Plus Edition Article

(+) 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. 

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy-related articles, I suggest you skip this one. However, it answers a question that a newsletter reader asked and I suspect that many other readers have similar questions.

Several years ago, I published I Added Four Terabytes to My Personal Cloud at http://bit.ly/2hS5teP where I described my recent addition of a high-capacity 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.

In addition, anyone with an in-home local network also can share the Internet connection with multiple computers, game consoles, VoIP telephones, cell phones (using wi-fi), tablet computers, home security systems, modern Internet-connected thermostats, FAX machines, and other Internet-compatible devices.

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

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

(+) Is Your Genealogy Database Insane?

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

I’d like to make a bet with every reader of this newsletter: I’ll bet five bucks that you have errors in your genealogy database. Keep in mind that I am not a gambler; I only bet on “sure things.” In this case, I am sure that I could win at least 90% of the bets, guaranteeing that I could then afford a vacation on some sun-drenched tropical isle.

I get to see a lot of genealogy databases and a lot of online genealogy information. Almost all of the data I see has errors. Luckily, many of these errors are easy to find with just a bit of electronic assistance from your computer.

(+) 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 recent Harvey and Irma hurricanes and flooding 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 the recent hurricanes 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.

(+) Why Your CDs and DVDs Are Dying

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

Do you think your family photographs, home videos, and digital images of your genealogy documents are safe because you stored them on CD or DVD disks? Think again.

Here are pictures of two CDs that were stored by one of my family members. Both disks are less than two years old:

Notice the “flaking” in the metallic foil along the lower edge of the above disk. This music disk is now unplayable.

The second image is a bit more subtle, so I drew red arrows to point to the problems. Notice the two “holes” in the metallic foil of the disk. This particular disk still works today until the laser encounters one of the holes. Then it aborts. The remaining data or music is lost.

Do your disks have these problems? If they do not yet have the problems, will they develop similar problems in the near future? Many CD and DVD disks are going to suffer similar fates.

(+) Donald Duck’s Family Tree

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

I would like to present the family tree of one of our best known and most-loved movie stars. The ancestry of this famous 83-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-three 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.

(+) The Easy Way of Finding Genealogy Books, Maps, e-Books, Periodicals, and Much More

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

Today’s online resources offer access to information that was undreamed of only a couple of decades ago. For a century or more, each library has maintained a catalog that provides an index to its holdings. In order to determine if a particular library had information of interest, individuals have always needed to visit the library in person to look through the thousands of index cards, typically arranged in alphabetical order by title, topic, and author’s name. That was expensive, especially if it was not a local library. Travel to a library hundreds of miles away, perhaps thousands of miles, simply is not practical for most people.

A few libraries did offer “look up by mail” services. That is, you could write a letter to the library staff and ask them to look in the library’s card catalog for you. Look up by mail has always been slow and somewhat expensive. The person making the request typically has to supply a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the reply. The expenses of two-way postage plus purchase of envelopes can add up quickly when sending requests to hundred of libraries!

(+) How to Keep Your Files Stored in the Cloud Private for Your Eyes Only

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

Storing information “in the cloud” have fewer security issues than storing data on your own hard drive or in a flash drive but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the security issues involved. security issues, although not as many. Luckily, those issues are also easily solved. Let’s start first with a definition of the cloud.

What is The Cloud?

The word “cloud” is a collective term. The cloud is not a single thing. Rather, it is a collection of hardware, software, data, and networks. It exists in thousands of data centers located around the world. No one company or government controls the cloud; it is a collection of many things owned and operated by thousands of different corporations and non-profit organizations.

The cloud also may be envisioned as the next evolution beyond the World Wide Web. While the original World Wide Web delivered information one-way to the user, the cloud does all that and more. The cloud provides two-way data as well as multi-user and even collaborative applications. Do you use Google Docs? If so, you are already using the cloud. Do you use Find-A-Grave? If so, you are already using the cloud. Do you pay bills online? If so, you are already using the cloud. The same is true for Facebook, Flickr, Shutterfly, Twitter, Mozy, Carbonite, Gmail, and thousands of other cloud-based services.

(+) Can You Trust Online Genealogy Data?

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

“I found it online, so it must be true!”

Of course not. If you have been involved in researching your family tree for more than a few months, you already know the truth about online genealogy data. Or do you?

You can go to almost any of today’s online genealogy sites and find information that appears to be false. I’ll pick on FamilySearch.org as it is a free and open database, making it a good example that everyone can see. However, similar examples exist on most of the commercial genealogy databases as well.

The first example is that of Mary Allyn. According to FamilySearch, Mary married Henry L. Brooks in Connecticut on 21 April 1564. You can find that “record” at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F7G9-14N.

(+) What Attracted Our Ancestors to the New World

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

I learned in school that our ancestors came to the New World in the 1600s in search of religious freedom. While I still believe that to be true, I now believe the full story is a bit more complex than the reasons given in grammar school textbooks.

Religious freedom certainly was a motivation for Puritans, Pilgrims, Quakers, and others, but thousands of other immigrants were members of the established church in England and had no interest in other theologies. What motivated them?

(+) It’s 2017 – Do You Know Where Your Data Is?

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

A newsletter reader wrote a while ago and described his tale of woe. He is unhappy with his current genealogy software and asked about any “reliable” genealogy software that will be supported for years into the future. Here is an excerpt from his e-mail:

From 1996 until 2004, I used Family Tree Maker (FTM) to maintain the records of the 2,000 people in my family history file. I switched to Family Tree Legends (FTL) on the basis of a recommendation in your newsletter and because it permitted direct conversion of the FTM file to FTL (including “books” and photos) with distribution of a “shareable CD” to family members a nice bonus saving me the necessity of printing “Books”.

Although I still have my Family Tree Maker file as it existed a few years ago, I’ve only updated the Family Tree Legends file since I made the conversion. It seems that FTL is at death’s door. Unfortunately FTL does not have the ability to export a file in Family Tree Maker format. It does permit exporting a file in GEDCOM format but the “Books” and photos are lost.

I feel I should get my records onto a database for which the software will be maintained. If you agree with my conclusion about FTL, do have you a recommendation and especially any ideas about how to convert the “books” notes, facts and photos?

I am sure that many others have similar questions, so I thought I would share my comments with all Plus Edition subscribers.

(+) How You or Your Society Can Make Money Online

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

Some societies and individuals would like to publish material in a closed section on a web site, making the information available only to society members. Another activity of many societies is publishing and selling books of local historical information, such as census extracts, tax lists, histories, and more. Societies have long published these books on paper and yet many would like to expand their publishing activities to include ebooks or online access to databases.

In fact, there are several ways of offering online content for a fee. You can accept online payments by credit card or (sometimes) by check without setting up complicated merchant accounts for processing credit card charges and without creating technically complex secure web sites with expensive SSL certificates. In fact, you don’t even need a web site although I would suggest you have one. A web site will offer low-cost publicity that is impossible to generate elsewhere.

The best part of selling ebooks and other electronic material online is that the customer obtains instant access to the material. Even if the purchases are made at 3 AM while you are sleeping, the customer obtains the material he or she wants within seconds. Nobody has to wait for you to take action to fulfill the orders. There is no packing of books, no trips to the post office, and no postage or other shipping charges.

(+) The Easy Method of Converting Google Books to Kindle and Other Formats Free of Charge

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

A newsletter reader wrote and asked, “How can I download books from Google Books and convert them to text that I can read with my iPad?” I might add, “or in some other format?” to his original question.

The quick answer is, “That is super easy to do. In fact, there are several ways to do that.” Today I thought I’d describe the easy steps required.

(+) Cemetery Mapping and Unmarked Grave Mapping using 21st Century Technology

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.

(+) My Method of Filing Digital Images and Documents

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

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:

(+) One Laptop, Two Computer Screens

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

I must admit I have become accustomed to having two computer screens attached to my one computer at home. I have long used two 27-inch monitors connected to my one desktop computer. However, there is a problem when traveling: the tiny, single 11-inch screen on my laptop computer seems very constraining after using two side-by-side 27-inch monitors at home!

With both monitors on my desk at home, side by side, I can operate them as separate monitors or even create the illusion of one giant screen. I can open a website on one screen and a word processor on the other, then copy and paste from one screen to another. I can even open a spreadsheet and stretch it across the full width of both screens if I want. Why can’t I do that when in a hotel room? After watching a friend of mine do exactly that, I was hooked. I started looking at portable external monitors.

(+) 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.

(+) How to Transition Your E-mail to a Better Service

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

Note #1: The following article describes an incident with Yahoo Mail. However, it could as easily have been on AOL Mail.

A friend of mine had her Yahoo email account hacked a while ago. Her friends and I all knew it had been hacked when we received an email message claiming to be from her that started as, “I know this might be a surprise to you but am sorry to reach out to you in this manner. I apologize for not informing you about my travel to Scotland for a Seminar. Everything is going fine but there’s a little problem, I misplace my wallet on my way back to the hotel and right now all my credit cards, money are gone. Am sending you this message to inform you that am stranded at the moment and need your help financially.”

I knew the message did not come from my friend because of the typo errors in the message. The message went on at some length, asking me to send her money via Western Union.

NOTE #2: Never send money via Western Union, as it cannot easily be tracked and refunded, if needed. There are better, more fraud-resistant, ways to send money during emergencies.

(+) A Few Words about PowerPoint

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

Warning: This article contains personal opinions.

As you might expect with any conference of 150 or more presentations, there are many stories to be told at most any major genealogy conference. One that I hear often concerns the high failure rate of hardware and software among the presenters. At some national conferences, I have heard stories of no less five or six different presenters who experienced major problems with their laptop computers, operating system, projectors, PowerPoint slides, or other critical computer tools.

Some of the problems happen at the very last moment as the presenters are setting up at the podium to begin their talks. I was involved with one such problem a while ago when the presenter suddenly found that the only copies of her PowerPoint slides for two presentations were corrupted and could not be used. Several people, myself included, worked on her files in an attempt to salvage anything at all, but we all were unsuccessful. She had no backup copies. Her only copies were on the hard drive of the laptop she had planned to use and apparently that hard drive malfunctioned and scrambled lots of files, not just the PowerPoint presentations.

Perhaps there are two or three lessons to be learned here.

(+) Essential Things I Never Travel Without – Part #2

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

As I explained in Part #1 of this article (still available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=43332), I have become a fanatic on lightweight packing. I travel often and have too much “history” of dragging heavy luggage through airports as well as in and out of shuttle buses, taxis, hotel lobbies, through the snow or other inclement weather. As I get older, the muscles start to deteriorate as well. I used to carry a 50-pound suitcase without difficulty. I don’t ever want to do that again!

Even worse is the finances. U.S. airlines are now gouging their customers for every dollar they can get away with. US-based airlines collected over $4.1 billion in checked bag fees in 2016. (Reference: https://thepointsguy.com/2017/05/airline-baggage-fees-2016/) Yes, that’s “billions” with a “B.” Who paid these billions of dollars? Hapless travelers who didn’t know how to travel light.

Of course, that’s not the only price gouging that is going on. Now the passengers have to pay for food on the plane and it usually is nearly inedible food at that. Some airlines want to charge to put a single bag in the overhead bins. Then these same airlines advertise “the friendly skies” and other crap so that we have the “privilege” of being being packed in like sardines with shoulders overlapping. “Never have so many paid so much for so little.”

(+) Essential Things I Never Travel Without – Part #1

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

I travel a lot. It is only April, and I have already been overseas twice this year. In a 12-month period I am visiting Iceland, Denmark, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and China, two trips to Salt Lake City, multiple trips to Massachusetts, and one trip each to Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as several Caribbean islands. I may add some more trips to the schedule before the year is over.

Some of these trips are for business, but quite a few are for personal reasons. Several trips are to attend genealogy conferences. I also get to spend a bit of time researching my own family tree occasionally. Whenever possible, I try to combine business trips with a few days of vacation, especially when I have an opportunity to go to places I have never visited before. That includes most of my trips overseas.

I have become a fanatic on lightweight packing.