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the column contributor at Mike@Blackledge.com

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Creating Your Own Genealogical Web Site - Part 1            by Mike@Blackledge.com            May 2005
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.

Perhaps every 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 far…)  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 genealogy.

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 head.

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" will do). 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 it."

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 AGS 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 correspond?  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 , since
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 your homework.

Homework 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.

Hint:  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.

Recommended links:
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.

1. http://www.pbs.org/transistor/index.html   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...."]
2. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm   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."
AGS: Albuquerque Genealogical Society
New Mexico Genealogical Society
Internet Service Provider

CC:  Computer Corner

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Creating Your Own Genealogical Web Site - Part 2         by Mike@Blackledge.com     August 2005
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 free!
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 the Internet.

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 facts.

"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 suggest...”

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 column.)

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 original documents.

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.)

Web 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:

RTF:  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, or italics.

PDF:  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! 

HTML:  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 Program. 

Word Processor 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?
A:  Aren’t you the same clown that said you don’t have access to the Internet?  No, wait, seriously I have three answers for you –
  1. Check 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 …
  2. You 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 …
  3. You 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.
Genealogy 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!

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 version)
“All 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 sharing reports:
• “View in Word Processor—this will load the report directly into your default Word Processor (e.g., Microsoft Word).
• “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 document.”

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 websites somewhat).
“Publishing 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 <web> pages.
“…most of 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.”

Summary:  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.

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.

Recommended links:
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. 

RTF: Rich Text Format (type of electronic file)

Portable Document Format (type of electronic file)
HTML: HyperText Markup Language (type of electronic file)

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Creating Your Own Genealogical Web Site - Part 3        by Mike@Blackledge.com     February 2006
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.

Know-how – step 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.’ ”

Earthlink 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.

Other 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:

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 “published.” 

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 http://hometown.aol.com/screenname/filename. For 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 column. 

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.

Summary:  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 currency!

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.

Homework assignment:  [for you to complete prior to the next Quarterly CC column]
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 www.mcnerneywinkler.com
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.

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Google for Genealogistsfor Genealogists       by Mike@Blackledge.com     May 2006

Googled 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.

History:  [see http://www.google. com/corporate/history.html 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?

Considerable, 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.

Google 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 integrate results.

Try this 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 Blackledges 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. 

As a 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.

Desktop Google –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.

First, you 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 …
Here’s a 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. 

Who is 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. 

Google 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:  “define:perch” (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.

Google 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 works.)

Google’s 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. google.com/help/features.html#calculator
In fact, 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.

Google Picasa:  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 Adobe.

Google Books:  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.

References:  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
By Sarah Milstein and Rael Dornfest (2004; Pogue Press)

“Google 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 Explorer:
But for Netscape and other browsers, try their alternate site:

Note:  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.

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  Introduction to Electronic Publishing      by Mike@Blackledge.com     August 2006
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 this objective.

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 electronically.

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 photos.
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.

The Disadvantages of Electronic Publishing
Access:  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 on GENEALOGY

Piracy:  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
Cost:  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.

Time:  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.

Production:  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.

Distribution:  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 at Mike@Blackledge.com.  This column has provided an overview of electronic publishing.   A follow-on article:  “Advanced Electronic Publishing” will be presented in a later Quarterly.

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 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 as well.

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:
1. What: Decide what you want to back up. GEDCOM files and Zip files are natural targets.
2. When: Perform regular backups to improve data recovery reliability.
3. Where: Know where your back-up material is located.
4. How: If a disaster were to occur, how would you use your back-up material for recovery?

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 information.

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 system
Data repository models
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 scheme.
CD Back-up
 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, and cost.

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
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 difficult.

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 gift-wanted list.
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.

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