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Kith and Kindle: Can E-books Assist the Genealogist?  by Mike@Blackledge.com  August 2008

Kindle with books

Culture Change: A few years ago, the National Endowment of the Arts released a report showing Americans in almost every demographic group are reading books in significantly lower rates than 10 or 20 years ago. As an example, those Americans 18 years of age and older who read a book not required in their work or school dropped from 61% in 1992 to 57% in 2004. Perhaps we are reading more from computer screens? We know technology is combining computers and books. This Computer Corner explores the Amazon Kindle, a convenient portable electronic device designed to store and display electronic books, and considers if such a device can assist the genealogist.


Last holiday season, I bought a present for myself (who else is going to spend $400 on me?): An Amazon Kindle. I have been intrigued with the idea of an electronic book for years now, and this new product from Amazon (it was reviewed as a cover story in the Nov 7 2007 issue of Newsweek) seemed to be the breakthrough for which I was waiting. Some patience was required even after ordering: there was a six-week backlog on orders.

I had to tell my twin sisters about this device, and I received quite different responses. One sister responded excitedly: "Mike! Dick just ordered two Kindles two days ago (got the info from stock market reading and NY Times): one for his daughter and one for us. I read the Newsweek article yesterday. Can't wait to see if we can make it all work; it's almost too unbelievable and wonderful to really expect it to work as advertised."

My other sister was more reserved: "KINDLE? I have no idea what an Amazon Kindle is, but apparently you two do. I keep thinking that it has something to do with fireplaces.No, that has to be wrong. I'll just have to wait and hear about it at Christmas. You people are apparently on the cutting edge."

Both sisters were correct: The clever Amazon (consider that name) marketing strategy worked on both. Kindle is indeed supposed to make you think of kindling in a fireplace - start the fires burning with the idea of getting more people reading. A Kindle is an electronic book that weighs 10.3 ounces and is about the size of a paperback. With a Kindle you can change the font size to what is comfortable for you to read, hold up to 200 books at a time, subscribe to newspapers and magazines and have them show up instantly (my sister and her husband read the NY Times each morning), check the definition of almost any word, connect to Internet sources like Wikipedia to look up any subject, and send Word documents to your own Kindle. The screen is not backlit, but is very readable. The device charges in 20 minutes to last for two days. Take it anywhere!

Technical Details

Display: 6" diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 4-level gray scale

Size (in inches): 7.5" x 5.3" x 0.7"

Weight: 10.3 ounces

System requirements: None, because it doesn't require a computer

Storage: 256MB internal (approximately 180MB available for user content); you can add an SD memory card


Battery Life: Leave wireless on and recharge every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging.

Charge Time: Approximately 2 hours

Connectivity: the built-in modem uses Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint's high-speed data network

USB Port: USB 2.0 (mini-B connector) to optionally connect to a PC or Macintosh computer

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted mono speaker

Content Formats Supported: includes Kindle (AZW), TXT, MP3; also limited HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion of those files.

Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, book cover, rechargeable battery

Documentation: About Your Kindle Manual; Kindle User's Guide pre-installed on the device


The device was designed by Amazon to provide an exceptional reading experience. The development of E-Ink, a revolutionary new display technology, makes reading Kindle’s screen as sharp and natural as reading ink on paper—nothing like the strain and glare of a computer screen. The screen displays the "ink" electronically. It provides a crisp black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper and reflects light like ordinary paper. The Kindle uses no backlighting, eliminating the glare associated with other electronic displays. As a result, Kindle can be read as easily in bright sunlight as in your living room.

Testimonials about the Kindle screen:

James Patterson, author: "The screen is fabulous. You would expect that, with a screen, there would be a glare, it would be hard to read but it's not. There’s no glare. It's not backlit, which is kind of magical. I think people are going to be very, very surprised and delighted. This is a lot easier to read than a lot of books are these days."

Michael Lewis, author: "I'm telling you, after five minutes I've ceased to think I'm looking at a screen. It's not like reading a computer screen. It's more like reading a piece of paper. I think it's actually clearer, easier on the eye than the printed word."

Kindle has edges to press to page forward or back in your reading. The device never becomes hot and is designed so both "lefties" and "righties" can read comfortably at any angle for long periods of time. This is especially nice for reading in bed, or reading where it would be awkward to hold the pages (for example, I find the Kindle very easy to use while eating my lunch!) You can also listen to books on your Kindle with its built-in speakers or one could purchase earphones.

The content for the Kindle is delivered similarly to cell phone technology: Amazon downloads it directly to your Kindle using their own wireless delivery system. Unlike WiFi, you’ll never need to locate a hotspot. There are no service plans, yearly contracts, or monthly wireless bills— you are not required to make any additional purchase or pay any fees.

With Kindle, you can be anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. Amazon allows you to download and read a sample of any book for free. If you decide you want the entire book, you can click on a button, and within a minute, you have it. I downloaded a book during halftime of a Lobo basketball game last season (no, it wasn't that boring of a game, I just like to read during timeouts). All newspaper, magazine, and blog subscriptions also start with a risk-free two-week trial.

Kindle’s paperback size and expandable memory let you travel light with your library - this is especially nice if you're going on a long auto or airplane ride, a cruise, or traveling in an RV. A Kindle e-mail address is provided with each Kindle purchase. You then control the list of those e-mail users authorized to send documents directly to your Kindle - wherever you are.

What Is Available For Kindle

What Can Kindle Do For the Genealogist?

Here is a testimonial from well-known genealogist Dick Eastman: " I love e-books: books and other publications that are available in electronic format instead of on paper. I have several hundred such books stored on my desktop and laptop computers and many on an Amazon Kindle, including newspapers, books downloaded from Google Books, many blogs, and more. I read the Wall Street Journal every day on an Amazon Kindle. I almost never print anything these days; I prefer to read text on a computer screen or on the Kindle.

Making the switch from printed documents to an on-screen display of the same information is a significant psychological adjustment. For a while, it felt "funny" to read books, newspapers and newsletters on a computer screen. The adjustment was easier on the Amazon Kindle as its "e-paper" display is much closer to printed paper. Once I became accustomed to reading things on-screen, I found the process to be easier than ever. Searches are usually easier since many online documents allow one to quickly search for any word or phrase. Of course, e-books are also cheaper and eco-friendly; I no longer consume as much paper and laser printer toner as I used to.

"I suspect that the economics of publishing books on paper will soon mean the end of paper-based genealogy books, as well as all sorts of other books and newspapers. A printed book costs a lot more to publish than an e-book. Consumers and publishers alike will appreciate the savings available when publishing electronically."

"Reading documents on a computer screen is good, but the use of a portable reader with "e-paper" is much better. For instance, use of an Amazon Kindle simplifies the process. Computerworld has a new article that takes a look at the development and the future of e-paper. E-paper is rapidly becoming its own industry."

What I Did With My Kindle and My Research

As you know, all current genealogy software programs have the capability to create a book report format of your research records. That report is essentially an MS Word document; thus you can create such a report and send it to your Kindle. (Note: it costs ten cents per document to have Amazon send a document directly to your Kindle, or you can do it yourself for free by having them just e-mail it to your computer.) The document could include any photos that you may have or add to your report, although they will be displayed in grey scale. You thus can keep your research with you wherever you are, and you can use the search function to look up specific surnames or whatever. I also send my travel itineraries and contact information to my Kindle so it will always be with me. Certainly not the same as a laptop but quite easy to tote wherever you go.


There are several e-books available. The primary competitor for Amazon's Kindle is Sony's Reader Digital Book. The two have much in common and Sony's Book sells for about $300 (but you must pay extra for items such as the cover). The purpose of this article is not to compare e-books however be aware that there are a number available to you. Kindle is unique but others are out there. When you go to ManyBooks.net and want to download a book, you will see that there are more than 20 unique formats for electronic books, to include the valued old standby PDF files (a format Kindle cannot handle well at this time).

What I Like About the Kindle:

How To Improve the Kindle:

Summary: Electronic data have rendered all sorts of paper documents obsolete -- plane tickets, billing statements, card-catalogue entries and even, for many, the morning newspaper. The book, however, lives on and in some respect will always live on. Meanwhile, the Amazon Kindle provides a most intriguing alternative. The Kindle is not a laptop and no computer is required to use it. It is a standalone reading device and the imagination of the user can expand it for many uses, including assisting genealogists. The device appears to be a burgeoning success for two reasons: the usability of the design as a reading device, and the equally well-designed service to download books and documents quickly and easily - and relatively inexpensively.

More Information: First go to Amazon.com and view the video showing the Kindle in use. Google can locate many, many reviews on the Kindle.  Please note that before Kindle was actually released, many negative reviews came out on it (from people who of course did not own the device), knocking its limitations such as it cannot handle PDF files (although an experimental program is available).  I would not give much credence to reviews by people who did not even have a Kindle.

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 Preserve Your Family History - Photo Books and Family History Books  by Esther Yu Sumner             November 2008  

Introduction:  The holidays are all but upon us!  Tired of the standard commercial approach to greeting cards and gifts?  Want to do something a little different for your family as a lasting remembrance this year? As a genealogist, you have some special resources available to you, including some old documents or photographs that you have gathered throughout the years.  It could be fun to create a "historic" Seasons Greetings card using an old family photograph.  Just scan it in and use the on-line assistance such as that offered by Walgreen's or Sam's Club to create your unique old-school/sepia greeting cards.  My favorite one-minute on-line video tutorial on making your own picture greeting card is at http://video.about.com/scrapbooking/Make-Photo-Greeting-Cards.htm, or see www.hp.com/go/activitycenter.  A more significant product can be achieved with the application of some professional assistance in creating photo books and family history books.  Your creative efforts can assist your genealogy goals.  In the following article, freelance writer Esther Yu Sumner gathers together several such ideas for your consideration.

When Grandma Doris died, her children had a dilemma. What should they do with all the historical family photographs that she had inherited or taken herself, then saved over the years? Several members of the family wanted the photographs, but nobody had any real plans for them except to tuck them away in another box “for posterity.” While they had good intentions, the problem with tucking the photos in another box is that after Grandma Doris died, some of her children did not know the significance of some of the photographs left behind.  Doris’s grandchildren knew even less.  At some point, the family members featured in these valuable photographs would become meaningless strangers.

What Grandma Doris’s family didn’t know, is that there are a lot of options out there to help make it easy and fun to preserve photographs, and the stories behind them, for posterity. The options available run a wide spectrum, from simple, template-based family books to detailed custom-designed books that can be several hundred pages long. What you choose depends on how much control you want over your book, how comfortable you feel using online book-design programs, how much money you are willing to spend, and how quickly you need the published book to be sent to you.

Basic photo books

If you want to create a simple photo book, several sites use book templates that let you pick what size book you want, then upload your photos into the template to create a professionally bound book complete with captions. You can typically also select fonts, drag and drop photos into template layouts, and more. For books like this, consider a company like MyPublisher.com (www.mypublisher.com), which offers a 20-page, 11.25” x 8.75” hardcover for $29.80 – more for a leather cover or additional pages.

from American Greetings (http://www.photoworks.com/photo-books/category.jsp?occasion=genealogy ), has a special option with its “everyday standard sized book” that includes a five-generation ascendant tree for $39.95 for up to 20 pages. You can add up to 80 additional pages for $0.99 per page. There are no fees to use these programs, so feel free to try them out. You’ll find that the sites stay simple and instruct you on what to do next so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Custom-designed books
If you have collected a lot of information for a photo book but don’t have the time or the desire to actually put everything together, consider a company like Good Stock (http://good-stock.com/custom.php). They are a custom-design service, and, as such, claim they will “concept, design, manage, print, and bind your book.” You’ll be able to proof the completed book in PDF format before approving your order. You are responsible to have the photos you want to use scanned, edited, and sent on a CD along with other material you want used in your book. Prices for the completed book average around $1750 for a 50-page book. Books typically take 10-12 weeks from start to finish, including reviewing the final design, then waiting for the book to be bound and shipped to you.

Do-it-yourself books
Blurb (http://www.blurb.com/) offers a free software program you load on your computer that guides you through the layout and design of your book. Once the layout is done, you order the printed version through the Blurb website.

If you have custom-designed a book using your own program, U Build A Book (http://www.ubuildabook.com/genealogy-book.html) will print it for you. They claim that the size of the book and the program you use doesn’t matter – they’ll print it. Listed prices start at $13.95 for a 6 x 9, soft cover, 20-page book.

If the book you want to publish is so genealogy-intensive that you plan to fill it with detailed family charts and timelines, you might want to consider AncestryPress (http://ancestrypress.ancestry.com/index.aspx). This program is ideal for Ancestry.com members who have created an Ancestry.com family tree because it pulls in the research you have been saving on the website. The service also allows you to share your project with family members and have them add stories and photos. AncestryPress starts at $34.95 for an 11 x 8 ½,  24-page book with a leatherette cover. You’ll pay $0.79 for each additional page for up to 250 pages. Expect a book within one to two weeks of submitting your completed work.

Self-publishing companies

If you have a longer, more in-depth family history book that you want to publish, there are options that give you a freer-form template and allow more pages per book.

Memory Press(http://memorypress.familylearn.com/family_history?source=search) helps you to complete each page, including room for photographs, stories, and a family tree. As part of the Memory Press service, you can customize the cover with 3D items like charms, your book will be permanently backed up on the company’s servers, and you can use a special collaboration tool to invite families to contribute stories and photos. The book is $50 for up to 35 color pages OR up to 175 black and white pages, and varies from 8.5 x 6.5 to 10 x 8. Once you complete and order your books, you can expect it in 10 days.

Genealogy plays an important role in our families but it’s our jobs as family historians to preserve our histories in an interesting manner that will capture our descendants’ interests and help create future family historians. Family history books give family memories an easy reference point that they can each individually own.

Esther Yu Sumner is a freelance writer and usability specialist. You can reach her at esumnertime@gmail.com.

Published with permission of the author.  First published in the Genealogy Bulletin, a weekly genealogy newsletter from WorldVitalRecords.com (http://www.worldvitalrecords.com/newslettersignup.aspx)

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  Genealogy Scams and Hoaxes  by Gail Rasmussen  February 2009

It has long fascinated Computer Corner that one of the organizational categories under Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet is Myths, Hoaxes, and Scams.  Say it ain't so!  Can there be shady practices going on within our beloved world of self-help and kind souls?  Apparently yes - in this Computer Corner we explore some of the more famous (and often Internet embedded) genealogy hoaxes, as well as those nearer and dearer to our own time.
First, the Special Collection Library's own Gail Rasmussen provides a historical perspective - some of this has been around a long time, making us all the more needful to be cautious and double-check that our sources don't stem from a tainted genealogy:

Beware of Fraudulent Genealogies
by Gail Rasmussen

One of the greatest thrills for all genealogy researchers is to tap into someone else’s research that takes your line back many more generations than you ever dreamed possible.  This “thrill” is much more frequent now with Internet researching than it ever has been before. As wonderful as Internet researching is, one caveat has arisen that has reached epidemic proportions.  Because we can now locate genealogical information at lightning speed, the propagation of erroneous genealogies has escalated at an alarming rate.

We now have thousands of new researchers who have very limited genealogical or historical skills and are unable to determine if a genealogical source is true or false.  They conclude that the old-fashioned way of researching cemetery and courthouse records is unnecessary.  Many of these people will take published lines and republish them on the Internet or in book format, as their own, without giving any thought whatsoever as to their validity (and also without giving proper credit to the originator).

Gustave Anjou was not the only perpetrator of fraudulent genealogies, but he may have been the most prolific.  He lived from 1863-1942 and produced a phenomenal number of genealogies in the United States.  He was born in Sweden, and after serving a prison term there for forgery, he came to this country in 1890.  Anjou did genealogical "research" for wealthy clients who could pay his exorbitant fee of up to $9,000.  His reports took approximately three weeks and included elaborate genealogical charts, a coat of arms, and a surname history.  His clients were very pleased with his work, especially since he typically tied them into European royalty.  One pleased client generated several more and he soon became quite wealthy.  He could whip out a genealogy at such a rapid rate because he was making up the details. He invented births, deaths, and wills to tie into well-documented lines.  He gave sources such as wills, marriages, and parishes that never existed. In those days not much thought was given to verifying his work.  It wasn't until years later when records were more readily available that it was determined that ALL of Anjou's works were fraudulent.  It has been estimated that there may be as many as 2,000 different lines that have been tainted by Mr. Anjou’s work alone.  The sad fact is that those records have been passed on for years to unwary clients and then to researchers who believed they had a true lineage. They in turn republished the material in their own works and the cycle continues even today.

It has been estimated that somewhere close to 55% of all posted lines on the Internet are incorrect, though not all can be contributed to Anjou.  Every genealogical library owns books with genealogies built upon Anjou's fraudulent work, though not necessarily under his name.  That is why we must warn researchers not to accept a genealogy that is just handed to them -- whether in book form or from the Internet.  Each and every detail must be searched and proven through original sources.  It is important to realize that the Internet is not a source.  A published family history is not a source.  The New England family histories published in the late 1800s are extremely bad.  You cannot determine a false entry just by looking at it, so every piece of information must be researched through original sources and proven beyond doubt.

This information and much more, including specific surname histories can be found at http://familychronicle.com/Fraudulent.html

Next, we consider some of the shady activities that continue within our current time frame.  Well-known genealogy author, lecturer, and consultant Dick Eastman has done some detective work in this area, and his report is of interest to some of us who remember those "too good to be true" entries into genealogy.  The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at http://www.eogn.com.
Genealogy Scams
by Dick Eastman
A few years ago I wrote a number of articles about the infamous Halberts of Bath, Ohio. This company would send an advertisement for a book that claimed to be a "history of your family name." After paying about $40, the hapless purchaser received a cheaply made paperback containing a bit of generic "how to get start tracing your family tree information" accompanied by listings from telephone books. Sadly, similar information was available online at no cost.

In August 1998 I even visited the address in Bath, Ohio that Halberts used, and I wrote about my trip in that week’s edition of this newsletter. I found no company named Halberts at that address. In fact, the address was simply a mail drop. All orders sent to that address in Bath, Ohio were actually forwarded to the parent company in nearby Akron. About a year after my on-site visit, Halberts folded. It gave layoff notices to all of its employees, sold the office furniture, and ceased operations. The company blamed "competition from the Internet" for its business failure. In my opinion, the competition was twofold: (1) the same information was available online at no charge, and (2) the Internet provides a great place for tracking such scams. Those who received the advertisements could easily go online to check Halberts’ reputation. All you had to do was to go to any search engine and enter the word "Halberts" to learn of the experiences of others. In fact, you can still do that today.

[CC Note:  A summary of the legal Cease and Desist Order against Halbert's can be found at http://www.family.crevier.org/links/halberts/ - this summary includes the list of seven conduct activities prohibited under the 1988 order, e.g.,

Under the supplemental order (Nov 1995), Halbert's was ordered to begin displaying prominently the following disclaimer on any advertising for surname related publications:

Of course, Halberts was not the only company with questionable business practices in this arena. Some of us still remember Beatrice Bailey. This lady sold products that were somewhat similar to those of Halberts. In her advertisement sent by mail to me, she would sign her name as "Beatrice Eastman Bailey." In a letter sent to someone named Smith, she would sign her name as "Beatrice Smith Bailey," and in an advertisement sent to someone named Williams she would sign as "Beatrice Williams Bailey." Beatrice Bailey apparently was a one-person operation. She was under investigation by postal authorities when she died.

Other companies have continued to sell "products" that claim to contain genealogy value, but that, in fact, have little genealogy information in them. The brave new world of the Internet has been a haven for honest entrepreneurs and dishonest scam artists alike. New scams have arisen, and established scam artists have expanded into online operations. As always, spending money is a case of caveat emptor—"Let the buyer beware!"

There are several Web sites that track companies that sell questionable genealogy products and services. If you have any questions about an advertisement you receive, either in regular mail or by e-mail, I would suggest that you check the following.

Genealogy Scams in General

Specific Companies

I have received e-mail about the following companies; all have been mentioned as having questionable services. I have listed URLs where you can obtain further information:

I would caution anyone to be careful about "family coats of arms." In fact, in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and most of western Europe, there really is no such thing as a family coat of arms. In those countries, arms have always been awarded to individuals, not to families. Displaying a coat of arms that you are not authorized to use is a form of identity theft, even if you do happen to have the same last name as the original grantee. Any company offering to sell you a copy of "your family’s coat of arms" is selling a bogus product.

[CC Note:  One current on-line seller of "coats of arm" is www.houseofnames.com - try this experiment for yourself:  in your browser, open several taps {Crlt-T}; in each tab, do a Google search for a different surname Family Crest, e.g., Greenberg Family Crest, Blackledge Family Crest, Easterling Family Crest.   A page purporting to show that crest {and many related products!} will be obtained for each.  Then click back and forth between the resulting pages, and you'll see how little the artwork changes (color will change) between these "Family Crests."  And you can purchase a framed surname history and Coat of Arms for only $115.95.   Perhaps some of the surname history may be authentic, but the Coat of Arms?  Oh, I love these computer graphics!]

If you believe you have been the victim of a genealogy scam, you can do something about it!  If you purchased products or services from the above companies or any others that you feel did not live up to advertised claims, demand a refund! If your money is not returned within 30 days or so from a U.S. company, submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection.  A few letters of inquiry from the federal government will send a strong message to the people who produce products or services of questionable value.

You also might want to warn other genealogists and tell them of your experiences. You can post a message to others in the "Scams and Fraud" section of CompuServe’s Genealogy Techniques Forum message board.

The National Genealogy Society (N.G.S.) said the following in one of their articles, "Millions of people buy these products, hoping they will learn something about their own family histories. However, people with the same last name do not necessarily belong to the same family or share ancestors."

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Genealogy Scams and Hoaxes, Part 2 May 2009
Last Quarterly's Computer Corner looked at Myths, Hoaxes, and Scams and featured the Special Collection Library's own Gail Rasmussen providing some historical perspective with hoaxes such as those false histories that Gustave Anjou perpetrated over decades.  The second look featured well known genealogy author and consultant Dick Eastman with some detective work of his own, uncovering current-day hoaxes such as the infamous Halbert's of Bath, OH.  We conclude the series with this article by Judith Rosen that shows forensic genealogists at work.  The article was originally published in Publishers Weekly, January 12, 2009.  Our thanks to Independent Book Publisher Don Tubesing for providing this article:
Does Publishing Need Genealogists?
by Judith Rosen

Genealogist is not a typical publishing title, yet forensic genealogy, best known for tracking down heirs, played a key role in unmasking two of 2008’s biggest publishing hoaxes: Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust and Herman Rosenblat’s Angel at the Fence. Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon Sargeant worked on both cases pro bono, largely because when they learned about them—the Defonseca story came from former U.S. publisher Jane Daniels’s blog, Rosenblat from Holocaust expert Deborah Lipstadt’s blog—they knew they could bring resolution to the controversy that surrounded each story.

    Their research uncovered baptismal and school records proving that Defonseca didn’t escape the Holocaust by running with wolves. She didn’t need to; her father was a Nazi collaborator.  And if Defonseca had denied the evidence, Fitzpatrick and Sargeant were prepared to use DNA, which, along with photographs and archival records, are a forensic genealogist’s stock in trade. “I almost feel disappointed that Misha confessed,” wrote Fitzpatrick on her IdentiFinders.com Web site. “I was looking forward to identifying her through DNA.”

    Although there is no question that Herman Rosenblat was a concentration camp survivor, his memoir also turned out to be a work of fiction.  According to Michigan State University professor Ken Waltzer, figuring out the real Rosenblat story was "truly a team effort.  Sharon and Colleen found crucial information about the two families, discovered additional people we could interview and additional evidence that pointed to serious contextual issues in the case.  We wedded the methods of forensic genealogy and social history to discover a publishing fraud.”

    Why did Fitzpatrick, a former rocket scientist with a Ph.D. in physics, and Sargeant, whose background is also in science and technology, succeed where editors and fact checkers did not? For Fitzpatrick, it’s a matter of looking at a book in context. “We were successful because we weren’t simply fact checking; we were investigating apparent inconsistencies in each narrative within the larger story of the Holocaust. We take the facts and draw meaningful information. Are the facts consistent? What’s the big picture? Michael Crichton writes terrific fiction. Yet what’s exciting is the way he incorporates nonfiction into it.  Herman’s story itself, if all this had come out ahead of time, would have been billed as historical fiction and would have been strengthened.”

    Another issue, especially after a book comes out, is getting media attention.  “Defonseca’s two childhood friends tried to say for 10 years that she was a fraud,” said Sargeant.  “It’s not just a question of can you prove it. Can you get people to pay attention?” Although there had been murmurings online for years about the veracity of Rosenblat’s love story, it took Waltzer’s team and Gabriel Sherman’s reporting in the New Republic to persuade Berkley to cancel Angel at the Fence and Lerner to recall its fall children’s edition, Angel Girl. As another example, Sargeant cites Dawn Bailiff’s 2007 memoir, Notes from a Minor Key, which publisher Hampton Roads continues to market as nonfiction, despite a debunking by the Wilmington News Journal early last year.

    But can publishers afford a genealogist?  Fitzpatrick said that a “sanity check” early on in a project might cost only a few thousand dollars and could provide important information before the book comes out.  Although the book projects they’ve taken on fall under the category of “misery lit,” Fitzpatrick and Sargeant said that other works of nonfiction could benefit from a genealogical review, particularly histories, biographies and autobiographies.

    Sargeant and Fitzpatrick are continuing to research the Rosenblat case and anticipate that more information will become public. They are also looking into another international bestseller, not a Holocaust memoir, but declined to discuss it.  However, that’s not their only brush with publishing. In 2005, Fitzpatrick cofounded Rice Book Press, which has published three of her books: Forensic Genealogy (2005), DNA & Genealogy (2005) and The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone (2008).
—Judith Rosen
CC:  To read more about Sargeant and Fitzpatrick and their genealogical success in researching this hoax, Google for Sharon Sargeant genealogist hero

Sidebar:  Family Tree Maker 2008

Recall that Computer Corner provided a column or two in 2007 on comparison of different genealogy software programs.  Twenty-year genealogy researcher Bob Lackey from Athens, GA found the AGS web site and provided these comments:

   "It's evident that your AGS members are very active and I can see why.   I used Google to search for "how to" set up a genealogy web site and your Computer Corner popped up.  I was so impressed with your simplicity that I spent several hours exploring The Albuquerque Genealogical Society site.
   "Congratulations on your Computer Corner articles.  I'm amazed at how you can turn complex projects into such simple tasks!!! ... I've bookmarked your site and I'm sure I'll return often.
   "By the way,... you may want to warn your readers not to waste their money on the 2008 version of Family Tree Maker -- it's a dud.  So bad that The Generations Network provided all registered users with a free copy of the much improved 2009 version.  I was surprised that so few of your members use FTM.
   "FTM 2008 was so bad (a complete rewrite by TGN) that I continued to use the 2006 program upgraded to version 16.  Even though FTM 2009 is much improved, I still plan to use the updated 2006 version 16 until all the bugs have been fixed and the 2010 version is issued. "

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Books & Snippets   August 2009

In May 2006 Quarterly's Computer Corner looked at the search engine Google and some of its many free features that should prove helpful to genealogists, to include Google Maps, Desktop Google, Google Picasa, Google definitions and conversion.  We also presented an introductory look at a new feature at the time, Google Books.  That "Beta" feature is long since mainstream and deserves another look by all researchers.   

Books continue to give the impression of a solid source in the quest for genealogists obtaining citations to validate facts.  Certainly books appear more reliable than an on-line database or an e-mail message from a cousin.  Even in articles in Wikipedia.org, the free on-line encyclopedia, books are considered a much more reliable source than another Wikipedia article, since the latter can be edited and modified frequently and relatively easily.  [This has been famously demonstrated by the comedian Stephen Colbert who urged his audience to find the Wikipedia entry on elephants and create an entry that stated their population had tripled in the last six months, a fact he freely stated to not know if it was "actually true."   And of course scores of internet users took Colbert's bait, editing some 20 articles on elephants before being locked out.  Meanwhile, Colbert took credit for single-handedly "saving the elephant"!]

But books by definition are hard-copy, right?  Well, they used to be ... now they are in digital form, found in our Special Collections Library as scanned by Hugh Bivens and associates, and in libraries everywhere as scanned images that can be searched.

Back in 2006, Google’s Book Search was rather controversial due to questions of copyright, e.g., “fair use.”  However last fall a settlement was reached between the publishing industry and Google after two years of negotiation.  Google agreed to compensate authors and publishers in exchange for the right to make millions of books available to the public.  Google Book Search today offers over seven million books on-line and searchable to help genealogists and others in their family history research.

Meanwhile, even during the lawsuit, major university libraries were “volunteering” their collections to be scanned into the Google meta-library.  In 2006 alone, The University of California System, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Wisconsin Historical Society, and the University of Virginia all joined the Book Search digitization project.  University of Virginia library by itself holds more than five million volumes and more than 17 million manuscripts, rare books and archives.  Closer to home, the University of Texas at Austin signed on in 2007.

Critics abound in our society and some project critics attacked Book Search as too prejudiced in favor of English language texts.  Perhaps in answer, in 2006, the Complutense University of Madrid, among the oldest universities in the world and the top public university in Spain, became the first Spanish-language library to join the Google Books Library Project. The next year, The Bavarian State Library announced a partnership with Google to scan more than a million public domain and out-of-print works in German as well as English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.  And the books go on.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, which at one time seemed poised to become a major competitor to Google in this area, last year began to taper off and now plans to end its scanning project which reached 750,000 books and 80 million journal articles.  Whereas last December, Google announced the inclusion of magazines in Google Book Search.  Initial titles include New York Magazine, Ebony, and Popular Mechanics.  Where indeed will it end … perhaps someday we’ll be looking up our old High School yearbooks on Google (to a slight degree many of us already can – try it!)

How Does It Work?
So how do we genealogists take advantage of this vast and every growing resource?  The same way you would do a search on Google – but from the book search engine at http://books.google.com (if you forget this URL, just go to your regular Google search page and under more the drop-down menu presents Books as your second choice).    Enter a surname or whatever you wish and see what comes up.   Book Search works just like web search.  When Google finds a book with content that contains a match for your search terms, it will be linked in your search results. If the book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given Google permission, you'll be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text.  If it's in the public domain, you're free to download a PDF copy.

It’s fun to just search on your own.  However, being a genealogist, you’d prefer an index, right?  An index (of sorts) exists already, put together by “Jennifer,” a well-organized blogger and perhaps Cyndi-wannabee.  Jennifer says:
“I don't know if you are like me, but there are times when I find the interface to Google Book Search to be somewhat awkward.
 “In order to alleviate this somewhat, I have started developing an index to books and journals of genealogical interest from Google Books. These are only the full view items (those you can read and browse in their entirety), since those are the ones I find the most useful. This is still a work in progress.
“Right now I have almost completed the county histories for the United States (love those biographical sketches!), and there are some sundry other items I have found along the way thrown in.

 “Check back for more updates and more fine-tuning of the page. I hope to eventually have a sort of genealogy catalog of Google Books!”
You can check out Jennifer’s index, which is sorted by state and by surname, at http://www.rainydayresearch.com/googlebooks.html
Google obtains its books through two different sources: its Partner Program and its Library Project.  One interesting point for genealogists who have already published something and want to get it known to other genealogists who may be interested in your research: Partner Program can help.  If you are the author or the copyright holder, you can find out more how to do this at https://books.google.com/partner/

What you will see when you get a “hit” on Google Book Search is one of four views of the book:  Full View, Limited Preview, Snippet View, or the dreaded No Preview Available.

Full View: This is the Google Books jackpot.  Along with complete search visibility, you can see books in Full View if the book is out of copyright, or if the publisher or author has asked to make the book fully viewable. The Full View allows you to view any page from the book, and if the book is in the public domain, you can download, save and if desired, print a PDF version to read at your own pace.  See the “Geronimo” image in this article (or on the AGS website) for an example of a Full View display.

Limited Preview: Here the publisher or author has given Google permission to display a limited number of pages from the book as a preview.  Similar to Amazon.com’s “Look Inside The Book” display but better because you can still do your complete search.

Snippet View: The Snippet View, like a card catalog, shows information about the book plus a few snippets – a few sentences to display your search term in context.  Here are some example snippets while searching for Blackledge; the book is The Horn papers which is only available in Snippet view:

No Preview Available: Sorry, but you don’t get much more.  At least you know this reference exists, and like a card catalog, you're able to see basic information about the book such as author, publisher, date, and number of pages.

For the first three book views described above, Google also gives you the bonus features which it does so easily: any reviews of the book that have been posted, key words and phrases in the book, web references to the book, links to places to purchase the book, a map showing all the locations that are mentioned in the book (mouse-over to see the name of each place and a page number reference), and links to related books under Google Book Search.

As you have read elsewhere in this Quarterly, some of our colleagues just returned from Allen County Library.  Don’t be like some of my friends who say things like, “Oh, I tried PERSI once and didn’t find anything” – please realize:  Google Book Search, like PERSI, is changing, increasing, more available to you every day. Seven million books is quite a range already.  Now you are ready to research – hit that Google Book Search and let us know what you find!

http://rainydayresearch.com/googlebooks.html  Jennifer’s Index of Genealogy references found in Full View under Google Book Search
http://books.google.com/support/   General help page for Google Book Search
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Books    Wikipedia article on Google Book Search which includes history, partners, copyright infringement and related issues

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  7:  A Gift for Genealogists   November 2009
This Computer Corner [CC] focuses on Windows 7, the new operating system just released by Microsoft.  CC does not claim to be an expert on Windows operating systems, however he has impersonated one at AGS meetings.
Faithful readers of this column know that the author has no love for Windows Vista operating system.  Well, Ding-Dong, The Wicked Witch is Dead!  Deceased date:  22 October 2009, when Microsoft placed Windows 7 on sale.  (Actually, Vista, like other leftover Halloween zombies, is still out there walking around, not really dead — however, there is no longer a reason to be forced to take Vista as your operating system on a new PC.) 
Windows 7 is the latest version of Microsoft Windows, a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers such as your home desktop and laptop.  Windows 7 general retail availability began October 22, 2009, less than three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows Vista.   This column was never a big fan of Vista — and fortunately Windows 7 does not carry the same stigma.  You may or may not want to upgrade from Windows XP, nevertheless this column is to assist in your recognition of 7 as an improvement, certainly over Vista and in several areas over XP as well.

Here are some things to know about Windows 7:

Unlike its predecessor Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 is intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being fully compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista is already compatible.

Bill Gates, in an interview with Newsweek during the early Vista days, suggested that the next version of Windows would "be more user-centric."  Gates later said that Windows 7 would also focus on performance improvements.  Microsoft still claims that improvement focus.

Windows 7 includes a number of new features, several of which genealogists should find useful:
I know a few who will like this: Internet Spades, Internet Backgammon and Internet Checkers, which were removed from Windows Vista, were restored in Windows 7.
One of the best improvements in Windows 7 is the search capability.  Do you have an e-mail system that has this feature: when you start typing someone's name in the To: area, several name possibilities are suggested to you?  That is the way the Windows 7 search function works.  Ed Bott describes it thusly:  "If Windows 7 has a killer feature, it’s search. ... you can find search boxes throughout Windows 7 — on the Start menu, in Control Panel, and in Windows Explorer. The indexed search is fast and accurate, in my experience, and the indexing process itself is barely noticeable in terms of performance. The best change, though, is the addition of the Search Builder, which replaces the clunky search forms from earlier versions and allows you to filter a results set by date, type, size, or an attribute that’s appropriate to a particular type of data such as music or photos."  [see Ed's video on the search function in 7 as referenced below].

Like most new operating system releases these days, there are several editions of Windows 7.  Windows 7 offers a fairly broad set of features common to all editions, with a progression of editions that is far more consistent than in Windows Vista or Windows XP.  For most users, I recommend Windows 7 Home Premium edition.  Lesser editions are Starter, and Home Basic editions.  Starter will allow you to perform most Windows tasks, but not (for example) view a DVD or change your desktop background.  Home Basic is for overseas markets and will not be sold in the US; it lacks "premium features" like Windows Media Center.

The Home Premium edition is the entry-level version for most consumers.  Above Home Premium are the more expensive Professional (known as Business Edition under Vista) and the Ultimate and Enterprise editions.  One interesting feature available with these three more expensive editions is the ability to run XP Mode as a 'virtual machine' on your Windows 7 desktop.  This would allow you to operate any applications that have trouble upgrading to Windows 7.  However, for home users, I consider this not to be worth the additional cost.  [Note that Microsoft did not bother to create a Vista Mode!]  Home Premium software DVD lists for $200, with Home Premium Upgrade for $120.  As a comparison, the Windows 7 Professional package lists for $300 with upgrade package at $200.  Windows Vista Home Premium listed for $130.

Here are some questions that may be in your mind as they were in mine:

Q:  Why won't Windows 7 be an early-on nightmare like Vista?  An answer from Ed Bott, analyst with ZDNet.com:  "Here's one big reason:  drivers.  [Note: drivers are programs that determine how a computer will communicate with a peripheral device such as a scanner or a printer.]  Back in early 2007, when Windows Vista shipped, hardware makers were struggling to keep up.  Early releases of some drivers were unbearably bad, and it took about six to eight months after Vista’s launch for a full selection of decent drivers to appear for many common devices.  Today, two weeks before the launch of Windows 7, the video drivers are ready and waiting."

Another big reason why there should be no "surprises" in Windows 7:  Ed reminds us, "At one point this summer, a well-informed source told me that Microsoft expected 8 million people to be actively participating in the Windows 7 beta program at its peak. [Note:  A beta version is a pre-release version of new software often made available over the Internet as freeware or shareware.  Beta version downloads of 7 are now no longer available.]  I imagine that several times that many computers are running it now.  If there were significant driver issues, we would have heard the screams by now.  But I’m hearing surprisingly few complaints."

Q:  Should I upgrade my XP system to Windows 7?  Answer:  in a word, No.  It is not a trivial task to upgrade a computer's operating system.  A longer answer: if you recently bought a computer, and had the system downgraded from Vista to run XP, yes, an upgrade to 7 makes sense.  However, if your computer is four to six years old, rather than upgrade, consider buying a new Windows 7 based computer.  It will be ready to go, and have features your current system lacks.

Q:  Where can I learn more about Windows 7?   For an overview of Windows 7, see the Wiki article:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7   For the Microsoft overview tour, plus in-depth videos with screen shots, see: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/features/tour.aspx  You also might Google for a particular feature, such as Windows 7 Aero Peek. And amazon.com has some informative screens and videos for new features.  For more screen shots and excellent analysis, see Ed Bott's blog at:  Blogs.ZDNet.com/Bott

Summary:  Perhaps the Mac vs. PC ads will not have such an easy target now!  (and I still like the Mac ... and the ads.  And yes, Windows 7 can run on a Macbook Pro.)  If you have been holding off buying that new PC because of concern about Windows Vista, wait no longer.  Windows 7 should delight you as a genealogist and as a computer user.

  In celebration of the demise of Vista, follow-on columns will present seven (7 — get it?) software gifts for genealogists.  Gifts may include (free) applications already developed for Windows 7, such as 7stacks.  7stacks is an easy to use, free app that lets Windows 7 (and Vista and XP) users have "stacks" of icons in their Taskbar (in 7) or QuickLaunch Toolbar (in Vista and XP). By using stacks, users can reduce icon clutter, and combine a group of related icons into a single icon. For instance, if you use application suites such as Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or Adobe CS4, you can have all the suite's icons combined into one icon!  If you know of other free/shareware programs that have proved useful to you as a genealogist, please send the description to Mike@Blackledge.com to allow the possible sharing in future CC columns.

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  Easy Squeazy Genealogy Movie    February 2010

In the Fall of 2009, the AGS was treated to a presentation by Lisa Witt of Avista Video on “Getting Grandpa to Talk” – suggestions and examples of creating a video/oral history of your family.  In this Computer Corner, we will walk you through how to create and publish a very simple "movie" (actually more of a slide show) for free from the photos and information you have collected in your research  - perhaps this will inspire you to sign up for a professional video service, or perhaps this will give you enough to share with your family for now.  In any event, this article discusses Windows Movie Maker, a software program which you almost certainly already have on your PC (or if you have a Macintosh, you have the equivalent).  The author had to go on a cruise to learn that we already have Movie Maker on our PCs, thus this article will save you at least $3000.

In this article, you will learn how to turn your research and photos into a snazzy slide show that has movie-like qualities - think Ken Burns documentary.  I recommend you take this article and these instructions to your PC and work up a 'sample' movie with Microsoft Windows Movie Maker.  You will find that Movie Maker can create genealogy (or any subject) “movies” fairly easily — you will know what you have as you can preview your results right away.  You can easily import ancestor photos, add and edit related video footage; make titles, credits, and captions; create scene transitions; add soundtracks and voiceovers; and premiere your movie on CD, DVD, or the Web.  You can upload the final product at YouTube.com - for a quick view at what such a movie might look like, do a search at YouTube.com for Blackledge Family and click on the first video in the resulting list.

The main features in Windows Movie Maker are effects, transitions, titles/credits, audio track, time line narration and auto movie. A video transition decides how the movie plays from one clip to the next one, video effect determines how a video clip, picture or title is displayed in the movie, titles/credits are for adding text based information to the the movie and the auto movie feature helps to create a movie quickly with pre defined effects and transitions.

Using the Movie Maker software

Movie Maker is included with the bundled updates to Windows XP and with all versions of Windows Vista.  Additionally you can always download this program at http//www.microsoft.com/downloads/    For Windows 7, Microsoft has available a new version of this software called Windows Live Movie Maker. Check the programs under Accessories - with Windows 7 you should have Windows Live Movie Maker already available on your computer.  If not, you can download as above.  For this article, we will use the commands from Movie Maker 5.1 - if you have a newer version, the programs are similar enough that this article should get you going to produce your video.

Photo preparation
This article assumes you already have your genealogy photos scanned in and available to you as JPEG files.  To remind you how to do that, see the article on Scanners in a previous Computer Corner.  If you have complex pages of text such as a Family Tree Chart, you may need to scan them in and use them as an image.  You can use any photo editor to crop or otherwise prepare your photos after scanning them in.

Getting Started:  Choosing photos for your movie
From the Windows start button, click on All Programs, then Accessories, then Windows Movie Maker.. A storyboard will be generated.  From the Movie Tasks menu down the left side, click on 1. Capture Video to drop down more menu choices, then:
Note:  at any time, you can click on the Play button (right arrow) to "play" your movie as it exists so far.

Adding effects to your movie
Effects are special ways to view your photos, such as changing the photo from color to Black and White or sepia. These effects are already included in Movie Maker and you can select the ones you want.  You can preview all available effects by clicking View video effects from the left side-bar menu under 2. Edit Movie. Click on the effect thumbnail you want to see and then push the play arrow on small screen in the upper right corner.  To add the effect to one of your photos, you can drag it and drop it on the photo, or alternatively: 
Note:   don't forget to 'save' your movie from time to time.

Adding transitions to your movie
Transitions are ways to proceed from one photo to the next.  This is what gives your slide show/movie a professional look and feel, not unlike what Ken Burns does with his Civil War photos. You can preview all available transitions by clicking on the transition thumbnail and then pushing play arrow on small screen in the upper right corner.  To select the transition you want (you can use different transitions between different photos):
Adding a title to your movie
Note:  you can also add 'titles' (i.e., text) anywhere in the movie, even on top of any photo.

Adding credits to your movie (usually at the end)
Fade into an effect in your slide show
A favorite technique for your slide shows!
1. Drag two of the same picture in the storyboard, side by side
2. Drag basic fade transition between the two pictures
3. Drag favorite effect(s) onto the second of the two pictures

Add music to your slide show

It is easier than you might think. Your PC already comes with some sample music, or you can import your own choices.
1. From top menu, click Import audio or music
2. Click Music
3. Select one or more songs to import into your Movie Maker project
4. Above the storyboard, click Show Storyboard
5. Click Timeline
6. Drag the music file into the second row of the timeline (Audio/Music)

Publishing your slide show to the Web

There are many places on the Web where you can post your video for free.  Two choices are your Windows Live Spaces page or to YouTube.com. Windows Live Spaces (previously MSN Spaces) is Microsoft's blogging and Social Networking platform.  Posting a slide show on a web page takes two easy steps, as described below: "publishing" the slide show to your computer, and then posting to the web.
1.  When you’re finished making your slide show, click 3. Finish Movie (called Publish Movie in newer versions), then Save to my computer (now "Publish to this computer").
2.  Using your Internet browser, go to video.msn.com (or better yet, YouTube.com):
This article has been an introduction to the use of Microsoft Movie Maker, a free software program available on the PC.  The software has additional features that were not covered here such as: 
To learn about any of the additional features:
Visit http://www.microsoft.com/windows/guides/ for step-by-step guides that walk you through many of the Movie Maker features covered in Computer Corner.  If you search YouTube.com for Movie Maker, you will locate some videos showing how to use this software.  Once you try out this free software, email Mike@Blackledge.com with the URL of your Genealogy Movie - it may be referenced in a later Computer Corner column. 

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