Monday, 20 February 2012


Some years ago, I stumbled across a site that I have constantly returned to. It was created by a man called Steve Morse, who originally set out to help folk searching for details on those ancestors who entered the States via Ellis Island.

That was then... as helpful as it was, the site now has to be visited often to try to absorb the massive amount of information and links that Steve has been adding to it over the years. Whether it be searching for passengers entering via Ellis Island, or maybe working out the eternal question of cousins and their exact relationship to your great uncle or grandchild or... maybe you want an easy way to find out a birthdate with the limited amount of facts you have, let Steve do it for you... or at least show you a One-Step way.

I could write article after article and cover just a fraction of what Steve offers, so, I thought it best to let Steve tell it in his own words.

With kind permission, I reproduce here, Steve's syllabus material from RootsTech.........

A Hodgepodge of Lesser-Known Gems
Stephen P. Morse (

The One-Step website ( started out as an aid for finding passengers in the Ellis Island database. Shortly afterwards it was expanded to help with searching in the 1930 census. Over the years it has continued to evolve and today includes about 200 web-based tools divided into sixteen separate categories ranging from genealogical searches to astronomical calculations to bidding on ebay.

Another talk (A Potpourri of Genealogical Search Tools) describes the range of tools available and give the highlights of each one. There are too many utilities on the One-Step website to be covered in a single talk, so many of them found their way to the cutting room floor when the Potpourri talk was being edited. However several of those are quite useful. This talk describes those gems that you might not otherwise be aware of. They range from problems with genealogical searches to problems with identity theft to problems with DNA.

This talk, as it's name implies, is a hodgepodge of things. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and no logical connection between the items. Each item discussed is self contained, and solves a particular problem. Some of the problems and their One-Step solutions are shown below.


A typical tombstone inscription might read "Here lies Uncle Jack, Died May 10 1903, 79 years, 10 months, and 3 days young. That would be a wonderful find for any genealogist, and gives a name and a death date to be added to the family tree. But what about Jack's date of birth? That would require some tedious calculations.

Fortunately there is a One-Step form that lets you enter any two of the following three items – a first event, a second event, and the time interval between them. In this case we would enter May 10, 1903 as the second event and 79 years, 10 months and 3 days as the time interval. The form will display the value of the first event – namely July 7, 1823.


Hebrew tombstones contain valuable information for genealogists, not the least of which is the date of death. However that date is usually encoded in a set of Hebrew letters, not dissimilar from what we do in English when we encode numbers into Latin letters and call them Roman numerals. So even people who are able to read and speak Hebrew might not know the code for deciphering the dates engraved on tombstones.

The One-Step website offers a handy decoder that let's you enter the squiggles found on the tombstone, and it will report back the date in the Hebrew calendar. It will also convert the date to its equivalent in the secular calendar.


Several foreign websites list the fallen soldiers for a particular country. However those sites are usually in the language of that country. Worse yet, that language might be written in an alphabet other than the normal Latin alphabet that we are familiar with.

Specific examples are a website in Cyrillic characters that lets you search for fallen Russian soldiers, and a website in Hebrew characters that lets you search for fallen Israeli soldiers. Entering names on the search forms of such websites is indeed a challenge. But even worse is trying to decipher the information returned by such websites.

The One-Step site offers tools to simplify using these two particular sites. The tools translate the fields on the search forms so you know what you have to enter in each field. They also allow you to type using your normal keyboard and will transliterate the name for you into the alphabet required by the site. And when the results of the search are returned to you, various items are translated into English or transliterated into Latin letters so you can understand what you have found.


You may wonder what some of these tables have to do with genealogy. But I'm an engineer, and I like tables, That's what turns me on. So I included several tools for doing table lookups on the One-Step site.

Specifically there is a two-character code assigned to every country in the world, and that code is used in website addresses as well as email addresses. The One-Step site has a tool that lets you specify any two-character code and it will tell you the corresponding country. Or you can specify any country, and it will tell you the two-character code.

There is a common set of three-digit area codes assigned to telephones in Canada, United States, and the Caribbean. Have you ever encountered an area code and wanted to know where is was before you dialed it? The One-Step site has a tool that lets you specify any three-digit sequence and tells you where it is located. It also lets you specify a location and it tells you what the three-digit area code is.

Overseas phone numbers follow a different encoding system. But given any such number, it is possible to break it down and determine where in the world it is. And the One-Step site provides a tool that does this look-up for you.


Various numbering systems that appear to be random at first sight actually follow a pattern. Specific examples are social security numbers and credit card numbers. The One-Step site offers tools that allow you to decode such numbers.

The social security decoding has obvious applications to genealogists. It allows you to determine not only where a specific number was issued, but also when.


The One-Step site provides several tools for dealing with the results of DNA testing. One tool extracts the DNA values from the testing-laboratories website. Another allows for a color-coded comparison of DNA markers from a group of people, and yet another computes the DNA distances between members in the group.

There is also a tool for determining the haplogroup corresponding to the extracted values, one for describing the paths taken by any particular haplogroup, and one that shows a map of the path taken for that haplogroup.


The Potpourri lecture described a One-Step utility that allows you to submit a bid on ebay at the last possible moment. This keeps down the auction fever and insures that if you win it, you will do so for the lowest possible price. This Hodgepodge lecture introduces a second ebay tool – one that lets you see the bid history for any item in chronological order. From the ebay site directly you can also see the bid history, but it is ordered by bid amount, making it hard to understand what was bid when and why.


All browsers contain a "bookmark" or "favorites" facility that lets you save the location of a webpage so that you can return to it at some future time. However you need to be using the same browser at that future time in order to see the bookmark that you saved. The One-Step site has a tool that lets you save bookmarks in any browser and later access that bookmark from any other browser and even on another computer.


Although not directly related to genealogy, geocoding (converting addresses to latitude and longitude) has become a very popular activity on the web. In fact, I probably get more hits to my One-Step geocoding tools than I do to my One-Step genealogy tools.

The Potpourri lecture introduced a One-Step tool that lets you find the latitude/longitude of an address, and vice versa. The Hodgepodge lecture introduces some additional One-Step geocoding tools. One of them lets you compute the distance between any two pairs of latitude/longitude. These two tools, used together, allow you to compute the distance between any two addresses, anywhere in the world. Did you know that it is 3657.1 miles from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC to number 10 Downing Street in London?


The Potpourri lecture described several One-Step tools for accessing the census by address in large cities. The Hodgepodge lecture supplements that by showing how to do the same for rural areas. The former utilizes the One-Step Large-City ED Finder, and the latter utilizes the One-Step ED Definition tool.


Here are some questions I'm sure you've asked yourselves numerous times. When did the first day of Chanukah fall on Christmas? When did your birthday ever fall on a Saturday? When is Thanksgiving this year? And when did Easter and Passover coincide? The One-Step site contains a "When Did" utility that lets you answer questions like this and any similar questions about the calendar that you can think of.

As an example, we can determine when April Fools day falls on a Sunday. Turns out that it will happen in the year 2012. Of course as genealogist that has special significance to us – it means that the opening of the 1940 census will probably be delayed to Monday April 2, forcing us to be patient for one more day before we can view that census.


These are just a smattering of the One-Step tools covered in the Hodgepodge lecture. It's just the ones that I could fit into four pages.

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