Plus Edition Article

(+) Who Will Inherit Your Bitcoins or Other Digital Currency?

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

NOTE: This isn’t really a genealogy article. However, genealogists are usually very familiar with the reasons for writing a will. Whether the information in this article applies to you or to a loved one, I will suggest that all genealogists and everyone else should be aware of this information.

Do you own Bitcoins or other crypto-currencies? Do your parents or other family members own such digital assets? Even your adult children may have digital currencies and may not have considered inheritance issues in the case of their unexpected demise. If you or any relative who owns crypto-currencies should die unexpectedly, who gets the inheritance? Do the future heirs know how to claim and retrieve the crypto-currency?

(+) 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. 

I am fortunate that I get to travel a lot and I talk with genealogists most everywhere I go. The questions I am often asked is, “How should I organize my genealogy notes in the computer? What file names and folder names should I use?”

My usual answer is: “Who cares?”

Of course, many of the genealogists who asked the question look shocked when I give that reply. Yes, I am serious. I find 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.

(+) Self-Publish Your Book and Sell it on Amazon and Elsewhere

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

Many genealogists dream of publishing books about the family tree or about local history. Some want to write a book of “my ancestors,” but it may be better to write, “The Descendants of (insert ancestor’s name here)” or the “Early History of Washington County” or some other area where you have expertise. Either way, you have three tasks ahead of you: write the book, get it published, and then find buyers. I can’t offer much assistance for writing the book, but in this article I will tell you about some online services that can make it easy to self-publish and sell your new masterpiece.

Dozens of book publishers are willing to print your book. However, if you are not a well-known author already, most will charge you for set-up and printing expenses. In the trade, this is known as the “vanity press.” In other words, the publisher is a publishing house which authors pay in advance to have their books published. In order to sell books, commercial publishers may specialize in a particular genre, such as genealogy.

(+) How to Improve Your Productivity with Two or More Monitors

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

I have been using two monitors on my desktop computers for years. I love the convenience of displaying 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.

My desk with a 27-inch iMac and a 28-inch Dell monitor

Pay no attention to the small screen to the right. That is an Amazon Echo Show, also called “Alexa,” that has nothing to do with this article. Maybe I will write about that in the future!

I especially like to display two different genealogy programs simultaneously, one on each monitor. That makes it easy to compare two different databases and even to copy-and-paste information from one program to another.

Not only can I display different programs on different monitors, I can also move any window from one monitor to the other. You know how you can click-and-drag a window from one area on your single screen to another? I can do the same with two monitors: click-and-drag any window from an area on one monitor to an area on another monitor.

(+) Another Method to Go Paperless with either Macintosh or Windows

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

New Year’s is a traditional time to make resolutions. I would suggest this is the perfect time to decide to organize your life. Specifically, it’s time to get rid of all the paper that is cluttering up your genealogy research as well as your need to keep receipts for income tax purposes, to keep copies of eyeglass prescriptions, to organize your warranties for the various items in your life, to keep copies of business cards, and for hundreds of other purposes where you might need to quickly and easily find a piece of “paper” in the future. Luckily, there are many software tools available for organizing your paper files by scanning them, saving the images to a database on your computer, and (optionally) throwing away the paper.

Remember when everyone talked about how we would someday become a paperless society? Now it seems like we use paper more than ever. Let’s face it – everyone still uses paper. We end up with piles of it – bills, receipts, financial and insurance statements, and much more. Still, the trend toward government and business entities wanting digital documents is growing. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service prefers that you file your taxes electronically. If an audit is requested, the I.R.S. strongly suggests you show up at the audit with electronic images of your receipts, not with boxes of paper. According to ruling Rev. Proc. 97-22 from the IRS, agency employees will accept digital documents. If you do insist on submitting tax forms and receipts on paper, the I.R.S. employees will simply scan all your paper and then throw that paper away! The agency doesn’t have enough file space to store paper from all the taxpayers, but it has lots of available space for digital storage. In addition, I.R.S. employees can retrieve electronic images much faster than they can retrieve paper documents. Perhaps you should do the same. After all, this is the 21st century!

(+) 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.

OCR is the technology long used by libraries and government agencies to make lengthy documents available electronically. As OCR technology has improved, it has been adopted by commercial firms, including Archive CD Books USA, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, Archive.org, ProQuest (producers of HeritageQuest Online), Ancestry.com, Google Books, and many other companies.

(+) Hands On with the ACEPC W5 Windows 10 Mini Desktop Computer Stick

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

Have you seen the ads for these things? The ACEPC W5 Windows 10 Mini Desktop Computer is a Windows 10 computer on what looks like an oversized flash memory stick. It literally is smaller than a pack of cigarettes. In fact, it is about the size of two packs of chewing gum. It sells for $99.99 US. OK, let’s round that up a penny and call it $100.

Is this thing really a useful or even useable PC? Can it really run all the normal Windows 10 programs? Can it run a genealogy program? Is it a practical device to use when I am traveling? Can it work from a hotel room, using the hotel’s television set as a monitor? I decided to find out and to share my findings in this newsletter. I ordered one from Amazon. Two days later, I had a new PC in my hand.

Yes, that is my hand in the above picture. I am holding the ACEPC W5 Windows 10 Mini Desktop Computer Stick. The picture was taken a minute or two after I unboxed the computer. This is called a “Pocket PC,” but that name is a bit misleading. I could put 2 or 3 of these computers into a normal-sized pocket!

(+) When Your Descendants Become Curious About Their Ancestors

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

You probably have enjoyed collecting bits and pieces of information about your ancestors and their lives. Is it possible that one of your future descendants will want to do the same for you and for your present relatives? If so, should you help your future genealogist-descendant by making sure the information about your life and the lives of your relatives will be available in the future?

For years, genealogists, historians, and others have preserved information on paper. Sometimes it is in the form of books while a less formal method is to collect paper documents and keep them in a file. Paper has served us well for centuries and probably will not disappear anytime soon. However, paper isn’t as useful or expected to last as long as it once was. Perhaps we should seek alternative solutions.

From e-journals and e-books to emails, blogs and more, electronic content is proliferating fast, and organizations worldwide are racing to preserve information for the next generations before technological obsolescence, or even data loss, creep in.

(+) Why a Search Engine Cannot Find All Online Genealogy Information

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

Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo and Bing are great inventions for genealogists. We can go to a search engine and enter a name of an ancestor or other relative. The search engine will then provide us with a “hit” list—a list of web pages that contain that name. If the name is an uncommon one, we often can find the information we seek within seconds. The more common names may be a bit more difficult as the search engines return too many “hits” for us to read quickly. In these cases we can narrow the search by entering the person’s place of residence, occupation, family members’ names, and other facts from the person’s life, hoping to find web pages that contain those facts in addition to the person’s name.

However, search engines never return information about certain records, even though we know that those records are already available online. In fact, the search engines typically cannot find information contained in some of the largest genealogy web sites: MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, and others. Perhaps you saw information about your ancestor online last week in one of the larger genealogy sites. Today, you want to look at that information again for further research, but you don’t remember which site had the info. Most genealogists will go to Google.com to search for the person and then click on Google’s link to the web site where the information is stored. However, Google and the other search engines typically will not find information stored on the larger genealogy web sites. The question arises, “Why not?” The answer is easy, but it does require a bit of explanation.

(+) Why Cloud Computing Makes Sense for Genealogy

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

Note: This is an update to an article I published several years ago. The technology of cloud computing has grown rapidly and changed significantly since the article was first published. I decided to update the article to make it more relevant to today’s cloud computing environment.

One of the current buzzwords in the online world is “cloud computing.” You can probably find dozens of definitions of this new technology, but I think the simplest is that cloud computing refers to a computer application running on a distant computer or, more often, in a cluster of computers. Those multiple computers, or servers, often are installed in different data centers around the world, and yet they work in harmony as if they were one very big and very powerful computer.

In fact, if your present computer is showing its age and is slowing down a bit, switching to cloud computing applications is an excellent method of obtaining several more years of productive use from your aging hardware.

(+) The True Expense of Genealogy Research

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

The world has changed for genealogists in the past two or three decades. 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.

I hear many genealogists moan and groan because a particular online genealogy service costs money. The claim often is made that “It should be free!” Comparisons often are made that traveling to a nearby library or archive is free so we shouldn’t pay for the online databases.

I will suggest that such claims are the result of “fuzzy thinking.”

(+) Dutch Tulip Mania of 1636-1637

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

We often think of speculation in stock market, real estate, oil futures, or dot-com companies to be modern ventures for risk-taking entrepreneurs. Not so. Our ancestors were known to take perhaps even greater risks in a largely unregulated business atmosphere. Perhaps the most famous was the Dutch Tulip Mania of 1636-1637. However, it was not confined to the Dutch; many of our ancestors in other countries also joined in the frenzy. Many of them lost fortunes, large and small.

Pamphlet from the Dutch tulipomania, printed in 1637

When we think of tulips, most of us automatically think of Holland. However, it is not a native plant of that country. The first tulip appeared in the United Provinces (now called the Netherlands) in 1593, when Charles de L’Ecluse (or Carolus Clusius) first bred tulips that could tolerate the harsh conditions of the Low Countries. Charles’ bulbs were sent to him from Turkey by his friend, Ogier de Busbecq.

(+) FREE PDF Tools in The Cloud (and One Non-Cloud Tool as Well)

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

Portable Document Format files are amongst the best things available in your computer. The biggest advantage of the Portable Document Format is that it can be used across all devices. You can read PDF files on an iPhone, an iPad, Android devices, Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Chromebooks, and probably some other operating systems you never heard of. Indeed, it is a PORTABLE Document Format, usually referred to as a “PDF file.” The word “portable” is appropriate because PDF files may easily be moved from one operating system to another, such as from Windows to Macintosh or Android.

PDF files are very popular with genealogists. There is a host of ways that they find these capabilities useful. Here are just a few that come to mind:

  • Convert files to share with family members who may not have the programs you use
  • Make PDF files found online searchable to find information on ancestors
  • Convert PDF files found online to a format that lets you extract facts about an ancestor to paste into your genealogy program
  • Convert PDF files found online to a format that lets you extract images of ancestral people and places
  • Convert PDF files of genealogy books into other formats, such as Word files or ebook reader formats

(+) Moving From a Desktop to a Laptop Computer

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 
A newsletter reader wrote and asked a number of excellent questions. Here is an excerpt from that message:
Dear Mr. Eastman,
You were very helpful a year ago when I was looking at genealogy software to acquire. I have several new questions for you now that I am ready to buy a laptop to take with me when I do genealogical research.
1. Do you recommend any particular basic software, memory, accessory requirements for a laptop that is to be used primarily for genealogical research? I would like a laptop to which I could export slide shows for display and/or lecture purposes.
2. Will I need to buy another version of my present genealogy software to download on the laptop or can I transfer the software I already own onto another machine? Is it possible to export slide-shows as long as the software programs are identical or from the same supplier?

(+) 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!