Saturday, July 8, 2006

Great San Diego GS Program today

The San Diego Genealogical Society program today was excellent - the speaker was Leland Fetzer, a retired college professor who has written several books about the San Diego area, including his latest - San Diego County Place Names A to Z (published by Sun Belt Publications, 2005).

Leland is a great speaker - no notes, no overheads, no handouts - just a strong voice and a head full of knowledge about the special place I live.

He gave us a quiz at the start of his talk - 10 questions on place names we should know the answer to - very few people got many of them right.

Leland described the derivation of the names of San Diego County places as like a three-layered cake - the Indian names on the bottom, the Spanish/Mexican names in the middle, and the American names at the top. He gave examples of each, and corrected many false impressions (Tijuana = Aunt Jane? La Jolla = The Jewel? El Monte = The Mountain? etc.) And why are Boulevard, Jesmond Dene, Olivenhain and other places named the way they are?

At the end of the talk, he opened it up for questions and fielded at least 30 requests for information about place names.

All in all, it was an excellent program. SDGS has had outstanding programs all year with a good variety of topics and new speakers.

Free Digital Books (330,000) online

On the APG list, Ray Beere Johnson II reported that there are 330,000 digital texts available, for FREE, for personal download at the http://World Ebook Fair until 4 August. Ray has been downloading a book on ancient Irish historical and genealogical resources (from the CELT collection).

The World Ebook Fair web site says:
Ten times as many eBooks are available from private eBook sources, without the media circus that comes with 100 billion dollar media mavens such as Google. The World eBook Fair has created a library of wide ranging samples of these eBooks, totaling 1/3 million. Here are eBooks from nearly every classic author on the varieties of subjects previously only available through the largest library collections in the world. Now these books are yours for personal use, free of charge, to keep for the rest of your lives.

Click on the "Browse Collection" link and you can see what collections are included. You can use a search engine (the results look like Google results) to find key words in the collection. A search for "genealogy" produced about 1600 hits, not all of which are in our interest. A search for my surname, "seaver" produced 58 hits, at least one of which looks interesting to me.

Please note that the Ebooks here cover a broad field and not just genealogy. Look for books in your other interests (history, politics, literature, art, etc) too.

Thanks to Ray's tip for this good news.

My Presidential Cousins

I posted my relationships to George W. Bush yesterday, so I thought I would list all of my relationships to American Presidents today.

JOHN ADAMS - 4th cousin, 8 times removed
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS - 5th cousin, 7 times removed
FRANKLIN PIERCE - 5th cousin, 7 times removed
MILLARD FILLMORE - 7th cousin, 11 times removed
ABRAHAM LINCOLN - 7th cousin, 4 times removed
ULYSSES S. GRANT - 7th cousi, 5 times removed
RUTHERFORD B. HAYES - 7th cousin, 4 times removed
GROVER CLEVELAND - 7th cousin, 3 times removed
JAMES GARFIELD - 8th cousin, 3 times removed
WILLIAM H. TAFT - 7th cousin, 4 times removed
WARREN G. HARDING - 8th cousin, 2 times removed
CALVIN COOLIDGE - 7th cousin, 3 times removed
HERBERT HOOVER - 8th cousin, 3 times removed
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT - 7th cousin, 4 times removed
RICHARD M. NIXON - 10th cousin
GERALD R. FORD - 10th cousin, once removed
GEORGE H.W. BUSH - 9th cousin
GEORGE W. BUSH - 9th cousin, 2 times removed

I figured these out by comparing my ahnentafel chart to the charts in the book "Ancestors of American Presidents" by Gary Boyd Roberts.

Obviously, having this many Presidential cousins relates to my extensive New England ancestry. Like my relationships to GWB, I share many colonial ancestors with some of the guys above. My New England cousins were impressed by the list.

Reciting these to anyone but genealogists seems to make their eyes glaze over. But it does provide blog content for me.

How about you? Any Presidential cousins? Tell me about them.

Friday, July 7, 2006

The Complete Genealogy Reporter

Are you satisfied with the genealogy reports produced by your genealogy database software? I'm not - I use FamilyTreeMaker and am frustrated by the inability of the program to give me a report that I can edit and still create an index automatically.

Today, I heard about The Complete Genealogy Reporter. This program purports to:

You can now create a comprehensive narrative ancestry report or book with fully cross-referenced texts, notes, media, family tree diagrams, and indices.

The Complete Genealogy Reporter can incorporate all cousins, aunts, uncles, and indirect relationships via marriage or adoption, into a customized document for any individual in your GEDCOM file.

The program uses a GEDCOM file created from your genealogy database using your genealogy program and then writes a report for you based on inputs you provide for different options. The program details, operation and a sample report are shown on the web site. There is support through email with the creator.

You can download the current version of the program for free, but after 30 days you have to register it and pay $24.95 to continue using it. I'm going to try it out and see if it satisfies my needs. I'll tell you about my findings in a few weeks.

Check it out.

A good genealogy day

I really like my Fridays - I usually do genealogy work all day long (or until the baseball game comes on). The local Family History Center was closed this week, so I stayed home and tried to burn down some of my action piles, such as:

1) Added several land records, census records and vital records to my SEAVER surname database.

2) Added several Plymouth Colony families to my DILL database, based on data gleaned from books and journals.

3) Finished transcribing the wills and inventories for some Bristol County MA 17th century ancestors.

4) Updated my list of databases that I have perused for my SEAVER surname search.

5) Found my info on my relationships to George W. Bush, and blogged about it.

After six hours of this, my butt is sore and my typing fingers are smoking, but I'm happy that I made some progress today. There are still many records to find (very few are online) and add to the databases to prove relationships and complete my research (BG).

I have my own theory of how things get done - Randy's Chunk Principle - if you do a small chunk of work often, you will eventually end up with a lot of information and maybe even complete your project.

My research? You can see it at - there are genealogy reports there for my ancestry (in several parts), my Seaver surname database, and other surname databases too. If you find any errors or omissions, or have additions, please let me know!

The President is my cousin, too

There was a recent online article about the census database being completed, and noting that President George W. Bush and vice-President Dick Cheney are cousins. The common ancestor mentioned was William Fletcher of Chelmsford MA in the 17th cetury. The article is here.

After doing a bit of checking, and finding a database on the Internet with George W. Bush's ancestry here, I figured out that I have the following relationships with President Bush (the generations back are from me):

* Daniel and Mary (Grant) Smith of Watertown MA (10 generations)
* Ebenezer and Mary (Smith) Phillips of Charlestown and Southborough MA (10 generations)
* Thomas and Mehitable (Garnsey) Horton of Rehoboth MA (11 generations)
* John and Eunice (MOusall) Brooks of Woburn MA (11 generations)
* Thomas and Elizabeth (Cole) Pierce of woburn MA (11 generations)
* John and Mary (Gawkroger) Prescott of Lancaster MA (12 generations)
* Ephraim and Mary (Bullen) Clark of Medfield MA (12 generations)
* William and Mabel (Kendall) Reed of Woburn MA (12 generations)
* Anthony and Anne (____) Pierce of Watertown MA (12 generations)
* Samuel and Anne (Sheldon) Walker of Reading MA (12 generations)
* William and Lydia (____) Fletcher of concord MA (12 generations)
* John and Anne (Smith) Moore of Sudbury MA (12 generations)

I think we share several others in earlier generations, but I don't want to bore everybody (BG).

My father's Ahnentafel is here on the Chula Vista Genealogical Society Surname Search database.

By my calculations, George W. Bush is my 8th cousin. Some of my New England cousins were appalled that they were related to the President. Then I told them about all the other Presidents they were related to (that's another blog article) - most are Republicans! They believe me (I think), but are not happy campers. Now I need to work on Dick Cheney's cousinship with me!

Do you think if I write my cousin George and give him advice on running the country that he will listen to me? If I invite him to stay over at my humble abode on his next visit to San Diego, do you think he will accept?

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Online Book - Alumni of Harvard College

Janice Farnsworth has done it again -- transcribed a book of really useful information.

You can find The Necrology of the Alumni of Harvard College, 1851-52 to 1862-63 by Joseph Palmer here.

Her comment is:

This work is priceless. A biography of each and every one. Their achievements, marriages, children and deaths. In particular are those Harvard men who served and died in the Civil War. The author writes of their sacrifice, in some cases their dying words. (in one case, dying words were, "Mother - my mother").

The citation for the book is:

Necrology of the Alumni of Harvard College, 1851-52 To 1862-63, By Joseph Palmer Of The Class Of 1820. Boston: Printed By J. Wilson And Son, 15 Water Street, Boston. 1864.

Be advised that the text file is 1.2 mb, and was added to Janice's web site on 6 July 2006.

Janice's web site is

Massachusetts Vital Records

Massachusetts towns have been recording vital events (births, marriages, deaths) since about 1635. Before 1850, they were in recorded in Town Record books. During the 1930's, as a WPA project, books for many towns were published that captured the VR data up to 1850 - these are usually referred to as the "Tan Books" after the color of the book cover. Many of these books have been digitized and are available at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) site, on subscription site, or in private transcription projects (see the USGenWeb county sites for all of the details). Books for some towns not included in the WPA project have been published over the years by NEHGS and other publishers.

In 1841, the State decreed that Births, Marriages and Deaths should be recorded by the towns and lists of each should be sent to the State Secretary each year. The town lists were combined into county books, which are stored at the Massachusetts State Archives. Microfilms of the Indexes of these books, and the page images of the books, are available at the LDS Family History Library, the New England Historic Genealogical Society and other locations. The NEHGS web subscription site has the complete index (1841-1910) and almost all of the images (the list at NEHGS says 1901, but there are some images for later years posted). also has a few of these indexes available on their subscription site, but no images of the pages.

After 1910, researchers have to go to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics in Dorchester MA either physically or request data via email or online, in order to obtain records.

There are also individuals and firms who will obtain any of these records for a fee.

For some reason, most of this information is not shown on many of the web pages that summarize birth, marriage and death records availability. Some of these VR sites do have links to the Ancestry subscription site, but not many link to the NEHGS subscription site for some reason. Frankly, they should link to both, and also to the private free transcription sites that I've blogged about previously.

Finding Sanborn Maps

One of the challenges that genealogists often face is to find the exact location of the homes of their ancestors. It is easier to find these homes in the 20th century than earlier. City directories and census records often provide the address of your ancestors or relatives, but finding the location of their homes can be difficult, especially in urban areas.

A description of Sanborn Maps is (from the NEHGS NewEnglandAncestors web site):

Sanborn fire insurance maps are the most frequently consulted maps in both public and academic libraries. Sanborn maps are valuable historical tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, environmentalists and anyone who wants to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

They are large-scale plans containing data that can be used to estimate the potential risk for urban structures. This includes information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. Seven or eight different editions represent some areas.

Sanborn Maps exist for many cities and towns for many years, but they can be difficult to find. Only some can be found online. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has a collection of Sanborn Maps for 8 Eastern States (New England, NJ, NY) for many cities and towns, and many years.

For instance, my Seaver ancestors lived in Leominster MA for many years. The NEHGS site has maps for 1884, 1891, 1896, 1901, 1906, 1912, 1922, and 1931. I was able to find the ancestral homes at 149 Lancaster Street and 290 Central Street, in addition to the locations of the Horn Supply Sompany and Paton Mfg Company where my grandfather and great-grandfather worked. On the NEHGS site, you can select the "Download Map" tab and get a PDF file that you can magnify until you can read it easily, then move around in the map using the browser slide bars. Finally, you can download the map by doing a "File" "Save As" and putting it on your hard drive where you can find it later.

For San Diego, the San Diego Historical Society has the Sanborn Maps in a large format - to get a copy you have to do a portion at a time on the xerox machine. They were quite useful in finding which buildings were extant in a certain year, and by examining maps for different years I could see the community grow up around my ancestral home on 30th Street.

If you have found addresses of your ancestors or relatives in City Directories or census records, then the Sanborn Maps can easily show you the community that they lived in, and how the community changed over time.

Have you looked for Sanborn Maps of your ancestral places in either digital or paper form? Genealogical societies, historical societies, public libraries and academic libraries are probably your best sources.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Learning Genealogy Web Skills Tutorial

The Internet and the plethora of genealogy research sites can be overwhelming for new researchers.

The best site I've found for introducing many of the "standard" online research sites is the "Research Your Family Tree Tutorial" site. This online tutorial course demonstrates how to use many Internet sites, and allows you to practice using the sites with your own family data.

The Objectives of the course are (from the site):

During this tutorial, you will learn to locate family history information and gather documentation to confirm the accuracy of your information. After successfully completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

** Ask questions that elicit important family history information from knowledgeable relatives.

** Record names, dates, places, and sources on Ancestor Charts and Family Group Sheets.

** Use online databases for locating family history information.

** Use the Google search engine to find Web pages containing information on your ancestors.

** Collect vital records documenting births, marriages, and deaths.

** Locate other documentation about your family such as census records, probate records, church records, and military records.

** Communicate with other researchers gathering information on your surname (last name) or geographic area.

That's quite a set of objectives, isn't it?

The Course Outline is on the left hand margin of the web site - you can click on one of these module topics:

1 - Getting Started (home sources, charts, recording information, citing sources)

2 - Using Online Resources (online databases, search engines and directories)

3 - Gathering Key Records (vital records, census records)

4 - Exploring Further (probate, land, military, newspaper records)

5 - Sharing Information (discussion lists, message boards, software programs)

In each module, you can see a demonstration of what is being taught, and you can practice online with guidance from a step-by-step list on the left side of the screen.

This is an EXCELLENT online tutorial site - and can be perused at the pace of the learner. If you are just starting out in research, or know someone who is just starting, refer them to this site.

For experienced genealogists who are not familiar with the Internet resources, modules 2 through 5 are great to get you up to speed.

Go Visit "Geneablogie"

One of my favorite genealogy blogs is Geneablogie, written by Craig Manson. Craig has an interesting biography:

I literally have a checkered past. My ancestors include African slaves and Native Americans, as well as members of America's most prominent colonial and antebellum-era families. That's why America's history is very personal to me. At age 50+, I'm now old enough to have a perspective on that history. In the last three decades, I've been a disc jockey, a law professor, a broadcast journalist, a military officer, a judge, and have served at the highest levels of government. My family surnames: Birdsong, Bowie, Brayboy, Bryant, Gilbert, Gines, Johnson, LeJay, Long, Manson, Martin, McCray, Sanford.

Craig recently retired from the United States Air Force Reserve after 34 years of military service to our country, and now revels in his new role as "citizen." He has a very interesting ancestry - one we can call "100% American." On his blog, Craig writes posts about his current genealogy research and provides ancestral biographies, which I really like to read.

Visit Craig's blog, and add him to your daily bloglist - you'll enjoy the experience!

Monday, July 3, 2006

Happy 230th Birthday, USA

AMERICA (My Country 'Tis of Thee)
lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith, 1832,
sung to the tune of "God Save the Queen"

My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim's pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love.
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song.
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our father's God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and the 52 others who agreed to the text of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 got it right - thank goodness.

This song is my favorite patriotic song, but it isn't played as much as "America the Beautiful" or "God Bless America."

HeritageQuestOnline has 1880 Census data

While census whacking this afternoon, I discovered that HeritageQuestOnline has an every name index, linked to the images, for about half of the states in the 1880 census. I haven't heard anything about this - did I miss an announcement recently (or even long ago)?

This is good news - and hopefully they will keep adding states over the next few months.

In the same vein, did you know that HQO has 1930 head of household index for five states - CT DE MD TX VA - linked to the images? They've had this for awhile, but it indicates that they may be working on other states.

If you know the roll number and page number for a given census page (say from an earlier search on microfilm) for any census year, you can bring up that page on HQO by going to the "Find by Page Number" tab on the main search page. This is especially useful for 1830-1850, 1880 and 1930 if you know the roll number and page number.

More Census Whacking - Strange or Funny Names

I haven't posted funny or strange names from the census for some time. I spent a little time on HQO throwing strange or funny names in the search engine for given names and surnames, and found these:

* Almon Nutter - Aroostook County ME in 1900

* Jack Spratt - Inyo County CA in 1900

* Earnest Crapper - St. Clair County MI in 1920

* Web Ditto - Tarrant County TX in 1900

* Joe Camel - Johnston County NC in 1900

* Patience Fax - New York County NY in 1900

* Flossy Chocolate - Bedford County VA in 1880

* Vanilla Brown - Newton County GA in 1920

* Bollish Whiner - Somerset County PA in 1910

* Shiny Queen - Cass County TX in 1880

* Turd Gibson - Schuylkill County PA in 1920

* Sweet Beauty - St Mary Parish LA in 1900

* Kittie Oatmeal - Travis County TX in 1910

* Iam Smely - Washoe County NV in 1870

* Christian Life - Grant county IN in 1910

* English English - Philadelphia County PA in 1900

* Iam King - Lenoir county NC in 1900

* Harry Nutts - Los Angeles CA in 1900

* Chocolate Maiden - Hale County AL in 1910 (a male)

* Rush Limbaugh - Cape Girardeau County MO in 1920 (yep, the radio Rush's father).

What were their parents thinking?

Family Tree Magazine (August 2006)

I subscribe to the Family Tree Magazine because I find it offers the best blend of traditional resources and Internet resources for genealogy research. For instance, this issue has:

* "In Record Time" - ways to pick up the genealogical research pace

* "Cyber Champs" - 2006 list of 101 best web sites

* "State Research Guides" - for Massachusetts and Alaska

* "Hebrew Heritage" - Steps and challenges in researching Jewish roots

* "Tell it Like It Was" - secrets for writing an interesting family history book

* "Good Deeds" - Research primer on land records, including patents, grants and headrights.

One of the highlights of each issue of FTM for me is to discover new history or genealogy web sites to peruse and hopefully use. I go page by page and write down my "finds" on a form, then go search the sites and see if they are helpful.

The 101 Best Web Sites for 2006 are divided into a number of categories, including foreign databases, state databases, census and VR databases, history sites, map sites, photo sites, and reader favorites.

I'll review some of the web sites found in the next few weeks here on this blog.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Roots of the Human Family Tree

The second article by AP writer Matt Crenson is "Toots of Human Family Tree are Shallow". In this article he asserts that:

That means everybody on Earth descends from somebody who was around as recently as the reign of Tutankhamen, maybe even during the Golden Age of ancient Greece. There's even a chance that our last shared ancestor lived at the time of Christ.

'It's a mathematical certainty that that person existed,' said Steve Olson, whose 2002 book 'Mapping Human History' traces the history of the species since its origins in Africa more than 100,000 years ago.

and later in the article:

With the help of a statistician, a computer scientist and a supercomputer, Olson has calculated just how interconnected the human family tree is. You would have to go back in time only 2,000 to 5,000 years - and probably on the low side of that range - to find somebody who could count every person alive today as a descendant.

Furthermore, Olson and his colleagues have found that if you go back a little farther - about 5,000 to 7,000 years ago - everybody living today has exactly the same set of ancestors. In other words, every person who was alive at that time is either an ancestor to all 6 billion people living today, or their line died out and they have no remaining descendants.

It's an interesting and thought provoking article, please read the whole thing.

I agree with the article on the conclusion that there is probably a shared ancestor for everybody currently living back several millenia - and it may be as recent as 2,000 years ago.

I disagree with the conclusion that everybody living today has exactly the same set of ancestors (living 5,000 to 7,000 years ago). According to all the archaeologists and other experts, there were groups of humans in many places on Earth in that time, but the migration to these places occurred over a long period of time and usually long before 7,000 years ago. I can believe that everyone living in a certain place, say England or China, has substantially the same set of ancestors back 7,000 years ago, but they certainly cannot be identical to everybody living today, no matter what the probability experts claim. It doesn't make sense to me.

Of course, some people will claim that the common ancestor 5,000 years ago was Noah and his wife. That flies in the face of the archaeological data available, showing groups of humans in many places after the last ice age some 10,000 or more years ago.

The book "Mapping Human History" sounds interesting, and is on my list of Books to Buy.

Just my two cents - I am not an expert in these fields. What do you think?

Royal Roots for All?

The AP writer, Matt Crenson, has two articles in today's newspapers concerning ancestry of most living people to famous figures in history.

In "Genealogists Discover Royal Roots for All", he asserts that since Brooke Shields has many famous people in her ancestry, including English kings, the Medicis, five popes, even Mohammed, that the rest of us must have them too.

Actress Brooke Shields has a pretty impressive pedigree - hanging from her family tree are Catherine de Medici and Lucrezia Borgia, Charlemagne and El Cid, William the Conquerer and King Harold, vanquished by William at the Battle of Hastings.

Shields also descends from five popes, a whole mess of early New England settlers, and the royal houses of virtually every European country. She counts renaissance pundit Niccolo Machiavelli and conquistador Hernando Cortes as ancestors.

Pretty impressive work, all of that.

Later in the article, the writer discusses one potential ancestor of Brooke Shields - Mohammed. But there are several "problem children" in the line.

It's an interesting article, based of course on the works of genealogists specializing in medieval genealogy, coupled with math experts in probability.

It may even spur an interest in genealogy, at least amongst movie stars, sports figures and politicians, all trying to out-do Brooke's ancestral findings. Maybe there will even be work for poor struggling genealogists.