Friday, September 30, 2005

RootsWeb RSS

I'm a bit behind on email and the feeds I subscribe to, but I don't recall (or haven't yet seen) the announcement that RootsWeb has added RSS feeds to the archive page of each mailing list. Well, at least the ones I just checked.

I sort of like this idea, but I think it's a little flawed. I would in fact rather deal with those messages through Bloglines, but wouldn't I be getting duplicates every day because there's no way to turn off the email? Of course, I could unsubscribe from each list, but then I couldn't post new messages. Well, I could, but then each list admin's job just got more time consuming as they'd have to approve or forward what I and every other non-subscriber submitted.

I suppose the feeds will put an end to the constant problem of ISPs tagging the mailing lists as spam and people missing messages. Is RootsWeb prepared to educate people about RSS, though? I mean, there are still a fair number that think the mailing list is a newsgroup or can't grasp the concept of gatewayed messages and how to reply.

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It was worth a shot

Well, we can probably kiss the giant pumpkins goodbye. It was so hot and dry this summer that keeping up with the watering was difficult. There were days that the vines seemed to just barely survive. The squirrels, who had ignored the plants all summer, just went nuts a few weeks ago and started to chew up the vines and fruit, apparently realizing that it was a great source of water. (There are no squirrels where the others were planted.) Despite the invasion, it appeared that a handful of pumpkins would survive.

Before heading to Maryland, it cooled off a bit and started to rain. It apparently rained some more while we were gone. It has continued to rain. Whether that caused rot, or insects attacked because the dust and spray was repeatedly washed off, I don't know. We'll be lucky if a single pumpkin here survives for Halloween. I don't even know if any of the regular pumpkins will make it.

At the farm, four giant pumpkins were planted and the vines had really grown. A few weeks ago there were numerous fruits, but last night I found just one remaining. The vines looked horrible, too. I think insect damage out there was the problem. I'm not fond of dusting and spraying to begin with, but next year something will have to be done. The regular-sized pumpkins and late squash are doing OK, but I'd be shocked to see decent results in a few weeks.

While out in Maryland, we were surprised to see so many pumpkins already for sale. We had some volunteer pumpkins come up early this year and after picking they rotted (big surprise in this heat) or were attacked by squirrels. I don't know how the Marylanders plan on keeping their pumpkins in good shape for the next month.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Success in Virginia

Despite my complaints last night, I was able to come home with nearly every BOSWELL and HALL record that was on my list. One will was not where it was supposed to be, though I may have misunderstood about its existence. Had there been more time, I probably would have gone back to the Recorder's office after the library because of the references to additional deeds that were in the vertical files. Maybe if there's another chance to go to Maryland I'll pick those up along the way.

Since coming back I've been taking a preliminary look at the new nephew's maternal Maryland ancestry. Although I can't confirm a lot of the details from here, census records and what others have already researched have allowed me to come up with a decent rough draft. If it's ever desired, this outline should make it easy to compile a more respectable genealogy. I'm told that a lot of the Eastern Shore families have been there since the 1600s.

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Volunteering to the find obits in the St. Charles Demokrat German newspaper was a good experience, but it just took too long. And I didn't even do that much of the printing. (I did a fair amount of transcribing, though.) It didn't help that I was at the same time dealing with FHL films which obviously held my interest a great deal more, or that I was also looking for other assorted records here and there. I'll admit it: I don't focus very well sometimes. Most of the time.

When the next Society project — finding obits in the Republikaner, another German paper — came along, I should have passed. But I volunteered knowing that only a few years of the paper survive on film. I had in the past looked for a few obits and marriage announcements in the Republikaner, but found little for certain families. The overall picture, as I learned with this project, is that the Republikaner may have been superior to the Demokrat, if only because it was very easy to locate the news items. Who doesn't like finding the local news in the same place in virtually every issue?

The Demokrat obits have been printed, but I think are in the process of being bound. Although I had a great deal of influence with the introduction for that series, I don't know if I'm mentioned by name in the books, or will be when the Republikaner obits go to press. It doesn't matter because ultimately it was a Society project, but it would be neat to have my name listed in something in one of the fine local libraries.

Anyway, the point of this is that if a local researcher has overlooked the Republikaner, give it another look if 1884, 1897 and 1901 are relevant to your search. Here's what I submitted for the next volume's introduction regarding the Republikaner:

"Between the two German newspapers that were once published in St. Charles, it's probably a safe bet that the St. Charles Republikaner does not have the same recognition among researchers as the Demokrat. This is likely due to the limited number of Republikaner issues available on microfilm — from parts of 1884, 1897 and 1901 — whereas microfilm of the Demokrat covers over 60 years. As death notices were found in the Republikaner, though, it became clear that the paper was a valuable source of local announcements. Additionally, the Republikaner was very consistent with the placement of local news and the overall layout of the paper from week to week — helpful to those that may want to search for news items, but are not experts with the German language."

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Self Serve

For the most part I have had few issues with repositories or staff. Before last week I only had minor issues such as:
  • Restrictions that made little sense at the time (and still do). For example, if a state's archives let's people view death certificates as late as the 1940s with no strings attached and offers copies for a dollar or less, why is it that a certain county charges $14 for a copy and will not allow the public to simply view the death register from 1902? I guess what bugged me the most is that the register/ledger format usually seems to have less details than a certificate would. So exactly why am I supposed to pay $14 for a lesser record sight unseen? I didn't need the record. It just would have been nice to have. Not $14 nice, though. I could have probably supplied the correct details for each column on the form without having to look at my notes. The person behind the counter was nice and understood my frustration, but it was out of their control.

  • The National Archives in D.C. makes everyone re-shelve the microfilm that they pull. It's not that I minded, because I didn't, but around here that sort of thing is not allowed and with good reason.

  • Flatbed scanners are not allowed in some places, but no one thinks twice about making photocopies. It can't be an issue with the light exposure then, right?

  • A place that houses public records and charges an entrance fee. Is that even legal when in other counties you just walk in, do you thing and pay for copies? I understand the need for donations and memberships to support an organization and their collection, but if a city's and/or county's material ends up in their control, aren't they obligated to have an open door policy just like if the records were where they should be, at the courthouse?

On the way back from Maryland last week I made sure we stopped to pick up some records in Virginia. It's not like the opportunity to research in Virginia comes along often, so this was something I was looking forward to since the trip was planned. At a Recorder's office I ran into two staffers that couldn't have been more stereotypical had they been trying. I walked into the office and had been there less than ten seconds when I approached the counter to ask where the older records (all before 1835) were kept. One of the two women sitting at desks looked up. The way she looked at me and the tone of her voice distinctly gave me the impression she really could not have cared less or that I was bothering her. Fine. Whatever. It's not brain surgery to lookup records and I didn't need any help once I found the books, but she didn't ask if I had ever been there before and was familiar with their rules or knew how to use the copier, things I've found are usually asked elsewhere.

So I made my way to the back room and found the records I needed; a handful of wills, a deed and a few marriage bonds. There were about a dozen people that afternoon looking up what I assumed were deeds, and a handful of them were constantly making copies. I got in line, made a copy, then went back to get the next record and got back in line. After a while the copier wouldn't work and it appeared that it was out of paper. I went to the front counter to ask for assistance. The lady that had "greeted" me upon my arrival walked out of the room. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn't see me approaching (even though I think she did) or that her shift was over (at 3 p.m.?) because she never returned.

The other woman that was present when I arrived was still at her desk, now on the phone. It became obvious within seconds that she was on a personal call, talking about how she had been under the weather and what her plans were for that night. I should have interrupted her, but I didn't. I stood there until she finished her call, at which time she asked me what I needed. I told her the copier might be out of paper because it stopped working. Without getting up, she explained where the supply room was and told me to find whatever size paper I needed and to re-stock the copier myself. If this is normal, it's new to me. Just like materials are not to be re-shelved around here, I wouldn't have dreamed of screwing around with city/county equipment. In fact, I can guarantee that some places here might kick you out for doing so or at least give a little lecture about what is off limits. I walked dumbfounded to the supply room, decided it wasn't worth the hassle and went back to make copies on a different paper size. I was in a hurry and this was already taking longer than I thought it would. A fellow researcher explained that the paper tray might be loose rather than being empty. It was loose.

I finished up my copies and went to the counter to pay. By this time there was a third woman behind the counter. I felt sorry for her because she was the only one there and now six or seven people were anxiously waiting in line. While the guy in front of me screwed around with a form and offered various excuses about why he couldn't do this or that, the clerk asked how many copies I had without counting. As much as the first two clerks had annoyed me, I should have given myself a discount and told her a lower number. I didn't. I paid in full and went down the street to the library where the staff was much more friendly.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google Blog Search

Blog Search:

Blog Search is Google search technology focused on blogs. Google is a strong believer in the self-publishing phenomenon represented by blogging, and we hope Blog Search will help our users to explore the blogging universe more effectively, and perhaps inspire many to join the revolution themselves. Whether you're looking for Harry Potter reviews, political commentary, summer salad recipes or anything else, Blog Search enables you to find out what people are saying on any subject of your choice.

Your results include all blogs, not just those published through Blogger; our blog index is continually updated, so you'll always get the most accurate and up-to-date results; and you can search not just for blogs written in English, but in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese and other languages as well.

The goal of Blog Search is to include every blog that publishes a site feed (either RSS or Atom). It is not restricted to Blogger blogs, or blogs from any other service.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Heaton, Manock/Menock, Meadowcroft Family Bible

I was just contacted by someone who had found a family bible with the names HEATON, MANOCK (MENOCK) and MEADOWCROFT. The family lived in Philadelphia and England, and the dates range from 1836 to 1902. I have no connection to these families, but if anyone reads this and is, I would be happy to put you in contact with the person who has the bible.

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Your Computer Might Be At Risk

XP users tired of seeing the "Your computer might be at risk" warning when booting up should check out the PC World Magazine article 20 Things They Don't Want You to Know. Page nine (on the site) of the article shows how Security Center Can Be Muted. Good riddance!

Too bad TechTV was run into the ground; this is the kind of tip they would have mentioned a few years ago.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

DNA of Giant Deer and the "Hobbit"

National Geographic News:

A huge Ice Age deer with antlers spanning 10 feet (3.5 meters) has been traced to its closest living relative, thanks to DNA science.

Scientists at University College London studied DNA and skeletal remains of the extinct giant deer, or Irish elk, to construct its family tree. This is the first time this method has been used to reveal an extinct animal's living descendants, according to the study team.

The researchers found that the giant deer, which stood seven feet (two meters) tall at the shoulder, is closely related to the modern fallow deer, a much smaller species that still inhabits the former haunts of its Ice Age relative throughout Europe.

The article continues:

Recent technological advances have raised hopes that scientists may be able to pinpoint our own closest relatives in the human family tree.

Researchers are currently trying to extract the DNA of Homo floresiensis, whose remains were found last year on the island of Flores in Indonesia.

Nicknamed "the Hobbit" because of its tiny stature, H. floresiensis is believed to have diverged from modern humans some two million years ago.

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FHL to Digitize Microfilm

Wow. This announcement at first left me speechless. Kimberly Powell wrote on's Genealogy Blog that FamilySearch is digitizing their microfilm collection and with the help of volunteers will be creating new online indexes. The Deseret (Utah) Morning News notes that the "indexing demonstration and other planned improvements to the popular Web site are drawing standing-room-only crowds" at the FGS Genealogy Conference. This is a monumental project; there are over two million reels of film to digitize!

Although the project depends on volunteer support and may be several years from completion, this may be the most significant genealogical project ever. It's certainly the biggest thing since I started to research. Some may argue that the creation of the microfilm in the first place was the biggest project. I'm sure it was. This new project, though, depending on how they allow access, opens up the records to everyone that can get online. I'm assuming this means an eventual end to ordering a small batch of film each month. I won't miss that process.

Just like the State of Missouri 's forthcoming death certificate index, I plan on signing up to help with the FamilySearch indexing project and hope others will join in as well. Ideally, individuals will be allowed to choose which records to index. As Kimberly Powell wrote, "It's much more fun to volunteer to index records if you're interested in the records for your own research!" I agree. I would eagerly index names from Pennsylvania will and probate records with the hope of finding our very elusive HEATON ancestors, or German church records that may finally reveal where the last few "unknowns" emigrated from.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Post (Part II)

To clarify, it is the headline typeface that the Post is now using that I find odd. The same can be said for the section headers. The typeface used for an article's text is fine. In fact, if I could find the True Type version of Poynter, I'd probably start using it on the blog, my site and in family reports.

And while I find the white space objectionable, I am glad to see that the paper has apparently stopped having obituaries continue from one column to another. In the past that was always a problem when clipping obits. This new policy means that white space on the obit page is likely unavoidable, but I know many people — myself included — would be OK with it there.

Post changes layout

The Post-Dispatch has unveiled their new layout and so far it does not seem to have been well received. The new typeface looks odd, and the large headshots of the columnists are unnecessary and a waste of space. The biggest problem, though, is that there seems to be an awful lot of unused white space that makes the paper look like one of the lesser suburban publications or a certain cheap political rag that plagues St. Charles. We have just one major newspaper in St. Louis and there should be plenty of news for them to print and use up this white space. Those in charge of the layout should take a look at microfilm to see how the old papers looked — they didn't waste space or look goofy.

From their website:

"We’ve grouped local news obituaries and deaths from elsewhere inside the local section. We’ve also redesigned the Funeral Notices making them easier to read."

In the past, St. Charles obits were printed in our own section and generally included more information than what has always been found in the typical St. Louis death/funeral notice as far back as the 1880s or 1890s. I doubt this will be a popular decision. As for the latter decision, people are already complaining that the funeral notices are NOT easier to read.

I know that it's impossible to please everyone. Been there, done that. But if this is the future of newspaper design, I'm glad they publish many of the same articles on their website and offer RSS feeds.

The iPod Family Cemetery

Engadget has published an amusing article about the iPod's family tree and the demise of past models.

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