Archive for January, 2014

January 29th, 2014

The Pandigital Portable Scanner – Is it Really a Magic Wand?

If you have seen somebody wandering around a graveyard and pointing a strange looking object at the tombstones, you have probably spotted a genealogist with a wand scanner. Wand scanners are becoming increasingly popular amongst genealogists. Not only are they portable and can be easily stored, but they are great for taking a quick scan of an image, document, or as the person alluded to above, headstone inscriptions. They are a bit of an investment, averaging in price around $100, but they can be a formidable weapon in your genealogical arsenal.

The latest scanner to hit the market is the Pandigital Portable Wi-Fi Wand Scanner with Feeder Dock. It has received rave reviews online, though some consider it a bit pricey at around $120. I myself had the chance to try out the Pandigital Scanner (S8X1103), and was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer. It is slightly larger than some portable scanners I have used before, but more compact from many on today’s market. It’s also rather light, only weighing one pound, seven ounces, and taking it out of or placing it back in its dock was a cinch.

The great thing about any wand scanner is that you don’t need a computer to make use of its scanning properties. The S8X1103 has its own internal memory (128MB), or you can use a microSD card (those small flash memory cards you find in cameras or cell phones). Although the Pandigital scanner doesn’t come with a card, it does support cards with up to 32GB of storage.

Before we got going (we were headed to the cemetery to scan headstones), my friend showed me how simple it was to prepare the scanner for action. It lifted very easily out of its dock, and we simply inserted the rechargeable battery that was already fully charged. The battery is recharged by connecting it your computer with the USB cable they supply, or it recharges automatically when its resting on its dock. There is also some software that comes with the scanner , and if you have a computer its well worth installing it, as it helps you to convert your scans into a video.

Scanning the S8X1103

When we got to the graveyard and began scanning, I did find one niggly little bug. The scanning part was fine – quick and easy, but changing the settings was a bit confusing. It was easy enough to change the settings – the menu is well organized and easy to follow, the problem was that the scanner doesn’t confirm the changes you made. I wanted to change the file settings from JPG to PDF, and when I did the screen still showed that the scanner was set to JPG. When I did the scan however, it became a PDF file. Only after scanning the menu then showed it had been changed. 

The menu is though, pretty straightforward, and you can change other settings such as the resolution and from color to black and white quite easily. The default settings for pixels is 300 ppi (pixels per inch), which is adequate for most purposes. If you want to change the pixilation however, you can choose 600 ppi for both manual and wand scanning, and 1200 ppi for wand scanning only. You can view your scans on the 1.8 inch color screen, or it can be connected to a tablet PC or Smartphone via Wireless. It’s nice to be able to check your scans right away in case they didn’t come out or you missed something, and you can check them on the LCD display immediately after scanning.

The scans themselves were the quality of a snap-shot, but I found they suited my purposes of recording inscriptions just fine. We did a few documents in PDF form, and they were a little bit difficult to make out on the LCD screen, but after I viewed them using the scanner software on my computer later at home, I found them to be just fine. The one thing that holds the Pandigital scanner back is the Page manager software that comes with it. Though it is capable of placing multiple scanned pages into a single PDF, when converting the data to text, it creates a separate file for each page. 

If you already have software comparable to the Page Manager software that comes with the Pandigital Portable Scanner, the portability, lightness, and ease of use could make it a good choice for you. The same applies if you’re willing to invest in better software than what comes with it. Overall, using the S8X1103 was a positive experience, I’m thinking of maybe investing in one myself. Honey…!

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January 22nd, 2014

Take Accurate Notes to Improve Your Research Results

The quality and accuracy of the notes you take during your research will very much determine the results you get. Note taking is one of the most important aspects of genealogical research, and includes not just the information on the individual you are researching, but citing the sources from which you glean your info. There is no way we can rely on our memories to retain so much data, so it is important to record our data in a notebook or computer. We also have some Free Genealogy Forms Downloads that may help you. When you do record the data, it is also important to label it with the date and place when and where you wrote them, and don’t forget to mention the source!

You will have the clearest notes if you follow a particular method of writing down the information. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the most effective methods for genealogists are transcripts, extracts, and abstracts. Those words may intimidate a beginner, but they are really not as complicated as they sound.

  • Transcripts are simply word for word copies of the information in an original document. Everything is copied exactly how it appears, including punctuation and abbreviations. Keep in mind that if the document you are transcribing is itself a transcription, it may contain errors. This is largely due to human error such as misspellings or miscopying dates. It is thus important to verify any information you find in transcriptions with other sources. If you want to add comments or your own notes to a transcription, you can either use an asterisk (*) at the beginning of the paragraph or sentence you wish to comment on and place it at the bottom of your transcription, or you can use brackets ( ) to include your comments at the end of the text you are commenting on. If using an asterisk to comment on more than one item, add another asterisk for each point, i.e. * first topic, ** second topic, *** third topic, and so on.
  • Abstracts are summaries taken from the essential details in the document or record. They generally include names, dates, location names, and life events such as birth, death or marriage. Non-essential words are left out, and only the important details recorded. Again, copy the data exactly as it appears in the original document.
  • Extracts are similar to abstracts in that they only include the vital details of a document. Rather than summarizing however, the section of the document you are recording is written exactly as it appears in the original. It is essentially a word-for-word copy of particular sections of a document. Generally extracts are included along with or as part of an abstract to highlight vital elements of a document.

You will most likely use all three methods in your note taking over the course of your research. It often helps to make full transcriptions of documents such as land deeds and wills though, as often they contain clues that may lead you to other records down the road. Transcriptions and abstracts are especially useful when you are not able to make a copy of the original, but make sure you copy them carefully and accurately. Erroneous transcriptions have often, and still are, a source of frustration for many genealogists.

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January 15th, 2014

Richard III Even More Mysterious Than We Thought!

In our Blog of February 26, 2013, we revealed how the remains of warrior King Richard III of England were uncovered after years of speculation about where he was buried. As it turns out, there is even more mystery attached to Richard’s burial than initially believed. As it turns out, a second coffin has been discovered in his grave. The strange part is that the second coffin, made of lead, was found inside that of Richard III himself!

The second coffin is believed to have been sealed sometime between the 13th and 14th centuries, more than one hundred years before King Richard was buried there in 1485. Archaeologists who are excavating the site think the coffin may belong to a high ranking medieval knight, or one of the founders of the friary where Richard is buried. A statement issued by the University of Leicester states “The inner coffin is likely to contain a high-status burial — though we don’t currently know who it contains.”

The second coffin is quite large, measuring &ft. long and 2 feet wide. Because it is made of lead, it took a team of eight to lift the lid off the coffin. The coffin itself has been moved to the university of Leicester research center where it will be examined by a team of researchers to determine the safest way to open it without disturbing the remains. The only glimpse they have had of what is inside the coffin so far has been via a hole in the bottom of the coffin where they have been able to glimpse the feet of the skeleton.

The archaeologists have two candidates as to whom the remains may belong to. One is Peter Swynsfeld, the other William of Nottingham, both founders of the Grey Friar’s friary, and who died within 60 years of each other, in 1272 and 1330 respectively. Historical researchers are in possession of records that suggest a knight who was “sometime mayor of Leicester” may have been buried there. It is possible that he is the knight Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, who died in the 14th century sometime between 1356 and 1362. DNA testing will inevitably be put to the test again!

This is the first time that archaeologists have encountered a lead coffin, so it presents them with some unique challenges. “None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before,” said archaeologist Mathew Morris, director of the Grey Friars site, “We will now need to work out how to open it safely, as we don’t want to damage the contents when we are opening the lid.”

It is amazing how much the field of genealogy has contributed to the advancement of DNA testing, and how valuable that now is in learning about, not just our individual family histories, but that of the world as well!

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January 8th, 2014

Learning the Language of Obituaries

Obituaries are a valuable genealogical resource. They are the reason I began this website as you may recall. They are basically a written notice of a person’s death, and can confirm not only the date and place of death, but a person’s date and place of birth. Additionally they can reveal information about:

  • Other relatives
  • Where they worked
  • Where they went to school
  • Where they lived
  • Where they may have immigrated from or to
  • Clubs and Organizations they may have been members of
  • Friends who may be able to provide additional information about them
  • Religious affiliation
  • Military service

Obituaries are found in newspapers, so you need to investigate every likely newspaper. Many cities boast more than one newspaper, and an obituary for someone could appear in an obituary for a neighbouring town or city as well. When you search for an obituary, you should include the name of the city where the individual died and any locations where they may have lived during the course of their life.

Often relatives will publish an obituary in a former place of residence so that old friends and relatives there may know of their passing. Some obituaries may have more information than others, so be sure to check them all. Keep your search to within a week or two of the death date, sometimes obituaries are delayed a bit before they are published, sometimes they are published within a day or two of the person’s death. Don’t get obituaries mixed up with death notices which only mentioned that the person is deceased, and contain very little info. If you come across a death notice, check the paper a couple of days later for the full obituary.

Modern obituaries are generally more detailed than those from the past, and are also easier to find online. If you are searching older obituaries, you may have to request a copy from the newspaper that published it. Keep in mind though, that it may well be worth the effort, as some obituaries contain a gold mine of genealogical data that could keep you going for months, even years in your genealogical research.

Be prepared to read between the lines in obituaries. Keep in mind that they are secondary sources of information normally provided by surviving family members. Those persons are not always close relatives, and may unwittingly provide wrong or inaccurate information. The greatest value of obituaries is that they can point you towards primary sources, and any information found within them should be verified by such.

If you wish to begin your research, we provide access to a nationwide database of Newspaper Obituaries that you can search by state. Keep in mind the points and strategies we’ve mentioned, and you’ll be finding your ancestors in no time!

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January 1st, 2014

Jamaica: Land of Food, Water, and Relatives

Jamaica is known as the land of food and water, but few realize that Jamaicans, according to national census records, are the third largest West Indian immigrant group in the United States, and the largest in Canada. The United States Census of 2000 reported that 736,513 Americans claimed Jamaican descent; the 2001 Canadian census revealed that 211,720 Canadians did the same. New York is the preferred destination of Jamaican immigrating to the United States; those moving to Canada prefer Toronto.

The number of Jamaicans that have immigrated to the US and Canada may be even greater however, as prior to the 1960’s, all immigrants form the Caribbean were classified as a single group and categorized as West Indians. Such a generalization makes it impossible to determine the number of Jamaicans who immigrated to North America before that time. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Jamaicans immigrated to America between 19o0 and 1924. After the Second World War began, around 40,000 Jamaicans were recruited to do work that supported the war effort, though many returned home at the war’s end.

When Jamaica gained its independence it qualified for an increased immigration quota, and between 1922 and 2002, the average amount of Jamaican immigrating to the US averages around 16,000 per year. In Canada, mass Jamaican immigration didn’t begin until the 1970’s, and of the 120,000 Jamaicans registered as living in Canada at that time, over 100,000 had arrived post 1970. The Jamaicans who immigrated to the United States and Canada were generally well educated, and most achieved greater economical and social success than other immigrants of African heritage. US Secretary of State Colin Powell is perhaps the most well known public figure of Jamaican descent.

How to Find Jamaican Relatives

After reflecting on those figures a bit, I couldn’t help but think that there are many individuals who may appreciate knowing where to find resources for tracing Jamaican ancestry. I did a bit of research and found a few very valuable websites that may be of immense help to the Jamaican family historian.

Jamaican Family Search Research Library – This site is a actually what it says it is – a virtual genealogy library for anyone researching their Jamaican heritage, especially for individuals born before 1920. The website contains transcriptions from a variety of documents including 19th century Jamaica Almanacs listing property owners, civil and military officials), Jamaica Directories for 1878, 1891 and 1910, Civil Registration, Wills, selected extractions from Jamaican Church records, Jewish records, and excerpts from books, newspapers, and other sources. There is also a wealth of information on immigration and slavery.

Jamaica Archives and Records Department – This is the site of the official National Archives of Jamaica, and they have an entire section dedicated to genealogy research. There are two major sources of information here – Parish registers and Church Collections and they provide information on baptisms, marriages, and burials. You will also find deeds, adoption records, as well as Slave registers, estate inventories, and plantation records.

LDS Family History Centers – The Family History Library of the LDS (Latter Day Saints) Church has amassed a great collection of Jamaican records which can be found on microfilm in their worldwide Family History Centers. A complete listing of their Family History Centers and locations around the world can be found online at their Family History Center Locator.

If you are researching your Jamaican family history and know of any great resources, please let us know by leaving a Comment below.

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