Notes from the past…


#31WBGB: Contact a Reader

31 Weeks ButtonThis is Week 5 of Tonia’s 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog challenge.

The previous challenges:

What’s our assignment for this week?

#31WBGB: Contact a Reader:

Pay attention to new readers and it will substantially increase the chance that they will return to your site or spread the word about it through their network.  I think this topic is especially important for genealogy bloggers, because our readers may be part of our extended families and they could have information, photos, documents, etc. that we would like to have.  At least part of the reason that most of that most of us write genealogy blogs is to connect with others who are researching our same family lines.

I completed this week’s challenge in reverse, but in doing so proved how vital our blog readers really are!

On this past Sunday, Thomas MacEntee posted a link on his Facebook page to a new genealogy blog, Channeling Grammy. I clicked on his link and visited this new blog. It looked interesting, so I subscribed to the RSS feed. I continued to wander around Grammy until I found a mention of the author’s surnames. One was Appling. A fairly uncommon name, hummm…

I have Applings in my tree, married into my Stanley line from Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.

I commented on the blog’s most recent post and introduced myself. The author contacted me almost immediately, through my genealogy wiki. Turns out that we are distantly related, through our Stanley/Appling connection. Another cousin found! All because a blog author contacted a reader!


What to do with all of these .pdf files?

Over the past few years, I have collected quite a few books in .pdf format. All are what you might call “technical manuals”: WordPress how-to’s, Google tricks, genealogy cheat-sheets…

Most of the time, I read these docs with the standard Adobe Reader, sitting at my desk. Fits the bill, but nothing fancy and definitely not very comfortable.

So it occurred to me: get an eReader. That way I could lay on the couch to read or spend my time more productively while waiting for an oil change.

First, let me say that I am not very comfortable with electronic books. I much prefer paper and ink!

However, ebooks do have their advantages. They are certainly cheaper and simpler to obtain, and are much easier on your back. And they are the future of publishing, so it seems. Who am I to stand in the path of progress?

That being said, I do see the need for a portable, light-weight dedicated device to be able to enjoy my little virtual library.

Time to do my homework, so for the past 2-3 days, I have researched eReaders. Kindles, Nooks, Kobos… lots of choices and lots of prices, ranging from about $100 to several hundred. Some deal with .pdf files, but most have to convert these files to their own format. Not really what I’m looking for.

My other options include viewing my ebooks on my Blackberry or iPod. Blackberry is just not practical, too small. iPod is also a tad tiny for a 200-page file and my not-so-young-anymore eyes.

Then I searched for a better pdf viewer/file app. I downloaded several, tried ‘em out, didn’t like ‘em, deleted ‘em. I even managed to crash my hard-drive by trying to add a .pdf file to iTunes. Don’t know what happened, but fortunately my computer survived!

I finally settled on PDF-XChange Viewer, a free app that I already have on my computer. It is excellent for converting those downloaded newspaper clippings from GenealogyBank from .pdf’s to .jpg’s. It is just more versatile than Adobe Reader.

So that solved the problem of the ereader program, now for a portable device to read my .pdf ebooks on. One that I can afford, as right now we in Texas are dealing with The Summer from Hell, which is accompanied by The Electric Bills from Hell!

Then I remembered an article I’d read some time ago about turning a netbook into an ebook reader. Ok, I have an unemployed netbook (my granddaughter just got an iPad to replace her dead laptop for her freshman year in high school, so I got my little Dell back).

The article suggests a couple of ereader programs, but they didn’t work too well for me. I couldn’t get the page to display to my liking once rotated. I did adjust the power setting to save the battery and the screen brightness to save my eyes.

But after a bit more creative electronic manipulation (trial and error!), I did come up with a solution that I’m pretty pleased with:

  • Open the document of choice in PDF-XChange Viewer (set as default .pdf viewer)
  • Rotate the screen 90 degrees to the right
  • View full screen

This is what I got (sorry, pix taken with my Blackberry, which doesn’t have the best camera in the world!)








This is quite easy to read and the up/down arrows “turn” the pages.


  • Portable
  • Internet access and my genealogy records available
  • Costs nothing to set up netbook as ebook reader


  • Battery life about 3 hours

Now, I’m off to sell my first-born to pay my electric bill….