Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

9780226313283The following is from an email written by Roberta Dollase and republished in this blog with her permission.

I am writing to invite you to a book talk and book signing at the Scandinavian Cultural Center, 206 Waltham Street, West Newton, on Monday, November 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.  Gisli Palsson, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland, will be talking about his book, The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan, published this September by the University of Chicago Press.

In the winter of 2015, I received a phone call from Professor Palsson. He told me that he had written a book about one of my ancestors and he was working on an American edition.  In revising the book for American publication, he wanted to learn about the American branch of my family.

He told me that my great, great, great grandfather, Hans Jonathan, had been born a slave on the island of St. Croix in 1784.  Hans was the son of a house slave on a sugar plantation and a Danish father.

A brief outline of Hans’ journey:  When he was 8, his master took him to Copenhagen where he spent his youth and formative years in his master’s household.  When he was 18, his widowed mistress wanted to send him back to St. Croix to be sold. After a famous Danish court case in 1802, he was ruled a slave, but before his mistress could follow through on her plan, he escaped to Iceland where he ultimately declared himself a free man.  In 1820, he met and married my great, great, great grandmother, Katrin, the daughter of an Icelandic sheep farmer and fisherman.  In 1869, their grandson Georg, my great grandfather, and his brother Bjorn went to Denmark to further their educations. While Bjorn returned to Iceland, Georg remained in Denmark.  His only son, my grandfather, George Bjorn, brought his family to the United States when my father was three, thus establishing the American branch of the family.

In 2015, through telephone calls and emails (including a draft of the book in English), I learned Hans Jonathan’s story and shared with Professor Palsson the story of my American family.  In November, my husband and I, along with our children and two of our grandchildren, joined Professor Palsson, several of my Icelandic relatives, and an Icelandic documentary filmmaker on a trip to St Croix where we visited the places where Hans Jonathan and his mother had lived.  Learning about Hans Jonathan and my family history and the trip to St. Croix was extraordinary.

While Professor Palsson’s book tells the story of Hans Jonathan’s remarkable life, it goes well beyond biography.  A quotation on the book’s jacket states:   Palsson offers a meditation on slavery and race – past and present – raising complex issues involving race, memory, and   family.  Palsson does not offer easy answers, rather, he pushes readers to ponder these issues on their own.  A beautifully written and accessible book.   Terri L. Snyder, California State University, Fullerton

The book talk is free, but the Scandinavian Cultural Center encourages registration.  Go to scandicenter.org, click on “Events” and scroll to “Author Series: Gisli Palsson.” A place to reserve a ticket is at the bottom of the write-up.  I think you will find the book and the book talk interesting.  I would love to see you there!

Roberta Dollase(author)/9 November 2016/vea
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  

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How to Use Evernote for Genealogy by Kerry ScottI have been trying to understand the difference between Dropbox and Evernote for awhile now. I finally figured out the bare bones basics. You can upload your files, photos, etc. into Dropbox, but you can’t change or update a record while it’s in there. To update a booklist or class handout, you’d have to download it back into your original program, fix it, then upload it back into Dropbox. In Evernote you can make notes directly into the program, but Evernote has it’s own program for doing this, which sounded pretty restrictive. And to make matters more complicated, I wanted to use the software specifically for genealogy.

I’m no different than anyone else when we get inundated with all this new technology.  Evernote and Dropbox originally sounded interesting, so I signed up for the free versions of both. After a brief flurry of activity they just sat there unused. Exploring Google for enlightenment was pretty hit or miss. Mostly miss. I always got stuck when trying to follow instructions that I found there. Either a step or a critical screenshot always seemed to be left out. (I need screenshots.) So I went back to working with what I already knew…

…Until I discovered that Kerry Scott had written a book about using Evernote. I was already familiar with her writing style from her blog Clue Wagon. I enjoy reading her postings. She has a good sense of humor and explains things well. Usually I look at book reviews before I either buy a book or request that the library purchase it. With Kerry I took a leap of faith and just bought the book myself.

From hard copy to Evernote?

From hard copy to Evernote?

I need to learn things consecutively. When it comes to computer software, jumping into the deep end of the pool doesn’t work for me. I drown. I’ve read through several chapters and this book is perfect. Kerry takes you by the hand (or laptop or iPad or smartphone) and walks you through Evernote one step at a time. I’ve also learned that there is a lot more to Evernote than I thought. So I’m giving it a shot.

Right now I’m working on syncing for the first time, making sure I can get my PCs and iPad to share my Evernote information. I’ve downloaded the program on the two PCs that I use. Then I tried getting the app for my iPad.  And I hit my first glitch. I haven’t used my iPad for awhile. I have to upgrade, update, and agree to new terms of service before I can claim my app. Nothing to do with Evernote. This is going to take a little more time than I thought. (How often have we said that to ourselves while working out the glitches in this brave new computer world of constant change.) Besides getting my mitts on all of the neat stuff that Evernote can do, I am also very interested in seeing for myself that PCs talk to Apple devices and vice versa. So the journey continues. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Quick tips: Even if you are not interested in Evernote, you might want to take a look at the Clue Wagon blog: http://www.cluewagon.com. I highly recommend the post “BREAKING: Clue Wagon is Now a Dating Sight.” It is very funny.

If you are interested in Evernote, you might like to know that Thomas MacEntee started a Facebook site in 2014 for genealogists who use Evernote. I found it and joined several days ago at https://www.facebook.com/groups/evernotegenealogists

Facebook and Twitter are great for following groups like this.  Back in the days (post Civil War) when I was in library school, I had a professor who said that if “it” exists, no matter what “it” is, there is an association for it somewhere. The same can now be said for social media. If you are curious about something, go hunting for a group of like minded people on Facebook and/or Twitter. The great thing about genealogists is that we get to find a whole lot of great people.  Enjoy.

vea/19 February 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

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DSC03943How often have we received new computer hardware and we find that the only other item in the box is a single, folded sheet of very inadequate “instructions.” Or we need to use some software or social networking site or database that we have never dealt with before.  We go online to find out how our object or site of interest works. We may or may not find further instructions or an online user manual. If we do find something, we quickly learn that the information is not written for beginners.  The writer of what we have found assumes that the reader is an experienced user.  It usually takes a big chunk of time for determined neophytes to discover anything useful.

 We all find ourselves in this predicament at one time or another. In my case, librarian or not, if I’m doing something new, I’m a beginner. And where computers are concerned, there is always something new. We are inundated with suggestions and tips on our social networking sites and websites, as well as the insistent demands that come directly from our computer’s prompts.  They all tell us we should do something.  Unfortunately they neglect to tell us how.

 Confronted with this problem, I start with the website of the company that produces the hardware, software or site. They are the experts, right?  Like everyone else, I often waste a lot of time sifting through information I don’t need and not finding what I could actually use.  I always seem to end up at the library’s online book catalog. I know I have a lot of company.  The books I discover online are often already checked out by people trying to find the same answers I am looking for.  Like every other patron, I have to put reserves on them and wait. Once I get a book, I have a fighting chance. I can actually have it open next to me while I’m fighting with my gizmo, software, database, antivirus update, or whatever else some diabolical mind has decided is needed to complicate my technological life.


Bookstacks and Computer I thought I would save you some time and recommend some good book series that you might want to try when you find yourself stymied. There are so many computer subjects that it is not feasible to go into each topic.  Hence my list of book series.  I would suggest looking for these in your local public library’s catalog rather than for immediate purchase. Don’t take out jsut one. Find several, perhaps one in each series. You can see which books work best for you. Different books may have different types of information.  One may begin by telling you how to buy an item.  Another might just jump in and tell you how to use it. Another may have more detailed instructions for setup, details that might be critical for a beginner’s understanding. In the long run you probably won’t save money by using library books first. But you will have a better working home library.

 When I put [        ] with the name of a series, it’s up to you to replace the brackets with your topic of interest.  Then you just continue typing the name of the series to see if the library owns it (online catalog) or if the book has been published on your topic in a particular series (wherever you order your books). Each series will have a number of authors writing on different topics.  The only constants are the series title and the publisher.  You can do a keyword search on the entire series by using the series title and the name of the publisher if you want to see all the books in a particular series. The best place to find all of a series title would be at the publishers website. Libraries can’t buy everything in all subjects. Just because they don’t own a book, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Once you find books you want, you can look for them throughout your library network’s catalog and suggest that your local library buy a particular book (or books) they don’t own.

 The whole point of the following books is to turn someone who knows next to nothing about a computer related topic into someone who is knowledgeable and competent. Start your search with these series.



 [          ]: The Missing Manual.  Publisher: O’Reilly. 

          This is a brilliant title for a very good series.  Each book was written with the express purpose of taking the place of the manual that was not with the computer, tablet, laptop, hardware, software, social networking site, etc.

For example, I was just looking up information on what can be done with an iPad.  The author of iPad: The Missing Manual does not assume you know what you are doing.  I like authors like this.  This particular author begins at the beginning — by explaining how to set up an iPad. Then she takes readers on their first exploration of Apple’s tablet.  The rest of the book shows the various ways this thing can be used.  It suddenly goes from being an infernal gizmo to something that might actually be useful. Not all authors and their books do this.  

 [       ] in easy steps.   Publisher: Easy Steps Limited.  This one is published in Britain.  I like the Brits. They are a sensible race.

          As the title implies, this is another series that takes you step by step through the labyrinth of setting up, getting acquainted with, and using various computer related items.  I find I have a special affinity for this particular series.  Take a look at one and see if you agree with me.


 Then there is Wiley Publishing.  The following three series are all published by Wiley.

 [       ] for Dummies.  Publisher: Wiley Publishing

          This is probably the most widely recognized of the computer help books.  IDG Books was there first with their DOS for Dummies. They never looked back. It was so popular that IDG created a whole series of books covering computer based topics and then continued to expand into a large number of other topics.  Their computer series has saved my technological life at the library on occasions too numerous to count.  IDG was acquired by Wiley. “For Dummies” are still excellent books.  Although not in color, their line drawings and other illustrations are easy to follow and their instructions are usually very straightforward.  And I do not mind being considered a “dummy” if this gets me information I can work with.


I like illustrations.  The more the merrier.  The next two series have plenty. And they are in color. Since both are by the same publisher, I wondered why the company decided they needed two separate series. I discovered that Wiley has a hierarchy.

 [       ] Simplified.  Publisher:  Wiley Publishing

          This series is definitely just for beginners.  If you don’t have a clue, start here.

 Teach Yourself Visually [       ] .   Publisher:  Wiley Publishing

          Feeling a little more adventurous?  The Teach Yourself Visually starts at a beginner’s level, but then continues into areas that would be considered intermediate.

Until I find additional series that I find particularly useful, I will end here with my posting on books.  If you find any of these particularly useful, please let me know.  The same goes for a series you have used and like that I may not know.  I and other who use this site will be extremely grateful.

Books are always my starting point.  When writing a book, authors have the time to think about what they want to say and how they want to say it. A good how to author understands that readers are looking for information and need to have it explained carefully.  Material is checked by others and often rewritten.  For me, this is the best place to start. If I am pressed for time, which is usually the case, there are other sources that I can consult as well, especially while I’m waiting for those books to come in.  I continue with these in the next posting below.

vea/9 September 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

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Genealogy Books - special collections -- horizontal pictureBooks always come first with me. When I am starting a new topic or discovering a weakness in my research methods, there is nothing like following an explanation in a book. They tend to start simple and explain things step-by-step, rather than hurling you into the middle of things unprepared.  I first look for what is available locally, both here at Newton and then within the network. Anyone with a computer should be able to check any library’s online catalog.  You could do a keyword search, just putting in the name of the country and the word genealogy.  Besides books devoted only to that country, this would also bring up books that had just a section or a chapter on the topic. An example is The Family Search Guidebook to Europe by Allison Dolan which has sections on both France and Spain. If you get too many hits, you can limit your search to  subject. Change your selection from “Keyword” to “Subject.” Next type the name of the country or topic, then the word  “genealogy” followed by the word “handbooks.”  The word handbooks will tell you that it’s a “how to” book.

9. Use online catalogs and Interlibrary loan.What if your local libraries have nothing you can use. If a local or network search doesn’t work, you might want to check the Library of Congress catalog (http://www.loc.gov) or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (https://familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlc).  (The Family History Library will even let you know what books you can access directly online.)  Once you find a title that interests you, you can always go into  the mother of all catalogs known as World Cat. Going to its web address of  http://www.worldcat.org will show you if a copy of the book of interest exists in a library closer to home. You can then put the books on your  list, noting where they are located. If you are keeping your list online, you can add a live link.  When you want the book, you can request it through your local library’s Inter Library Loan system.  Just give yourself plenty of lead time.

Internet Archive sign at the BPLTwo other sources for older, out-of-copyright books are the Internet Archive and Google Books. Internet Archive actually has an entire section devoted to genealogy.  Go to https://archive.org/details/genealogy and take a look. To find out more about how to use Google Books, click on http://www.google.com/googlebooks/about.  Thomas Kemp of GenealogyBank has done an article on using both Internet Archive and GoogleBooks  that you can read by clicking HERE .  I always check out Internet Archive first. I find it easier to find books there.

vea/7 August 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

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Recently I did a blog posting about the Internet Archive at the Boston Public Library. Since that time I have been working with it more than I have in the past.  I know the Boston Public Library has put all of their older books relating to genealogy into the Internet Archive.  (This is the collection that is housed in their Social Sciences Collection on the second floor of their older McKim building. ) With just one genealogy collection this large, let alone the the collections that other libraries  have been adding, it seemed logical that the Internet Archive would have a category devoted to genealogy.  I went hunting.  It takes a few clicks  to get there.  If you click on one of the options below, you will find five screenshots that will show you how to get there.



A WORD OF WARNING REGARDING A SIMILAR WEBSITE.  The Internet Archive is absolutely free to use.  You can usually download books into your computer to use as needed.  It has a specific arddress: https://archive.org. If you find yourself at a site that offers a seven day free trial it is not this site.  There is another site whose web address ends in archives [plural, not singular].com [not .org] that is a for profit site.  This other site will ask you for a credit card to access its free trial.  I have known two people who have used this second site.  They have not been able to opt out by clicking a designated spot on the website.  Both had to actually phone the company.  Neither found anything useful at this second site.  I repeat, there is no cost to use the Internet Archive site I am citing.  You will NOT be asked for your credit card.

vea/17 November 2012
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com Exploring Newton’s Past (LibGuide) : http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy?hs=a

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To me, there is nothing like having a book in my hands or an original record on the table in front of me.  Sometimes seeing the original gives you that one piece of information that you need that you would not get from it online. At the same time, none of us have unlimited resources (time or money).  The only things that do appear to be unlimited are the books and records that just might contain the information we are seeking.

Thank goodness for digitization. Although what is available online is still the tip of the iceberg, that tip keeps getting bigger thanks to grants for digitization projects and groups like the Internet Archive.  We are able to quickly search an entire online book electronically for one piece of information or read it page by page for a more in depth study.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Internet Archive at its Northeast Regional Scanning Center, conveniently located at the Boston Public Library.  The Archive digitizes books, yearbooks, city annual reports. Anything between covers could be a candidate for digitization. Our guide specifically discussed Boston’s annual reports. Now a city’s annual report may sound like boring reading.  Don’t you believe it. There can be all sorts of information packed away there. They have great local history. One researcher was able to digitally search city annual reports to track the growth and decline of specific ethnic groups within specific neighborhoods of Boston.  This was make possible by the work that had already been done by the Internet Archive.

Books used to be time consuming and difficult to digitize, but the Internet Archive now uses a specially designed V-shaped cradle to hold the books being copied.  [No broken spines.]  A 300 page book can now take just a few hours.  The Internet Archive scans also include OCR (Optical Code Recognition). This creates data code for the content of books which, in turn, allows information and specific words within books to be tracked. It could have taken our friend mentioned above years to do the research that he was able to search digitally in a much shorter time.

Did you know that you can read any of the books scanned by the Internet Archive on your Kindle? They can also be listened to as audio books as well, but the voice does sound canned. Internet Archive owns the books that they copy and they give their digital copies away free to whoever wants to read or listen to them.  The cost is 10 cents per page.  It’s $30.00 for a 300 page book, but you get it for free. Money for the scanning often comes from grants. Google would have digitized all these books for free, but in the end Google would have owned the digitized version of all the books.  If they wanted to charge for access in the future, they could.

The BPL has had all their genealogy books digitized.  If a book is still under copyright and it is a book that cannot be lent in hard copy, they loan out digitally only that number that they have in hard copy.  If they own three hard copy (paper) books, only three people can borrow the digital copies.  Legally this seems to satisfy the copyrights. For a link to this treasure trove, just click BPL at the Internet Archive.

vea/15 October 2012
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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