Genealogy Basics

Do You Have Backups or are You Simply Synching?

“I don’t need backups. I’ve got my files synced.”

Wrong!

I have written many times about the need for genealogists and most everyone else to make frequent backups I won’t repeat all that here. You can find my past articles by starting at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+backups&t=hu&ia=web.

However, I have to ask one question: Do you have backups or are you simply syncing your files?

In fact, there is a huge difference.

Calculating Birth Dates from Death Date Information

What day was that ancestor born? It seems like such a simple question, and yet finding the answer can be surprisingly complex, even when you have the numbers in front of you. Exact dates are often found in death certificates and frequently on tombstones. The problem is that these are often written as death dates followed by the person’s age at death.

Here is a common example:

Here lies the body of John Smith,

Died August 3, 1904,

Aged 79 years, 9 months, 29 days

How do you tell John Smith’s date of birth?

You obviously need to subtract 79 years and 9 months and 29 days from the date of death. Simple, right? Well, not as simple as it first appears.

Genealogy Myths

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.

10 Letters We Dropped From The Alphabet

In my earlier article, How Do You Pronounce “Ye”?, available at https://blog.eogn.com/2020/05/12/how-do-you-pronounce-ye-2/, I discussed the thorn, a letter that used to be in the English alphabet (and in the alphabets of several other European languages) but has since been dropped and is no longer used (except it is still popular in the Icelandic language).

In the article, I wrote, “Yes, the letter thorn was one of the 27 (or more) letters of the English alphabet back in the Middle Ages.” Now a YouTube video explains the many lost letters that no longer exist in the modern English alphabet.

How Do You Pronounce “Ye”?

 

Many of us have encountered “ye” in old documents. Of course, we have all seen tourists shops labeled as “ye olde” something-or-other. How many of us know how to pronounce that?

For years, I assumed it was pronounced as it was written. I would pronounce it as “Yee Old.” I was a bit surprised later to learn that I had been wrong. Instead, The words above are correctly pronounced, “The Old English.”

What looks like a “y” is a written character deriving from the old English letter, “thorn,” representing the “th” sound. No, it is not the letter “y,” it is the letter thorn.

My Method of Filing Digital Images and Documents

A newsletter reader asked a question that I receive frequently. Here is a (slightly edited) copy of her message:

“I’d love to know how you handle the thousands of .JPG images of genealogy document scans and how to attach sources to them. I tried copying my .JPGs into Word, adding a title and source as text boxes. It was easy enough, but Word degraded the .JPG image so much that writing from earlier documents was almost unreadable. I’m trying it now in PowerPoint files with much better luck. I maintain .JPG integrity, can add titles and sources, and have multiple pages. I can copy the .JPG into other formats or convert the file into a .PDF. I would still love to know what you use before I get too involved in this format.”

I did answer her in email, but I thought I would also share my answer here in case others might have the same questions:

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Given the events of the past month with genealogy web sites laying off employees and cutting back on services, you now need backup copies of everything more than ever. What happens if the company that holds your online data either goes off line or simply deletes the service where your data is held? If you have copies of everything stored either in your own computer or stored in a different company’s online service, such a loss would be inconvenient but not a disaster.

There Were Three Brothers And…

Genealogy newcomers often trip over the “three brothers” story. It has been repeated thousands of times. I have yet to see one instance in which it is accurate.

The story always starts with something like this:

There were three brothers who immigrated to America. One went north, one went south, and one headed west, never to be heard from again.

It is an interesting story, and you might almost believe it. After all, how else can you explain the fact that the same surname pops up in so many places?

What fascinates me is that there are always three brothers, never two or four or five or six. And didn’t they have any sisters? Why did they go in three different directions? Couldn’t two of them go someplace together while the third struck out on his own? Why does each one take a different trip?

Family Names on a Quilt

If you have ever used the Etsy web site, you obviously already know what it is all about. However, if you are unfamiliar with Etsy, I will first offer this description from Wikipedia:

“Etsy is an American e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools. All vintage items must be at least 20 years old. The site follows in the tradition of open craft fairs, giving sellers personal storefronts where they list their goods for a fee of US$0.20 per item.

“As of December 31, 2018, Etsy had over 60 million items in its marketplace, and the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods connected 2.1 million sellers with 39.4 million buyers.”

The Evolution of the American Census

What changes each decade, what stays the same, and what do the questions say about American culture and society? Alec Barrett answers those questions in an article that probably will interest all genealogists who are researching U.S. ancestry.

Here is a quote from the article:

“The census is an essential part of American democracy. The United States counts its population every ten years to determine how many seats each state should have in Congress. Census data have also been used to levy taxes and distribute funds, estimate the country’s military strength, assess needs for social programs, measure population density, conduct statistical analysis of longitudinal trends, and make business planning decisions.

A Word About the Privacy of Your Genealogy and Other Information

A newsletter reader wrote recently and asked a question that I think many people should think about. I replied to him in email but thought I would also share my answer here in the newsletter in case others have the same question.

My correspondent wrote:

I am relatively new to genealogy technology. Are there tips you can provide to ensure the security of personal information? Would building a family tree in software only my computer be more secure than syncing it to a webpage (like MyHeritage)? Is it a good idea to not include details (name, date and place of birth) for all living relatives and maybe back a generation or two? Thanks.

My reply:

Great questions! However, I don’t have a simple answer. In fact, I can offer several answers and suggestions.

The various web sites have lots of options to control your privacy, except for Facebook, a web site designed to steal as much of your personal information as possible and then to resell that info. You do need to read about each site’s privacy policies before using it. However, most of today’s online services have excellent methods of protecting your personal privacy and your sensitive information.

Unfortunately, the computer on your desk and your laptop computer and tablet computer probably have no such controls. Neither does your “smartphone” which probably contains more personal information about you than does any other computing device you own.

Converting My Personal Library to Digital

NOTE: This is an update to an article I published several years ago. I have changed hardware since then and have updated my procedures significantly. This updated article reflects those changes.

I keep my computers and genealogy material in a small room in our house. I am sure the folks who built the house intended this room to be a child’s bedroom, but there are no children in the house, so I have converted it into something I call “our office.” I bet many people reading this article have done the same with a spare room in their homes.

bookscanningI have several computers and a 32-inch wide monitor in this room, a high-speed fiber optic Internet connection, a wi-fi mesh router, two printers (inkjet and laser), two scanners, several external hard drives used for making backups, oversized hi-fi speakers connected to the computers, and various other pieces of computer hardware. Luckily, these are all rather small, and advancing technology results in smaller and smaller devices appearing every year as I replace older devices.  The newer devices are almost always smaller than the old ones. However, I have a huge space problem: books and magazines. They don’t seem to be getting any smaller. My older books still take up as much room today as they did years ago.

“My office” has two bookcases that are each six feet tall and four feet wide, along with two smaller bookcases and a four-drawer filing cabinet. Pam and I share this “office,” so we have two desks, each laden with computers and printers. We squeeze a lot into a ten-foot-by-twelve-foot room.

I don’t want to count how many books I have purchased over the years, but I am sure it must be several hundred volumes. I don’t want to even think about the bottom-line price. I only have space in my four bookcases to store a tiny fraction of them; the rest are stored in boxes in the basement. Out-of-sight books are books that I rarely use. “Out of sight, out of mind.” I probably wasted my money by purchasing all those books as I rarely use most of them. I may have looked at them once, but I rarely go back to them again and again.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Given the events of the past month with genealogy web sites laying off employees and cutting back on services, you now need backup copies of everything more than ever. What happens if the company that holds your online data either goes off line or simply deletes the service where your data is held? If you have copies of everything stored either in your own computer or stored in a different company’s online service, such a loss would be inconvenient but not a disaster.

One Of The Best ‘Hidden’ Museums In New York Might Unearth Your Ancestors

If you are researching Jewish ancestry, whether they lived in New York City or elsewhere, one of the best resources is the Center for Jewish History.

It is an amazing complex of five different Jewish organizations, and the whole creates a look at the Jewish experience, from around the world to America—from poets to baseball pitchers to scientists, to bagel-makers. Close to 50,000 visitors a year come to the Center.

You can read more in an article by Gerald Eskenazi, published in Forbes, at http://bit.ly/2Q1lo90.

The museum’s web site may be found at http://www.CJH.org.

My thanks to newsletter reader Neil Barmann for telling me about this resource.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Given the events of the past month with genealogy web sites laying off employees and cutting back on services, you now need backup copies of everything more than ever. What happens if the company that holds your online data either goes off line or simply deletes the service where your data is held? If you have copies of everything stored either in your own computer or stored in a different company’s online service, such a loss would be inconvenient but not a disaster.

Explore FamilySearch’s Historical Images Tool to Unlock Data in Digital Records

The following is an excerpt from an article by Sharon Howell published at https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/explore-historical-images/:

“FamilySearch, FamilySearch partners, and volunteers worldwide have worked to make over 3 billion records easily findable online with a very simple name search. But did you know that these indexed records represent only 20 percent of the historical records FamilySearch has available online?

“If you haven’t found your ancestors by using the main search form on FamilySearch.org, it may be that their information is locked inside a waiting-to-be-indexed digital image. In 2018 alone, FamilySearch added over 432 million new record images to its online collections. But it can take years to catalog and index these images so they can be readily searched.

Why Mapping Your Family History Will Help You At Work

According to an article by Remy Blumenfeld and published in Forbes: Your family’s story, including things you may not have been told, have a big effect on what you see as being ‘normal’ in your behavior and relationships. He then goes on to describe the value of family mapping.

NOTE: Family Mapping is not a standard tool of genealogists. Instead, family mapping describes the use of genograms, a frequently-used tool of psychologists and others. Wikipedia describes the use of genograms as:

How I Create Multiple Backup Copies of Critical Information Stored in my Computers

I recently republished an article that I post here every month: It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files. A newsletter reader wrote and asked a simple question: “How do I make backups?”

I answered the question in email but thought I would copy that reply into a new article here in the newsletter in case other readers have the same question.

I cannot write a precise answer that will work for everyone as computer owners use a wide variety of hardware and software. Also, each computer owner’s needs may vary from what other people need. Do you need to back up EVERYTHING or only a few files that are important to you?

I decided to answer a few generic questions about how often to make backups, how many copies, and so forth. Then I will describe what I currently use. Admittedly, I constantly experiment with new things so what I am using today might not be what I will be using next month. Still, this article should give you some ideas about how you should constantly back up the important files that you do not wish to lose. I will suggest you do not need to do exactly what I do. Instead, this article will hopefully give you some ideas for creating a plan that works best for you.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

So…Who is Randy Majors and What is the randymajors.com Research Hub Anyway?

Randy Majors is well-known within the genealogy community. He is the person who has created all those add-ons for Google Maps, adding county lines and much more information to the maps than what Google ever imagined.

To read a LOT of Randy’s past announcements by starting at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+%22Randy+Majors.

Randy is now looking to expand. He wrote: