Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Is ChatGPT worth using? Especially for genealogy and genealogy related uses?


The answers to the questions in the title of this post are both NO. So far, I have tried a number of different types of questions or suggestions to ChatGPT and the results have been helpful only if I just need some ideas and words. I find any reference to dates, places, or specific facts to be almost uniformly wrong. It may work for planning a trip, but I wouldn't rely on any specific facts about dates, times, or even addresses. It appears to me to be only a way to gather suggested topics. If you want facts, use Wikipedia which at least has some source references. If you want to see my analysis of a ChatGPT response on a post for Walking Arizona, see

Friday, April 14, 2023

United States Social Security NUMIDENT records added to


This is one of the collections of 63,700,494 records on the website that has only been available for a relatively short time. Here is the description of the files from the entry shown above. 

The Social Security Administration created these records to track the earnings of US workers and determine benefit entitlements. The publishable index only contains information for deceased individuals and was gathered from all three record types in the collection: applications, deaths, and claims. Each compiled record includes fields for the name of the deceased, social security number, parents' names, gender, birth city and state or country, birth date, and death date.

Here is an example of the content of a record for one of my relatives. 

Several of my searches for other relatives did not find any records and I am guessing that they either died too recently or did not have a social security account. You can see from this record that Donnette did not apply for Social Security coverage until she was about 73 years old. 

There is a more detailed description of the record set in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.,_Social_Security_Numerical_Identification_Files_(NUMIDENT)_-_FamilySearch_Historical_Records

I will be highlighting other useful collections from time to time. 

Saturday, April 8, 2023

How long do SSDs and Hard Disk Drives Last?


Most of us (especially genealogists) probably assume our flash drives (Solid State Drives or SSDs) and hard drives will last forever. Of course, the biggest challenge with flash drives is the loss of the small devices. But as with all electronics, they have both a life expectancy and a technological-obsolescent life-span. By the way, electronics are consumables not durables. Another, by the way, hard drives are at the last stage of their existence due to obsolescence and are being rapidly replaced by SSDs. As of the date of this post, SSDs are still significantly more expensive per unit of storage than hard drives. For comparison, an 8TB (Terabytes or 1000 Gigabytes) Seagate external hard drive is going for about $140 online. However, an 8TB external SSD is in the range of $800 to over $1000.  

Even though SSDs are commonly thought to be longer lasting than hard drives because they have no moving parts, actual statistics indicate that we don't yet know how long they will last because the large server farms (data storage facilities) are just now getting enough of the drives to form a real basis for making predictions. The main issue during the ramp up of a new technology is whether to pay the premium price or wait until the new technology is established and the prices come down. 

Hard drive technology is well established and there are adequate statistics to determine a good rule of thumb for replacement of about five to six years. Of course, you could just keep using an old hard drive until it died, but if you want to do this, I suggest backing it up either with another newer hard drive or with online storage. The best practice is to have redundant backup capability. I suggest both external hard drives and online storage depending on your pain level if the data on your hard drive was lost. 

Ideally, you would have an external hard drive dedicated to backing up your computer's internal drive and then at least two or three other hard drives dedicated to backing up archived files such as scanned documents, scanned photos, digital photos, and any other documents and records that you would like preserved. You start with two or three new drives and then start rotating them with new drives every few years until you get a series of hard drives about two to three years apart in age. Then you begin rotating out the oldest drive as it reaches about five years of age. 

As of the date of this post, 16TB and 18TB hard drives are becoming available and the prices are dropping rapidly. Unless you are determined to document every moment of your life with video, it is unlikely that you could ever fill up a 16TB hard drive. My forty years of accumulated computer files are just about 8TBs, but I know that a lot of those files are duplicates. 

You also need to realize that your computer has a hard drive and that after about five years, not only will your computer be obsolete, but the hard drive will be ready to die. These facts should clearly demonstrate the need for a redundant backup system. We all think our homes are a safe place until a fire or a tornado or an earthquake or a flood happens in our immediate location and destroys everything in or on our homes. Insurance is great in these situations, but can insurance compensate you for the loss of the information on the drives?

Right now, the possible increase in longevity of flash drives does not warrant the increased cost, but like anything having to do with technology, all that might change tomorrow. 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Now on the Mount of Remembrance - The Book of Names of Holocaust Victims


Quoting from a recent email:
In a massive endeavor spanning seven decades, Yad Vashem has worked to gather the names of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The Book of Names of Holocaust Victims is the unique result of meticulous and painstaking work that commemorates 4,800,000 men, women and children whose details have been gathered and uncovered over the years. Every name, date of birth, hometown and place of death is clearly printed and illuminated by a gentle beam of light that shines from between the pages.

Recently, the Book of Names of Holocaust Victims was inaugurated on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem in the presence of President of the State of Israel Isaac Herzog, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, and other Holocaust Survivors.

The public is invited to come view - and touch - Book of Names of Holocaust Victims, now on permanent display on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. Admission is free.

During my recent research into my Jewish ancestry, I discovered name after name of those who were killed in the Holocaust or the Shoah. With each name, I had a deep feeling of sadness. No longer is the Holocaust something that happened to others, it happened to me and parts of my own family.