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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Standard Edition

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

Vol. 9 No. 3 – January 19, 2004

This newsletter relies solely upon "word of mouse" advertising. If you enjoy reading these articles, please tell others to go to

Search previous issues of Standard Edition newsletters at:

All opinions expressed in this document are those of Dick Eastman and his alone, unless otherwise attributed. None of his statements are to be interpreted as endorsements by his employer, by the other authors or by advertisers.

Copyright© 2004 by Richard W. Eastman. All rights reserved.


- This Newsletter is Eight Years Old!
- The Genealogy World of Eight Years Ago
- Family Historian 2.2
- U.S. World War I Draft Registrations
- Calendar of the Court Books of the Borough of New Woodstock 1588-1595
- The Archives of Ontario Needs You!
- (+)How Safe Are Your Old Documents?
- (+)Fad Sweeps the Country in 1870s
- The Unreliable Mailing of This and Other Newsletters

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

"People my age take pride in being the last generation that got spankings." - Jeff Foxworthy

- This Newsletter is Eight Years Old!

Boy, the time does fly! It seems like only yesterday that I sent an e-mail message to about 100 people, mostly members of CompuServe’s Genealogy Forums. None of them knew in advance that the newsletter would arrive; I simply mailed it to people who I thought might be interested. In 1996 nobody objected to receiving unsolicited bulk mail; the phrase "spam mail" had not yet been invented. I shudder to think if I did the same thing in today's Internet environment.

In that first newsletter on January 15, 1996, I wrote:

Well, it's started. This newsletter is something that I have been considering for a long time, but I finally decided to "take the plunge." I've subscribed to several other electronic newsletters for some time now and have found them to be valuable. On many occasions I have said to myself, "Someone ought to do a weekly newsletter for genealogy news." One day the light bulb went on, and I decided that perhaps I was that someone.

I hope to collect various bits of information that cross my desk and appear on my screen every week. Some of these items may be considered "news items" concerning events and happenings of interest to computer-owning genealogists. Some other items will be mini press releases about new genealogy software or other products and services that have just become available. I may write a few articles about things that are not genealogy-related but still seem to be of interest to me and probably to the readers. This may include articles about online systems, operating systems or other things that affect many of us.

You will also find editorials and my personal opinions weaving in and out of this newsletter. Hopefully I will be able to clearly identify the information that is a personal opinion.

The expected audience of this newsletter includes anyone in the genealogy business, any genealogy society officers and anyone with an interest in applying computers to help in the research of one's ancestors.

I chose to distribute in electronic format for two reasons: (1.) it's easy, and (2.) it's cheap. In years past I have been an editor of other newsletters that were printed on paper and mailed in the normal manner. The "overhead" associated with that effort was excessive; I spent more time dealing with printers, maintaining addresses of subscribers, handling finances, stuffing envelopes and running to the post office than I did in the actual writing. Today's technology allows for a much faster distribution, and it is done at almost no expense to either the producer or the subscribers. I want to spend my time writing, not running a "newsletter business."

Since the expected readers all own computers and almost all of them use modems regularly, electronic distribution seems to be the most cost-effective route to use. It also is much lower cost than any other distribution mechanism that I know of.

The original plan has been followed rather closely in the eight years since I wrote those words. The newsletter still consists of "events and happenings of interest to computer-owning genealogists," "mini press releases about new genealogy software or other products and services" and "a few articles about things that are not genealogy-related but still seem to be of interest to me." I have also frequently featured "editorials and my personal opinions."

I did err in one statement: "Today's technology allows for a much faster distribution, and it is done at almost no expense to either the producer or the subscribers." If I were to re-write that sentence today, I wouldn’t use the phrase "at almost no expense." I would write, "…at lower expense than publishing on paper." Since I wrote the original words eight years ago, I have received an education in the sending of bulk e-mails. I now know how much it costs to send out thousands of e-mails. There are technical problems as well. Someday I will write an article about "how to get your account canceled when you repeatedly crash your ISP's mail server." I did that a number of times in the early days of this newsletter. And, yes, I got my account canceled one day by an irate internet service provider. They discovered that their mail server crashed every week when I mailed this newsletter. I also have encountered significant expenses for hardware, software, web hosting, mailing list services, and office expenses. As a result, this newsletter split into two versions: a free Standard Edition and a for-pay Plus Edition.

A couple months ago, I also added articles written by a talented group of genealogists. You have seen their articles in recent weeks. I hope the newsletter is now even more valuable because these contributors see things, do things, and write about things that I do not see. Their diverse articles have helped "round out" this newsletter.

I was amused a while ago when someone sent a message to me that started with the words, "I hope someone on your staff will forward this message to you." After eight years, my staff remains exactly the same as when I started: myself plus one very talented lady who edits this newsletter every week. I do the up-front work; she then converts my written words into real English. She also functions as a business advisor, confidante, and good friend. She has done this for nearly every newsletter since the very first edition. She has done this despite the travel schedules of both of us; sometimes we both have been in hotel rooms but in different countries. As a computer professional, her travel schedule has been at least as hectic as mine, if not more so; yet, she and I have passed the proposed newsletters back and forth by e-mail every week. Thanks, Pam. I couldn’t do it without you.

Eight years ago I worked for a software firm that was not in the genealogy business. The newsletter was started as a part-time business, written nights and weekends. Since then, I have switched employers four times. The first three were all in the software business. Now, a few months ago I realized a dream when I was able to obtain full-time employment in genealogy: I now am employed by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. However, that society also has allowed me to continue this newsletter as a part time sideline business; it is still written on my own time, nights and weekends.

In the third issue of this newsletter, I answered questions that a number of people had asked. I wrote:

I hope to issue this [newsletter] every week. … I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice. Also, the first three issues have all been much longer than I originally envisioned. I expect that the average size of the newsletter within a few weeks will be about one half what the first three issues have been. Do not be surprised when you see it shrink in size.

Well, I was wrong. The first three issues averaged about 19,000 bytes of text. The newsletter never did drop to half of that number. Instead, the newsletters continued to grow in size. The newsletters of the past year have averaged 68,420 bytes each, about 3 ½ times the size of the first three issues. So much for my prognostication!

In eight years I have missed only seven editions for vacations, broken arms, airplane accidents, and family emergencies. Yes, I broke both arms one day and still missed only one newsletter as a result. The following week I wrote about speech input devices as I dictated that week's newsletter into a microphone connected to my PC. A few months later, I suffered bruises and wrenched my neck severely in an airplane accident but missed only one issue as a result. Over the years I hopefully have become more cautious: I stopped flying tiny airplanes. I also have written more than 400 newsletters for a total of about 15 megabytes of text. Someday I really do have to learn how to touch type.

Because of this newsletter, in the past eight years I have traveled all over the U.S., Canada and England. Because of this newsletter, I have met many enthusiastic genealogists. Because of this newsletter, I have had the opportunity to use great software, to view many excellent Web sites, and to play with lots of new gadgets. Because of this newsletter, I have discovered a number of ancestors. I am indeed fortunate and have truly been blessed. To each person reading today’s edition, I want to say one thing: "Thank you for being there and for making it possible for me to enjoy three of my hobbies: genealogy, computers, and online systems."

Also, one other sentence I wrote eight years ago still stands: "Suggestions about this newsletter are always welcome."

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

[Return to Table of Contents]

- The Genealogy World of Eight Years Ago

This week I decided to take a trip down memory lane. I re-read the first 50 issues of this newsletter, all published in 1996. The genealogy world indeed has changed. Here are a few of the more memorable newsletter items from eight years ago:

Only the more advanced computer users in 1996 had state-of-the-art software: Microsoft's latest operating system, called Windows 95. However, because I was now writing a "techie" newsletter, I purchased a very high-speed system (a 90-Mhz Pentium I) with a huge amount of memory (32 megabytes) so that I could use the latest professional operating system from Microsoft: Windows NT 3.51. During the year, Microsoft also released Internet Explorer version 3.0. Most of the 30 million users of the World Wide Web used Netscape, however. A few used Mosaic. (In contrast, 400 hundred million people or more around the world will use the Web in 2004.)

The annual GENTECH conference was held on Plano, Texas with several hundred attendees.

The National Genealogical Society held its annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society announced a new online presence on a section of CompuServe. This apparently was the first major genealogy society to serve members online.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society held its annual summer conference in Farmington, Connecticut. The luncheon speaker was Dick Eastman, speaking on "The Future of On-Line Computer Communications for Genealogists." (Ironically, seven and a half years later that speaker is employed by that society and is now responsible for the society's online communications.)

Family Tree Maker version 3.0 by Broderbund added the capability to read genealogy data CD-ROMs produced by a company that Broderbund had recently acquired: Banner Blue.

A previously-unheard-of company called Progeny Software introduced their first genealogy product: PAF*Mate.

Bill Harten, GEDCOM coordinator for the LDS Church's Family History Department, announced that GEDCOM 6.0 was under development.

CompuServe shocked the computer industry when they announced a new offering of UNLIMITED online time for only $19.95 a month. All online services had previously charged by the hour.

An online genealogist in Scotland was rescued from possible death by a group of other genealogists in the U.S. when using a genealogy chat room. Reverend Ken Walker, a Scottish history expert who lived alone, had a seizure while online and was unable to disconnect his computer from the phone line in order to call for medical help. The online genealogists in the same chat room deduced his location and placed a trans-Atlantic telephone call to the police in Walker's home town. An ambulance arrived within minutes. The doctors who later examined Walker at a local hospital stated that he probably would not have survived without immediate medical attention.

I wrote a review of the "books" written by Halberts of Bath, Ohio. These contained no genealogy information, only listings from telephone directories. (The company later went out of business.)

"Relations" was a new genealogy program for Apple's handheld Newton devices.

Geni, a Psion 3 genealogy program, was released.

CommSoft, the company that produced Roots IV for MS-DOS and also Visual Roots, announced their latest genealogy program: Family Gathering for Windows. A few months later a Macintosh version was announced. Late in the year, the same company announced the release of Roots V for Windows.

Other genealogy software reviewed in the 1996 newsletters included KinWin 1.1, GENTREE (in French), Family Tree Maker version 3.0, Tree-O, Family Matters, Kith and Kin, Brothers Keeper for Windows, Personal Ancestral File for the Macintosh version 2.3.1, Family Tree International, FamilyBase, PAF*Mate, Ahnenforscher (in German), Genius for Windows, FamilyTree for OS/2, Cumberland Family Tree for Windows, The Master Genealogist's new Windows version, Family Origins version 5, Family Matters, Family History Composer for the Macintosh, and Corel's "Family Tree Master." How many of those programs are still available?

Yes, 1996 was a newsworthy year. I must say that I have also enjoyed the succeeding years.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

[Return to Table of Contents]


I will be on the road again this week, attending the GENTECH 2004 conference in St, Louis, Missouri. This is typically the premier event for newly-announced technical genealogy products and services. I hope to find "what's new" at the conference and report on those items in next week's newsletter. One caveat is that I will be traveling: writing this newsletter on the laptop, using hotel room online connections, and confronting the other "road warrior" difficulties that may result in a delayed newsletter next week. Have patience; it will eventually arrive.

If you are able to slip away for a couple of interesting days, you might drop in on the GENTECH2004 conference on January 23 and 24. Tickets will be available at the door, and there are lots of rooms available in St. Louis hotels. You can find more information at

If you do make it to GENTECH 2004, please stop by Booth #5 in the Exhibitors' Hall. Newsletter editor Pam Cerutti and I will both be there and would love to meet you. Walk in the Exhibitors' Hall front entrance, immediately turn right, and we will be on your right, the fifth booth from the entrance.

To those who asked: Yes, I am hoping to host a dinner for newsletter readers on Saturday night. This has become a bit of a tradition over the years. A bunch of newsletter readers often go out to dinner after the close of the genealogy conference.

As always, these dinners are never planned in advance, and the location is not yet known. (We will decide that after arriving in St. Louis.) There is no agenda and there will be no speeches. There will be no dues, and membership cards will not be checked. It is for a group of strangers who transform into new friends after the close of the conference. It is open to anyone who reads this newsletter or is a friend of a newsletter reader. We typically commandeer a local restaurant and hold a raucous "Dutch Treat" dinner meeting. Each year's event has been different from all others; most have been very successful while a few have been less so. Take a chance and sign up for the dinner at Booth #5. We will need a confirmed headcount by Saturday morning so that we can ensure that we have enough seats available in the restaurant.

A note to newsletter readers in St. Louis: can you suggest a restaurant within walking distance of the Millennia Hotel that can handle a group of 30 to 40 genealogists on a Saturday night? Preferably, a very informal place with modest prices that won't kick us out when we become a bit noisy? A varied menu would be nice although Mexican, German, Italian, or seafood restaurants might be preferred. Oh yes, can you join us? Send a note to Thanks!

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

[Return to Table of Contents]

- Family Historian 2.2

The following article was written by and is copyright by Mark Lang.


If you have been following the progress of this product, then you may be aware of this latest upgrade, also mentioned in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter Volume 8 No. 50, or by email notification from Calico Pie, the maker of Family Historian. This major update is a free download available from the company website only (see Resources at the end of article), and users must have a registered copy of Family Historian in which to update. If you do not have a registered version, downloading this upgrade will not net the desired result as it will not work.

Background and System Requirements

Family Historian is a Windows-based program and will run under Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP and NT4. It will not run under Window 3.1 or earlier or NT 3.51 or earlier. It requires approximately 15 megabytes of hard disk drive space. The author has made a number of recommendations pertaining to the size of your database and the recommended PC configuration. A Standard level (0-2000 records and ~20 pictures) meets minimum requirements. A Large level (2000-25,000 records, 20-50 pictures) requires a 200MHz CPU with 32MB memory, Very Large (25,000-100,000 records, 50-100 pictures) requires 500MHz CPU with 128MB memory, and a Huge level (100,000+ records and 100+ pictures) requires 1GHz CPU with 256MB memory. These are approximations, so the user can take this into consideration if their system may be running a little slow.


This upgrade is only downloadable from the company website. It is advisable to save it to a regular folder so that you can remember where it was downloaded. Although some people like to download software to their desktop, I do not recommend this practice; I have known of instances where desktops have been wiped clean from unpredictable user events. If you must have a program located on the desktop, make sure it is just a link and not the program itself; you will find that Windows will load a lot faster. For all file transfers, I recommend a temporary folder space located directly off the root directory of your main drive (C:\temp) or, if you are using XP, a similar folder (C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\My Documents\temp).

The downloadable file is only 2.6MB in size; therefore, it should download in about 8-10 minutes for those using 56K modems, even less for those with broadband capabilities. Once it has finished downloading, navigate to the temporary folder and simply activate the executable by double-clicking the icon. I downloaded the upgrade from the Calico Pie website, and the file is called "upgrade_fh_to_221.exe". If you download from the User group website hosted by a dedicated user, the file is simply called "fh221.exe".

The program setup searches for an installed copy of Family Historian and applies the upgrade to this file. It will not install a full 2.2 version of Family Historian.

When you start Family Historian for the first time, the program opens to an uninviting blank presentation. The main Records window does not show any records from any database; this has to be preset by using the Tools > Preferences | Miscellaneous tab from the main menu. From here you can select the default start up file and folder and backup folder. If you don’t set these, the program will always start up blank, and when you choose to open a file, or backup the loaded file, it will default to the Tutorial Files folder that is located in the root directory of where Family Historian is installed.

In Review…

You can begin starting your family history by entering information/data about yourself and then extending in all directions outward. Family Historian 2.2 (hereinafter known as FH2.2) can utilise both keyboard shortcuts and the mouse, but the mouse is the preferred option as it quickly uses context menus for each screen when you click on the right mouse button.

To begin, use the main menu (Insert > Unrelated Individual), keyboard shortcut (Alt+I+U), or right click on the blank Records window and select New Individual from the context menu. The first two methods open the Individual dialog box, where you can add all the information relating to that individual. The dialog box is also tabbed and is divided into areas labelled Main, Detail, Events, Notes, Objects, and All.

The Main tab is for basic information such as name, gender, birth, and death (dates and locations), spousal and children information. The Detail tab allows for greater flexibility of data, including Religion, Education, Emigration, and Immigration, etc. The Events section allows for an additional 22 events and 13 attributes; should an event or attribute not be present, you can add your own custom title. The Notes section is self-explanatory; the Objects tab allows you to link in all your multimedia files, and the "All" tab shows an isolated record of what appears in the Records window. You can see a sample at

You will note earlier I stated there was three methods of entering data, the last using the right-mouse’s context menu system. When you use this method, instead of opening the Individual dialog box, it creates a node for the individual directly into the Records Window.

There is no Save button located on any screen or dialog box as in other family history programs. All information is "written" to file as soon as you tab out of a field or click into another. There is a Write to Disk Save that can be preset in Preferences or upon closing the file/program. Depending on how you view your program on screen (I have mine set up as windows so that I can view a number of different screens simultaneously), you may see the information inputted in the dialog box appear as a list of individuals in the Records window. Each record in the Records window can be expanded by using the expansion box to the left of the Individual’s name, and you can do the same for each node that has data with an expansion box.

Of course each event/attribute should be qualified by a source entry, and this can be done simply by using the context menu system and selecting the appropriate item from the list. Therefore, right-clicking a Name attribute and selecting Add Source, you can choose from adding a link to a new source record, an existing source record, or a source note for the record. To quickly identify sources, they are reproduced in the Records Windows in red so that they stand out.

The Records window is also tabbed; the first where you will most probably be working is Individuals, as already mentioned above. The next is Families, followed by Notes, Sources, Repositories, Submitters, Multimedia and Headers.

The creation of ancestor and descendant charts does a better than normal job in that the user can actually modify the record also from the chart. It also allows the user to insert thumbnail pictures into the box charts. Colours can be changed on nearly any chart item, and there is room for 4 separate titles, also modifiable with colour, font size, etc. The only point that I have made to the programmer is the lack of graphic support at the background level, which I am led to believe is still on the wish list.

Although some of you may be starting from scratch, it is more likely that there are many who are looking for a better program than their current one, or an additional program to complement their current one. If one of these situations is you, then you will not want to have to re-enter all your data again. FH2.2 (as had all its previous versions) has been able to import data from other programs by using GEDCOM file format. A GEDCOM file allows for the transfer of certain information in a standard form that can be interpreted by any genealogical program. Calico Pie claim that "Family Historian was designed from the ground up to be 100% GEDCOM-compatible, and 100% GEDCOM-complete – that is, it can load all GEDCOM (5.5) fields and can save all of its data to the GEDCOM format. In fact, Family Historian uses GEDCOM as its own ‘native’ file format. So unlike other applications, you do not have to convert Family Historian files to the GEDCOM format. They already are in the GEDCOM format."

What this effectively does is create an extremely fast-loading program. There are no conversions needed to import the *.ged file into a proprietary file format, so you begin working on your family data a lot sooner.

New to 2.2

Further to what I mentioned above with the GEDCOM file format, FH2.2 has incorporated into its import function error detection, correction, and a validation feature. If you are beginning your family history from scratch using FH2.2, then you will probably not benefit from this feature; however, if you are importing from another program, then this feature will become paramount in maintaining a cohesive and integral bond with your data and the knowledge that it is still correct.

Opening a file not created by Family Historian now goes through a two-step process. The first is load-time check and correct, and is mainly for the most common of errors where words are incorrectly split in long text fields involving wrapping. FH2.2 identifies this and corrects, giving a very thorough exception report (which I strongly advise for you to save to review). Secondly, FH2.2 will validate for serious errors in the file (and displays a report – again I advise saving), removing invalid links involving gender errors, etc. I know Calico orate a 100% compatibility with the GEDCOM standard, but please, maintain a workable backup of your file in its original format at all times, just in case those infamous sunspots decide to flare at the wrong time.

Using the exception file might be a trite difficult for some, so FH2.2 now incorporates an easier method to locate the information on an import that was considered "unconventional". This data is placed in a newly created field, called an Uncategorised Data Field, or UDF for short. Once you have imported a non-FH2.2 file, go to Tools > Find Uncategorised Data and follow the prompts to create a Named List – I conveniently called mine "UDFs" – and utilise this list to correct any information. You will find FH2.2 "GEDCOM-compliant" data nodes are coloured coded to identify the section tab each is in, while all UDF data is indicated by a starburst to highlight the error.

Using some of today’s most popular programs gleaned the following results in exporting a GEDCOM from them and then importing the associated *.ged file into FH2.2.





Ancestral Quest




Brothers Keeper



ansel only

Family Tree Legends




Family Tree Maker



















ansel only






These are just some of the comparisons that I spent time doing, and I know I have not covered all possible programs, or all the family history programs that I have on my computer, but I wanted (if possible) to show the mainstream market.

Up until now, FH has only supported one kind of merging process, and this was at the file level. In other words, an imported file is compared to a FH file, and if there were any identical records, you could merge them. Because we are human, errors do creep in, and at times we may repeat entries (unknowingly, of course); there is now a more robust method of checking in greater detail by comparing just two records alongside each other. The dialog window is split into three: the two identified records plus a pane that separates the differences visually. You can then decide whether to merge the two individuals or not. Further to this process, you can also do a branch compare/merge for those extra family duplicates you really didn’t mean to type in.

Making its debut in FH2.2 is a new feature called a Tree Splitter, and as the name suggests, it does the opposite of the merging process described above. This process basically takes a copy of the working file and from the copy allows the user to prune their family tree as little or as savagely as they want of those unwanted individuals/families. Looking at it another way, you can also see this method as a means of collecting just the pertinent information needed when exchanging data with fellow researchers. Again, I cannot emphasize enough that, when you are using a feature that can dramatically alter your file for good, please, please, please make certain that you have a backup.

Family Historian has always maintained a very quick and powerful report generator, where you can save the reports as HTML, RTF or TXT files. You will find a total of 22 reports residing under the Reports Menu, and a further 28 Query Reports will be found under Tools > Work with Queries/Reports. Of the 22 Reports mentioned above, 5 of these are new for this upgrade; they are Groups/Castes, Occupations, Origins, Places, and Religion.

Along with these new reports, FH2.2 has improved support program-wise for these facilities. This extends to auto-complete on place names for an event or attribute. This feature can also be turned on/off on the Preferences | Miscellaneous tab. Each Place field has a button with an ellipsis (...), and either clicking this or double-clicking the place field presents to the user the Place List. Here you can edit, merge, report, alter the number of columns (advisable if you use 4+ place fields in your locations) from the default 3 up to and including 10 columns wide, and even reverse the list order, making it easier to sort.

Further improvements allow the user to modify the number and type of columns visible in the Records window for seven of the eight tabbed panes; only the Headers tab cannot be configured. This feature also extends to the Named Lists. In addition to this, you can also create your own type of tag (as well as how many you want to create). You can then "tag" individuals as required and create your own unique lists and reports of lists thereof. Other family history programs may allow you to use tags (if incorporated into the program), but in the end, there is a limitation of both use and the number of tags. Once you have used them all, if you really need another tag, a sacrifice of one tag for another may be the only answer.

There have also been numerous enhancements to the Diagram window, some handy, while others are more streamlined to make the overall presentation a cheer to use. This includes the ability to re-zoom back to its actual size, a better re-centring function, and more simplified options for printing. The handy features include the temporary grabber, which you use by holding down the SPACE bar in conjunction with the mouse’s left-click drag option. There is also the ability to navigate a diagram via the keyboard arrow keys – left and right for horizontal navigation, up and down arrows for vertical navigation – but I preferred the former action instead.


There have been many more additions, a lot which have been improvements to the general workings and day-to-day usage of Family Historian. These range from the simplification of dialog boxes, to Family Historian remembering window sizes and positions on the monitor, to make the user’s experience a more pleasant one. I have been watching FH since its inaugural release, and I have contact with the programmer who creates this fine English program. I have also made many suggestions for improvements along the way, of which I am pleased FH2.2 incorporates one of my ideas: the use of metric units of measurements. There have also been many tweaks to the Diagram function that make it now a pleasure to use, along with enhancements to the Records and Queries windows, further date validation on data entry, and enhanced marital status and relationship qualifier fields.

Taking this into consideration, although I have found Family Historian an easy–to-use product, it also incorporates the more powerful features required for intermediate and advanced family historians (no pun intended). This major upgrade has addressed quite a few needed issues, compared to the previous upgrade. FH2.2 has turned into a really decent program to use, and I now consider it to be one of the top ten genealogy programs on the market. There are obviously many more features yet to appear in Family Historian, and I look forward to the next major release.


About the Author

Mark Lang is an Australian who has authored over 45 genealogical program reviews since April 2000 and has traced his wife’s ancestry back to late 18th century Scotland. He has been interested in family history since 1991, is a member of his local family history group since it began in 1996, and was their webmaster for four years. He has a degree in computer science and is currently writing a book involving a genealogical program.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

[Return to Table of Contents]

- U.S. World War I Draft Registrations

The following was written by Jean Nudd, Archivist at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Northeast Region in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. As it was written by a government employee in conjunction with her employment, you may freely copy this and republish as you wish. However, I strongly suggest that you credit Jean Nudd as the author.


On May 18, 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act authorizing the President to draft men into military service. The Selective Service System (SSS), under the office of the Provost Marshal General (PMGO), was responsible for the process of selecting men for induction into the military service, from the initial registration to the actual delivery of men to military training camps.

The SSS operated under a "supervised decentralization" format. The President established district boards based on Federal Judicial Districts. The average district board had jurisdiction over approximately 30 local boards, each with an average registration of 5,000 men. The district boards had appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the local boards in some claims and original jurisdiction in others.

Under the PMGO, the SSS was made up of 52 state (or territory) offices, 155 district boards, 1,319 medical advisory boards, and 4,648 local boards. These organizations were responsible for registering men; classifying them; taking into consideration needs for manpower in certain industries and in agriculture, as well as certain special family situations of the registrants; handling any appeals of these classifications; determining the medical fitness of individual registrants; determining the order in which registrants would be called; calling registrants; and placing them on trains to training centers.

Local boards were established in each county or similar subdivision in each state and for each 30,000 persons (approximately) in each city or county. The local boards were charged with registration, determination of serial and order numbers, classification, and the call and entrainment of draftees.

During World War I, there were three registrations. The first was on June 5, 1917, and registered men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second was on June 5, 1918, and registered men who had turned 21 since June 5, 1917 (A supplemental registration on Aug. 24, 1918, registered those becoming 21 since June 5, 1918.). The third registration was held on September 12, 1918 and registered men 18 through 45. So, all men born between 1872 and September 1900 who were not in active military service by June 1917 filled out draft registration cards, whether they were native born, naturalized, or alien.

There were five World War I draft classifications, but they were not the straight-forward arrangement that we all remember from later wars, such as 1A or 4F. Every registrant was considered belonging to Class 1 until his status giving him the right of deferred classification was fully established. So, all registrants were in Class 1 unless they were granted a deferment. The remaining classes, 2-5, were known as the deferred classes, but that did not mean they could not be drafted. The report states, "After exhausting class 1, men would be called from the first registration from Class 2, 3, and 4, with practically accurate knowledge that they were being called in direct order of their availability and in inverse order of their need for the social and economic life of the country." Class 5 was the only class not subject to induction.

Each draft board used a set of standard "principles" to place men in the deferred classes, including dependency, sundry specific vocations, necessary agricultural and industrial workers, or moral disqualification. Alien citizens, termed alienage by the SSS, were placed in class 5. Enemy aliens were also classified 5s. The rest of registered "noncombatant" and "neutral" aliens were dispersed across Class 1 and other deferred classes. Dependency deferment was based on family support needs, if someone else was able to support family members, and if the man had children or how recently he had married.

Sundry specified vocations were generally federal and state officers (class 5), ministers (class 5), pilots (class 5), mariners (class 4), county or municipal officers (class 3), firemen and policemen (class 3), customhouse clerks (class 3), or mailmen (class 3). Necessary agricultural and industrial workers were classified in all classes "according to the degree of their skill and the relative necessity and importance of such an individual to a particular enterprise. In class 2 was placed a registrant found by his district board to be a necessary skilled farm laborer in a necessary agricultural enterprise or a necessary skilled industrial laborer in a necessary industrial enterprise. In class 3… found to be a necessary assistant, associate or hired manager of a necessary enterprise; …also a registrant found to be a necessary highly specialized technical or mechanical expert of a necessary industrial enterprise. Class 4… found to be a necessary sole managing, controlling, or directing head."

After the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, the activities of the Selective Service System were rapidly curtailed. On November 27, 1918, the Provost Marshal General ordered that selective service organizations be closed and that records of draft boards and state headquarters be forwarded to Washington. By March 31, 1919, all local, district and medical advisory boards were closed, and in 1919 the last state headquarters closed operations. The Provost Marshal General was relieved from duty on July 15, 1919, thereby finally terminating the activities of the Selective Service System of World War I. Detailed accounts of the organization and activities of the Selective Service System are contained in two annual reports and the final report of the Provost Marshal General to the Secretary of War and in the Selective Service Regulations (Washington 1918).

Records Descriptions

The order of the Secretary of War of November 27, 1918, provided for the transfer of the Selective Service System records to the Adjutant General's Office where they were administered by the Selective Service Division. Since the closing of the PMGO in 1919, the great bulk of the records have been destroyed by Congressional authority as having no permanent value or because of duplication. All the records not destroyed were transferred to the National Archives in 1942 and 1945 with the exception of the original registration cards, which were in the custody of the Bureau of the Census until 1989. At that time they were transferred to the National Archives. These records include the correspondence, reports, and related papers of the PMGO relating to the administration of the draft, draft quotas, appeals to the President, the Students' Army Training Corps, deserters, aliens, personnel, accounts, and other matters; records of the local boards consisting principally of docket books, classification lists, lists of inductees and of delinquents and deserters; docket books and forms of district boards; and vouchers. Also included in this record group and described in this checklist are the correspondence files of the Selective Service Division of the Adjutant General's Office, 1919-39, which furnished information during that period to inquirers concerning the Selective Service System and its records.

The draft registration records consist of approximately 24 million cards (about 23% of the population in 1918). They are reproduced in M1509, WWI Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-18, on 4,277 rolls of microfilm. It is important to note that not all of the men who registered for the draft actually served in the military, and not all of the men who served in the military registered for the draft. Moreover, these are not military service records. These records end when individuals reported to the Army training camp. They contain no information about an individual's military service.

M1509 is arranged alphabetically by state or territory, and then by county or city (except for Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, which are arranged by division or counties), and then alphabetically by surname of registrant. Each of the three registrations used a slightly different type of card. Each card asks for the same basic information, posed in formats of 10, 12 or 20 questions: name, age, address, date and place of birth, race, citizenship, and name and place of employment. The 10-question format (June 19171) also asked for the place of birth of the registrant's father and the name and address of the nearest relative. The 12-question format (June and August 1918) included the registrant's occupation, marital status, dependents, former military status, and claims of exemption from the draft. The 20-question form (Sept. 1918) asked more specific citizenship information and name and address of nearest relative. Accompanying each is a brief physical description of the registrant.

There are some notable points to remember when using M1509. Indians, prisoners, the insane, men in hospitals, and late registrants' cards are filed separately at the end of the microfilm series. These films are not available at every NARA facility. If a man was already serving in the military, he didn't need to register. Some recent immigrants may have written their last names first, so their cards may be filed under their given name rather than their surname. Hispanics use both the father and mother's surnames, so their cards may be filed under their mother's rather than their father's surname. And lastly, remember these cards were filled out by the registrant, and some people, even in 1918, were illiterate and may not have spelled their names as they are spelled today.

Also available on microfilm is M1860, Boundary Maps of Selected Cities and Counties of WWI Selective Service Draft Registration Boards, 1917-18, on one roll of microfilm. These maps can simplify the task of finding the card of a registrant who lived in a heavily-populated area. Some of these maps are draft board maps showing the boundaries of the draft boards while others are just street and road maps. The maps are arranged geographically and cover major cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Bridgeport (CT), Buffalo (NY), Chicago, Washington (DC), Cleveland, Cincinnati, Hartford (CT), Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Jersey City (NJ), Kansas City (KS), Louisville, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Minneapolis, New Haven, San Diego, St. Paul, Seattle, and Toledo, as well as the New York City metropolitan area and major cities in Pennsylvania. They were filmed in their plastic sleeves, due to their fragile condition and age. Many of the maps are discolored or faded from age, and this makes them difficult to use. The highly reflective plastic sleeves caused unavoidable reflections as well.

If the NARA facility nearest you doesn't have the roll of M1509 you need, the Atlanta office provides reference services for draft cards. There is a form available on NARA's web site,, which researchers can use to request a search. You must know the man's full name, complete home address at the time of registration (including county), and name of nearest relative, at a minimum. Additional information helps them find the right card, including birth date, birth place, and occupation. Cost is $10 for each search.

In addition to these microfilmed draft registration cards and boundary maps of registration boards, records of the PMGO are available, but most are not microfilmed. The administrative records of the PMGO, including correspondence, personnel records, and opinion records, may not interest most genealogists. Some researchers may find their ancestors in the records relating to citizenship status, Presidential appeals or delinquents and deserters. Perhaps most interesting are the records of local boards, including docket books and classification lists, list of inductees, and delinquent and deserter forms.

The administrative records of the PMGO consist of several series, including general files, states files, miscellaneous files, office files, alien files, passport files, historical files, subject index to the PMGO's files, person and place index to the PMGO's files, orders to state draft executives, local board experience files, sample forms and form correspondence files, newspaper clippings, information file on court decisions, complaints file, list of U.S. residents serving in the British Expeditionary Forces, list of U.S. residents serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, lists of registrants living abroad, personnel records, vouchers, appropriations received and spent for military service, and financial statistics of the Selective Service System. Some of these series are indexed.

The general, states, miscellaneous, and office files consist mainly of correspondence, reports, and related administrative papers relating to preparation, interpretation, and enforcement of the Selective Service regulations, state activities, and members of Congress. The alien files and its index are correspondence with foreign representatives about the registration of aliens residing in the United States. The passport file contains correspondence with draft registrants who desired passports to leave the United States. The historical file consists of papers withdrawn from the other files because they were considered to be of historical value. The local board experience file holds questionnaires filled in by local boards and sent to the PMGO on various provisions of the Selective Service Act. The complaints file consists of cards digesting correspondence received about draft dodgers, unfair classifications, and similar subjects, giving the name of complainant, summary of complaint, number of form letter sent in reply or notation of referral to the Department of Justice. The personnel records include cards of state draft board members and state draft officials, as well as PMGO personnel. The financial statistics are in two volumes and consist of lists of Selective Service appropriations with amounts expended by offices and boards for salaries, traveling expenses, equipment, rentals, supplies, and other purposes. The second volume is a chronological summary of expenditures of all states, followed by a summary sheet for each state.

Records of the district boards are also available. These include Forms 185 and 1006, which list the cases received in the district boards, either on appeal or as claims based on engagement in agriculture or industry. These forms give names of registrants, order and serial numbers, dates on which actions were taken, and classification. Many forms are incomplete. They are arranged by state and then by district board.

The records of local boards include docket books, classification lists, lists of inductees, individual induction forms, and lists of delinquents and deserters. Some have indexes. The docket books are lists of registrants in the first registration, giving, for each man, his order and serial numbers, date on which questionnaire was mailed to him, date and result of physical examination, date on which registrant was sent to mobilization camp, and notation of acceptance or rejection there. Notations are made if an appeal was made. The volumes are arranged numerically by code numbers assigned to each local board. Within each volume, the arrangement is numerical by the order number of registrant. These order numbers are on the original draft registration cards. Many local boards destroyed their docket books since they reproduced this information on the classification lists.

The classification lists are lists of the registrants in all three registrations, giving the order and serial number for each man, race, date on which questionnaire was mailed to him and returned, classification, date of appeal, action taken by both local and district boards, date of physical examination, date of entrainment for mobilization camp, and notation of acceptance or rejection there. The volumes are arranged like the docket books. [THESE RECORDS ARE NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE. MOST ARE STORED IN NARA'S ATLANTA OFFICE AND WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE UNTIL AFTER THE MOVE INTO THEIR NEW FACILITY. Check with the Atlanta office for further information.]

Lists of inductees are forms 164-A and 1029, used by the local boards to list men summoned for entrainment to mobilization camps. Each form contains the name of the local board, the mobilization camp, and the date on which men were to report. It lists the men with notations on acceptance or rejection at the camp or their failure to report. These are arranged within each state by local board and then chronologically by date of entrainment.

Lists of delinquents and deserters contain various forms, including 146-A and 1013 forms listing men who failed to report for induction or to return the questionnaires. They give the name of the local board, date, and list of registrants with order and serial number, addresses, dates due to appear, and reasons for failure to report. Forms 4003 are the final lists of delinquents and deserters of each local board, giving name, order number, and notations of action taken by local boards and state headquarters. Forms 1018 are the lists prepared by the local board or the state Adjutant General of who failed to report for military duty; they give names, addresses and dates of induction. Forms 148-B, 146-C, 4003-A, and 1012, each filed separately, are similar to those above but do not duplicate them. Forms 1013-A are Delinquent Classification Lists for States, giving the delinquent's name, local board, order number, delinquent order number, dates of mailing forms, and date of induction. Some do not show action taken. An index to delinquents and deserters forms is a card file that includes the name, local board, order number and number of form on which each delinquent was reported. These index cards are filed by state and then in general alphabetical order by name of delinquent.

Researchers wanting to use these World War I draft registration records should first determine which records they require and then determine where the records are stored for the state they are seeking. Some of these records are available on a regional level, but others are only available in College Park or Atlanta, Georgia. For information on where to find each type of record, see the Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, or visit and search the on-line catalog (ARC).

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

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- Calendar of the Court Books of the Borough of New Woodstock 1588-1595

A book review written by and copyright by Paul Gaskell.

Calendar of the Court Books of the Borough of New Woodstock 1588-1595, Edited by Royston F Taylor

The Oxfordshire Record Society (ORS) was formed in 1919 and has a worldwide membership. It publishes one book per year, which is always a transcription of material particular to Oxfordshire. The society operates in the same way as a book club: a member pays his or her subscription for a particular year and receives a "free" copy of the volume published in that year.

Most ORS publications are of relevance to the family historian. Some of these are countywide publications, including the Oxfordshire Protestation Returns 1641-42, an Index to Oxfordshire Deeds in the Bodleian Library, and the Oxfordshire Muster Rolls 1539, 1542, and 1569. However, some are more localised, such as the Woodstock Chamberlain' Accounts 1609-50, the Whitchurch School Logbook 1868-93, and Mark Spurrell's splendid transcription of the Brightwell Parish Diaries. These ORS publications often contain lists of names, with the Muster Rolls and Protestation Returns main use being as census substitutes.

This latest ORS volume, the Calendar of the Court Books of the Borough of New Woodstock 1588-1595, increases the society's range of transcriptions for the central Oxfordshire town of Woodstock. With Blenheim Palace, birthplace of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, situated in the town, this is arguably the most historic and well-known place in Oxfordshire other than Oxford itself. In fact, its status as a former royal borough distinguished it in having a civil court, the Portmoot, sit in the town. For the period 1581 to 1847, extensive court books survive for the Portmoot, as well as for the town's Borough Sessions Court.

The core of this book comprises abstracts of the surviving court books for the period 1588-1595. These are preceded by a glossary of terms and an extensive introduction that describes the surviving records and their purpose, and puts them into context. The volume is fully indexed by person, place, and subject. It should be noted that many of the litigants mentioned within the abstracts are from places other than Woodstock, with persons from Lechlade (Gloucestershire), Brackley (Northamptonshire) and Shipston-on-Stour (Warwickshire) being three examples to catch my eye.

The actions mentioned within the abstracts are wide and varied, with some of the mundane examples concerning topics such as trespass and debt recovery. However, more colourful examples include the "Court of the Assize of Bread and Ale," which was held on 29 October 1590. This particular court seems to have been concerned with the setting of prices for grain and victuals, and determined amongst other things that the halfpenny white loaf would weigh 8 ounces and that good ale would sell for 1d a quart. In fact, Appendix 1 lists the names of the Woodstock courts' officers, including those who were employed as aletasters! From 15 December 1588, Geo Fones and Nath Sharpe were engaged as aletasters, but on 13 October 1589, Fones was replaced as an aletaster by Jn Bruce. Other court officers listed by name include the mayor, chamberlains, constables, and tithingmen.

There are very many individuals mentioned in this volume, as is illustrated by the fact that the index of names runs to fifteen of the book's 150 pages. By intelligent use of these abstracts, a family historian can get some idea of their ancestors' wealth and standing within the community. Even for those Woodstock researchers whose lines are not mentioned by name, this volume gives an unrivalled insight into life in a small Oxfordshire town in the late sixteenth century, and hence is ideal for "fleshing out" the family tree.

This attractive volume is a hardback with dust jacket and can be purchased from the Oxfordshire Record Society by post or by personal call to the Oxfordshire Record Office. Whilst most of the older ORS publications are now out of print, the ORS holds stocks of most of the volumes published in the last fifteen years. A list of the available volumes can be consulted on the Historical Manuscripts Commission website at:

It is also worth bearing in mind that many larger libraries and institutions are ORS members, and hence sets of ORS volumes might well be available for consultation in more remote parts of the UK, as well as in overseas libraries.

Price £15.00 plus postage and packing

Available from:

Steven Tomlinson (Secretary)
Oxfordshire Record Society
Bodleian Library

Also available to personal callers at:

Oxfordshire Record Office
St Luke's Church
Temple Road

ISBN: 0-902509-43-8

Book reviewer Paul Gaskell has been actively researching his family history for the last nine years. Although a Lancastrian by birth, he lives and works in Oxford. He is Minutes Secretary and Publicity Officer of the Oxfordshire Family History Society.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

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- The Archives of Ontario Needs You!

This article was written by and is copyright by Elizabeth Lapointe, B.A.

For the next month or so, the Archives of Ontario ( is asking for your help! They are surveying their users with a series of questions, and they are hoping that you'll answer them. The survey only takes 10 to 15 minutes, with the purpose being to "obtain information on how to better meet customer needs."

Such questions as "How important is the website to you?", "Would you like to use it again?", and "What improvements would you like to see?" are some of the questions they are asking in the areas of Vital Statistics, Court Records, and lending services for microfilm. Simply click on the website, and the survey will appear as a separate entry before entering the website itself.

For over a century, the Archives of Ontario has provided help for genealogists world-wide to find their ancestors in Ontario. Their website has been organized for the researcher to find the resources at the archives under the heading of "Genealogical Research - Sources of Family History." They carry the following categories of records: Aboriginal Records; Vital Statistics; Census Records; Criminal Justice System Records; Divorce Records; Education Records; Guardianship and Adoption Records; Health Records; Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship Records; Land Records; Militia and Military Records; Municipal Records; Newspapers; Wills and Estate Records; Biography and Genealogy Index; and United Empire Loyalist Records.

To take two categories as examples – Vital Statistics and Census Records – it should be noted that in the Birth Records from 1869-1906, the province did not record any births before July 1869 because it was the responsibility of the churches. Those records can be accessed by writing to the archives of the churches in question, the addresses of which are available on the website.

The Marriage Records date from 1869-1921, with marriage records being very incomplete before 1869. The 1919 Vital Statistics Act mandated that the collection of marriage records, such as the District Marriage Registers (1801-1858) and the County Marriage Registers (1858-June 1869), be transferred to the archives.

The Deaths Records are available from July 1869 to December 1931. The province did not register deaths before 1869, but many of these records can be found in the Surrogate and Probate Court Records (1793-1962), Cemetery Transcriptions, and Church Records.

There are two handouts on Vital Statistics. They are: 1) Information Handout No. 8, on how to find and use microfilm on indexes, and 2) Information Handout No. 9, on how to find and use the microfilm on registrations.

For births past 95 years, marriages past 80 years, and deaths past 70 years, one should contact the Office of the Registrar General, P.O. Box 4600, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada P7B 6L8. The website address is:

It should be mentioned here that in 1973, the Ontario Genealogical Society ( started transcribing cemeteries in the province through their 30 branches and have completed them through to December 2000. Simply go to the website and click on "Branches," and each of them will have cemetery transcriptions to purchase at a very reasonable price.

Also, found at is the "Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid," on which over 2 million burials are recorded. This database is really a "pointer" that lists the surnames, given names, cemetery name, and location. One must then look at the organization that contributed the item and write to them for the record.

In the second instance, the census records are divided into two sections: the pre-1851 census records and the post-1851 census records.

In the pre-1851 census records, the Archives of Ontario holds the records for the 1842 census. Held in the post-1851 census records are the 1851-1852, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses, as well as the 1861 and 1871 agricultural censuses.

There are three census records listed on the Internet. It is suggested that the genealogist refer to the various branches of the Ontario Genealogical Society since many of them have transcribed the Ontario section of the Canada census into publications available for purchase at a very reasonable price.

The 1871 and 1901 Ontario Censuses are available at the National Library and Archives of Canada website at The 1871 census is easy to use, with its index. The 1901 census is more difficult, in that it must be searched on the basis of location rather than name.

The third census is the 1881 Canadian census, which is available through It is easily searched through the family name.

It should be noted that many of these resources are also available through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their Family History Centers. However, the same resources will be found on a different numbering system from the Archives of Ontario. A conversion chart is available on the Archives of Ontario website.

There are 15,000 microfilms available in the archives to borrow on inter-institutional loan. The microfilm is loaned for 4 weeks for Canadian and American users. The microfilm which is available for loan is listed in the section entitled "Microfilm Interloan Service: How to Order Microfilm."

There are also special collections, which have been highlighted during the past year on the front page of the website, among them "The American Civil War/Fenian Raids" and "The Provincial Freeman."

The American Civil War is important to note, for over 100,000 Canadians fought in the war, mostly on the Union side. As the war progressed, the Reciprocity Treaty (free trade) between the two nations was canceled, and the Americans placed passport controls at the border. Just as the Civil War was getting over, the Fenian Raids started, in which Americans picked up the Irish cause of fighting against the British, with incursions over the Canadian border in the 1860s. After a brief skirmish at Fort Erie, they were pushed back to the Unites States. To check the names of some of the Canadians in the American Civil War, please check the website at

The Provincial Freeman was a weekly newspaper in Southern Ontario from 24 March 1853 to 20 September 1857. It was published for the areas of Chatham, Toronto, and Windsor by Mary Shadd CAREY – the first woman publisher in North America – for the 20,000 American-born Blacks who had come to Canada through the Underground Railway from 1800 to 1865. An excellent way to trace ancestors, the newspaper is available on microfilm N40, Reel 1.

The mailing address of the Archives of Ontario is: 77 Grenville Street, Unit 300, Toronto, ON Canada M5S 1B3. They are closed on Canadian statutory holidays and Sundays.

The main reading room is open Monday to Friday from 8:15 AM to 5:00 PM, with extended hours from 5:00PM to 10:30 PM. On Saturday, they are open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The phone number for the reference desk is: (416) 327-1853. The fax number is: (416) 327-1999. The e-mail address is:

The preceding was written by Elizabeth Lapointe, B.A.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

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- (+) How Safe Are Your Old Documents?

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

 A number of us are fortunate enough to own old books, birth certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization certificates, old newspaper clippings, or other family heirloom documents that we want to preserve. What condition will they be in 20 or 50 years from now? For that matter, will the fruits of your genealogy labor be available to your descendants 200 years from now? You should take steps now to make sure the documents remain in the best possible condition. I thought I would discuss the techniques of document preservation a bit more in this newsletter.

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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- (+) Fad Sweeps the Country in 1870s

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

We all know about popular fads: the hula hoops of the fifties, the pet rocks of the sixties, and body piercing jewelry of the present time. The young people generally embrace fads with open arms while older generations wring their hands and wonder what the younger generation is coming to. However, we generally do not think about fads in the times of our ancestors. A quick bit of historical study shows that our ancestors were just as enthusiastic about new ideas and fashions as are any of their descendants. Some of these fads had far reaching effects on future generations. In fact, some of us might not be here today had it not been for one of these fads.

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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- The Unreliable Mailing of This and Other Newsletters

Anyone who sends out large numbers of e-mail newsletters sent by bulk mail knows about reliability problems. I have never been able to measure how many of these newsletters fail to reach the addressees, but feedback messages from subscribers indicate that it is a large number.

I have that problem, and so do the senders of almost all other major e-mail newsletters with whom I have talked. We all know that far less than 100% of our newsletters ever reach the addressees.

There are several causes of the problem, but by far the biggest problem is spam filters. Almost all mail servers these days have spam filters installed. The owners of the mail servers install these out of necessity; the problem of junk mail is now so bad that Internet providers have to either install the filters or else watch their mail servers crash under the load. The problem is that none of these anti-junk mail filters are perfect; they will always delete some legitimate messages along with the thousands of junk mail messages. I know about this problem as I own and operate two mail servers. Each spam filter can be configured in many different ways; some Internet providers are rather conservative in their filter settings while others may be much more "aggressive."

Spam filters usually look inside each incoming message and analyze it individually. If the message is over a certain length, a number of "points" are added to a rating system. If the message contains certain suspicious words (that cannot appear here in order to get this newsletter past the spam filters), more points are added. Some spam filters add still more points if the message contains graphics or numerous links to other sites. If the message receives enough points, it is deleted.

If I wrote a short newsletter with no HTML and no links to other sites, it probably would be delivered to 99% of the subscribers. However, as the newsletter becomes longer and has more links, the likelihood becomes greater that some mail server spam filters will delete it.

Fred Langa is an expert in bulk mail delivery. He is a well-known national author who writes for Information Week magazine. He also writes a weekly e-newsletter with more than 100,000 subscribers. He recently conducted a controlled test in which he sent 10,000 e-mails via bulk mail to people who were waiting for them. Langa reports that 40% of his bulk e-mails were never delivered.

Fred Langa wrote:

You're losing E-mails. It's almost certain that some significant percentage of your legitimate outbound E-mails aren't getting to their destinations; or that some significant percentage of your legitimate inbound E-mails are being lost before you ever see them.

When I say "significant," I don't mean a few. I mean something like 40%, or even more in some cases. And I'm not talking about losing junk mail. I'm talking about the loss of totally valid, non-spam/non-junk E-mail.

Think about that for a minute: As many as four out of 10 of your serious E-mails – the sort you might exchange with co-workers, friends, business associates, or customers – may not be making it to their intended destinations.

You can read Fred's the entire article, complete with the details of how he conducted his test, at:

So what is the sender of an e-newsletter to do? One thing that I have learned is that doing nothing is doomed to failure. The situation will neither correct itself nor get better on its own.

A few months ago I invented a "back door" method of delivering this newsletter on the Web instead of by e-mail. Since AOL's mail servers are the biggest problem, I first notified the AOL subscribers to the Plus Edition. Many of them accepted my offer of individual user IDs and passwords to a protected Web site where they could read the newsletter. The results have been good. While it obviously is less convenient to go to the Web to read the Plus Edition newsletter than to read it in your e-mail inbox, at least the AOL members found that they could reliably read this newsletter every week. Since then, I have issued user IDs and passwords to a number of non-AOL subscribers as well. Again, the results have been gratifying; at least those people can now read every issue. This is old news to those of you who have already received user IDs and passwords.

The problem is on my end, however. The method of issuing user IDs and passwords is rather labor-intensive. It is not a practical method of handling thousands of subscribers.

I have now contracted with a Web development team to implement a better approach. I expect to soon announce a new method in which each newsletter will simultaneously be accessible both on the Web on as well as by e-mail. You will still receive the newsletter by e-mail However, if your e-mail copy is deleted before you see it, you will always have a second option to read the same newsletter on the Web.

The new software will also allow each paid subscriber to handle his/her own account: change e-mail address, change the password and similar tasks without any outside assistance. This should make things better for both of us.

Like most software projects, announcing an expected release date is risky. In short, it will be announced when it is ready and not until then. However, I do expect that date to be within the next few months.

In the meantime, if you are not receiving the newsletters that you have paid for in your e-mail inbox, send a note to I will then issue a key to the "back door" Web version of the Plus Edition newsletter. The password will be for you alone.

Thank you for your patience.

What Do You Think? Comments and discussion are available on this newsletter's Discussion Board at:

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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 newsletter’s online Discussion Board at

You can also search past newsletters at:

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 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.

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The following article is from Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright 2004 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

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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 employed by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, serving as Assistant Executive Director for Technology. He 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 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 this newsletter's Discussion Board at Post your message there. You will receive then assistance from Dick Eastman or from a number of other people.


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