31 December 2010

Time to Back-up

Thanks to Dick Eastman for the illustration as well
as much of the information in this post.
I shared earlier this year about my semi-backed-up computer crash. Yesterday I asked my daughter if I could copy her photos. She got some from me BC (before crash). She complained about the process. What a pain! She didn't want to spend the computer time doing that. I asked her if she had her computer backed up. "Well, yes," she said, "but I can't find the external hard drive I used." That's a real problem since she is a college student with frequent moves.  This post is dedicated to you, my dear.

There are some basic programs we can use that will automatically do some backing up. G-mail will preserve the emails we haven't deleted yet. I retrieved many attachments that I shared with cousins, sisters, etc. By the way, sharing is another good protection, no matter how you do it. Picassa is a way to store photos on-line. I-tunes can sync music on your ipod, but when I tried to restore, I was in trouble because the ipod thought I had a different computer. (I did have a different hard drive.) I use Drop box to share files with other committee members and it also syncs between computers.

But none of the above gave me the total security I needed when both my hard drives became corrupted. I consider Dick Eastman the guru of back-ups. Here are some recent quotes from his blog.

From December 1, 2010: It is the first day of the month. It's time to back up your genealogy files.
Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files on the first of every month.
Of course, you might want to back up more than your genealogy files. Family photographs, your checkbook register, all sorts of word processing documents, and much more need to be backed up regularly. Why not do that on the first of each month?
How much information and how many pictures will you lose if your hard drive crashes this evening?  By the way, all hard drives WILL crash someday. The only question is "when?" Make your backups today.
Dick Eastman on November 20, 2010: I have written a number of times about Mozy, an excellent off-site backup program for both Windows and Macintosh systems. You can read some of my past articles if you start at http://goo.gl/T4lOF. I wrote about Mozy 2.0 for Windows at http://goo.gl/b6lkl. In that article, I wrote: "Mozy 2.0 is a free download for Windows systems only, with a Mac 2.0 version promised to follow 'later this year.'" The company made good on the promise: Mozy 2.0 for Macintosh is available now.
Version 2.0 for Macintosh adds several new background algorithm and efficiency improvements, resulting in significantly faster operation. The speed of file transfers across the Internet are still dependent of the speed of the Internet connection used, however. Both Home and Professional users get more advanced file sorting and search to find the stuff on their hard drive that needs backing up. Much of that is invisible to the user. However, anyone who has been using Mozy on a Macintosh will immediately notice the new, more native, Mac-like look.
Mozy 2.0 for both Windows and Macintosh systems is free for everyone with up to 2 gigabytes of storage space. Unlimited home and business plans can be obtained for reasonable monthly prices. Details may be found at http://mozy.com/
Additional information by Eastman: The Time Machine local backups do make backups of the entire hard drive while I use BackBlaze to make online backups ONLY of my Documents folders which include all my documents, pictures, income tax data, etc. I don't see any need to back up the entire hard drive as I can always reinstall the operating system and applications. I only worry about my DATA and that gets backed up in multiple places.
In addition to the above, I also use DROPBOX to automatically copy files from the desktop to laptop computers and vice versa. In effect, this gives me a third backup although that is not my primary purpose of it. I use it more simply to keep my files (documents) in sync so that I always have the latest versions on all computers.
I would suggest that you never, ever save only one copy of a file to any online service or to any one hard drive. If the file is important to you, always save at least two copies to different places. Three copies saved to three different places is even better and four copies to four different places is better still.
If you ever lose your only copy on Google Docs or your only copy on your local hard drive, you want to be able to go to your (multiple) backup copies and retrieve the file that you need.
So, can you trust Google Docs? No, not any more than you can trust your hard drive or anything else. The only safety comes in numbers. In this case, that means the number of backup copies you have stored in different places.
And finally, another scary thought from March 18, 2010: Sure, we all know how to back up files that are on our hard drives, right? There are multiple methods of accomplishing that. How about backing up your data on Facebook? or Google Docs? or Zoho Docs? or how about backing up your blog on Blogger.com or Wordpress? How about all your pictures on Flickr or Photobucket? What would happen of a system glitch erased all your information on those services? Could you recover? 
Perhaps most important of all, how about all your stored email messages on Gmail or Hotmail? Many of use use those online services as "filing cabinets" for our email messages and may have thousands of messages stored on one of those online services. If Hotmail or Google suddenly loses your stored messages, what will you do?
Other online services have gone out of business abruptly in the past. Still others have had system crashes that resulted in irrecoverable data. Sure, they all should be performing their own backups but even the best-run I.T. shops occasionally have unplanned outages. Online accounts also get hacked occasionally. Your information may be deleted and replaced by things you don't want. What will you do if your online information suddenly disappears?
Luckily, there is an easy answer: backupify
Backupify is an online service itself that performs daily automatic backups, archiving, and export for your data stored on many other online services. You can take back control of your online data with backupify.
Setting up backupify is easy. You first create a free account with the service (larger amounts of storage are available for a fee). You then enter your login credentials for each service you want to back up, and set your preferences. Backupify will take it from there. Daily backups are made automatically without further involvement from you. You will get regular emails confirming when your backups have completed. The backups are made at very high speeds as the data is transferred directly from one online service to another via very high speed lines. The speed of your Internet connection is irrelevant. In fact, this is probably the only effective method for dial-up users to back up large collections of online data.
All of your data is backed up on the Amazon cloud and fully follows Amazon's security and data duplication policies. In the unlikely event that something ever happens to backupify, you can easily contact Amazon to get your data back out.
Backupify will back up any one service free of charge as long as the amount of data is two gigabytes or less. A Premium account costs $39.95 a year (with a lower sale price in effect as I write these words) and will back up unlimited accounts to a maximum of ten gigabytes of stored data. Larger amounts of storage space are available at higher prices.
The online services, such as Gmail, Hotmail, Flickr, Google, and others are generally reliable but nothing is ever perfect. If you do not want to trust others to always "do the right thing," you will appreciate the extra insurance provided by backupify.
You can learn more at http://www.backupify.com
Thank you Dick Eastman, for your information and your generous "share" policy.


24 December 2010

Follow Friday - World Vital Records newsletter

What did your ancestors eat? What did they wear? What were they likely to do on holidays? The answers vary, of course, depending on the time and place. Your children and grandchildren will find it interesting to read about your everyday or holiday activities. Sometimes the commonplace events of life are lost because they are thought to be unimportant. Yet it is those very events that make up the fabric of a life.

The Information Desk for December 23, 2010, a FamilyLink or World Vital Records publication, had an article that caught my eye this morning. Gena Philibert Ortega posted a Gen Tip that reminds us to include social history in our family history writing. She suggests that we think of a shared experience, one that the reader has experienced as well as the subject of our family history. Compare and contrast is a technique we all learned in our high school or college English classes. We can apply this to our writing. Gena reminds us that our ancestors ate out just as we do and she gives us some sources to look at in determining the menus they may have perused.

Eating is a universal experience. Recipes from the past, holiday menus and food traditions all enrich our family history. We have included recipes right in the history of a great-grandmother. Cooking was a big part of her life. Knitting or crochet patterns are another possible inclusion. What fun for a young mother to replicate something that was made by her great-great grandmother.

Christmas is a one holiday especially replete with tradition. It's time to do a little research. Did your ancestors celebrate Christmas? If they did, what were their activities on Christmas Eve? Or you could take 15 minutes to write about your activities today or in the past and then share that writing with your grandchildren, either today or sometime in the future.

22 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 22 - Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Sometimes my children accuse me of loving the dead more than the living. Hmm, my dead relatives don't criticize me as much, that's for sure.

Our community has a loosely organized candlelight memorial vigil at each city cemetery on Christmas Eve. Luminaries or candles are lit at each grave site where the families come to participate. It's a quiet peaceful time to remember the gift Jesus Christ gave us all--the power to rise again in our bodies. I often think of resurrection morning when I'm at the cemetery.

There are other ways to honor deceased relatives. Footnote has an interactive feature I like called Footnote Pages. To use footnote pages, no membership is required. You can search for a person and read what others have written or create a page of memories yourself. Attach documents, photos or memories about this person. A huge database is already provided by the Social Security death index. I established footnote pages for some of my loved ones that have passed on. Think social networking--Facebook for those who can't post for themselves (lol). Truly, I believe that the more we can share information and memories, the more our family history work will progress. I would like to make an interactive page for many more of the characters on my family tree.

Bert Whitney -- Merry Christmas Dad!
Here is a Christmas memory I posted last year on Footnote for my dad.
Dad made Christmas magical for his 10 children. He and Mom sacrificed to give us wonderful gifts every year when we were young. There was a grand display of toys for all of us on every Christmas morning. When we married and left home, he was generous with his financial gifts so we could do the same for our children if we desired. In the years he spent alone, he often worked for hours on homemade presents like the step stool and bench I still love. He enjoyed the family Christmas parties, loving the musical offerings of his children and grandchildren and serving, as always, as the main audience for our re-enactment of the Nativity story. He was a quiet generous man with a heart as big as the desert landscape that he loved.

18 December 2010

Advent Calendar - Dec 18 - Christmas Stockings

One of my early creations
"A story always begins in the middle." So says Michael York at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2010 Christmas concert. His beginning statement in the narration of a touching story of the Welch immigrant who began the first "Tabernacle Choir" caught my attention. How true! There is always something before that influences our stories. For instance, we all have parents and grandparents and so on and so on. Their stories become our own. It's impossible to truly find the beginning.

So I will begin my story of the Christmas stockings somewhere in the middle: the year I learned to knit a stocking--a Christmas stocking. I had my mother's pattern, and after several tries, I managed to produce one. The desire to knit a Christmas stocking came to me from my childhood. My mother knitted red and white rug yarn stockings for all of us. We were 10. They hung on the 3 sides of our fireplace that jutted out from the divider between our living room and kitchen (a unique design of our dad's). As we married and left home, my mother kept knitting. Every December there were new stockings--first for the in-laws and then for the new grandbabies that came along next. But our mother finished knitting before we finished marrying and producing grandchildren.

However, before our mother knitted the Christmas stockings, our grandmother knitted us stockings as a Christmas present. They shrunk when we washed them in the washer, but we still marveled that she could actually make such an item. I asked Grandma about it when I interviewed her for her history. "Oh yes," she said, "We knitted all our stockings when I was a girl. It didn't take that long."

How long? In her mother's history, my great-grandmother, it is said that she could start and finish one stocking in an evening. These were the long black knee socks all the girls wore at the time. So I thought I would try my hand at knitting Christmas stockings. After all, I keep having new grandchildren too. I made several one year. The next year I had forgotten how and had to make my previous mistakes all over again.

This year, my sister gave me her pattern for knitting stockings. She does the real thing for her grandchildren too. And advises that they be hand-washed to prevent shrinkage. After several false starts (one turned out so big I used it to wrap a big package), I think I have come up with a pattern that is easier to do than my mother's (no sewing up the back seam) and that is a reasonable facsimile of our family Christmas stockings.

17 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 17 - Grab Bag

East face of the tabernacle (2006)
Today I awoke to some news that grabbed me. A historic old building in Provo Utah, the LDS Provo Tabernacle  is burning. The fire began in the early morning hours and the roof fell in at 6:00 am. I've attended Church services and community events there several times a year off and on for over 30 years. It was the kind of building that sent me into the past, imagining people from a different time working to make a thing of beauty without modern machinery, imagining people dressed in "old fashioned" clothing hearing "old fashioned" sermons and applying them to their lives just as I do today.

My children loved to sit in the balcony, and I spent many meetings closely monitoring their actions to make sure no pencils, papers or other extraneous matter were dropped onto unsuspecting heads below.
Balcony, window and left side of organ

There are original works of art in the tabernacle. The stained glass windows were installed in 1917 and later restored by local artisans. The architecture is beautiful to my eyes and was the subject of a paper one of our daughters did for school. I remember taking her to the site with a camera to capture the various details. The organ and the choir loft  are also unique. I am moved by memories of singing there and also of listening to holiday choirs as a member of the audience. Also in the building was an original 1934 painting by Minerva Teichert depicting Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery being visited by Peter, James and John. It remains to be seen how much is preserved. Right now, it doesn't look good.

For more information and photographs, see the unofficial tabernacle website. All photos included here are from that site, taken in 2006.

Woodwork inside tabernacle
This news causes me to reflect on the loss of the "home building" of my parents in Logandale, Nevada. When that building was also destroyed by fire in 2009, several of us took the occasion to write about our memories from that place. It helped us resolve our grief and it captured some important family history. Thinking about a specific place often triggers memories and sparks important family history writing.

15 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 15 - Holiday Happenings

The family Christmas party was a high point of the Christmas season for many years. Generally we had some kind of program which always included the traditional re-enactment of the Nativity. I am the eldest of 10 children and it was always my job to organize my brothers and sisters into the family dramatic production which I narrated from Luke in the Bible.

There were memorable years when our brother, as a self-appointed donkey, stole the show by nibbling at the straw in the manger. The manger was our doll crib and we fitted it each year with the authentic Hawaiian grass skirts that  Grandma had brought home for my sister and I. We only wore those skirts for a few weeks when she gave them to us, but after they were carefully put away in their shoeboxes, we got them out each December for their more long-lasting use. I still have mine in the grandkids' dress-ups and if any children show up at my house at Christmastime, it is pressed into use again.

Later, we got together as adults and our children took over the Nativity dramatic reading and dress-up. The cousins took over the plum parts of Mary, Joseph, the angel and the wise men. Any extras were shepherds or some type of animal for the barn.

Sisters Annalee and Melanie sing a Christmas duet (Melanie is wearing her mother's Christmas dress 
from the cedar chest). McKay reads to baby Brian.

Cousins Brian (wise man), Sarah (Mary), Sam (wise man) and Nathan (Joseph)
Note the doll crib and Hawaiian skirt straw still serving as props.
Cousins Sheraya as Mary and Julia as a shepherd
Siblings Rachel, Nathan and Carl (shepherds) with cousin Brian as a walk-on
I'm sure we had refreshments and sometimes a gift exchange. I remember a couple of years when an energetic sister organized games for everyone. But the most constant memory of these get-togethers was the acting out of the Bible story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Our family loves dramatics and to be "on stage." Our Christmas parties reflect this interest as well as our interest in the Christmas story of the Bible.

14 December 2010

To Jeni: Another December Birthday

I have a December daughter, Rachel, born December 14, 1975. Thinking of the Virgin Mary, we gave her the middle name of Mary. She was a small sweet joy to our busy family with 4 older siblings, the eldest only 7 at her birth. The next year, also in December, her cousin Jeni was born. You may imagine that Rachel often got a little lost in the midst of so many other children for her mother and father to fuss over, but Rachel loved her family dearly and soon extended that love to her family beyond the immediate. We didn't live close to Jeni's family, but we saw each other at the yearly reunion and at other family gatherings. Rachel's cousin Jeni became her best friend. And with no older sisters, Jeni was willing to look up to and love her cousin Rachel too.

In high school, Jeni met with a serious car accident, one which broke her back and took her years in recovery. It left her with lingering pain that her cousin Rachel worried over. In college they became roommates, along with another cousin for a time. They laughed and played together and made memories enough for a lifetime. Then Rachel went to Australia on a mission. Jeni was bereft, but soon found solace in her new friend, soon to be husband. One of Rachel's first quests upon her return was to determine if the cousin seal of approval would be given to Jeni's new beau. It was.

College football, Rachel center
Reunions became the gathering time again. Jeni once soloed as a new mom on a reunion camping trip, but I misspeak. Jeni didn't have her supportive husband with her, but Rachel filled in and the cousins consoled and cavorted together to the fun of the whole group. Then came the reunion year in which Jeni was again called upon to suffer. Rachel's heart went to her dear cousin as she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for unseasonable breast cancer. Why did her Jeni have so much to bear? Our Rachel Mary pondered these things. Her decision that year was to forgo the main reunion and to travel instead to her cousin's home to reunite with her. By this time both cousins had two small children. Rachel left hers home with her husband and drove the miles alone in her car to visit Jeni. I received a laughing phone message from Rachel, with details of some of their fun together. Later Jeni gave me an even fuller report. Their reunion was a success. Their hearts were knit even tighter in the family love they shared.

Rachel's 21st birthday
The month was June. Both had just passed their June half-birthdays when Rachel finally got in her car and headed back home to her husband and two small daughters. She never made it that far alive. Another car accident broke Rachel's body and killed her instantly. Jeni mourned. Though she was still recovering from her recent chemotherapy, she made the trip to Rachel's funeral and bravely spoke to the gathering. We felt her love and support. Dear Jeni, who had endured so much, was now left behind to carry on. She has done so with courage and with flair.

Jeni and her sweet husband have taken on the task of comforting her aunt and uncle in their loss. They bring us their children to love. They named their newest baby for our daughter. They keep in touch. And Jeni has supported our extended family history committee in our book writing efforts. She and her husband are our star copy editors for the books we are producing. She has appointed herself the family storyteller, thinking always of the children. In each family newsletter article she remembers some common ancestor and retells some experience of the past as it relates to the present.

A new baby, a miracle baby in the face of her cancer treatment, was her gift this year. But with a blessing, sometimes a sorrow comes along to sweeten the good. So it has been with our Jeni. Her cancer has re-appeared, and after a horrendous surgery, she is again undergoing the dreaded chemotherapy. As always, Jeni is enduring all with her typical courage and generosity.  This time she has been able to share her experiences with others who may have similar trials and those who are grateful not to have those trials. She is facing her fears, doing her best to keep her children's life normal and sane and still reaching out to others. You would enjoy her blog, in which she focuses her considerable story-telling talent on her own life at present. Jeni, you are my hero. Thanks for your December birth and for your wonderful life.

13 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 10 - Christmas Gifts

One of my December babies
It isn't December 10 anymore, but I want to finish the post I started that day. I had 2 babies in December and 2 grandbabies. I also have 2 step-granddaughters with December birthdays to celebrate. These girls are twins whose birthday is Christmas Day. I wasn't there nor did I know them or the their mother on that day, but I can imagine the joy in that family the day they were born. Is there any gift more precious than a gift that is a reminder than the first Christmas gift--the Babe in Bethlehem? Christmas birthdays tend to get overshadowed by the more universal celebration, but my experience with December babies is that they are a precious blessing. A baby brings us back to one of the most basic joys in life--the continuation of the human race and even our specific heritage. It reminds us of all that is good in the world. It even gives us an excuse not to get too caught up in the external celebratory "stuff." I love babies and I'm especially fond of having a baby to celebrate in December