Kindle 2 Adds Native PDF Support; New Kindle for Windows

Ama­zon has added native PDF sup­port to the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Kin­dle e-read­er.

The Kin­dle DX, which has a larg­er screen (9.7 inch­es vs. 6 inch­es on the Kin­dle, 2nd gen) and a high­er stick­er price ($489 vs. $259), has had native PDF sup­port since its launch.

The new sup­port for PDFs on 2nd gen­er­a­tion Kin­dle devices is part of soft­ware ver­sion 2.3, which does not run on the orig­i­nal Kin­dle devices. This soft­ware will be auto­mat­i­cal­ly down­loaded over the air, but Kin­dle own­ers who are as impa­tient as I am, can man­u­al­ly down­load the upgrade soft­ware and install it over a USB con­nec­tion to their Kin­dle. The soft­ware and instruc­tions are avail­able at: Kin­dle Soft­ware Updates.

The PDF read­er works well. The PDFs retain all of their design and con­tent. How­ev­er, there are some lim­i­ta­tions. Unlike the Kin­dle DX, the Kin­dle 2 does not auto­mat­i­cal­ly rotate the screen when you rotate the device. (Some review­ers of the Kin­dle DX have said that the auto-rota­tion is slug­gish and unpre­dictable, but it still might be eas­i­er to deal with than the clicks required to rotate the screen man­u­al­ly on the DX or on the Kin­dle 2.) Once you rotate the screen, the image of a por­trait-for­mat PDF file fills up approx­i­mate­ly two screens worth of scrolling on the Kin­dle. This works fine, and makes the PDFs read­able, but it might be nice if you could zoom in on a PDF the way you can on an image in Kin­dle-for­mat­ted books.

For geneal­o­gists, the native PDF sup­port makes the Kin­dle 2 a much more inter­est­ing device. You can now down­load pub­lic domain books from Google Books or take your society’s newslet­ter along in an instant-on portable device. No wire­less access is required while read­ing, and the radio for Whis­per­Net, the free cell phone-based access, can be turned off for use on air­planes or where there is no cell phone sig­nal.

Anoth­er recent Ama­zon release is a Kin­dle for PC, which allows you to read books you’ve bought for the Kin­dle on your PC. (Kin­dle for PC runs on Win­dows XP (Ser­vice Pack 2), Win­dows Vista, and Win­dows 7. Kin­dle for PC syncs your read­ing loca­tion between Kin­dle for PC and your Kin­dle. You can share Kin­dle books with up to six Kin­dle read­ers or Kin­dle for PC soft­ware pack­ages. A Kin­dle for the Mac is in the works for Mac OS X users.

This beta release is admit­ted­ly not ready for gen­er­al use. It is miss­ing key fea­tures such as the abil­i­ty to copy or even high­light text, and the abil­i­ty to … um search! Links also do not appear to work, which is very frus­trat­ing. Ama­zon promis­es updates to address these and oth­er gaps and request­ed fea­tures. There is no way to pur­chase books from the Kin­dle for PC inter­face. You will need to do that on your hard­ware Kin­dle or on Amazon.com using a web brows­er. For licens­ing rea­sons, you can­not use the Kin­dle for PC soft­ware to read news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, or blogs, only books.

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Facebook for Genealogists

Face­book, a social net­work­ing web­site, passed a mile­stone in Feb­ru­ary: it reached the five-year anniver­sary of its launch. Face­book was found­ed by Mark Zucker­berg, then a sopho­more at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, with the orig­i­nal idea of keep­ing in touch with his col­lege friends. The site quick­ly took off, with many Har­vard stu­dents join­ing, then stu­dents across the coun­try. Five years lat­er, the site has expand­ed its hori­zons beyond the youth cul­ture of its begin­nings. The com­pa­ny now claims that the Face­book Web site has 175 mil­lion active users glob­al­ly. Zucker­berg wrote in Jan­u­ary 2009 that “This includes peo­ple in every con­ti­nent — even Antarc­ti­ca. If Face­book were a coun­try, it would be the eighth most pop­u­lat­ed in the world, just ahead of Japan, Rus­sia, and Nige­ria.” Almost half of the active Face­book users use the site every day.

But, beyond the breathy hype of the website’s founder, of what val­ue is Face­book to geneal­o­gists? It pro­vides the abil­i­ty to share notes, pho­tographs, event invi­ta­tions, and infor­ma­tion of specif­i­cal­ly genealog­i­cal inter­est, allow­ing geneal­o­gists to con­nect with each oth­er, and with oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers. For many, this can pro­vide a way to quick­ly and eas­i­ly share infor­ma­tion about their research with their fam­i­lies, espe­cial­ly with peo­ple who think they are “not inter­est­ed” in geneal­o­gy.

Face­book is more than a sim­ple social net­work­ing site. In addi­tion to all of its social net­work­ing fea­tures, it func­tions as a frame­work for the cre­ation and dis­sem­i­na­tion of infor­ma­tion. The site has evolved to include not only pro­grams designed by the peo­ple at Face­book, but also pro­grams designed by oth­ers that run with­in Face­book and share infor­ma­tion with oth­er Face­book appli­ca­tions. This is both the pow­er and the risk of Face­book, as I will dis­cuss lat­er.

Peo­ple come to Face­book for a num­ber of rea­sons: to con­nect with old friends or long-lost fam­i­ly, to share pic­tures, event invi­ta­tions, jokes, Web links, and video clips with friends, old and
new; and to talk to one anoth­er, and present them­selves almost as a kind of brand, shar­ing in their Face­book pro­files their favorite books, movies, and places, their reli­gious out­look, polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion, and hob­bies. Late­ly, they are shar­ing answers to a series of ques­tions about what they did in high school, what their goals are for their lives (and which of them have been achieved), and “twen­ty-five ran­dom things about me” which, of course, sel­dom seem very ran­dom. My wife has an unusu­al sur­name, and for her, Face­book has been a place where she has found poten­tial rel­a­tives she would not have found any oth­er way.

The fifth most pop­u­lar appli­ca­tion on Face­book is “We’re Relat­ed,” a cre­ation of WorldVitalRecords.com. “We’re Relat­ed” allows one to see all of one’s fam­i­ly who are on Face­book, along with a descrip­tion of the rela­tion­ship with each of them (for exam­ple, “sister’s broth­er-in-law”). It also allows for the cre­ation of a geneal­o­gy data­base (either on the site or via GEDCOM upload) to share with any­one on Face­book. (The GEDCOM import fea­ture — which would allow you to export an entire geneal­o­gy data­base from your favorite soft ware pack­age and import it into “We’re Relat­ed” in one fell swoop — has been prob­lem­at­ic. It has worked at times, but as of this writ­ing is not work­ing and is under a major re-devel­op­ment effort.)

Many nation­al­ly known genealog­i­cal researchers, speak­ers, and writ­ers are on Face­book. In addi­tion, a vari­ety of soci­eties have set up pages there. A ran­dom sam­pling includes the Cal­i­for­nia Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety and Library, NGS, and the North Car­oli­na Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety (for which I admit I am the web­mas­ter… one of the twen­ty-five “ran­dom” things about me). You will also find mag­a­zines, such as Dig­i­tal Geneal­o­gist. In addi­tion, many blogs and pod­casts are rep­re­sent­ed, includ­ing The Geneal­o­gy Guys Pod­cast. Soft­ware ven­dors also make an appear­ance. Fans of The Mas­ter Geneal­o­gist have set up a page; the com­pa­ny Roots­Mag­ic has one as well. And, in a kind of fun-house mir­ror sort of dual­i­ty, there are even Web sites, such as GenealogyToday.com, RootsTelevision.com, Ancestry.com, and Footnote.com.

It is impor­tant to remem­ber that Face­book is a social, not a per­son­al site. Geneal­o­gists should con­duct them­selves as if any of their Face­book com­mu­ni­ca­tions could become pub­lic, since they could, through a vari­ety of means (i.e., shar­ing by Face­book friends, sys­tem fail­ures, or secu­ri­ty holes). So, you don’t want to post your grandmother’s secret fried chick­en recipe if you indeed want to make sure it remains a secret, even if you’re only shar­ing it with your clos­est friends.

Nev­er­the­less, there is a lot of pow­er in the Face­book site. I have been quite impressed by the work being done there by a group called Unclaimed Per­sons. (The group also has its own Web site at UnclaimedPersons.org.) It posts infor­ma­tion about peo­ple whose bod­ies wait in morgues to be claimed by fam­i­ly mem­bers. Mem­bers of the group on Face­book do pro
bono research to try to locate the lost fam­i­lies of these per­sons, and then direct their sourced research through the Unclaimed Per­sons admin­is­tra­tors, who pass the infor­ma­tion on to the coro­ners’ offices. In many cas­es, Unclaimed Per­sons research has allowed coro­ners to con­tact fam­i­lies who have won­dered if they would ever know the fate of a broth­er or father or sis­ter or moth­er. The con­nec­tion between Face­book users and the appli­ca­tions, pages, and groups they have joined, gives them a sin­gle Web site to log into to par­tic­i­pate in the Unclaimed Per­sons eff ort, as well as many oth­er activ­i­ties.

Some might be con­cerned that Face­book could become a time drain, a place for geneal­o­gists to waste time they could be using to fur­ther their research. There is def­i­nite­ly a risk that you could end up play­ing more than your time bud­get allows. If, for exam­ple, you beat my wife at Word Chal­lenge, you and I, and my wife, will all know you’re spend­ing too much time play­ing games.

As with any tool or the Inter­net itself, it is up to each indi­vid­ual researcher to man­age his or her time and focus on reap­ing the ben­e­fits of that tool. One could eas­i­ly spend the bulk of a day on Face­book send­ing out vir­tu­al gift s to friends, but one can also fi nd out about events and soci­eties and keep up-to-date with a vari­ety of blogs. One can con­nect with fam­i­ly mem­bers who do not think of them­selves as geneal­o­gists, and share suc­cess­es and chal­lenges with one’s research peers and friends.

Prob­a­bly the biggest con­cerns voiced about Face­book over the years have been about pri­va­cy and secu­ri­ty. Among the most seri­ous issues is that Face­book allows appli­ca­tions almost unfet­tered access to the mate­ri­als you have post­ed. At one point, press­ing the down arrow key or enter­ing a peri­od in the search box would pro­duce a list of five pro­files relat­ed to the Face­book user who was cur­rent­ly logged in. Peo­ple assumed that this was a list of the peo­ple who had most fre­quent­ly vis­it­ed one’s pro­file. The list became known as the “Stalk­er List.” Even­tu­al­ly, Face­book said that the list was only intend­ed to be used by the Face­book soft ware to quick­ly nav­i­gate users to profi les that they were like­ly to vis­it. Because there was so much con­fu­sion and con­cern about the list, it was removed.

While many of these issues remain, espe­cial­ly the open­ness of your pro­file to Face­book appli­ca­tions that you choose to use, Face­book has made seri­ous gains in terms of mak­ing its site more secure and pri­vate. They have giv­en users more per-appli­ca­tion access to con­trol over what is shared with those appli­ca­tions, and what gets post­ed to your profi le from inter­ac­tions by you or oth­ers with those appli­ca­tions. As the say­ing goes: caveat emp­tor. You should actu­al­ly read the pri­va­cy notice on Face­book, and use the pri­va­cy set­tings avail­able to con­trol secu­ri­ty and pri­va­cy to the extent that you can. Keep in mind that it is a social, not a strict­ly pri­vate site.

Keep­ing those issues in mind, I believe that the ben­e­fits of Face­book are com­pelling. Appli­ca­tions such as “We’re Relat­ed,” as well as geneal­o­gy focused groups and pages, bring a wealth of con­nec­tions to geneal­o­gists. With 175 mil­lion users, a lot of your cur­rent rel­a­tives are on Face­book, and the ones who have been hard to find are prob­a­bly eas­i­er to locate here than else­where.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in the NGS News­magazine, Vol­ume 35, Num­ber 1, April–June 2009. Revised and updat­ed. Post­ed by per­mis­sion.

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Google Wave Will Revolutionize Collaborative Genealogy

Google is going through a process of invit­ing 100,000 “ear­ly adopters” of to their new offer­ing, Wave. It may be a few months before just any­one can sign up.

To see what’s in store, you could watch the 80 minute video that they admit them­selves is “loooong.” Or, you could watch their 8 minute video, with a brief sum­ma­ry of the prod­uct.

Google Wave is a tremen­dous­ly pow­er­ful plat­form that will change the way geneal­o­gy and fam­i­ly his­to­ry are done. Users of Wave cre­ate “waves,” which are some­thing between con­ver­sa­tions, e-mail mes­sages, col­lab­o­ra­tive author­ing ses­sions, video and pic­ture shar­ing, blog author­ing, and so many more things.

The key tech­nol­o­gy involved in Wave, though, that makes it bet­ter than every oth­er avail­able prod­uct for col­lab­o­ra­tive author­ing is that it allows for near real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tion. If I send you an e-mail, I have to wait for you to read it. If I write a blog entry, and I’m col­lab­o­rat­ing with anoth­er author, I have to save my draft, then tell them to take a look. Even if I’m “instant mes­sag­ing,” I still spend a good por­tion of the time wait­ing for a response and star­ing at a mes­sage that say some­thing like, “So-and-so is typ­ing.” But with Google Wave, I can see my cor­re­spon­dant type at the same time that I’m typ­ing. The con­ver­sa­tion is not ser­i­al, but par­al­lel — we are both talk­ing at the same time. It’s more like an actu­al con­ver­sa­tion. When we work togeth­er on a doc­u­ment, we can each make edits wher­ev­er in the doc­u­ment we need to, and this can hap­pen simul­ta­ne­ous­ly as fast as we can type.

So why will this mat­ter to geneal­o­gists? If you are work­ing with a dis­tant cousin on a dif­fi­cult prob­lem in the fam­i­ly his­to­ry, you can put togeth­er your evi­dence and be able to eval­u­ate it, and each of you edit it at any time. You can also roll back the con­ver­sa­tion to any point in the his­to­ry of it. You can cap­ture the con­ver­sa­tion at a spe­cif­ic point and export it to anoth­er Wave. You can add oth­er mem­bers of the Wave, and they can see the whole his­to­ry of the evo­lu­tion of the con­ver­sa­tion or doc­u­ment. Images can be added through drag and drop. The sys­tem can per­form simul­ta­ne­ous word-by-word trans­la­tions into a num­ber of lan­guages. The con­tex­tu­al spell check­er knows that “icland is and icland” should prob­a­bly read “Ice­land is an island.”

For geneal­o­gists, this will be a pow­er­ful envi­ron­ment for work­ing togeth­er on com­mon research, for work­ing on the bylaws and stand­ing rules of the local genealog­i­cal soci­ety, and for author­ing real-time col­lab­o­ra­tive blogs. Don’t be sur­prised if the 2010 or 2011 NGS Con­fer­ence Blogs are writ­ten in Google Wave and then post­ed using the Blog­gy robot in a stan­dard blog for­mat.

Google Wave will also be a way for pro­fes­sion­al geneal­o­gists to share the notes they make on the way to their reports with their clients.

And don’t be sur­prised if, when work­ing with a researcher search­ing for Gra­hams in the same coun­ty in South­ern West Vir­ginia you are, you find your­self not both­er­ing with e-mail, but instead invite them to dis­cuss it over Google Wave.

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Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al.

My most intractable genealog­i­cal brick­wall is the parent­age of Rebec­ca Martha Gra­ham (1831−1880).

Rebecca’s moth­er Jane Gra­ham (1811−1854) is dis­missed by her broth­er David Gra­ham (1821−1914) in his “His­to­ry of Gra­ham Fam­i­ly” (1899) with the fol­low­ing sen­tence: “Jane, the sec­ond daugh­ter of Joseph Gra­ham, died unmar­ried” (80).

On Google Books, how­ev­er, I have found doc­u­men­ta­tion for a case that might lead to the miss­ing father of Rebec­ca Martha Gra­ham. The case is “Gra­ham, et. al. v. Gra­ham, et. al., Decid­ed May 1, 1880, The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

As I men­tioned, Rebec­ca was the daugh­ter of Jane Gra­ham and some unknown para­mour. On 1 Nov 1853, Rebec­ca mar­ried Hen­ry Lake Miller (1817−1900). Around the time of this mar­riage, Rebec­ca inher­it­ed $3,000 from her father (I pre­sume this was main­ly land) who died in Mis­souri.

in 1854, Jane died a vio­lent death, for which her broth­er James Gra­ham (1813−1889) was put on tri­al and acquit­ted.

Lit­i­ga­tion on the Gra­ham v. Gra­ham chancery case began in 1859, and the case did not make its way com­plete­ly through to the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court of Appeals until 1879, being decid­ed in 1880. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Rebec­ca died one month and 11 days after win­ning her judg­ment. She died of dysen­tery.

But what was the case about? Rebec­ca Martha Graham’s grand­moth­er, Rebec­ca Gra­ham (1786−1876) had received “prop­er­ty” (land and a slave named Dinah) in the will of her father, James Gra­ham (1741−1813). The rel­e­vant por­tion of the will reads:

I give unto my Daugh­ter Rebeck­ah Gra­ham and her chil­dren, that plan­ta­tion where she now lives known by the name of Stephen­sons Cab­bin [sic] also I give unto her and her chil­dren my Negro girl named Dinah, the Land and Negro nev­er to be dis­posed of out of the Fam­i­ly nor the increase of the Negro if any she has.

Because the elder Rebec­ca Gra­ham was mar­ried, her hus­band Joseph Gra­ham had “own­er­ship” of this prop­er­ty. After he died, his wid­ow sold the two chil­dren of Dinah (Ira and Stu­art), and the bulk of the remain­ing chil­dren sued for a por­tion of the pro­ceeds.

Whether or not this case yields the name and any par­tic­u­lars about Rebec­ca Martha Graham’s father, I’m sure it will be a case that reveals a great deal about rur­al ante­bel­lum West Vir­ginia.

The main reminder here, how­ev­er, is not to for­get key sources, such as court cas­es. While not as often used as some oth­er sources, such as vital records or cen­sus records, the records of court cas­es can be quite reveal­ing.

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Dr. Anna Julia Cooper

Dr. Anna Julia Cooper
Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er

The cause of free­dom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a par­ty or a class — it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of human­i­ty.”

– Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er

At the NGS Fam­i­ly His­to­ry Con­fer­ence on Sat­ur­day, I was lucky enough to attend the Wake Coun­ty lun­cheon.

The con­fer­ence includes sev­er­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear speak­ers over lunch for a fee. The fee includes the price of the lunch and also serves as a fund rais­er for the orga­ni­za­tion that has put togeth­er the event. These are almost always lec­tures, and while the lec­tures are more enter­tain­ing and light than those offered at the rest of the con­fer­ence, they are lec­tures.

The Wake Coun­ty Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety (of which I am a not-very-active mem­ber) chose to do this dif­fer­ent­ly. Instead of hav­ing one speak­er, they had a troup of actors per­form­ing a play tai­lored for the occa­sion. The play was based on the lives of his­tor­i­cal per­son­ages of Wake Coun­ty. While there were some rough edges to the per­for­mance, with some dropped lines, it was a very pow­er­ful per­for­mance. Espe­cial­ly of note were the por­tray­als of Joel Lane, founder of Raleigh and Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er. Of these, the pre­sen­ta­tion of Dr. Coop­er was the most affect­ing.

Dr. Coop­er was an edu­ca­tor and writer. She was the fourth African-Amer­i­can woman to receive a doc­tor­ate degree, and did so at the age of 65, shat­ter­ing bar­ri­ers of race, gen­der and age. She was born in slav­ery and lived to the age of 105, dying in 1964. She lived Amer­i­can his­to­ry from the Civ­il War to Civ­il Rights.

To read more about Dr. Coop­er, see the Wikipedia arti­cle on her life, or read her most famous book, A Voice from the South on the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Carolina’s Doc­South web­site.

Image © Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill. This work is the prop­er­ty of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by indi­vid­u­als for research, teach­ing and per­son­al use as long as this state­ment of avail­abil­i­ty is includ­ed in the text. Coop­er, Anna J., 1892, A Voice from the South, Xenia, Ohio: The Aldine Print­ing House, Doc­u­ment­ing the Amer­i­can South. Uni­ver­si­ty Library, The Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, 2000, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/cooper/.

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Kindle DX E-Book Reader

Last week, Ama­zon announced the impend­ing release of their third gen­er­a­tion e-book read­er, the Kin­dle DX. (See the New York Times arti­cle on the announce­ment.)

The Ama­zon Kin­dle has cre­at­ed some­what of a sen­sa­tion with what are thought to be “iPod-like” sales num­bers. (Ama­zon has so far suc­ceed­ed in keep­ing the actu­al sales num­bers pri­vate.) Ama­zon does say a cou­ple of inter­est­ing things, how­ev­er, about the num­ber of books that Kin­dle read­ers buy. Accord­ing to Amazon’s fig­ures, pur­chasers of Kin­dle e-book read­ers buy as many tra­di­tion­al books as they did before, and are sup­ple­ment­ing their pur­chas­es of books on paper with pur­chas­es of e-books.

Step­ping away from the hype, the Kin­dle comes in for con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism, main­ly around the issue of dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment. Just as with ear­ly ver­sions of the Apple iPod, the Ama­zon Kin­dle has been cre­at­ed with very tight dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment, which lim­its cus­tomers from shar­ing their books with oth­er Kin­dle own­ers, giv­ing their books away after they have read them, donat­ing them to a library, and so on, which are stan­dard ways peo­ple think about books. Not only is a Kin­dle own­er pre­vent­ed from down­load­ing and read­ing a Kin­dle book on any Kin­dle they do not per­son­al­ly own, if Ama­zon ever stopped sup­port­ing the Kin­dle, there is no clear method to allow any­one to read the books they have “invest­ed” in.

There was also some mis­guid­ed flak from the Authors Guild about the com­put­er voice that can “read” books to you on a Kin­dle. The nov­el­ist, e-book pro­po­nent, and Kin­dle crit­ic, Cory Doc­torow wrote an illu­mi­nat­ing piece in The Guardian about how wrong-head­ed the Guild was in oppos­ing the “read-to-me” fea­ture of the Kin­dle (which also exists on every com­put­er with a recent ver­sion of Adobe Acro­bat Read­er).

But why should geneal­o­gists care?” you might ask. While there are 275,000 titles avail­able, very few of those are specif­i­cal­ly genealog­i­cal in nature. The main mar­ket for the Kin­dle and its read­ers is con­tem­po­rary best-sell­ing fic­tion and non-fic­tion. While there’s some over­lap there, with some nov­els illus­trat­ing the time peri­ods of our ances­tors’ lives, and some non-fic­tion best sell­ers being excel­lent vol­umes of his­to­ry, the con­nec­tion seems ten­u­ous.

The real ben­e­fit for geneal­o­gists in the Kin­dle is that its plat­form is not entire­ly closed. In addi­tion to read­ing books for­mat­ted for the Kin­dle itself, it can also read books from the pub­lic domain con­vert­ed into Mobipock­et for­mat. Tens of thou­sands of these books are avail­able on sev­er­al sites includ­ing Gutenberg.org, Manybooks.net and Feedbooks.com. But, since these books are also main­ly not of inter­est to geneal­o­gists, a more com­pelling fea­ture of the Kin­dle is that (in its first two ver­sions) it can con­vert PDF and Word doc­u­ments to Kin­dle for­mat. The con­ver­sion is not per­fect, though, and some files sim­ply don’t work.

Kin­dle DX and Geneal­o­gy: Here’s where the Kin­dle DX comes in. The Kin­dle DX reads PDF files native­ly. This means that geneal­o­gists will be able to down­load any PDF file they have access to, whether it’s a pub­lic domain PDF of a local his­to­ry from the 1890s down­loaded from Google Books or their genealog­i­cal society’s newslet­ter, and take it with them in a device that is about the size of a piece of paper and 13 of an inch thick. Since the device has 3.3 GB of stor­age, there’s plen­ty of room for books. The Kin­dle is near­ly instant-on (try that with your Vista lap­top!), and less of a strain on the eyes than a com­put­er mon­i­tor because it’s not back­lit. The Kin­dle also allows for easy book­mark­ing, high­light­ing and copy­ing of por­tions of text. It keeps track of where you were the last time you opened any doc­u­ment.

So, you heard it here first, the Kin­dle DX will be an attrac­tive addi­tion to the genealogist’s gad­get bag, lim­it­ed only by its $489 list price.

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Top 10 Genealogy Websites

Today, Randy Seaver post­ed to his blog Genea-Mus­ings his list of top 10 favorite geneal­o­gy web­sites.He men­tions that he’s tak­ing off from a trend we’ve seen on Face­book, of the “5 items I have” known, seen, met, and so on. And, of course, list mak­ing is a long and hon­ored tra­di­tion.

With­out too much fur­ther ram­bling, I’ll share my own top 10 list of geneal­o­gy sites.

This list, like any “best of” list will change from day to day. What it looks like today will cer­tain­ly not be iden­ti­cal to how it would look tomor­row or would have looked last week. All the rel­e­vant list caveats apply. So, here goes:

  1. Ancestry.com ($, por­tions free) (includ­ing rootsweb.ancestry.com ) — The amount of data here is vast. As are the tools, from their geneal­o­gy soft­ware, Fam­i­lyTreeMak­er, to DNA research.
  2. Footnote.com ($, por­tions free) — The folks at Foot­note sim­ply under­stand Web 2.0 and pro­vide some­thing between Ances­try, Flickr, and Face­book. Mean­while, their part­ner­ship with the Nation­al Archives con­tin­ues to reap rewards for users of the site.
  3. FindAGrave.com (free, with a dona­tion mod­el) — This site is weird­ly com­pelling. It’s a pow­er­ful way to gath­er data, with the vast major­i­ty of infor­ma­tion con­tributed by “care­tak­ers” of the fam­i­ly records, and yet these adding up to viru­tal grave­yards.
  4. FamilySearch.org (free) — An amaz­ing and ambi­tious por­tal into LDS records and geneal­o­gy tools.
  5. Steve Morse’s One-Step Web­site (free) — I find the search algo­rithms here very help­ful to break through prob­lems where I don’t know enough to search a site direct­ly (or don’t know what par­tic­u­lar mis­spelling is in my way). Steve’s site runs mul­ti­ple search­es behind the scenes so that you don’t have to do them all in a man­u­al fash­ion.
  6. EOGN — Eastman’s Online Geneal­o­gy Newslet­ter ($, por­tions free) — Dick East­man inhab­its the cen­ter of the space where geneal­o­gy and tech­nol­o­gy inter­sect. If you’re inter­est­ed in that over­lap, and you hap­pen not to have seen this blog, you real­ly ought to take a look. East­man keeps me up-to-date on tech­nol­o­gy I can use in geneal­o­gy.
  7. GNIS (free) — The USGS Geo­graph­i­cal Names Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem. This is very handy for find­ing out the loca­tion of streams, church­es, and so on. If it was ever list­ed on a US Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey map as a fea­ture or place, it’s in this data­base.
  8. Linkpendium.com (free) — This is a locale-based list­ing of avail­able sites. I find it help­ful to look here when I start work­ing in a new coun­ty or state. The site helps me find loca­tion-spe­cif­ic online resources I might not find any oth­er way.
  9. WorldVitalRecords.com — Like Ances­try, this is a great site, full of pow­er­ful data­bas­es.
  10. GenealogyBank.com ($, por­tions free) — I’m real­ly impressed with how the folks at Geneal­o­gy­Bank do sim­ple things. For exam­ple, their free Secu­ri­ty Death Index results you the birth and death dates, just as many oth­er sites do, but they also cal­cu­late the age at death. Addi­tion­al­ly, they use the “Last Res­i­dence” zip code to pro­vide lat/long data you can use to quick­ly map the loca­tion.

But I’d be inter­est­ed in know­ing what’s on your list, and learn­ing about new sites that will end up being on my list next time I com­pile one.

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ScanCafe

Carl and Alice Jones, 1949. Pho­to­graph par­tial­ly eat­en by the fam­i­ly dog.

I recent­ly used a ser­vice from a web­site called Scan­Cafe, and have to say I was impressed by the qual­i­ty, speed and val­ueS­can­Cafe is an image scan­ning and dig­i­ti­za­tion ser­vice. You sub­mit an order, then ship them a box of your pho­tographs, neg­a­tives, and/or slides. Scan­Cafe then scans your images by hand and at a high-res­o­lu­tion. When they are done, you receive an e-mail and can go online to review the scanned images and choose which keep. You pay only for the images you keep, then they send back all of your orig­i­nals as well as a DVD of the scans.

What I found impres­sive about the ser­vice was the care with which they deal with the pho­tographs. White glove treat­ment is stan­dard. Addi­tion­al­ly, you can send them images in carousels and albums, and they will remove your images from the carousels and albums, scan them at their stan­dard rates, and replace them, in order, before ship­ping the carousels or albums back to you.

Carl and Alice Jones, 1949. After Scan­Cafe

They guar­an­tee your orig­i­nals, and will pay $1,000 if your images or lost or destroyed while they have them. While our images are irre­place­able and invalu­able, it’s still good to know that Scan­Cafe will feel some finan­cial pain if they do lose your images.

ScanCafe’s process is per­haps a lit­tle unortho­dox. You send your pho­tographs to an office in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area. In turn, they for­ward them to their offices in Ban­ga­lore (Ben­galu­ru) India, where the actu­al scan­ning and restora­tion is done.

There are three key ben­e­fits I see in ScanCafe’s ser­vice:

  1. They only make you pay for the scans you keep. This came in handy for me, as there were some dupli­cates in the bunch­es of pho­tos I sent. I found the images among them scanned best, and didn’t have to pay for the oth­ers.
  2. They pro­vide best-in-class restora­tion ser­vices at a rea­son­able price. When your images appear on the cus­tomer area of the Scan­Cafe web­site, you can see their selec­tion of images they think they can improve with their restora­tion ser­vice.
  3. Their com­mit­ment to qual­i­ty and cus­tomer ser­vice is high and demon­stra­ble. Take a look at the restora­tion they did of the snap­shot of my par­ents at their wed­ding. The orig­i­nal was almost too painful to look at, hav­ing been under­ex­posed, the par­tial­ly eat­en by a fam­i­ly pet, and final­ly, crimped and fold­ed. Scan­Cafe removed all of these issues and got me the image pret­ty much as I always should have had it. (My only issue with this par­tic­u­lar image is that I think that it’s now a lit­tle over­ex­posed.)
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Lifehacker

Life­hack­er, a web­site devot­ed to sim­pli­fy­ing work aligned with the “Get­ting Things Done” method­ol­o­gy of author David Allen, points to a time man­age­ment tool called TimeEd­i­tion. I have tried the appli­ca­tion out, and it’s as they describe it: Amaz­ing­ly sim­ple to use, and with a handy inte­gra­tion with the Google Cal­en­dar allow­ing you to see your sta­tus from any brows­er.

It will no doubt be a very handy tool for track­ing my pro­fes­sion­al geneal­o­gy projects. I could also see some ama­teurs, who want to see where they’re spend­ing their time, using this tool on a more tem­po­rary or peri­od­ic basis.

Their full arti­cle is on the Life­hack­er web­site. TimeEd­i­tion is avail­able for the Mac OS and Win­dows.

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