Plus Edition Article

(+) Big Disk Drives – Cheap!

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

A newsletter reader sent an e-mail to me asking about disk drives. His message was longer, but he basically asked, “Where can I find cheap disk drives?” He also said he wasn’t prepared to open the case of his computer, bolt things in, and then hook up cables.

I took this as a bit of a personal challenge. Besides, I wanted another big disk drive for a backup project I had in mind. I decided to purchase a 10 terabyte or larger external disk drive.

NOTE: 10 terabytes is the same as 10,000 gigabytes or 10 million megabytes. By today’s standards, that is a big storage capacity but certainly not the biggest available.

As it turned out, the price even surprised me. It was cheaper than I expected.

(+) A GPS Device That is Accurate to Within One Centimeter

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

My earlier article Don’t Use QR Codes on Tombstones! at about defacing tombstones by attaching new objects with adhesives has generated a lot of comments about one thing I didn’t expect: the use of GPS (Global Positioning System satellite navigation system) in a cell phone to determine the location of a tombstone. Some of the comments questioned the accuracy of cell phone devices; so, I decided to write a separate article to address those questions. I will divide this into three different points in time: what the cell phone accuracy was a few years ago, what it is today, and it what it might become in the near future.

At, Wikipedia states:

(+) 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:

Click on the above image to view a larger example.

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.

Medical professionals also have a need to show family relationships in order to understand inherited medical conditions. The medical community often needs to collect and display information about patterns of mental and physical illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, cancer, substance abuse, and other diseases that seem to run in families. Pedigree charts are ineffective for such uses.

(+) A Simple Explanation of Cloud Computing

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

Many of the articles in this newsletter refer to “the cloud.” Feedback from several newsletter readers indicates that not everyone understands what a “cloud” is in the Internet world. I thought I would publish this introduction to cloud computing and also explain how cloud computing is used to provide digital images of census records to millions of online genealogists.

A number of companies provide cloud computing services, including Amazon Web Services (often referred to as “AWS”), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Rackspace, Red Hat (recently acquired by IBM), Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, and several others. To keep things simple, I will describe Amazon simply because it is the largest cloud services provider and is the one that I use the most. However, I believe most of the other cloud service providers are similar in operation.

(+) The 1890 U.S. Census: Not Everything Was Destroyed

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

Beginning U.S. genealogists soon learn that the 1890 census records were destroyed in a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building on January 10, 1921. Many people who would like to see these records just shrug their shoulders and move on.

Some of the 1890 census records after being damaged by fire and water.

A short search on the Web, however, soon reveals that not all of the records were destroyed. In fact, census fragments for 1890 in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia survived and are available now.

(+) Are You Ready for the Future of Computing?

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

I am writing this article while seated at a desk in my home. I am staring at a large monitor on the desk and typing these words on a keyboard that sits on that desk. The keyboard is connected to a boxy-looking computer on my desk. This is how I use a computer most of the time. It is the same method that I used thirty-five years ago, in 1984.

This is modern technology?

(+) Enjoy Internet Access Nearly Anywhere and Anytime with a Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot

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

One of the phrases we often read in technical articles these days is “Internet everywhere.” Indeed, wi-fi Internet connections, often called “hotspots,” are available at thousands of coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, schools, and dozens of other places as well. I have successfully connected online from fast food burger places and while riding at 34,000 feet in an airplane However, despite the phrase “Internet everywhere,” we still cannot connect online from anywhere. A few places do not have wi-fi networks. And then there is the universal question: what do we do during power failures?

The answer is simple: anyone can connect to the Internet from almost anywhere by providing their own wireless modem, or “personal hotspot,” that connects to a cell tower within a few miles. It even works during power failures, as proven yesterday and today in my neighborhood.

So how do you connect a wi-fi equipped laptop, tablet, or other computing device to a cellular tower? There are two popular solutions.

(+) Ahnentafel and Kekule Numbering Systems

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

Genealogists often use terms that are not familiar to others. Most of these terms become familiar soon after we get involved in searching for our family trees. We soon speak of pedigree charts, enumerators, Henry numbers, fan charts, and more. However, one term we do not hear often pops up occasionally: Kekule Numbers.

Stephan Kekulé

The German mathematician Stephan Kekulé of Stradonitz (1863-1933) was a genealogist as well as the son of famed mathematician and chemist Friedrich August Kekulé. He used a numbering system to show relationships in text format. In German-speaking counties, lists of names created with Stephan Kekulé’s numbers are still referred to by his name: Kekule numbers. However, in English-speaking countries the same numbers in lists would simply be called “numbers.”

Indeed, ahnentafel numbers and the Kekule numbers for listing ancestors are the same. However, Stephan Kekulé also created a similar system for listing descendants, a system I have rarely seen in English publications.

(+) Facing Up to the Long-term Future of Your Genealogy Society

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

NOTE: This article contains several personal opinions.

I travel a lot, and I spend a lot of time with officers and members of many genealogy societies. Most everywhere I go, I hear stories of societies that are shrinking in size and even a few stories of societies that are struggling to maintain their existence. Even amongst all this “doom and gloom,” I do hear a few rare stories of genealogy societies that are thriving and growing larger. Not only are they attracting more members, but these few societies are also offering more and more services to their members with each passing year.

Why do so many genealogy societies flounder while a handful succeed?

(+) What is a Wiki and Why Should I Care?

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

A funny-sounding word is being found frequently on the Internet: wiki. It is not a creature from Star Wars, and it is not a strange animal from Australia. In fact, a wiki is a bit of software that gets its name from the Hawaiian or Polynesian word for “quickly.” The shuttle buses at the Honolulu airport are called “Wiki Wiki,” meaning to go quickly and easily. Now the word is creeping into genealogy vocabularies.

In the words of wiki inventor Ward Cunningham:

“A wiki is the simplest online database that could possibly work.”

Imagine that you visit someone else’s web site and discover that you can change anything on that site at any time. You can edit the page you’re reading to comment on it, add to it, or correct the content. On a long page that has evolved over time, you can summarize portions and tighten up the wording. You can add a link to a relevant resource to help visitors who want to know more. You can even create new pages and link them to existing pages on the site. You can do all this, even though it is not your web site. This is the idea behind a wiki.

(+) 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 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 (paid) genealogy databases as well.

(+) Downsizing: the Paperless Office for Genealogists

WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.

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

Paper. I have been drowning in it for years.

Genealogists soon learn to collect every scrap of information possible. We collect copies of birth certificates, marriage records, death certificates, census entries, military pension applications, deeds, and much, much more. I don’t know about you, but I have been collecting these bits of information as paper, mostly photocopies, for years. Over the past thirty+ years, I have probably spent thousands of dollars in photocopying fees!

I now have a four-drawer filing cabinet behind me as I write these words and another four-drawer filing cabinet in the basement. I have book shelves that are groaning under the weight of (printed) books. Since I don’t have enough room for all my books, many of them are stored in boxes in the basement, and I seem to never retrieve any of those books from storage. They lie there, year after year, gathering dust and mildew, providing information to no one.

Searching for information in hundreds of books stored in the basement is so time consuming and so impractical that it never gets done.

In addition to the thousands of dollars spent on photocopying fees, I have spent still more on filing cabinets, manila file folders, bookshelves, and more. Then there’s the books. I hate to think what I have spent for books! Postage charges alone have been more than I care to think about.

(+) Our Ancestors’ Dental Care

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

Life in the “good old days” wasn’t always so good. For instance, one has to wonder about dental care as practiced by our ancestors. Ready-made toothbrushes and toothpaste were not available until the mid-1800s. Prior to that, everyone had to make their own.

Throughout the Middle Ages, most people simply rubbed salt on their teeth.

Some people made up their own dentifrice and rubbed the resulting powder on their teeth with a small stick, called a “toothstick,” with a rag over one end. This was the forerunner of the toothbrush.

By the 1700s medical knowledge improved to the point that doctors began to understand the importance of proper dental care. Toothpaste, properly called dentifrice, was made at home. Here is one such recipe:

…burned hartshorn, powdered oyster shell and white tartar. Also a mouthwash of sal ammoniac and water. Another uses cream of tartar, gum myrrh and oil of cloves. And if all this good dental care fails, you may get a set of artificial ones made from the tusks of the hippopotamus, or sea horse, or from the teeth of some domestick [sic.] animals. Teeth made of ivory or bone soon become discoloured and begin to decay and render the breath offensive.

(+) What is the Purpose of a Genealogy Program?

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

If you record your genealogy research efforts on paper, you might want to skip this article. However, if you use a computer program as an aid to your genealogy research, read on.

Is the genealogy program you chose a database of results, or is it a tool to help your research while that research is still a work-in-progress? Perhaps a bigger question is, “Will my genealogy program help me evaluate evidence? Or is it simply a place to record the results after I have done all the research?”

I suspect that many genealogists do not use their favorite genealogy programs to full potential. In fact, some genealogy programs make it difficult to accomplish what a computer does best: organize, filter, and retrieve information whenever it is needed.

Many genealogy programs appear to be nothing more than a place to record your research CONCLUSIONS.