Thursday, July 9, 2015

How to Print to PDF

 A newsletter reader asked today, “How can I save an image on a web site, such as a census page image, as a PDF file?” I decided to answer here in the newsletter in case someone else has the same question.
The short answer is, “there are several methods of saving images to PDF files.” However, I will expand on that with longer answers below. First, you need to save the image to your computer’s hard drive in almost any format. With most web pages, that means saving it in the same format that is used on the web site. Then you need to convert it to PDF. In many programs, that is called “print as PDF.”

The following is for converting specific images, not for saving entire web pages as PDF files. I will later tell how to save entire web pages as PDF files.
Saving the image
In most web browsers, go to the web page of interest, move the mouse icon over the image you wish to save, right click with the mouse, and select “Save image as…” You will then need to select where to save it and also give the newly-saved file a name. On my Mac computer I keep a folder called Downloads where I place all newly-downloaded files. This is also the default folder for downloads on most Windows computers. Then I can later convert any file in that folder to whatever format I wish and save it to an appropriate folder for long-term storage. Every few weeks or so I delete all the older files in the Downloads folder as I no longer need them. You might want to do something similar just to keep things organized.
Apple includes all the needed PDF software with every Mac. Use Finder to go to the Downloads directory (or wherever you saved the image), double-click on the image and wait for it to display on your screen. Unless you have changed your system settings, the image will be displayed in Preview. Within Preview, select FILE in the upper left corner, then select PRINT. A new pop-up window will appear. Click on PDF, and then select “Save as PDF” from the selection list that appears. Follow the menus, and your new PDF file will be saved wherever you specified.
Microsoft does not include PDF software in Windows although some companies that manufacture computers that use the Windows operating system have added this capability to their systems. Microsoft created the company’s own version of portable document files, called XPS. However, XPS files never became very popular, and you rarely find XPS files on web pages. In any case, a number of third-party companies have created software to add the capability of creating PDF files on any Windows computer.
Probably the most expensive and full-featured solution for creating PDF files on Windows is to install Adobe Acrobat.
NOTE: You will need the full version of Adobe Acrobat, not the free Adobe Reader that only displays existing PDF files.
Adobe Acrobat sells for $449, or you can opt for a monthly subscription for $19.99 a month. Due to Adobe’s high prices and the available products from Adobe’s competitors, I would never purchase Adobe Acrobat. However, if you are interested, you can learn more at
doPDF is a FREE Windows program that will create PDF files. Once installed, it creates a new, “virtual printer driver” in your computer that is called doPDF. You print to this “printer” exactly as you print to a regular printer: with the desired document open on your computer, click on File –> Print and select doPDF from your list of printers. When you then click on Print, the result will be a PDF file, not a printed piece of paper. You can find doPDF at
CutePDF Writer is a popular free “print to PDF” product that operates in much the same manner as doPDF. The same company also sells (for $49.95) CutePDF Professional, which adds capabilities such as the ability to create PDF booklets, combine multiple PDF files into one, add watermarks, edit forms, add comments, add headers and footers, rearrange pages, security, digital signature, scan, FTP, and more. I suspect most genealogists will be satisfied with the free version. Details may be found at
PrimoPDF is also a very popular free program to create PDF files with Windows. The company’s web site claims that PrimoPDF has been downloaded more than 27 million times. The company also sells other products to convert PDF files to Word format, to edit existing PDF files, and more. Again, I suspect most genealogists will be satisfied with the free version. Details about PrimoPDF may be found at
You can find quite a few other programs that will create PDF files on a Windows computer. The above list is simply a list of the more popular products and are ones that I know will work well. A quick Google search will undoubtedly find other PDF products as well although I may not be as familiar with each of them.
If you have any of the above products, you can convert almost anything that appears on your screen into a PDF file, including web pages. In fact, the same will usually work for Microsoft Word, Excel, Facebook, and many, many more applications. In most cases, use the web browser (or Word or Excel or whatever application you choose) as normal. To save to a PDF file, select FILE in the upper left corner, then select PRINT and choose “Save as PDF.” (The exact wording might be slightly different, depending upon which print-to-PDF product you have installed. However, the wording should be close to “Save as PDF.”)
Save an entire web page as a PDF file
If you have none of the above products installed but wish to save a web page as a PDF file, you can use the Web2PDF web site to create PDF files for you. This free, cloud-based service will read any publicly-available web page and convert it to a PDF file which you can then save on your own computer. It won’t save password-protected pages, however, as the service has no method of logging onto such pages. You can learn more about this free service at
The Chrome web browser also has a built-in method of saving web pages to PDF files. You do not have to install any special software in your computer nor any extensions in your browser because Google Chrome itself acts as the PDF writer. Open any web page inside Google Chrome, press Ctrl+P (or Cmd+P if you are on a Mac) to open the Print dialog, and change the destination. The entire web page will be saved to your computer as a PDF file. My experience with creating PDF files from the Chrome browser is that resultant PDF files often are not an exact copy of the original. Formatting tends to be erratic. I would suggest using one of the above programs instead of the Chrome browser whenever possible. I bet you will then be happier with the results.
The above methods are quick and easy solutions to creating PDF files. However, once created, PDF files can be changed, appended to, converted, extracted, and more. One resource that I use frequently is the PDF Tutorial at It has very brief descriptions of things that can be done with PDF files and, in many cases, links to more detailed descriptions of the various tasks.

Have fun with PDF!
(Dick Eastman)

World War II Enlistment Records Online

One great resource available from the U.S. National Archives is the World War II Enlistment Records. These records have been transcribed and made available on the National Archives web site. These records are especially valuable as many of the personnel papers of these soldiers and sailors were later destroyed in a fire.
The National Archives scanned War Department microfilmed punch cards on enlistments to support the reconstruction of the military personnel records at its National Personnel Records Center. That strikes me as a sad commentary about technology: the data was originally stored on punch cards which, once upon a time, could be read by machines. I haven’t seen a punch card reader in operation for many years, however. The cards were eventually microfilmed for long-term preservation.
Nine million records were later transcribed manually by humans who sat and read the microfilms and transcribed the information onto keyboards. Due to the condition of the microfilms, approximately 1.5 million records could not be scanned. Scanning problems when the microfilms were created also contributed to the errors. Despite these challenges, information about a majority of sixteen million World War II servicemen and women is available via the web site.
I went to the web site and performed a search for an uncle of mine. Thanks to his unusual last name, he was easy to find: he was the only person of that name in the database. Finding him took less than a minute. Looking for someone with a more common surname will take longer, but you can use the site’s “Advanced Search” to use Boolean terms. For instance, all the men named Jones who enlisted in Maine or something similar.
The final record that I was able to see was a transcribed entry, not an image of an original form. That’s okay in this case because the online transcriptions were made from another transcription: the original punch cards that were made from original records. In other words, I was looking at a transcription of a transcription.
The U.S. National Archives says spot checks show that approximately 35% of these records have an error. However, only 4.7% of the sample had an error in the name column, and only 1.3% had errors in the serial number column. Therefore, the National Archives made the determination that a lot of valuable information is available in this database, even with the errors. The database was released and placed online.
I didn’t notice any errors in the data I saw about my uncle and about a few others that I found.
Each record provides the enlistee’s serial number and name, state, and county of residence, place of enlistment, date of enlistment, grade, branch, term of enlistment, place of birth, year of birth, citizenship, race, education, civilian occupation, marital status, and component. I did see a few items left blank or listed as N/A (not available). However, most of the records I saw were filled in completely.
Because the records are for Army enlistments during World War II, the file does not include records for those who enlisted as Army officers. It does, however, have records for those who joined as enlisted personnel and then later were promoted to commissioned officers, as in the case of my uncle. Just because your relative served as an officer, do not assume that he or she is not in this database. The question is, what was the grade upon enlistment, not on discharge?
This online database also contains information on more than 130,000 women who enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
The Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File can provide much information of interest to genealogists. It is especially useful for date and place of birth, even though it does not show parents’ names. At least you will find out where to look for a birth record.
The Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File is available free of charge as one of the databases within the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s “Access to Archival Databases” (AAD) at
(Dick Eastman)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Genealogy's Often-Misspelled Words

You might want to save this article someplace. I have no idea why, but many of the words used in researching your family tree are difficult to spell. I constantly see spelling errors in messages posted on various genealogy web sites. When someone misspells a word, it feels like they are shouting, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”
Here are a few words to memorize:
Genealogy – No, it is not spelled “geneology” nor is it spelled in the manner I often see: “geneaology.” That last word looks to me as if someone thought, “Just throw all the letters in there and hope that something sticks.” For some reason, many newspaper reporters and their editors do not know how to spell this word. Don’t they have spell checkers?
Cemetery – The letter “a” does not appear anywhere in the word “cemetery.” You can remember the spelling by an old saying, “We go to the cemetery with E’s.” (ease)
Ancestor – This simple word is often spelled “ancester,” “ansester,” or “ansestor.”
Ancestry – This word is often misspelled “ancestory.” I often see errors when someone is referring to the online web site.
History – More than once I have seen someone refer to their “family histroy” or “family histry.”
Descent – Perhaps not as common, but I have seen this spelled as “decent,” which sounds almost the same.
Descendant – it often appears as descendent, descentent and many others.
Progenitor – I can never remember how to spell this word. I simply try to avoid it when I am writing!
Two other words often are confused: immigrant and emigrant. Another variation is immigration versus emigration. According to Merriman-Webster Dictionary at, an emigrant is “a person who leaves a country or region to live in another one” while an immigrant is “a person who comes to a country to live there.” To repeat, an emigrant leaves while an immigrant arrives.
The late Dick Pence was quite a storyteller, and once he told of an online genealogy article he wrote in which he poked fun at common spelling errors by genealogists. He deliberately misspelled ten different words in the article, including most of the words I listed above. In the text of the article, he never mentioned that the article was a tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor.
Dick soon received an email message from an irate lady who apparently didn’t realize it was a deliberate attempt at humor. She scolded him for his spelling errors, writing, “Mr. Pence, you should be ashamed of yourself. I am an English teacher and I want to tell you that I found seven spelling errors in your article!”
(Dick Eastman)

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Use Two Monitors-and Why You Might Want To

Two Monitor System (photo by Dick Eastman)
I have been using two 27-inch monitors on my desktop computers for years. Using two monitors at once is surprisingly easy to do. I love the convenience of my email program, a web browser, iTunes, and RSS newsreader displayed on the monitor to the left side of my desk while my word processor and my favorite genealogy programs are running in separate windows on the monitor to the right. Doing so is a time saver, and I believe it improves productivity significantly. I wrote about the use of two monitors in a Plus Edition article earlier this year at

A picture taken in my hotel room a few minutes ago.
When traveling, I always have felt constrained by being limited to one small screen on the laptop computer. It certainly would be nice to also use two monitors at once on the laptop, especially as I already do so on the desktop at home. A few months ago, I found an easy, lightweight, and not very expensive solution: purchase a second monitor designed only for laptop use. Best of all, it is very is easily packed; it easily fits into any laptop bag or backpack designed for carrying a 16-inch computer, along with the laptop computer itself. My backpack has a pocket for carrying a laptop, and I find I can easily slide both the laptop computer and the external monitor into the one pocket.

In fact, I am using two monitors on the computer I am using to write this article, as you can see by the image above and to the right. Click on the image to view a much larger version. You will note that I am viewing an email program on the laptop on the left while looking at the web site on the 16-inch monitor to the right. (I am preparing to post this article.) While I am using a MacBook Air laptop, you can do the same with Windows laptops as well.

In fact, it is possible to add a third or even a fourth monitor onto the laptop and use them all simultaneously. Admittedly, I haven’t tried that yet. I am quite happy with two screens: the one built into the laptop plus the one external monitor.

Anyone not familiar with my installation who happened to walk by and see me working might think at first that I had two separate computers running with two separate screens. However, a closer inspection shows that I have only one computer, one keyboard, and one mouse or trackpad in the laptop.

Both screens are “live” as if they were connected to two different computers, but both are really attached to the same two-and-a-half-pound MacBook Air laptop. The monitor to the right weighs about two-and-a-third pounds and requires no external power supply. I can even create a really large Excel spreadsheet that spans both screens, showing hundreds of “cells” simultaneously. That is usually an eye-popping demonstration as many people don’t realize that this is possible.

The remainder of this article is for Plus Edition subscribers only. SUBSCRIBE NOW to read this article.

If you have a Plus Edition user ID and password, you can read the full article right now at no additional charge in this web site’s Plus Edition at This article will remain online for several weeks.

If you do not remember your Plus Edition user ID or password, you can retrieve them at and click on “Forgot password?”
(Dick Eastman)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Aunt Rosie Deaton's All American Slum-Guillion-The Best

(book cover by ernest Matthew Mickler)

I love to look through old recipe books. Ya never know what you will find, either resulting in a "I just have to try that" - or a good laugh. Either way, recipe books can be fun, educational and even make you miss your mama's cooking.

Many years ago while living in Florida, (actually I "had to" ..... thank you U.S. Navy) I purchased a book, White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler.  Not only does it have some of the very best of southern cooking, it has a bevy of southern home photos by the author. Many are from "grandmother's favorites", or the best from Uncle Willie.

Thankfully, I left Florida long ago, and have my feet planted firmly in the deep south  ... and still love White Trash Cooking.

This recipe is easy and you 'll be asking for "seconds."

Aunt Rosie Deaton's All-American Slum-Guillon (The Best)

Cook some elbow macaroni - plenty. Brown minced onion (stronger the better), hamburger and/or bacon in a skillet. Add 1 cup of whole Delmonte tomatoes, salt, pepper and all the macaroni you got. Simmer til you can't stand it any more, then take off the fire and dive in. This is especially good when you're in a hurry-up day like when there's a funeral, an auction, or a flag burning at the Legion Hall.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Honoring the Unknown

Today while my husband and I were taking tombstone photos for Find a Grave, I came across something of interest.  What I presume was the oldest section of the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery are three rows of broken tombstones. All of those tombstones, as noted in the above photo, have the top sections broken off - with only a new inches emerging from the ground. All are no longer readable, and the names of the souls are known only to God. Originally, I thought perhaps these were the foot stones - but a closer look revealed, this is what is left of the original stone. This post is to remember these people - though we do not know who they, but pray all are at rest. This cemetery is located in Clay County, North Carolina.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Downsizing and Going Paperless

I am currently "down-sizing" and clearing my genealogy office of paper notes, scraps, and census pages I have entered into my Legacy program. If you have the same problem, and feel like the "paperwork" is about to bury you - consider a general clean out. I have been amazed at the amount of junk I cleared out so far. Special thanks to Dick Eastman on this excellent reminder. 

Warning: This article contains personal opinions.
I have written a number of times about the advantages of a paperless lifestyle. Genealogists seem especially attached to paper. We often save photocopies of old records, old books, and much, much more. I once bought a four-drawer filing cabinet to store all my paper. A few years later, I purchased a SECOND four-drawer filing cabinet. I purchased probably more than one hundred dollars’ worth of file folders over the years. I photocopied and photocopied and stored all the paper in neatly-arranged folders.
Sadly, I almost never opened the drawers to retrieve anything. When I did attempt to find something, I often couldn’t locate what I wanted because the document was filed in some obscure method. For instance, the marriage record I might be seeking often was filed under the husband’s surname, not under the wife’s maiden name.

Like a recovering alcoholic, I have since broken my addiction to paper. I now live about 98% paper-free, and I love it. Almost every piece of paper that enter my house is either (1.) discarded immediately or (2.) scanned into my computer, and then the paper is discarded. I don’t ever want to go back to cluttering my life with paper. And, yes, I have multiple backups of everything worth saving; some backup copies are stored at home, and other copies are stored off-site for safety. See for some of my earlier articles about how to live a paperless lifestyle.
An article by Jura Koncius of the Washington Post takes the same concept of living paperless and expands it even further. The article says that many Americans, mostly younger adults, are not so interested in the lifestyle trappings or nostalgic memorabilia they were so lovingly raised with. Quoting from the article:
“Members of the generation that once embraced sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are trying to offload their place settings for 12, family photo albums and leather sectionals.
Their offspring don’t want them.”

The article goes on to say, “Whether becoming empty nesters, downsizing or just finally embracing the decluttering movement, boomers are taking a good close look at the things they have spent their life collecting.”

My favorite quote from the article is, “If I can’t store my memories of something in a computer, I’m probably not going to keep them around.”
Indeed, we all need to question why we need to save the bric-a-brac of our lives. Do we need our college textbooks, sports trophies or T-shirt collections? Even more important, do we need to purchase larger and more expensive homes to keep all our possessions?

Are you planning to downsize in your retirement years? Now is the time to start planning. I had exposure to downsizing when I spent two years living in a Winnebago motor home. The adjustment was difficult at first. However, once I downsized, I found that possessions were not all that important. I enjoyed the freedom of not having to deal with all my stuff. You might find the same to be true.
Yes, even genealogists can live comfortably without paper or possessions.
You can read the article by Jura Koncius at while George Carlin’s comments about stuff may be found on YouTube at
My thanks to newsletter reader Jerry Ball for telling me about the article by Jura Koncius.
(Dick Eastman)