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  • 3 May 2021 5:06 PM | Anonymous

    Happy Star Wars Day!

    Perhaps I should say, "May the Fourth Be With You."

    Star Wars Day is a (very) informal commemorative day observed annually on May 4th to celebrate George Lucas's Star Wars media franchise. Observance of the day has spread quickly through media and grassroots celebrations since the franchise began in 1977.

    The date of May 4th originated from the pun "May the Fourth be with you", a variant of the popular Star Wars catchphrase "May the Force be with you". Even though the holiday was not created or declared by Lucasfilm, many Star Wars fans across the world have chosen to celebrate the holiday. It has since been embraced by Lucasfilm and parent company Disney as an annual celebration of Star Wars.

    The first recorded reference was the phrase being first used on May 4, 1979, the day Margaret Thatcher took the job as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. An online news article from the Danish public broadcaster says her political party, the Conservatives, placed a congratulatory advertisement in The London Evening News, saying "May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations."

    Of course, that reference to May 4, 1979 has nothing to do with Star Wars. However, why let that stand in the way of a good promotion?

    Perhaps a better reference is that on May 4th, 2015, astronauts in the International Space Station watched the Star Wars movie.

    Whatever the reason, I would like to wish you and Yoda a Happy Star Wars Day!

    By the way, the next day, May 5th is Cinco de Mayo in Mexico but is also known as "Revenge of the Fifth" day in a galaxy not so far away.

  • 30 Apr 2021 4:50 PM | Anonymous

    The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

    Flash drives have generally replaced CD-ROM disks, DVD-ROM disks, Blu-Ray disks, floppy disks, magnetic tape, and even old-fashioned punch cards as the preferred method of storing backup copies of computer data. Indeed, these tiny devices are capable of storing as much as 1 terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of data for reasonable prices. ("Reasonable prices" are defined as prices that are lower than purchasing equivalent storage capacity on CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and Blu-Ray disks.) If history repeats itself again, even today's unreasonably-priced high-capacity flash drives will be even cheaper within a very few years.

    Flash drives are often used for the same purposes for which floppy disks or CDs were used in the past, i.e., for storage, data back-up, and transfer of computer files. They are smaller, faster, have thousands of times more capacity, and are more durable and reliable, mostly because they have no moving parts. Additionally, they are immune to electromagnetic interference (unlike floppy disks), and are unharmed by surface scratches (unlike CDs).

    One question arises however: will the data stored on flash drives still be readable in a few years? A second question also arises: "How many times can I write to a flash drive before it becomes unusable?"

    Wikipedia offers a simple statement about flash drive life expectancies at

    “The memory in flash drives was commonly engineered with multi-level cell (MLC) based memory that is good for around 3,000-5,000 program-erase cycles. Nowadays Triple-level Cell (TLC) is also often used, which has up to 500 write cycles per physical sector, while some high-end flash drives have single-level cell (SLC) based memory that is good for around 30,000 writes.[ There is virtually no limit to the number of reads from such flash memory, so a well-worn USB drive may be write-protected to help ensure the life of individual cells.

    "Estimation of flash memory endurance is a challenging subject that depends on the SLC/MLC/TLC memory type, size of the flash memory chips, and actual usage pattern. As a result, a USB flash drive can last from a few days to several hundred years.”

    The word "can" in that statement makes me uncomfortable. Will the flash drive I am using allow that many read/write cycles, or is mine one of the flash drives that is included in the statement “a USB flash drive can last from a few days?.” Will my device last 10 years if left on the shelf, or will it have a life expectancy of much less than 10 years? Also, how many read/write cycles will I consume in normal use?

    The remainder of this article is reserved for Plus Edition subscribers only. If you have a Plus Edition subscription, you may read the full article at:*)-Plus-Edition-News-Articles/10414844.

    If you are not yet a Plus Edition subscriber, you can learn more about such subscriptions and even upgrade to a Plus Edition subscription immediately at

  • 30 Apr 2021 4:21 PM | Anonymous

    I have written often about my vision of the future of computer hardware and software. One thing I am certain of is that today's computer state-of-the-art will not be the same the state-of-the-art in a few years. Just ask anyone who owns a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer or has a collection of floppy disks or even CD-ROM disks. In that vein, I was interested in a survey which predicts that computer keyboards are already being replaced in many cases by voice input.

    A survey conducted by Pindrop Solutions queried 4057 consumers in the UK, USA, France, and Germany. According to the survey, nearly half (48 percent) of the general public think keyboards will barely be used by 2023 as voice technology takes over. That's just two years away.

    You can read more about the recent Pindrop Solution survey, the lack of keyboards in future computers, and even watch a video about the same subjects, in an article by Greg Nichols on ZDNet's web site at

    Of course, I never believe one article, so I went looking for a second opinion. I asked Alexa (Amazon's Echo device). Seeking a third opinion, I asked Google Home (Google's competitor to Alexa). Still not satisfied, I also asked the GPS navigation system in my automobile that is solely voice-controlled.

    OK, so I didn't exactly receive clear predictions from any of these computer devices; but, all of them are excellent examples of the direction in which our computing devices are headed. I see four obvious trends: one about voice input replacing keyboards and three other closely-related predictions:

    1. Keyboards are becoming less and less popular. New computing devices that depend less on keyboards are therefore becoming more and more popular. While some growth in voice input has occurred on Windows, Macintosh, and Chromebook systems, the largest growth of voice input has been on both mobile computing devices (cell phones, iPad and other tablets, in-automobile uses such as GPS) and similar computing devices that are not used for “traditional” programs like word processing, spreadsheets, and similar operations.

    2. Expensive, general-purpose computers (Windows, Macintosh, Linux, etc.) are becoming less and less popular in the home. In fact, the manufacturers if Windows computers have been reporting declining sales numbers for several years now. Macintosh sales are still growing but not as fast as they used to. Instead, Apple’s primary focus these days is on iPads, cell phones, and other specialized computing devices that are not general-purpose computing systems.

    Instead, these are being supplemented or sometimes even replaced by cheaper, single-purpose computers designed only for specific tasks. The surge of Chromebooks has proven the interest in cheaper devices that still provide many of the traditional programs, now offered online, but many of these now provide touchscreen input, just like tablets and smartphones. Even more telling, you can purchase a Google Home Mini for about $40, several versions of Amazon Echo (Alexa) devices for about $25. and up, and voice-controlled GPS devices for $150 or so. Even the Waze GPS app is available for Android and iOS “smartphones:” is free and it even includes voice input capabilities. Yet all of these are computers. The difference is that these low-cost computers are designed for limited tasks, not for “general purpose” applications such as spreadsheets, word processing, and other traditional computer applications. Owners of such devices can simply ask their computers to perform common tasks like setting a thermostat or timer, building a shopping list, getting the daily news or weather, and finding the best route to a given destination.

    3. Voice control of Windows, Macintosh, and Chromebook computers as well as smartphones already exists. For instance, look at Siri, Cortana, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Google Voice Typing, Dragon Naturally Speaking, and a number of other products that already convert spoken words into computer commands and text. Today's smartphones (primarily iPhones and Android phones) already have extensive voice input capabilities.

    Comment: I grew to love Dragon Naturally Speaking several years ago when I slipped on wet ice, fell forward, and broke both arms. I “wrote” this newsletter through the use of Dragon Naturally Speaking’s voice-to-text conversion for several weeks while both arms were in casts.

    I later prevented the problem from happening again by moving to Florida where ice is not a problem.

    4. Connections to the cloud are more and more commonplace, and that coverage obviously will become more and more popular every year as the internet continues to expand. More and more devices are now cloud-connected. The result is the computing-intensive tasks, such as converting spoken words into computer commands and text, can be “off-loaded” to very powerful artificial intelligence systems in the cloud with the converted commands and text then returned to the inexpensive cloud-connected devices. The result is cheaper computers for consumers and computing providers alike.

    After all, you don’t want to use a $20,000 server in your home to turn the lights off and on. However, thousands of $40 or even cheaper cloud-connecting computing devices in thousands of homes, connected to a single powerful $20,000 server in a remote data center, can be very cost-effective when the expenses are distributed across thousands of users. This is the business model behind Google Home, Amazon Echo (Alexa), Siri, Cortana, and other voice input computing devices.

    In short, voice input applications are supplementing and (in some cases) replacing the old-fashioned keyboard-input applications. Indeed, keyboards may someday join floppy disks, CD-ROM disks, and 80-column punch cards in the local computer museum. This probably will happen whether we want it or not.

    Did you ever see the Star Trek episode where Scotty encounters a computer from the 1990s, picks up the mouse of that computer, then speaks to the mouse saying, “Hello computer?” The process didn’t work very well for Scotty.

    That still remains science fiction today, but we all are getting closer and closer to voice input-controlled computing devices that have no need for keyboards.

    Will the conversion happen overnight? Probably not. It will be slowly integrated into our lives and that integration has already started.

    Will voice input ever completely replace keyboards? Again, I would say probably not, at least not for a long time yet. However, in many cases, using voice input is easier and safer than using keyboards. For example: I don’t want to be typing on a keyboard while traveling on a superhighway at 70 miles per hour when I need to find where the next rest stop is. Voice input is far safer. Voice input is a great idea for many applications although not for all of them.

    Is the slow disappearance of keyboards a good thing? I think so. Then again, I never did learn to touch-type! I much prefer voice input.

  • 30 Apr 2021 3:46 PM | Anonymous

    The following is an announcement written by the (U.S.) National Genealogical Society:

    FALLS CHURCH, VA, 30 APRIL 2021—The National Genealogical Society (NGS) is pleased to announce that six organizations will receive awards during its 2021 SLAM! Idea Showcase on 18 May. The award winners were selected from among thirty-two recorded poster sessions highlighting innovative projects, programs, and activities benefiting genealogical researchers. Three submissions will receive cash prizes of $250 each:

      • St. Louis Genealogical Society, St. Louis, Missouri: “Congregation Project”
      • German Historical Institute, Washington, DC: “German Heritage in Letters”
      • Chester County (Pennsylvania) Archives: “1777 Chester County Property Atlas Portal”

    Three will receive honorable mention:

      • Godfrey Memorial Library, Middletown, Connecticut: “Genealogy Roundtable”
      • Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky: “Kentucky Ancestors Town Hall”
      • St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, Missouri: “Rooted in Inclusion: Forgoing the Family Tree Model”

    All six will receive a one-year library subscription to photo enhancement software from VIVID-PIX. 

    Videos submitted by the award winners will be featured at the SLAM! Idea Showcase mainstage program on 18 May beginning at 3:00 p.m. (EDT). The program will also include the announcement of the 2021 Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship and a greeting from the Library of Virginia, the 2021 NGS Conference host library. Following the mainstage event, attendees will have the opportunity to view poster sessions and chat live with their submitters. The event is free, but registration is required. Visit the conference website to register.
    The SLAM! Idea Showcase is a new NGS event to promote information sharing, collaboration, networking, and collegiality among genealogical information providers. The program is sponsored by VIVID-PIX, Ancestry, and Collectionaire.   
    The Virtual NGS 2021 Family History Conference is scheduled for May 19-22. Conference and registration information is available online.

  • 30 Apr 2021 3:25 PM | Anonymous

    The 41st Annual IAJGS (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies) International Conference on Jewish Genealogy has now been changed to an All-Virtual Conference, as announced in this press release from the organizers:

    Based on the successful full virtual format last year, as well as uncertainty with Covid, we are again moving to an All-Virtual Conference with many exciting interactive components,” said Judi Missel, lead co-chair.

    The conference will feature live-stream presentations as well as more than 100 pre-recorded, on-demand video presentations, both available for 60 days after the conference ends. Sessions will cover virtually every aspect of Jewish genealogy.

    The special Conference tracks this year are: Early Jewish Settlers of the Americas, Innovative Methodology, Keepers of the Shoah Memory, Beginners Research, DNA Insights for Genealogy, and Heritage and Cultural Materials.

    Conference programs will range from those geared to first-timers through conference veterans. Zoom-type networking will be available through Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Birds of a Feather (BOFs).

    Early Bird Registration is $250 until June 10. Registration and Conference program details will be posted on the conference website: . Ongoing information and questions will also be posted on the IAJGS Conference Discussion Facebook page at

    Keynote speaker will be Michael Hoberman, professor of American Literature at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts and author of the books New Israel/New England: Jews and Puritans in Early America and A Hundred Acres of America: The Geography of Jewish American Literature.

    The IAJGS is an umbrella organization of more than 93 Jewish genealogical societies worldwide. It coordinates and organizes activities such as its annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy and provides a unified voice as the spokesperson on behalf of its members.

    The IAJGS’s vision is of a worldwide network of Jewish genealogical research organizations and partners working together as one coherent, effective and respected community, enabling people to succeed in researching Jewish ancestry and heritage. Find the IAJGS at: and like us on Facebook at

  • 30 Apr 2021 11:07 AM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by Findmypast:

    Grow your Findmypast family tree with thousands of new parish records

    What secrets are hidden in your wondrous Welsh heritage? Find out with this week's Findmypast Friday releases.

    Read on for all the details on what's new. Plus, don't miss your chance to explore all of Findmypast’s British census records for FREE.

    Monmouthshire Parish Records

    Privacy rules have allowed Findmypast to release another set of baptism, marriage and banns records from parishes across the Welsh county.

    The new arrivals include over 8,300 baptism records from 1921 and over 5,600 marriage and banns records from 1936. Check Findmypast’s handy Monmouthshire parish list to see which churches are covered.

    Glamorganshire Parish Records

    Like those for Monmouthshire, Findmypast have updated their Glamorganshire collection with baptisms from 1921 and marriages and banns from 1936. The parish list shows exactly what's new.

    Findmypast is home to the most comprehensive Welsh parish record collection online. Alongside Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire, you’ll find collections from every Welsh county. Visit their full list of records and type in a Welsh county to see what's available.


    Cambria Daily Leader and Cleave’s Weekly Police Gazette have joined Findmypast’s newspaper archives this week.

    Cleave’s Weekly Police Gazette covers 1835-1836 and features some striking early illustrations.

    Cleave's Weekly Police Gazette, 30 July 1836. View the full article.

    Cleave's Weekly Police Gazette, 30 July 1836. View the full article.

    While Swansea paper, Cambria Daily Leader currently has pages from 1861-1870, 1882-1895 and 1899-1905 online.

    Explore British census records for FREE this weekend

    Clear your diary this weekend because all of Findmypast’s British census records (1841-1911) are completely free to access from 10:00 (BST) on Friday 30 April until 10:00 (BST) on Monday 3 May.

    Amazing snapshots of the past, census records can help you trace your family tree, generation by generation.

  • 30 Apr 2021 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by TheGenealogist:

    TheGenealogist’s Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858 is an index to surviving records of Wills, Grants and Administrations, held by The National Archives of Ireland (NAI). Records include the original NAI reference, which can be used to order a copy of the existing document.

    This new release adds an easily searched and useful resource to the ever growing suite of records available to Diamond subscribers of TheGenealogist. The Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858 features:

      • More than 100,000 names

      • Easily Searchable by Name, County, Address and Keyword

      • Can provide dates, occupation, status and place of abode

      • Can provide reference and link to order the document from the National Archives of Ireland.

    World Famous Brewer, Arthur Guinness’ Will & Grant on TheGenealogist

    Prior to 1858, Irish wills were administered by the ecclesiastical courts of the Established church, (the Church of Ireland), a part of the Anglican communion. In 1857, however, the Church of Ireland lost its responsibility for Irish Wills when the Probate Act of that year transferred the supervision to the state.

    Read TheGenealogist’s article: Using Irish Wills to discover your ancestors

    About TheGenealogist

    TheGenealogist is an award-winning online family history website, who put a wealth of information at the fingertips of family historians. Their approach is to bring hard to use physical records to life online with easy to use interfaces such as their Tithe and newly released Lloyd George Domesday collections.

    TheGenealogist’s innovative SmartSearch technology links records together to help you find your ancestors more easily. TheGenealogist is one of the leading providers of online family history records. Along with the standard Birth, Marriage, Death and Census records, they also have significant collections of Parish and Nonconformist records, PCC Will Records, Irish Records, Military records, Occupations, Newspaper record collections amongst many others.

    TheGenealogist uses the latest technology to help you bring your family history to life. Use TheGenealogist to find your ancestors today!

  • 30 Apr 2021 10:46 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a continuation of yesterday’s list of books by Dr. David Dobson as reviewed by Bobbi King:

    Dr. Dobson continues to publish volumes of his lists of Scots and their activities throughout the world, categorized by regions. Each book has an introductory section (a condensed history lesson well worth reading all by itself), a list of references, and various maps and illustrations. Entries include a name, a piece of information (such as place of birth, occupation), and the source.

    Scottish Soldiers in Europe and America, 1600–1700

    David Dobson. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 2021. 210 pages.

    The introduction gives an interesting historical rundown of major wars fought by regiments of Scotsmen during the 1600s, commissioned into the military service of foreign governments, such as the Netherlands, Bohemia, France, British Isles, Ireland, and Bavaria. This book cites forty-six references for about 2200 entries of soldiers who served beyond the Scottish borders.

    Scots in Southern Europe, 1600–1900­­

    Spain, Portugal, Italy, Madeira, and the Islands of the Mediterranean and Atlantic.

    David Dobson. Second edition. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 2019. 173 pages.

    Scots were so numerous in Rome, Italy, in 1592, that a special church was built just for them. Many sons of Scottish Catholic families were sent to colleges in Spain, Italy, and France, or on the Grand Tour of Europe, so the significant presence of Scotsmen after the 1600s, in Europe, comes as no surprise. This book cites forty-five sources for describing about 1800 Scots found in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Madeira, Malta, the Balearic Islands, the Azores, and the Canary Islands.

    Scots in Poland, Russia, and the Baltic States, 1550–1850 [Part Three]

    David Dobson. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 2019. 99 pages.

    Scottish knights accompanied the Teutonic knights on their crusades along the Baltic regions during the late Medieval Period. Major Polish seaports supported trade with Scotland during the 1500s, and Scottish merchants, mariners, entrepreneurs, peddlers, and land owners, settling on lands rewarded for military service, followed. This is the third and last volume of this series, citing thirty-two references for about 900 names.

    Scots-Dutch Links in Europe ad America 1575–1825

    David Dobson. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 2020. 132 pages.

    Scots with links to the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg; so called because of their elevations below sea level) included mariners, merchants, and planters in the Caribbean Dutch colonies. Dutch universities offered students a higher education in medicine and law, and the Covenanters fled religious persecution. The author cites forty-five sources for about 1200 names.

    As written before, Dr. Dobson’s contributions to Scottish research are certainly considerable in number, and of enduring benefit for genealogists tracing back their family links.

    The many books written by David Dobson may be purchased from the publisher, the Genealogical Publishing Company, at

  • 29 Apr 2021 10:34 AM | Anonymous

    The following book reviews were written by this newsletter’s book review editor, Bobbi King:

    Scottish Genealogy, The Basics and Beyond

    David Dobson. Published by the Genealogical Publishing Co. 2021. 157 pages.

    Dr. Dobson wrote this genealogy research guide sprung from his masterful grasp of Scottish source materials that he has explored, compiled, and documented over the course of his fifty years of looking into archives and libraries as he continues chronicling the Scottish Diaspora.

    The book includes illustrations, maps, an introduction, index, and surname index. Chapters describe research in major record sources (birth, marriage, death, divorce, and the Old Parish Records of the Church of Scotland); church and other religious records (Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland, Methodist Church, and more); secondary sources (Heritor’s Records, sasines and land registers, maritime records, and more); emigration (Netherlands, Germany, Asia, Africa, and more); and a list of family history societies with their addresses and urls.

    This guide sets the beginning researcher off on a very good start. But it also offers the advanced researcher some very sound advice for looking into the less commonly used resources and repositories. Overall, this should be a win-win for both sides of the research spectrum.

    Scottish Highlanders on the Eve of the Great Migration 1725­­–1775.

    This series of Dobson’s books identifies the Scottish Highlanders whose migrations to colonial America burgeoned in the early 1730s. The Highlanders clustered into communities along the coastal Georgia regions, and into the Mohawk Valley of New York, keeping alive their origin roots of cultural traditions for over one hundred years.

    Dr. Dobson continues to publish editions of his lists of emigrant Highlanders, categorized by regions. Each book has an introductory section, list of references consulted, and some maps and illustrations. Entries include a name, a piece of information (such as place of birth, occupation), and the source. Some of his recent additions to the Scottish Highlanders on the Eve of the Great Migration series are:

    The People of the Grampian Highlands Vol. II. 2019. 100 pages.

    The Grampian Highlands are an area stretching from the Braes of Angus northwest towards Strathspey but not including the coastal plain nor Strathmore. Many of its citizens were victims of the anti-Jacobite persecutions, transported in chains to America and the West Indies. There are approximately 1400 entries.

    The People of the Hebrides Vol. 2. 2019. 135 pages.

    The Hebrides are islands off the coast of the Western Highlands, forming parts of the counties of Ross and Cromarty, Inverness, and Argyll, containing thirty-six parishes. Parish registers, a mainstay for Scottish research, exist for only about a quarter of Hebridean parishes. This volume cites thirty alternate sources for approximately 1300 entries.

    The Northern Highlands Vol. 2. 2019. 120 pages.

    The Northern Highlands comprise the counties Caithness, Sutherland, and Ross and Cromarty (some of Ross and Cromarty county are islands of the Hebrides, which are included in the People of the Hebrides books). The parish registers for this region are lacking in number and content; the author cites twenty-seven alternate sources for approximately 1100 entries.

    Dr. Dobson’s contributions to Scottish research are certainly considerable in number, and of enduring benefit for genealogists tracing back their family links.

    The many books written by David Dobson may be purchased from the publisher, the Genealogical Publishing Company, at

  • 29 Apr 2021 10:20 AM | Anonymous

    If you want copies of a relative's U.S. military records, you may have to wait a while. The National Personnel Records Center has been closed and is only completing emergency requests because of the pandemic.

    Genealogists know the National Personnel Records Center as a source of records (despite a major fire some years ago) of the U.S. military records of ancestors and other relatives. However, the same center also supplies copies of records to living people and to the families of recently deceased veterans who are seeking reference information for pension applications, disability claims, medical benefits, burials, and much more.

    The number of requests for records is growing, creating a massive backlog at the National Personnel Records Center. "Nationally, to think there are some 500,000 and growing veterans that are waiting to and trying to get the documentation, it’s not ok," Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner said. "It’s not how we should be treating those who have sacrificed so much or our country."

    The hundreds of workers in charge of those files have been off the job for months. Now a letter by congress is pressing to change that.

    "What we have asked the archivist of the U.S and the Biden Administration is to come up with a plan so that they can open up safely," Wagner said. "That means increasing vaccines, working overtime. We have put money toward this."

    Wagner and 200 other members of Congress signed the letter that calls for the center to operate at maximum capacity. But according the NPRC website, as of now only 20% of its workforce is back on the job.

    The National Personnel Records Center web site at states:

    Phased Expansion of Onsite Workforce at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is Underway

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NPRC has been closed and only completing emergency requests.  As of March 8, 2021, the NPRC entered into a phased expansion of our onsite workforce.  While we continue to increase our on-site staffing, we are still servicing requests associated with medical treatments, burials, and homeless veterans seeking admittance to a homeless shelter.  Please refrain from submitting non-emergency requests such as replacement medals, administrative corrections, or records research until we return to pre-COVID staffing levels.

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