I would be against unsourced, unverified information on the Internet? Wrong!

(+) When Your Descendants Become Curious About Their Ancestors

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

You probably have enjoyed collecting bits and pieces of information about your ancestors and their lives. Is it possible that one of your future descendants will want to do the same for you and for your present relatives? If so, should you help your future genealogist-descendant by making sure the information about your life and the lives of your relatives will be available in the future?

For years, genealogists, historians, and others have preserved information on paper. Sometimes it is in the form of books while a less formal method is to collect paper documents and keep them in a file. Paper has served us well for centuries and probably will not disappear anytime soon. However, paper isn’t as useful or expected to last as long as it once was. Perhaps we should seek alternative solutions.

From e-journals and e-books to emails, blogs and more, electronic content is proliferating fast, and organizations worldwide are racing to preserve information for next generations before technological obsolescence, or even data loss, creep in.

(+) Make Telephone Calls Back Home from Other Countries at Little or No Cost

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

Anyone who has traveled overseas can tell you that placing telephone calls back home can be very expensive when calling from a hotel room or from a cell phone used in a foreign country or with almost any other method. However, there are numerous low-cost or even free alternatives for anyone who carries a smartphone or a tablet computer or a laptop computer.

I am writing this article in a hotel room in Jerusalem, Israel. Earlier today, I made several calls back to the United States. The audio quality was very good to excellent, despite the fact the hotel’s wi-fi system is rather slow. On one call, I talked for more than 45 minutes. The total cost to me? $6.95 a month for a service I use that allows 500 minutes of calls to anywhere in the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, regardless of where I am located. (I have never used anywhere near 500 minutes in one month.) It also allows for calls to any other country in the world at very low per-minute rates.

(+) Protecting Your Genealogy Work from Natural Disasters

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

Now that the northern hemisphere is in mid-summer, we need to think about hurricane preparedness. A large portion of the United States is vulnerable to damage caused by these huge storms. High winds, flooding, downed trees, and more are common. After most major hurricanes, the news media reports numerous cases of homes and the contents of homes that were damaged or destroyed as is shown in the picture to the right.

The hurricanes of recent years should teach all of us many lessons. One lesson concerns preparedness; waiting until a hurricane is bearing down on you is not the time to start planning! Of course, hurricanes are not the only disasters we face. Other parts of the nation face tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, and other threats. Some years ago I remember watching a television news story from California when a reporter interviewed a woman in front of her burning home during a wild fire that leveled the entire neighborhood. The woman was obviously crying and, when asked about her losses, she moaned that she had lost years of genealogy work in the flames.

Of course, anyone can suffer from a burst water pipe that ruins documents, photographs, fabrics, and many other precious items.

(+) My Method of Filing Digital Images and Documents

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

NOTE: This is an update to an article I published last year. Questions about how to file digital pictures and documents arose recently in the comments section of this newsletter’s Plus Edition subscribers’ web site at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=36125&cpage=1#comment-24884. When I looked at the earlier article, I found that it is now out of date. Some of the information has since changed. I updated the earlier article and decided to re-publish it again today.

Here is a copy of a message I received (slightly edited):

I’m a newcomer to genealogy and I’d like to know your suggested file naming convention for downloaded census images that pertain to more than one person. I’d like to settle on a format before my tree gets too big. I save the FamilySearch or Ancestry web page as a PDF for each person listed in the census record and a single image of the census. That way I have a “transcribed” reference for each person as well as the image. For example:

JOHNSON Daniel Joseph Family 1940 US Federal Census.jpg
JOHNSON Daniel Joseph (1940 US Federal Census).pdf
JOHNSON Ethel Blanche (1940 US Federal Census).pdf
JOHNSON Joseph Delone (1940 US Federal Census).pdf

Your thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated.

I did answer the reader in email but thought I would also share my answer here in case others might have the same questions.

(+) The Paperless Genealogist

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

Too many genealogists are addicted to paper. In this day and age, that’s sad. I have no statistics about the amount of paper, ink, and toner consumed by genealogists every year, but I am sure we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars purchasing printers, paper, and supplies. That’s a huge waste of money, in my opinion. I wonder how many filing cabinets and bookshelves are sold to genealogists. I will suggest there is a better way to store personal copies of genealogy records and related information.

The “paperless office” was an early prediction made in the June 30, 1975, issue of BusinessWeek. The article quoted George E. Pake, then head of Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto (California) Research Center:

(+) Our Ancestors’ Dental Care

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

One has to wonder about dental care as practiced by our ancestors. Ready-made toothbrushes and toothpaste were not available until the mid- or even late-1800s. Prior to that, everyone had to make their own.

Throughout the Middle Ages, most people simply rubbed salt on their teeth.

Some people made up their own dentifrice and rubbed the resulting powder on their teeth with a small stick, called a “toothstick,” with a rag over one end. This was the forerunner of the toothbrush.

By the 1700s medical knowledge improved to the point that doctors began to understand the importance of proper dental care. Toothpaste, properly called dentifrice, was made at home. Here is one such recipe:

(+) Genealogy Books on CD

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

I have been reading an interesting book. In fact, it is a book about my family. The original book was published in 1901, so it has long been out of copyright. I have seen it offered for sale as a reprinted book for $150 to $250. In fact, I purchased a printed copy of the book about 30 years ago, and it now sits in a box in my basement. I ran out of bookshelf space, and I don’t open this book all that often. Therefore, it was banned to the basement years ago and, admittedly, I haven’t opened it since.

The new book that I purchased this week for $6.99 is exactly the same book. It has exactly the same words, exactly the same images, everything. Well, not quite everything: there are two major differences.

(+) Scan Photos Yourself or Use a Scanning Service?

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Scanning old family photographs is a satisfying task for almost all genealogists. The old photographs stored in a shoebox or at your cousin’s house can be digitized, stored in multiple locations for security, and optionally be shared with relatives who will appreciate having copies. Scanners are available for $50 and up. The capabilities and options of the various scanners vary widely. You might want to first consider your requirements before running out and purchasing a scanner.

The first question is: how many pictures do you wish to scan? If you have 50 old pictures, you probably can accomplish the task in one evening even with an inexpensive scanner. However, anyone with 500 or perhaps 5,000 pictures to be scanned might want to look for a higher-speed unit. How delicate are the old photographs? If they are brittle with age, you won’t want to use a sheet-feed scanner that may damage the photos when going through the rollers.

(+) OCR Documents the Easy and Free Way

The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is a powerful tool for computers. It allows you to convert text within pictures to editable word processing text. For instance, you might scan or take a picture of some pages in a genealogy book while at a library. When you get home, you find that you have pictures, not text. While you can insert the picture of a page into your notes or into a book you may be writing, that is not as useful as inserting text. Ideally, you want to have normal text inserted that you can modify that text as you wish, such as adding bold, italics, underlines, larger fonts, or anything else you normally do with a word processor.

(+) How Safe Are Your Old Documents?

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

A number of us are fortunate enough to own old books, birth certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization certificates, old newspaper clippings, or other family heirloom documents that we want to preserve. What condition will they be in 20 or 50 years from now? For that matter, will the fruits of your genealogy labor be available to your descendants 200 years from now? You should take steps now to make sure the documents remain in the best possible condition. I thought I would discuss the techniques of document preservation a bit more in this newsletter.

Very old books and other paper documents are rather easy to preserve if a few basic precautions are followed. Modern day paper is made from wood pulp. The manufacturing process extracts cellulose from the wood, and then paper is manufactured from the cellulose fibers. Although pure cellulose is extremely durable, the various additives can cause deterioration, usually through acid degradation of the fibers. The life expectancy of most modern paper can be as short as 50 years. Even worse, documents you produce on your laser printer may not last that long. The toner that substitutes for ink in modern laser printers probably will not last as long as the paper it adheres to. While toner is made of carbon or plastic, which lasts a long time, it will not stick to paper forever. In fact, if rubbed occasionally, even by the expansion and contraction that occurs during temperature variations, the toner carbon will easily rub off.

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