Plus Edition Article

(+) Your Next Scanner will be Free or Very Low Cost

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

Scanners are some of the best computer accessories a genealogist can buy. Not only can a scanner digitize old family photographs, it is also an excellent tool for making digital copies of old documents or even of today’s handwritten notes made during a trip to the library or courthouse.

Once digitized, these images can be used in word processing documents, genealogy programs, or even printed and hung on the wall in a picture frame.

I also scan almost all other paper documents in my life: insurance policies, auto registrations, eyeglass prescriptions, the users manual for the dishwasher, receipts I wish to save for income tax purposes, notes, invoices, whiteboard discussions, business cards, certificates, and much more. I then save those digitized documents in a private account “in the cloud” where they are safe and easily accessed at any time and from anywhere by using a desktop, laptop, or handheld computing device.

(+) What is a Genogram and Why Should I Create One?

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

Almost all genealogists are familiar with pedigree charts. These are basic charts for recording parents, grandparents, and earlier generations for an individual. Pedigree charts are used to show bloodlines and are limited to displaying only ancestors. Pedigree charts do not display siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles or other extended relatives. Here is an example of a pedigree chart:

Pedigree charts have long been a standard tool used by genealogists and others. They are easy to understand and clearly display a lot of information in a small amount of space. However, pedigree charts are limited in what they can display, normally showing only the name of each individual and the places and dates of birth, marriage, and death. They do not show relationships of siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or other extended relatives. They also do not display the dynamics of a family over multiple generations.

(+) Who “Owns” Data?

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

Disclaimer: This article makes several statements about the laws of the United States. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney and am not formally trained in legal affairs. However, I have discussed these issues with several attorneys who specialize in intellectual property issues and I have also done a lot of reading about the topic. This article reflects my opinions which have been shaped by what I have read and what I have been told.

I will point out what I believe are obvious facts. However, nothing in this article should be treated as legal advice. If you have questions, you are advised to seek legal council from someone who is  qualified and is well versed in intellectual property issues.

I frequently receive email messages from genealogists complaining that someone else has “stolen” their data. Recently, I received a message from a newsletter reader asking how we can encrypt our data before uploading it to protect it from people who want to “steal” it. Today’s correspondent wanted to find a method of “hiding” the data from unknown people so that he could control the data being sent to only people he approved of. Then he was hoping to find a method of preventing those people from forwarding “his” data to others.

I have one question: why?

(+) Preserving Old Documents Electronically

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

Old documents often are fragile. Simply handling them can damage the documents or speed their deterioration; so, one must avoid frequent handling. This can be difficult in the case of family heirlooms since many people may want to see them. Equally challenging is the difficulty of sharing those old documents with people who cannot easily travel to the location where the documents and photographs are stored. Even if you could count on those people returning them, the thought of sending irreplaceable original documents in the mail would give a genealogist the willies!

Luckily, within the past decade technology advances have reduced many of these difficulties. It is now possible to reproduce and even improve the appearance of old documents and photographs. Multiple copies are easy to make, and electronic copies can be put on CD-ROM disks, on Web sites, in the cloud, and even in e-mail messages. Best of all, these tasks can be done at home, using modestly-priced hardware and software. In fact, making electronic improvements and photocopies often can be done for prices that rival or beat older methods.

(+) A Lesson to be Learned From One Library’s Conversion to a Digital Library

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

One prestigious coeducational college preparatory boarding school recently made a radical change to its library. With 145 years of academic excellence, one would expect the school to be steeped in tradition. However, a visitor to the campus might be surprised to learn that the 145-year-old school’s library has gone almost all digital.

In a newspaper interview, the former headmaster said, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

The school reportedly is very happy with the now-completed changes. Most of the library’s previous 40,000 books have since been replaced with 24 million ebooks, academic journals, image and film libraries, and other educational content. The result has been a huge increase in the information available to students, along with the cancellation of any thoughts of adding a multi-million dollar expansion to the library’s building.

(+) Is Your Genealogy Society Growing or Shrinking?

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

I am fortunate in that I travel a lot and am often asked to speak at local genealogy society meetings. I meet a lot of members and officers of these societies, and I hear a lot of stories about each society’s successes and failures. A few stories seem to be repeated over and over by multiple societies although I do hear a few exceptions. By far, the most common stories I hear are that a particular society is struggling and is slowly becoming smaller and smaller. A few societies report the opposite: they are steadily growing in both membership and in services.

What is the difference? I don’t have all the answers, but I do see a few common factors amongst the stories I hear.

A Changing Environment

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

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

Note: The following is an article I published about 2 years ago. However, the current Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of people now working from home. Using 2 or more monitors is perhaps even more valuable for business use than it is for normal in-home uses so I decided to update this article a bit and then re-publish it today.

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.

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.

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

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

Several articles have appeared online in the past few years describing the slowly dying music CD business. In short, sales of music CD disks are being replaced by directly downloading music 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?

You can find dozens of articles about the declining sales of music CDs if you start at Those articles got me thinking: if sales of music CDs are plummeting, can data CDs be far behind?

(+) How to Care for Aging, Fragile Paper, CDs, Magnetic Tapes, and Their Data Content

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

CD-ROM disks, along with their higher-capacity cousins DVD and Blu-ray disks, are fragile methods of storing information. In short, these plastic disks are not suitable for long-term storage. Many corporations and non-profits are racing to get their data off the discs as quickly and safely as possible and into a more reliable digital storage environment. If you have genealogy information or any other information stored on these disks, you need to do the same.

For many years, the thought amongst genealogists has been to print the information on paper for long-term preservation. Yet, many of us have handled old pieces of paper that are decaying, crumbling, or fading to the point that the information is not readable. In fact, most paper manufactured in the past 75+ years contains acids that will hasten the deterioration of the information you wish to preserve. Add in the many problems of paper destruction caused by mold, mildew, moisture, insect damage, floods, fires, burst water pipes, and other factors, and you soon come to the realization that storage on paper is almost as risky as storing on magnetic media.

(+) Possibly the Best (?) Document Scanner for Home and Office Use

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

I have gone paperless!

Actually, I have been on a mission to be paperless for several years. However, a new scanner allows me to do more than before with less hassle and at higher speeds than ever before.

I decided to go paperless several years ago. Since then, every piece of paper that enters my house, whether I carry it in or it is delivered by the postal carrier, gets examined promptly. With anything that requires action, such as paying bills or scheduling a trip to the grocery store, I force myself to handle it as soon as possible, usually within minutes after opening the envelope. Any paper that needs to be saved for any reason gets scanned and saved in my secure cloud file storage services, and the paper is then immediately shredded and sent to recycling. Finally, any piece of paper that doesn’t require action and isn’t worth saving, such as advertising “junk mail,” goes to the shredder within minutes after its arrival without being digitized.

Life without paper is great!

A few days ago, an Amazon driver delivered my new scanner. I must say that I am pleased with it. If it isn’t the absolute best document scanner for home and office use, it certainly must qualify as one of the best. Indeed, it is undoubtedly the best document scanner that I have ever used. Admittedly, I have only used a dozen or so document scanners at home and at work in the past few years, but this scanner outshines all the others. It cost more than I had planned to spend; but now that I have used it for a while, I am very happy with the purchase.

Best of all, I don’t even need a computer to scan and the new scanner will save all sorts of documents!

Scan to Cloud

(+) The Easy and Inexpensive Way to Publish Your Family’s Genealogy Book

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

I recently was told of a family society that invested thousands of dollars in publishing a book that is valuable to family members. Due to a shift in technology, however, the society may lose its “investment.” I decided to share the story with others to hopefully prevent repetition by others.

Thousands of family genealogy books were published from the late 1800s through the 1900s. These books vary widely in quality, but many of them are exhaustive reference sources, containing information about thousands of individuals born with the same surname. The most common format is a book that contains information about all the known descendants of an original immigrant or some other individual. Some of these books contain hundreds, or even thousands, of pages of information.

(+) How to Obtain Your Own Domain Email Address

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

I obtained a “personal email address” years ago: Since it is based on my name, my friends, relatives, and business associates usually can remember it or can find it with a quick Google search. I find that to be much better for my purposes than using a “generic” address such as I detest hard-to-remember numbers in email addresses. Others may actually like such cryptic addresses because it adds a tiny bit of obscurity. That may be desirable for the privacy advocates. The methods I will describe in this article can be used for either purpose: you can create email addresses that are either easy or difficult to remember. Your choice.

NOTE: See the footnote for VERY private email services.

I know there are dozens of ways to obtain email addresses as low cost or even zero cost. I cannot possibly describe all possible methods but will document several that have impressed me.

(+) Is the Smartphone Becoming the PC Replacement?

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

According to a recent Pew Research study at, “The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. Along with mobile phones, Americans own a range of other information devices. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers and roughly half own e-reader devices.”

The number that fascinates me, however, is that 81% of Americans own a smartphone.

The original cell phones only placed and received telephone calls. Within a very few years, most cell phones added cameras. However, the real growth area lies with the intelligent cell phones that have built-in computer functionality. These are typically called “smartphones.” Let’s examine these.

(+) Are You Eligible for Dual Citizenship?

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

Are you eligible for citizenship in the country where your ancestors were born? You might not have to give up your American citizenship. Many Americans may be surprised to learn that they are eligible for dual citizenship. With today’s political upheaval in the US, more Americans than ever are seeking citizenship, especially dual citizenship, in foreign countries. See Americans Renouncing Citizenship at Record Rates at for the details.

(+) CDs Are Not Forever

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

CD discs (often called “optical discs) have been commercially available since the 1980s. Sadly, many computer users have inserted their older CDs into a computer and found that the discs no longer work.

Sometimes it is a software problem: the old software for the CD might not work on a newer version of Windows or Macintosh. However, the most common problem seems to be physical: the CDs themselves have microscopic mold or “rot” that ruins the surface and prevents the data from being read. Even worse, there is no cure. If the data is bad now, it will only get worse. There is no reliable way to restore data from a defective CD.

Some experts claim that CDs will last up to 200 years. However, practical experience shows that hasn’t happened in the first 30 or 40 years. To be sure, not all CDs have gone bad. Only a percentage of them have failed so far. Perhaps the MAJORITY will last 200 years or the AVERAGE will be 200 years, but we know it will not be true of 100% of the discs. However, nobody knows how to predict which disc will fail next. The CD that is most valuable to you might last another 170 years, or it may fail tomorrow.

(+) Why Are We Limited to Soundex?

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

Genealogists love Soundex, a method of matching names that have similar sounds but may be spelled differently. In fact, Soundex became popular amongst genealogists almost as soon as it was invented in 1918. Soundex was patented by Robert C. Russell of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is sometimes called the “Russell Code.” The U.S. Census Bureau immediately adopted Soundex for indexing census records. Since then, others have used the Soundex code to sort similar-sounding names for telephone books, work records, drivers’ licenses, and many other purposes. I noticed that the first four characters of my driver’s license number are “E235,” the Soundex code for my last name.

Genealogists use Soundex to find variant spellings of ancestors’ names. Almost all modern genealogy databases have a “search by Soundex” capability.

Soundex is a form of “phonetic encoding” or “sound-alike” codes. A Soundex code consists of one letter followed by three digits. For instance, Smith and Smythe both are coded as S530, Eastman is E235, and Williams is W452.

(+) How To Self Publish Your Own Printed Book or eBook

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

Many genealogists dream of publishing the results of their research efforts. Whether it is to be a collection of childhood memories of time spent with grandparents or a scholarly study of all the descendants of a family’s immigrant ancestor, publishing books is still the best way to distribute information amongst relatives as well as to preserve the information for future generations.

Publishing most genealogy books has always been done by the use of “vanity press” publishers. A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Unlike mainstream publishers, a “vanity press” publisher requires the author to pay in advance to have the book published. The price usually includes publishing some predetermined number of books. In many cases, the author takes immediate delivery of all the books, stores them, and then sells the individual books as best he or she can. The vanity press publisher may or may not also make the books available for ordering in the company’s catalog.

(+) How I Ditched My Laptop for a Tablet Computer

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

As a frequent traveler in a high tech world, I am always looking for ways to travel lighter, with less luggage and less effort. I started out years ago traveling with a 12-pound laptop computer with a black-and-white screen and two floppy disk drives (and no hard drive). I think the charger added another three or four pounds to my luggage weight as well. That was state-of-the-art in the 1980s. Of course, I was younger and stronger in those days, and carrying an extra 15 pounds or so wasn’t much of an issue.

In those days I had a separate suitcase just for the laptop, charger, modem, and assorted cables plus some tools needed to take apart the telephone in a hotel room in order to hook into the phone system and connect to the outside world. This was before the airlines started charging extra for every piece of luggage. The normal method of connecting online in those days was to use a dial-up 1200-baud modem to connect to CompuServe. The World Wide Web and the phrase “Wi-Fi” had yet to be invented.

Luckily, technology has improved greatly since those days! As time marched on, I went through a long series of laptop computers with each new generation weighing less than the previous. My most recent laptop computer is a 3-pound MacBook Pro that is far more powerful than the 12-pounder I carried years ago. I also carried a charger that added another pound or so to the carrying weight.

There’s even a better solution for today’s traveler.

(+) How to Publish Genealogy Information Online for Fun and Profit

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

For 50 to perhaps 75 years, many genealogists have provided a valuable “cottage industry” of publishing genealogy information. Sometimes this information is in the form of reprinting old, out of copyright family history books. Other services include the publishing of local tax lists, school records, census extracts, histories of towns or counties, and much more. Sometimes these publishing efforts are done by private individuals while others are offered as public services or money-making activities by local genealogy societies. Whatever the source, the goal of these efforts has always been to publish valuable genealogy information that is of interest to others.

Many of these publications have been low-budget efforts, often photocopied manually and bound together with hand-stapled covers. Over the years, I have purchased a number of such publications and have found most of them to be valuable for finding information about my ancestors. Many times, I was able to find information in these “home productions” that was not easily found anywhere else.

(+) How to Reduce the Errors in Your Genealogy Database

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

This article describes a method of killing two birds with one stone.

The first question concerns corruption within your genealogy database. Is your data still good? Or have read errors or write errors managed to corrupt the database? When you make a backup, are you backing up a good database or are you simply making a (corrupted) copy of a corrupted database? The problem is real and has happened to quite a few genealogists. Luckily, it is easy to periodically “test” your database.

The second question concerns the integrity of your database. Are you confident of the accuracy of your genealogy data? You might be amazed at how many databases I see that include mothers giving birth at the age of eight, marriages at age twelve, or deaths at the age of 135. Sometimes you even find a person with a birth date prior to those of his parents. Download almost any GEDCOM file from the Internet and I suspect you can find similar problems.