Plus Edition Article

(+) Protecting Your Genealogy Records from Natural Disasters

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

This time of year is stressful for genealogists who live in areas where hurricanes are an issue. High winds, flooding, downed trees, and more are common. During hurricanes, the news media often reports numerous cases of homes and the contents of homes that were damaged or destroyed.

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.

(+) 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. 

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.

Wikipedia lists the term with a description of “Trail blazing or way marking is the practice of marking paths in outdoor recreational areas with signs or markings that follow each other at certain, though not necessarily exactly defined, distances and mark the direction of the trail.”

(+) 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.

(+) Are Your Digital Photos Too Big? There’s a Solution!

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

I recently purchased a new digital camera that can create pictures of up to 12-megapixels. I love the quality of the photographs this camera gives. However, storing and sharing 12-megapixel images creates a few problems.

First of all, the file sizes are huge. Most of the pictures I take consume megabytes of disk space to store a single image. The 12-megapixel files are too large to use a single standard floppy disk just to store one picture! (Does anyone still use floppy disks anymore?) Of course, there are no film developing costs; so, I click the shutter many, many times in hopes of obtaining the perfect picture. I may not save all of the photos, but I often keep two or three variations of everything I photograph. The result consumes many megabytes of disk space.

(+) 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 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 to locate old cemeteries, even small ones of only a dozen graves or even less. TheGNIS attempts to provide the precise location of EVERY named place in the United States, including towns, cities, mountains, lakes, and much more. Cemeteries are only a small part of that huge database.

(+) Obtain an ISBN Number for Your Genealogy Book

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

“ISBN” stands for “International Standard Book Number.” An ISBN number is an ISO standard and normally is found in all books published in the United States since 1970 and on many books published in other countries as well. Technically, an ISBN number is not a requirement for any book; you may publish books without such a number. However, experience has shown that an ISBN number is required if you want the book to be listed in the many indexing and cataloging systems available. Also, an ISBN number is required for all books that are to be sold by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most any other major bookseller. These booksellers use the ISBN numbers to order, inventory, and track books. If your book or ebook includes an ISBN number, it will also be listed in Bowker Books in Print®, which is used by all the major search engines and most bookstores and libraries.

Only the smallest self-published and self-marketed books can survive without ISBN numbers.

(+) One Monitor, One Keyboard, One Mouse, Multiple Computers

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

Computer prices keep dropping and dropping. You can now find desktop computers selling for less than $300 and occasionally even find refurbished ones for under $200. In just a few minutes of online shopping, you might find several low-priced examples. Brand-new Chromebox computers can be purchased for $160 and one version, called a Chromestick, sells for $85!

The lowest-priced systems may have modest power by today’s standards but would have been considered top-end screamers just a few years ago. It is now reasonable to own two or even more computers for different purposes. You might have a Windows computer and a second one for running Macintosh or Linux or the Chrome operating system. In fact, both Linux and Chromeboxes run well on low-price machines, usually faster than Windows does on the same hardware. At these prices, monitors are usually not included. In my opinion, that’s a good thing.

(+) A Report on my Move to the Cloud

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

NOTE: This is an update to an article I published about two years ago entitled, I am Moving to the Cloud. The article described my plan to move most of my computing functions to cloud-based services. In short, after two years, I have completed the move for about 95% of the tasks I perform every week and thought I would provide a report of my successes—and also describe a couple of failures. I offer this as “food for thought” for your planning.

If you are happy with your present computer and its capabilities, you probably shouldn’t move everything just yet. However, if you plan to replace your computer someday or if you travel frequently (as I do), this article may provide some ideas for your future plans.

I have moved. Well, not my personal possessions, my clothes, my tools, or even my computers. Instead, I moved my data and most of the tasks I perform weekly. I have moved to the cloud.

First, here is a quick definition of a cloud as the word is used in computer technology.

(+) Some Thoughts About Organizing Documents and Folders on Your Hard Drive

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

A few days ago, I wrote Another Reason to Store Your Data in the Cloud and published it at A newsletter reader then posted a comment and suggested, “Maybe sometime you could talk about how you organize so you find all of this.”

Good idea! In fact, I will suggest that how to organize and file documents and pictures is only the first part of “the problem.” The bigger question is: “Can you quickly find and retrieve files in the future?”

This article is the result of the reader’s suggestion. Indeed, the “problem” of organizing your files and photographs in a computer becomes even bigger as you store more and more information. However, one thought keeps popping to my mind as I ponder this “problem.”

(+) Embedding EXIF Data in Photographs

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

Congratulations if you have scanned your old family photos and documents or invested in a digital camera to preserve today’s pictures for future family historians. Before resting on your laurels, take a moment to recall all the old photos you’ve come across that you wish had labels describing the people, places, or events pictured. Your digital images have a built-in capability to create such labels – descriptions that won’t get separated from their subjects – with ease that would amaze our forebears. With today’s image files, what you see is only part of what you get! Let’s take a look “behind the scenes” of your digital photos.

All sorts of information can be stored inside the digital file itself, such as:

  • Date and time information. Many digital cameras will print this on the picture, but they also can save it with the image file.
  • Camera settings. This includes static information such as the camera model and make, and information that varies with each image such as orientation, aperture, shutter speed, focal length, metering mode, and ISO speed information.
  • A thumbnail for previewing the picture on the camera’s LCD screen, in file managers, and in photo manipulation software.
  • Descriptions and copyright information.
  • Longitude and latitude where the picture was taken
  • Any information about the picture or its subject that you choose to add, using one of the free or cheap photo editing packages I’ll describe in a bit.

This extra information is called metadata. Simply put, metadata is “data about data;” that is, it describes the context, content, and structure of a file.

(+) What Should Your Genealogy Society Give Away Free of Charge?

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

If your genealogy society is thinking of creating a web site or improving an existing web site, one discussion is sure to arise sooner or later: how much information should the society place on the web site?

Should the ENTIRE society newsletter be published online? Or should the newsletter be held back as a “benefit of membership” and only made available to paid members?

How about records that the society has transcribed? Should the society publish old tax lists or census extracts or cemetery transcriptions online? Such lists probably were printed in booklets in the past and were sold for a modest amount of money, generating a bit of income for the society. Should the society now give the information away free of charge in electronic format?

In fact, the same question arises when individuals decide to place the results of their hard work online, such as extracts of various records.

I don’t have all the answers, but I can offer a few observations.

(+) When is it Time to Hire a Professional Genealogist?

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

Genealogy research is a fascinating endeavor. After all, your family tree is a puzzle that needs to be solved. In fact, you are literally finding out where you came from. I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in ancestry do their own research. Indeed, it is fun and challenging.

As author of this newsletter, I sometimes field questions from genealogy newcomers — questions like how they can hire someone to research their family tree for a fee. I typically respond with still another question and a comment: “Would you pay someone to play a round of golf for you? While that might complete the objective, you will miss out on the entire experience.”

Despite my rather cavalier remark, I will suggest that professional genealogists can be your best friends and assistants after you have started your own genealogy research. Yes, you should do the basics yourself. You should start with yourself and then find information about your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents, and so on, as far back as you can possibly go on your own. Researching your own family tree is fun and can be inexpensive. However, when you do hit a “stone wall” and cannot go back any further, it may be time to call in the professionals.

(+) EPUB: An Ebook Standard

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

Would you like to have your genealogy book or your society’s newsletter available as an ebook publication? There is a huge reading audience that is taking advantage of the many convenient mobile reading devices on the market now. The popularity of these devices for reading books, newspapers, and magazines continues to explode. The reading public seems to love them, and the people who publish the ebooks definitely love the low cost of publishing this way. You could be one of those publishers.

Of course, you can also continue to publish in whatever format you already use: DOC, TXT, HTML, PDF, or even the old-fashioned way: printed on paper. You can use EPUB files as a second publishing method, allowing your readers to choose the format they prefer.

Put into the right format, your genealogy book or your society’s newsletter can easily be read on any of the many available ebook readers, including iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and many other ebook readers. The “secret” is to publish the document in EPUB format. With the tools described in this article, that is easy to do.

(+) Update: Will Your Next Primary Computer be a Tablet or a Smartphone?

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

Last week I wrote a Plus Edition article (at predicting that desktop and laptop computers will soon shrink in size to that of a cell phone. All you would need for multiple uses would be one of these high-powered cell phones plus a docking station or maybe two docking stations: one at home and one at the office. You will be able to remove the cell phone from your pocket or purse and connect it to a docking station whenever you want to run the most powerful programs that were normally reserved for desktop use back in “the good old days of 2018.”

Other items plugged into that docking station could include: a full sized keyboard, a mouse, a very large display screen (perhaps 30-inches or bigger), printers, a scanner, a row of USB connectors, a VoIP telephone, and more. All these peripherals connect (through the docking station) to the high-powered central processor in the cell phone.

That technology isn’t restricted to the future. It is here now although it won’t be available for purchase until later this year.

(+) Will Your Next Primary Computer be a Tablet or a Smartphone?

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

One of the trends amongst today’s computer users is the move from traditional desktop and laptop computers to tablet computers and also to the so-called smartphones. While the desktop and laptop computers remain much more powerful than the smaller devices, the tablets and smartphones are all “more than good enough” for most tasks, and their mobility is proving to be much more useful than using a big computer on the desk or even a laptop in a briefcase.

71.44 million tablet computers were sold worldwide in 2011 but that number more than doubled to 163.3 million in 2017. See for the details. The statistics for smartphones also grew during that time although exact numbers are difficult to find.

Most of the time, many of us use our computers primarily for accessing the World Wide Web, for Facebook (which is one of the popular services on the World Wide Web), for word processing, and for email. These functions are all that many of us need day-to-day. For more advanced uses, both Microsoft Office and the Apple’s equivalent productivity programs are available for tablets. For me and for many others, these tasks are all I need perhaps 99% of time.