Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan). Archives, Labels (tags), and other links appear at the bottom of the page.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Blurb's New BookWright Software

In the interest of preserving my family history on real paper instead of letting it disappear into the virtual void, I've been making print-on-demand books for about four years. I use Blurb as my p-o-d company and the free BookSmart software they provide to create my books. I found the software easy to learn, and with it I've been able to do everything I've imagined. There's a glitch here and a quirk there, but I've learned to work around them, so I'm happy with BookSmart.

I've completed 21 book projects and had them printed. On three occasions, I had to contact Customer Support due to problems with the products I received, and my problems were satisfactorily addressed very quickly, so I'm happy with Customer Support and the finished products I receive.

My only complaint is that there is no option for any kind of sewn or stapled binding, as I lack confidence in glued bindings for the long term. In the earlier years, keeping the book under 120 pages might result in a side-sewn binding, but Blurb did not allow the customer the option of choosing that, even at an extra cost. It was a matter of luck depending, I imagine, upon which of their printing jobbers filled the order. If it's still done by any of their printers, you couldn't prove it by me, I'm sad to say.

Nevertheless, Blurb is still my p-o-d company of choice, and I currently have projects 22 through 38 in various stages of completion, four of which will be ready to upload within the next few days.

I interrupted work on them recently when I received the news that Blurb has created new bookmaking software called BookWright, and a new option with BookWright allows creation of an 8.5 x 11" magazine. I was curious about both the software and the quality of the magazine product, so I created a 40-page magazine to give it a test run. My thoughts on both the software and the end product follow.

BookWright software
  • Cropping and zooming images is easier in BookWright than in BookSmart.
  • When you're creating your own layout, the software lets you know when the edges of text or image containers are aligned with each other, helping you to create a tidy layout.
  • In BookWright, text entry is done in a box at the bottom of the window, not right on the page layout as it is in BookSmart. For me this is not instinctive and I see no advantage at all. None!
  • When you click to Preview your pages, a separate window opens, but it's not full-screen and cannot be enlarged. As a result, the preview you see is smaller than your printed product will be. In contrast, the Preview in BookSmart can be enlarged to whatever size your monitor can accomodate. My monitor is large enough that I can enlarge a BookSmart preview to the approximate size that the actual printed page will be, which allows me to judge whether the printed size of my text will be easily readable or uncomfortably large or small, and to have a better sense of how the finished page will impact the viewer's eye. 
Print Magazine product
  • The magazine covers are made with 65-lb. cover stock. It's nicely heavy with a finish that reflects a soft glow. It takes the ink well and I was satisfied with the printed result of the covers.
  • The magazine is perfect-bound (i.e. glued binding) which gives it a nice professional appearance for a magazine. The pages seem to be well-secured.
  • The pages are said to be 60-lb. paper. Apparently I have no idea what that means, because I was thinking along the lines of a sturdy paper such as a classy art magazine might be printed upon. In reality the pages were more like what you'd find in a women's magazine at the supermarket. The paper feels thin and flimsy. It's glossy, and in the reflected glare you can see that the paper is slightly ripply, perhaps from the wetness of the ink, or maybe that's just the nature of this type of paper.
  • I'm dissatisfied with the way this paper took the ink. Color accuracy was disappointing and many pictures printed much darker than they would have on Blurb's standard book paper. I've attempted to create a fair comparison in the sample below. Please read the explanations of each numbered sample to understand exactly what I've done to show this.

Sample 1: This is the original .jpg image file I used for the bottom half of a magazine page.

Sample 2: I used my iPhone to take a picture of the page as it appears in the printed magazine, using a combination of a lamp and daylight from a window. This photo is a reasonable representation of the darkness of the printed image, but the color in this snapshot is not quite what I see on the page.

Sample 3: I scanned the printed page at 300 dpi and downsized the resulting image to fit in this display. This was also not an accurate representation of what I see when I look at the real page. I won't try to explain why the scan looks much lighter than the actual page. It doesn't matter. What I'm trying to do is show you what the printed page looks like, so let's look at Sample 4.

Sample 4: Using PaintShop Pro, I adjusted the brightness and contrast of the scan in Sample 3 until it looks, to the best of my ability, like the image I see on the printed page. On the printed page, the color is off, and much of the facial expression that's visible in the original photo is lost in darkness. To be fair, I will say that this was the worst example from the magazine.

My Comments

I ordered four copies of my 40-page magazine. The cost of printing ($7.99 each) plus the shipping charge totalled $42.92, which means I spent $10.73 per copy. I don't suppose this is an outrageous price for a print-on-demand magazine. But in the end, it's still a magazine, an entity that's really made to be disposable, so you shouldn't expect it to have the longevity or quality of a book.

The magazine can also be ordered as an e-zine. I didn't explore that feature, but if you're interested in creating e-zines, you can do so with BookWright.

BookWright software will probably please some people, but I have a strong preference for BookSmart. I contacted Blurb to see whether there are any plans afoot to discontinue support for BookSmart and I'm happy to say I was assured that there are no such plans, and BookSmart will continue as before.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Erysipelas, and Some Other Useful Knowledge

According to Joseph Hauer's Civil War pension file, he suffered from erysipelas. I found this explanation of the malady, written in 1856:
Subsect. 3.—Erysipelas.
7147. This is also a febrile disease; but one of its essential characters is an inflammation of the skin. The skin is red, and this redness rapidly spreads; it is accompanied with swelling, of a variable amount, often very considerable. When it attacks the face, the appearance of the patient is totally altered by the swelling; all the features are confused, the eyes are concealed, the expression distorted; the person would not be recognised by his nearest friends. With all this there is high fever, with quick, full pulse, thirst, vomiting, violent shivering, constipation, and, at a later stage, and in certain forms of the complaint, sinking and exhaustion. The chief domestic treatment is to obey implicitly the medical directions, particularly as to the constant application of warm or cold lotions, as may be recommended. The rags with which such lotions are applied must be constantly wetted; if they are suffered every now and then to become dry, they not only lose their effect, but become positively hurtful. If erysipelas attack the head and face, it is a dangerous disease. Any approach to delirium or stupor, any anxiety as evidenced in the expressions, or any giddiness or faintness, should be looked out for, and should be instantly communicated to the medical man, as inflammation of certain parts within the scull may come on, and be wiih difficulty restrained. One of the best topical applications in erysipelas is an acidulated solution of nitrate of silver, as employed by Dr. A. T. Thomson. The solution is made with a drachm of nitrate of silver, ten drops of nitric acid, and an ounce of distilled water. This is pencilled over the inflamed parts, extending to a little beyond them, and leaving it to dry. It blackens the skin at the time, but the cuticle exfoliates and leaves the surface health in a few days.
Readers who are interested in the daily aspects of our mid-1800s ancestors might enjoy taking a look at The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, or Book of 7223 Receipts and Facts: A Whole Library of Subjects Useful to Every Individual. The Table of Contents alone is ten pages and worth browsing to see what you might find useful.


Webster, Thomas, William Parkes, and David Meredith Reese. The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, or Book of 7223 Receipts and Facts: A Whole Library of Subjects Useful to Every Individual. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856.

Henry Joseph Hauer: Civil War Era Pension File

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Detroit's Tribulations, 1945-Style

My earliest Detroit ancestors, great-great-great grandparents Johann and Maria Wolfschlager and their family, arrived at the Port of New York on August 16, 1845. Consequently, they were not listed in James H. Wellings' 1845 Directory of the City of Detroit.  Nevertheless, the front matter in this directory--Wellings says it was only the second ever published--provides an interesting contemporary picture of the city they would soon arrive in.

My tenth grade history teacher, Mr. Oglesby, posted a Santayana quotation on our classroom door: "Those who learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it." And while I must admit I really didn't learn a whole lot of history, Santayana's piece of advice (along with the Oglesby concept of a double entendre) has certainly stuck with me though the years. It came to mind as I read Wellings' Preface, in which he also shared a quotation: "They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare." Apparently Detroit was not without its share of troubles even in the early days.

Really, it's too bad Kwame Kilpatrick didn't have Mr. Oglesby for history class.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mapping Detroit Ancestors

I spent yesterday afternoon mapping my Detroit ancestors. This was my process:
  1. I first created a legend for the map. I determined which surnames I wanted to map and chose a color for each one. Under each surname, I listed the addresses chronologically. I used a city directory street guide to determine which cross-streets an address was between.
  2. Working from the legend, I marked each address on the map with a dot. For this job, I thought it would be pretty easy to use a period from large heavy font (I chose Bauhaus 93) at the 72-point size. I changed the color of the font as needed to match the dots to the surnames on my legend. (If I had put each color, i.e. each surname, on a separate layer, I could later drop out unnecessary dots if I want to feature, say, only the Hauer addresses, by making a layer temporarily invisible. I forgot to do it that way, though, so all my dots are on the same layer, darn it.)
  3. I saved the map as a Paint Shop Pro file, thus maintaining the ability to make adjustments to the map later if I so desire. I also saved a separate copy as a JPG file. Below is a detail from the map, along with a quick-&-dirty screen shot of the legend. It's a work in progress!

My map may not be perfect. I encountered a few problems. For one, in addition to the change in street numbering which took effect 1 Jan 1921, Detroit had some earlier changes also, not only to address numbers but in some cases even the street name was changed. I used an 1898 map which I pieced together from the 1898 city directory online. There were changes to the map over the years which, of course, are not reflected on the map. For example, when I marked the location of George Corneilson's ice cream parlor on Jefferson near Lycaste, I had to estimate its placement because Lycaste did not exist on the 1898 map. And I need to make some adjustments to my legend. All in good time!

Meanwhile, here's the map I used. It's a fairly large file (7.1MB) and measures 6563 x 5033 pixels. I looked into getting it printed and it would be in the $50-60 price range for a size about 3' x 4'. The printer wasn't sure it would print clearly, nor was he sure the street names would be large enough to read. However, I tried printing a section blown up to about the right size and found that the street names were legible, albeit tiny. My original idea was to tack the enlarged map to a bulletin board and mark all my significant places with little flags, but I couldn't bear the thought of poking holes in a $60 map, so I told the printer I'd reconsider printing after I've marked my significant places right on the map. (I do hope his estimate was for a color print!)

To download the map for your own use, right-click and select View Image, then right-click again and choose Save Image As and navigate to the folder where you want to save it. (No, my ancestors' homes are not marked on this copy!)

 You may also find it helpful to have this explanation of Detroit's house-numbering system:


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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