Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Standard Edition

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

Vol. 8 No. 39 - September 29, 2003

This newsletter relies solely upon "word of mouse" advertising. If you enjoy reading these articles, please tell others to go to http://www.eogn.com.

Some of the articles in this Plus Edition newsletter are restricted to your personal use.

Search previous issues of Standard Edition newsletters at: http://www.eogn.com/search.

Plus Edition subscribers may gain access to a reserved section of the Discussion Board. Details are available at http://www.eogn.com/plus/messageboard.

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


- (+) New CD-ROM from GenealogyTechs.com
- (+) Create PDF Files For Free
- Family Tree DNA
- Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research
- The Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook
- UK's Oldest Cemetery Identified
- Black Death, AIDS, and Genealogy
- Lightning Bolt Destroys Home and Genealogy Records
- Save Money on Dial-up Internet Access

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

You've got the name, how about the genes?

- (+) New CD-ROM from GenealogyTechs.com

The following is a "preview" of a Plus Edition-only article

A new round of spam mail has recently been unleashed that sounds questionable. As reported in the September 15 Plus Edition of this newsletter, GenealogyTechs.com has been flooding e-mail in-boxes with claims of a "self updating" genealogy CD-ROM. The spam mails from GenealogyTechs.com claim (in part):

In our 1st Ever Genealogy Techs Volume 1: Inaugural Edition you can be sure to access the most pertinent family history records including:

-Marriage Records
-Birth Records
-Military Records
-Cemetery Records
-Death Records
-Census Records
-Burial Records
-Court House Records
-Church Records
-Passenger Immigration Records
-Ships Passenger Lists
-Family Histories
-Overseas Records
-and much, much more.

The complete advertisement is much, much longer. It talks glowingly about access to millions of genealogy records if you purchase this disk for only $29.99. You can see similar wording on the Web site at: http://www.genealogytechs.com. When I checked the Web site this week, I noticed that the price has been increased to $39.99.

Of course, this advertisement is very similar to the rash of ads sent out earlier by Elias Abodeely, owner of the similar-sounding GenealogyGiants.com, GenSeekers.com and a long string of other Web sites. Elias Abodeely was arrested in August for money laundering and identity theft, all in conjunction with his pseudo-genealogy Web sites. You can read more about that in the August 4, 2003, newsletter at http://www.eogn.com/archives/news0331.htm as well as in many more online reports in a Google search. Charged with three felonies, Elias Abodeely is presently awaiting a court appearance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The new spam mail ads from GenealogyTechs.com use almost the same wording as the earlier ones from GenealogyGiants.com. As reported two weeks ago, while GenealogyGiants.com was owned and operated by the now-indicted Elias Abodeely of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the new GenealogyTechs.com has a business address used by Andrew Abodeely of San Diego, California. Indeed, there seems to be a close relationship here: two similar sites seemingly operated by two different men named Abodeely.

I suspected that this "self updating" CD-ROM perhaps was not worth thirty bucks. The ad insinuated all sorts of things but contained few hard facts; it had vague wording about "accessing" genealogy records. I decided to purchase a copy myself so that I could write a proper review of it here in this newsletter.

The new CD arrived about ten days after it was ordered online.

The preceding is a "preview" of a Plus Edition-only article. The full article is available only to Plus Edition subscribers. Click on Plus Edition for more information.

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- (+) Create PDF Files For Free

The following is a "preview" of a Plus Edition-only article

Most of us take PDF files for granted. Years ago, Adobe created a universal file format with their Acrobat software that produced documents which could be opened on PCs, Mac, Unix, Linux, and even handheld computers. Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files flourish nearly everywhere because Adobe gives away a free reader program. But if you wanted to create a PDF file, that wasn’t free. In fact, until a year or so ago, the only way to create a PDF file was to purchase Adobe's full Acrobat program, not the free reader program. That is expensive; a full version of Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard Edition currently sells for a "street price" of about $275 from a number of vendors. Even at that price, PDF files have become popular and are very common on genealogy Web sites as well as on genealogy CD-ROM disks.

In the past year or so, several companies have released inexpensive products that create PDF files. In fact, a number of genealogy programs available today even have a built-in capability to create reports in PDF format. However, I prefer a general-purpose program that will convert a standard Windows file into a PDF file. This gives me the ability to save almost any word processing document in PDF format. In recent months I have been using an excellent program that does just that. It reads any text, Word, or Excel format file and converts it into a PDF file that is a print image of the original. It is a very powerful program and yet is easy to use. The best part is the price: free.

The preceding is a "preview" of a Plus Edition-only article. The full article is available only to Plus Edition subscribers. Click on Plus Edition for more information.

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Family Tree DNA

Some of the major advances in genealogy research are in the use of DNA to prove or disprove bloodlines. DNA will not provide names, places or dates of birth, death, or marriage. However, DNA information can prove with scientific certainty that two people are closely related; that is, they share a common ancestor. This week I had some personal exposure to DNA research.

Family Tree DNA is a leading company in providing DNA services to genealogists. Quoting from the company's Web site:

The value of Family Tree DNA testing is our ability to help find "Genetic Cousins ™" by comparing the results of as few as two people.

Males are able to see if another male is a descendant from their direct paternal line. Our 12 marker Y-DNA test has become the world standard. Our 25-marker test yields the world's tightest parameters to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). You may order the 12 marker test and return to "refine" your test at a later time without the need to re-submit another DNA sample!

Women can determine which Haplogroup they are part of based upon the descent through their maternal line. Reports are compared to the Cambridge Reference Sequence, which show your deviation from this industry standard. We identify the lettered Haplogroup that your mtDNA is assigned to by the scientific community.

DETERMINE relatives through two of your eight great-grandparents using Y or mtDNA testing. We search the non-recombining portion of your DNA; a CHART explaining this concept is suggested viewing. DNA testing is a new additional genealogical tool.

You may find some new words and phrases in the above paragraphs. I know that I did. Luckily, the Family Tree DNA Web site provides many references to additional material, both on the site and on other Web sites as well. Rest assured: the terminology becomes clearer after additional reading.

A couple of months ago I submitted a DNA sample to Family Tree DNA. The process was simple: I wiped the inside of my cheek with a special swab provided by the company. I put the swab into a small container, sealed it, filled out some paperwork, deposited everything in an envelope provided by the company, and mailed the envelope. The whole process took about five minutes and was simple and painless.

As time passed, I totally forgot about the sample that I had submitted. This week the postman delivered a package from Family Tree DNA: my results. I tore the envelope open and studied the certificate inside. It gave my name and a series of numbers that seemed to me to be all mumbo-jumbo. The document might as well been written in Swahili, as I didn't understand a bit of it.

The same envelope included a few sheets of explanatory text. That helped a bit, but it still did not tell me "how I fit into the world." I went to Family Tree DNA's Web site, and there I received an education.

The Family Tree DNA site contains databases of information found in previous samples. Your own information can be added to these databases, if you give permission. However, all information is confidential until you say otherwise. Your data is always under your control.

I first checked my Y-DNA matches in the Family Tree DNA customer database. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son and on to grandson, great-grandson and so on, unaltered for generations. People who gave permission to be listed in the Y-DNA database may match my Y chromosome exactly or possibly closely. They also have provided their email address and have signed the proper release form.

In my case, there were no close Y-DNA matches listed in the database. Therefore, it appears that, as of today, nobody else with my surname (or direct male line of ancestry back to a common ancestor) has data in the Family Tree DNA database and has given permission to share it. I must admit that I was not surprised. Family Tree DNA states that they can "help find 'Genetic Cousins ™' by comparing the results of as few as two people." In my case, it was a one-person analysis. I didn't expect to find any "genetic cousins."

COMMENT: If your last name is Eastman and you have had an analysis made of your DNA, I would like to compare some numbers with you!

I did give my permission for future searchers to find my DNA information.

Next, I checked the Recent Ethnic Origins database and Haplogroup database and received interesting results. While there aren't any others in the database with DNA numbers close to mine, the "Two Step Mutations" did give strong clues as to the country of origin of my direct male ancestors.

My tests obviously focused on Y-chromosome as I am a male. Women can determine which Haplogroup they are part of based upon the descent through their maternal line. Reports will report the mitochondrial (mtDNA) numbers assigned by the scientific community. For the rest of this article, I will focus on Y-chromosome testing. However, you can find a lot of information about mtDNA on Family Tree DNA's Web site as well as at a number of other places on the Web.

In my case, the twenty-five sets of numbers on my certificate have not provided meaningful results, simply because I am a solitary individual taking this test. To be sure, the Family Tree DNA testing did reveal the probable country of origin of my direct male ancestral line, and that can be helpful information for many people.

The Family Tree DNA service becomes quite exciting when two, ten, or perhaps hundreds of people with the same surname use Family Tree DNA’s services as a tool for surname projects. For instance, the Morse Society knows of five immigrant men named Morse or Moss who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1600s. There is speculation that some of these men may have been related to each other, but no evidence has been uncovered. Many other family societies face similar questions: were these immigrants of the same name related to each other?

If a number of Morse/Moss male descendants have DNA tests conducted by Family Tree DNA, the speculation will end. The DNA results will prove or disprove who is related to whom. Those with matching or nearly matching Y-DNA numbers share a common direct male ancestor. (By direct male ancestor, I mean your father's father's father's… No females between you and the common ancestor.) If the Y-DNA numbers are not close, then obviously these Morse/Moss descendants do not share a common direct male ancestor and are not related, at least not through that line of ancestry.

The Family Tree DNA Web site is the home of more than 600 Surname Projects. Possibly one of your surnames of interest is already participating there. If not, you can start a new Surname Project of your own:

A minimum of 6 participants is required.

You must choose a Group Administrator who will handle the data management of your family's Surname Project. The Group Administrator will be Family Tree DNA's direct link to your project.

The Group Administrator will have access to a secure page where your project's status is updated daily. Family Tree DNA will distribute legal release forms allowing for the sharing of the test results with the Group Administrator. Test kits and payments may be submitted individually or as a group to FTDNA for processing.

Test results will be returned to the Group Administrator as they are received by the office. Each participant will also receive a certificate and report containing their personal test results. The staff of FTDNA will help you interpret the meaning of your test results.

FTDNA will consult with you on the minimum number of test takers you will need to reconstruct your family tree, depending upon how many branches of your family will participate in the project.

In short, Family Tree DNA's services can provide information that you will never discover in books, microfilm, or computer databases. It will prove or disprove some of your relationships with others. It may prove your relationship to a particular individual in past years if (and only if) enough relatives of that ancestor have DNA analysis testing performed. It can solve some paperwork roadblocks that you have encountered.

Y-chromosome DNA testing is especially good at disproving relationships and that can be as valuable as proving a relationship. It may even disprove some of the "accepted lineages" that have been published time and again by lineage societies and family societies. Now THAT could cause a ruckus at the next annual meeting!

The Family Tree DNA Web site has loads of explanatory information. Even if you do not purchase their services, anyone interested in learning about DNA in genealogy will want to spend some time reading the material available at the site. The same Web site also has some excellent videos that you can play directly on your PC or Macintosh. In addition, you may order a videotape that can be played on a normal television set and VCR.

Family Tree DNA provides a number of different tests, with prices varying from $159 up to $567 for the "DNAWorks," a combination of several tests. Those prices may sound a bit high at first but remember that they are a fraction of the prices charged five years ago. They are also much cheaper than the typical genealogy research trip, even to one only a few hundred miles away. The results of DNA testing also have a higher probability of accuracy than most information recorded years ago. After all, even primary records recorded at the time of an event occasionally contain errors or even deliberate falsehoods. On the other hand, it is difficult to fool a DNA test.

My recommendation: Do not do what I did! When one person submits a test sample alone, DNA testing is not very fruitful. To be sure, you might get lucky and find a match. The odds are against it, however, until these databases contain DNA information for hundreds or thousands or even millions of people. I did not find a match (yet), and chances are that you will not, either, if you act alone. However, the data that you and I submitted today might match a future test sample.

The real power of DNA testing occurs when a group of people submit data, usually those who are trying to prove or disprove relationships. Such proof is easy to determine when two people submit test samples. Things become much more interesting as more and more people become involved in a one-name study. DNA testing is an excellent tool for today's genealogist if you understand what can and cannot be proven.

Here is another note to anyone named Eastman who is reading this article:

Do you think that you and I could find four more individuals with our surname who would be interested in starting a surname project of our own? Most people with our surname are descended from one person who arrived in Massachusetts in 1638. However, there have also been a few other immigrants of that name in later years. I have never been able to prove my ancestral line all the way back to any of the immigrants. If a number of us take this DNA test, we can prove whether or not we share a common ancestor, be it the 1638 immigrant or not. I'd like to know if we are indeed all related.

This is exciting technology. I expect that, within a couple of decades, DNA testing will become a part of every genealogist's research efforts. As the size of the databases of collected DNA information grows, no genealogy effort will be considered accurate until it is accompanied by DNA proof.

I placed my DNA certificate from Family Tree DNA alongside my original birth certificate in my personal records.

For more information about the many services of Family Tree DNA, go to: http://www.familytreedna.com.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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- Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research

This week I had a chance to read a slim, 81-page booklet that grabbed my attention. About 50% of my ancestry lived in or traveled through the Saint John River Valley, the area that separates present-day northern Maine from New Brunswick and a bit of Quebec. This narrow area, 80-miles long by 20-miles wide, is rich with the history of two countries and several ethnic groups. If you have ancestry in the same area, you, too, will be interested in George L. Findlen's new book.

The Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research gives a brief history for the area, focusing primarily on the French-Canadian and Acadian families who settled the land. He describes the settlements and the typical farms of the area. The early farms were similar to those of Quebec: riverfront property, only a few hundred feet wide, but going straight inland for about one mile. These were called "suspender" farms, named for the straps worn over the shoulders to support trousers. Indeed, these farms were as long and narrow as a man's suspenders. The advantage was that every land owner received riverfront property, an important item in the days when the only method of carrying your goods to market was by bateaux (a long, light, flatbottom boat with a sharply pointed bow and stern).

Of course, the Malecite Indians had already been in the area for centuries. They welcomed the new French-speaking settlers. These two groups were then joined by many Irish and a few Scots immigrants looking for land. Following the American War of the Rebellion (the British and Canadian term for the American Revolution), many American citizens who had fought for the King were physically forced out of their homes in the U.S. Most moved to Canada or to other British territories. Many New Jersey Loyalist volunteers and their families, totaling about 1,300 people, received land in the upper Saint John River Valley from the King. These families later intermarried with the French, Scots, and Irish already in the area, creating challenges for future genealogists.

The entire area was claimed by both the new United States and Great Britain. A few arrests were made in the area by each government, and tensions escalated until the Aroostook War erupted. It turned out to be a bloodless war as a few army regiments marched around, but nobody fired any shots. The issue was solved in 1842 when a peace treaty was signed, naming the Saint John River as the international boundary.

Families who lived only a few miles apart now found themselves citizens of different countries. All Acadians and French-Canadians living on the south bank of the river suddenly found out that they were American citizens. Their brothers and sisters across the river remained British subjects (and later became Canadians, following Canada's independence in 1867).

To further complicate matters for later genealogy researchers, all the Catholic churches in the area remained part of a Canadian diocese until 1870. Records of Catholic christenings, marriages, and funerals performed on the U.S. side of the river during those years can only be found in Canadian records.

Anyone researching ancestry in the Upper Saint John River Valley can easily become confused by all the politics and ethnicity involved. Furthermore, record keeping often is quite different on the Canadian side of the river versus the record keeping on the U.S. side. Adding to the complication, French-speaking families recorded most of their family vital information in church records, whereas the English-speaking population used civil registration. There is no one repository in any town that shows all the births, marriages, or deaths in that town.

The Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research does an admirable job of explaining the history of the area and then detailing where all records may be found today. Author George L. Findlen gives the addresses of many record repositories, even including driving instructions in many cases. He tells where to find:

Church Registers
Vital Records and Civil Registrations
Published Marriage Repertoires
Census Returns
Land Records
Wills and Probate Documents
Historical Societies
Genealogy Clubs
Selected Web Sites
and more.

Mr. Findlen even gives driving directions to each cemetery listed. I wish I had this book about twenty years ago, when I burned up about ten dollars' worth of gasoline one afternoon looking for the Saint Joseph Cemetery in Sinclair, Maine!

This slim booklet provides a wealth of information for anyone with ancestry in the Upper Saint John River Valley. It is easily "readable," and I enjoyed the book. In fact, after reading it, I ordered a new, privately-published CD-ROM disk of marriage and christening records mentioned in this book. I had not heard of this new CD previously. Mr. Findlen's description of the disk says that it contains extensive updates and corrections to a set of books I have used previously. I do have "holes" in my family tree records in that area, so I am eagerly awaiting the new records. Without the Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research, I might never have discovered this new resource.

The Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research contains no records of its own. Instead, it tells the reader where the records may be found. (There is no one central repository, and very few of these records have been microfilmed by teams from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.)

The Genealogist's Handbook for Upper Saint John Valley Research is published by the Clearfield Company. Almost any bookstore can order it for you if you specify ISBN 0-8063-5207-8. You can also purchase it on Genealogical Publishing's safe and secure Web site for $12.95 plus shipping. For more information, look at http://www.genealogical.com/item_detail.asp?ID=9788

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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- The Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook

Emily Anne Croom recently published a second edition of her popular Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook, and I had a chance to look at it this week. This thick, 454-page book lists public sources for genealogical research in the United States. It is much, much more than a simple list of resources, however.

Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook gives examples of the genealogical information in many kinds of sources along with tips for using or interpreting these sources. Mini-case studies provide you with real-life research examples of just how these sources can be used. For instance, the description of the 1880 U.S. census fills nearly three pages and even describes a case study of using the census records on CD-ROM disks to find a family whose place of residence previously was unknown. The state of residence was unknown. A simple search for the male head of household came up empty. (He was later found as having been listed only by his first and middle initials, not by his full name.) The author describes how she used the CD-ROM search capabilities to find women of the same first name and similar sounding surnames, all of whom were approximately the age of the woman in question. Without the electronic search capability, this couple probably would never been found if restricted to microfilm copies alone. Emily Anne Croom describes the genealogy search as a simple, yet logical path through detective work.

The chapters in this excellent book include:

  1. Your Genealogy Companion
  2. Federal Census Records
  3. County and Courthouse Records
  4. Local Sources
  5. State Records
  6. Federal Records
  7. Special Collections
  8. Libraries
  9. Focus on African-American Genealogy
  10. Focus on American Indian Genealogy
  11. Immigration and Naturalization

In addition, the book has two appendices:

  1. National Archives and Regional Branches
  2. States and Territories in 1861

The book also includes an index, as well as an 8-page section of end notes that, by itself, is an excellent resource.

Emily Croom is an expert genealogist and accomplished author. Her other works include Unpuzzling Your Past, Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook and The Sleuth Book for Genealogists. She is also the co-author of A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors. She frequently teaches and lectures about genealogy. I suspect that her most recent work, Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook 2nd Edition, may turn out to be her most popular one yet.

Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook, 2nd edition, sells for $19.99. It is available from most any book store if you special order ISBN 1-55870-651-8. However, it is also available direct from publisher Betterway Book's safe and secure Web site at http://www.familytreemagazine.com/store/display.asp?id=70599. You will need to add shipping charges to the $19.99 price of the book.

I noticed that the Web site says the book contains 256 pages. However, the copy on my desk has 454 pages, a major difference.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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- UK's Oldest Cemetery Identified

A narrow cave in Somerset has been identified as the oldest known cemetery in Britain, used by generations of people from one area in the Mendips just after the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. Scientific tests released this week show that the cave had been sealed and abandoned more than 6,000 years before the first stone of the pyramids of Egypt was laid. The site, Aveline's Hole, is unique in Britain and earlier than anything similar on mainland Europe.

The tests showed that the men, women, and children buried in the cave were small and strong and ate meat. They rarely lived to be older than 50 and were tormented with bad teeth, rheumatic pains, and osteoarthritis.

You can read more about this find in an article written by Maeve Kennedy and published the Guardian. Look at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1048387,00.html

My thanks to Charles Dobie for telling me about this article.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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- Black Death, AIDS, and Genealogy

Genealogy research techniques may help discover a cure or prevention for AIDS. A fascinating detective story is being played out in the same archives that English genealogy seekers use every day.

Dr. Stephen O'Brien felt that the mutated CCR5 gene, delta 32, may have prevented the plague of some 300+ years ago from spreading. He wanted to prove or disprove that assumption. The only method of doing this was to study the DNA of a large number of descendants of identified plague survivors. How do you find such descendants more than 300 years after the event? Ask any genealogist!

Eyam, a small English town in Derbyshire, was hard hit by the plague of the seventeenth century. The local church began keeping parish registers of births and deaths in 1630. Historian John Clifford searched for plague descendants by examining the registers and noting everyone who was alive in 1665, the year the plague came to Eyam. He then searched for evidence of life through the year 1725 -- marriages, baptisms, and burials that took place years after the plague had left the village. Deleting the names of those lost during the plague period, he was able to determine who the survivors were. Family trees for the following 275 years were constructed, and many present-day residents of Eyam were documented as direct descendants of plague survivors. DNA samples were then collected from many of these direct descendents.

The same could probably be done in most any English village, only Eyam had better records than most. It also suffered from the plague as much as or even more so than most other villages. The results were gratifying. Indeed, the results of that study now are giving hints about preventing the present-day plague that is called AIDS. It is too early to say for sure, but researchers suspect the same CCR5 gene, delta 32, may block AIDS.

You can read this fascinating story on PBS' Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_plague/clues.html.

My thanks to Susan Harnwell for telling me about this story.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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- Lightning Bolt Destroys Home and Genealogy Records

September 25 was a tragic day for Shirley and Lester Koch of Dempsey, Kansas. Lightning struck their home while the couple was away. By the time the resulting fire was discovered and firefighters arrived on the scene, flames engulfed the entire home.

While Shirley Koch lost all her possessions, she said that her biggest loss was that of her genealogy information. Writing in The Mirror newspaper, News Editor Lisa Scheller reports:

Of her possessions, the most missed, she said, would be her genealogy files. For the past seven years, Koch had worked on compiling family photographs and documents. These, along with her computer, were destroyed by the fire. But fortunately, she said, she would still have access to some of her records that were stored on a friend's computer.

Unfortunately, the Kochs had no insurance to replace the contents of their home. You can read more about this tragedy on The Mirror's Web site at: http://www.tonganoxiemirror.com/section/local/story/5679

As tragic as this story is, at least this lady has an off-site backup of at least "some of her records." Do you?

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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- Save Money on Dial-up Internet Access

The prices charged for dial-up Internet access in the U.S. vary widely, from $4.95 a month to as high as $23.90 a month. Surprisingly, the cheaper or moderately priced services often work better and faster than the expensive ones.

Most of the inexpensive Internet providers also use standard Internet software already in your computer; they do not require loading any special proprietary software. The proprietary access programs used by the high-priced providers, AOL, CompuServe and MSN, are notoriously buggy and "dummied down." The industry-standard Internet access software already available on your computer is much more reliable. It seems strange that you have to pay higher prices and use extra software in order to access a service that isn't as reliable as the small Internet provider up the street.

I recently was involved in changing a non-technical friend's PC from AOL's $23.90 service to an Internet provider that charges $9.95 a month. When we first connected and went to one of her favorite Web sites, she remarked, "Oooo, that's much faster than AOL!" In fact, this is often the case, although not guaranteed.

A few days later I found myself in a hotel room without Internet access for my laptop. Back home I use a high-speed cable modem, but there is no way of connecting to that network from a dial-up modem in a hotel room. Based on the good experience a few days earlier, I also signed up for the same cut-rate dial-up service for use when traveling. So far, I have been pleased with the service. This week I also converted my daughter's PC from one of the higher-priced Internet providers to the same provider I use, the one that charges $9.95 a month for dial-up access.

The cheaper Internet providers do not have huge networks of their own. Instead, they resell access on Sprint or one of the other national providers. They buy blocks of access time from a national "backbone" provider and thus obtain a discounted price. While you may have an account with mom-and-pop-internet-provider.com, you typically are using the network of Sprint or one of the other "big boys" in the networking business. The local telephone numbers you dial for access often belong to Sprint or another major provider of Internet access. The small Internet access providers resell online time to you at prices a bit above the wholesale prices they pay, hoping to make a profit on the difference. Smaller companies usually can be profitable on smaller margins than can the larger corporations that have high overhead expenses.

Many people are surprised when they learn that they can access the Internet for much less money than what they are presently paying. Yet these cut-rate services can access all the same services on the World Wide Web that you are using today. They provide Web browsers, e-mail, FTP, and more. They also work well with all brands of instant messaging. A customer of a small Internet service can still use all the instant messaging services of AOL, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, and others – and thereby still communicate with friends who are paying the higher prices.

You may wish to switch to a cheaper Internet service provider. However, that may entail one traumatic experience: changing your e-mail address. I generally recommend that you do not use the e-mail service provided by your Internet provider. That is true of both the high-priced and low-priced providers. You do not want to be "locked in" to any one Internet provider's mail service because of the difficulty of changing providers. If you are using an AOL address, an MSN address, or an address at xyz.com, notifying all your correspondents and also switching all your mailing list subscriptions can be time-consuming, if not downright painful. Instead, you should consider obtaining an e-mail address at a "provider-neutral" location, such as Yahoo or HotMail. You can access those e-mail services from any Internet provider. You can then switch providers any time you wish, without regard to your e-mail address. My favorite free e-mail service is at http://www.MyWay.com. It works faster than either Yahoo or HotMail and doesn't contain much advertising. It is also much more flexible and reliable than AOL's mail service.

You may also be able to obtain free e-mail service from your alma mater or from other non-profit organizations where you have membership. For my own use, I pay a few dollars a year to have my e-mail delivered to a full-service mail provider. NetIdentity.com sells only e-mail services. I can use it with any e-mail program, such as Eudora, Outlook, or others. I can also read my e-mail in a Web browser, a useful feature when traveling and using someone else's PC. This service has a lot more features than the free services and, of course, never has any advertising. It also seems to be quite fast. With any such service, you can access your e-mail from any location using any Internet provider.

If you are contemplating switching Internet providers in the future, you might want to obtain the new e-mail address today and then spread out the transition over a few months. This makes it much easier to notify everyone and to change your mailing list subscriptions. The last time I switched e-mail addresses, I still kept the old one for six months so as to not miss anything. At the same time, whenever I saw a message in the old mailbox, I let the sender know that I now had a new address.

If you travel at all, make sure that you do not sign up for an Internet provider that only serves a local area. If you use a laptop while traveling, you want to connect to a local number, wherever you are. You do not want to call long distance from your hotel room back to a small provider near your home. If you do, your long distance charges will probably outweigh your Internet access savings!

All the companies mentioned at the end of this article provide nationwide coverage. However, not all of them will have access numbers in your home town. Each service lists their access numbers on their Web pages; make sure there is a number local to you before signing up (in addition to numbers for your frequent travel destinations).

I found prices as low as $4.95 a month although most of the lowest-cost providers also charge one-time "sign-up fees." However, I question the viability of a company trying to eke out a profit at that price. They might not be in business next month. In fact, one bargain-basement company whose prices I checked only a few weeks ago now seems to be out of business.

Many of the companies with prices under $9.00 a month do not offer any form of customer service or technical support. If you have a question on how to use the service, you are on your own. Still, a month-to-month account probably entails little risk. If they disappear next month, you can always sign up with someone else. I would suggest that you not pay a year in advance for these cheaper services, regardless of the discount offered. Again, do not use the Internet provider's e-mail service as you do not want your in-box to disappear if the company happens to go belly-up.

I decided that I wanted technical support availability via a telephone call. That alone was worth a few dollars a month for me. If traveling and unable to make a connection, I want to be able to call a support expert, preferably via a toll-free number. I also felt that a higher price increases the odds of the company still being in business next week. For my use and my friend's use, I selected Copper.net, available at $9.95 a month. Copper.net has been in the Internet access business for six years and offers a toll-free technical support number. The company also offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

I did not conduct an extensive, side-by-side comparison of Copper.net versus its competitors. I do know that Juno and NetZero are also very popular and have similar pricing. I am told they work well. Looking at the list of subscribers to this newsletter, I see lots of e-mail addresses ending in Juno.com and NetZero.net as well as Copper.net. I acted upon the advice of a friend who has been a satisfied Copper.net customer for some time. With hundreds of competitors in the same business, I am sure there are others that can match Copper.net in price and in service. I only use that company as an example.

I will say that this $9.95 a month service certainly works better than the $23.90 service my friend had used previously. It is significantly faster and seems to be more reliable. She and I have never encountered a busy signal when dialing.

Here are a few other companies that I found who offer discounted Internet access (I will not list those who require annual contracts, nor those that have extra set-up fees):

$6.49/month: Kamudi at http://www.kamudi.com (Offers support by e-mail only. That can be a problem when you cannot log on!)

$6.95/month: Access4Cheap at http://www.access4cheap.com/ (Support by e-mail only.)

$9.95/month (all of these companies offer technical support via toll-free numbers):




Joi Internet (has cheaper prices for long-term contracts.)

Please note that I have only used one of the above providers and cannot vouch for the others. I mention them only for price comparison purposes. Right now, I am paying $9.95 a month to Copper.net.

Finally, I will mention one more Internet provider that is a bit different. Budget Dialup does not charge any monthly minimum. Instead, you "pay as you go." You purchase blocks of time in advance. For instance, 10 hours of online time costs $3.95, while 60 hours costs only $19.95. If you do not use any hours in a particular month, you do not incur any charges. You can use those hours at any time you wish. (You must use all that time within twelve months after purchase, however.) Budget Dialup also requires the installation of a proprietary dialer (versus the one that comes with Windows). I wish they would use the standard dialers built into the operating system.

Budget Dialup is a great service for infrequent travelers who use broadband at home but need occasional dial-up access when traveling. The company can provide access for those occasions when you need to use a laptop in a hotel room or at a friend's house. There is no need to pay a monthly fee during the months you are not traveling.

There are many, many more cheap providers. If you have had any good or bad experiences with any of the discount providers, please let newsletter readers know on the Discussion Board at http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at: http://www.eogn.com/discussionboard

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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 http://www.eogn.com.


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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 user’s 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:

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

The following article is from Eastman’s 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 http://www.eogn.com.

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: Richard@eastman.net. Due to the volume of e-mail received, he is unable to answer every e-mail message received.

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