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Creating Your Own Genealogical Web Site -
Several AGS and NMGS members have
self-published some of their genealogical-related research on the World
Wide Web. You can easily do the same. But why would you want
to? Isn’t it a lot of work? And to what
purpose? In this and the next few issues, Computer Corner will explore these
questions with you, show how it is both fun and useful to have your
own genealogical website, and assist you with making it happen.
You need three things to create your own
website: desire, content, and know-how. This first article of a
multi-part series will attempt to develop your motivation for
web-publishing. Let's explore how such publishing may assist you
in your research.
generation has felt they live in a marvelous era – but you and
I, mis amigos, we really do
live in an amazing time! In the world of genealogical research,
we are able to do more research at our desktops in an hour or two than our
relatives back in the 1950’s were able to accomplish in a year
or more. The amazing 1947 invention that made possible this
technological leap forward was the transistor. Genealogically,
the transistor has a direct lineage of the semiconductor, the
integrated circuit, and eventually, the mainframe computer and the
personal computer. The computer in turn encouraged the
development of software products and networking, leading to the
Internet, the World Wide Web, and ultimately, the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation. (Oh, wait, we may have gone a little too
The point is that today we each have access to more capability,
information, and resources that we can possible utilize. This
excess relates to almost any field of interest, and certainly to
In this and the next few columns, Computer
Corner (CC) hopes to convince you that you can create a personal
web presence for your research, take advantage of some of the available
capability and resources for little or even no additional dollar cost,
and greatly benefit your research and your personal genealogical
interests. You are encouraged to (e-)mail your skepticism, your
feedback, your stories, and your questions. CC, for our part,
will provide a forum to examine your concerns and motivate your
success. CC wants to work with your questions. While we
await your e-mail inquiries, let’s consider some of the basic
questions, and see what answers we can develop:
Q: Why in the world would I want
to have a personal genealogical website?
A: Well, I’m glad you
asked, as it gives me the opportunity to talk about my wife’s
Aunt Margaret. Aunt Margaret was probably the best genealogy researcher in
the family, measured from the amount of time and work she invested,
and the amount of data she collected. She made many, many trips to
original sources, often showing up with her Winnebago on someone’s front
doorstep to interview them without prior announcement. Auntie M
uncovered a lot of good information. But she never published anything.
When Aunt Margaret died about eight years ago, she left behind many,
many boxes of scribbled, almost-readable notes, photocopies, family
tree charts, and old photographs. Aunt Margaret had not used a
software genealogy program, and only she was able to put all the pieces into
some coherent pattern, and she had not done so, outside of her
So the question I have back for you is what is your goal with your
genealogical research? You’ve been gathering information for some
time – do you plan to publish "some day"? or is this research
strictly an enjoyable pastime for you with no plans to document your findings for
others? If you have no plans to publish, are you hoping that someone
in your family will inherit your work and continue the research?
Actually, in either case, a personal website can serve your interests.
If you’re only interested in obtaining some additional
information, a personal website can make that known to a wide audience
(no need to quote numbers of genealogists currently using the web, "many"
It is one thing to mention at an AGS meeting, or publish in the
Quarterly that you are researching the Wiesendanger family, but it is
something else altogether to put that information out where researchers
who Google for Wiesendanger come across your web site and hook up with you.
Additionally, in a very real sense, placing your information on a
personal web site is
publishing. It provides documentation, albeit not what we think of as
permanent – but it can also provide that afforded by traditional
publishing: exposure to an audience, feedback, and the opportunity to
improve from information provided by that audience.
Charles Barnum, who runs the New Mexico Genealogy site as part of the
USGenWeb project, encourages you in such thinking: "My motivation is to provide free
genealogy resources to researchers in New Mexico. I encourage
individuals to start their own web sites. Free web space is available
from usgennet.org and from rootsweb.com and others. My advice to anyone
considering an online genealogy project: You can do
Q: But what if I don’t
even have access to the Internet?
A: Then you are very
adventurous to be reading Computer Corner! Actually, as it turns
out, you do have access – The Mayor bought a computer for you, and
placed it in a branch library near your home. To gain access to
this resource, just go to the Library, request a special smart
(library) card, at a cost of $3.50 (that’s not a monthly cost,
that is for your lifetime!) and you’re in the club. You have access.
You probably have access to other computers and related "expertise" -
perhaps a family friend or a grandkid. After all, the kids are the
real experts, right? Remember that – you may need them later.
Q: What would I do with a
genealogy website if I were to create one?
A: Perhaps the best
answer to this question is to examine some of the web sites that your
fellow society members have established for their genealogy work.
Currently five AGS members and about a dozen NMGS members have personal
web sites. Here are the links to personal web sites authored by
members and by NMGS members.
We’ve already considered some reasons expressed by researchers
who have established a personal web site. Another example: are you
working with a group of similarly oriented researchers with whom you
What are their goals regarding their genealogy research – do
they plan to publish or have a web presence? Would they want one? Nancy
Anderson, currently the president of the New Mexico Genealogical Society and
also a member of AGS, tells us of advantages she has found:
"The creation of [my
personal] web site happened when our 'researcher group' exploded and I
got tired of making copies for all the new people. We were all
sharing research hoping something would take us back another
generation. At first, it was 10 of us and I would copy everything
and get it sent out to all the others - then it exploded to about 25
and that is when I created the web site. A lot of people have
been able to take their lines further back, but I am still stuck on the
same ones that I [originally] posted! But I have made a lot of
friends and found a lot of cousins."
Summary: In this
installment, we have hopefully convinced you that your genealogy
research could perhaps benefit from having your own web site –
if it’s not too much trouble. In the next two Quarterly columns,
we’ll work on convincing you that web site creation is fun and easy
you already have the resources that are
needed to enable you to successfully establish your own web site.
Meanwhile, e-mail us
your questions at Mike@Blackledge.com, and do
assignment: [for you to
complete prior to the next Quarterly CC column]
Find out if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides you with
free personal web hosting. If not, be able to state why you don’t
want to change your ISP. Share with the rest of us what you discover.
Comcast and Earthlink are two of several ISPs that provide free web
hosting – in later columns we’ll discuss how to take
advantage of these facilities.
As an added feature, in each column Computer Corner will provide
information on web sites recommended by our AGS members. CC’s
recommended web sites can be found on the Online Research page.
Transistorized! ["The transistor was probably the most important
invention of the 20th Century, and the story behind the invention is
one of clashing egos and top secret research...."]
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is chartered to "build upon the
unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century to improve equity in
global health and learning."
Click here to
return to Computer Corner On-line
Creating Your Own Genealogical Web Site - Part 2
You need three things to create your own
website: desire, content, and know-how. This is the second in a
three-part series exploring how you can self-publish some of your
genealogical-related research on the World Wide Web – for
In Part 1, we looked at why one would want to publish on the Web
– the purpose and benefits – and examined what
other genealogical society members have done with web sites.
In this issue Computer Corner will consider content – what might you
place on a site if you had one available, from whence you gather that
information, and how do you create the electronic file for posting on
Before we address
Web Site Content, let’s answer a question posed by an alert
reader of our previous CC column. A widely held concern about “giving away
all my hard work” could dampen your motivation about creating your own
web site. One of our AGS members, Rosemary McNerney-Winkler,
speaks for many of us on this issue:
“I read your entire
column [Part 1] in the current AGS Quarterly with fascination. I asked myself many
times why I would want a personal genealogical website, and others have
asked me why I don't have one. Call me a dinosaur, but I published two
hard copy family histories for exactly the reasons addressed in your
column, which is that all the work I've put in on it over my entire
adult lifetime would go to waste if I didn't. I'm realist enough to
know that is a fact and believe history is important enough to publish
no matter the cost. I even started a class at UNM Continuing
Education on the subject a couple years ago...
"My main concern about
uploading my GEDCOM is plagiarism, plain and simple. Everything I see
on Ancestry.com, for example, is full of mistakes that are copied over
and over again. I, on the other hand, have gone to great lengths
to secure original documents such as wills, probates, DAR
applications, property distributions, and vital records to verify my
"I am the new administrator for the Woodward DNA Genealogy at familytreedna.com and
have started a website there. Even that makes me somewhat uneasy, but
what's a person to do? We want people to share information, but not
steal it. That's the dilemma, although I'm very tempted to do what you
I think most publishers of their hard work experience
some of the same anxieties you expressed. The fear of “giving
away the store” is a concern about family history publishing in
general, and it certainly could be the subject of another column.
For this column and your web site specifically: You don't want to
put anything on your personal genealogical website that you don't feel
comfortable presenting to the Public - because, of course, you are
exposing whatever you put out there to the Public. As an example,
Rosemary, here is what you would
want on your website: You would want to list information about
the two hard copy family histories you have published. As a
minimum, you should provide a solid description/abstract of both, and
acquisition/ purchasing information. If there are none for sale,
can readers get on your Wait List? Where might someone view one of
these histories - did you donate a copy to the Special Collection
Library, or to Salt Lake City? Are they in the Library of
Congress because you applied to the Copyright Office? (send an e-mail if you want Copyright addressed in a future CC
The Internet provides 24/7 exposure to a world of people,
some of whom will definitely be interested in your family histories,
and from whom you can obtain additional information, corrections,
photos – material to help you with what you have already done,
and make it even better.
What else can you put on your site? I might suggest a
subset of your Index – this would inform people of the degree of
“coverage” in your genealogy work without providing details you may not
be willing to share on-line. I would also provide at least one
example entry of what people might find in your book – here you can
demonstrate your professionalism regarding attention to sources and
Every publisher, whether hard copy or web site or stone tablets, must
achieve a balance between open sharing of information and anxiety over
"giving away the good stuff." Personally I have no problems with
publishing everything, while invoking Copyright control. I didn’t
start with that feeling of comfort. The beauty of Web Sites is
that they are so easy to update and modify, so you can start with just
a little and add as you feel comfortable. Eventually you may be
ready to hard copy publish your work. (send an e-mail if you want Hard Copy Publishing discussed in a
future CC column.)
Site Content – The never-ending need for content is what drove
AOL to merge with Time Warner. Content is why Reader’s Digest
offers $300 for “Life in these
United States.” Internet users seemingly insatiable quest
for fresh content is what has driven the current craze of blogging (journaling) on the
web. Content represents the major challenge of all web sites –
“sure, we might create a website, but what would we fill it with?
How would I keep it fresh? Who is going to add new material every
day/ week/ month?”
Readers of The Quarterly
represent a group (genealogists) that knows all about the quest for
content. Your drive to obtain new data on your family, add new
facts about known individuals, and uncover new relationships will
generate more content than you will ever need for your web site.
Before we discuss sources for your web page content, we need to extend
our Glossary to three software-related terms that will appear in this
and future CC columns:
Rich Text Format (.rtf) represents a universally accepted word
processing format. Any word processor can save your work as an
..rtf (file extension) file, and any word processor can read an .rtf
file. Your computer probably came with some word processor
software – either Microsoft Works, or perhaps Microsoft Word, or
Corel’s WordPerfect. Rich Text files can be read or written by
any of these. The “rich” implies the files
maintain more (than just text) formatting, such as font style, carriage returns, boldface,
Portable Document Format (.pdf) represents a universally
accepted document image format. Adobe Systems Inc. developed this
format and provides a free reader which can be downloaded to your
computer, so you can view or print any .pdf file. However, if one
wanted to “create” or print in .pdf format, one would need to purchase
the full package of Adobe Acrobat. A document captured as a .pdf
document might contain text, images, or any formatted combination –
e.g., The Quarterly could be produced (“printed”) as a ..pdf document,
and linked to a web site. Then any Internet user could click on
that link and view The Quarterly on-line in the same format as you are
reading now – or even with color!
Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML) is text with some
embedded commands or “tags” (i.e., mark-ups) to instruct a web browser
how to present material on the web. The file extension for such
files can be either .htm or .html
As a genealogist, you have long since worked with a similar “mark-up
language” – GEDCOM
files. If you’ve ever examined the structure of a GEDCOM
file, you’ll see that it is regular text with some embedded commands
to tell your genealogy database program how to interpret that text. You
have probably never needed to know how GEDCOM works, and you will not
need to know how to program in HTML. There are tools available to
do the HTML coding for you. We’ll learn about them in Part 3.
There are two primary sources for you to obtain content for your Web
Page: your Word Processor and your Genealogy Database
software: Many Word Processors, such as WordPerfect and
Microsoft Word, allow you to save your file as an HTML document.
In essence this immediately creates a web page for you. How to
make use of this feature will be covered in Part 3.
Q: But what if I don’t
even have access to Microsoft Word?
you the same clown that said you don’t have access to the Internet? No,
wait, seriously I have three answers for you –
Software: Even your current (“old”) genealogy software version
has a Report Format. If so, the reports (or “Books”) are
generated as an .rtf file. You can use it like that, or you can
import into Microsoft Word, etc., and voila!
You can save as HTML!
your current word processor package, whatever it is, to see if you have
a File/Save as HTML…
option. That’s all you need. Or …
can do anything with some money and some motivation. Look on
E-Bay – you can get Microsoft Office (an old version) for $50.
And what about those grandkids – don’t they have WordPerfect or MS
Word? I thought so! Or …
don’t have to have MS Word – or HTML. Remember
– you can link any file, such as an .rtf file, to your web page. Again,
we’ll look at how to do that in Part 3.
Today almost all genealogy software packages come with an HTML or web
page feature. Let’s examine some of these. Without pushing
any particular software package, consider the following description of
capabilities not uncommon in any genealogy program today:
Example: Family Tree
Legends ($29.95 for non-deluxe
reports can now be exported to Adobe PDF format, HTML or viewed and
edited in a word processor <CC note: this would be an .rtf
file>. At the bottom of each Report Window are two buttons
that provide you further flexibility in producing, working with, and
• “View in Word Processor—this will
load the report directly into your default Word Processor (e.g.,
• “Save File to Report—this will allow
you to save the report as a Rich Text Format (.rtf) (viewable and
editable through any word processor), Adobe PDF, or HTML
Another example: from the description of Rootsmagic (from RootsMagic.com)
also $29.99, which includes a “Website Generator”
– note they don’t even mention HTML:
“RootsMagic can generate professional
looking web sites automatically from your data, in narrative format,
pedigree chart format, family group sheet format, or a combination
pedigree / family group sheet format. If you want to see some
websites created by RootsMagic, do a google search on "with RootsMagic 1.0" to bring up of
some websites created by RootsMagic users (remember that users
can choose their own colors and layouts and may have modified these
your family history has never been easier. The RootsMagic Publisher lets you
combine multiple reports and charts into a single document, and will
automatically create a table of contents and full index for the
book. You can include photos, notes, sources and other text in
your book. You can even add cover and title pages, copyright
page, dedication, and more.”
As our final Example: The Master Genealogist (TMG – under
$60) has sophisticated web page development via Second Site, which is a
TMG Companion Program:
“The Stylesheets section and sub-sections provide access to
hundreds of properties that may be used to modify the format of the generated
the styles defined by Second Site Themes are relatively simple:
they set the text format for names or name-subfields, or they set
default properties for common HTML tags. Other styles are used
to enclose embedded images in frames and to format boxes in
charts.” <CC note:
all done “automatically.”>
Of course, if you want to learn more about HTML, you always have that
option available to you, but the point is that you don’t have to know
anything about HTML to create your own web page in HTML. There
are tools that will generate your web page “automatically.”
In this installment we have hopefully helped you realize how easy it is
to create a page to go onto the Internet – now you are motivated, and
you have content! In the next Quarterly column, we’ll walk
through how to create a self-directed (HTML) page and how to get that
page onto the World Wide Web. Are you convinced yet that web site
creation is fun and easy? Should we try the next step?
Meanwhile e-mail your questions to Mike@Blackledge.com, and do your homework.
assignment: [for you to
complete prior to the next Quarterly CC column]
Create a test page for your web site, either from your Genealogy
software package or from a Word Processor. View it (locally)
with your web browser. Make some changes.
Each month Computer Corner provides information on two or three web
sites recommended by our AGS members. For the full, live link to
these and other sites, visit the Online Research
section of this AGS web site.
||Rich Text Format
(type of electronic file)
Format (type of electronic file)
Language (type of electronic file)
Click here to return to
Computer Corner On-line
Creating Your Own Genealogical Web Site - Part 3
This is the
conclusion of a multi-part series exploring the possibilities of
self-publishing your genealogical-related research on the World Wide
Web. In Part 1 we looked at web publishing benefits and
motivation from other genealogical society members. In Part 2 we
explored what content might go on your site and how you would
translate that content into HTML pages.
You need three things to create your own website: desire, content, and
know-how. In this issue, Computer Corner will provide you with
the know-how – the steps it takes to move your HTML pages, your
content, onto your web site. We’ll also suggest an
additional technique to create web pages.
1: Location, Location, Location
From Part 2, you
have created some HTML pages. You now need a location in which to place your
pages, and the means to transfer your files to that location. A
location is equivalent to an address for your web pages, known as a URL (Uniform Resource
Locator). Visitors will find your page by using their web
browser to go to your URL.
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
provide their customers with both a location for user web pages and
the means to get your pages out to that location. A few examples:
A local ISP is Southwest
Cyberport (www.swcp.com) and
Rosemary McNerney-Winkler tells us, “SWCP is very helpful and
has a lot of great information via pages with hyperlinks available that I'm
struggling to digest. Southwest Cyberport states, ‘…personal
websites, i.e. web sites with no commercial content, low traffic
requirements, and no associated domain name are still FREE.’ ”
is a popular ISP that provides free web hosting. To take
advantage of these facilities, go to www.earthlink.com
and look under Member Center and Member Benefits. Earthlink
provides a template-based Web site builder that's free for Earthlink
Web hosting customers.
Some AGS members
subscribe to Comcast to obtain high-speed Internet access at
home. Included with your subscription is support for personal web
pages with a complete approach to organizing your pages by folder and
getting them loaded to the Comcast location. Although they
provide templates they do not force you to use a template – as
genealogists, we like to do our own thing.
options: If your ISP does not include personal web page
hosting as part of the package you are paying for, consider switching
ISPs. (Yes, this would probably change your e-mail
address.) However, as we learned in Part 1 of this series, genealogists have access
to free location options to include:
provides web space and tools free to genealogical
provides free web space for genealogy purposes.
Know-how – step 2: Uploading pages
Once you have a location
in which to place your pages, you need to move them from your computer
to that location. FTP
(File Transfer Protocol) is a long-established Internet technique to
do just that. Most of the ISPs we have talked about (AOL, Comcast,
SWCP) have a “built-in” FTP transfer software program. Just
follow their instructions, and your pages will be copied from your
computer hard drive to the established ISP location … and you are
An important point
regarding creating your own web page: The file name of your home
page is critical to the process of establishing your web page on the
Internet. In general, the primary (“home”) page must follow a specific
naming convention, such as default.htm or index.html or something
similar. Find out the requirements of your particular ISP in this
regard. Example: Both SWCP and Comcast require your home
page to be named index.html.
You may also want an “independent” FTP program. Excellent
“freeware” in this area is Core FTP
Lite, recommended by both Kim Komando (www.komando.com ) and AGS
Webmaster Herb Palm. You
can obtain a free copy for your personal use by downloading Core FTP LE at www.coreftp.com
Once you have accomplished these two steps, your pages will be
available for all to view. What is the URL or home page address
for your work? That depends on the Location you used. When
you add a home page to AOL Hometown, your URL or home page address
might be similar to
Comcast, it might be http://username.comcast.net/
If you want a “personal” domain name like http://www.mcnerneywinkler.com/
– that costs extra, and perhaps should be the subject of another
Know-how – Bonus: Web Page Designer Tool
In Part 2 we
learned how to create HTML pages by saving as such in Microsoft Word
and by using the Report feature in modern genealogy software
packages. There are other products that will do this work for
you – software packages that you can easily learn if you are
interested in going another step. Web page design software products include FrontPage (by Microsoft), Dreamweaver (by
MacroMedia), and Netscape Composer
(by Netscape). The latter product is free.
Following this installment you should be able to identify a location
for your web site and a means to upload your pages to that location.
Remember your primary page will be named default.htm, index.html, or
similar file name and extension. (Herb
Palm suggests you keep your file names simple, no spaces, and
all lower case.) Once you get your first page out there you will be
hooked. You will find how easy it is to make any small
correction or addition and re-load the modified page. Voila, instant
If you have any questions about any of the steps in this process as
described during the three parts of this CC series (also available to
you on the AGS web site under From The
Quarterly) – contact the author at Mike@Blackledge.com. If
there is interest, at a later date CC will provide a column on
“Advanced Web Page
Publishing” to share tips that should prove helpful once
you are established with your initial web pages.
assignment: [for you to
complete prior to the next Quarterly
Load your first Personal Genealogy home page to your Internet Service
Provider (ISP)’s (free)
personal web hosting. Notify the AGS Webmaster, Herb Palm, of up to ten surnames of
interest and your URL so he can link your pages to the AGS on-line list
of genealogy pages by members. Send an e-mail to the
author if you would like him to
check it out. If requested he can offer a critique.
We haven’t discussed establishing hyperlinks – another topic for the
Advanced Publishing column – nevertheless here are three goals for your
genealogy web page:
1. Your location should consist of more than just a home page –
it should comprise several pages, with links between pages ... and
ensure the links work.
2. Try for consistency between pages, e.g., the links to the pages
might all be presented in some similar format: see
3. Your pages should each have titles. (I don't mean the title ON
the page, I mean the title OF the page - the HTML title that gives an
address name to the browser - most folks doing pages for the first time
(and some experienced folks) don't know how or don't provide such
titles. Eventually these titles will enhance the capability of
search engines to locate (and catalog) your pages.
to return to Computer Corner On-line
by Mike@Blackledge.com May
lately? Of course you have! Google has quickly
become the best-known search engine on the Internet. Three
reasons are performance (speed), results (accuracy), and cost (none)
to the user.
for an amazing American success story.] After only seven years
as a company, today we find Google stock traded wildly on the NASDAQ
exchange (GOOG). The
company has made a profit for half of those years –a 700% leap
in quarterly earnings from 2004 to 2005 pushed young Google founders
Larry Page and Sergey Brin to the top of the billionaires list. But
what can it do for the genealogist?
as it turns out. The qualifying question is where to begin.
An example of Google’s true power was demonstrated to me during a
search for my surname in Boston.
Maps: Note that Google maps are superior to MapQuest maps for several
reasons – Google maps can be ‘grabbed’ with a PDF-like
mousehand and moved around in any direction within the large map window. Secondly,
the streets and figures are clear in contrast to crude MapQuest
fonts. The ultimate reward is Google’s inherent ability to
one-minute exercise to demonstrate why Google continues to amaze:
In the Google search box, enter “map Boston” and hit Search. In
the result, click on Google Maps at top of page to get the map of
Boston. Note you are now under Google
Local. Then click on Find businesses (off to the right of
the search box), and search for What?
Blackledge (not pizza) in Where?
(leave as Boston, MA). You will be instantly rewarded with some
15 hits. Note the first hit (labeled as A):
Google found a list of library addresses out under Blackledge.org genealogy web site
and correlated it with this map of Boston to provide the A
reference: The New England Historical Genealogical Society, which
is located in Boston, “owns” a
in America book – and
thus its location is depicted on the map under the A flag.
Google did much more than a search here, or a map – it
performed an impressive task of correlation.
consistent popular Internet site (top 5 list in 2003) Google.com is
used by millions daily. You know how to Google when you're searching
the Web. But how much more can be achieved with the world's
superlative search engine by simply clicking beyond the Google Search button.
–there have been talks at AGS on organizing your files and your
genealogy resources. However Google says not to worry.
We’ll find it if it’s on the Internet, or your home computer. You
know how to Google on the web, Desktop Google allows you to search on
your own harddrive – not only files, but web pages, e-mails you have
received, anything it can find (including in your computer
cache). Google: faster than any Microsoft File Explorer search
engine. Give it a try.
download and install Desktop Google. Start the process by going
to any Google page, and clicking on Advanced Search. Go to the “About
Google” page (http://www.google.com/about.html)
and click on Google Desktop
(left hand side of screen). The resulting page allows you to read
about this application, which now includes Sidebar (Suggestion:
click on Sidebar link to see all that it does. You may wish to
limit your choices). When you are ready, click on Agree and Download. The
process takes about 5 minutes, and perhaps another five minutes for it
to index everything on your hard drive. Fast!
Is it safe? No
complaints to date …
personal experience that may help you. In December, I received a
form-letter e-mail telling me someone had changed his/her e-mail
address from an AOL address to a Verizon.net address. It didn’t
give me the name of the person, only the e-mail addresses, and one
could not reply for questions.
this person and did I care? Not recognizing the e-mail, I
perused my e-mail address book to no avail. Was it from a previous
correspondent? What to do? Aha: plug the AOL address
into Google Desktop. Hit return. 1.6 seconds later, I was
presented with 7 files and 4 web pages (on my hard drive) referencing
the AOL address – and thus I discovered who this was, and yes
indeed, I did want to record this e-mail address change for a vital genealogy
correspondent – now I knew her name and her references.
definitions and conversions: A useful Google feature is
to provide instantaneous definitions for any term, genealogical or
otherwise. For example, you are looking at an old will and you
discover some land measured in perches. What the heck is a
perch? Isn’t it a fish? Under Google enter:
(note the colon and no spaces before term to be defined – not
required, but helpful). You’ll get a page of short definitions of
perch, including the one we want: “Land surveying measurement that
is 16.5 feet in length, or 5½ yards. A perch is also called a
rod or a pole. Today the term perch is seldom used: however, it is
found in old deeds, surveys, and contracts.” Note
that the source (as a URL or web link) of the definition is always
provided in green font – if you want more detail, it should be
available at that address.
will also provide conversions for you. Try entering “1.2
miles in feet” or even “1.2 rods in feet” to see what you
get. (Perches are a little quaint, but if you try perches, you’ll
see one of the references tells you the term rod is used for perch, and rod
calculator can also do some arithmetic for you, if you don’t want to
call up your Microsoft calculator. More on this calculator
feature is found at http://www.
you might enjoy looking over this entire page of descriptions of Google
features – everything from obtaining movie reviews to live stock
quotes. If you enter a Delivery Confirmation number, you’ll get
to the tracking page. Enter a phone number and Google provides a
reverse look-up for you. It goes on and on.
Picasa is a free image management and editing package that indexes the
photos and movies on your hard drive, puts them into a searchable
database, and lets you make changes including red-eye and color
adjustment, crops and orientation adjustment (without destroying the
original). To view a nice comparison of Google Picasa with Adobe
Photoshop Album (both offer free packages), Google for Google Picasa
One of the newest features of Google (and somewhat controversial due
to questions of copyright, e.g., “fair use” – see
“Google’s Book Battle,
” Newsweek, October 31, 2005) is the Google Book Search, which is currently
available to you in Beta test (books.google.com ). Google
started this project on 1 Nov 2005 by scanning all the books in the
libraries of University of Michigan, Harvard, and Stanford. The
company tells us: “Google is helping to get the world's
information online by bringing books themselves online. Whenever books
in our Google Book Search index contain content that matches your
search terms, you'll see links to those books under Book Results at
the top of your search results page. Click on any book title and you'll
see the page in that book which contains your search terms, as well as
other information about the title.” Suggestion:
read the Google
Book Search – Help for information on how this feature works,
and what you might expect. This new feature could become a wonderful
boon for genealogists. Consider this to be the future of the Internet:
– all libraries available on-line.
This Computer Corner article was designed to provide you with an
overview of the wide range of services you can obtain from Google
which may help your efforts in genealogy. For a more complete
description of the features, use the links given or consider a
reference book such as:
Google: The Missing Manual
Milstein and Rael Dornfest (2004; Pogue Press)
provides a useful advanced search form, but you can also run more
specific [Google] searches from Fagan Finder, a site that has no
official relationship with Google. It works best from Internet
Netscape and other browsers, try their alternate site:
the 2006 edition of The Missing
Manual still has Rael Dornfest as primary author, Sarah is
gone, and the book now sells for more – however has 424 pages,
rather than 290. You can buy the 2004 edition (with shipping –
used) on-line for under $8, the 2006 edition will cost you twice that much.
Our RGVLS owns three copies of the 2004 edition only.
to return to Computer Corner On-line
Introduction to Electronic
by Mike@Blackledge.com August
Computer Corner previously explored the
possibilities of self-publishing your genealogy research using the
near-universal availability of the World Wide Web. Now we present
an overview of other electronic publishing techniques that are
available to you. The not-so-hidden agenda is to convince you of
the importance of publishing your research; the more immediate goal is
to convince you of how easily electronic publishing can accomplish
Electronic publishing uses a computer to display text and/or graphic
images in a presentation program, or on the World Wide Web.
"Electronic Publishing" is primarily used today to refer to the current
offerings of online and web-based publishers. Historically, the
term was used to describe the development of new forms of production,
distribution, and user interaction with computer text and other
interactive media. We will investigate how these new forms facilitate
your goal of publishing your genealogy research.
What Is Electronic Publishing?
Electronic publishing is a generic term for the distribution of
information which is stored, transmitted and reproduced
electronically. It is sometimes referred to (incorrectly) as
'Desk Top Publishing.’ Desktop publishing represents just one
part of the electronic publishing spectrum. This spectrum
includes the publication of e-books and electronic articles, and the
development of digital libraries. Within the last several years,
electronic publishing has become accepted in scientific publishing –
peer-reviewed paper scientific journals are in the process of being
replaced by electronic publishing.
Do not confuse desktop publishing with electronic publishing, which
refers to electronically preparing documents that are to be read by
electronic means. In general, desktop publishing products are
paper. Furthermore, desktop publishing is not truly publishing
at all – it applies only to the creation of printed documents
using a computer. The documents may be printed directly from the desktop
publishing application software (usually with a desktop laser printer),
or prepared for a commercial printing process.
Electronic publishing is the production of documents using computerized
means such as word-processing and desktop-publishing software, and the
distribution of the documents in a format (perhaps including hypertext)
that is accessible by computer. This encompasses publishing
documents in electronic form such as on CD or the Internet. CD
“burners” have been near-standard equipment on personal computers for
several years. If you buy a computer today, it can include a DVD
format burner as standard equipment – this format allows you to
incorporate videos of your family or perhaps historical sites, animated
slide shows of photographs and genealogical documents, and audio files
of oral histories. Thus your genealogy research may end up being
published as two volumes: A CD and a DVD.
The Importance of Publishing
We need to ensure you are convinced of the importance of publishing
your research records. You probably recall (Computer
Corner: Quarterly, Vol.
30, Issue 3) the sad story of my wife’s Aunt Margaret –
probably the best genealogy researcher in the family. However, when Auntie M
died a few years ago she had not published any of her work. Thus
she left behind boxes of scribbled notes and a great many photos and no
organization. I’ll always wonder what happened to those
boxes. You would not want all the effort you’ve put into
your research to go for naught – it is an important part of your
legacy – especially when it is so easy these days to publish
What You Already Know About Electronic Publishing
We already learned in a previous series of Computer Corner (May, August 2005;
Feb 2006. Previous Computer Corner
articles are also available to you on the AGS web site under From The Quarterly) how to publish
genealogy material on a personal web site. Most Internet Service
Providers (ISPs) provide their customers with both a location for user
web pages and the means to get your pages out to that location.
Visitors will find your page by using their web browser to go to your
web address (URL). Follow the instructions in that series and
your genealogy content will be copied from your computer hard drive to
the established ISP location … and you are “published.”
We also learned in that series that genealogists have access to free
location options to include: USGenNet.org and Rootsweb.com
both of which provide free web space for genealogy purposes.
Web page publication is one method of electronic publishing. Now
let’s look at the more typical approach.
Your Computer Software assists you in Electronic Publishing
Your current genealogy software version has a Report
Format. If so, the reports (or “Books”) are generated
as a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. You can work with the file in that
format, or you can import into Microsoft Word or Word Perfect, etc.,
and voila! You have your content for your publishing
experience. You may want to add photos or otherwise edit the
content to your specifications. This gathering of your content is
the first step to publishing – the rest is even easier.
Easy Steps to Electronic Publishing
1. Obtain your genealogy content
from your software program and edit as desired to include adding
The Disadvantages of Electronic Publishing
2. Obtain any desired ISBN, Copyright, and Library of Congress catalog
data (not a requirement).
3. “Burn” (copy) your content to a compact disc (CD).
4. Add CD labels and plastic case as desired.
5. Distribute, e.g., by media or first class mail.
More than likely there are a number of individuals in your own family
or circle of research contributors who do not own a computer or are not
comfortable working with a computer. Additionally, many people prefer
to work with hard copy as evidenced by the current number of
subscribers for paper newspapers versus those who subscribe entirely
on-line. However, once you have your research entirely published
on a CD, it is a simple matter to convert to paper for those wanting
paper. One member of my genealogy research team tells me:
I helped my sister with a family
history on our father's line, which was 200 pages. Because cost
was a factor for us she made a CD of the information that was written
and sent a CD to all the descendants who had contributed information.
The descendants could then print one page or whatever they wanted from
the CD. I printed a hard copy from the CD for under $20.00 and
placed it in a binder, thus I had my book to look at and read.
Furthermore, there are also many publishing companies (i.e.,
printer/binder companies) that will take your CD and convert it to
hardcopy. FedEx Kinko will work with you locally. For
another example, see www.AnundsenPubl.com and click
Some researchers worry that their hard-earned research will be
immediately copied and “stolen” if they publish.
To some extent such a reaction is human nature. One needs to get
past this hang-up to publish. Bear in mind: (1) public records
(the source of much research) are available to all, (2) copyright protection
applies to material on CDs as well as books, and (3) the concept of
publishing (and legacy) is to get your information into the hands of
the genealogy community.
The Advantages of Electronic Publishing
Genealogists who publish books usually end up spending more than they
ever make on book sales. Fortunately for those who want to get
the information out at low cost, electronic publishing is available as
an inexpensive option. For example, cost (not including your
time) is on the order of $2 per CD product, whether you are creating
the equivalent of a 90 page product or a 900 page product – and
remember, there is no additional cost for electronically publishing
photos – or color.
There is usually a delay of several months after an article is written
before it is published in a paper journal and this makes journals not
an ideal format for disseminating the latest research. Similarly,
the time from submitting your genealogy research to a publisher to
final distributed product is typically a matter of months.
However, hard copy can still provide an important role to enhance
quality control, archive papers, and establish genealogy source
material. In general, one expects the electronic material uploaded
to a CD might eventually become published in the more traditional
hard copy format.
Another question to consider: is this your “first” publication,
i.e., a first edition? Your publication will result in a plethora of
errata and additional information from contributors and
recipients. That is OK – it fact, it is a big plus to get your
first effort “on the street”! Your first publication will get the
word out and ultimately result in a better, more complete and accurate follow-on
product – and you may want that follow-on edition in hard copy.
Electronic publishing is increasingly popular in works of fiction as
well as with scientific articles. For genealogy research,
electronic publishing makes the original “production” of
your publishing available to you at your own computer – and it
provides an easy way to update the product. Burning a CD is relatively
simple and inexpensive.
There is statistical evidence that electronic publishing provides wider
dissemination than hard copy. A number of journals have, while
retaining their peer review process, established electronic versions or
even moved entirely to electronic publication. In the case of
your genealogy product, you can get a mailer and send your CD as media
mail for pennies – and again, the process is completely under your
control at home.
In November the author will present a program to the AGS membership on
the subject of Electronic Publishing. You are encouraged to
attempt some of the techniques described between now and then to
discover for yourself the ease of publishing electronically.
Perhaps you will have some questions – you need not wait to ask them at
the AGS presentation, send them in as you think of them to the author
This column has provided an overview of electronic
publishing. A follow-on article: “Advanced Electronic Publishing”
will be presented in a later Quarterly.
to return to Computer Corner On-line
Disaster Planning for Your Genealogical
Records Part I: Strategy by
Mike@Blackledge.com November 2006
You have spent many, many hours
researching and gathering your genealogical information. Doesn’t
it make sense to spend just a few minutes to protect that research from
an unexpected disaster? In this two-part article, Computer Corner
reminds you of how easy it is today to save yourself from grief over
loss of data, providing peace of mind today as well as ensuring your
legacy for your descendants. In Part I, we’ll introduce
some concepts and decide on a strategy for disaster planning.
1a. What Is Disaster Planning?
Disaster Planning is
thinking ahead about a recovery plan for the data, hardware and
software critical for you to maintain your research efforts and to
restart operations in the event of a natural or human-caused disaster
–– or a hard-drive crash. What if you are on an AGS trip
to Salt Lake City and your laptop is lost or stolen? Are you worried
about a virus attacking your PC? One should also consider disaster
planning for your life in general: checkbooks, financial records,
family scrapbooks, whatever is important to you. However the
focus of this article is preserving the information in your
genealogical research records.
1b. The Importance of Disaster Planning
Of what does your research consist? You have quite a bit of
information in your head. One can’t do much about
helping you preserve that other than to encourage you to capture it while
it’s still there, e.g., publish. Beyond your neurons, your primary
research is captured in hard copy format (paper notes, photographs,
printouts, books) and in electronic copy format (e.g., files of text,
images, GEDCOM files, zip files). To preserve your hard copy
material, capture it in electronic files: scan in those photos and old
documents, transcribe as necessary, enter information into your
genealogy software program. This article on preserving
electronic files relates to everything you have electronically.
With the rise in information technology and the reliance on
business-critical data, the landscape in the business world has changed
in recent years in favor of protecting irreplaceable data. This
is especially evident in information technology; with most large
computer systems backing up digital information to limit data loss and
to aid data recovery. We genealogists need to protect our data
Computer techs that repair hard drives claim that the expected lifetime
of a hard drive is about five years. The actual life depends on
many factors (e.g., your car engine life depends on how hard and how
often it is driven) however all disk drives will fail sooner or
later. How set back would your research efforts be if you were
to power up your main desktop computer today, hear a terrible clicking
and clacking noise in your C: drive, and find it is inaccessible?
1c. What You Already Know About Disaster Planning
You may have experienced a disk crash sometime in your computer
life. If you have, you are well aware of the need for data
recovery. If you haven’t, you’ve been fortunate.
Data recovery is the process of salvaging data from damaged, failed,
wrecked or inaccessible primary storage media when it cannot be accessed.
Often the data is being salvaged from storage media formats such as
hard disk drive, storage tapes, CDs, DVDs, and other electronics. This
can be due to physical damage to the storage device or logical damage
to the file system that prevents it from being addressed by the host
operating system. Although there is some confusion as to the term,
data recovery can also be the process of recovering deleted information
from a storage media for forensic purposes. If data has been
accidentally deleted there are normally ways to recover it.
Physical damage: A wide
variety of failures can cause physical damage to storage media.
CD-ROMs can have their metallic substrate or dye layer scratched off;
hard disks can suffer any of several mechanical failures such as head
crashes and failed motors. Physical damage always causes some
data loss, and in many cases the logical structures of the file system
are damaged as well.
Logical Damage: Far more
common than physical damage is logical damage to a file system.
Logical damage is primarily caused by power outages that prevent file
system structures from being completely written to the storage
medium. However problems with hardware and drivers, as well as
system crashes, can have the same effect.
1d. Why We Don’t Do Backups
The primary reason that backups are not accomplished on home computers
is that one doesn’t think about or worry about losses. We used to
worry more when home computers were less reliable. Today we are
lulled into thinking "I won’t run into any problems; no disasters will
happen here." A second reason is that it takes a little effort,
and we don’t want to be bothered. And when the pros
suggest off-site storage, some researchers worry that their hard-earned
research will be "stolen" if they provide it to others.
1e. What To Do About It
The primary strategy for mitigating any loss of data is creating a
backup. In the field of information technology, backup refers to
the copying of data so that these additional copies may be restored
after a data loss event. Backups differ from archives and backup
systems differ from fault-tolerant systems. Backups are useful
primarily for two purposes: to restore a computer to an operational
state following a disaster (called disaster recovery) and to restore
small numbers of files after they have been accidentally deleted or
corrupted. For protection of our genealogical research we are
talking about a relatively small number of files.
2a. Backup strategies
Information Technology (IT) professionals remind us that a backup
should be planned carefully. Genealogists should keep these
principles in mind:
Decide what you want to back up. GEDCOM files and Zip files are
Perform regular backups to improve data recovery reliability.
Know where your back-up material is located.
If a disaster were to occur, how would you use your back-up material
2b. Strategy: What do you want to save?
What: You need to
think about what is important to you. In general, you do not
need to save your software program for genealogy (e.g., FamilyTreeMaker,
Legacy). You should already have the commercial CD containing
the software program. In any case, you can always get another copy of the
program itself. What is important to you and what is unique to
you is your
data that you loaded into that program. Here the program itself
can help you. One of your choices, usually when you exit the
program, is, "Do you want to back up this database?" Click on
Yes, and (in most programs) a zip file will be created and stored on
your hard drive at a location (folder) of your choice. This zip
file constitutes a genealogical backup, an excellent choice since your
entire software program database can be regenerated from such a zip
file. Your program can also export a GEDCOM file, which is a
marked (ordered) ASCII (text) file of all your data. GEDCOM
files have no "expiration date" – they will be interpretable by
software genealogy programs forever. However, the zip file is the most
straightforward to use for recovery. It’s an excellent
idea to save one of each – marked with the version (or date) of the
2c. Strategy: Approaches to backing up files
Deciding how much and how often to backup at any given time is a harder
process than it seems. By backing up too much redundant data, the
data repository will fill up too quickly. If you don't backup enough
data, critical information can get lost. The key concept is to
back up only files that have changed. It helps to mark the date
on the storage medium, even though the file will have a date-time
stamp as well.
2d. Strategy: Storage, the basis of a back-up
Any back-up strategy starts with a concept of a data repository.
The back-up data needs to be stored somehow and should be organized to
a degree. It can be as simple as a sheet of paper with a list of
all back-up media and the dates they were written or a more
sophisticated setup with a computerized index, catalog, or relational
database. This is closely related to choosing a back-up rotation
An unstructured repository may simply be a stack of floppy disks
or CD-R media with minimal information about what was backed up and
when. This is the easiest to implement. Remember that CDs
can hold upward of 600 MBs and can be written to more than once.
Several backup versions can thus be stored on a single CD. Use a
Sharpie to write those version filenames and dates right on the CD and
provide some organization.
2e. Strategy: Managing your data repository
Regardless of the data repository model or data storage media used for
backups, a balance needs to be struck among accessibility, security,
On-line storage (sometimes called secondary storage) is typically the
most accessible type of data storage. Historically in large
computer operations this would be a large disk array. Individuals
must consider "on-line storage" to be Internet-based storage, on
someone else’s large disk array.
Off-line storage requires human interaction to make storage media
available. Off-line storage can be as simple as storing back-up
CDs in a file cabinet.
To protect against a disaster or other site-specific problem, many
people choose to send back-up media to an off-site location. Backups
are critical, but you do not want to store your only backups in the
same building with your computer. If a natural disaster such as a
lightning strike or a 100-year Rio Rancho-type flood were to ruin your
computer and its contents, your locally-stored back-up copies might
also be destroyed. Consider storing back-up copies "off-site,"
such as at a relative’s house or a fellow-researcher’s
home that will not be threatened by a local disaster.
2f: Strategy: Online Storage
Some web sites offer back-up capabilities for your PC data and some
even offer "free" storage. You can store zip files, GEDCOM files,
JPEGs. Any file you can store on your computer can be stored
online. It is easy to do, gives you some additional peace of
mind, and is well worth the miniscule effort to accomplish. Here are
example sites that offer such a service:
3: Summary: Forethought Avoids Disaster
- Media Max: Offers
25 GBs of free online storage. MediaMax, powered by Streamload, gives
you online file storage so you can upload, store, access, and share
videos, photos, music, files, and work-related documents. Nothing
automatic and data is not encrypted but you are offered free web
storage for all your files. (www.mediamax.com)
- Free Online File Storage:
This site is a hub for listing, linking, and comparing many online
services offering file storage, some free.
- Your own ISP:
All Internet Service Providers have storage available that you can use
for backups. Example: Comcast allows you to upload files into
folders that you create on their storage. Any service that allows
you to create web pages and upload (FTP) them must allow you to store
files in general. This is online storage for which you are
- Free Webmail:
Another idea is to send an e-mail to yourself on a free webmail system
(such as yahoo.com
with copies of your important genealogical files as attachments.
Web based e-mail is not stored on your computer, it is stored on the
host server to be retrieved by you and you alone at any computer
anywhere with Internet access.
Genealogists work hard for their research. Why put yourself in a
difficult situation if it’s so easy to save: save your data, save
yourself headaches and save sleep at night. It isn’t that
Part I provided some thoughts on deciding what you really want
to save and determining a strategy to save it. In Part II
we’ll examine the recent advances in hardware and storage
media that make backups a snap. Since this is the November
issue, your homework assignment for Part II is as follows:
If your current computer doesn’t have at least two USB
ports or the capability to "burn" CDs, request a new computer on your
And if you see a 1 GB flash drive advertised for less than $30, buy
one. We’ll talk about using it next issue. If you
don't know what a flash drive is, ask MaeAllen.
to return to Computer Corner On-line
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