Cloud Management — Primadesk

PrimadeskPri­madesk, a new web­site in beta, allows you to man­age your cloud con­tent in Google (GMail, Google Docs, Picasa), Yahoo (Yahoo Mail, Flickr), Drop­box,, and about twen­ty oth­er services.

This looks to be a pow­er­ful resource, though it will need to be faster for pow­er users. One of the most pow­er­ful fea­tures promis­es to be the abil­i­ty to move images from one ser­vice to anoth­er. How many of us have per­son­al images scat­tered across mul­ti­ple sites such as Flickr, Pho­to­Buck­et, Snap­fish, Smug­mug, and so on. Now, we will be able to quick­ly migrate images from one site to another.

This fea­ture is not yet avail­able for pho­tos, but it is for doc­u­ments that you might want to move from to Drop­box, or from one account to another.

Pri­madesk allows you to search across mul­ti­ple accounts, back­up mul­ti­ple accounts, and — final­ly! — man­age pro­lif­er­at­ing cloud accounts.

On my wish­list are Ever­note and Office­drop inte­gra­tion. It would be great to be able to man­age what’s in Ever­note, what’s in, what’s in Drop­box, and so on from one inter­face. Files that I man­age in Ever­note, I might want to share with peo­ple in anoth­er ser­vice; this would be a quick way to do that.

Accounts are free, though the may cost some­thing once it leaves beta. More like­ly, is that the site would fol­low the freemi­um mod­el that has been so suc­cess­ful for Drop­box, Ever­note, and oth­er lead­ers in the field.

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North Carolina Voices: The Civil War

WUNC North Carolina Voices: The Civil WarRaleigh’s WUNC Radio aired episodes in a series, North Car­oli­na Voic­es: The Civ­il War, dur­ing the mid­dle of June. The series includes pieces on the impact of the war on North Car­olini­ans and their fam­i­lies from the time of the Civ­il War until now. Thank­ful­ly, the episodes are avail­able for stream­ing and down­load­ing from the WUNC website.

Among oth­er pieces, there is an episode with inter­views the liv­ing daugh­ters of Con­fed­er­ate vet­er­ans. There is also an inves­ti­ga­tion of the reli­gious his­to­ry of the Civ­il War (“Whose Side is God On?”), which inter­views George C. Rable, author of God’s Almost Cho­sen Peo­ples: A Reli­gious His­to­ry of the Amer­i­can Civ­il War (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010) and Regi­nald Hilde­brand, author of The Times Were Strange and Stir­ring: Methodist Preach­ers and the Cri­sis of Eman­ci­pa­tion (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1995.

There are two inter­est­ing pieces about African Amer­i­cans in New Bern, North Carolina:

There are also shows about re-enac­tors, bat­tle­fields, and sev­er­al oth­er top­ics. Take a listen!
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Ancestry’s 4th of July Free Access Weekend Continues

James Graham - SAR Membership ApplicationsThere is one more day left in’s free access week­end for the 4th of July. Ances­try is mak­ing appli­ca­tions to the Sons of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion appli­ca­tions, 1889 — 1970. These appli­ca­tions pro­vide detail about the ser­vice the ances­tor is report­ed to have per­formed to advance the cause of the Rev­o­lu­tion. (For SAR mem­ber­ship, as is true for the Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, the ances­tor did not have to serve in the mil­i­tary, but could have pro­vid­ed oth­er forms of assis­tance to the cause.)

The appli­ca­tions also include doc­u­men­ta­tion for the descent from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War-era ances­tor to the appli­cant. While most of the appli­ca­tions are not doc­u­ment­ed in ways that com­ply with mod­ern genealog­i­cal stan­dards, they can still pro­vide a wealth of infor­ma­tion that a patient and thor­ough researcher can use as a start­ing point for ver­i­fi­ca­tion, debunk­ing, and extension.

In my case, my 5th great grand­fa­ther, James Gra­ham (1741 — 1813), seems to have no few­er than 28 appli­ca­tions opened by descen­dants. There will be a fair amount to go through.… I am look­ing for­ward to it.


If you have a fam­i­ly his­to­ry that you want to pub­lish, there are sev­er­al ways you can do this.

Let’s assume for the moment that you want to pub­lish the book in print for­mat, but you don’t want to become a pub­lish­er or main­tain a lot of inven­to­ry. You want to make the book avail­able to fam­i­ly mem­bers, but you are not mak­ing a career change!

A num­ber of print-on-demand ven­dors can help you, but I am just going to list three:

  • Cre­ate­Space — An Ama­zon com­pa­ny — will allow you to upload book inte­ri­ors and cov­ers in PDF for­mat. Addi­tion­al­ly, they can design the cov­ers for you. The books get an ISBN, basi­cal­ly for free. You have to pay for the print­ing and ship­ping of a hard­copy proof, so that you can ver­i­fy that what they will pro­duce meets your expec­ta­tions. Once you have approved the proof, the book can be made avail­able on, Ama­zon, and even to libraries and phys­i­cal bookstores.
  • Cafe­Press — This is one of the first com­pa­nies in the space. They start­ed off with t‑shirts and mugs, and even­tu­al­ly expand­ed to CDs, DVDs, and books. As with Cre­ate­Space, you upload  PDFs of your con­tent and cov­er, and they print books when some­one orders one. The down­side is that the books are only avail­able from Cafe­Press, and do not have an oppor­tu­ni­ty for wider dis­tri­b­u­tion, but the ini­tial cost is low­er, as you are not required to buy a proof if you are con­fi­dent that what you sent will work.
  • Lulu — This com­pa­ny is a favorite among geneal­o­gy cir­cles. Book titles are only sal­able through their site, though, as with Cafe­Press, you can order a hand­ful (and a dis­count) to sell. Lulu also ships for free if the order is more than $20. One thing that sets Lulu apart is that if you sell a print book at Lulu, as well as an e‑book (which they dis­trib­ute through Apple’s iBook­store), the e‑book is linked from the list­ing for the paper book.

I rec­om­mend that you get a proof of any print-on-demand title that you cre­ate. While each of these is inter­est­ing, for me, Cre­ate­Space is the most inter­est­ing option, because of the range of dis­tri­b­u­tion options open to me from CreateSpace.

I will post more on this top­ic, as well as on how to turn your fam­i­ly his­to­ry into an e‑book that you can either give away for free or sell.

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Books in Browsers: Brewster Kahle and E‑Books

There is a lot of dis­cus­sion in the geneal­o­gy world about e‑books.

Of course, there are large book dig­i­ti­za­tion projects: Google Books and Inter­net Archive being the two best known. (In 2008, Microsoft can­celled a book dig­i­ti­za­tion project that had scanned more than 750,000 books.) While Google has got­ten into some legal hot water by mak­ing books that are under copy­right avail­able under an agree­ment with the Writ­ers’ Guild, which has not held up in court, the vast major­i­ty of books are in the pub­lic domain.

A great sum­ma­ry of where we are in terms of e‑books is the keynote speech (text and slides | see above for the video) that Brew­ster Kahle, founder of Inter­net Archive gave at the Books in Browsers con­fer­ence in Octo­ber 2010. Kahle talks about the trans­for­ma­tion from a paper book ori­en­ta­tion, through a device ori­en­ta­tion (the Kin­dle, for exam­ple), to a device-inde­pen­dent (brows­er) ori­en­ta­tion. His goal is to make books avail­able to all. He does this via dig­i­tiz­ing books and mak­ing them avail­able as follows:

  • Pub­lic Domain — Free — The Inter­net Archive now has over 2.8 mil­lion titles avail­able for free
  • Under copy­right (but out of print) — Borrow
  • In Print — Buy

One thing that sets the Inter­net Archive apart from Google Books, is that most of the titles (at least most that I have seen) are avail­able in mul­ti­ple for­mats. There’s PDF, of course, but also .epub (works in the Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble read­er soft­ware and the Nook and oth­er ded­i­cat­ed read­ers), .mobi (works in the Kin­dle read­er soft­ware, the Kin­dle portable device, and oth­er read­ers), black and white PDFs, HTML, and sev­er­al oth­er formats.

E‑books have trans­formed genealog­i­cal research. If you haven’t used one, I encour­age you, the next time you are look­ing for a local his­to­ry, to con­sid­er using Google Books or Inter­net Archive. If the book was pub­lished in the US pri­or to 1923, it should in the pub­lic domain, and you may find it for free on Google Books or the Inter­net Archive now or in the future.

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Dreaming of Clouds

“Cloud Computing,”Sam John­ston, 2009. This file is licensed under the Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion-Share Alike 3.0 license. 

If any­thing, the rush to pro­vide con­tent in the cloud is begin­ning to speed up.

On March 29th, Ama­zon announced its Cloud Dri­ve ser­vice, focus­ing on stor­age of MP3 audio files, which can be streamed from the web with Ama­zon’s Cloud Play­er. Cloud Dri­ve is able to store any dig­i­tal files.

On May 10th, Google released a sim­i­lar prod­uct: Google Music.

The blo­gos­phere is full of spec­u­la­tion about when Apple will release iCloud, it’s much expect­ed, audio stream­ing ser­vice. Many Apple reporters think that iCloud will be rolled out dur­ing the Apple World­wide Devel­op­ers’ Con­fer­ence, start­ing on June 6th.

As the per­for­mance of wire­less net­works increas­es, the cloud becomes more attrac­tive. More and more peo­ple are using portable devices (iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets). These devices often com­bine min­i­mal stor­age with built-in inter­net con­nec­tions, and that adds up to a com­pelling argu­ment for file stor­age in the cloud, with access to any­thing, but min­i­mal local stor­age requirements.

Apple’s report­ed goal with iCloud is to allow peo­ple to play their songs with­out first hav­ing to upload them. Apple’s ser­vice would repli­cate your list of songs on its servers, and stream them from a com­mon source when you want­ed them. (Both Google and Ama­zon require you to spend hours and hours, or days, upload­ing your music library.)

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in the  geneal­o­gy realm, there is no mas­sive media con­glom­er­ate who owns archival elec­tron­ic records of your data.

Wait … what about Ances­try and Fam­il­y­Search? These folks have archival qual­i­ty dig­i­tal images of orig­i­nal records. When I log into Ances­try, it knows which doc­u­ments I have put in my shoe­box. It has all the meta­da­ta about the 1930 cen­sus record for my father and his fam­i­ly. Yes, I can down­load it, and yes, I can nav­i­gate to it in the con­text of an Ances­try Fam­i­ly Tree, or in the con­text of a soft­ware pack­age where I have attached this image.…

But why can’t I eas­i­ly tag this image with my own per­son­al meta­da­ta (as on, and see the tags oth­er peo­ple use (as on, and why can’t I search my “per­son­al doc­u­ment col­lec­tion” for text (deliv­ered via Opti­cal Char­ac­ter Recog­ni­tion, or in the con­text of a tex­tu­al doc­u­ment) or for metadata?

Why can’t I search through my entire genealog­i­cal image col­lec­tion, with­out hav­ing it on my local sys­tem, with the search run­ning in the cloud?

Why indeed!

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Behind the Scenes at NGS 2011: Blog Talk Radio

Thomas MacEn­tee did a BlogTalkRa­dio inter­view with Jan Alpert, NGS 2011 Con­fer­ence Chair and Imme­di­ate Past Pres­i­dent of NGS and Julie Miller, CG, NGS 2012 Con­fer­ence Chair and Vice Pres­i­dent of the NGS. This was a rare behind-the-scenes inter­view with two lead­ers who have orga­nized and led conferences.

It’s a rare look behind the scenes at what goes into choos­ing a con­fer­ence loca­tion, how patron­iz­ing the con­fer­ence hotel and lun­cheon and ban­quet events keeps over­all prices low, and your soci­ety fis­cal­ly healthy.

This is the fourth install­ment of the week­ly FGS MySo­ci­ety talk radio show. It’s a great pro­gram. You should lis­ten. I know that I’m adding it to iTunes to lis­ten in, even when I can­not make it “live.”

Here are some links:


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Read it Later vs. Instapaper

Read It Later logoI have become a fan of two com­pet­ing prod­ucts, Instapa­per and Read it Lat­er.

These appli­ca­tions sit in your brows­er, and allow you to quick­ly archive a web­page for lat­er read­ing. They clean up the web­page, remov­ing ads and com­pli­cat­ed script­ing, so you just have the text you want to read.

Instapaper logoYou can then read the con­tent in your brows­er at their sites, on a mobile phone, or on a tablet. Instapa­per will also allow you to con­fig­ure con­tent col­lec­tions to show up on your Kin­dle. Both are inte­grat­ed with a great site full of longer arti­cles,, allow­ing you to quick­ly choose some read­ing before you catch that plane and lose your inter­net connection.

In terms of geneal­o­gy, I use these tools to gath­er his­tor­i­cal pieces, such as the arti­cles the New York Times is doing on the sesqui­cen­ten­ni­al of the Civ­il War, “Dis­union,” as well as more top­i­cal items, such as John McPhee’s 1987 New York­er piece about the Army Corps of Engi­neers and its attempts to con­trol the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, Atchafalaya: The Con­trol of Nature. (That was top­i­cal then, and is top­i­cal now; I found it on

Instapa­per allows you to for­mat the sto­ries for print­ing; Read it Lat­er has a great (and not too expen­sive) iPad app that auto­mat­i­cal­ly cat­e­go­rizes the con­tent. I find Read it Lat­er’s web inter­face to be more attrac­tive, but some of the fea­tures of Instapa­per to be more com­pelling, includ­ing Read­abil­i­ty inte­gra­tion and Kin­dle auto-delivery.

I’m not sure which one of these I will choose yet, but I know I will have a lot of read­ing at hand.…

Anoth­er site to note is Read­abil­i­ty, which is free for sim­ple cleanup of pages you come across, but costs $5 (or more if you decide to make a dona­tion) if you want to save them for lat­er. 70% of the pro­ceeds are pro­vid­ed to the authors and pub­lish­ers of the content.

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NGS 2011 Conference in Charleston, South Carolina

I attend­ed the 2011 Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety Fam­i­ly His­to­ry Con­fer­ence held in Charleston, South Car­oli­na this past week.

I was pleased to have been asked to give three talks: The inau­gur­al Birdie Monk Holsclaw Memo­r­i­al Lec­ture (slides), a lec­ture on Google and search method­olo­gies (slides), and the NGS Gen­Tech Lun­cheon talk (slides), which was on the top­ic of social media.

It was a good con­fer­ence, with more knowl­edge­able and vol­u­ble speak­ers than one could pos­si­bly see. I espe­cial­ly liked Buzzy Jack­son’s gen­er­al ses­sion talk about how she became a geneal­o­gist, and how it’s our job to make our descen­dants think of us as the ones who saved the sto­ries for them. Addi­tion­al­ly, I enjoyed the talk giv­en by Glenn F. McConnell, Pres­i­dent pro tem­pore of the South Car­oli­na State Sen­ate about the his­to­ry, dis­cov­ery, and rais­ing of the H. L. Hunley.

I was also pleased that my own talks seem to have been well received.

The next major excur­sion is to the Vir­ginia Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety con­fer­ence next week­end. The sum­mer is sim­ply full of these events.

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150 Years Ago Today: Fort Sumter

Bombardment of Fort Sumter (1861) by Currier & Ives (1837–1885)
Bom­bard­ment of Fort Sumter (1861) by Cur­ri­er & Ives (1837–1885)

150 years ago today, 12 April 1861, the Civ­il War start­ed in earnest with a Con­fed­er­ate attack on the Fed­er­al posi­tion at Fort Sumter, in advance of sup­ply ships arriv­ing with food to resup­ply the fort.

For Amer­i­can geneal­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans of the Unit­ed States, the Civ­il War is the cen­tral event, even more calami­tous than the Rev­o­lu­tion, and affect­ing the lives of a wider per­cent­age of what had become, since the Rev­o­lu­tion, a more pop­u­lous coun­try. (In the 1790 cen­sus, the pop­u­la­tion was record­ed to be 3,929,214. In the 1860 cen­sus, the pop­u­la­tion was 31,443,321, or eight times larger.)

Some­where between 618,000 and 700,000 sol­diers died in the con­flict, mak­ing it more dead­ly than all the oth­er wars the US par­tic­i­pat­ed in from the Rev­o­lu­tion to the Viet­nam War, com­bined. And, of course, the war, fought main­ly (despite revi­sion­ist protests to the con­trary) to main­tain a way of life found­ed on enslav­ing a race of peo­ple, end­ed by grant­i­ng free­dom, first to blacks in states which had seced­ed, and then to all blacks in all states and ter­ri­to­ries of the US.

This trans­for­ma­tive time is full of records for geneal­o­gists. There are mil­i­tary and pen­sion records, which are some of the best known mil­i­tary records from this peri­od. But there are also the final pay­ment vouch­ers, reports of camps, forts, and pris­ons, numer­ous man­u­scripts, the papers of the South­ern Claims Com­mis­sion, which “was an orga­ni­za­tion of the exec­u­tive branch of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment from 1871–1873 under Pres­i­dent Grant. Its pur­pose was to allow Union sym­pa­thiz­ers who had lived in the South­ern states dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civ­il War, 1861–1865, to apply for reim­burse­ments for prop­er­ty loss­es due to U.S. Army con­fis­ca­tions dur­ing the war” (Wikipedia. “South­ern Claims Com­mis­sion,” Accessed : 13 April 2011).

If you have not start­ed look­ing for your Civ­il War ances­tor, you could do much worse than start with the Civ­il War Sol­diers and Sailors Sys­tem: This site includes a search­able data­base of over 6.3 mil­lion names of com­bat­tants from the North and the South, rep­re­sent­ing 44 states and ter­ri­to­ries. There are also many sailors, though this part of the project is not com­plete. The site pro­vides lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion, but usu­al­ly includes enough infor­ma­tion to find out more about your sol­dier. For exam­ple, my 3rd great grand­fa­ther, Thomas D. Via, has this entry:

Thomas D. Via (First_Last)
Reg­i­ment Name 7 Vir­ginia Infantry
Side Confederate
Sol­dier’s Rank_In
Sol­dier’s Rank_Out
Alter­nate Name
Film Num­ber M382 roll 57










And also, this:

Thomas D. Via (First_Last)
Reg­i­ment Name 7 Vir­ginia Infantry
Side Confederate
Sol­dier’s Rank_In
Sol­dier’s Rank_Out
Alter­nate Name
Film Num­ber M382 roll 57










(He served in the Con­fed­er­ate army, was cap­tured, and joined the Union army, most like­ly as a way out of the prison camp he was in at Point Look­out, Mary­land. For more infor­ma­tion see, Sur­name Sat­ur­day: Via.

As the sesqui­cen­ten­ni­al con­tin­ues, I will pro­vide oth­er sites and tips for Civ­il War research.

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