Friday, October 11, 2013

Genealogy and Technology

We all know that a big part of genealogy research is managing the data. So it comes as no surprise that computers are an essential part of the research. Fortunately these days, the technology is quite affordable, both in terms of hardware and software. In this blog posting, I consider some of the hardware you need.

If you download lots of images from or some other similar web site, you'll need lots of hard disk space. Disk space is relatively inexpensive. And these days, computers with terabyte hard drives are common, even in budget priced computers. If you need more, you can easily add an external drive for about a hundred dollars per terabyte. How much can you store in one terabyte? Roughly half a million images from

Next, consider your displays.If you've ever used multiple monitors, it's hard to imagine having to put up with just one. On my system, I have Gramps running on one monitor and a web browser open on the other. In addition, I also have multiple virtual desktops configured for one of the displays. I use the virtual desktops to further organize my work. On one, I do my image editing. On another, I have a number of folders open for various other sources of information. Note that your monitors can be different sizes and orientations. Some people even have one display positioned horizontally and the other vertical. The latter may be useful for word processing.

Another useful piece of hardware is a scanner, so you can easily digitize old document and photos. If you already have a multi-function printer, you already have a scanner. If you don't, then you should consider getting a new printer. The latest generation of multi-function color ink-jet printers are inexpensive, with a cost per page that's lower than ever. And some of these affordable printers even support duplex printing, allowing you to stuff twice the number of pages into your three-ring binders. (That is, if you still keep paper documentation!)

Finally, note that even if you read films the old-fashioned way using microfilms at your LDS Family History Center, you can usually scan the films there. So always remember to bring a memory stick with you. It may not be practical to scan everything you find. But you should at least scan records that are related to direct ancestors, or records that you're having trouble deciphering. The former is useful in establishing certainty about the family members that are the most relevant to you. The latter is important so you can ask others for help in reading the difficult records.

Hard drives, monitors, scanners, memory sticks. These are some of the more important hardware tools we now use in doing genealogy. I'll discuss the software tools another time.

Cheers! Hans

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Boldt and Moll Families - a Short Overview

As I mentioned earlier, about half a year ago I returned to my hobby of genealogy after a 15 year break. Since my return, I've added significantly to my database. It's now time to start blogging about some of what I've learned.

My Boldt ancestors lived in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a small Grand Duchy at the western end of Germany's Baltic Sea coast. This was always one of the more rural of the German states, with a predominately feudal society up until the end of the 19th Century. Most people worked as peasant farmers or day laborers. For most, their only hope of bettering their lives was to move away. My 4th great uncle Jochen Boldt (1824-1910) moved his family to south-central Ontario in the 1870's. where many of his descendants still live.

My earliest known Boldt ancestor was Aßmus Bolt, who lived in the village of Dümmerstück in the early 1700's. His son Christoph Boldt (1735-1821) moved to Vietlübbe. His great grandson, born in Hindenberg, was my great grandfather Heinrich Boldt (1873-1957). Like many others, Heinrich worked as a day laborer. That is, he did, until he discovered that the land owners were cheating the workers out of their fair wages. When he could no longer find work in Hindenberg, he moved with his family to Hamburg, joining other relatives who moved there earlier. The surviving descendants of Heinrich Boldt, all four of us, now live in Kingston, Ontario.

There is a lot more information available on my Moll family. One of the single most important documents is a list of the descendants of Evert Moll, born about 1628 in Velp. (The document incorrectly lists the progenitor of the Velp Moll's as Claas Moll.) This was published by the Vereeniging "Families Mol(l)", an organization active during the 1930's and 40's. You can find scanned copies of their publications at Jan Wies' website. This document includes more than 450 descendants in the Velp Moll clan, including three of my aunts (#384 Geertje Johanna, #385 Marritje, and #386 Gerrie).

In general, it appears that the Moll's were fairly well off. There was even a coat of arms described: three black moles, one above the other, on a field of silver. My direct Moll ancestors were generally bakers, merchants, or farmers. My great great grandfather Herman Moll (1822-1902) moved to Nijkerk shortly after getting married in 1847, and worked there as a baker.

Looking further afield at some distant Moll cousins, you can find some relatively famous individuals. For example, my 2nd cousin, 4 times removed, Antonie Moll (1786-1843) was a distinguished medical doctor and surgeon in Arnhem. His first-born son Evert Moll (1812-1896) was a learned liberal theologian and minister who served the congregations of Hengelo, Vollenhove, and Goes. My 4th cousin, twice removed Evert Moll (1878-1955) was a well-known painter, known for his impressionist paintings of the Rotterdam harbor.

But my most famous distant cousins weren't Moll's, although one was the grand-son of my 3rd great aunt Teunisken Moll (1803-1839). My 2nd cousin, twice removed, was the Nobel-Prize winning physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853-1928). But he's not the only Nobel Prize recipient in my list of relatives. I'm also related to Nobel Prize recipient Heike Kamerlingh-Onnes (1853-1926) in two ways: As 4th cousin twice removed, and also as 5th cousin twice removed. The two of them were 5th cousins, and although they both worked as physicists at the University of Leiden, they probably didn't know they were related.

There were also a few "black sheep" amongst my distant relatives. For example, Elisabeth Keers-Laseur (1890-1997) was an unrepentant Nazi supporter both during and after the war.

For some of these people, I'll write more in the months ahead. 

Cheers! Hans

(This was originally posted in one of my other blogs, The Omnifarium.)