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All in the Family

Thanksgiving is a family holiday. Maybe you just visited — or hosted — your relatives. Maybe you thought about your ancestors and your childhood Thanksgiving dinners. Maybe you looked at your grandchildren and wished they knew something about your parents.

Expand your computer’s usefulness: invest in genealogy software and start “organizing” your family. It’s inexpensive, fun, and a great way to share what you know with generations to follow.

A handful of genealogy programs exist for under $100. For Windows, Family Tree Maker and Legacy are the most popular. For the Mac, it’s Family Tree Maker and Reunion. You can purchase these (and other) programs online and download them directly into your computer.

Once you have the software, I recommend you start entering your close relatives: siblings, parents, grandparents, spouse, children, etc. Then enlist family help with more distant relatives.

In time, you can add significant dates, milestones, photos, anecdotes, and documents. As you come across new facts, add them where they belong.

What do you do with all of the information you collect?

The possibilities are endless but you need not have a plan from the outset. As long as you enjoy the process of collecting, keep doing it.

Perhaps you will create a family tree for a reunion, make an album as a gift, or even write a book. Perhaps you will share the file with your children and grandchildren. Future generations can keep updating the data.

Even if you already have a “historian” in your family, don’t hesitate to create your own database. Your perspective is unique.

For information and reviews of genealogy software programs, click on the following links:

Let your computer help you lay out your family history.

A Capital Offense

Nobody likes to be screamed at. It’s offensive.

Fortunately, in the computer world — where personal communication is more visual than audio — screaming really isn’t an issue.

Or is it?

Email etiquette dictates that typing in all capital letters is considered screaming. Unless you are screaming at someone, don’t do it.

Look at the difference:

You should not type in all capital letters

vs

YOU SHOULD NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS

Doesn’t the second example seem so much harsher? Imagine a whole paragraph of that.

Capital letters in succession should be reserved for short headlines, acronyms, and emphasizing a particular point. They should NEVER be used for conversation in print, especially when communicating in whole paragraphs.

IF YOU EMAIL IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, YOUR READERS WILL THINK YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THEM. THEY MAY BE OFFENDED.

Now you know better.

Image is Everything

There has never been an easier time to take pictures. Even the not-so newest cell phones have cameras. No excuse for missing that scenery, that smile, that reunion, or that retriever.

What should you do with these pictures? At a minimum, store them somewhere safe and organize them so you can find them.

Some pictures should stay in your phone, camera, or iPad so you’ll always have them with you. What’s a cocktail party without a few pictures of your brilliant grandkids or the adorable dog?

But these devices are not the best place to keep your only copy of these memories.

You should transfer your favorite images to your computer — by importing, emailing, or through the “cloud” — and then back them up along with your files onto an external hard drive.

Although your pictures don’t care if they are organized, you should. Take advantage of programs like iPhoto, Picassa, Windows Picture Gallery, or the “Pictures” folder on your hard drive to group your photos by time, event, or person. Make meaningful albums.

Don’t just have pictures, enjoy them!

Beep Beep Beep

Beep. Beep. Beep.

You know the sound: trucks warning you that they are backing up. React quickly so you don’t get hurt!

If only your computer would beep at you, warning you that it is about to be hit by lightening or to experience a hard drive crash. If only it would remind you to, um, back up.

Sigh.

How quickly could you recover? You can always purchase a new computer and reinstall the software. But would you (could you?) recreate your files or re-take your pictures?

Probably not.

Best to back up your files on a regular basis. Fortunately, it is not difficult.

You will need:

  1. an external storage device with enough memory to store your files
  2. a mind with enough memory to remember to back up your files

Many computers have built-in software to back up files automatically — “Time Machine” on a Mac, “Backup and Restore” on Windows 7 — but they require you to keep the external hard drive plugged into your computer.

This is not a bad plan, unless your computer is hit by lightening and the external hard drive is fried along with it. Can happen.

I suggest: in addition to — or instead of — an external hard drive connected to your computer, regularly back up your files onto an external hard drive that you detach from your computer and store separately. Just have to remember to do it.

Back up your files. A computer crash is bad, but not as bad as it would be without a backup.

Beep. Beep. Beep.