Plus Edition Article

(+) How to Preserve Water-Soaked Books and Papers in an Emergency

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

Hurricane season is upon us and we should learn from the experiences of past storms. The 2012 “superstorm” Sandy in the northeastern United States and other floods from around the world taught all of us again that paper is a very fragile storage medium for old records. However, paper is also the most common storage method in use today. The news reports from Sandy told of numerous libraries, public records offices, and more that had water in their offices. In some cases, the water reached records that should be saved for centuries. Many families also lost family documents, old photos, and even examples of their children’s art work. Unfortunately, water-soaked paper documents will only last for a few days unless treated immediately.

For the best-known loss of records by water damage, ask the U.S. Census Bureau about water-soaked documents. Most U.S. genealogists have been told that the 1890 census records was “destroyed by fire” in 1921. In fact, the fire damaged only a small percentage of the records. Far more damage was caused by the firehoses of the fire department called in to battle the blaze. Most of the damage was caused by water being poured onto the fire, water that soon seeped into millions of otherwise undamaged records. The fire did not go above the basement but water poured into the upper floors drained into the basement, extinguishing the fire. Unfortunately, in the process of water draining through the upper floors, a high percentage of the otherwise undamaged documents became soaked with water.

(+) My Method of Filing Digital Images and Documents

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

This is an updated version of an article I published last year. Someone asked about the same topic today, and when I looked at the earlier article, I found that much of the information has since changed. I updated the article and decided to publish it again today.

Here is a copy of the 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 him in email but thought I would also share my answer here in case others might have the same questions.

(+) The True Expense of Genealogy Research

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

Image copyright by CartoonStock.com. All rights reserved.

Today’s story about the closing of the Hiram Whittington Arkansas Local History and Genealogy Room in the Garland County Library in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is sad news. (See http://wp.me/p5Z3-Ji for details.) However, in this case, I have to agree with Library Director John Wells, who is quoted in the article. 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, John Wells 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. The online information is available quickly and conveniently, is usually faster to search, and (in many cases) is available for less money. In fact, it is often cheaper to search online than it is to travel to a repository to search.

Perhaps the phrase “less money” requires some clarification.

A Quick Note for Plus Edition Subscribers

If you are a Plus Edition subscriber, you probably already know I normally send the weekly Plus Edition newsletter to you by email on Sunday evenings. However, this week I will be a bit busy. On Sunday, I will fly from Glasgow, Scotland, to London, England, sit on the ground for a few hours, then take another flight from London to the United States. That, along with a five-hour time zone change, should result in one tired traveler by the time I arrive home. I suspect that once my head hits my own pillow, I will soon be asleep.

The Plus Edition newsletter will be sent on Monday or Tuesday. Thank you for your patience.

 

(+) Archival Quality Ink and Paper

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

I often hear genealogists make states similar to this: “I don’t trust digital media for long-term storage so I am going to use paper and ink to make sure my data lasts for a long, long time.”

Indeed, there is a lot of truth to that sentiment. I can point out a few problems, such as storing audio or video recordings, but the idea of storing information on paper certainly has a lot of appeal to genealogists, historians, and others who are concerned with long-term preservation. Paper documents are simple, easy to produce, and last a long time. Or do they?

(+) Turn Vacations into Genealogy Fact-Finding Trips

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

This is an update to an article I published two years ago. Since I am in a hotel room in Scotland right now, it seems like a good time to add several new ideas to the original article.

“If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

Where will you go on your next vacation trip? A trip to New England? Washington, D.C.? How about to the beach? Or how about a European vacation? How about taking a trip to the town where your grandparents grew up or a visit to the country of your ancestors? Wouldn’t you like to actually walk the same streets as your great-great grandfather or see the home where your grandmother was born? This is something you probably want to put on your bucket list.

A trip back to the home town or to “the old country” can be an immensely satisfying experience. Those who prepare for the trip usually report they have great memories and photographs of the experience.

(+) Genealogy Myths: Real, Fool’s Gold, or Both?

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

Family stories are a wonderful thing. They often give you insights into the lives of your ancestors. However, beware! Not all family stories are true. Many such stories are fictional. Yet, even the stories that are either entirely or part fiction may contain clues to facts. Good genealogical practice requires that we admit the fiction. But the next step the genealogist takes separates art from science. Before we discard these stories altogether, we need to mine them for nuggets of truth. Let’s look at a few of the more common “family legends” to see which ones you can mine for real gold.

Myth #1: Our name was changed at Ellis Island.

Fact: No evidence whatsoever exists to suggest this ever occurred. In fact, Ellis Island had rigid documentation requirements.

(+) A Comparison Chart of Genealogy Software for Windows

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

Genealogy Software for Windows Comparison

A side-by-side comparison of all programs reviewed to date: RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree

(+) QR Codes Create Internet-Connected Tombstones – A Good or Bad Idea?

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

QR Codes have many uses. They are often used on business cards and also in printed advertisements. Mercedes-Benz attaches them to automobiles so that rescue crews can use their smartphones or tablets to instantly retrieve information on how to make a speedy and safe recovery when using the “jaws of life” to extricate victims from an auto accident. (See http://www.gizmag.com/mercedes-benz-qr-codes/27675/.) Now genealogists have recently been finding QR Codes on tombstones and on columbariums

NOTE: A columbarium is is a place for storage of cinerary urns (i.e. urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains).

A QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. You can see a typical QR Code to the right. You probably have seen similar QR Codes on all sorts of products and advertisements. To use a QR Code, use a smartphone (typically an Apple iPhone or an Android phone) with appropriate software installed to take a close-up picture of the QR Code. The software reads the QR Code and then opens a web browser that displays the web page address that is embedded within the dots of the QR Code.

(+) Why Are We Limited to Soundex?

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

Genealogists love Soundex, a method of matching names that have similar sounds but may be spelled differently. In fact, Soundex became popular amongst genealogists almost as soon as it was invented in 1918. Soundex was patented by Robert C. Russell of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is sometimes called the “Russell Code.” The U.S. Census Bureau immediately adopted Soundex for indexing census records. Since then, others have used the Soundex code to sort similar-sounding names for telephone books, work records, drivers’ licenses, and many other purposes. I noticed that the first four characters of my driver’s license number are “E235,” the Soundex code for my last name.

Genealogists use Soundex to find variant spellings of ancestors’ names. Almost all modern genealogy databases have a “search by Soundex” capability.

Soundex is a form of “phonetic encoding” or “sound-alike” codes. A Soundex code consists of one letter followed by three digits. For instance, Smith and Smythe both are coded as S530, Eastman is E235, and Williams is W452.

(+) How to Run Windows 7 from an iPad, Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, Macintosh, or a Different Version of Windows: Use a Leased Virtual PC

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

This week I found myself facing a quandary: I needed a Windows computer and didn’t have one. I want to write software reviews for a number of genealogy programs for Windows, Macintosh, Android, iPad, and cloud-based systems. I have all the computers I need to run those programs except for a Windows system. Actually, I do own a Windows 8 laptop, but I left it in my winter home when I went north for the summer. My error. I started evaluating my options.

I certainly could buy a new Windows computer, probably a laptop. However, that costs more money than I happen to have in the checkbook at the moment. Besides, it seems silly to purchase an expensive piece of hardware that duplicates something I already own but neglected to bring with me. I probably could borrow a Windows system from a friend, but I really need to keep it for several weeks, possibly for 2 or 3 months. I also expect to be traveling during that time (I’ll be in Scotland two weeks from now) and wasn’t sure that any of my friends were in a position to lend me a computer to take on extended, international trips. It also needs to be a rather recent computer, not an old clunker. To be blunt, I am reluctant to ask.

(+) Do You Already Have a Local Area Network Installed in Your Home?

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

I recently published I Added Four Terabytes to My Personal Cloud at http://wp.me/p5Z3-ws where I described my recent addition of a huge networked disk drive to the local area network in my home. I now have more than five terabytes of available storage space, counting the new four terabyte disk drive plus some older devices I have used for several years. The space is available to be shared amongst all the computers owned by family members. In addition, any of us can access our files from anywhere in the world, using an Internet connection and a user name and password.

A newsletter reader recently wrote, “How can I use that if I don’t have a local network?”

I suspect she does have a local area network in her home but probably doesn’t know it. The same may be true for you.

(+) Leave Your Existing Genealogy Program Behind and Look to the Future

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

This article was inspired by the recent announcement that The Master Genealogist, a popular genealogy program for Windows, will soon be discontinued. (See http://blog.eogn.com/2014/07/29/the-master-genealogist-to-be-discontinued for the details.) However, the information here applies to any program that becomes unavailable or to anyone who perhaps is thinking about upgrading to a new computer, possibly including an upgrade to a new operating system.

This week’s announcement that a popular genealogy program would be discontinued was sad news, but not unusual. Indeed, similar announcements have happened over the years. Do you remember Personal Ancestral File, CommSoft’s Roots 5, Carl York’s The Family Edge, Quinsept’s Family Roots, Ultimate Family Tree, or SierraHome’s Generations 8.0? Those and a number of other, lesser-known genealogy programs have all faded away over the years. May they all rest in peace.

(+) Is the Smartphone Becoming the PC Replacement?

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

91% of all adults in the U.S. now have cell phones, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. (Details may be found at http://goo.gl/nwNBuP.) That’s more than the number of people who own computers.

Basic cell phones only place and receive telephone calls. Others add cameras. However, the real growth area lies with the intelligent cell phones that have built-in computer functionality. These are typically called “smartphones.” Let’s examine these.

(+) Scanning Old Books

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

Genealogists love old books. Many of us would love to scan some of these books for our own use or to make them available to others when copyright laws allow. Scanned books can easily be distributed on CD-ROM disks or via online web sites. The only difficult part is the scanning of the original books.

Almost any scanner can be used to make images of old books. However, using a desktop scanner purchased at the local computer store has significant disadvantages. For one thing, these units are designed for scanning photographs and other individual sheets of paper. They do not work well for bound books. Trying to place a bound book onto the glass plate of a typical inexpensive scanner can damage the book’s binding. In addition, words printed near the center binding will not be flat against the glass, causing “curling.” That is, the images of the words seem to curve away from the reader. If OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software is used, the words near the center binding are difficult to decode and will lead to high error rates.

Here are some pictures illustrating the problem of obtaining good scanned images of pages bound in a book:


A scanner made for scanning bound books easily avoids these problems.

(+) Follow-Up: OCR Explained

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

Two days ago, I published a Plus Edition article entitled (+) OCR Explained at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=31639. In the article, I described several products that will convert images of text into machine-readable text documents, auch as .DOC files or .TXT files or something similar. Two of the methods I mentioned are available free of charge and do not require installing software in your computer.

While I mentioned the products, I did not provide step-by-step instructions for any of them. One of the products apparently has interested a number of newsletter readers and several have asked, “How do I do that?” Actually, I won’t write the instructions as someone else has already written an excellent step-by-step guide that is now available online.

(+) OCR Explained

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

Do you have a document or even a full-length book that you would like to enter into a computer’s database or word processor? You could re-type the entire thing. If your typing ability is as bad as mine, that will be a very lengthy task. Of course, you could hire a professional typist to do the same, but that is also expensive.

We all have computers, so why not use a high-quality scanner? You will also need optical character recognition (OCR) technology.

(+) How to Virtually Drive the Roads Your Ancestors Traveled

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

Google is a wonderful online tool with many uses, including genealogy. Most genealogists already know that using the online search giant allows us to find records that would be difficult to locate otherwise. However, are you also aware that Google offers other services that allow you to find the location(s) of your ancestor’s land and even to virtually travel to that place, all without leaving home?

One of my close friends did just that recently. She was able to locate a deed selling land to Silvanus Clark of Haddam, Connecticut, in 1787. The location of the land was described in the deed, but a description alone is not as satisfying as seeing the land yourself. Of course, travel to Connecticut is difficult for anyone who lives many miles away. A variation of the old phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” allows the genealogist to see pictures, maps, and more, thanks to Google. Nothing beats an in-person visit, but Google allows for the next best thing.

I’ll retrace my friend’s steps as she followed her ancestor’s steps online.

(+) Two Easy Methods of Creating PDF Documents from Evernote

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

I have written several times recently about going paperless. One of my primary tools for simplifying my life is Evernote. It is the perfect tool to save notes, to save audio or video, to save articles from the web, and to create and store documents of all sorts. In fact, it is even possible to create blog posts directly from Evernote notes by using the Postach.io blog platform. Notes saved in Evernote are easily printed if you are really determined to create more paper. Evernote will also save notes as HTML or XML files. However, one format is strangely missing: Evernote will not create PDF files by itself.

Actually, creating PDF files from Evernote is rather simple although you won’t find that capability in Evernote’s menus.

(+) Donald Duck’s Family Tree

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

This week I would like to present the family tree of one of our best known and most-loved movie stars. The ancestry of this famous 80-year-old movie actor has been ignored for far too long. Now is the time to document the extended family of a great movie star, the subject of film, television, and numerous comic books, the anthropomorphic duck with yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet: Donald Fauntleroy Duck.

Actually, this isn’t as much of a joke as one might imagine. It seems that the Disney Corporation has kept meticulous details about all the Donald Duck cartoons and comic books since Donald’s first appearance in 1934 in “The Wise Little Hen.” For the following eighty years, the Disney Corporation has been remarkably consistent in referring to Donald’s relatives as well as many other facts.

For instance, you may have seen many cartoons of Donald Duck driving his automobile; but did you ever notice the license plate number? It is always “313.” That’s right, Donald’s license plate number has always been the same since his automobile first appeared in 1938.

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