Plus Edition Article

(+) 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.

(+) How to Obtain Information from the 1950 and Later Census Records

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

Anyone who has been researching U.S. ancestors for very long is probably familiar with the U.S. census records. The census records of 1940 and earlier are publicly available; anyone may view them. However, the census records of 1950 and later are sealed and not available to descendants until 72 years after the date of the census. Or are they?

In fact, genealogists can obtain limited information (for a fee) from the 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and even the 2010 U.S. census records. To be sure, the information available is limited, and the fees are high. However, this service is valuable to some people.

(+) Does It Still Make Sense to Buy Genealogy Data CDs?

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

Compact discs and DVDs have going the way of the dodo, and online streaming media will keep that trend going throughout 2018, 2019, and probably for many more years.

Several articles have appeared online in the past few years describing the slowly dying music CD and video DVD businesses. In short, sales of CD and DVD disks are being replaced by directly downloading music and videos online to iPods, computers, and other music playback devices.

Remember the record and CD stores that used to be available at your local mall? Where have they all gone? What happened to the music store that sold CDs? How about the Blockbuster DVD rental store that used to be in your neighborhood? Where did it go? The reality is that Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Apple TV, and other online video services made the DVD rental stores obsolete. The same is true of music CDs: it is easier, much faster, and usually cheaper to download the music online that it is to go to a “brick-and-mortar” store to purchase the same things on plastic disks.

We are now seeing the same thing with the companies that sell genealogy-related CD-ROM disks. Music CDs are already plummeting, video DVD sales are plummeting, can data CDs be far behind?

(+) What Happens to your Online Accounts when You Die?

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

Genealogists are well aware of the disposition of wills, diaries, letters, and other personal items when a person dies. Indeed, the legal processes make sure that a person’s personal affairs are wrapped up properly. If a will exists, those same legal processes have always made sure the wishes of the deceased are considered and implemented as closely as possible. However, today’s new technologies add new challenges that are not yet covered by probate law and also not well documented for the family members of the deceased nor for the corporations that have possession of the deceased person’s digital assets

Today, many people tend not to keep things on paper; instead, their most intimate thoughts are likely to be online – in emails, social media posts, and personal blogs. I count myself as one of those “online people,” and I suspect you may do the same. What happens to your Facebook pages, blog,
online bank accounts, online stock brokerage accounts, or personal email correspondence after you pass away? How about your photos on Google Photos, Flickr, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Photobucket, or other photo sharing web sites?

Perhaps the most important questions are: “What happens to all these online accounts if you die abruptly or unexpectedly become incapacitated? Will your information remain available to your heirs? Will your heirs be able to find this information, and will they know what to do with it?”

Another question concerns the opposite problem: deleting or updating your publicly visible information after your demise. You might not want to leave a Facebook page online forever that says, “Having a great time here in Cancun. I wish I could stay here forever!”

(+) Use an Old Computer as a Backup Server

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

Back in the old days of home computers, say twenty years ago, most of us had one free-standing computer in the house, and the whole family shared it. Those days are now long gone. Many families, perhaps most, now have multiple computers. As computers have become more affordable, portable, and necessary, it’s now common to find multiple computers scattered throughout a home. There is often one desktop or laptop or tablet computer per family member. In fact, most of our cell phones are also computers these days. With today’s technology, the in-home computers are easily connected together by a network, sharing one Internet connection.

If you already have a broadband connection with a router, you probably already have a network installed whether you know it or not. If you have wi-fi installed at home, you definitely have a network.

While many people may not realize it, once the network is installed, it is easy to also share printers, disk drives, and more. It’s even easy to share the resources among different operating systems. For instance, in my home we have Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, iPad, Android and “smartphone” computers all connected together via a mix of wired and wi-fi wireless connections. (Yes, we do own too many computers!) All the computers share the same Internet connection, the same two printers, and the same file server for storage of backup files.

(+) Preserving Data: Separating Facts from Fiction

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

I recently read an article in which the author claimed to describe data preservation techniques. He correctly pointed out that floppy disks, CD-ROM disks, magnetic media, flash drives, and other forms of digital storage all have limited lifespans. He then concluded by claiming that the only method of storing data for long-term preservation was to print everything on paper.


The article in question is an excellent example of examining the facts and drawing a wrong conclusion. In fact, if you want your genealogy information to be available 50 or 100 years from now, I’d suggest that using paper is one of the worst methods available. There are far better methods and, yes, they do involve digital media. The methods I will describe have already been used for more than 50 years by governmental agencies, corporations, and non-profits alike. These preservation methods are inexpensive and easy to accomplish, and they have worked for decades.

(+) Convert 35mm Slides to Digital

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

I have hundreds of 35-millimeter slides stored in boxes. They might as well be shoeboxes although the boxes I use are a bit different size. I collected them over the past few decades and must admit I never looked at any of them again until recently. I find that storing slides or any photos or home movies in any inconvenient location means that they are rarely viewed again. Why did you or someone else spend all the money for cameras, film, and processing if no one ever looks at the results?

I will suggest the solution is to digitize the films and slides. Once digitized, the images are easy to view at any time and very easy to share with others. Your children, grandchildren, cousins, and other relatives might like to receive digital copies of pictures taken long ago. With today’s technology, that is easy to do.

Another major advantage of digitizing pictures, slides, and movies is for preservation. That is especially true for color images. Color fades over the years. Then add in the dangers of flood, fire, mold, burst water pipes, and other in-home hazards, and you have to wonder if your films and slides will last for years and years. Converting to digital stops all deterioration. Making multiple copies of each image and then storing the images in multiple locations almost eliminates the possibility of loss or damage. Of course, you never want to throw away the originals; but wouldn’t you feel better if you had the originals PLUS four or five more copies with each copy stored in a different location from the others?

(+) Your Photos May Disappear

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

Many genealogists scan old photographs, touch them up in a photo editing program, and then print the photos on high quality ink-jet printers. Many of us also take new photographs with our digital cameras and often print some of them on paper. There is but one problem: those printed pictures may disappear within a few years.

To be sure, this isn’t a problem just with digital photographs. If your family used Polaroid cameras or the Anscochrome or early versions of Kodak’s Ektachrome slide films for their photographs in the 1960s, you probably already know that conventional color photography has not always been a model of image longevity. Anscochrome and early Ektachrome color pictures have already faded significantly. Polaroid color photos are even worse. The reds probably are already gone, and the other colors have also faded significantly. Later color photos were better, however. Color photos and slides taken in the 1980s and 1990s probably will last longer. Of course, conventional black-and-white prints, which are made up of tiny grains of silver, remain the undisputed longevity champions. They probably will last for 100 years or more.

The question arises: how to preserve the digital photographs of your family so they will be available to family members 100 years from now?

(+) Where is Genealogy Software Headed?

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

NOTE: This article contains personal opinions.

I have been using genealogy programs for 34 years. In 1984, I started with Family Ties, a program written by Neil Wagstaff. I ran it on a homemade CP/M computer with two 8-inch floppy disk drives and a huge memory capacity of 64 kilobytes. No, that is not a typo error: those were 8-inch floppy disks drives. Many of today’s computer users have never seen an 8-inch floppy disk although the later 5 1/4-inch disks became quite popular and then were replaced by 3 1/2-inch floppy disks.

Over the years, kept upgrading both the hardware and the software in use. I upgraded from the CP/M operating system to MS-DOS, then to Windows 2.0 and through a series of Windows releases: 3.0, 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 2000 (which I still believe is the best version of Windows ever released), Windows XP and I briefly used Windows Vista. In fact, after using Vista for a few weeks, I got rid of it and switched to Macintosh OS X. I never looked back, until recently. While I have kept both Windows and Macintosh systems but found that Macintosh was more reliable and easier to use for most tasks. However, two years ago I switched again. (More on that later.)

(+) How to Send Blog Articles, Announcements, or a Newsletter by Bulk Email

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

The following article is for anyone who needs to send a large number of identical, or nearly identical, email messages. Perhaps you need to send 1,000 messages to attendees of your society’s annual conference. Perhaps you write a blog and would like to offer email subscriptions to your articles. In either case, using a 50-year-old technology called email can greatly increase the number of readers you have.

COMMENT: If you have a blog, I would suggest that you absolutely need to publish your articles both online and in email. Many people will visit a blog daily or at least several times a week in order to read the news offered. However, as time goes by, many blog readers will forget to check frequently or will become distracted by other priorities in their lives. Little by little, they will check the blog less and less often. Eventually, they “drift away,” even though they may still be interested in the articles offered in your blog. The simple solution is to send each person an email message every day or every few days containing all the new articles posted since the last such message.

The advantage of sending blog articles by email is that the recipient doesn’t need to remember to check the blog frequently. All new articles arrive automatically in the recipient’s in-box without any action required by the recipient.

(+) The Web as We Knew it is Dead. Long Live the Web!

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

Are you using the latest and most convenient technology available today? Or are you using an ancient Windowsaurus (an old personal computing device, from the paleo-vista era)?

The history of the Internet began with the development of electronic computers in the 1950s. The US Department of Defense awarded contracts as early as the 1960s for packet network systems, including the development of the ARPANET (which would become the first network to use the Internet Protocol). Numerous people worked to connect computers together in a collaborative manner. Early examples include ARPANET, Mark I at NPL in the UK, CYCLADES, Merit Network, Tymnet, and Telenet. All were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s using a variety of communications protocols.

A major revolution began, however, when Tim Berners-Lee, an independent contractor at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, posted a short summary of his implementation of something he called the World Wide Web project on August 6, 1991 in the alt.hypertext newsgroup, inviting collaborators. This date also marked the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the Internet. The world was never the same again.

In fact, the World Wide Web was implemented and then has changed significantly over the years. We’ve really had 3 generations: