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Computer Users’ Group

December 15, 2010

We were not able to get on the Internet due to a server problem

so we essentially started at Windows Accessories.


The New England Historic Genealogical Society was founded in 1845 when genealogical societies were vying for credibility. Historic societies were far more accepted than the genealogical were and “Histgen” led the way to making them acceptable through careful documentation.


Histgen started publishing the New England Historic Genealogical Register in 1847 and it’s still a leader in the field. It’s genealogical format is the basis for the Register format used by genealogical programs such as FamilyTreeMaker. Other publications included NEXUS magazine from 1983 to 2000 and the archive can be found on the web site. Nexus was meant to imply New England across the US. That was replaced by New England Ancestors and recently that was changed to show a broader field to American Ancestors. All of the above can be found on line and many of them are in our library. They also publish a weekly newsletter that provides the latest news in genealogy and also has links to many useful sites around the country. It’s free and can be subscribed to here

 It is to the web site we will turn our attention.


Originally called New England Ancestors, like the publication it has changed its name to American Ancestors . They now say New England, New York and Beyond. Many of our ancestors started in New England or New York before migrating further inland, so many of you may have roots there. So we’ll look at the new American Ancestors web site, see what’s available to non-members and perhaps we can get the library to pay the $150 a year to belong so everyone can get all of the available records


There’s a full measure of data that members have access to (25 million records) and a limited number of databases that visitors can access. While most records are of New England, there are records of New York State wills, several New York town and county records, some Irish records and some migration westward records. Besides it’s own publications, The Register, New England Ancestors Magazine, American Ancestors Magazine, The Great Migration Begins, the Great Migration and NEXUS, they also have the American Genealogist (TAG) and links to American Newspapers and Footnote.


Of the free databases, the most important would seem to be Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850. In the late1800s and early 1900s, Histgen published a series of books listing Massachusetts birth, marriage and death records on a town by town basis. These volumes are available in most large libraries including the Orlando Library. The online database allows searching all towns at once and since Massachusetts started early in requiring records, there are records back to the 1600s. To get there on the Americanancestors web site click at the top of the page on Popular Databases and from there look through the Free Databases for Guest User Accounts. Those are all available for you to use. We’ll select Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 to see what we can find. I used that data base without registering but for some others they asked me to register so it might be best if you register and use a guest account. I can’t register as a guest because I’m a member and they recognize my email address.


We lived for many years in Wayland, MA which was originally founded in 1639 as Sudbury. My genealogy shows that one of my ancestors is the widow of Thomas Cakebread who died in Sudbury MA in 1642. Cakebread was the town Miller and from his name I assume he came from a long line of millers. Let’s see what we can find about him. Let’s broaden the search to just the last name to get any other relatives but we’ll limit the time to 1600 to 1750. We get Thomas’ death in 1642 and his widow’s marriage to Philemon Whale who is an ancestor of mine. To learn more about Philemon Whale we’ll go back to the top of the page and click on Refine Search and enter Whale in the last name block


We see that Philemon’s first wife died in 1647 and he married Sarah Cakebread in 1649 but she died in 1656 and he married again in 1657. Sarah and Philemon had a daughter Elizabeth who does not appear in these records which raised a red flag. Her birthdate is not recorded in my genealogy nor is the date of her marriage to John Moore. But the date of their son’s birth is recorded in my genealogy but not in the Sudbury town records. He was born prior to 1639, probably in England so it’s unlikely that his grandmother is Sarah who married in 1649. She was the Elizabeth who died in 1647. My sources in my genealogy say that the information about Sarah being Elizabeth’s mother came from Register, Vol 35, pg 33 and ff. I find no reference to Whales or Cakebreads there so I’m at a loss as to where the error came from


My ancestor, Luke Holbreook was the first of many Holbrooks in Bellingham, MA. Let’s try a search for Holbrook in Bellingham with dates of 1650 to 1750. We get 5 pages of results with Birth records first followed by Death and then Marriage. We’ll click on any birth record and then click on View. That takes us to the page from the book of Bellingham Vital Records and we can browse through the book a page at a time. Going forward a few pages we come to Luke, son of John and Hannah. Above his name is Lucy, d. of Luke and Marcy. Go to the top of the page and click on View All Results and at the bottom of the page enter 5 in the Got to Page box. There we see the marriage of Luke and Marcy Pond.


If I had gotten a Holbrook Genealogy somewhere I could use these records to verify what was stated. If I only had one person to start with I could follow that person cautiously through the records relying on a will, probate or other record to verify my assumptions.


Another very useful database is the Revolutionary War Pension Index. This is not a Histgen database but is provided through an agreement with Footnote. I entered Levi Pratt as the name and clicked search. I went through dozens of Footnote pages until I found his record. An easier way is to select a record and when it open, in the bar above click on Massachusett and then go through the list and select P as the first letter and scroll through the Ps to get to Pratt and then through all of the given names to get to Levi. There are two and his is Levi Peratt with Mary on the second line. You can go through his record a page at a time. His statement of what he did, riding 200 miles to sound the alarm after word got to Bridgewater of what had happened in Concord. Must have had a tired horse.


The premium viewer allows you to magnify images to make them readable.



Windows Accessories.

If small typeface is hard to read there are several approaches to increase the size depending on what type of document it is. In Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF), you merely click on the + or - signs at the top of the page. Going too large means scrolling every line back and forth since the document becomes larger than the screen. You can use the SHIFT-Left or Right Arrow to move quickly back and forth.


When viewing a web page, try CTRL + or - to increase or decrease text size.


There are accessibility options that can make using your computer easier. One is the Magnifier that will enlarge a small portion of the document you are looking at. To get the magnifier, in Windows XP, click on Start/All Programs/Accessories and select Magnifier. In Windows 7, click on Start/Control Panel/Ease of Access Center. The magnifier magnifies the text in the area of the cursor so by moving the cursor you can scroll through a document. It’s easiest to use the amount of magnification that lets the full width of the document show so as not to have to scroll back and forth as well as down. The amount of magnification can be controlled by clicking on the Magnifier icon on the Taskbar at the bottom of the page. You can choose from 100% to 1600% (1 to 16 times enlargement.) It is normally set to 400%. You can turn the magnifier off by clicking the Icon and clicking on the X on the pop-up. Or you can simply press LOGO-ESC. (LOGO is the Windows key).


Another feature of the Accessories is the On-screen Keyboard. With the on-screen keyboard, you point to a key with the mouse, click and it enters the selection where the cursor is located in your document. If you’re not a typist, it can be useful in dim light situations or where you are more comfortable using the mouse than the keyboard. Open the Accessories Menu as above and select On-Screen Keyboard. Open a document to create or edit and use the On-Screen Keyboard to do all of the typing.


There is also the Narrator that can speak to you and tell you what messages have popped-up and what keystrokes you have made. In Accessories, click on Narrator, choose a voice to read messages to you.


In Windows 7, it’s also possible to Set Up High Contrast. Go to accessories as above and click on Set Up High Contrast. The default is to turn it on and off with Left Shift-Alt-PrtSc , pressing those three keys at once. It turns things into black and white negatives that may make some things clearer and easier to read.


Speed up PC.

There are many items that can slow down a PC and some of them include unnecessary programs running in the background. Many are processes that are started when you start your computer and can be turned off. To see what’s running, look in the lower right corner of the screen and see what program icons are there. Click on the UP Arrows (if there is one) at the left of the toolbar to see any hidden programs.Then press CTRL-ALT-DEL and in Win 7, click on Start Task Manager. Click on the Processes Tab to see all of the processes that are running. Click the Show Processes from All Users check box and then click on the CPU tab.There should be a down arrow in the CPU box. If it’s an up arrow, click the box again. That places the most used processes at the top of the list. If any other than system idle process use more than a few percent of the time, write down the name and then enter it into Google to see what you can learn about it. You can disable it if you find that it’s bad but it may start up again the next time you start your computer. So we’ll try to prevent it from starting.


In XP, click Start/Run and enter MSCONFIG. In Win 7, just enter it in the Search box. Click the Selective Startup box and then click on the Startup tab. If the process you found to be bad is listed, click the Startup box to disable it. Check out any others. Most that are from Microsoft or from your Virus program should be allowed to run. And any others should be checked out through Google or other search engine.


Another thing that can slow down a computer is too many Services running. Go to Start/Control Panel and click on Administrative Tools and then Services. There are lots of them running so which do you need and which can you disable or control manually? The answer to that lies with Black Viper. Go to and under Windows Services click on the Windows version that you are using. Download the page presented (download as Web Page Complete). Read through the explanations that Black Viper offers and choose whether to go for the Safe configuration or the Tweaked. Go through and change each item as necessary to meet your criteria.


A very useful program is Ccleaner that you can get here or install it from the Pastfinders’ Flash Drive. We’ve covered this before. It allows you to clean out lots of unused items and lets you control what cookies to keep and what ones to delete. Go here and see disk cleanup information at the bottom of the page.


One aggravation in using a computer is the time that it takes to start. One solution is to Hybernate it when you will be using it again within a day or two. Go to Start/Shut Down Computer and from the selections choose Standby while holding down the shift key. With a laptop, you can have it Hybernate when you shut the lid. Go to Start/Control Panel/Power Options and select what to do when you close the lid and what to do when you press the power button. Language is a bit different between Win XP and 7. It should be shut down and re-started at least once a week to get all updates installed. To speed up the Boot process whether you do it every time you start or once a week, you can see what programs are started and what ones can be delayed or stopped. A delayed start lets you get going while programs that you don’t need right away load in the background. There is a program that is now in Beta testing that monitors what’s installed, how long each program takes, overall time and offers suggestions on how to speed up. It’s called Soluto and can be downloaded here or from the Pastfinders flash drive. You need to be connected to the Internet to install it even using the flash drive. It installs very slowly but you can use your computer while it’s installing. Once installed it gives you the option to re-start now or later. After it restarts, click on the program Icon that will be located in the task bar at the lower right. It will then lead you through each program that started, recommend what option to choose depending on your circumstances. It will tell you how long it took your system to start and how much time you save with each option that you select. Note that options for many programs have not been worked out yet but are in the process of being done. Save what time you can today and try again in a few days for more options. You may find programs being loaded that you forgot about and don’t need any more. You can use Add and Delete programs in the control panel to get rid of them.