Saturday, June 10, 2006

Identity Theft Scare - Balderdash!!

A local TV station (10News in San Diego) showed a scary "Identity Theft" video the other night, and has an article on its web site here.

The scare is that identity thieves could find the Social Security number of a dead person on the Internet, then open credit cards by assuming the identity of the dead person using data found on the web (SSDI, genealogy, obituaries, etc).

This has raised some interest locally, and a local Congress-critter Susan Davis (D-53rd CA) has a bill that requires the SSA to provide death data to all credit card companies.

Discussion of this on the APG message board centers on:

1) The Social Security Administration doesn't post the SSDI on its web site - but it does sell it to private sources that do post it.

2) The primary customers for the SSDI are the credit agencies, credit card companies and financial institutions.

The article also indicates that thieves might be using obituaries to find out the names of relatives and heirs. But no obituary gives an SSN of the deceased.

The reality is that it takes several months for the death records to reach the SSA, for the SSA to add it to the SSDI, and in the meantime the heirs are trying to close accounts right and left with financial institutions who communicate with the credit agencies. And someone thinks that an identity thief will be able to find the SSN before the credit agencies determine the person is really dead? I doubt it.

I still haven't heard of an identity theft case where genealogy data has been used to create a false identity and someone made a profit from it. There have been plenty of theoretical scenarios more intricate than this one - I can think of several myself but I don't want to state them. Have you heard of an actual case? Just name one.

This all appears to be BALDERDASH to me - someone hypothesized that it could happen, they got some "expert" to raise hysteria about it, and proposed a non-solution to correct it, all the while giving more information to potential identity thieves. Argghh.

HeritageQuestOnline access

ProQuest recently announced that they would not renew the contract permitting in-home remote access through genealogical and historical societies to the HeritageQuestOnline (HQO) databases. Apparently, too many people were accessing the HQO databases through their society memberships. Access through the societies will continue until the individual society's current contract expires.

The GOOD NEWS is that you can still access the HQO databases with at-home remote access through a library that subscribes to the HQO databases. You can also access the HQO databases while at a subscribing library, genealogical society or historical society.

The full story was provided by Richard Eastman here.

There are many state and local libraries that currently provide in-home remote access through a library card. The Eastman article lists a number of State libraries that can provide access. He also refers readers to the Encyclopedia of Genealogy artcile on HeritageQuestOnline here, which has a list of the known libraries with in-home remote access.

If you are accessing the HQO databases through a genealogical or historical society, then my advice is to find a state or local library that subscribes to the HQO databases and obtain a library card. In many locales, the cards are free.

Friday, June 9, 2006

An interesting map site

I've used Yahoo! maps and Mapquest for my mapping needs for some time. While I was aware of the GNIS mapping tool for the US, I only used it once or twice.

Now, there is a Mapping tool that combines the traditional street mapping with the view from space - at least for the USA. It is at

When you get to the site, you have a map of the USA. You have to double-click within the map twice to center it on the place you want to view. Then you can use the zoom feature in the upper left corner to get better magnification, right down to the city block level. You can center the map anytime by double-clicking on the map at the place you want to view.

The really neat thing is the "Satellite" button in the upper right hand corner. If you click on that at any time, you can see the view from space. If you click on the "Hybrid" button, you get the view from space with street names. The Satellite and Hybrid views only work in the US, however.

If you want to Print a map, you might want to go to [File] [Page Setup] (on Windows computers) and check the "Landscape" option. Then do a [File][Print Preview] to make sure you are getting everything you want, then [File] [Print] to get the print.

There appear to be street maps for Canada, England and Japan, but not much more at this time. The Satellite view is only of the USA.

A useful site! Enjoy.

The next Tom Seaver ... almost

Tom Seaver is a 10th cousin of mine (I blogged about this before) – our common Seaver ancestor is the immigrant, Robert Seaver and his wife Elizabeth Ballard, who married in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1634.

When Linda and I got married in 1970, Tom Seaver and his wife, Nancy, were big hits in the newspapers and pop magazines, since he was a star pitcher for the New York Mets. We followed his career closely, since he bore our surname and he was the only well-known person with a Seaver surname in the country.

We always had names for our babies while they were in the womb, and we didn’t know the gender, so the names were fairly generic. Our second child was named “T.J.” in the womb and, since it was the bicentennial year (1976), was going to be named “Thomas Jefferson Seaver” if it was a boy. Being big baseball fans, he was going to be “the next Tom Seaver.” My dad was very hopeful and excited about this.

Linda was due in October 1976, and had to go to the DMV to renew her driver’s license. She stood in line and when her name was called, she went to the window and presented her paperwork. The clerk looked at it and said “Are you related to Tom Seaver?”

Linda responded with “I may be any minute.”

Our Tami Joy was born the next day, and has been a joy and a blessing to both of us and to her friends and family ever since. And the "next Tom Seaver" wasn't, so he didn't have real high expectations to meet.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

"The Genealogist" - an English blog

While browsing the RSSgenealogy blog tonight, I saw an entry for "The Genealogist" blog in England.

The blog has many interesting and useful articles and is well worth visiting regularly. Their home page says:

Welcome to the Genealogist Blog!

This is one of a number of sites operated by Paul Duxbury and Kevin Cook which focus on Genealogy which is one of our great passions!

Other sites which we own include:

The Amateur Genealogist

Catholic Genealogy

Our Family Trees

Discovering Your Family Tree

Their passion is evident. While focussed on Britsh Isles research, the material is general enough for all beginning and intermediate researchers. Enjoy!

Wisconsin pre-1907 Vital Records

Birth, marriages and death records for Wisconsin before 1907 are available on the Wisconsin Historical Society web site:

The Wisconsin Pre-1907 Vital Records Index includes over 1 million names entered on Wisconsin marriage records dated between 1852 and September 30, 1907. Vital records, including marriage records, were maintained at the state and/or county level. The Society owns microfilm copies of state level vital records. The online database was created in 2005 by reformatting the state’s microfiche index, adding 27,000 names from delayed birth records, courtesy of the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society, and adding several hundred thousand names from marriage records in counties (Richland through Winnebago) that had not been included on the microfiche index.

The Birth and Death records are straightforward - click on the "Details" link and you get the name, date, county, reel and record number of the microfilms - no parents or spouses listed.

However, the Marriage records have a twist. In addition to the name, date, county and volume/page of the record, there is a link on the marriage page to "Search for possible spouse matches." Clicking this link gives you one or more persons on the same page with the same date and county - perhaps the spouse of the person you selected. Most of the ones I checked showed just one potential spouse, but some had three names as potential spouses; for some reasons, some links provided no spouse names. It's not perfect, but it's better than what we had before.

You can also click on the "Buy" button and order a copy of the vital record certificate from the Society for a fee.

I "mined" data for Seaver, Sever, Carringer and Vaux while I was there last night - very profitable - some new spouse names and some dates I didn't have.

Before you leave the web site, check out the other pages on the Society main web page here - there are links to biographies, cemeteries, images, etc.

My Padres - 60 game report card

It's not genealogy...but it's my team. I'm sure you understand.

After 60 games, My Padres stand at 31 wins, 29 losses, 3 games behind the Snakes mired in 4th place in the NL West. They have won 15 and lost 16 at home, and won 16 and lost 13 on the road. Mediocre. Average. Frustrating.

The team treaded water in this 10 game segment, going 5 and 5, winning 3 of 7 on the road to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, after going 2 and 1 against the Rockies at home. In these 10 games, the Pads scored 29 runs and gave up 32 runs. Yawn...if only they could score more.

The report card for the season to date is:

1) Starting pitching -- C+ (Peavy is hurting, Park, Hensley, and Thompson are inconsistent, and Chris Young has been fabulous the last two starts (3 hits in 14 innings)).

2) Relief pitching -- B- (Hoffman was perfect in saves until today, Cassidy, Sweeney, Linebrink, and Adkins have been pretty good, and Embree has been inconsistent).

3) Speed -- B- (Roberts, Young, Cameron, and Greene have stolen some bases, the old guys are slow...)

4) Defense -- B (infield is solid, outfield is too, at top of NL in fielding average. Bochy uses late inning replacements at catcher)

5) Hitting -- C- (15th in the league in average, l4th in homers, has games when they disappear for long stretches, sometimes puts together big innings. Inconsistent!).

My dad always said that Pitching, Speed, Defense and Power wins games, in that order. He was right.

For the year, my overall grade is C+ (they do have a winning record! and are contending for the NL west lead).

That's it - into the Archives, and back to genealogy!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006


I don't know how he does it, but Chris Dunham consistently comes up with funny stuff relating to genealogy at his The Genealogue blog. I read it every day in the evening and often laugh at loud.

Chris has a wealth of material on his site. Click on the "Exclusives" and "A Few Favorites" links at the top of his page to see the goodies.

My all-time favorite remains Genealogisms. I'm a word nut anyway... here's one of the best:

Kleptonamiac - One who steals names from another's genealogy database to add to his own.

You get the idea - change a real word to reflect a genealogy reality. Go see them all.

Get Genealogy news at

Where do you get your genealogy news?

There is a web site which samples genealogy news daily and puts links all in one place - it is

That page provides links to many genealogy articles on the Internet, including newspapers, web sites, blogs, etc.

If you click on the line at the top of the page for " Daily News Bulletin Blog" you can find a daily summary of news in several categories.

Select one of the numbered "Genealogy News Bulltin #xxx" and you will get a page that has about 100 links every day of news, blogs, software, etc. You will have to scroll down to find these links however, for some reason.

Have fun!

A cure for insomnia

My first foray into genealogy research on the Internet was on the Prodigy internet service in 1992. I soon found a community of fellow researchers with a wealth of information and experience, especially in New England, which was one of my primary research areas.

Over time, I got to know many of the other researchers fairly well, to the extent that we shared family news and did genealogy research for each other. Since I was in San Diego and most of them were in New England, I often did research at my local FHC for them and they did cemetery or other research for me.

Linda T. was one of the people I got to know fairly well, and since she was in Middlesex County MA, she offered to find tombstones in cemeteries in the area for many of us. She went out every weekend with her husband or daughter, and was very successful at finding ancestral stones for me and others, and she took pictures and sent them to us. Then she got the bright idea that she should make a videotape of her rambles around the yards and the stones. Linda T. made a tape with two hours of cemetery ramblings, made copies of the video, and sent one to me.

I was really excited to see the settings of the burial places of my ancestors, and watched the videotape avidly. My wife wandered in one night before bedtime and wondered what I was watching. I said “The cemetery tape that I got from Linda T.” Wanting to be more involved in my genealogy research, she sat on the couch to watch it. Her only comment was “this is sure boring…” Before long, she had fallen asleep on the couch, and slept through the last hour of the tape. Of course, the tape held my interest throughout.

She finally woke up and went right to bed, but now she couldn’t sleep. I told her that I would show the tape again as a cure for her insomnia. She refused and said again “that tape is so boring…” Of course, it took hours for her to get back to sleep, when I knew the tape would have had her snoozing within minutes.

Every since, my wife has complained occasionally of not being able to go to sleep, and my usual response is “I’ll get the cemetery tape out.” She always refuses to watch it – I guess I’ll never understand her logic – surely it would work as a cure for insomnia again.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Who is your 666 Ancestor?

Since this is 6 June 2006 (6-6-6), I thought it would be cool to find out who ancestor #666 in my ahnentafel list is.

Well, he is one of the maternal great-grandfathers of Rebecca Phipps (who married Richard Marshman in 1778 in Wiltshire in England). I have no clue who #666 is. This person is buried pretty deep in one of my "brick walls."

My father's #666 is George Wheeler (born before 18 March 1605/6 in Cranfield, Bedfordshire in England, died 2 May 1687 in Concord, Middlesex County, MA), who married Katherine Penn 8 June 1630 in Cranfield in Bedfordshire, England.

My mother's #666 is a second great-grandfather of Ranslow Smith (born 11 July 1805 in NY, died after 1870 prob. in Taylor county, IA), who married Mary Bell before 1836 in Henderson, Jefferson County, NY. I obviously don't know thie name of this guy either, since Ranslow smith's parentage is another "brick wall" for me.

Oh well, it was an interesting exercise!

Hmm, maybe I shoulda gone for #6606 or 662006. I don't know who they are either.

How about you, do you know who your #666 is?

What's in your Research Notebook?

One of the discussion topics on the APG-L mailing list (it is excellent to read and participate in - with professional genealogists who offer great suggestions and information) was "What do you take to the Library in your Research Notebook?"

Many responders mentioned pedigree charts, family group sheets, ahnentafel lists, etc. Frankly, if I did that, I would need a small truck to carry all of it. Because of my blessed New England ancestry (about 50% of my known ancestors in 12 generations), I am searching about 400 surnames in my kids ancestry (i.e., mine and my wife's).

The 2 inch Research Notebook I take to the library contains records of my ancestral search and the sources I have found to date. My goal when I go to a library is to find records that I haven't found before, and to do that I need to know what I have found before - and I can't remember all of what I have.

Here's my list of what is in my Research Notebook:

1) To-Do lists - books to review, periodicals to review, records to look for in each repository, records to look for in online databases, or records to find for each surname project or "brick wall" ancestor.

2) List of surnames and sources. For each surname: the immigrant ancestor, where they were born, family line residences, books reviewed (surname, anthology, locality), and periodical articles reviewed. This is from a spreadsheet with enough space to write in new entries. I have about 15 surnames per page.

3) Reference data - books and journals reviewed, with source citations. For anthologies with several ancestors, a list of the surnames already reviewed noted on the title page or table of contents.

4) Research summaries of my "brick wall" ancestors. For each one, I have a detailed summary of the data I know and the sources I have reviewed, and a list of records to find.

5) Ahnentafel report of my father's ancestry - 14 generations (48 pages). While this is fairly unwieldy to use, I can find a specific ancestor in a minute or less. This data gives me names, dates and places at a glance. However, it doesn't provide siblings, other spouses, etc. Those are in the database.

6) Ahnentafel report of my mother's ancestry - 14 generations (14 pages).

7) Ahnentafel report of my wife's ancestry - 12 generations (11 pages).

8) Descendant reports of selected ancestors - used to share with new cousins.

9) Names, addresses and phone numbers of cousins and other family researcher correspondents.

I also carry several specific manila folders with my current projects in my carrying case along with the notebook. For instance, if I'm searching the census, I have a census folder with my current research data and lists for further research.

I carry my flash drive with my FTM databases and ancestor books, quarters in film canisters, magnifying glass, membership cards, pencils and pens in the pocket of my carrying case.

The above isn't perfect. A laptop would be nice, but until I get one with all of my databases, text files and photgraphs in it, that's what works for me.

Best Genealogy Cartoons? - Genetoons!

Cyndi's List includes a category for Genealogy Humor here.

The absolute best site for Cartoons is Genetoons. The current cartoon shows in the larger view on the page. By clicking on the thumbnail on the left margin, you can see earlier cartoons.

My favorite one is this:

We have ALL been there, haven't we? Even my wife thought it was funny...but then she faces this issue almost nightly.

Go to Genetoons and browse through the cartoons. It's an enjoyable half hour.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Genealogy heroes in the graveyard

I ran across this article in the Watertown (WI) Daily Times. It tells the story of Larry and Linda Kopet of Oconomowoc have taken over 100,000 pictures of headstones in 903 cemeteries covering 60 of Wisconsin's 72 counties in the last 18 months - for free. They say:

Their process is simple and effective. Larry, 60, visits the cemeteries and snaps the photos, which are then put on a computer disk. Linda then goes through each one and names them. Finally, the photos are sent on to Tina Vickery, the state of Wisconsin coordinator for the USGenWeb project, and they are placed on the USGenWeb Internet site for anyone to view.

Check quickly for the article - it may go into the Archives any time soon.

What a super addition to the USGenWeb sites.

I wonder if they've found my Mary Smith in Dodge County (I'm not kidding - Mary died in the 1860's, the wife of Ranslow Smith who moved to Iowa by 1870 and married again)? I guess I'd better go look.

Who is Abraham Lincoln's father?

I know I'm way behind the times with this, but I wasn't blogging then!

GenealogyToday had an exclusive article in late 2005 here about Abraham Lincoln's purported biological father. The summary on the web site reads:

The cover is off the genesis cover-up of Abraham Lincoln. No longer is it a mystery who was the natural father of our 16th President. For years others were rumored to be his father, yet Thomas Lincoln was never mentioned. That is, until the federal government, at the behest of his son Robert Todd Lincoln, then Secretary of War, ordered that one of a possible sixteen sites in Kentucky and his birth date of 1809 be officially established to preserve his reputation.

History researcher R. Vincent Enlow, a New Jersey resident, uncovered not only an overwhelming evidence favoring one Abraham Enloe, a North Carolinian, as Lincoln's sire, but a wealth of assumptions and loopholes in the Kentucky "Sunday-school" versions of Lincoln's early life published after his assassination in 1865.

Click on the link where it says "Download" or you can read the article online or download it to your hard drive (use the "Save File" icon on Adobe Reader, not your Windows [File] [Save As] buttons.

The article is fairly persuasive, but it tells only one side of the story, while debunking the "official" version. This article relies on affidavits and testimony by relatives and acquaintances of Abraham Enloe and Nancy Hanks taken back around 1900. We all love mysteries and controversies, eh?

Unfortunately, no Y-DNA test can be done to solve this case, since Abraham Lincoln has no living male descendants to match against a living descendant of Abraham Enloe. I think I heard last year that someone was looking for hair samples from Abraham or his son Robert Todd Lincoln to find enough DNA to perform a test. Do I recall correctly?

Can anyone provide further information on this article or the paternity of Abraham Lincoln?

Post #100 on genea-blogging

It's been only 6 weeks, but this is Post #100 for this Musing Genea-blogger. Hmmm, maybe it should be Blogging Genea-Muser.

Other than self-congratulations (since my arms are too short to pat myself on the back), I do have some thoughts about blogging on genealogy matters.

1) There is a wealth of genealogy information out there, and it is easy to write about it all. But most of what is available is not new or different. The challenge is to find new and useful information.

2) I've tried to post two or three items each day, based on absolute whim, on items that flash on my screen, or on something I read. What I post is usually a first draft and sometimes is not too coherent or timely. My criteria has evolved to be what might be interesting to a beginning genealogist or to the people in my local society. I can't replace Eastman, Smith, Morgan, Aitken, Meitzler or Dunham, among others, and am not trying to.

3) The major benefit I see to blogging is that it gets me to write almost every day. I have created more content in these six weeks than I had in the last year. I will use it in my genealogy talks and in our society newsletter.

3) Blogger is pretty easy to use, once you figure out how to add links and pictures and quotes.

4) Blogging is great for off-the-top-of-the-head shallow thoughts or string-of-consciousness diaries. As an archive of memorable prose or a reservoir of articles, it sucks pretty bad.

5) Even with 20 posts visible, most visitors to the blog don't read much, some nothing at all (probably the click-throughs hitting "Next Blog" looking for whatever turns them on). And when the posts age off into the monthly Archives, I would hazard a guess that nobody even looks there.

6) My conclusion is that this isn't the best platform for memorable prose or "how-to" genealogy articles. It can be useful for "web site of the day" type of posts. At some point, I will put up some web pages for my articles and genealogy data.

7) Lastly, the geneablogging audience is limited. The problem is exposure - when I posted to a mailing list or someone touted my blog, I got a spike in visitor hits, but they rapidly decreased afterwards. People just aren't "trained" yet to visit genealogy blogs (with some exceptions, I think) every day, or even every week.

To my regular readers (I think the count is 3 or 4) - thank you! I will continue to provide timely and hopefully amusing genealogy research tips and the occasional personal note. Visit often, and please tell your friends! And comment - I get lonesome!

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Genealogy research in Mexico

Here in southern California, doing genealogy research in Mexico records has been of growing interest since a signifcant part of our population has Mexican heritage. Our Chula Vista Genealogical Society (the most southerly California society!) has had several inquiries in recent months about research in Mexican records. We have referred most of the requests to a local Hispanic Genealogy Group that meets in a local Family History Center on a regular basis.

The lead article in Kimberly Powell's web site/blog is about Mexican research - you can find the article hereSShe introduces the article with:

Due to hundreds of years of meticulous record-keeping, Mexico offers a wealth of church and civil records for the genealogical and historical researcher. It is also the homeland of one in every 10 Americans. Learn more about your Mexican heritage, with these steps for tracing your family tree in Mexico.

The article describes the history, Spanish rule, Spanish society, Mexican Civil Records and church records.

If you want even more information, another very helpful guide to doing genealogical research in Mexican records can be found in the LDS Research Outline for Mexico - you can start to read it here. That link takes you to the list of Research Outlines available at the web site.

To access the Mexico outline, click on the "M" to go to the list of Guides starting with "M", then scroll down to "Mexico" and "Mexico Research Outline" and click on "PDF". Click on OK, and the 68 page outline should appear. You can read it, print it out or save it to your hard drive (use the icon in Adobe Reader, not your [File] [Save As] buttons).

Linkpendium has many genealogy links

Have you searched for your surname(s) or ancestral localities on Linkpendium yet? You might want to...

For a US locality search, click on the State and then the County of interest. I wondered what I could find for Windham County, connecticut, so I ended up here. There are 417 links for the County on this page! I decided to look for maps to try to find my Oatley and White ancestral homes in the late 1800's. There are 46 map links, including some for 1845, 1855, 1945, etc. I found J. Oatley's home location in 1855.

But Linkpendium localities have more than maps - they have categories of Biographies, Cemeteries, Census, Church, Directories, Estates, History, Immigration, Libraries, Mailing Lists, Maps, Military, Miscellaneous, Newspaper, Obituaries, Photographs, Projects, Societies, Surnames and Vital Records. Some counties will have more of one than the other, but the total Locality section has an amazing number of links.

When you were back on the Linkpendium main page, you could have clicked on the Surnames link, which has over 4 million links in the database. On the Surname page, you can select one of the letters of the alphabet (I chose "O" for Oatley) - note that they include several European "special character" letters also. Then in the "O" list, I chose the link to surnames starting with "Oat" and found 16 links for the Oatley surname. Clicking on these links takes you to web pages (some are commercial sites like Ancestry) that have data on the Oatley surname.

Someone has put a lot of effort into this web site, and continues to do so, with additions weekly.

I have Linkpendium on my Favorites list, do you?