Handy Information for Genealogy Research

and Frequently Asked Questions from Sherek.com.

1.  What kind of software should I use?
2.  Where do I find Genealogy information on the Internet?
3.  Some documents are in PDF format.  What is that about?
4.  What is the "best" format for pictures?
5.  When I download a picture I have trouble viewing and printing it.  It is sometimes too big for the screen or sheet of paper.
6.  How can I make changes to pictures?
7.  How do I type or display those Slovenian characters?


1.  What kind of software should I use? (See *** for recommended)

There are many different software packages from which to choose, and we have tested several.  There is no one best program, nor have we used all of them.

Our greatest experience is with Family Tree Maker, and Personal Ancestry File.  I have also used 5 or 6 other shareware and freeware programs, but they all had the same problem as Family Tree Maker (see discussion below).

Family Tree Maker is a product of Genealogy.Com.  This is a "for profit" company, and they have a lot of resources that they will gladly sell you, even if the information is available for free from other sources, or consists of information that their other customers have "donated" to them.  In defense of the company, the Family Tree Maker program has some really great features, and great reports.

I purchased every version from 2.0 to 8.0 (current is 11.0), and with each version I hoped that the new one would properly handle the Slovenian characters ?, ?and ?.  I contacted their technical support many times and was always told that those character work just fine.  One time I spent about two weeks trying to get a Tech Support Rep to actually try the characters, rather than just telling me that they work.  When he finally tried them, he admitted that they didn't work, and that he would send the information to "engineering."  After several months, I emailed him and asked about the status, and he said that they would contact me when they solve the problem.

I also contacted another Genealogy.com  person and explained the testing that I had done and tricks that I used to get around some of the problems.  He told me that the characters just won't work in all of the reports.  I accepted his word and will no longer buy FTM.

*** Personal Ancestral File is a FREE product available from the LDS Church at http://www.familysearch.org/You do need to register with the web site, but there is no charge for the software.  There actually are some things that can be purchased at this site, but this is not a commercial site like genealogy.com site.  This program handles the Slovenian alphabet with no special actions if you are using the Slovenian keyboard settings.  Otherwise you can copy and paste the characters from a variety of places and paste them into the data.  The reports are somewhat different than what is found in FTM, but I've started to really like them better.

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2.  Where do I find Minnesota and Slovenian Genealogy information on the Internet?

U.S. - Minnesota Localities: Counties, Areas & Regions

RootsWeb.Com has mail lists to join, searches and is FREE.  Be careful to note if the address changes to Genealogy.Com, you have jumped to a sponsor, the makers of FTM.

Lists are at http://lists.rootsweb.com/ and if you want the Slovenia list, you can go directly to it at: http://lists.rootsweb.com/index/intl/SVN/SLOVENIA.html.  Minnesota genealogy is in the NDSDMN (North Dakota, South Dakota & Minnesota) list.  Note:  you may subscribe to the "L" list, or the "D (Digest)" list.  The "L" list sends you every single post as a separate message.  The "D" list takes all messages for a day, packs them as one email and sends it to you.  When a list is busy, it can be very annoying, so I recommend using the Digest form.

Everyone should check out http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/ to locate relatives who emigrated to the United States through New York.  You need to register, but it is free.

The Slovenian Genealogy Name Search Database has a list of names which are very familiar from the Iron Range in Minnesota and other areas settled by Slovenians.

The Minnesota Historical Society has records of deaths in Minnesota from 1908 to 1996 available on their website.  See the MHS Death Certificate Index: Search Form.  If you find a listing, you may order a copy of the Certificate.

The Minnesota Historical Society also has a catalog of newspapers on microfilm in the Minnesota Historical Society's collections. It is not an index of individual newspaper articles.  If you know the approximate date of a death or other event, you may find it here. (Added 5 May 2003)

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3.  Some documents are in PDF format.  What is that about?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is a creation of the Adobe® Corporation.  The greatest thing about PDF is that PDF format files can be created from any application and others can view a document such as a Word or Excel document without having the original program.  

One way to create a PDF requires that you buy Adobe Acrobat.  When Acrobat is installed, it looks line another printer on you computer.  To create a PDF you need only open up the source application (e.g. Excel) and "print" to Acrobat.  You are then prompted for a filename and location, and  the PDF file is then created.

Another way is to use a product called PDF995.  This is FREE software that lets you do the same kind of "printing" to a PDF file as with Adobe Acrobat.  The software works very well and often creates files which are smaller that those created in Acrobat from the same origin.  Whenever you create a PDF file, your browser will pop up with an advertisement for the company that wrote the software.  The program is fully functional, but if you would rather not have the pop-up, it is only $9.95 USD to register it and have the pop-up removed.

To open a PDF file you can use Acrobat, but there is a FREE program called Adobe® Acrobat Reader that can be downloaded from the Adobe web site.

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4.  What is the "best" format for pictures?

The answer to this depends on the kind of picture that will be displayed.  The main formats for the internet are JPG and GIF.  Both of these formats make use of "lossy" compression.  This means that some of the information or data that describes the original image is lost during the compression.  

An example of "lossless" compression is a ZIP file.  When the ZIP file is recreated, it has all of the same information as the original.

When images are displayed via the internet, they are generally small, to fit on the screen and do not need the same detail as if they were being printed.  Unfortunately, if printing is desired, they will look very bad, especially if printed in a larger size than they were on the screen.

JPG or Jpeg should be used for photos or other pictures that have many different colors and shades of colors.
GIF is best used for line art, such a clip-art or cartoons.  There are few different colors and usually not any shading.

For photos that are going to be printed and displayed,  use a format that isn't compressed such a TIF, which does not use any compression.  You also need as much data or information for the picture as possible and this is measured in pixels or dpi (dots per inch).  See next item.

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5.  When I download a picture I have trouble viewing and printing it.  Sometimes it is too big for the screen or sheet of paper.

This is probably easiest to understand with a description of scanning a photo, printing it, and viewing it on  a computer monitor.

Scanning:  When a picture is scanned a choice is made about how many dots per inch (dpi) to use.  (Note: this example will be the same but with different terms for the metric system.)  We will choose a picture that is 2 inches wide and use a setting of 300 dpi.  Therefore, after the picture is scanned, the scanner takes 600 samples of the picture information in a line across the picture. (300 dot per inch for 2 inches, or 600 dots.)   It will also collect as many lines of these dots as necessary to complete the height of the picture.

Printing:  If this picture is now printed on a printer and the printer is set to 300 dpi, the printed picture will be 2 inches wide.  Well that only seems right, doesn't it?  What if we set the printer to 600 dpi?  Well, our original 2 inch wide picture had only 600 (total) dots recorded, so when it is printed at 600 dpi, the image will only be 1 inch wide.

What about Viewing on a monitor:  I can almost see the light bulbs glowing over your head, so you are really ready for this. ;-)  A monitor has a certain number of pixels that it can display across the screen.  The more expensive monitors can display more pixels than the cheaper or older ones.  The first color PC monitors could display 320 x 240 pixels, which means 320 pixels across and 240 down.  If we try to view our scanned picture on this screen we will only see 320 of the 600 pixels or dots across the picture.  This means that we will see about half of the width of the picture.

Now, lets try this with a monitor that can display 1024x768 pixels.  We will see the whole width of the picture and it will take up around 60% of the screen width to do it.  Remember, there are 600 dots across the picture and we can display 1024 dots across the screen 600/1024 works out to be approximately 60% of the screen.

"Enough with the math, how big is the 2 inch picture on the screen?"  The math was necessary to explain the answer to this question.  If the monitor is set to 320x240, and the monitor is 13 inches wide, the picture will "look" like it is twice as wide as the screen or 26 inches wide.  If the same monitor is set for 1024x768, the picture will look like it is 7 inches wide.

"My head hurts because of all this math.  Just tell me what it all means."  Remember the printer?  If you want to print our 2 inch wide photo to fill up a regular sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper you will need to scan a lot more information from the original picture.  You may scan at 600 dpi, 1200 dpi or higher to get enough "information" or data to make a nice looking print.  Also, if you are creating a web site, you need to cut down on the information to make it look right on a monitor.  If you have a choice, get as much information in the picture as possible and use a program to resize it for your use.  See next item.

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6.  How can I make changes to pictures?

Changing images or formats requires the use of some graphics program.  The "gold standard" of graphics programs (for images) is Adobe Photoshop.  It is the normal program for graphics professionals and carries a price of $609 USD from Adobe.  There is a Photoshop "Lite" called Photoshop Elements and has a price of $99 USD.  Elements contains the functions that a casual user needs.

Another excellent graphics program is Paint Shop Pro from JASC  It lists for $74 USD and can be downloaded and used for 30 days for free.

Check your local computer store, or any of the millions of internet "stores" and you should be able to reduce the cost from these retail prices.

There are many freeware graphics editors and converters available for download on the internet.  Do a search with Google or check with C|Net for free programs.

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7.  How do I type or display those Slovenian characters?

Here's an answer for Windows computers.  You must add the language capability using Windows setup.  Navigate to Start | [Settings]* | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs | Windows Setup | Multilanguage Support  and choose "Central European" in the Details.  After installing that, go back to Control Panel | Keyboard Properties | Language and Add "Slovenian."  Now you may switch between English (En) or Slovenian (Si) using the Left-Alt + Shift or if you have a new indicator in your system tray, by clicking.  If this makes sense to you, go ahead and do it.  If you are reading this with your mouth open and thinking "Wha...," get some 8 year-old kid to help you. :-)

*The "Settings" step is omitted if you are using Windows XP

Now, if you are in the Slovenian mode, the ";" key is now "?quot;, the "\" key is "?" and the "[" key is now "?".  Please be aware that there are other changes to the KEZBOARD such as the Y and Z characters trade places.  Oops, the setting was wrong, I meant to type KEYBOARD.  A hint:  if you type the characters each once and switch back to EN, you can copy and paste these characters to your hearts content.

Web pages with Slovenian characters should have a META Tag such as this:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />.
The UTF-8 character set includes the Slovenian characters.  You may also need to set your browser to include the Slovenian character set, but most of the time they will be displayed correctly because of the character set being defined in the web page.  Here is some more information about this:  http://nl.ijs.si/gnusl/cee/iso8859-2.html

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© 2002-2004 by Jerry Sherek   Permission is granted to link to this page or copy the information, but proper credit is requested.  Your feedback is appreciated.  (Updated 11--04)