Plus Edition Article

(+) The Majority of Books Published Before 1964 Are Free of Copyrights

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

Over and over, genealogists have been told that the copyright has expired for all works published in the United States before 1923. In other words, if the work was published in the U.S. before January 1, 1923, anyone is free to republish excerpts or even the entire book without obtaining permission. That statement remains correct today. However, many genealogists are not aware that the overwhelming majority of all books published prior to 1964 are also free of copyright. That’s “the overwhelming majority of all books” but not all of them.

(+) It Always Feels Like Somebody is Watching Me… So Get a VPN!

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

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the easiest way to obtain a fast, private, and SECURE Internet connection.

vpnDo you work online from coffee shops or hotels? Do you travel and take a laptop, tablet or smartphone with you to use online? Do you perhaps travel internationally? I often travel internationally (I am in Ireland at the moment), and I always use a VPN when traveling, whether I am in the U.S. or overseas.

Actually, using a VPN while at home is also a good idea. After all, do you know if one of your neighbors is possibly monitoring all the data you send and receive? Then again, we all know that the NSA is monitoring everything we send and receive online.

Unless you are using a VPN (virtual private network), nothing you do online is private. A VPN encrypts and protects everything you do online, and can be downloaded as an app on your phone or computer.

(+) Are You Eligible for Dual Citizenship?

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

usa and british passportAre 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.

The US government used to claim that you couldn’t hold dual citizenship except in certain cases involving dual citizenship from birth or childhood. However, the US Supreme Court struck down most of the laws forbidding dual citizenship in 1967. The court’s decision in the case of Afroyim v. Rusk, as well as a second case in 1980, Vance v. Terrazas, eventually made its way explicitly into the statute books in 1986.

(+) Update: My Move to the Cloud

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

A few months ago I published an article entitled, “I am Moving to the Cloud.” Since that time, I have continued my move to a cloud-based personal service for genealogy and other applications, and now I am almost completely cloud-based.

In the original article, I described several cloud-based services, explained actions I had already taken, and described what I planned to do. Since I published that article, I have followed most of the items in my plan. However, a couple of vendors have changed their services slightly, and some new services have been introduced. One of the new services was so appealing that it caused me to change my original plans. I also experimented a bit as I moved through my planned changes. The result was even more changes in my plans as I gained experience.

The original article is no longer accurate because of these changes. I decided to re-write that original article and to include the changes in the new version that I am publishing today. This is the extensively revised article.

I’ve decided to move. Well, not my personal possessions, my clothes, my tools, or even my computers. I am moving my data and my applications. I am moving to the cloud.

First, here is a quick definition of a cloud as the word is used in computer technology.

(+) 5 Ways to Connect Long-Distance Family Members

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

Today’s lifestyles often mean that families are separated by hundreds of miles, if not thousands of miles. Grandparents and grandchildren may live in different parts of the country or even different parts of the world. The U.S. Department of State estimates 6.3 million Americans live abroad, and more than 65 million travel overseas each year. Indeed, many people travel frequently for business or pleasure, resulting in them being separated for days, weeks, or even months at a time from family members. Yet today’s technology allows distant parents and grandparents to read their children or grandchildren bedtime stories, to draw with them, and to be with them—virtually.

For instance, I spend winters about 1,200 miles from my grandchildren, and yet I video conference with them frequently. A few weeks ago, I did the same while I was in Singapore, about 10,000 miles from the grandchildren. Doing so is easy and free. Well, you do have to have an Internet connection and some hardware that you probably already own. I guess that it is not free technically but is available “at no extra charge,” using equipment that most of us already possess. Add in a bit of free software and you, too, can be (virtually) with your loved ones daily.

(+) Convert 35mm Slides to Digital

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

slidesI 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.

(+) You Can Build Your Own Safe and Secure File Storage Service in Your Own Cloud

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

cloud-computingStoring files in the cloud provides convenience and security. Having a second (or more) copy of a file stored some distance from your computer provides a lot of safety in case of hard drive crashes or accidental deletions. Cloud-based file storage services include Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, iDrive, SugarSync, Box, SpiderOak, and probably a dozen or more others. However, all of these services have one thing in common: they store your files on other companies’ servers. Many individuals and almost all corporations are reluctant to do that for security reasons. They simply do not want to keep their secrets on someone else’s servers.

Luckily, there is an easy answer: store your files on your own servers or on rented servers that are TOTALLY under your control, not accessible to anyone else, not even to hackers.

(+) Put Away Your Wallet and Hold Meetings Online for Free

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

Remote meetings have become very popular in recent years and with good reason: holding online meetings with attendees in multiple locations saves a lot of time and money. Instead of having participants travel to one location, everyone can remain at home or in their offices and still attend, even if they are in different parts of the country or even in different parts of the world.

There are two facts about meetings that are difficult to ignore:

1. Meetings are costly to both planners and attendees.
2. Often, they’re wasteful and unnecessary.

Remote meetings and webinars have become very popular in the business world and now are spreading amongst personal interest groups, including genealogy society meetings and conferences. With today’s travel expenses, online remote meetings have become very attractive. Why spend money on travel, hotels, and restaurants? Instead, it often makes sense for attendees to each sit in front of a computer or a tablet or even a smartphone while still at home. Not only can small meetings be held this way; it is possible to hold an entire multi-day genealogy conference with hundreds of attendees, all of whom are scattered around the globe.

Goodby, hotels. Goodby, airline charges. Goodbye, expensive convention centers. Just let me use my iPad.

(+) Yes, You Can Run Windows Programs on a Mac

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

Windows-and-Mac-OS-XIf you have moved from a Windows computer to a Macintosh or are contemplating such a move, you do not have to abandon all your old programs. In fact, there are several methods of running Windows software on a Mac. The solutions I will describe are suitable for running Windows applications you simply can’t live without. It works on genealogy programs, word processors, games, and many other Windows applications you want to run on your Mac. While this newsletter focuses mostly on genealogy software, these three different options will work on non-genealogy applications as well.

Method 1:

(+) Genealogy Record Keeping in the Post-PC World

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

I believe the post-PC world is upon us. That is, PC computers, as we know them, are now slowly disappearing and will become museum pieces within the next ten years.

The term “PC computers” includes Windows and Macintosh desktop and laptop computers. It does not include tablet computers or Apple or Android “smartphones.”

The term “post-PC” refers to the computing world after sales of desktop and laptop computers have slowed to a trickle.

(+) How to Obtain Information from the 1950 through 2010 US Census Records

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

Seal_of_the_United_States_Census_BureauMost US genealogists believe that the US decennial census records are inaccessible for 72 years to protect respondents’ privacy. Not true! The records are restricted but not completely unavailable. That is, the records from the past 72 years are not available to the general public but are available to a very few individuals who have a need to obtain the information contained in a record. The process for obtaining transcripts of the information is simple although, like many other requests sent to the government, delays are common.

(+) Don’t Print This Article!

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

man_looking_at_stack_of_papersConsider the environment. Do you really need to print out this article?

I occasionally receive e-mail messages from newsletter readers asking various questions about how to print articles published in this newsletter. I also frequently hear comments at genealogy conferences and elsewhere from family historians stating, “I printed it out to save it and…” or similar words.

I have one question: Why?

(+) The Problems with OCR

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

OCRMuch of the genealogy information available on the World Wide Web is obtained from old books, published many years ago. With today’s technology, vendors are finding it easy to scan the books and to convert the pages into computer text. The results are placed online and the text becomes searchable in Google and other search engines, as well as each site’s own “search box.” The conversion from printed pages to computer text can be performed at modest expense and the information derived can be valuable for many genealogists. There is but one problem: it doesn’t always work very well.

Scanning a page from a book creates a picture of the page. However, a picture is not easily searchable. The image is similar to taking a picture with a digital camera: while it is easily readable by a human eye, the computer cannot “see” the words in the picture. A conversion process, called Optical Character Recognition, is required.

(+) Calculating Birth Dates from Death Date Information

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

What day was that ancestor born? It seems like such a simple question, and yet finding the answer can be surprisingly complex, even when you have the numbers in front of you. Exact dates are often found in death certificates and frequently on tombstones. The problem is that these are often written as death dates followed by the person’s age at death.

George_Eastman_tombstone

Here is a common example:

George Eastman
Died June 12, 1899
Aged 83 years, 10 months, 26 days

How do you tell George Eastman’s date of birth? You obviously need to subtract 83 years and 10 months and 26 days from the date of death. Simple, right? Well, not as simple as it first appears.

(+) Communicating in the Cemeteries

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

Communicating in the cemeteries??? No, I am not referring to communications with or amongst the “long-term residents” of a cemetery. Instead, I’m writing about communications for visitors to a cemetery. Namely, the genealogists who visit a cemetery looking for information about deceased relatives.

When searching for tombstones of ancestors and other relatives, I generally try to visit a cemetery with a friend or two. We mentally divide the cemetery into sections, and then each person searches through his or her section alone. The other friends are doing the same in a different section. I have done this many times and suspect that you have, too. Having two or more people involved increases the enjoyment of the search as well as the safety of everyone involved.

There are disadvantages, however. Upon discovering a particular tombstone, you may have to shout to the other person to make them aware of your discovery. In a large cemetery, the other person(s) may be some distance away, making shouting impractical.

(+) How Safe Are Your Old Documents?

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

Old_documentA number of us are fortunate enough to own old books, birth certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization certificates, old newspaper clippings, or other family heirloom documents that we want to preserve. What condition will they be in 20 or 50 years from now? For that matter, will the fruits of your genealogy labor be available to your descendants 200 years from now? You should take steps now to make sure the documents remain in the best possible condition. I thought I would discuss the techniques of document preservation a bit more in this newsletter.

Very old books and other paper documents are rather easy to preserve if a few basic precautions are followed. Modern day paper is made from wood pulp. The manufacturing process extracts cellulose from the wood, and then paper is manufactured from the cellulose fibers. Although pure cellulose is extremely durable, the various additives can cause deterioration, usually through acid degradation of the fibers. The life expectancy of most modern paper can be as short as 50 years. Even worse, documents you produce on your laser printer may not last that long. The toner that substitutes for ink in modern laser printers probably will not last as long as the paper it adheres to. Once upon a time, toner was made of carbon, which lasts a long time. However, carbon turned out to be carcinogenic so manufacturers switched to various plastic compounds. Neither carbon nor plastic will stick to paper forever. In fact, if rubbed occasionally, even by the expansion and contraction that occurs during temperature variations, the toner will easily rub off.

(+) Running Android Genealogy Apps on a Chromebook

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

I have written a number of times about Chromebooks, the low-cost laptop computers that boot up quickly, are simple to use, never get viruses, and perform the computer tasks that many computer owners want. (Go to https://goo.gl/TsSWQ5 to find my earlier Chromebook articles.) These $150 to $300 laptop computers are very useful for a very specific type of computer user—someone who spends most of his or her time using the Web and Web-centric services. These days, a lot of people fall into that category, including myself.

I love my Asus Flip C100P Chromebook and use it often. Chromebooks are not for everyone, but they have become very popular, amongst the hottest-selling laptops on Amazon and from other retailers. As of the time I write these words, a Chromebook is the third most popular laptop sold by Amazon. (See http://goo.gl/y7TWud for Amazon’s Chromebook sales figures.)

One of the weaknesses of Chromebooks has been the lack of good genealogy apps. That has now changed. Here is a screenshot showing the MyHeritage app for Android computers running in a full-sized screen on my Asus Flip C100P Chromebook:

 

MyHeritage_app_on_Chromebook

(+) Turn Vacations into Genealogy Fact-Finding Trips

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

“If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

Where will you go on your next vacation trip? A trip to New England? Washington, D.C.? How about to the beach? Or how about a European vacation? How about taking a trip to the town where your grandparents grew up or visiting the country of your ancestors? What if you could actually walk the same streets as your great-great grandfather or see the home where your grandmother was born? This is something you want to put on your bucket list.

A trip back to the old home town or to “the old country” can be an immensely satisfying experience. Those who prepare for the trip usually report they have great memories and photographs of the experience.

(+) Create Better Pictures and Scanned Images

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

Nikon-DSLR-CamerasDigital cameras are perhaps the most universal technology of today. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe own and use digital cameras – not bad for a technology that barely existed 20 years ago. In fact, you do not need to be an electrical or optics engineer to produce good pictures from a digital camera. You don’t even need to own a computer, although a computer will allow you to accomplish a lot more than what you can do with just the camera alone.

Most people use digital cameras like the old box cameras: point and click. Very few people spend the time to learn how to obtain the best pictures possible. Indeed, “point and click” works well; but, there is so much more that one can do.

(+) Consider the Source: Original, Derivative, or Copy

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

Experienced genealogists are always aware that they must verify information by looking at original documents or a microfilm or digital image of an original document. We should know better than to believe a statement on a web site, in a genealogy book, or a verbal statement from Aunt Tilley about the “facts” of our family trees. However, what is the definition of an “original document?”

Let’s take one well-known claim of an original document that isn’t really accurate: the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Almost all American schoolchildren are familiar with this document; and, if we paid attention in class, we know that the document is on display at the U.S. National Archives building in Washington, D.C. In fact, millions of us, myself included, have visited that building to view the document on display. However, how many of us were ever told that the document displayed in Washington is not the original, hand-written document? Instead, it is one of many copies that were produced on a printing press.