Tangled Webs, The Tale Gets More Complicated

In previous blog postings, I discussed various examples of tangled interrelationships in my database. This time, we visit the towns of Nijkerk and Putten in northern Gelderland. Have a look at the following drop chart. (Click on it to see the full picture. Better still, open the image in a new browser window.)

Previously, I used an image program to produce a nice, easy to read chart. This time, there were just too many people to include, so I decided to take the easy way out, and just scan my rough, hand-drawn chart. In this chart, the black rectangles represent direct ancestors and the red rectangles represent distant cousins.

I began this saga of exploration researching some descendants of my 4th great grandparents Steven van Coot (1743-1813) and Helena van Hagen (d.1799). In my pedigree, these are persons #108 and #109. When I got down to their 2nd great grandchildren Gerrit van de Nautena (1862-1945) and Jannetje van de Nautena (1865-1931), I noticed that they both married a child of a van de Beerenkamp. Although these were in-laws, I just had to dig deeper. Gerrit married twice, to two sisters, Willempje van Korler (b.1853) and Maartje van Korler (b.1855). Their mother was Maria van de Beerenkamp (1820-1856), a daughter of Hendrik Elbertsen van de Beerenkamp (1797-1888).

Hendrik Elbertsen had another daughter, Willempje van de Beerenkamp (1822-1901), who married Abraham van Wijland (1821-1872). The name van Wijland was familiar. It turned out that Abraham and Willempje were the parents of Hendrikje van Wijland (1865-1893), whose husband was my great grand uncle Cornelis Moll (1855-1907), child of my 2nd great grandparents Herman Moll (1822-1902) and Johanna Anthonia Laboths (1821-1887), persons #24 and #25 in my pedigree. That is, the van de Beerenkamp family provides a link between two separate lines of my ancestors!

As if we haven’t seen enough interrelationships so far, if you look more closely at the van de Beerenkamp family, you’ll see even more. For example, we have yet another case of siblings marrying siblings: Aart Elbertsen van de Beerenkamp (1799-1872) married Maria Bleumink (1807-1874). Aart’s younger brother Aalt Elbertsen van de Beerenkamp (1805-1866) married Maria’s younger sister Jannetje Bleumink (1809-1866).

And we also have a couple of cases of cousins marrying: First, Willem van de Beerenkamp (1837-1897) married his first cousin Johanna van de Beerenkamp (1851-1931). Second, Willem van Wijland (1853-1917) married his first cousin once removed Aaltje van de Beerenkamp (1849-1919).

Looking at the chart, I wonder what other interesting interrelationships might be uncovered with further research.

Before I close off this epistle, I’d like to offer one more observation: Among the thousands of individuals born in the Netherlands in my database, I have very few cases of illegitimate births. And one of them shows up in this drop chart. My database does contain a number of cases of “miraculous” births, occurring less that nine months after the marriage of their parents. But during the 18th and 19th Centuries, illegitimate births seem relatively uncommon in the Netherlands.

Cheers! Hans

My Pet Peeves About Genealogy

Like any other pursuit, there are some things about genealogy that bug me. Some call these things “pet peeves”. They’re not enough to discourage me from my efforts. But, like some flying insects hovering around the backyard patio in the summer, they are annoying.

To begin with, allow me to complain about published genealogies. Don’t get me wrong, I take advantage of whatever resources I can. I don’t mind that they often contain errors. After all, I’ll still double check the information by searching for the original source documents at familysearch.org. But some things still irk me. For example, when a published genealogy uses the married name for women. Sure, many women adopt their husband’s name on marriage. However, it makes searching for people that much more difficult. It’s also confusing since you can never really be sure if it’s a birth name or married name.

Another thing that bugs me is lack of citations in many published genealogies. Most of the time, the information is enough for me to locate the relevant documents. However, as you go further back through time, and the information in the registries become skimpier and skimpier, it becomes more and more important to document how a particular conclusion was reached. For example, if only a year is given for a particular event, you know that the year is just an educated guess at best, unless there’s some other document that supports the fact.

Death/burial records in Dutch church registries bug the heck out of me. First, for children, they rarely list the name of the child. Normally, they just list the name of the father. In past centuries, couples often had lots of children, many of whom would die in infancy. And so figuring out an exact date of death for many children is an impossible task. Often, the best you can do is narrow down the date to a couple of possibilities. Take the family of Willem Moll and Dirkje Goetinks as an example. They had five children born in Arnhem between 1785 and 1796. However, when Dirkje died in 1800, the burial record noted that she had no children, which meant that all her children died in infancy. The burial registry for Arnhem lists deaths for three unnamed children of Willem Moll. The only definitive conclusion I can make for all five children is that they died before 1800. There’s not enough information to be any more specific.

Second, why are the burial records so hard to read? Marriage and baptism records seem much more easier to deal with. But for some reason, it often seems like the worst scribes possible were assigned to record deaths and burials. Perhaps that’s understandable, considering the nature of the task.

Finally, consider this scenario: You’re up late searching through various web sites, you’re tired, and you want to go to bed. You decide to visit just one more page. Bingo! You come across some previously undiscovered ancestors. What do you do? Do you bookmark the site and add it to your to do list? Or, excited about your new find, do you keep going? Do you enter the data into your database knowing full well that you’re too tired to do so without risking the introduction of errors into your database?

These are some of my pet peeves. What are yours?

Spurious Data and the Interconnected Web of Relationships

I spent some time researching the Matser family of Rheden, Gelderland. Since these were in-laws, and not blood relatives, I spent more time than I really wanted to. However, I did want to determine if two lines of Matser’s were related. The research was proceeding fine, until I reached a bump in the road. According to a couple of published genealogies, Wouter Matser (1791-1861) was a child of Gerrit Matser (1760-1810) and Johanna Arends (1764-1842). I found baptism, marriage, and death records for Wouter Matser, however, for the baptism and marriage records, his father was listed as Hendrik Matser, not Gerrit.

I found records for Wouter’s siblings, and he did seem to belong to the family of Gerrit Matser and Johanna Arends, and I could find no other mention of a Hendrik Matser. In addition, clearly, a least one other genealogist concluded that Wouter belonged to that family. So the name Hendrik must have been spurious. Or was it? If spurious, how could it be so in both baptism and marriage records?

I puzzled over this conundrum for a while. Finally, while loading the trunk of my car with groceries in the No Frills parking lot, the answer came to me. In the 19th Century, marriage applications in the Netherlands required a fair bit of paperwork. Normally, the marriage application included various documents, such as birth record extracts for the bride and groom, as well as possibly death record extracts for the parents. When Wouter Matser and Jantje Rong wanted to get married, the birth record extract for Wouter included the spurious name Hendrik Matser as the name of his father. This error was repeated verbatim on the marriage documents.

The additional paperwork for a marriage application can be found in the Huwelijksbijlagen. The information can usually be found elsewhere, with more detail. But if you’re having trouble finding a date of birth or death for someone, you might be able to get the information from this set of documents. Unfortunately, it can often be difficult searching the on-line images at familysearch.org for the records you need since each marriage typically has up to half a dozen documents and extracts.

To get back to the interconnected web relationships, I was interested in tracing the Matser’s since two distant Moll cousins married Matser’s. Barend Moll (1850-1929) and Jan Willem Moll (1850-1937) were third cousins to each other. Barend married Hendrika Mariana Matser (1855-1931) and Jan Willem married Johanna Matser (1854-1918). We’ve met Johanna Matser once before, in A Tangled Web – More Interrelationships.

Seeing the name Matser crop up twice, I wondered if Hendrika Mariana and Johanna Matser were related. It took some effort, but I determined that they too were third cousins, descendants of Jakob Matser (1717-):

No doubt there are even more interrelationships between the people in my database. In this case, the clue was the common surname. But when tracing through maternal lines, the interrelationships are of course not as obvious.

A Tangled Web, More Interrelationships

In my previous blog posting called A Tangled Web, I describe some of the tangled interrelationships between some of my distant cousins. In this missive, I continue, describing an interesting case of first cousins marrying. All of us necessarily have ancestors who were related. Indeed, if you double the number of your ancestors on each generation going back, you eventually reach a point where the number of ancestors exceeds the total population of the world. Which means that at some point, the rate of increase in the number of ancestors slows down while ancestors marry relatives, close or distant.

That said, in my own pedigree, I’ve so far not found any cases of ancestors who were related. But I suspect I’ll find at least one case of that, since on the German side of my pedigree, I’m a descendant of four separate lines of Wulff’s. Mind you, Wulff is a very common name in Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

But there are cases of cousins marrying among others in my database, among my distant cousins. In this study, we start with the central person of my previous essay, Willemina Woutrina Moll (1808-1882). In the following drop-chart, most people lived in the village of Velp, east of Arnhem, in the south-eastern corner of Gelderland.

Descendants of Jan WIllem Moll and Neleke Looijse. (Not all children shown)

Consider a niece and a nephew of Willemina. Willemina’s nephew Jan Willem Moll (1849-1915) married Willemina’s niece, and Jan Willem’s first cousin, Catharina Moll (1844-1921). Jan Willem was the son of Willemina’s brother Jan Willem Moll (1819-1851) and Geertje Gerritsen. And Catharina was the daughter of Willemina’s brother Lubbertus Moll (1812-1877) and Everdina de Roos.

But there’s more. Jan Willem and Catharina had a son, Jan Willem Moll (1883-1959) who married his first cousin Johanna Wilhelmina Moll (1883-1955), daughter of Hendrik Moll (1851-1903) and Woutje Snellink. Hendrik was a brother of Catharina Moll.

Now consider the pedigree of the youngest children in this drop-chart: As the children of first cousins, they have six great grandparents, instead of the usual eight. In addition, since one set of grandparents were first cousins, they have just ten great great grandparents, instead of the usual sixteen.

There’s one more example of a tangled interrelationship in this chart: Geertje Gerritsen married again after the death of her first husband, to Jan Matser. One of their children, Johanna Matser married another Moll, Jan Willem Moll (1850-1937).

Is It Now Time To Leave Facebook?

What do we do about Facebook? Many of us use Facebook every day. For many of us, it’s a great way to connect with friends and acquaintances, and to see what’s going on in our communities. I organize a monthly ukulele jam, and Facebook is one of the ways I use to publicize the jams, both on the Kingston Ukulele Society page, as well as other pages.

Unfortunately, Facebook continues to tinker with the filtering algorithms used in deciding what we should see. And this tinkering means that there’s less likelihood that we’ll see what we really want to see.

Facebook does offer a way for us to tailor what we see in our newsfeed. For me, I have my settings configured to see “All Updates” from the vast majority of my Facebook friends, but only the “Status Updates”, “Photos”, and “Music and Videos” from them. The photo at right shows how to change the settings. However, some people have reported that this option is no longer available to them. Since it normally takes a while for updates to roll out to users, it’s inevitable that the rest of us will lose this capability too.

In a Youtube video, Derek Muller explains Facebook’s algorithm that decides what we should see. But here’s my concern: Facebook can never truly understand what’s really important to me. For example, I have some Facebook friends that I have little day to day interaction with, but still I’m interested in everything they post. No algorithm can figure that out.

Of course, Facebook can do whatever it wants. In fact, as a public company, they have a duty to ensure that their stock-holders get the best possible return on their investment. Even if it means reducing the level of usefulness to its users. We all need to realize this fact of business.

But Facebook is also treading a fine line. While doing what they can to maximize share value, they also can’t risk alienating its users. If Facebook becomes less useful to us, what’s the point? Already, there are reports of teenagers leaving Faceook in droves, moving to mobile messaging apps. If Facebook can’t guarantee that I’ll see exactly the things I’ve asked for in my settings, what postings will I miss out on? And also, what assurance can I have that people will see my notifications of upcoming ukulele jams? Big companies can afford to pay Facebook the big bucks needed to ensure that everyone sees their posts. I can’t.

Can I afford to leave Facebook in favor of an alternative social networking site? I’m on Google+, as are many of my friends and acquaintances. But most of them aren’t active on that site. Today, I signed up to Pinterest, but it’s not clear if that’s an acceptable alternative. And I’ve never quite seen the point of Twitter. Today, Facebook still offers me the ability to tailor my newsfeed, but what happens when they take that feature away from all of us?

We’re all left with a dilemma. We all visit Facebook to stay connected and see what’s happening in our communities (geographic or interest). But unless there’s a mass migration, we can’t simply jump to an alternative social networking site. So we’re all stuck with Facebook. As for me, I’ll do my bit to post more on Google+, and less on Facebook. If enough of us do that, perhaps we can tip the balance in favor of the alternative. Or convince Facebook to put more emphasis on the needs and wants of its users.

Cheers! Hans

A Tangled Web

When researching my distant cousins, I normally try not to put much effort into the in-laws, and devote most of my time into finding blood relatives. I suspect that’s true for others as well. I do try to find birth, marriage, and death records for the spouses of blood relatives, but usually that’s as far as I go. However, when I see the same names crop up again and again, I can’t help but investigate the interrelationships between various in-laws.

In this essay, I consider some distant cousins who lived in the south-east corner of the Dutch province of Gelderland, east of Arnhem and south of the Veluwe, in the villages of Velp, Angerlo, Lathum, Hummelo, and Westervoort. This is an area where it seems like everyone knew everyone, where many people seem to be related, if not by blood, at least by marriage. Let’s look in particular at the immediate family of my distant cousin Willemina Woutrina Moll (1808-1882).

Family of Willemina Woutrina Moll (Not all relationships shown)

Willemina was married twice, in 1829 to Barend Thomas van Zadelhoff (1793-1832) and in 1833 to Nicolaas van Zadelhoff (1792-1872). Barend Thomas died before the birth of their third child. Seeing the same surname twice was certainly enough to raise my curiosity, and a bit of investigation revealed that the two men were first cousins. The children of Barend Thomas and of Nicolaas had an interesting relationship since they were related in two ways. First, they were half siblings. Second, they were second cousins. That means they shared six of eight great grandparents: All four of Willemina Woutrina’s grandparents, plus the two common grandparents of Barend Thomas and Nicolaas.

But there’s more to this tangled web. The two daughters of Barend Thomas and Willemina Woutrina, Catharina van Zadelhoff (1830-1897) and Berendina Theodora van Zadelhoff (1832-1914), married two brothers Lambertus Wentink (1825-1899) and Jacobus Reinerus Wentink (1832-1914), respectively. In fact, the two weddings happened on the very same day, with the same four witnesses. There were children from these two marriages. Whenever two siblings marry another pair of siblings, their children are known as “double cousins”. Normally, first cousins share two grandparents. However, double cousins share all four grandparents.

The same pattern repeats with the children of Willemina Woutrina and Nicolaas, not just once, but twice. And in one of those cases, three siblings marry a trio of siblings. We have Nicolaas van Zadelhoff (1839-1909), Wanderina Margaretha van Zadelhoff (1842-1869), and Barend van Zadelhoff (1850-1914) marrying the three siblings Elsken Smit (1841-1904), Hendrik Smit (1839-1890), and Christina Smit (1844-1892). And we have Hendrik van Zadelhoff (1844-1875) and Antonica Geertruida van Zadelhoff (1854-1936) marrying the siblings Jacomiena Ploeg (1842-1933) and Wessel Ploeg (1838-1929), respectively.

The interrelationships don’t end with what’s depicted on the diagram. For example, Barend van Zadelhoff was married twice. His second wife was Elske Geurdina Kets (1835-1931), a first cousin of his first wife Christina Smit.

How far does one go when investigating in-laws? It’s entirely up to you. With almost all the records available on-line, it’s now much easier to see the tangled web of interrelationships of our ancestors.

(You can read more in a followup at A Tangled Web, More Interrelationships.)

My (Distant) Kamerlingh Onnes Cousins

As we all know, genealogy can take us anywhere. We don’t know what we’ll find when exploring down some dark alley. A few days ago, I was researching some distant Moll Schnitzler cousins when I came across a photo from 1928 of the staff of the Bureau voor Handelsinlichting in Amsterdam. The man standing at left was A.J. Moll Schnitzler. The surprise came when I looked at the names of the people. The man sitting in front of Anthony Julius was O. Kamerlingh Onnes.

25th Anniversary of the Bureau voor Handelsinlichting, 1928.

Now then, “Moll Schnitzler” is not a common name. Everyone with that name is a distant blood cousin of mine. Likewise, with the exception of one person, everyone named “Kamerlingh Onnes” is also a distant blood cousin of mine. A bit of investigation revealed that Onno Kamerlingh Onnes was my 4th cousin twice removed. I was intrigued, and decided to do a side trip into the Kamerlingh Onnes family.

Some twenty years ago or so, I received an e-mail from a distant cousin stating that I was related to not just one, but two Nobel Prize recipients, Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (second cousin twice removed) and Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (4th cousin twice removed). As someone interested in science, I was surprised and honored to be related to two of the most significant scientists of the early 20th Century.

Heike (1853-1926) was the oldest of seven children of Harm Kamerlingh Onnes (1819-1880) and Anna Gerdina Coers (1829-1899). (I’m related via the Coers family.) Heike is best known for his research into the properties of matter at extremely low temperatures, which earned him his Nobel Prize. In particular, he was the first to liquefy helium and the first to observe the property of superconductivity.

Onno (1861-1935), pictured above, was the fifth child of the family, and was the director of the Bureau voor Handelsinlichting. However, later in life he became an artist, following in the footsteps of other close family members.

Their brother Menso (1860-1925) was a relatively famous portrait artist. Among his subjects were professors at the University of Leiden, including his brother Heike and Hendrik Lorentz. One of his more famous portraits hangs in the Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden, portraying his sister Jenny (1863-1926).

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, painted by Menso Kamerlingh Onnes

Jenny Kamerlingh Onnes, painted by her brother Menso

Menso’s son Harm (1893-1985) was also an artist, working in a variety of media, including drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, and ceramics. Some of his designs for stained-glass windows depict discoveries and instruments of contemporary physicists, including, again, Lorentz.

Fall trees in the city park, painted by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes

Stained-glass windows designed by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes depicting the Zeeman effect with explanation by Hendrik Antoon Lorentz

The connections to the arts do not end there. For a time, Menso shared a studio with artist Florist Verster (1861-1927), who in 1892 married Menso’s sister Jenny. Verster was known for his bold and colorful still-life and landscape paintings, many of which hang in museums in the Netherlands.

Of the other three siblings, one died in infancy and the others emigrated to North America and India.

Throughout this missive, I’ve mentioned physicist Hendrik Lorentz. Clearly, there were connections between Lorentz and the Kamerlingh Onnes family. But it’s not clear whether or not they knew that they themselves were distant cousins. Lorentz was a fifth cousin to Heike and his siblings. Getting back to the photo that initiated this diversion, Onno Kamerlingh Onnes was not a blood relative to his coworker Anthony Julius Moll Schnitzler. However, they also probably did not know that a distant great grand uncle of one was married to a distant great grand aunt of the other.

For additional details about this family, start with my page on their father, Harm Kamerlingh Onnes.

A Short History of Free-Form RPG

Free-form RPG is back in the news with the announcement of free-form D, F, P, and H-specs. In this short essay, I look back at the history of free-form syntax in RPG.

It all started more than twenty years ago, back when RPG IV was being designed. At the time, there were two distinct schools of thought. On one side, there were people who insisted RPG should have a fully free-form syntax. On the other, were those who strongly believed that RPG should remain in its traditional fixed-form layout. The result was a compromise that leaned heavily towards a traditional fixed-form syntax, but with some free-form elements, such as keywords on the new definition specification and expressions in an extended factor two entry.

My first task in the implementation of the RPG IV compiler was coding the new D-spec, along with its keywords. Later, we were able to convince our planner that keywords should also be allowed on the F-spec. Later still, keywords on the H-spec became an obvious design change.

The extended factor two opcodes, such as EVAL, IF, DOW, etc., were a riskier proposition. At first one developer was assigned the task, and later another to help out the first. But as time went on, it was clear that they weren’t making any progress. Late in the development cycle, I was assigned that piece of the language. Scrapping the work already done and starting from scratch, I finished the feature well in time for the initial release of RPG IV.

With the release of RPG IV, the development team was scaled back, leaving two developers working on new features. Because the extended factor two calcs were such a hit, one proposed enhancement was a fully free-form syntax for C-specs. However, we believed that it would require 100% of all development and testing resources for one release. When considering potential enhancements, this item would always get pushed well down the priority list.

This changed during the planning cycle for V5R1. I realized that common coding standards had changed somewhat during the past few years. I realized that a new free-form C-spec did not need to include all traditional C-spec features. Conditioning indicators weren’t needed now that we had the IF opcode. Resulting indicators were largely deprecated in favor of built-in functions. And some opcodes were no longer needed, such as IFxx and the MOVE opcodes. We just needed a few additional built-in functions to fill in some gaps. With this strategy, free-form calcs could be implemented relatively easily, along with other useful functional enhancements.

But of course, this proposal was not without controversy. In order to get the proper design, we had approval from management to discuss the proposal publicly, on a popular RPG related mailing list. Many people loved the idea, but some were vehemently against the proposal. Personally, although I knew we had something good, I was so disheartened with the criticism that I gave the feature a 50/50 chance of making it to release. However, in 2001 it was released, and over time, most critics came around to accept the syntax.

With V5R1 and /FREE released, we started thinking about moving towards a free-form syntax for other spec types. However, while free-form syntax made a lot of sense for calc specs, we could see little benefit for the rest of the language. Other enhancements of a more functional nature were always considered more important.

In the summer of 2003, the iSeries group in the Toronto Lab could not escape the “staffing actions” rampant throughout the Software Group, and the RPG compiler development team was reduced to one person. I was moved to a new team responsible for PL/X, a compiler used internally within IBM for the development of mainframe software.

So now we come to the Fall of 2013, 12 years after the release of  free-form calcs, 18 years after the release of RPG IV. A few weeks ago came the announcement of free-form D, F, P, and H-specs in RPG. Although I’m happy to see this come about, I’m also puzzled. It seems all too anti-climactic, too little too late to save an anachronism of a programming language. In a previous missive entitled Is RPG Dead? The Autopsy, I list half a dozen features common to modern programming languages but missing from RPG. Note that free-form syntax is not included in that list. At the time I wrote that, significant parts of the language were still fixed-form, but I didn’t consider the lack of a fully free syntax significant.

So what’s the big deal about the additional free-form syntax? More than ten years ago when I was part of the RPG development team, we always looked for useful functional features to add to the language. That is, features that would help improve programmer productivity, or allow programmers to do things they couldn’t do easily before. But that seemed to change about ten years ago. In the last release that I had any involvement with, one feature added was XML operations within the language. It wasn’t as if programmers couldn’t handle XML before since there were already XML API’s in use. But as far as I could tell, the only reason the XML opcodes were added was because COBOL was getting XML operations, and someone within the management team decided that RPG needed them too. I considered it a goofy feature, but I was too tired and jaded to argue. (Now that JSON is commonly used in places where XML was previously used, should RPG now include JSON opcodes?)

Lately, the major enhancements to RPG seem to be accompanied by major coverage in the iSeries press. Consider that silly Open Access feature, which seems primarily designed for ISV’s helping to modernize old monolithic applications, which in most cases probably should be rewritten from scratch instead. And now with the new free-form specs, a lot of pundits are writing about how the feature will make the language more acceptable to other programmers, while ignoring the functional deficits previously mentioned. That is, these days, it seems like planning RPG content is more of a public relations exercise geared towards managers of client RPG shops rather than providing real improvements making the job of RPG programmers easier. As RPG falls further and further behind the modern programming languages, I suspect the PR show will become more and more prominent.

In my opinion, although I think the new free-form specs are a nice improvement to RPG, they will not make RPG more palatable to the programmers of Java, Python, PHP, etc. A dozen years ago, we saw little justification for the feature, and I don’t see what has changed in the meantime. If anything, RPG has become less and less relevant as applications programmers continue to discover the productivity gains to be had by using modern interpreted languages like Python and PHP.

Genealogy and Technology

We all know that a big part of genealogy research is managing the data. So it comes as no surprise that computers are an essential part of the research. Fortunately these days, the technology is quite affordable, both in terms of hardware and software. In this blog posting, I consider some of the hardware you need.

If you download lots of images from FamilySearch.org or some other similar web site, you’ll need lots of hard disk space. Disk space is relatively inexpensive. And these days, computers with terabyte hard drives are common, even in budget priced computers. If you need more, you can easily add an external drive for about a hundred dollars per terabyte. How much can you store in one terabyte? Roughly half a million images from FamilySearch.org.

Next, consider your displays. If you’ve ever used multiple monitors, it’s hard to imagine having to put up with just one. On my system, I have Gramps running on one monitor and a web browser open on the other. In addition, I also have multiple virtual desktops configured for one of the displays. I use the virtual desktops to further organize my work. On one, I do my image editing. On another, I have a number of folders open for various other sources of information. Note that your monitors can be different sizes and orientations. Some people even have one display positioned horizontally and the other vertical. The latter may be useful for word processing.

Another useful piece of hardware is a scanner, so you can easily digitize old document and photos. If you already have a multi-function printer, you already have a scanner. If you don’t, then you should consider getting a new printer. The latest generation of multi-function color ink-jet printers are inexpensive, with a cost per page that’s lower than ever. And some of these affordable printers even support duplex printing, allowing you to stuff twice the number of pages into your three-ring binders. (That is, if you still keep paper documentation!)

Finally, note that even if you read films the old-fashioned way using microfilms at your LDS Family History Center, you can usually scan the films there. So always remember to bring a memory stick with you. It may not be practical to scan everything you find. But you should at least scan records that are related to direct ancestors, or records that you’re having trouble deciphering. The former is useful in establishing certainty about the family members that are the most relevant to you. The latter is important so you can ask others for help in reading the difficult records.

Hard drives, monitors, scanners, memory sticks. These are some of the more important hardware tools we now use in doing genealogy. I’ll discuss the software tools another time.

Cheers! Hans

Ukulele Chord Diagrams

After I started playing ukulele, I realized that I needed a way to create my own song arrangements. There are numerous web sites that offer chord arrangements for songs, many specifically geared to ukulele. We all know that Dr Uke ‘s Songs and Richard G’s Songbook are great sources of ukulele arrangements. And of course, Chordie.com has everything.

But I’m not always satisfied, especially with Chordie. Chordie often provides a good starting point, but I always want to do things differently. There are always multiple ways to finger every chord, and often, there’s a better sounding alternative to the standard open fingering used in most song arrangements. Here’s an example of the three main chords in the key of D, using my favorite alternative form of A7:

To prepare your own chord arrangements for your favorite songs, you need a couple of things. First, a good word processor. LibreOffice Writer is my choice since it has full-fledged desktop publishing features. It also runs on a variety of different operating systems.

Second, you need a source of graphics for the chord diagrams. One way to do that is to download the chord graphics from a site like Chordie.com. But finding all the diagrams you need can be tedious. If you’re technically oriented, you can figure out a way to download them all, but then you’d have a torrent of files to sort through. And you still won’t get diagrams for alternatives, such as the 0454 A7 (pictured above).

And so, I created my own chord diagrams, which you can download from my Ukulele Chord Box Collection. There are six collections to choose from, with chords geared to standard GCEA tuning, ADF#B tuning, and standard baritone tuning. In addition, there are left-handed variations for them all. The diagrams come in two sizes: 48×64 pixels and 36×54 pixels.

I’ve made these available under a Creative Commons License, so you can do what you want with them. If you find these chord diagrams useful and want to show your appreciation, there’s a Paypal link on the download page where you can donate $10. I certainly won’t get rich from these donations, but $10 will pay for a couple of beers at the local bar where we hold our monthly ukulele jam in Kingston.

Using LibreOffice Writer, I usually include the chord names within parentheses within the song lyrics, and highlight the chord names in red. I then put the chord diagrams at the bottom of the page. If there’s no room at the bottom, I add a frame to the side, and put the chord diagrams there. With a folder view of the chord diagrams open, I drag and drop the image into the document. With a right mouse click on the image, I choose “Anchor”, and then select “As character”. I then cut and paste to position the diagram where I want.

Cheers! Hans