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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Standard Edition

A Weekly Summary of Events and Topics of Interest to Online Genealogists

Vol. 8 No. 20 Ė May 19, 2003

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Copyright© 2003 by Richard W. Eastman. All rights reserved.


- Ordering Programs Mentioned in this Newsletter
- (+) How to Select a Genealogy Program
- Family Historian Genealogy Program
- (+) The Myth of Ellis Island Name Changes
- Spreadsheets and the Dates They Sort
- U.K. National Archives Launched
- Your Family Tree Magazine
- Finding Your Roots Online: Book Review
- GENTECH Tech Session at NGS Conference in Pittsburgh
- Win a Free Handheld Computer at the NGS Conference
- Minnesota Historical Society Funding Cut Proposal
- GenSeekers Scam (Again)
- Comment on Spam Mail Advertising
- Spammer Arrested, Charged With Felony
- Jedi Religion on Canadian Census Returns
- Real Beverly Hillbillies
- New Books

Items marked with a Plus Sign (+) appear only in the Plus Edition newsletter.

Theory of relativity: If you go back far enough, we're all related.

- Ordering Programs Mentioned in this Newsletter

I often describe programs that can be downloaded online. Some of these require downloading files of 5 or 10 megabytes or more. In fact, my recent review of KNOPPIX, the easy-to-use Linux implementation, requires downloading a 660-megabyte file! This may not be an issue for people using a DSL or cable modem broadband connection, but not everyone has that capability. The majority of people reading this newsletter apparently are using 56-Kbaud or slower dial-up modems. Downloading a multi-megabyte file is not an easy thing to do on a dial-up modem. As for that 660-megabyte file, wellÖ nobody on a dial-up connection is going to do that.

A few of these programs, such as KNOPPIX, also require a CD-ROM writer to create the installation disk. Not everyone has such a writer or the proper software to write ISO image disks. Therefore, I am announcing a new service for newsletter readers.

Starting now, many programs mentioned in this newsletter that involve the download of large files will be made available on CD-ROM to newsletter readers for the modest price of $5.00 each. That price even includes shipping to any address in the United States.

Anyone outside the U.S. who would like one of these CD-ROM disks should first send an e-mail to asking for a quote that includes the extra postage. I'll warn you, however, that you can probably find someone in your own country who can perform the service and mail it to you for a lot less postage expense. Because of the postage expenses involved, I suspect this service will be attractive primarily to U.S. residents.

The service is already working and has supplied copies of a program mentioned in last week's Plus Edition newsletter. In addition, I am now prepared to ship copies of the following programs mentioned in recent newsletters:

KNOPPIX 3.2, an easy-to-install version of Linux that runs from a CD-ROM drive. You do not need to make any changes to your Windows hard drive to use this program. You can read the review of KNOPPIX 3.2 at

GEDmark, a program that adds a new source citation to each record in a GEDCOM file. You can read the review of GEDmark at:

OpenOffice for Windows, a high-quality free substitute for Microsoft Office. This office suite includes a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation program, a graphics editor and more. Not bad for a free program!

PAF Insight for Windows, an add-on for Personal Ancestral File for Windows. You can read the review of this program at:

I hope to do the same for many programs I mention in future newsletters. Also, if you want a program that has been reviewed in a recent newsletter but is not mentioned above, send a note to and I'll see if it can be added to the "inventory."

I should insert some disclaimers here:

  1. This is a distribution service only. The $5.00 pays for the download, copying it to a CD-ROM disk, an envelope, and the postage to mail it to you. It does not represent any warranty or support of the program(s) involved.
  2. This service is only for those files where the producers allow such extra distribution service. This new service is being offered only for CD-ROM disks that are not available directly from the producer.
  3. You should realize that this is not much of a profit-making "business." In fact, $5.00 barely covers the expenses of postage, envelopes, blank CD-ROM disks, etc. This service is provided primarily to newsletter readers who cannot find a cheaper or more convenient source. A secondary goal is to not LOSE money. As such, I may raise or lower prices or even terminate the service at a later date.

Payment for the CD-ROM disks is handled by PayPal, the same service that handles the subscriptions for the Plus Edition of this newsletter. I have had excellent results with PayPal and know that their servers are highly secure. At the price of $5.00, I really cannot handle checks or money orders as that entails more labor. (With PayPal, I can even print the shipping labels directly without manually re-typing all the information. Manually handling checks adds to the labor costs.)

To order CD-ROM disks for any of the programs mentioned above, go to:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- (+) How to Select a Genealogy Program

This is a "preview" from a Plus Edition-only article that is available only to subscribers to the Plus Edition of this newsletter. To learn how to subscribe to the Plus Edition, go to

I am often asked, "Which is the best genealogy program?" The only correct answer is, "It all depends upon your needs and interests." However, I thought I would offer some suggestions to help you decide which one is the best program for you, both for Windows and for Macintosh.

End of "preview."

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[Return to Table of Contents]

- Family Historian Genealogy Program

Family Historian is an excellent Windows genealogy program from England. Author Simon Orde recently released a significant new upgrade to the program, version 2.1. I had a chance to talk with Simon at the recent Family History Fair in London, and he described the new features to me. I also got a copy of the new version for myself.

Family Historian is unique in that it claims to be "100% GEDCOM compatible." To be sure, other genealogy programs claim to produce files that comply with the GEDCOM standard. However, Family Historian is the only Windows program I know of that actually uses a GEDCOM file as its database.

"100% GEDCOM compatible" means that Family Historian can load all records and fields (or "tags," as they are called in GEDCOM) from a GEDCOM (5.5) file ó including extensions that other genealogy programs add to GEDCOM. All other programs have their own internal database format and need to perform a translation when they export and import GEDCOM files. Family Historian does not need to import or export; it always used the GEDCOM file directly.

I have written in the past about the difficulties of transferring data by use of GEDCOM files. For details, see my recent "GEDCOM Explained" article at In that article, I wrote, "Translating from one programís database to GEDCOM is sort of the same as translating from one spoken language to another. The basics work, but subtleties and details sometimes do not translate well." Family Historian eliminates that translation: its database is a GEDCOM file! Therefore, I would expect Family Historian to exhibit fewer problems when copying genealogy data to and from other programs.

Storing a programís database as a GEDCOM file opens up many possibilities. There are many third-party utilities available these days to sort, filter, and manipulate GEDCOM files. There are programs to convert GEDCOM files to Web pages, although Family Historian can do that as well. Still other programs will look for errors in a GEDCOM file or will make "global search and replace" changes. I would expect all of these programs to work with Family Historianís database although I have not tested each one for compatibility.

To be sure, one other genealogy program also used GEDCOM files for its database: Lifelines, a program that runs on UNIX, Linux, and Windows, also stored its data in GEDCOM format. However, Lifelines has been rather awkward to use, especially for genealogy or computer novices. It never achieved much popularity, and the author stopped supporting it several years ago. To my knowledge, Family Historian for Windows is the only currently supported program that stores its data in GEDCOM format. The GEDCOM standard was created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and yet even their own genealogy programs for Windows and Macintosh do not use GEDCOM files as a database.

Installing Family Historian 2.1 was easy; I inserted the CD-ROM disk into my computer and followed the instructions that appeared on the screen. A minute or so later the program was installed and ready to use. I didn't even have to re-boot the computer, something that is required by so many other Windows programs' installation routines.

I started by entering information about myself, my descendants, and a couple of generations of my ancestors. I found the data entry method to be easy and intuitive; I was never at a loss for the correct place to enter data. Family Historian allows you to save all the basic information one expects in a genealogy program: names along with dates and places of birth, death, baptism, marriage, divorce, etc. It also encourages the user to enter information about the source where the information was found.

Family Historian is a very visual program. It can operate in text mode, but most of the time I prefer to use the diagrams. In this method, you always view pedigree or descendant charts on the screen, complete with images, if any have been stored. Describing this mode of operation is a bit difficult. I'd suggest that you look at the screenshot at to see what I mean. I found the use of these diagrams to be very intuitive, much more so than a number of other genealogy programs I have used.

I spent a lot of time with the diagrams. This feature not only has a pleasing appearance, but it also allows you to navigate around the family tree quickly and easily. By using the various options available in the "All relatives" diagram, I was able to quickly zoom in and out among ancestors, descendants, cousins, brothers-in-law, and more. If you want to edit the information about a person, you simply double-click on the personís "box" in the diagram to open an editing window. Diagrams can be viewed on the screen or printed to any Windows-compatible printer or plotter. I was able to print some very nice-looking diagrams on a low-cost inkjet printer.

I was very impressed with the speed of these diagrams. Clicking on specific icons made new generations appear almost instantly. There is no way that I can describe this operation in words; all I can say is that everything seemed to appear in a flash. Considering that the data was always being read from a GEDCOM file, this is impressive performance indeed.

Since I already had a GEDCOM file containing information about 3,000+ of my ancestors and relatives, I told Family Historian to open that file. The data appeared almost instantly on the screen, unlike the lengthy GEDCOM import process of many other genealogy programs. This is another advantage of Family Historian: you can store your own data in GEDCOM format, and you can also use the same program to quickly and easily examine other GEDCOM files that you receive from relatives or download from the Internet.

Family Historian is also one of the best programs I have seen for comparing and merging together two or more GEDCOM files. A number of other programs can merge files, but on a record-by-record basis. Family Historian uses a different approach: it allows you to do a full file merge so that you make all the decisions about how the files are to be merged. Even more important, before you start any of the merge process, you can see exactly what the outcome of will be. If you wish, you can leave everything to Family Historian, or you can view how Family Historian proposes to do the merge and override any aspect of it in any way you like. If you prefer, you can do everything yourself manually, using the information provided in the compare process.

Family Historian has a section for each individual, called "Events & Attributes." You can record full details of any events in the lives of the individuals or families in your files. Family Historian comes with a large number of pre-defined events for you to select from (birth, death, baptism, marriage, divorce, etc.), but you can easily create any new event types that you wish and use them exactly like standard events. Attributes are facts about a person, such as their religion, where they lived, what they did. Again, Family Historian comes with a large number of standard attributes, but you can easily add your own. For instance, Family Historian has no built-in support for medical history. However, if you want to add that information, you can easily do so. Itís a simple task to add whatever attributes and events you need. Keep in mind that the events and attributes you add will indeed be stored in the GEDCOM file, but other programs that later read your GEDCOM may not be able to interpret your additional attributes. The GEDCOM standard allows for adding newly-created events and attributes but specifically states that such information may not be recognized by other programs.

Family Historian has excellent support for source citations as well as for notes and documents. Events, attributes, and a number of other data items can each have multiple source citations. Unlike a number of other genealogy programs, Family Historian only requires each citation to be entered once. You can then link that single citation to as many events as you wish. You can also have as many text notes as you wish for each individual in the database. Best of all, you can even write one note and have it linked to multiple individuals. Updating the text in that one note obviously then results in updated information appearing in all instances. As if that were not enough, you can also link your records to external documents, written with your favorite word processor. These documents can remain as separate entities or can be embedded into your family tree file and printed in the various reports, as you wish.

Each person can have an unlimited number of spouses, children, sets of parents, pictures, multimedia, notes, source citations, and so on. You can store multiple, versions of most items of data, such as names, dates, places, etc., even possibly conflicting versions; and, you can assess the reliability of each version.

Family Historian has excellent support of pictures and multimedia. Not only can you add as many pictures as you like for each person, but you can also add a group picture once and link it to each person in the picture. You can even link each person to their own face in the picture, and show just faces in diagrams without having to "crop" your pictures. The original image is stored only once and then is linked to as many people as you wish with each personís image "electronically cropped" as appropriate. You can also add sounds, video, and any other kind of multimedia. You can even add links to other family tree files. You can also print pictures of sources, and even source citations, alongside the source listings if you wish to.

One item that I used a lot is the Query Engine. In fact, its power did not become apparent to me until I started making some rather unusual and complex queries. A "query" allows you to extract whatever data you want from your family tree file. For example, you could use a query to get any of the following information:

  • What were the ages at death of X's ancestors in the 19th Century?
  • What boysí names have been used by the descendants of Y?
  • Who are your relatives and what are the 5 closest ways that you are related to each of them (if you are related to them more than once)?

Family Historian comes with a set of standard queries, but you can easily create your own to get whatever information you want from your data. Every query can be displayed in a spreadsheet-like grid, printed as a report, output to a file, or copied to the clipboard for easy transfer to other programs (such as a word-processor or spreadsheet). Queries can also be used in other ways. For example, if you wished to split a family tree file, you could use a query to define the split. You might also run a query to select pictures to view (e.g. show me all pictures of the female descendants of person X). Because users can create their own custom queries and all queries can be printed as reports, the user can easily create his or her own custom reports.

Family Historian version 2.1 also includes a new Reports Menu, a new Reports Window and 17 New Reports, all of which were not available in the earlier releases. The new reports include:

  • Individual Summary Report
  • Family Group Sheet
  • Ancestor Outline
  • Descendant Outline
  • Source Summary Report
  • Individual Census Report
  • List Report
  • ...and many more, including record detail reports which include all the data in a given record.

All reports can be saved in HTML (World Wide Web) format, RTF (Rich Text Format - supported by word-processors such as Microsoft Word, OpenOffice and WordPerfect), or plain text. The reports are fully configurable. You can create custom reports, using any existing report as a template.

The Reports Window allows you to preview any report and browse it online. While doing so, you can switch back to any other Family Historian window without having to close the Reports Window. You can even have multiple Report Windows open at the same time if you want to. You can change almost every aspect of a report "on the fly." For example, while viewing the report, you can change the style, format, page layout, and the content (which fields are displayed, etc.) within the Report Options dialog, and watch the report immediately reflect your changes when you click "Apply." You can change which records are selected for the report and even change the actual data upon which the report is based (e.g. if you spot a mistake) - all without having to close the Reports Window. If the underlying data is changed, the window will update immediately to display the new changed data. You will be required to refresh the report by clicking on "Rebuild Report" once, before you actually print it, however.

Most Family Historian reports can display information for multiple records. There is a new Record Selector Dialog to help you select records for reports. The Record Selector Dialog lets you select records from a normal records list or from Named Lists. It also lets you use queries to select the records you want ("queries" are stored instructions for retrieving data - you can create your own or use standard ones).

Anyone using the earlier version 2.0 of Family Historian will be pleased to learn of other new enhancements, including:

  • A New Facility for Creating Named Lists - create lists of records for various purposes. For example, you might want a list of bookmarks, a list of work-in-progress records, a list of key people or famous people, a ToDo list - or even specifically, a ToDo list for a given planned trip to a particular record office. Family Historian now lets you create as many lists of records as you like.

  • A New Tools Menu Facility to allow you to Re-order out of Sequence Data - Using this facility, you can re-order any out-of-sequence events/attributes, children, spouses, and LDS ordinances within your file. You can either let Family Historian do them all in one go, or ask for confirmation before each record is re-ordered. You can also manually re-order events/attributes in the Events tab of the Property Dialog (new button on toolbar to support this).

  • New Backup/Restore Facility - Backups are stored in ZIP format.

  • Fast-find Edit Controls for Name and/or Record ID in the Records Window - These controls are also available in most contexts where you need to select/find a record.

  • A Number of New Preferences Options

You can find a detailed list of "What's New in Family Historian 2.1?" at:

Family Historian ships with a 48-page printed Quick Start Tutorial booklet that gives a very good overview of the program, telling how to install the program, launch it, and use the more common features. The Quick Start Tutorial shows how to create a new Family Historian file and then enter information about people and the events in their lives. In addition, there is a complete userís manual in the form of an online document that is installed when you install Family Historian. You can either print this userís manual or read it on your screen. I prefer to not waste paper; I read manuals on the screen. The userís manual is a complete and comprehensive document that takes you through all of Family Historian's extensive functionality. I found the program to be intuitive, so I didnít find much need to read the userís manual. However, the few times that I did look at it, the manual seemed to be very complete as well as easy to use. In addition to the Quick Start Tutorial and the userís manual, there is also extensive, context-sensitive online help.

Family Historian runs under Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows NT4 or Windows XP. It will not run under Windows 3.1 or earlier versions of Windows. It also will not run under Windows NT3.51 or earlier versions of Windows NT.

Family Historian Version 2.1 has a retail price of £49.95 (approximately $82.00 in U.S. funds) although individual dealers may discount that price a bit. You can find a list of distributors of the program at: The upgrade to version 2.1 is free of charge to all users of Family Historian Version 2.0. You can download the upgrade at:

I found Family Historian version 2.1 to be a full-featured genealogy program that is a serious contender in an already crowded marketplace. Family Historian has all of the features that serious genealogists demand in a modern Windows program. It has excellent support of sources. It handles pictures and multimedia. Its printed and on-screen diagrams are excellent.

The biggest drawback of Family Historian is its price: roughly twice that of comparable programs produced in the U.S. The price will probably not be a factor in the U.K. marketplace, where purchasers have to add import duties and overseas shipping charges on top of the purchase price for American-produced software. By the time these extra charges are added, U.K. genealogists are used to paying £49.95 or more for a good genealogy program. Family Historian is produced in England, so European Union genealogists will not need to pay import duties. Shipping fees to England, Scotland, or Wales also should be modest. As a result, Family Historian should be quite competitive in that marketplace. However, I suspect the program will have a difficult time cracking the North American marketplace when sold for $82.00 (U.S. funds) plus shipping and import fees, if any.

If you would like to know more about Family Historian version 2.1, I would suggest that you take the "Web tour" available at: It shows many features of the program in operation.

A complete working demo version of Family Historian version 2.1 is also available from the producer's Web site. You can use the demo version to try out Family Historian for yourself. The demo version allows you to:

  • View and work with tutorial files that it provides, using all the facilities of Family Historian
  • View and work with your own family tree data, if you already have any. To do this, you will need to use your current family tree program to save your data as a GEDCOM (5.5) file.

The demo version has the following restrictions:

  • Any changes you make to either your own family tree data or to the Tutorial files cannot be saved from one session to the next.
  • You cannot print out diagrams or reports, save the results of queries, or transfer data to other programs.
  • A few features (Merge/Compare, Queries, the All Relatives diagram) are further restricted in that they can only be used in files which contain 100 Individual records or fewer.

For more information about Family Historian version 2.1, to take the Web Tour, or to download the demo, go to:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- (+) The Myth of Ellis Island Name Changes

This is a "preview" from a Plus Edition-only article that is available only to subscribers to the Plus Edition of this newsletter. To learn how to subscribe to the Plus Edition, go to

Many people believe that an ancestor changed his name at Ellis Island. However, that seems to be one more "urban legend" that is more myth than fact.

Immigrantsí surnames were changed thousands of times, but professional researchers have found that name changes were quite rare at Ellis Island (or at Castle Island, which was the New York port of entry prior to Ellis Island's opening). The myth of name changes usually revolves around the concept that the immigrant was unable to communicate properly with the English-speaking officials at Ellis Island. However, this ignores the fact that ...

End of "preview."

To read the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to the Plus Edition. If you subscribe today, you will receive this article. To learn how to subscribe to the Plus Edition, go to

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Spreadsheets and the Dates They Sort

Larry Naukam asked some questions this week that I could not answer. I am hoping that some newsletter readers can help:

The Mac ReunionTalk list has recently been discussing how to get Excel (or any other spreadsheet) to sort dates exported from a genealogy program. I just finished writing a letter to a gentleman in the Netherlands about this, and to cut to the chase, unless you hand enter dates such as 1850.0112 for January 12, 1850 and treat them as 4 degrees of precision numbers, dates before either 1900 or 1904 will not sort, due to the 2*15 internal limit for calculation (= 65536 days, or about January 1, 2080). If you want to export dates to do calculations, or to take a "hit list" of open dates or items to a research center, how would one do this? Excel will not sort pre 1900 dates correctly no matter how they are exported.

What programs are out there that do this without requiring rekeying? Is there "GEDCOM for dates"? so that Excel and other SS's can calculate this?

Can you help? You can post your answer and read what others say on the newsletter Discussion Board at

[Return to Table of Contents]

- U.K. National Archives Launched

The following is an announcement from the U.K. Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission:

The National Archives was launched in April 2003, and brings together two existing organisations, the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission. Over the next 12 months, the National Archives will combine the services and expertise of both the PRO and the HMC. It will be a national resource for anyone interested in, or with responsibility for, documents relating to British history: whether for professional research reasons, as an archivist or records manager, for school or learning projects or, simply, for personal curiosity and a unique day out.

You can access this new service at:

My thanks to Bob Letson for telling me about this new resource.

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Your Family Tree Magazine

The following is an announcement from Future Publishing in England:

Bath, UK - Future Digital, the computing and creative magazine portfolio of Future Publishing widens its horizons with the launch of Your Family Tree magazine.

Published bimonthly and counting 100 pages, Your Family Tree provides a practical and comprehensive guide to family history research.

Targeted at anyone interested in tracking their ancestors, Your Family Tree offers a mix of accessible features on family history research, Q&As, news, reader case studies, book and software reviews, hints, tips and advice.

Highlights of the first issue of Your Family Tree include: an introduction to family history research; a main feature on using birth, marriage and death certificates in your research; advice on how to preserve your old documents with the help of a computer; and an insight into lives of 1800s merchant seamen by specialist writer Len Barnett.

Further content includes a feature article on tracing your Irish roots by the Irish genealogy expert John Grenham, and a look at the huge new genealogy website, GenesConnected (for family tree researchers, from the makers of Friends Reunited).

Each issue of Your Family Tree also comes with two tear-out-and-keep extras. The first is a regional research card, which helps people when they go out on the road researching their family history in particular areas of the country. The second card tears apart into four collectable surname reference cards, each one explaining the history of a surname and displaying the coat of arms.

Your Family Tree comes with a covermounted CD-ROM. Issue one will be offering readers a full version of PhotoPlus 6, which readers can use to scan in and restore their old photos, as well as Kith & Kin Pro 1.1, a complete genealogy application.

Dave Taylor is publisher of Your Family Tree. Commenting on this new launch, Taylor says:

"There has always been a certain interest in family trees. But with the computers and the Internet playing an ever more important major role in most people's research, family history has become increasingly more popular. The objective of Your Family Tree is to respond to this surge of interest in genealogy by providing an interesting yet informative package, that doesn't just offer theories, but that also provides practical 'tear-out-and-keep' bits and software for readers to take away and make progress with their own family trees."

Issue one of Your Family Tree is on sale 08/05/03 and retails at £4.99.

You can find more information about Your Family Tree at:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Finding Your Roots Online: a Book Review

Last week I had a chance to review a new book, entitled Online Roots, How to Discover Your Family's History & Heritage with the Power of the Internet by Pamela Boyer Porter and Amy Johnson Crow. This week I found another new book with a very similar title: Finding Your Roots Online by Nancy Hendrickson. This week I spent some time looking at Finding Your Roots Online and can tell you that these are very different books.

Finding Your Roots Online is also more than a simple list of Web sites. Nancy Hendrickson lists only a few of the available Web sites and then gives in-depth instructions on how to use them. She goes on to describe how the reader can find still more sites of specific interest to one's own search. Along the way she tells how to use search engines, how to search the free lineage-linked databases, how to "network" with others, and how to share the results of your research efforts.

The book's chapters include:

Part One: First Steps in Climbing Your Family TreeÖ

    1. Family Tree Basics
    2. Exploring the Net
    3. The Organized Computer Genealogist

      Part Two: The SearchÖ

    4. Search Strategy #1: Free Lineage-Linked Databases
    5. Search Strategy #2: Networking
    6. Search Strategy #3: Search Engines
    7. Search Strategy #4: Online Databases and transcripts
    8. Peripheral resources

      Part Three: Putting It All TogetherÖ

    9. The Search: Pull Out All the Stops
    10. Sharing Your Research

The book also contains an appendix, glossary, and full index.

The techniques taught in this book apply to genealogy research anywhere. However, most of the examples used in the book deal with U.S. sources. This book will appeal primarily to anyone searching for U.S. ancestors.

Finding Your Roots Online is an excellent introduction for the newcomer to the Internet or for the experienced Internet user who is new to genealogy. Nancy Hendrickson is well qualified to write this book. She is a contributing editor to Family Tree Magazine and author of the self-published electronic book, How To Find More Ancestors Through Online Networking. Nancy has fifteen years of experience with online genealogy and is the publisher and editor of Internet Genealogy, a free electronic newsletter for Internet genealogists.

This book is published by FamilyTree Magazine, a division of Betterway Books. This company seems to be adding lots of new genealogy books to their catalog.

Finding Your Roots Online sells for $19.99 and is available at the publisher's safe and secure Web site at:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- GENTECH Tech Session at NGS Conference in Pittsburgh

The following is an announcement from GENTECH, a division of the U.S. National genealogical Society:

You are invited to attend the NGS GENTECH Tech Session to be conducted from 7:30 PM to about 9:30 PM on Wednesday evening, May 28, at the NGS Conference in the States at Pittsburgh. Hans Fugal, the 2003 GENTECH Scholarship awardee, will present his work on an XML implementation of the GENTECH LEXICON Genealogical Data Model. Robert Charles Anderson will moderate the session. He will be joined by Bob Velke for commentary on Fugal's presentation and for discussion of the Data Model.

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Win a Free Handheld Computer at the NGS Conference

This is a short repeat from last week's newsletter. I'd like to remind all newsletter readers to stop by Booth #103 at the NGS Conference and enter the drawing for an iPAQ h1910 handheld computer and a copy of the Pocket Genealogist. The drawing will be held Saturday afternoon at 2:15 PM in or near Booth #103.

With 64 megabytes of memory, this tiny handheld system running the Pocket Genealogist will track your entire ancestry, including notes and source citations. It also has room for your personal calendar, telephone directory, "to do" list, and much, much more.

This drawing is open only to subscribers to this newsletter, either the Plus Edition or the Standard Edition. If not already a subscriber, you may subscribe to the Standard Edition while at Booth #103 and therefore become eligible for Saturday's drawing.

Two additional prizes will also be awarded Saturday: copies of the Pocket Genealogist for Windows CE and PocketPC handheld systems.

Full details of the drawing are available at:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Minnesota Historical Society Funding Cut Proposal

In a letter to members, Minnesota Historical Society Director Nina Archabal is warning that, if enacted, the proposed state budget will mean a reduction in society services. It seems that the governor first proposed a $4 million cut in funding, and then the House Economic Development Finance Committee recommended an additional reduction of over $800,000 per year for the Society. If enacted, this would cut 18% of the Society's budget.

The Senate version, however, is quite different. It proposes only a small reduction in the Minnesota Historical Society's budget.

As the House and Senate work together to set the state's budget in the next few weeks, it is very important that legislators hear that the programs and activities of the Minnesota Historical Society are important to you.

Director Nina Archabal is asking Society members and all other concerned Minnesota citizens to call, write, or email your legislator and key decision-makers who will decide on the Society's budget in the coming weeks. Please let them know that the state's heritage is important to you.

If you have any questions about the Society's budget request, please contact David Kelliher, the Society's legislative liaison, at 651-297-8085 or

Use these links for further information on the 2003 Legislative Session:

Legislative Members who will impact final budget decisions

How to find your own legislator

The Minnesota Historical Society's Web site may be found at: Details about the new funding problem may be found at

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

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- GenSeekers Scam (Again)

I have written about GenSeekers a number of times in the past two years. (See past newsletters at, and The "company" appears to be a one-person operation, using a variety of company names. The names include:,, and I am sure there are other names too.

This week I received a sad e-mail from one of the latest victims of this fast-buck artist. Here is an excerpt from the message, with some personal information deleted in order to protect the privacy of the victim:

On April 13, 2003, I went to the GenSeekers web site searching for genealogy information. I was asked to subscribe to service by filling in the blanks on the screen and give a blank check number to be debited to my checking account for service, which I did. I was given order #<deleted>, but was not clear what the cost was going to be as the form was vague.

I immediately received an e-mail from Mail Delivery Subsystem saying "your message to cannot be delivered. This account is over quota....Service unavailable". I never did receive an e-mail confirmation of membership. I was sure my request for service form never went through.

I assumed my check was automatically VOID, but knew of no way to check this to be sure. When I received my bank statement at the end of the month, this check number had been debited to my checking account for $54.99.

I am sure you can understand my position, as I never did use the GenSeekers service, assuming my request for service was "over their quota". I'm hoping you will be able to assist me with this bad experience so I will not be intimidated by the internet for future use. Thank you.

Sadly, there isn't much that I can do to "assist me with this bad experience." However, I can and will publicize this experience in an effort to warn others.

The U.S. Postmaster General and your local state Department of Consumer Affairs can help far more than I can. Also, the victim needs to immediately contact his or her bank, although past reports indicate that banks cannot help very much with fraudulent withdrawals from checking accounts. In this case, the victim did, in fact, authorize the withdrawal of $54.99 and legally the bank cannot intervene. Had the victim used a credit card, the results would have been different.

If you receive an unsolicited advertising message ("spam mail") for any product or service, delete it. That's true for genealogy services as well as most everything else I can think of. Reputable companies do not use spam mail for advertising.

Next, if you do make an online purchase, always pay by credit card (despite the old wives' tales about the use of credit cards on the Web). The credit card companies protect their customers far better than any individual bank can ever do. Had the hapless purchaser used a credit card, MasterCard, VISA or American Express would have quickly refunded the money and then dealt directly with the scam artist themselves. Credit card companies now fully insure your online purchases against fraud. You do not enjoy that level of protection with checks or money orders.

GenSeekers obviously knows this and therefore asks for direct access to personal checking accounts, not to credit cards. By avoiding credit cards, GenSeekers increased the odds of getting paid.

GenSeekers has been in operation under a variety of names. In fact, the company listing in the Better Business Bureau's records is as follows:

Family Discovery
PO Box 10364
Cedar Rapids, IA 52410 lists the same address at one place on the Web site and the following address and telephone number on another page:

Family Genseekers
314 66th Ave SW #15
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

The Better Business Bureau Web site says, "Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unanswered complaints. The company has resolved some complaints presented by the Bureau; however, the Bureau did not receive a response to other complaints." You can read even more about this Web site's "business" on the Better Business Bureau of Des Moines Web site at:

Buyer beware! If you receive an offer in e-mail, be suspicious. Check the back issues of this newsletter. It only takes a few seconds to do that: go to and click on "Search Past Newsletters.". Enter the name of the "company" that is offering services and then click on SEARCH. Within four or five seconds you will see every occurrence of that company name that has ever been published in this newsletter in the past seven years. You'll see both the good news and the bad news about that company.

Next, post a message in the "Genealogy Scams and Rip-offs" section of the newsletter's Discussion Board. Go to and click on Discussion Board. There you will see several sections, including one for "Genealogy Scams and Rip-offs." Post the message there so that others will see it and will then share their experiences about that company, both good and bad experiences.

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

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- Comment on Spam Mail Advertising

In the previous article, I wrote, "Reputable companies do not use spam mail for advertising." I am aware that a number of genealogy companies do, indeed, send commercial e-mail messages. That may or may not be considered "spam," depending upon your relationship with that company.

I like the definition found at

The word "Spam" as applied to Email means Unsolicited Bulk Email ("UBE").

Unsolicited means that the Recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent. "Bulk" means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content.

Technical Definition: An electronic message is "spam" IF: (1) the recipient's personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients; AND (2) the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent; AND (3) the transmission and reception of the message appears to the recipient to give a disproportionate benefit to the sender.

If you contact a company and ask for information about the company's products and services, that company does indeed have the right to send you future e-mails about their products (until you ask them to stop). Likewise, if you purchase goods or services from someone, that company can send you future advertising soliciting further business without being considered as spam (again, until you ask them to stop).

However, if someone sends you advertising "out of the blue" without your previously having contacted the company, such a practice is reprehensible. Those messages need to be deleted immediately. Sadly, there are a few companies in the genealogy business who do send such messages.

For several years, I have had a policy that I will not review products of any companies who use spam mail for advertising. Many companies have asked me to write product reviews of their goods and/or services. If I know the company uses spam mail to promote their products, I refuse. Admittedly, I have been tricked a couple of times when I wasn't aware of their spam mail activities. Some other times the spam mail activities started at a later date, well after the appearance of my review. However, when I discover that a company uses spam mail, I refuse to ever mention their products again. At least, not in a positive manner. I might mention their spam activities, however.

If you receive spam mail, delete it. Most spam mail is sent by scam artists, regardless of whether it is genealogy-related or not. I'll repeat myself:

"Reputable companies do not use spam mail for advertising."

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

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- Spammer Arrested, Charged With Felony

Howard Carmack, the notorious "Buffalo Spammer" accused of sending more than 825 million unsolicited e-mails from illegal EarthLink accounts, has been arrested and arraigned in New York on four felony and two misdemeanor counts.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer heralded the case as the first criminal prosecution of a spammer under New York's six-month-old identity-theft statute. "Spammers who forge documents and steal the identity of others to create their e-mail traffic will be prosecuted," Spitzer said at a press conference.

Attorney General Spitzer stated that his office will seek jail time for this spammer.

You can read more about this at:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

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- Jedi Religion on Canadian Census Returns

20,000 Canadians listed "Jedi" as their religion in the 2001 national census. Apparently this is the offshoot of an Internet joke that originated in Australia a few years back. (See my June 25, 2001 newsletter at for a report of earlier Jedi listings in the Australian, New Zealand, and U.K. census records of 2001.)

I don't think the country was invaded by light saber-wielding Jedi knights. 20,000 entries in a country of 31.5 million is statistically insignificant. In fact, the StatsCanada seems to have ignored the Jedi "religion" in their reports. You can find more about the (recognized) religions listed in the Canadian 2001 census at:

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

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- Real Beverly Hillbillies

The following is from a message on the Discussion Board for this newsletter:

To All Kinfolk with roots or ties to the Appalachias,

Viacom-CBS producers announced their plans to produce a "Reality TV Show", taking a "poor WV family" and transplant them to a mansion in Beverly Hills and call this "The Real Beverly Hillbillies".

Read more about it at Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Or just do a search using the keywords "Real Beverly Hillbillies"

This issue affects all of us - Our hard-working, red-blooded ancestors, and our future descendants. Don't let CBS make a mockery of our kinfolk.

Robert M Brady - Proud Grandson of A Real WV Hillbilly Country Preacher

To discuss this story further, please visit the newsletter Discussion Board at and click on "Discussion Board."

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- New Books

I expect to briefly announce new books every few weeks as announcements are received. Each book mentioned in this new section will be one that is newly published or perhaps is a significant new update of a book published some years ago. This listing is for books published on paper, not on CD-ROM or online. Prices mentioned typically do not include shipping or taxes. More detailed information is available at the Web sites or from the e-mail addresses given.

Laying The Hoe - A Century of Iron Manufacturing in Stafford County, Virginia by Jerrilynn Eby. Contains genealogical notes on over 300 families. For nearly a century, iron manufacturing dominated the economic, social, and political fabric of Stafford County, Virginia. In the mid-1720s Principio Iron Company, the eighteenth-century leader in American iron production, built a charcoal-fired blast furnace on Accokeek Run in Stafford. Accokeek's furnace and store served customers within a six-county region. Employment opportunities at the furnace created a diversified economy and encouraged people from all walks of life to settle there. Includes CD-Rom, 294 pages. $35.00. Available from Willow Bend Books:

Free Persons of Color - Generations Everlasting Series Volume 1, the first in a series from The Old Edgefield Publishing Company. This volume contains over 1400 indexed names taken from Edgefield County, SC census records from 1790 -1860 as well as additional documentation from five Georgia counties. This publication is a 'must have' for those performing African-American research, with roots in South Carolina and Georgia.

Collection of the Sufferings Of The People Called Quakers, 1650-1689. Joseph BESSE's 1753 compilation of records for both Volume I & Volume II. Compiled by Audrey Sullivan. Published by Genealogical Society of Broward County, Florida. This unique Index Book links the names of more than 12,000 individuals from sixty-two locations, including Great Britain, Ireland; parts of Europe; and over to the New World --- New England and the Caribbean. Individuals' names are linked to the page numbers in Joseph Besse's 1753 original volumes. The Sullivan Index Book is an excellent aid for genealogy and history researchers whose ancestors may have had Quaker connections. $20.00.

Cass County, Missouri Cemeteries - Researched Edition - A basic genealogical research of over 46,000 burials assembled and included in a database for each cemetery. Researched editions include vital information found for each burial (full name, parents' names, full birth and death dates), along with locations, marriage information, and cause of death. Notes regarding any discrepancies found in the records, indication of military service, the loss of infant children, etc. have also been indicated. A thorough search of area newspapers revealed never-before-published information of persons buried in unmarked graves. Directions on how to get to each cemetery, cemetery maps, and burial locations are also included.

A note to authors and publishers: If you would like to have your new book(s) listed in future newsletters, send a brief descriptive note to You do not need to send a copy of your book; an announcement will suffice. Please make sure that you include a Web address or an e-mail address where potential buyers can obtain more information.

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The PR Budget for this newsletter is $0.00. I rely upon "word of mouse" advertising in which you recommend this newsletter to your friends. This newsletter is a private project of mine, and I have a zero budget for a publicity campaign to get more readers.

In each issue, I try to offer you useful, interesting and sometimes amusing information to help you with your genealogy efforts. Can you take a minute to help me out in return? If you think this newsletter is a worthwhile read, please tell your friends. Better yet, suggest they can read the Standard Edition or subscribe to the Plus Edition at


Are you interested in the articles in this newsletter? Would you like to learn more or ask questions or make comments about these articles? Join this newsletterís online discussion group. Go to and click on "Discussion Board."

You can also search past newsletters at the same address:

If you would like to submit news, information or press releases for possible inclusion in future newsletters, send them to The author does reserve the right to accept or reject any articles submitted.

COPYRIGHTS and Other Legal Things:

The contents of this newsletter are copyright by Richard W. Eastman with the following exception:

Many of the articles published in these newsletters contain quotes or references from others, especially from other Web sites, software userís manuals, press releases and other public announcements. Any words in this newsletter attributed to another person or organization remain the copyrighted materials of the original author(s).

This document is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in this document represents the views of Richard W. Eastman with one exception: words written by other authors and republished herein are the views solely of those authors. All information provided in this document is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either express or implied. The reader assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of this document.

You are hereby granted rights, unless otherwise specified, to re-distribute articles from this newsletter to other parties provided:

    1. You do so strictly for non-commercial purposes
    2. Articles marked with a Plus Sign (+) are not to be redistributed. Those articles are solely for the use of Plus Edition subscribers.
    3. You may not republish any articles containing words attributed to another person or organization until you obtain permission from that person or organization. While you do have permission to republish words written by Richard W. Eastman, you do not have automatic authority to republish words written by others, even if their words appear in this newsletter.

Also, please include the following statement with any articles you re-distribute:

The following article is from Eastmanís Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright 2003 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

Anyone complying with the above does not need to ask permission in advance.

Permission to use the words in this document for commercial purposes usually is granted. However, commercial use requires advance authorization.

Thank you for your cooperation.


Be aware that the biggest problem faced when sending e-mail newsletters is spam filters in e-mail servers. Although the problem plagues many, many newsletters and other types of perfectly legitimate email, this newsletter seems to be particularly susceptible. It is quite long, and contains numerous examples of the kinds of things that spam blacklists, in their infinite wisdom, have deemed to be "spam like." Therefore, numerous email servers will delete this newsletter under the assumption that it is spam.

If you all of a sudden stop receiving your copy of the newsletter (and this happens more than you might think), don't just assume I skipped an issue or there's something wrong with the newsletter's distribution. I rarely skip an issue without noting that in advance. If you stop receiving the newsletter, chances are that it's not a problem with your subscription; it's a problem with your mail server or your spam filter. That is the number one cause of newsletter subscription problems.


Dick Eastman is a frequent presenter at major genealogy conferences. He has published articles in Genealogical Computing and Family Chronicle magazines and for a number of Web sites. He was an advisor to PBS' Ancestry series and appeared as a guest in one of the episodes. He serves on the Advisory Board of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and is a past Director of GENTECH and of the New England Computer Genealogists. Dick is the author of YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer published by Ziff-Davis Press. He can be reached at: Due to the volume of e-mail received, he is unable to answer every e-mail message received.

If you have questions or comments about the article in this newsletter, go to and then click on "Discussion Board." Post your message there. You will receive then assistance from Dick Eastman or from a number of other people.


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