Plus Edition Article

(+) 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: richard@eastman.net. 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 richard62743@aol.com. 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 https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/, “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 https://www.newsmax.com/us/american-citizenship-bambridge-accountants/2020/05/12/id/967062/ 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.

(+) Turn any Smartphone into a Scanner and Document Management System with OCR Capabilities

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

Let’s say you are at a county courthouse looking at old land records, and you find what you have been looking for: the transcription of your ancestor’s deed showing his or her purchase of property. Of course, you need a copy; but the only available copy machine doesn’t handle oversized documents. Even more important, you always prefer a digital image instead of a paper copy whenever possible as it is easier to store, copy, and include digital images in your reports. However, there is no scanner available. What to do?

Use your cell phone’s camera! In many cases, you can also use a tablet computer’s internal camera.

Here is an example of a book image made by my Android smartphone’s camera:

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

(+) Facts About Immigration You Never Learned in School

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

Hundreds of articles about immigration to the United States have been published over the years in various magazines, books, and online sites. Indeed, a few dozen articles about immigration have been published in this newsletter alone. To my knowledge, the numbers and facts mentioned in all of those articles have been quite accurate. I would suggest, however, the more interesting facts and statistics are the ones that were never mentioned in most articles.

Much has been written about the 47 million Europeans and Asians who entered the various ports of entry from 1820 through 1960. For all that, how many of those articles ever mention the fact that more than one-half of those immigrants RETURNED to their homelands?

(+) Converting PDF Files to Word Documents

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

Adobe’s popular PDF file format is often used in genealogy work. Many of the CD-ROM disks of interest to genealogists have been published in PDF format, as has much of the information found on genealogy web sites.

The Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) has become the de facto standard for electronic documentation distribution. Once a file is created in PDF format, anyone can read your document across a broad range of hardware and software, and it will look exactly as you intended — with layout, fonts, color, links, and images intact. In short, it will look like a document published with a desktop publishing program. It will look the same on any operating system, including Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, UNIX, and even handheld computers. Best of all, the required software to view your PDF document is completely free. As a result, everyone can read your document.

PDF files used to be considered to be “secure.” That is, nobody could ever take your PDF document, import it into a word processor, and then use your data. However, that has now changed. In fact, you can now easily convert PDF files to Word .DOC files or to other formats.

(+) How to Encrypt Your Files for Security

Subtitle: Everything you wanted to know about encryption but didn’t know who to ask

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

I have written several times about the need to encrypt all computerized information that you wish to keep private. This week, I will tell you how to encrypt information stored on your computer, stored on a jump drive in your pocket, or being sent across a network connection.

Encryption is the one thing that allows computer users, financial services, and even governments to securely move information around the Internet and to store that information safely, away from prying eyes.

Wikipedia provides the following definition:

(+) 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, 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.

Wrong!

The article in question is an excellent example of examining the facts and then 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 40 years by governmental agencies, corporations, and non-profits alike. These preservation methods are inexpensive and easy to accomplish, and they have worked for decades.

First, let’s examine paper and ink. Indeed, the paper used 100 or 150 years ago was excellent for long-term preservation. Most paper of the late 1800s and sometimes into the early 1900s was made without the use of acids. The materials used included wood fibers, rags, and various other materials. In short, the paper made without acid lasts for a long time.

(+) Save Something for Future Generations: Create a Time Capsule

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

According to the International Time Capsule Society at http://bit.ly/2TOJTHz, “The 1989 Oxford English Dictionary defines a time capsule as ‘a container used to store for posterity a selection of objects thought to be representative of life at a particular time.’ Time capsules are interesting to people of all ages and touch people on a world-wide scale. Properly prepared time capsules preserve the salient features of history and can serve as valuable reminders of one generation for another. Time capsules give individuals, families and organizations an independent voice to the future.”

Time capsules often are created by historical societies or other organizations who wish to preserve a “snapshot” of life today. However, creation of time capsules certainly is not limited to historical organizations. You might use a time capsule to mark a special anniversary, whether your tenth wedding anniversary, your baby’s first birthday, or your home town’s centennial or sesquicentennial celebration. Then again, you may just want a time capsule for fun or for a temporary learning project.

(+) Epidemics

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

The rampant spread of disease was common in the days before penicillin and other “wonder drugs” of the twentieth century. Our ancestors lived in fear of epidemics, and many of them died as the result of simple diseases that could be cured today with an injection or a prescription.

If you ever wondered why a large number of your ancestors disappeared during a certain period in history, you may want to investigate the possibility of an epidemic. Many cases of people disappearing from records can be traced to dying during an epidemic or moving away from the affected area.

Some of the epidemic statistics are staggering. For instance, the influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919 killed more people than did World War I. Any major outbreak of disease was accelerated by a total absence of sanitary procedures and lack of knowledge. In Europe during the Middle Ages, the homes of the citizens often had roofs and walls made of straw, floors of dirt, and dwellings where animals were kept inside. The city streets, if that’s what you could call them, often were barely wide enough for a single cart to pass, and they were perpetually covered with mud, garbage, and excrement. For lack of heated water, people rarely bathed, and fleas were commonplace. It is a wonder that anyone survived under these conditions!

(+) Never Save Original Photos in JPG Format!

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

Genealogists and millions of others have saved hundreds of millions of digital photographs on their hard drives as well as on CD-ROM disks. Perhaps the most popular file format for digital photographs is JPG (or JPEG), a commonly used method of compression for photographic images. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality. JPEG typically creates very little perceivable loss in image quality.

JPEG is the most common image format used by digital cameras and other photographic image capture devices, such as scanners. It is also the most common format for storing and transmitting photographic images on the World Wide Web.

(+) Lifestyles in the Seventeenth Century

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

We all have read history books about the brave and noble heroes who helped shape today’s world. Hearty explorers, brave immigrants, exemplary church-goers and the like did indeed create today’s modern world. Yet these same history books rarely describe the everyday world of those heroes and heroines. Sometimes their lives were not all fame and glory. In fact, their lives were often repulsive by today’s standards. I thought I would focus for a bit on everyday life in the 1600s in Europe, in England, and in the newly-created colonies in North America.

In fact, knowledge was a scarce commodity in the seventeenth century. It is difficult for us to comprehend just how ignorant people were. Most Europeans knew nothing about geography and didn’t know or care what happened on the other side of the horizon. The majority of people never traveled more than five miles from their place of birth although there were a few more adventurous soles in those days.