Plus Edition Article

(+) 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.

(+) My Method of Filing Digital Images and Documents

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

A newsletter reader asked a question that I receive frequently. Here is a (slightly edited) copy of her message:

“I’d love to know how you handle the thousands of .JPG images of genealogy document scans and how to attach sources to them. I tried copying my .JPGs into Word, adding a title and source as text boxes. It was easy enough, but Word degraded the .JPG image so much that writing from earlier documents was almost unreadable. I’m trying it now in PowerPoint files with much better luck. I maintain .JPG integrity, can add titles and sources, and have multiple pages. I can copy the .JPG into other formats or convert the file into a .PDF. I would still love to know what you use before I get too involved in this format.”

I did answer her in email, but I thought I would also share my answer here in case others might have the same questions:

(+) One Laptop, Two Computer Screens

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

I must admit I have become accustomed to having two computer screens attached to my one computer at home. I have long used two 27-inch monitors connected to my one desktop computer. However, there is a problem when traveling: the tiny, single 11-inch screen on my laptop computer seems very constraining after using two side-by-side 27-inch monitors at home!

With both monitors on my desk at home, side by side, I can operate them as separate monitors or even create the illusion of one giant screen. I can open a website on one screen and a word processor on the other, then copy and paste from one screen to another. I can even open a spreadsheet and stretch it across the full width of both screens if I want. Why can’t I do that when in a hotel room? After watching a friend of mine do exactly that, I was hooked. I started looking at portable external monitors.

(+) Rescue Old Photos and Documents: Make a Humidification Chamber

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

Old documents, newspapers, and photographs are often improperly stored. They may have been rolled or folded for years. By the time that you, the family historian, find these items and wish to view them, the documents may be damaged if forced open. Old paper, especially that manufactured after 1885, becomes brittle with age. This will be doubly true if the document has been stored in a very low-humidity environment, such as an attic. Old or fragile items may even crack and crumble if not handled properly.

The primary problem is that old paper and photographs that have not been stored properly will become dried out over the years. Dryness creates brittleness, which then causes damage when the item is not handled properly. Have you ever seen someone tenderly – but wrongly – try to uncurl an old photo or unfold an old news clipping, only to see it crumble in their hands? It’s a sad sight.

(+) How to Transition Your E-mail to a Better Service

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

Note #1: The following article describes an incident with Yahoo Mail. However, it could as easily have been on AOL Mail.

A friend of mine had her Yahoo email account hacked a while ago. Her friends and I all knew it had been hacked when we received an email message claiming to be from her that started as, “I know this might be a surprise to you but am sorry to reach out to you in this manner. I apologize for not informing you about my travel to Scotland for a Seminar. Everything is going fine but there’s a little problem, I misplace my wallet on my way back to the hotel and right now all my credit cards, money are gone. Am sending you this message to inform you that am stranded at the moment and need your help financially.”

I knew the message did not come from my friend because of the typo errors in the message. The message went on at some length, asking me to send her money via Western Union.

NOTE #2: Never send money via Western Union, as it cannot easily be tracked and refunded, if needed. There are better, more fraud-resistant, ways to send money during emergencies.

(+) A Few Words about PowerPoint

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

Warning: This article contains personal opinions.

As you might expect with any conference of 150 or more presentations, there are many stories to be told at most any major genealogy conference. One that I hear often concerns the high failure rate of hardware and software among the presenters. At some national conferences, I have heard stories of no less five or six different presenters who experienced major problems with their laptop computers, operating system, projectors, PowerPoint slides, or other critical computer tools.

Some of the problems happen at the very last moment as the presenters are setting up at the podium to begin their talks. I was involved with one such problem a while ago when the presenter suddenly found that the only copies of her PowerPoint slides for two presentations were corrupted and could not be used. Several people, myself included, worked on her files in an attempt to salvage anything at all, but we all were unsuccessful. She had no backup copies. Her only copies were on the hard drive of the laptop she had planned to use and apparently that hard drive malfunctioned and scrambled lots of files, not just the PowerPoint presentations.

Perhaps there are two or three lessons to be learned here.

(+) Essential Things I Never Travel Without – Part #2

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

As I explained in Part #1 of this article (still available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=43332), I have become a fanatic on lightweight packing. I travel often and have too much “history” of dragging heavy luggage through airports as well as in and out of shuttle buses, taxis, hotel lobbies, through the snow or other inclement weather. As I get older, the muscles start to deteriorate as well. I used to carry a 50-pound suitcase without difficulty. I don’t ever want to do that again!

Even worse is the finances. U.S. airlines are now gouging their customers for every dollar they can get away with. US-based airlines collected over $4.1 billion in checked bag fees in 2016. (Reference: https://thepointsguy.com/2017/05/airline-baggage-fees-2016/) Yes, that’s “billions” with a “B.” Who paid these billions of dollars? Hapless travelers who didn’t know how to travel light.

Of course, that’s not the only price gouging that is going on. Now the passengers have to pay for food on the plane and it usually is nearly inedible food at that. Some airlines want to charge to put a single bag in the overhead bins. Then these same airlines advertise “the friendly skies” and other crap so that we have the “privilege” of being being packed in like sardines with shoulders overlapping. “Never have so many paid so much for so little.”

(+) Essential Things I Never Travel Without – Part #1

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

I travel a lot. It is only April, and I have already been overseas twice this year. In a 12-month period I am visiting Iceland, Denmark, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and China, two trips to Salt Lake City, multiple trips to Massachusetts, and one trip each to Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as several Caribbean islands. I may add some more trips to the schedule before the year is over.

Some of these trips are for business, but quite a few are for personal reasons. Several trips are to attend genealogy conferences. I also get to spend a bit of time researching my own family tree occasionally. Whenever possible, I try to combine business trips with a few days of vacation, especially when I have an opportunity to go to places I have never visited before. That includes most of my trips overseas.

I have become a fanatic on lightweight packing.

(+) Will a New Network Replace Our Present World Wide Web?

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

The World Wide Web probably is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. While perhaps not as important as the discovery of fire or the wheel, the World Wide Web is not far behind. The World Wide Web gives the average person unlimited sources to find out about nearly everything. However, it certainly is not perfect. In my opinion, all the biggest problems of the World Wide Web revolve around one element: security.

In today’s World Wide Web, your most private digital conversations and information are stored on hard drives someplace. Your finances are all online, accessible to government spies and, theoretically, accessible to private hackers alike. Everything about you is stored on servers. The storage of your information generates profits for the shareholders of the companies involved while you simultaneously pay fees to these companies for the “privilege” of keeping so much information about you.

(+) “Ceramic Microfilm” May Preserve Documents that Cannot Survive a Carrington Event

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

“What goes around, comes around.” That seems true in the case of pottery as well as stone, clay, and ceramic tablets. Japanese pottery from the Jomon period dates back more than 13,000 years and contains some of what is believed to be the oldest human writing that still exists in the world. Cuneiform tablets that contain writing created by the Sumerians have survived for 5,000 years. Acid-free paper is expected to survive only a few hundred years while today’s paper – with its acids – has a much shorter life expectancy. Microfilm and microfiche are expected to last only 300 years and even then, only if it is stored under ideal temperature and humidity conditions. Magnetic tapes, floppy disks, and other modern media are expected to last only a decade or two unless someone copies those items every decade or two. (Luckily, that is easy to do.)

Perhaps the greatest threat to the storage of electronic information is a rare solar storm called the “Carrington Event.” The last major Carrington Event to hit the earth took place in 1859, a time when there was almost no electronic information in existence. Studies have shown that a solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would likely cause more widespread problems for a modern and technology-dependent society.

The Carrington Event is a magnetic storm, not physical.

(+) 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 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 http://goo.gl/zVLs6. Those articles got me thinking: if sales of music CDs are plummeting, can data CDs be far behind?

For more than two decades, genealogists have been enthusiastic buyers of genealogy data CDs. At least, looking in my storage area in the basement confirms that I have been an enthusiastic buyer! I have several hundred genealogy data CDs stored in a large box, most of which haven’t been touched in years.

(+) Understanding Optical Character Recognition

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, Ancestry.com, ProQuest, and other genealogy-related companies.

(+) Pedigree Collapse

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

How many ancestors do you have?

It is a simple question and would appear to have a simple answer: Any of us can count the number of our ancestors by performing a very obvious mathematical progression: two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so forth. In the past twenty generations, you have a mathematical chance of having more than one million ancestors. Thirty generations produces more than a billion ancestors, and forty generations results in more than one trillion.

The numbers are correct from a mathematical viewpoint but deliberately ignore one obvious fact: there have never been that many humans on the face of the earth since the dawn of evolution! The reality is that it is impossible to have one trillion unique ancestors, regardless of the mathematics involved.

(+) Conference Handouts: Do You Ever Later Refer to Them?

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

If you have ever been to a major genealogy conference, I’m sure you’ve received more than your fair share of syllabi, handouts, and other paper. Some of this paper comes from the organizing body while the remainder comes from presenters and vendors. In addition, you probably will also have whatever notes you took during the conference. Here’s the question of the day: Do you ever refer to any of that information later?

(+) How Lithuanian Descendants Can Obtain Dual Citizenship and a Lithuanian Passport

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

lithuanian-passportDual citizenship is a very handy thing. Not only can you honor your ancestors, but dual citizenship often can open new opportunities for employment, retirement, travel, and more as well. If today’s political climate encourages you to move to a new home overseas in “the old country,” citizenship in that country can make things much easier. Citizens of most countries are welcomed “home” without a need for immigration documents, residency permits, or other paperwork.

Several countries offer citizenship to descendants of those who left many years ago, including Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico, and Australia. The rules for obtaining citizenship based on an ancestor’s citizenship vary widely. In some countries, the grandchildren of emigrants are eligible for citizenship while other countries only extend citizenship to children, not grandchildren, of emigrants. In addition, Israel’s “Law of Return” automatically grants Israeli citizenship to all Jews as well as to non-Jews who are either children or grandchildren of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, or the spouse of a child or grandchild of a Jew. Last September, I wrote about obtaining citizenship in each of these countries in a Plus Edition article that is still available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=41348.

(+) The Differences Between Simple File Storage Services and True Backup Services

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

Back Up And Restore Keys For Computer Data Security

Back Up And Restore Keys For Computer Data Security

NOTE: In this article I often refer to “Dropbox or Google Drive.” I picked those two simply because they are the most popular online file storage services. The same things can be said about many other services as well. However, there are a few services that are different; they make true backups.

A newsletter reader asked, “I don’t know Google Drive. Do you consider it primarily a ‘backup’ service or a ‘storage’ service? Can it be used for either? Does this persuade you to drop Dropbox for Google Drive or would you keep both?”

My answer cannot be condensed to one or two sentences. I decided to write this article which, hopefully, provides some in-depth information about the differences.

(+) The Best Note-Taking App That You Probably Never Heard Of

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

I have been a big fan of Evernote for several years. At the moment, I have more than 4,200 notes, audio clips, photographs, web pages, scanned images, and more in my Premium account on Evernote. The program is available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, WebOS, Maemo, BlackBerry (including BlackBerry Playbook), and Google Wave platforms as well as a beta for Symbian S60 5th Edition. There are portable versions of Evernote available for flash drives and U3 drives. Notes can be shared with other Evernote users over the Internet.

The downside of Evernote is that the company added limitations to the free version, called Evernote Basic. It’s now accessible via a maximum of two devices. You can select any two from the above list of computing devices, but the limit is two. The company also raised prices on the premium versions of Evernote.