Plus Edition Article

(+) How to Use the GPS You May Already Own but Didn’t Know You Had

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

GPS (Global Positioning System) devices are very useful tools for genealogists. These devices can be used to find locations easily and are often accurate plus or minus ten feet or so. Genealogists typically use GPS receivers to find or to document cemetery tombstone locations as well as to find old homesteads, courthouses, libraries, or even fast-food restaurants when traveling on research trips.

I have frequently used the U.S. Government’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) at http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/ to locate old cemeteries, even small ones of only a dozen graves or even less. The information provided in the GNIS includes the exact latitude and longitude of each named feature, including cemeteries. GNIS provides the exact location of the entrance to each cemetery although not the location of individual tombstones within the cemetery. The GNIS data is “read only.” That is, you read the information in a web browser and then manually copy the displayed latitude and longitude into a GPS receiver of your choice. More sophisticated and easier-to-use systems are now available.

(+) Rescue Old Photos and Documents: Make a Humidification Chamber

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

Old documents, newspapers, and photographs are often improperly stored. They may have been rolled or folded for years. By the time that you, the family historian, find these items and wish to view them, the documents may be damaged if forced open. Old paper, especially that manufactured after 1885, becomes brittle with age. This will be doubly true if the document has been stored in a very low-humidity environment, such as an attic. Old or fragile items may even crack and crumble if not handled properly.

The primary problem is that old paper and photographs that have not been stored properly will become dried out over the years. Dryness creates brittleness, which then causes damage when the item is not handled properly. Have you ever seen someone tenderly – but wrongly – try to uncurl an old photo or unfold an old news clipping, only to see it crumble in their hands? It’s a sad sight.

Do not attempt to open brittle documents!

(+) How to Use Two Monitors on One Laptop Computer and Why You Might Want To

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

I have been using two 27-inch monitors on my desktop computers for years. Using two monitors at once is surprisingly easy to do. I love the convenience of my email program, a web browser, iTunes, and RSS newsreader displayed on the monitor to the left side of my desk while my word processor and my favorite genealogy programs are running in separate windows on the monitor to the right. Doing so is a time saver, and I believe it improves productivity significantly. I wrote about the use of two monitors in a Plus Edition article earlier this year at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=34734.

A picture taken in my hotel room a few minutes ago.

When traveling, I always have felt constrained by being limited to one small screen on the laptop computer. It certainly would be nice to also use two monitors at once on the laptop, especially as I already do so on the desktop at home. A few months ago, I found an easy, lightweight, and not very expensive solution: purchase a second monitor designed only for laptop use. Best of all, it is very is easily packed; it easily fits into any laptop bag or backpack designed for carrying a 16-inch computer, along with the laptop computer itself. My backpack has a pocket for carrying a laptop, and I find I can easily slide both the laptop computer and the external monitor into the one pocket.

(+) Finding Unmarked Graves with Ground Penetrating Radar

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

One of the vexing problems with old cemeteries and historical sites is the difficulty of finding the locations of unmarked graves. In many cases, the desire is to locate the graves so that they may be identified and left undisturbed by new construction. To be sure, the locations may have been marked at one time with wooden or even stone markers. However, the ravages of time, weather, animals, vandals, and acid rain over the years may have removed all traces of those markers. Locating unmarked graves is also vitally important in solving murder cases.

Historically, the only method of finding unmarked graves has been to start digging – not a very practical solution. However, modern technology now allows cemetery associations, historical societies, family societies, genealogists, archaeologists, police departments, and others to identify the locations of buried bodies and other objects with no digging required.

(+) One Week with the Apple Watch

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

Last week I wrote about the Apple Watch that I had just received. That article is available at http://goo.gl/pFI98u. Now that I have been using the Apple Watch for the past seven days, I thought I should write an update.

The new watch undoubtedly is Apple’s most personal product ever. As such, opinions about it will be highly subjective. Some people love the idea of a powerful communications device on the wrist while others will hate it. I suspect the average person is ambivalent.

(+) Tracing the History of Your House

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

Perhaps you have spent a lot of effort studying your family’s history. However, have you ever considered studying the history of the family’s home – either the home in which you live or perhaps the ancestral home in which your parents or grandparents lived? To be sure, many families may have lived in the same house, sharing the joys and tragedies of family life throughout the years. Are you curious who they were and perhaps what their experiences were? Who built your house? When was it built, and by whom? What did it cost? Who were the previous owners and residents? What did the interior and exterior originally look like? Those questions can usually be answered by a bit of investigation. In fact, you can create a social genealogy: facts about the owners and residents of the house.

House research is quite similar to genealogy research, often looking at the same records: old maps, deeds, and books. Through research, you can discover who lived in your home and probably what they did for a living. In short, you become a house detective.

(+) How to Preserve Newspaper Clippings

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

Many family members collect newspaper clippings of marriages, death notices, birth announcements, school graduation announcements, and similar items. If kept under proper conditions, these newspapers clippings may last for generations. The key phrase in that statement is “if kept under proper conditions.”

In fact, there are several things you will want to do to preserve the information:

(+) How to Host a Successful Huge Genealogy Conference

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

I attended a great genealogy, history, and heritage conference this past week with thousands of attendees. I have been to the same conference in the past, as well as to other genealogy conferences that attracted up to 20,000 or so attendees. I also attend some conferences that attract from a few hundred to perhaps 1,000 attendees, all held by organizers who would like to attract many more people.

When I compare the larger events to the smaller ones, I am struck by the fact that there is not a lot of difference in the amount of effort required of the organizers. Attracting 1,000 attendees appears to require about as much work as attracting 15,000. The conference organizers simply do things a bit differently, and the result attracts larger crowds.

I thought I would share my observations. Perhaps these remarks might help increase the attendance of your next conference.

Practice Makes Perfect

(+) How Long Does a Flash Drive Last?

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

Flash drives have generally replaced Blu-Ray disks, DVD-ROM disks, CD-ROM disks, floppy disks, magnetic tape, and even old-fashioned punch cards as the preferred method of storing backup copies of computer data. Indeed, these tiny devices are capable of storing as much as 256 gigabytes of data for reasonable prices, and even higher capacities are available, although perhaps at somewhat unreasonable prices. (“Reasonable prices” are defined as prices that are lower than purchasing equivalent storage capacity on CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and Blu-Ray disks.) If history repeats itself again, even today’s unreasonably-priced flash drives will be cheaper within a very few years.

(+) Endangered Species: CD and DVD Disks

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

CD-ROM disks and the newer DVD-ROM plastic disks have been the standard of data storage for years. However, that is rapidly changing. The disks may last a long time, but it appears that CD and DVD disk READERS are about to disappear.

A well-prepared genealogist will handle the change easily. However, anyone who ignores the change in technology will be left with a stack of plastic disks that are about as useful as the old computer punch cards.

(+) How to Obtain Information from the 1950 and Later Census Records

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

Anyone who has been researching U.S. ancestors for very long is probably familiar with the U.S. census records. The census records of 1940 and earlier are publicly available; anyone may view them. However, the census records of 1950 and later are sealed and not available to descendants until 72 years after the date of the census. Or are they?

Click on the above image of a 1950 census form to view a larger version

In fact, genealogists can obtain limited information from the 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and even the 2010 U.S. census records. To be sure, the information available is limited, and the fees are high. However, this service is valuable to some people.

(+) Why We All Need to Ignore Our Old Ideas about Filing Systems

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

A recent discussion in this newsletter’s comments at the end of my Downsizing and Going Paperless article at http://goo.gl/nafMPm has shown that many genealogists do not understand the power and ease of use available in modern computerized filing systems. This article is an attempt to clear some of the mysteries.

Most of us are old enough that we were trained to organize paper files in folders and filing cabinet drawers in some hierarchical manner. For filing papers about people, we were taught to perhaps file first by surname, and then by first and middle names. For locations, we were taught to file first by country, then by state or province, then perhaps by county, then by city or town, and lastly perhaps by street address. And so on and so on. Those systems have always worked well with paper-based files, and many of us tend to use the same thought process when creating computer files. However, these hierarchical filing methods often are not the best method possible with today’s technology. For instance, if you have a filing cabinet for genealogy materials, and you file a note about a particular person under the surname of “Axelrod,” where do you file information about the family’s homestead in Nebraska so that you can find it again when searching for all your Nebraska ancestors?

(+) Communicating in the Cemeteries

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

Communicating in the cemeteries??? No, I am not referring to communications with or amongst the “long-term residents” of a cemetery. Instead, I’m writing about communications for visitors to a cemetery. Namely, the genealogists who visit a cemetery looking for information about deceased relatives.

I generally try to visit a cemetery with a friend or two. We mentally divide the cemetery into sections, and then each person searches through his or her section alone. The other friends are doing the same in a different section. I have done this many times and suspect that you have, too. Having two or more people involved increases the enjoyment of the search as well as the safety of everyone involved.

There are disadvantages, however. Upon discovering a particular tombstone, you may have to shout to the other person to make them aware of your discovery. In a large cemetery, the other person(s) may be some distance away, making shouting impractical.

(+) Does Your Genealogy Society Have a Blog?

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

Individuals, non-profits, and companies publish blogs for a variety of reasons. Some blogs are launched for marketing purposes; others are posted just for fun. However, I will suggest that all genealogy societies should have a blog. In fact, a genealogy society’s blog is generally much more effective than a static web page or printed and mailed newsletters.

Here are a few reasons for starting a society blog:

(+) Are You a Family Historian or a Name Collector?

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

I have a question. None of my living relatives knows the answer to this question. I have not found the answer to this question in any public records, nor have I been able to find the answer in cemeteries. I have read a few magazine articles and Internet pages about the topic, but none of them have directly answered the question.

The question is… “Why do we study genealogy?”

What makes anyone so curious about his or her family tree? What drives us to dedicate time, effort, and sometimes expenses to go find dead people?

What is it inside of us that makes us spend hours and hours cranking reels of microfilm, then we go home and report to our family members what a great day we had?

(+) Waymarking for Genealogists and Historians

This article might be subtitled “How to Have Fun with Your GPS Receiver and Simultaneously Provide a Public Service for Others.”

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

Beatrix Potter used Hill Top, a 17 century farm house as a holiday home in the village of Sawrey. Here she wrote and based many of her books. N 54° 21.097 W 002° 58.227

A new hobby has appeared that is a “natural fit” for genealogists, historians, and many others. It is called “waymarking.” It is fun, gives you a chance to get a little exercise, and also provides a great public service. If you join in the waymarking activities of today, you can help future genealogists and others for decades to come.

Waymarking is a game/project/obsession which uses GPS coordinates to mark locations of interest and share them with others. You can even post online digital pictures of the location for others to see.

(+) The Web as We Knew it is Dead. Long Live the Web!

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

Are you using the latest and most convenient technology available today? Or are you using an ancient Windowsaurus (an old personal computing device from the paleo-Vista era)?

The history of the Internet began with the development of electronic computers in the 1950s. The US Department of Defense awarded contracts as early as the 1960s for packet network systems, including the development of the ARPANET (which would become the first network to use the Internet Protocol). Numerous people worked to connect computers together in a collaborative manner. Early examples include ARPANET, Mark I at NPL in the UK, CYCLADES, Merit Network, Tymnet, and Telenet. All were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s using a variety of communications protocols.

(+) The PC and the Macintosh are Dying

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

Most of today’s genealogists use some sort of computer program to keep track of the information found during their searches. Popular programs include RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Builder, Reunion, Family Historian, AncestralQuest, Family Tree Maker, Heredis, Mac Family Tree, and quite a few others. They all have one thing in common: they are all becoming obsolete.

(+) Preserving Documents Digitally

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

What do the following headlines from past issues of this newsletter have in common?

Hancock County, Georgia, Courthouse Burned (August 12, 2014)

Van Buren County, Tennessee Offices Destroyed by Fire, Birth, Marriage, Death, and Many Other Records Lost (January 9, 2015)

Fire in Major Russian Library Destroys One Million Historic Documents (February 1, 2015)

Home of the Marissa (Illinois) Historical and Genealogical Society Destroyed by Fire (January 31, 2015)

Roof Collapses at Iowa Genealogical Society Library (December 31, 2009)

(+) How to Use Two Monitors on One Computer

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

Would you like to double the size of your computer’s screen? There is a simple method of doing that: add a second monitor. It is surprisingly easy and cheap to do so. In fact, right now I have two monitors on the computer I am using to write this article.

Did you recently purchase a new, large monitor? If so, is your older, smaller monitor gathering dust? Put it to use! The process I will describe works with almost any monitor, large or small. The two (or three or four) monitors do not need to be the same size. You can use the old and the new monitor simultaneously on one computer.

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