Plus Edition Article

(+) 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!

(+) 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.