Sunday, November 27, 2011

Around the Blogosphere - November 27

It's been a while since my last Around the Blogosphere post, but with the holiday weekend, I've had time to catch up on my blog reading. The following are my selections of some of the best genealogy blog posts of the last two or three weeks.

Genealogy's Need for Curators by Thomas MacEntee on the Geneabloggers blog.

More on Organizational Systems and Genealogy by James Tanner at Genealogy's star. Also of note is Why You Have To Pay For Free Government Documents.

Why I Want to Remain an Amateur by Greta Koehl on Greta's Genealogy Blog.

My Views on Family History Have Changed by Elyse Doerflinger on Elyse's Genealogy Blog.

Family Discovery on eBay by Deb Ruth on Adventures in Genealogy. Deb also shared some great resources for maps.

The Big Genealogy Blog Book by Amy Coffin on We Tree Genealogy - buy Amy's new book! Amy also shares her experiences in self publishing.

Kathleen Brandt writes about Mayflower research on A3 Genealogy.

Tips on Decoding Family Photos by Susan Farrell Bankhead on Susan's Genealogy Blog.

And perhaps the best news - Season 3 of Who Do You Think You Are premieres on NBC on February 3

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kindle Fire - Not Just for Books

I've been exploring my Kindle Firefor a week now and continue to be amazed, amused and entertained by what it has to offer. I was already an enthusiastic user of the Kindle Keyboardand its amazing capacity for electronic and audio books. As much as I love books, movies and music, I've been looking to the future with a desire to downsize my massive collections of books, DVDs and CDs. The Kindle Fire became an obvious choice to help me in this process.

Since 1995, I've had a great deal of brand name loyalty to The online retailer is the first place I ever visit when I am interested in a product and probably end up making my purchase from Amazon well over 90 percent of the time. I probably feel about Amazon the way other people feel about Apple. I've just never embraced Apple products, which may help explain my enthusiasm for the Kindle Fire. This post may come off sounding like a big promotion for Amazon, but it's difficult to write a review regarding the Kindle Fire without addressing the content and services available from this retailer.

Music in the Cloud

For me, as an Amazon consumer, the big selling point of the Kindle Fire is the access to my media content via the cloud. Earlier this year, Amazon introduced cloud storage for not only computer files, but for music files. Right now, I have about the equivalent of a large clothes closet crammed full of CDs and DVDs. I took advantage of the early promotions to get 20 gb of cloud storage for a year. With the promotions, I think this cost me about $5, and certainly it was no more than $10. Regular price for my plan is $20/year and music files do not count toward the 20 gb. Any mp3 music purchased from Amazon may be stored directly to the cloud drive - or downloaded to my computer at the time of purchase or later. So far, I have more than 2,000 songs stored on my Amazon cloud drive and I've barely started uploading all of my music.

Music is, and always has been, a big part of my life, so it's really nice to have my music collection available to play songs in the background on any computer, anywhere, with the Amazon Cloud Player. The Cloud Player is also available for Android devices.


For the last year, I have absolutely loved being able to carry more than 300 ebooks on my Kindle Keyboard - right in my purse. There are thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon, Google Books and other online sources. It's great for transferring PDF files of those old county history books to a portable device. The Kindle Keyboard has been promoted for having "e-Ink" display - which comes close to resembling the printed page. There is no glare in direct sunlight. I've found it very comfortable to read books on the Kindle Keyboard. The Kindle Fire has a back lit display that more closely resembles a computer screen. So far, I've found reading on the Kindle Fire just as comfortable on my eyes as the Kindle Keyboard. In fact, the Kindle Fire would be my preference in a low-light situation. You could actually read a book in an unlit room with the Kindle Fire. Even with a portable light, it's extremely difficult to read the Kindle Keyboard in a dark environment.

Movies and Other Video Content

Just to give you an idea of the type of movie fan I am, over the years, I've managed to collect every film awarded the Best Picture Oscar. But I'm not a film snob, I can enjoy something like Vegas Vacation just as much as Citizen Kane.

More than a year ago, I started a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. Interesting marketing technique: pay $75/year to get Free shipping. Well, I purchase enough from that I liked the idea of getting my merchandise in two days as compared to 10 days when I selected the normal 'free' shipping method.

Perhaps knowing that the Kindle Fire was on its way, Amazon made an ingenious move by including online viewing of thousands of movies and television programs available at no additional charge to subscribers of Prime. I'm not saying that watching a movie on my laptop or the Kindle Fire can be compared to watching on my HD television. But for catching up on films I may have missed or re-watching some of my favorites, I find the streaming quality quite acceptable. The availability of this content for $75/year is a good selling point.  This is $6.25/month average, compared to the Netflix online viewing subscription, which is advertised at $7.99, but with tax runs about $8.50.

Last weekend, I rented Larry Crowne, the new film with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Rental from Amazon was $3.99 and streaming quality on the Kindle Fire was fine. Right now, the Beatles' first feature film, A Hard Day's Night, is playing on the Kindle Fire as I compose this blog post. This particular film is via my Netflix subscription, using the Netflix app for the Kindle Fire. Again, excellent video and audio quality. On most of the films I've sampled, the audio is much better if you use ear buds or other type of headphone device.

For most videos from Amazon, you may pay to rent a film or television show for 24 hour or 48 hour rental; some titles are available to purchase and download. Purchases may be downloaded to the Kindle Fire (or your computer), yet they remain stored in the Cloud on Amazon. You can easily move your media content back and forth between the Kindle Fire and the Cloud. I downloaded my purchased copy of All the President's Men to my Kindle Fire. Again, the quality is great. As I frequently have overnight travel for my "day job," I like this feature because much of the time, there's not much to interest me on motel room TV channels.

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts in this series, I've been able to watch Legacy Family tree webinars and other genealogy videos on the Kindle Fire. My friend, Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames, told me that the iPad does not play any videos using Flash. So this may be one area where the Kindle Fire has a leg up on the iPad.


Applications for the Kindle Fire are designed for Android devices. There are thousands available, many for free, many for a low price. I've been playing around with these applications a lot this week (which probably explains why I've only read about 50 pages of book content!).

Being a news junkie, I've selected a few apps that access the mobile feeds from many news providers. My favorite is US Newspapers by Langtolang Inc. It comes with links to major providers already included, such as CNN, People, USA Today. I've added my local newspapers and other news providers as well. This one is Free.

A Radio app I like is called TuneIn radio. Not only does it include all of my local radio stations, but also any station in the world that has online streaming. So - I can transport myself to Nashville, L.A. London or Sydney with just a tap on my Kindle Fire. I can't imagine how giddy this would have made me when I was 13!

Many apps for social media are available. I've set up some that will notify me of incoming email in both Gmail and Yahoo Mail. With TweetCaster, I have finally embraced the power of Twitter. On a mobile device, this social networking tool finally makes sense to me in a way it never did using it online or even with Tweet Deck.

Weather, news, sports, music, games - there's dozens of apps to appeal to anyone's taste. I even tried out Angry Birds, but it just doesn't move fast enough for me!

I have also signed-up for trial subscriptions to Smithsonian and Vanity Fair magazines. The reading apps for these magazines provide the option of reading an article at a time by tapping on the table of contents, or you can scan through the pages just as if it were the printed magazine, complete with ads.

What I am hopefully optimistic about is that the genealogy companies will be developing apps for the Kindle Fire. Let's hope that will be coming out with an app similar to what they have created for the iPad.

A few words about battery life

For casual web browsing, game playing, reading and listening to music, you can expect the Kindle Fire to go about eight hours. Turning off the WiFi while reading a book will add some time. I've found that a full recharge from about 10 percent battery life to 100 percent takes about four hours. You can continue to use the Kindle Fire while the device is being recharged. The AC adapter/wall charger that comes with the Kindle Fire may not provide a long enough cord in some settings.

Please note than live streaming a movie over WiFi runs down the internal rechargeable battery very quickly. But a fully charged device should easily last through a feature length film.

The Downside - maybe, maybe not

When making a purchasing decision, someone who has the need to be connected to the internet 24/7 may feel restricted by the Kindle Fire being a WiFi only device. This is not a deterrent to me. I will primarily be using the online connection while at home, over my own WiFi network. There is more than enough reading, music and game playing on the device to occupy me during those long periods in waiting rooms and other brief times when I'm just passing time. I can easily connect once I'm back in WiFi territory. My guess is that future versions of the Kindle Fire may come with wireless connectivity.

Related posts from

Kindle Fire For Genealogy

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? First Look

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux

Disclaimer: links to are via my affiliate relationship with the site.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kindle Fire for Genealogy

Yesterday's blog post was about my first experiences with the new Kindle Fire. Based on reader comments and the fact that this is, after all, a blog about genealogy, today's post will focus on genealogy uses for the Kindle Fire.

At this time, genealogy-specific apps do not appear to be available for the Kindle Fire. I expect that will change in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Kindle Fire users have access to all of their favorite web sites, such as,, FindAGrave (and for me, about 300 more). The sites appear just as you are used to seeing them, just on a 7" screen. However, you can turn the device to landscape mode or use your fingers to make the type on the page appear larger. This technique does not work on mobile-enhanced pages. Bottom line is that once I have become accustomed to managing my viewing space, I am able to read any web site fairly easily.

The Home Screen of the Kindle Fire
Books, documents and apps apear
on a virtual bookshelf  with most recent first.
Amazon is completely honest when they talk about ultra-fast web browsing with their "Silk" browser. Surfing the 'net is much faster than my laptop or netbook, which makes it my new device of choice for surfing and reading. As I mentioned yesterday, the mobile views allow me to scan through blog posts in Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter and check email in much less time than ever before.

Access to the internet also means that I have access to all of the files in my Dropbox folder whenever I have WiFi access.

As with the Kindle 3 that I've been using for more than a year, the Kindle Fire also serves as a large capacity USB drive. I'm able to transfer files to my Kindle Fire via drag and drop.

I recently created an Adobe PDF file of my ancestors from Family Tree Maker, so I dragged and dropped it into the documents folder of my Kindle Fire. It's nice to have some of those reports and other resources available if you're on a spur of the moment library or cemetery trip and don't have your mountain of paper with you.

You'll also see in the photo that I have the Kindle version of the Family Tree Sourcebook. More genealogy titles have become available for the Kindle in the past year, including books by Megan Smolenyak, George Morgan, and others. When I first got my Kindle 3 last year, only a handful of genealogy titles were available; now a search has more than 1,000 titles. Many of these are self-published eBooks and family histories. And just this month, Amy Coffin of the We Tree genealogy blog published her excellent resource for bloggers, The Big Genealogy Blog Book. Even if you don't own a Kindle device, you can order and read these books right on your computer.

As a teller of family history stories, I always have in the back of my mind the publishing of a family history ebook. Just get the information "out there" and available to other family historians. With electronic publishing so easily available, anyone can publish their genealogy books with little overhead.

I've also test driven the Kindle with Legacy Family Tree webinars. The sound and video quality is great. The wealth of instructional genealogy videos available on YouTube is at your fingertips. Anything you've accessed on the web is readily available for viewing on the Kindle Fire.

Catch up on your genealogy reading
PDF files transfer easily to the Kindle.
Recently, I made use of an incredible sale at Family Tree magazine, where I purchased four years of digital issues on CD. The CDs arrived this week and I've placed the PDF files on my computer. With the simple drag and drop feature, I have now moved the magazines to my Kindle. What easier way to catch up on my genealogy reading than to have all of these back issues in my purse?

As I mentioned in last year's post, you can also use the Kindle to house those 800 page county histories that you find on Google books and other web sites. At 14.6 ounces, the Kindle weighs a lot less than those dusty old books. And without that "old-book" smell!

Speaking of the weight, the Kindle Fire weighs more than my Kindle 3 at 8.5 ounces. This was an adjustment, since my older model is very lightweight. Even though under a pound, I'm finding the Kindle Fire is becoming easier to hold. It's just something to get used to.

Will I be sending my Kindle 3 to the Technology Graveyard? Not anytime soon. In a future post, I will address the differences between the two devices and how there is still room for them both in my life.

Related posts from

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? First Look

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux

Disclaimer: links to are via my affiliate relationship with the site.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? - First Look

If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging for a few days, it's because there's a new love in my life - the Kindle Fire.Having been the owner and fan of the Kindle 3since it was introduced last year, it was with great anticipation that I counted down the days to the arrival of the new, much-hyped version of's tech baby.

My Kindle Fire arrived on Wednesday and I have experienced loss of sleep for several nights, information overload, the giddiness of a schoolgirl crush and absolutely no regrets about kicking it up a notch with my new eReader. Or is it a tablet? Or maybe an oversized smart phone without the phone?

Actually, it's all of the above. And more. Over the next few days, I will be blogging about my experiences with the Kindle Fire, making a side-by-side comparison to the Kindle 3 (now being called the Kindle Keyboard), sharing some of my favorite apps, and last, and by no means least, using the Kindle Fire for genealogy.

Out of the box, it's pretty simple. Just the device and the AC adapter. And a small piece of cardboard with an instruction on where to locate the power on button and to glide your finger across the screen to activate the device.

Tapping as fast as I can

Okay, confession time. I don't have a smart phone, don't have an iPad or iPod touch, so this touch-screen technology is all new to me. When I first had to use a mouse with a computer, I resisted, "I'm a keyboard person!" I insisted. The first days of using the Kindle Fire was adjusting to "tapping" instead of clicking. I'm still perfecting my tapping skills.

My first obstacle was to log-in to my wireless router. How DO I enter my password?? I struggled with this for at least 45 minutes until, entirely by mistake, the touch keyboard appeared at the bottom of the screen. It would have saved me a lot of time had that little cardboard instruction sheet said to tap the bottom of the screen to activate the navigation menu and keyboard. Please do not assume I know these things! And I even consider myself a gadget geek.

I had to make some password changes on my wireless router, restarted the Kindle Fire, and finally had access to my WiFi network. Here's where I should mention that the Kindle Fire accesses the internet only by WiFi, unlike a smartphone and some iPads which require a paid plan (or so I'm told). This is no different from my Kindle 3.

Books, books and more books

A few apps were preloaded on the device, so I logged in to my Facebook account. I test drove a few familiar web sites, then began downloading my Kindle books from my Amazon library (Cloud) to my Kindle Fire (Device). Over the past year I've accumulated close to 400 books for my Kindle. No, that didn't cost me a small fortune. I'm a big fan of FREE. If you like free ebooks for your Kindle or Nook, I recommend subscribing to the Free eBook Deal blog - they provide daily links to free books to feed your hunger for reading. You can also follow them on Facebook.

So, with a few taps, I began the process of downloading my existing ebook collection from my Amazon library to my device. All of my online cloud content from Amazon is at my fingertips as long as I have WiFi access, but I can download my books and music at will. I can remove my content from my device and it's still stored in the cloud on Amazon.

This morning I used an app for (now an Amazon company) to access my library of audio books. I've started downloading several of my audio books to my Kindle Fire. The app is extremely easy to use, although it took me a while to get account and password recognition - that may have just been due to my less than perfect skills on the tap-keyboard.

Social networking and blog reading

Facebook. Twitter. GooglePlus. Google Reader. All of these are part of my daily routine. And I get behind. Outrageously behind. Two days without checking the blogs I follow in Google Reader and I have 700-800 posts that have accumulated.

This is where the Kindle Fire is going to make my blog reading time much more efficient.

I maintain folders for different types of blogs that I read. My favorite "must read" bloggers are in my "A-MR Blogs" folder. When I have no time to read everything, this is the folder of blog posts that I always read.

In the mobile version of Google Reader, only 15 blog posts are displayed at a time. I can read the ones I select (I'm a headline/title reader, so if you don't grab my attention there, I move on). After perusing the 15 posts on my screen, I can mark them all as read and move on to the next 15. This has made my blog reading so much more efficient than on my PC. So, from now on, ALL of my blog reading in Google Reader will definitely be done on the Kindle Fire.

Facebook is pretty much the same as on my computer, except that I just get the news feeds and not the extraneous ads that appear on the right hand side of the screen. Nice! The icons to "tap" for notifications and messages are very small and difficult for me to "tap". This needs some refinement or perhaps the purchase of a stylus for me.

But when it comes to Twitter, this is where I see the real difference between the web and mobile. Those of you with smartphones are probably already aware of this. Using an app called TweetCaster, I now "get" why people like Twitter. Twitter is clearly intended for the mobile user and it's quick and easy to browse through tweets on the Kindle Fire. Tapping on the Kindle keyboard is still much too frustrating for me to do much tweeting from the device, but I'll certainly use it for reading tweets.

This is just a quick look at the new Kindle Fire. I'll be back with more about my experiences in the coming days.

Related posts from

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some days are better than others - today was a good one!

Today started out with trying to determine the date of death of the brother of my great-grandmother, George Laymon. I hadn't really looked very hard before, so I thought I would try as a long shot. Lo and behold! There was a memorial for him and it included a photograph of his and his wife's tombstone.

At last! Not only a clue, but a date and a location! They were buried in Missouri. No wonder I wasn't having much luck finding them in Nebraska or Kansas.

The Missouri Digital Heritage database has become one of my favorite sites when researching family members from the Show Me state. Of particular value is the site's collection of images of death certificates from 1910-1960. This database has helped me solve more than one family history puzzle in the past.

Bingo! I found George's death certificate and that of his wife, Hattie. The information from the certificates added a few pieces of information to my research. I found it sad that when George's widow, Hattie, provided the information on George's death certificate, she didn't know the name of her mother-in-law. Why so sad? Because his mother, Eliza Ann Olmstead Laymon, had lived with the couple in the 1930s, as per the 1930 U.S. Census records.

These discoveries would have been more than enough, even for a good day. Since I was on the hunt for the Laymons, I started looking around the 'net for some Wyoming newspapers, since I knew that the Laymons, the Pechts and assorted inlaws had gone to Wyoming in the early 1900s to work the oil fields. I had gathered very little information about the families during the Wyoming period, circa 1906 - 1915.

A Google search took me to the Wyoming Newspaper Project and I found a gold mine in those oil fields! It was purely on a lark that I typed in "Pecht" in the search engine and got more than 200 hits! And what hits they were! Every one one of these newspaper pages referenced the families of my great-grandfather, LeRoy (Roy) Pecht and his brother Albert Blair (A.B.) Pecht. I had downloaded more than 80 newspaper pages with articles about various family members before I finally called it quits for the day. I'll be back to finish up later!
Roy and Clara Pecht family
a few years after they had lived in Wyoming
Back Row: Cecile Ann, Clyde Lester, Ruby Luella
Front Row: LeRoy, Mildred Ellen, Clara Rosella
Such discoveries that I found! There was a delightful story about my great grandmother and her niece "leaving footprints in the snow" as they went for the mail. Great grandfather Roy hauled a lot of lumber. The articles told me the exact day that my family arrived in Wyoming, when Roy began building the family's house, and later when they moved into A.B.'s old house.

The stories of their daily lives are rich in detail and still leave things open to speculation. But I look forward to gathering the remainder of the newspaper articles and then begin weaving together the story of the family's years in Wyoming.

Yes, it was a good day, indeed!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My 128 Ancestors and Still Searching - Surname List

Recently I've been experimenting with some of the reports in the 2012 version of Family Tree Maker software. Something that I really like is how it synchronizes with my family tree database on I had never compiled a listing of my direct line ancestors and found this quite easy to do. From the research that I've done or gleaned from published family histories, my longest line goes back 15 generations.

Beginning with my grandparents and generation 3 (myself being generation 1), here's where I come from:

Generation 3:
Otto William Petersen and Ruby Luella Pecht
William Leroy Kelly and Sina Harriet Bellinger

Generation 4:
Jens Christian Petersen and Karoline Kristine Hansen
Leroy Pearl Pecht and Clara Rosella Laymon
Daniel Kelly and Mary Janice Welch
John William Bellinger and Harriet Emma Landon

Generation 5:
Peder Jeremiasen and Elsia Katrine Laursen
Soren Hansen and Kristine Veddum Nelson
John Crispin Pecht and Amanda Melvina Stover
John J Laymon and Eliza Ann Olmstead
William D Kelly and Mary Casey
Mark Welch and Sarah Conneally
John William Bellinger and Sarah Roughe
Daniel C Landon and Anne Jane McVoy

Generation 6:
Jeremias Poulsen and Mette Christendatter
Laust Laursen and Karen Poulsen
Nels Veddum and Marin Katrina ?
George Pecht/Peight and Rachel Hartsough
Samuel Stover and Elizabeth "Betsy" Kepler
James Laymon and Maria Sloan
Eben Andrews Olmstead and Anne Archibald
Kieran Kelly and ?
Welch and ?
John Conneally and ?
John William Bellinger and Anna Eva Clapsaddle
Samuel Landon and Margaret Schultz/Scholtz
James McVoy and Sarah Larvin

Generation 7:
Povel Madson and ?
John Hartsock and ?
Emanuel Stover and Susanna Price
Andrew Kepler and Anna Maria Kramer
Abraham Laymon and Elizabeth Goodpaster
George Sloan and Mary Storey
David Olmstead and ?
Johannes/John F Bellinger and Ernestina Harter
Andrew Clapsaddle and Maria Dygert
William Landon and Experience Cooke
Jacob Schultz/Scholtz and ?

Generation 8:
Andreas Bernhardt Kepler and Maria Elizabetha Lindamood
Daniel Kramer and Ann Maria Geise
David Olmstead and Rebecca Jackson
Frederick Peter Bellinger and Catherine Webber
Henry Harter and Catherine Piper
William Landon and Mercy Orange
Elisha Cooke and Rebecca Edgerton

Generation 9:
Silas Olmstead and Lydia Sloan
Daniel Jackson and ?
Philip Bellinger and ?
Nicholas Weber and Barbara ?
Daniel Landon and Dorothy Holdredge
William Cooke and Tabitha Hall

Generation 10:
James Olmstead and Hannah ?
Johannes Bellinger and Anna Maria Margaretha Kuhn
William Holdredge and Deborah Elliott
Jacob Cooke and Lydia Miller
Elisha Hall and Lydia ?

Generation 11:
Nathan Olmstead and Mercy ?
Deiterich Bellinger and Barbara Gessen
Hans Kuhn and Catharina ?
Jacob Cooke and Damaris Hopkins
John Hall and ?

Generation 12:
James Olmstead
Hans Bellinger and Anna ?
Michael Gessen and ?
Francis Cooke (Mayflower) and Hester Mahieu
Stephen Hopkins (Mayflower) and Elizabeth Fisher

Generation 13:
Richard Olmsted and ?
John Hopkins and Elizabeth Williams

Generation 14:
Richard Olmsted and ?

Generation 15:
James Olmsted and Jane Bristow

Generation 16:
James Olmsted and Alice Hawykins (or Sorrell)