Saturday, April 22, 2006

Federal Census Records online

The Federal Census Records from 1790 to 1880 and 1900 to 1930 are available online (the 1890 census was nearly completely lost in a fire, so it is unavailable). However, you need to access one of three subscription services online to use the indexes and to see the page images. The three services are Ancestry, HeritageQuestOnline and

If you don't have a personal subscription to Ancestry, all is not lost, since access to Ancestry Library is free at many public libraries and at all LDS Family History Centers.

Access to HeritageQuestOnline is also free through many public libraries and genealogy society web sites (for instance, NEHGS, NYGBR, many state society sites, etc). You can find a complete list here. I have a Carlsbad (CA) library card and access it at home. has only home access through a personal subscription.

Ancestry has all of the available census images, with head of household indexes for 1790 to 1840 and 1910; they have an every name index for 1850 to 1880, 1900, 1920 and 1930. They permit wild card searches with at least 3 letters of the surname or given name, which can be very helpful. I recommend using the "Exact Search" tab, unless your search target is well hidden.

HeritageQuestOnline has all of the census images that Ancestry has, but has only head of household indexes for 1790 to 1820, 1860, 1870 and 1900 to 1920. You can also search HQO images by year, roll number and page number, or by state, county and town or city ward, for the years that are not indexed. HQO does not permit wild cards, so you have to try differnet surname spellings if your search target is well hidden. has the same images that HeritageQuestOnline has, and the same indexes (I think - I haven't tried it recently).

The 1880 census was also indexed by the LDS Family History Library here. You can search the index for free, and see the transcriptions for each household for free. I use this to determine the film roll number and page number for my search target, then I use HQO and input the roll number and page number to see the 1880 census image.

On a Windows computer, you can right-click on the census image and save it to your hard drive for future reference. You can also use your photo program to print a copy of the image.

Search strategies for finding your elusive ancestor in the census records (you know, the ones you can't find!) is a subject on which I have prepared a 90 minute talk. I have found that about 50% of the ones you think are missing are really just hiding under a badly misspelled surname or were given the wrong surname by the census enumerator or the indexer of the census pages.

Do you have elusive ancestors that you cannot find in the census? Tell me about them, and maybe I can help you find them.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A peculiar Census Record

Believe it or not, genealogy has its share of the funny, peculiar and maudlin. Here is a census listing that no one wants to have show up in their ancestry:

From the 1870 Census for Ellsworth Township, Ellsworth County, Kansas (NARA M593, Roll 434, Page 30, Dwelling #90, Line 34 and on):

George Palmer...........age 37..Male..White..Farmer
Elisabeth Palmer........age 35..Fem...White..Keeping House
Libby Thompson.........age 18..Fem...White..Diddles
Harriet Parmenter.......age 23..Fem...White..Does Horizontal Work
Ettie Baldwin.............age 23..Fem...White..Squirms in the dark
Lizzie Harris..............age 24..Fem...White..Ogles fools
Josephine DeMerritt.....age 27..Fem...White
Nellie Burnham...........age 23..Fem...White
Millie Grofton............age 26..Fem...Black..Cook

Listed as “House of Ill Fame” on Margin.

So who do you think gave this information to the census taker? I wonder of Josephine and Nellie were also ladies of ill fame, but perhaps favorites of the woman of the house?

Have you found any funny or peculiar census records? Tell me!!

My two grandhounds and my grandcat

Pictures of my grandchildren are posted below. Before we had grandkids, we had grandpets.

Tami has two basset hounds - Walter is a beautiful dog, and really fun to be with, even when he slobbers. He loves belly rubs, cat poop and walks on the grass.

Lucy is an older girl, and was rescued by Tami. Lucy will eat almost anything...

Lori adopted two cats, but has only Mira now. We delivered Mira, as a very active kitten, to her home 500 miles away back in 2000. She loves attention and I love to pet her.

Revolutionary War Pension file for Isaac Buck

In the post below, I summarized the life of one of my favorite ancestors, Isaac Buck (1757-1846). His service in the Revolutionary War in both the Massachusetts Line and the Continental Line is summarized by this:

"During the Revolutionary War in 1775, young Isaac Buck was in Captain Benjamin Hastings company of Bolton, Colonel Asa Whitcomb's regiment. He was matross in Captain James Swan's company, Colonel James Craft's regiment, in 1776. A "matross" was a private in the army who aided the artillery gunners to load, fire and sponge the guns. He was also in Captain Philip Marett's company in 1776-1777. He was in the Continental Army in Captain John Houghton's company, Colonel Josiah Whitney's regiment in 1778, and was in Captain Redding's company, Colonel Gamaliel Bradford's regiment in 1777. In 1780 and 1781, he was in Captain Thomas Jackson's company, Colonel John Crane's Third Artillery regiment."

Another significant record of his life accomplishments is in his application for a Revolutionary War Pension. The Pension file (S34136) for Isaac Buck contains affidavits attesting to his war service and the circumstances of Isaac Buck life. He applied for a Pension in April 1818, and received it in 1820. It includes:

"I, Isaac Buck, a citizen of the United States, now resident at Sterling in the County of Worcester in the State aforesaid, do on oath testify and declare that in the War of the Revolution in the month of December in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy nine, I entered and engaged in the land service of the United States on the continental establishment, and served accordingly from that time to the end of the war as a private against the common enemy without any interruption or absence, that I belonged to Captain Jackson's company of Artillery in Colonel Crane's Regiment under the command of General Knox, and that I left the service in the month of June 1783 at West Point when the Army was disbanded, and that by reason of my reduced circumstances in life and poverty, I stand in need of assistance from my country and support being now of the age of sixty years - and I hereby relinquish all claims to every pension heretofore allowed me by the laws of the United States if any may be or hath been allowed. My discharge was lost from my pocket many years since and is not in existence."
/signed/ Isaac Buck.

A schedule of the property belonging to Isaac Buck of Sterling as of May 1 1820 included:

"one cow - one clock - one table - one looking glass - one chest - one shovel - one tongs - crockery - glass stemware - one old axe - one hoe - one old plough - one old wagon - one pot - one kettle - one pair of dogs - three old chairs - six knives and forks - $30.25"

The schedule also says, apparently written for Isaac Buck:

"The said applicant is a farmer, but wholly unable to labour the present season on account of a wound in his shoulder in May last - and never expects to perform much labour hereafter. His wife named Patty Buck is aged 60 years - is barely able to do the work of her house. I have but one child at home named Isaac Buck aged 14 years and performs as much labour as other farmer's boys at his age, but does nothing toward my support. This is the whole of my family." /signed/ Isaac Buck.

For his service, he was awarded a pension by the United States of $8 per month commencing 8 April 1818.

Isaac Buck participated in many of the historic campaigns of the Revolutionary War. He probably helped Henry Knox move the artillery from Ticonderoga to Boston in the winter of 1776, and probably was with Knox and Washington from then until the end of the War - fighting the British in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Isn't it amazing what records you can find for your ancestors?

Who is your favorite ancestor?

My favorite ancestors seem to be ones that served their country honorably or suffered life hardships.

One of mine is a fellow named Isaac Buck, who was born in 1757 to Isaac Buck and Mary Richards in Southborough MA. Isaac served in the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783 as a matross (which means he loaded, fired and sponged artillery). He married Patty Phillips in 1780 in Lancaster MA (who was the daughter of John Phillips by his first wife, Hannah Brown; John Phillips married secondly to Mary Richards, the mother of Isaac Buck), whom he grew up with in the same household. They had 8 children, and I am descended from Sophia Buck, who married Thomas J. Newton.

Isaac and Patty Buck resided in Sterling MA. He applied for a Revolutionary War Pension and was granted $8 a month in 1818 (see my separate post). Isaac died in 1846. The Sterling town record says:

"Registered Feby 10 1846: Isaac Buck, male, widower, age 93y 11m 20d; Revolutionary Pensioner; died February 7th 1846; died of old age; born in Southborough; Illegitimate."

Isn't that sad? He probably suffered with that label his whole life. Here is a fellow who served his country well in a dangerous job throughout the War, farmed and raised a family, lived and died poor, and the last word is "Illegitimate." I prefer to think of old Isaac Buck as a "survivor" and a "hero."

Who is your favorite ancestor? Tell me about him or her.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My precious granddaughter - Lauren

Here is a picture of Angel Linda, daughter Tami and granddaughter Lauren. She is 14 months now - isn't she a doll? Grandpa's biased, of course!

My precious grandsons - Logan and Lucas

My daughter Lori, her 2-1/2 year old son Lucas and her newborn Logan, born in February. Needless to say, they are two apples of grandpa's eye.

Googling Grandma and Grandpa

Have you Googled your grandparents, or any of your ancestral families? You might find someone else on the Internet who shares your particular ancestors.

The key is to Google both names of your ancestral couple. For instance, if I Google one of my ancestral couples, say as (Benjamin Seaver Martha Whitney), I get over 31,000 hits, nearly all of which are useless - not about my couple at all, but for web pages with the four words in them.

However, if I Google them as ("Benjamin Seaver" "Martha Whitney") I get only 87 hits - and they all apply to my ancestral couple.

The key is to use the quote marks around the names. If you have names with middle names or initials, you can use say "Benjamin * Seaver" to find hits with a middle name or initial. The * acts as a wild card entry.

Have you Googled Grandma and Grandpa recently? Did you find cousins also searching for them? Tell me about it!

Book Review - "Rise to Rebellion"

Juliana Smith on her blog at 24/7 Family History Circle is printing book reviews about genealogy and historical books. Here is what I sent her the other day:

One of the most interesting "historical fiction" books I read recently was "Rise to Rebellion" by Jeff Shaara. It covered the events from about 1760 to July 1776 that shaped the American Revolution. Each chapter focused on one of the important players - John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Gage, George Washington, etc. It's one thing to learn in history class about people and battles, but to "hear" the words and thoughts (often using historical letters or memoirs) of the protagonists is fascinating to me. I have a much better understanding of the times, the leaders and the events leading up to the War than before.

Shaara's sequel, called "The Glorious Cause," is on my reading table now. It continues from 1776 to the end of hostilities in 1781.

He has also written several books on the American Civil War, "Gods and Generals" and "The Last Full Measure," and I saw another book about The Mexican-American War on the shelf at the library today. All of these are on my reading list now.

What books are you reading? Tell me!

LDS Research Guides - A Great Resource

Some of the most helpful, and least known, resources for finding records in states and countries are Research Guides compiled and published by the LDS church. I rely on these guides to help me find records.

About 75 Research Guides were recently purchased from the San Diego Family History Center for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society. The guides obtained included:

• All 50 States plus DC
• 5 Canadian Provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia)
• 11 European countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway)
• 4 North American countries (USA, Canada, Mexico, Latin America)
• African-American Research, Native-American Research, Jewish Genealogy
• Tracing Immigrant Origins, US Military Records

The guides are in Notebooks and are stored in the CVGS file cabinet drawers at the Chula Vista Library in the Genealogy section. You can read them and/or copy them at your leisure. You can purchase your own copy at the San Diego Family History Center in Mission Valley for a nominal fee (most are $2.50). You can read them and download them at the LDS web site, Research Guides

An American Patriot

Today is Patriots Day - the day the Shot was heard around the World at Lexington and Concord, the day that Americans started to take control of their destiny.

The following narrative appeared in an obituary notice of the Columbian Centinel (a newspaper in Boston) of 6 February 1793:

"Died at Menotomy, the 2d instant, Capt. Samuel Whittemore, AEt. 96 years and 6 months. The manly and moral virtues, in all the varied relations of a brother, husband, father, and friend, were invariably exhibited in this gentleman. He was not more remarkable for his longevity and his numerous descendants (his progeny being 185, one of which is the fifth generation) than for his patriotism.

"When the British troops marched to Lexington, he was 79 years of age, and one of the first on the parade; he was armed with a gun and horse-pistol. After an animated exhortation to the collected militia to the exercise of bravery and courage, he exclaimed, 'If I can only be the instrument of killing one of my country's foes, I shall die in peace.' The prayer of this venerable old man was heard; for on the return of the troops he lay behind a stone wall, and discharging his gun a soldier immediately fell; he then discharged his pistol, and killed another; at which instant a bullet struck his face, shot away part of his cheekbone; on which a number of the soldiers ran up to the wall, and gorged their malice on his wounded head. They were heard to exclaim, 'We have killed the old rebel.'

"About four hours after, he was found in a mangled situation; his head was covered with blood from the wounds of the bayonets, which were six or eight; but providentially none penetrated so far as to destroy him. His hat and clothes were shot through in many places; yet he survived to see the complete overthrow of his enemies, and his country enjoy all the blessings of peace and independence.

"His funeral will be held to-morrow at 4 o'clock P. M. from his house at Menotomy, which his relatives and friends are requested to attend."

Samuel Whittemore was not my ancestor, but I greatly appreciate his attitude!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Treasures in the closet

What genealogy treasures hide in your closet or those of your parents and grandparents? Let me tell you about mine.

When I started doing genealogy research in 1988, my mother, Betty (Carringer) Seaver, gave me boxes of books and papers and pictures to sort through – the remnants of four generations of her family. Over the years, she discovered more records in her house and gave them to me. When she died in January 2002, I did not expect to find much more. So I was surprised by all the Treasures in the Closet.

A little background. My great-grandparents, Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer came to San Diego on their honeymoon in 1887 and settled in National City. In 1895, they built a one story house with a widow’s walk at the corner of 30th Street and Hawthorn Street in what is now the Brooklyn Heights section of San Diego, just east of Balboa Park. My grandfather, Lyle Carringer, who was an only child born in 1891, married in 1918 to Emily Auble, also an only child, and built a house on the family property. My mother was born in 1919, and was also an only child. Emily’s widowed mother lived with Lyle and Emily, and Della’s widowed mother lived with Austin and Della. In 1927, Austin put a second story flat on the original house and moved it to the middle of the block. Austin and Della died in the mid-1940’s, and the widowed mothers died in 1931 and 1952.

My mother married Fred Seaver in 1942, and started a family. Lyle and Emily moved into the original house in the downstairs flat, and my parents moved into the upstairs flat. This was my childhood home at 2119 30th Street in San Diego. In 1950, Lyle and Emily Carringer bought a small lot on Point Loma overlooking San Diego Bay, built a house on the lot, and moved there. They died in the mid-1970’s, and my parents moved to the Point Loma house in 1978. They then sold the 30th Street properties.

Now – the Treasures. While cleaning out the Point Loma house to prepare it for sale, I found:

• An old brown briefcase in the back of the bedroom closet – it contained the handwritten family wills, the deeds for all of the houses, rent books and records for 40 years, and WW I military records for my grandfather, Lyle Carringer.

• Three boxes of financial records in the bedroom closet – including my parents tax returns from 1944 on, and year-by-year envelopes for my parents and grandparents from 1971 on.

• In another closet was my mother’s baby book, a portfolio of her school, concert and art work, her wedding album, her high school and college yearbooks, her schoolteacher credentials and work history, and my father’s WW II military records.

• The family room book case held many books from the 1860’s and 1870’s, and some of them were Austin Carringer’s school books. An account book of Austin’s father, David Jackson Carringer, dated to 1874 in Caribou, Colorado, was found, but many pages were covered by pasted newspaper articles with later dates. Five account books of Lyle Carringer, dating from 1919 to about 1950 (not complete) were found, revealing details about their lives – income, expenses, family events, current events, etc. I have gleaned quite a few genealogical nuggets about the extended family from these books. As I read them,I shared their heartbreak when their parents died, and their joy when their daughter married and had children.

• In the second bedroom closet, I found a spoon holder with six silver spoons. A note was attached to the back of the spoon holder giving the provenance of the spoons – four were from Della Carringer’s grandmother and two were from Emily Carringer’s great-aunt.

• Perhaps the most intriguing find was the cache of 8 mm movie films. Lyle Carringer was an inveterate photographer, and I found about 40 movies dating to the early 1940’s and extending into the late 1950’s, including a movie of my parents wedding and my brothers and I as children. I also found the 10 movies that my father shot in the 1965 to 1980 time frame, including my own wedding. I am gradually having these converted to DVD and will pass copies to my brothers and my children.

Obviously, I was very happy to find all of these Treasures, and they really helped me deal with my grief for my mother’s passing. My overwhelming feeling is one of thankfulness for each member of this family – for their love in nurturing their children, for their hard work in building houses and living responsible lives, for their thrift and financial wisdom in navigating the 20th century, and for the immense good luck that they all kept most of their “household stuff.”

Tell me about your Treasures!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why do I pursue my family history?

My first major reason for pursuing genealogy research is because it is an intellectual challenge and it is FUN! Educated as an engineer and scientist, doing "research" has always been part of my work life. I also made it part of my "home" life - an interest to pursue when I had free time. I love being a detective - whether it's finding obscure facts about a distant ancestor or reading a good mystery book.

My second major reason is to maintain contact with my brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. They all had stories to tell about their family life, and I really enjoyed getting to know them, since I was in San Diego and most of them were on the east coast. In return for their stories, I have produced a 16 page family newsletter since 1988, which I send out at Christmas time. It is full of current family news, photos and ancestor stories.

A third major reason is to "honor my ancestors." Nearly every one of them lived a fairly conventional life - they grew up in a family, were educated, worked hard over many years, had a family, lived and served in a community, and died without attracting much attention or notoriety. Some of them lived unconventional lives, did extraordinary things or "bad" things. That's part of the family tapestry - the good, the bad, the ugly. I try to honor them all by collecting information about them and telling their stories in books or articles.

So who cares? My kids, my brothers and my cousins seem to care. That's good enough for me. I'm just trying to have FUN!

What about you - why do you pursue your family history?

See my genealogy research here.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Genealogy is my passion (post 2)

Just a bit about my genealogy reading list and society membership activities:

I am a member of the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS), the Essex (MA) Society of Genealogists (ESOG), the San Diego Genealogical society (SDGS), the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) and the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS). I also subscribe to The American Genealogist and Family Tree Magazine.

I serve on the Board for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society, currently as Vice-President for Programs and as Research and Query Chairman. The society link is given in my list of links on the sidebar.

Another interest is in making genealogy talks to societies, seminars or conferences. To date, I have presented the following programs at CVGS (and hope to branch out soon to other societies):

1) English Research - an overview based on a 1993 research trip to England
2) Norwegian Research - an overview based on a 1999 research trip to Norway
3) Breaking Down Your Brick Walls - a general review of the research process, techniques and resources
4) Bible Records - an overview based on experience
5) Traditional and Internet Genealogy Resources - a general review of resources available in San Diego and the Internet
6) Pursuing Your Elusive Ancestor - a general review of the research process, techniques and resources
7) Pursuing Your Elusive Ancestor in the Census Haystack - effective search strategies for finding your ancestors hiding in the census records
8) Genealogy is Fun! Seriously! - a genealogy humor talk

What organizations do you belong to or what do you subscribe to? Tell me about it.

Genealogy is my passion (Post 1)

I plan to use this blog mainly for genealogy posts. Every blog should have a focus, and I want this one to focus on genealogy and family history. Some time in the future, it may morph from being a narrative blog to being an education blog centered on genealogy.

How did I start? I started pursuing my elusive ancestors in 1988, after finally reading the book "Roots" by Alex Haley. I started late, but have worked hard to catch up.

I was blessed by having boxes of family papers, old books, photographs, and some correspondence from my mother's family and by having living siblings of my father willing to share their family stories. My mother was an only child of only children, and consequently had four generations of stuff. My father's siblings and my cousins were voluble and great correspondents.

The names, dates and places for my ancestry, and Angel Linda's family also, are all at my genealogy data web site at

Over time, my interests shifted from "collecting dead ancestor names" to "writing family history" - that is, creating biographies for each ancestor based on the historical, biographical and social records available (vital, land, probate, military, census, immigration, cemetery, newspaper, biographies, etc.). Consequently, I am still in the process of gathering this data (which seems endless, and probably is!) and putting it into my genealogy database software.

My current projects and state of completion include:

1) Randy's Ancestry -- about 80% complete for names, dates, places, but only 60% complete for biographies.

2) Linda's Ancestry -- about 80% complete for names, dates and places, but only 10% complete for biographies.

3) Descendants of Robert Seaver (immigrant to Roxbury MA in 1634) -- about 80% complete for names dates and places, but only 60% complete for biographies.

Those numbers assume that I don't find many more ancestors than I presently have - I have many "elusive ancestors" and, after 18 years of effort, I fear they will remain that way.