Saturday, May 27, 2006

New England Vital Records Online

Having an extensive New England ancestry, I have appreciated the vital record books (to 1850) that have been published for many towns in Massachusetts (the so-called Tan Books), the Barbour Collection in Connecticut, and the Vermont and New Hampshire vital records on cards collected from town records (and available on film at the LDS Family History Library).

Many of the MA Town Tan Books, and some of the town records in the other states, are being transcribed by volunteers in active transcribing and image posting projects. Three web sites with a significant number of town records posted online, for FREE, are:

1) Ray's Place - Vital Records by town

2) Jane Devlin's site - scroll down and click on a state of interest

3) John Slaughter's Essex County Vital Records

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) web site here has the entries for the MA Tan Books in one database, and they are digitizing the images from the Massachusetts Vital Records (Births, Marriages and Deaths) for the period of 1841 to 1910 and posting new pages regularly - they are up to about 1890 at this date. They also have some databases for the other New England states. However, these databases are for NEHGS Members only.

Each of these sites has many databases that may have information for your New England ancestors. Have you checked them out?

Saving Bible Records

The treasures in my mother's closet included several pages removed from family Bibles with family information on them. I have used this information in my own research, but it struck me that the information in these family records might be of use to other researchers.

I joined the National Genealogical Society some time back, and knew that they had a project to digitize and save Bible records. Their members web page says:

The NGS Bible Record collection is being indexed and digitized. A large percentage of the Bibles, but not all, have an every name index. The index is searchable via the Internet to members free of cost. Images of the Bible pages are being scanned in PDF format. They are available to view online by members only. When new Bibles are indexed or scanned, they are uploaded that night, and become available on-line the next day to members. Since we are working on these almost daily, people need to check back periodically.

So I wondered how I could submit my Bible pages, even though they were removed from the Bibles and therefore any provenance data was lost. I asked on the APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) mailing list and got responses from several NGS leaders and employees. They recommended (from an email from Shirley Wilcox):

We prefer a hard copy as sometimes we have had troubles getting good copies from the scans. We also appreciate a transcription and a note as to where the records are currently located. Send photocopies & transcripts to

Bible Records
National Genealogical Society
3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300
Arlington, Virginia 22204-4304 USA

Copies of copies are fine. This is just a little more insurance that the records will be available for future generations in case a different copy gets destroyed in a fire, flood, or something else such as someone walking off with the local society copy. Unfortunately those things do happen.

I have started making good quality copies of my Bible pages and will send them to NGS when I have completed the task. I will also transcribe the information and will include that in my "package" of data.

How about you? Do you have original (or copies) of Bible records in your research papers? Is it absolutely unique - meaning no one else has a copy of it? If so, you may want to make copies and send them to NGS for safekeeping and for sharing with other researchers.

Unfortunately, the NGS Bible Records collection are in the Members Only section of the NGS web site; I can't argue with that since they are doing the indexing and posting. You could join NGS (the news magazine and NGS Quarterly periodical are excellent) and gain access, or you could have a current member check the Bible Records for you if you want to know if there is information on your ancestral families.

I encourage everyone to submit their Bible Records data to NGS so that these precious and unique records will be available forever.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Genealogy learning online at has a video learning series that anyone can watch for free it is here

There are three videos to watch:

"Searching" is a basic guide to genealogy research that reviews the different records used in genealogy.

"Tree Building" is a guide to searching Ancestry databases for your ancestors.

"Community" provides a guide to using the Message Boards and sharing your research, plus other tools.

While these videos are pretty basic, it might be easier for some people to watch them than to read a course outline and script to get the same information.

Try it! Have your spouse or local genealogy cynic view it so they can understand why you spend hours doing what you do.

Excavating Grandma's Privy

I'm not able to go to the National Genealogical Society Conference in the States at Chicago on June 7-10. I would love to be there, however, for the NGS Banquet speaker:

"Excavating Grandma's Privy for Family History Data" by Craig Pfannkuche. The abstract says:

"Where can data sometimes be found concerning individuals who are not well represented in the mass of available paper records? Grandma's Privy! This presentation will show that not everything that went into privy holes, latrines, and outhouses was a mixture of ... organic wastes. Into these holes went bones, bottles, toys, money, clothing, jewelry, dishware, cutlery, and watches among many other things; in fact, a wide variety of inorganic material which represents a full spectrum of the artifacts (articles of use) used by the people who made use of the privy.

"Hundreds and thousands of those privies, treasure troves of a variety of family artifacts, remain safely buried in both city and countryside. Using basic archaeological techniques, a minimally trained excavator can build from these artifacts both a picture of who deposited the materials, when they deposited those artifacts and how they lived. Information that cannot be found in paper records. Join us and learn."


Hmmm. This raises many questions, such as:

* What new equipment and training we will need to do this?

* Will the owners of the property in question be receptive? Can you imagine walking up to a house where your ancestor used to live and asking the owner "can I dig around where the outhouse used to be?" O-kay...

* Will the bones have names on them? I doubt it!

* Will the papers be important? I doubt it!

* Won't most of the genealogically relevant items be decomposed?

I can hardly wait to get my syllabus with the speakers handouts!

The best obituary ever??

Usually, a family will have a glowing obituary of their loved one published in the local newspaper. Sometimes, the publisher takes it upon himself to tell it like it is - to wit:

This obituary is from the "Clio Messenger," October 5, 1933, Clio (Genesee County) Michigan. Montrose is a small town near Clio (obtained from here).


"Montrose lost one of its former residents this week when Peter Leonard died at the home of his daughter in Flint. Pete was probably one the worst old reprobates that ever graced the streets of Montrose.

“Always a trouble-maker without a good word for man, woman or child -- words of truth probably never passed from his mouth for many of the fifty years of his depredations on earth.

“Unprincipled from the years that the writer knew him, meanness far surpassed any thoughts of goodness that the average person would command and exemplify.

“He has passed on, and it is not likely that Montrose will ever have another resident his equal -- at least most people have their ‘moments of decency.’ May his sojourn in Hell be as lengthy as his cursed days on earth is the wish of his many enemies."

Ralph C. Gillett, Editor and Publisher

The publisher had the guts to sign his name. It kind of makes me wonder if he had a grudge against poor old Peter. Did the family have no glowing thoughts?

Do you have any humorous or real sad obituaries - if so, please pass them along.

'Search for Ancestors' Web site

I'm always on the lookout for web sites that make my research job easier. The Search for Ancestors site was found by a tip in the latest San Diego Genealogical Society newsletter.

There are a number of search pages at this site, including:

1) Easy Google Genealogy Search (many choices)
2) Global Genealogy Search (databases with surnames)
3) Quick Search Surname Finder (30 global search engines)
4) Records Search (military, obituary, cemetery, biography, etc)
5) Ethnic Genealogy Search
6) Regional Search
7) Genealogy How-To and Help
8) Rootsweb Search
9) Internet Genealogy Search
10) Living People Search
11) Surname Origin Search
12) Surname Information Search
13) Tools for Genealogy
14) Historical Maps for Genealogy

Each of these topics has several more links on the page. There are several other links on the right sidebar of the web page.

Go explore and let me know if you find something useful!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Janice Farnsworth - a Genealogy hero!

One of my genealogy heroes is Janice Farnsworth, who has transcribed and edited numerous New England history books and posted them freely on the Internet. Her web site with the transcriptions, and links to other sites with her work, is here.

Janice posts frequently to the GenMassachusetts-L mailing list for genealogy in the State of Massachusetts. However, her book transcriptions cover all of New England.

I share some of the colonial families with Janice - namely Prescott, Whitney, Stearns and a number of other Watertown, Chelmsford, and Lancaster families. Her work has helped me immeasurably.

Go visit Janice's site and read from some of the books - I have spent hours on her site just reading material that I would have to go to New England to find on a library shelf.

Do you know of other web sites with transcribed genealogy books? If so, please tell me about them!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Does your society have a Research Group?

One of the recent additions to the Chula Vista Genealogical Society schedule has been a monthly Research Group, where members and guests come to discuss their research challenges. We typically have 10 to 15 attendees (in a 75 member society) with occasional guests (this is an excellent way to gather new members). We use a meeting room at the library that seats 20 people around a rectangular table.

The basic idea of the group is that the knowledge and experience in the group exceeds the knowledge and experience of each individual. The absolute necessary requirement for the group to work is that the people with expertise are willing to share their knowledge, and that the discussion is not dominated by any one person. A group of 10 to 15 is ideal - there is a lot of expertise and the moderator can control the flow of the meeting effectively.

Each month, the moderator provides the genealogy news highlights of the month; then leads a 10 minute discussion about some aspect of genealogy -- today it was where to find articles about genealogy research on the Internet. Then the discussion is opened up to the attendees - what research problems do they have? What good research news do they have? What aspect of genealogy do they want to know more about?

Several attendees present their research problems, often using an information form based on the Everton's magazine form. After each research problem is presented, then the other attendees ask questions, comment on their experience in the area of interest, or suggest avenues for further research by the presenter. We don't try to solve the problem - we try to help the presenter find more resources to help solve their own problem.

The major success story this month was Bobbie - she had an ancestor she thought was named Mary Tirez, based on the only document she had - a marriage record in 1872 in Lake County IL with difficult handwriting. She had looked in the census records for 1860 and 1870 with no success for a Tirez family. On Monday, she received the death record for Mary's son, and it listed his mother's name as Mary Dryer. Then she found a book for Lake County IL that had the Dreigher family in it, and then found 1860/1870 census records with Mary in the Dwyer and Dyer family. It was a great example of perseverance and searching for as many records as possible. And the variety of surname spellings in the records!

We discussed four other elusive ancestors in our 90 minutes, and all of the presenters have some suggestions for further research.

One of the real benefits of this group is that, over 3 years, we have improved the research and critical thinking skills of 20 to 30 researchers, and have gained about 10 new members through the group activities.

Does your society have a group like this? If so, what is the format? If not, why don't you start one?

The GenForum Message Boards

An effective way to find other genealogists who may be researching your elusive ancestors, or have data about them, is to use Message Boards.

I covered the Ancestry/Rootsweb message boards here. The other major Message Board site is the Genforum at This collection has thousands of surname boards, thousands of locality boards (one for each county in every state or province), and some topic boards.

If you click on this link, you can determine of there is a message board for your surname or locality of interest. In the "Forum Finder" box, enter a surname, state name or county name in the box to find a Message Board. When you click on "Find" you will get a list of boards with the keyword you entered.

Alternatively, you could find a surname board by clicking on one of the alphabetic letters and checking the list of surnames with a Board. You could also find a state or county board by clicking on "US States".

When you go to a specific message board, you can see a list of posts submitted by other researchers. For instance, click here for the Seaver message board. As of today, there are 348 posts on this surname message board. You could choose to read them all one-by-one, but GenForum provides a Search capability at the top of the page.

To search on just the Seaver message board, you would enter a name and/or locality in the "Search this Forum" box and click on "Go". If you were searching, say, for Isaac Seaver, you might enter just "Isaac" in the Search box and click "Go". There are six posts which mention a given name "Isaac". You could click on the link of a post and read the post and see if it helps you in your search. If you get too many hits with your search, then you could add a spouse's name or a locality to narrow the search.

Once you click on a message, you can determine if there were responses to that message, and by clicking on the highlighted title, you could read the responses. You can print the messages by clicking on the [Print Message] button, and a printer friendly page appears, with the email address of the submitter. To get back to the Message Board list, you can click [<--Back] until you get there.

Now I know that you have more than one surname, and are not too interested in the Seaver message board (only I am, apparently!). Rather than going back to the very beginning on the GenForum page and searching for a surname, you can edit the URL (the address for the web page) for the Seaver message board web page, the one that ends in ".../seaver/" Put your cursor at the end of the URL, and click twice. That should put your cursor at the end of the URL. Then backspace over the name "seaver" and then type your surname of interest (say, "Smith") so that the URL ends in ".../smith" and hit your Enter key. You can then go to the Smith surname message board.

Obviously, you can go to different surname message boards, with your surnames of interest, easily, using this method.

You can do the same thing for localities too, but you will have to edit more letters in the URL, which ends with, for example, ".../ny/jefferson/" for Jefferson County, New York. Note that you could backspace back to ".../ny/" and hit Enter and get the New York state message board. You could also change ".../ny/" to say ".../md/" and go to the Maryland board. You could add "annearundel" to get to the Genforum board for Anne Arundel County in Maryland.

I save one surname message board to my Favorites list, and one locality board also, in order to be able to get to them quickly, and also to be able to go to another surname or locality without starting at the beginning on Genforum. You don't need to save a Favorite for every surname or locality, using the method above. I try to check my favorite surname and locality boards on a monthly basis.

If you haven't used Message Boards before, you might be surprised by how much information is available there. You may even find a cousin or two that can help you, or vice versa.

More Census Whacking - PG Rating

I can't help it...I like to find funny (or strange) names in the cxensus records. I don't have much free time on my hands, but I spend a bit of it doing this for amusement. As you might imagine, some of the names are a bit naughty. Some are real naughty...but I will leave them to your own census whacking proclivities (you know the seven words? Try them). This list includes some PG-rated names.

These are all from the 1900 US Census head-of-household index on Heritage Quest Online. Some are funny/strange/sad given names, some are funny/strange/sad surnames, and most are a funny/strange/sad combination of given and surnames.

Smart Rich -- Hampton county, SC
Pros Folker -- Pottawatomie County, KS
Ass Weed -- New York City
Mary Mother -- Fillmore County, MN
Valentine Hunk -- Ellsworth County, KS

Slow Walks -- Chouteau County, MT
Doctor Play -- Moore County, NC
Jack Ripper -- Rockland County, NY
King Solomon -- Washington County, MS
Ding Dong -- San Francisco, CA

Peter Pecker -- Livingston County, NY
Peter Penis -- Onondaga County, NY
Peter Teaser -- Peoria County, IL
Reinhard Prick -- Macomb County, MI
David Horndog -- Buffalo County, SD

Pussy Moorehead -- Orange County, IN
Titty Peister -- Newberry County, SC
Hugh Titman -- Schuylkill County, PA
Tan Tits -- Hudson county, NJ
Virgin Buster -- Miller County, MO

Tillie Fugger -- Onondaga County, NY
Baldrock Blind -- Tuolumne County, CA
Harry Stink -- Blair county, PA
Fannie Off -- Cook County, IL
Fook You -- Multnomah County, OR

Golden Bastard -- Jefferson County, AR
Elmer Ghoul -- Tioga County, PA
Lord Z. Demon -- Lawrence County, OH
Kid Dude -- Issaquena County, MS
Puke Goodbar -- Davidson County, TN

I apologize if you are offended by these names - I didn't make them up. Their parents named them, or the census taker messed them up!

Is anybody reading descended from any of these folks? It would be interesting (and maybe time wasting) to track some of these folks back to at least 1850.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Data Mining in User Pages on

Did you know that thousands of genealogists have submitted data in the form of genealogy reports to the Users pages at

Including me! You can visit my genealogy page here. Down at the bottom of my home page there are links to 19 different genealogy reports on my site about my ancestry and Linda's ancestry. For example, you can see one of the reports here - the Ancestry of my 3rd Great-grandfather, Benjamin Seaver (1791-1825). has provided a search tool to use to help you find other people who may have your ancestor in their genealogy reports. Here are the steps to take to find them - unfortunately, they didn't make this easy!

1) On the home page, enter a given name and a surname in the boxes at the top of the pages. As an example, enter the name "Norman" in the given name box and "Seaver" in the surname box, and click on the [Search!] button.

2) The search engine scans the holdings at and shows you a list of hits in a number of different categories. Unfortunately, most of these are inside the paid subscription databases. There are two that are not - the "Family Home Pages" and the "GenForum Message Boards." For "Norman Seaver" there are 3 matches for Family Home Pages that contain that name. Click on "3 Matches" next to "Family Home Pages."

3) A page with links to the 3 Family Home Pages comes up. Select the 3rd one down by clicking on the Title.

4) A page which is part of the "Descendants of Samuel and Elizabeth (Leatherhead) Cutter" should come up. The name "Norman Seaver" is somewhere on this page. Use the [Edit} {Find] buttons and enter "Seaver" and click on [Find Next]. It takes you to Sally Seaver, the daughter of Norman Seaver and Eunice Reed, who married a Josiah Cutter.

5) This web page is page 31 out of 475. The author has posted quite a bit of information on this family line from the immigrants. At the top of this web page are some links for [Next Page], [Prev Page], [Home Page], etc. If you click on [Prev Page] or [Next Page] you can continue reading the book. If you click on [Home Page] you will see the introduction to the web page of Dennis Cutter. If you click on [Go To Page] you can select a page in the report to go to directly rather than step through page-by-page.

The reason I chose Norman Seaver as the search topic was to point out the flaw in the Search system at this web site. It will find people in reports submitted by people that have the URL but not reports submitted to the URL I know this because it didn't find MY Norman Seaver on my web page, who is in the "Ancestors of Benjamin Seaver" report.

The way around this flaw in their search system is to use Google. If I Google the names "Norman Seaver" and "Sarah Read" then my web page is in the short list of hits (it's short because I forced "Norman" and "Seaver", and "Sarah" and "Read", to be together rather than just on the same web page).

This is a useful web site to mine for user submitted data, but it does have the flaw noted above. As always, the searcher needs to beware that all the data found on sites like this may not be correct; as an example, the entry for Sally Seaver said her mother was Eunice Reed, while my data (which I am sure is correct) says she was "Sarah Read."

Monday, May 22, 2006

CVGS Surname List

One of the projects that the Chula Vista Genealogical Society is working on is a members' Surname List. We have Ahnentafels (a list of ancestors numbered like on a pedigree chart) from about 15 members, and are going through the Society's collection of 5 generation pedigree charts to add more to the surname list.

The Surname List is posted on the CVGS web site on this page.

The list is surname first, then given name, then birth and death years, if known. By clicking on the surname in the list, the reader goes to the Ahnentafel submitted by the member. If desired, the reader can contact the society to be hooked up with the member who submitted the Ahnentafel.

Does your society have a Surname List on the web? If so, where is it? Is there a master list of society Surname Lists available on the web? It seems to me like that would be a nice thing to have.

Have you had a "Problem Solving Workshop" at your local society?

I am the Program Chairman for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (south of san Diego CA), and wanted to share a summary of our program today.

Every so often (usually when the Program Chair fails to find a speaker in time!) we run a "Problem Solving Workshop" as our monthly program. We had one today which I moderated, and it worked out quite well. Our expert panel was three highly respected and experienced members of our society - Shirley Becker, Bernice Heiter and Susi Pentico - who were asked to provide suggested research avenues to help solve the problems. The goal was to help the members research further, not to stump the panel or to have them do the research for the member. We allotted about ten minutes for each problem.

We solicited the research problems of our membership, and used the first six that we received. I had them fill out an "Elusive Ancestor" form (similar to the one in Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine) to summarize their problem statement, what they knew about the subject, their sources and additional information. I then made an overhead of each completed form for the audience to see while the problem was described by the presenter and addressed by the panel. I provided a copy of each problem to the panel last week so that they could gather thoughts. The panel had the society's set of Research Guidelines published by the Family History Library for each state, plus several resource books, at their table in order to help address the problems.

The members' problems were:

1) Identity of parents of William Reynolds Spencer (1806 Greene County NY - 1883 Iowa County, WI), married to Tarry Hopper, parents of Nancy Spencer (b 1826), resided in Greene County NY and Allegany County NY.

2) Identity of parents of Jesse Lee Jones (1855 MO - 1947 KS), married to (1) Sarah Gregory, father of Ferdinand Clark Jones (b. 1874 in MO).

3) Records for life and ancestry of John Robinson Hall (1886 NY - ???), married to Anna Schrader (b. 1895 NJ), had son Louis Robinson Hall (b. 1918 in NY). The only data found for JRH so far is a WWI draft registration card when he resided in 1918 in Los Angeles and was an "Aviation Director."

4) Identity of Sarah Pulver (?) (??? - 1874 MI), who married Henry Sharpsteen in the 1860's and had son Verne Sharpsteen (b. ca 1868) in Calhoun County MI. The Pulver surname shows up only in the son's marriage record.

5) Identity and ancestry of Mary Tirez (?) (1854 IL - 1915 IL), who married Lorenzo Titus and had 4 children. The Tirez name shows up only in her marriage record in 1872 (but the handwriting is difficult to read, and the spelling is different in the marriage authorization and in the priest's return).

6) Proof of the parents of Sebastian Arney (1775 VA - 1810 VA), who married Anna Maria Phillippi in 1795 in Wythe County VA, and had many children. He may be the son of Christian Arney (1750 PA - 1834 NC), a RevWar veteran with a pension file who resided in Lincoln County NC after 1775, but Sebastian is not mentioned in Christian's will or Pension File.

The panel did a nice job on the six problems presented by the members. These were all difficult research problems that the members had worked on over a long time, and they are typical of the research problems we all face in the time frame and localities mentioned. The panel made several excellent suggestions for further research to each of the presenters. State census, federal census, land records and probate records were often suggested to hel psolve the problems.

If anyone reading this blog knows something about any of these problem families, please contact me at

Has your society had a program like this? If not, you might consider it, especially if you have a hard time finding a speaker.

I am currently booking speakers for two programs in September and then in all of 2007, so if you would like to offer to present a 60 minute program in Chula Vista, please contact me at We can offer a receptive audience of 30 to 40, a free lunch and a small honorarium to defray expenses.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dollarhide's Census Book is online

One of the most useful books on US federal census records was "The Census Book" by William Dollarhide. It is available online for FREE at this site. It is in PDF files for each chapter.

Chapter 5 provides a form for each federal census, and a special form to help decipher the household entries for 1790 to 1840 where only the head of household is named and numbers of people in different age and gender groups are provided by the census rather than names of those in the household. See page 180 for the special form.

What other genealogy research books are online for Free? Tell me!

Lauren in Las Vegas

Life is a mosaic, and one of the "panels" in my mosaic is my grandchildren. Blogging was light (well, non-existent!) last weekend because Angel Linda and I went off to Victorville and then Las Vegas to celebrate Lauren's father's birthday. Her mother surprised him with the trip and a party at PFChang's in the Aladdin on Saturday, with his family and friends there.

We stayed at the MGM Grand, and had a wonderful time. We shared a large two-bedroom suite with Lauren and her parents, and she slept in our room with us so that her folks could party the two nights away. Here is a picture of Linda and I with Lauren in the hotel lobby. You should see the lions at this place - the trainers sat with them just across the window from us. One night, we sat across from Howie Mandel in the casino restaurant - Lauren got a smile from him and his party when she toddled around the tables.

The highlight for us was the River Pool at the MGM Grand where we all got in the flowing river, with an inner tube, and swam for about two hours. The pool has waterfalls and spray jets to liven the scene while you swim or float past everybody on the sides getting a tan (I don't tan, I burn easily, hence the hat and sitting in the shade). Here is a picture of Lauren and I taking a break from swimming to people watch. I had great fun floating along with Lauren pretending she was swimming and running her under the water sprays. She giggles a lot.

So what does this have to do with genealogy? Nothing, but it has everything to do with my family history, and it's my blog, so it's a fair tradeoff. I get to show her off, and you get a glimpse of my real life (all three of you that read my blog once in awhile!).

Don't panic - I'll write some more genealogy stuff tomorrow. Today, enjoy the pictures of a very cute little girl and her proud grandma and grandpa.