Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Want to be a Census Taker in 2010

Chris Dunham (The Genealogue), has done it again in his unique, inimitable and extremely funny style. He discloses what might happen if you disobey the census taker in 2010. Read the article here - it's hilarious.

The best quote:
Hiding from the census taker in 2010 will be nearly impossible, given the sweeping changes to Census Bureau policies soon to be implemented. Citizens who fail to return their census forms by mail will be visited by a representative of the Bureau—now part of the Department of Justice. Enumerators will be authorized to detain non-respondents for up to seven days, during which time they will be educated on the history and importance of the census, and encouraged to complete their forms. Enumerators will be forbidden from inflicting physical harm on the detainees, with "physical harm" defined in the new regulations as "anything that might leave a bruise."

Read the whole thing - it's worth it.

Oh, how I want to be a census taker in 2010!!!

CVGS Program Today on Female Ancestors

In the Chula Vista Genealogical Society's effort to draw potential new members to our society, we have Saturday programs 3 times a year on the 5th Saturdays - the ones on which no one else schedules a monthly meeting. Our thought is that we may be able to draw local genealogy researchers who work during the week when we have our regular society meetings. We had one of these Saturday meetings today.

The speaker was myself - we had a committed speaker drop out several months ago. The subject was "Pursuing Your Elusive Female Ancestors."

The presentation described each type of record that might help identify a maiden name (e.g., census, vital, land, cemetery, probate, pension, church, home, newspaper, etc), plus provided locations where the resources might be found in traditional resources (libraries, local societies, courthouses, FHL films, etc.) and Internet resources (databases, web pages, etc.). I also provided examples from my own research of many of the types of records. It went a bit long, but that was because I put too many good examples into the presentation.

This is the first presentation that I've done in a PowerPoint format (but I used overheads since I don't have a laptop or projector). I like the format, but without a laptop I can't do the fancy things - but I don't like the fades, the click every line, and other PP glitzy features anyway.

I made a master slide with a large title area, a picture in one corner (of my mother, her mother and grandmother) a footer with my name and the presentation title. Each slide had an action title at the top, and the bullet points addressed the issue. I included the traditional and Internet resource discussions in my verbal presentation, but not on the slides. The handout had them, however.

I enjoy the challenge of preparing and making the presentation. I'm learning to reduce word count on my slides (my training was as an engineer where we had to include everything we had to say on the slides, since they got passed around our management and the customer's management) and to use more pictures and examples.

I need to add a few more examples, especially in land records, modify some of the text which was awkward and take out a few of the examples which were not real pertinent. It was a decent job, IMHO, but it could be better.

I'll be happy when I can use a laptop and a projector - the darn overhead flimsies for my HP inkjet printer are expensive - about 75 cents each.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Roots Television is online

Genealogy is approaching the 21st century...Roots Television is online at Don't go there yet - read this before you go:

When you click on the link to the site, you will arrive at a page where Sharon DeBartolo Carmack interviews Hank Jones - the video will play and you can see how the format works.

There are a LOT more videos on the site. Look for the tabs at the top of the page that say "Roots Living," "How To," "Homeland," "DNA," "Legacy" and "Pay TV."

On each tab are a series of video clips, some up to 48 minutes long. You can put a face and a voice to famous researchers like Sharon Carmack, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Curt Witcher and others.

There are also some video logs (Vlogs, of course!) that people have submitted, including several by Trina Boice of Carlsbad CA.

This looks great - is it the future of conferences? If so, are you willing to pay for each lecture?

Hat tip to Chris at The Genealogue for mentioning this again.

OK - go for it here!

Have you visited "The Genealogist" blog?

I have found that Paul Duxbury and Kevin Cook are two of the more prolific online genealogy writers around. They host "The Genealogist" blog and have a general web site. Their other genealogy web sites include:

** The Amateur Genealogist

** Catholic Genealogy

** Our Family Trees (link didn't work for me)

** Discovering Your Family Tree (link didn't work for me)

** GenMates

I also discovered their web site with 50 articles available online on a wide range of topics. I read several of them, and they are extremely well done.

While Paul and Kevin have a United Kingdom focus, many of the articles are useful for USA and Canadian research.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

APG List Discusses Professional Genealogy

I enjoy the APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) mailing list immensely - there is always good information offered by the leaders of the profession - delivered to my emailbox.

During much of this month, the list has been discussing professional genealogy - education, training, certification, credentials, regulation, licensing, marketing, running a business, research fees, etc.

You can access the September 2006 archives of the APG list here. Scroll down to the posts that start with:

* Working capital for a growing genealogy business
* Five year outlook for genealogical income
* Earning a living
* Professional genealogy

and several other titles in between. You will have to read the entries post by post, but if you are interested in the topic you will enjoy the time.

The discussion has been extremely informative, conducted in a very civilized tone, by some of the best-known genealogists in the USA.

Newsbank's GenealogyBank database

Kelley Weber on the APG mailing list posted about the Newsbank announcement concerning America's Genealogy Bank here. The first paragraph says:

In an effort to set new standards for U.S. genealogy research, NewsBank has digitized tens of millions of obituaries, death notices, family histories, birth and marriage announcements and a wide variety of other primary and secondary sources from the 1600s through the 21st century. NewsBank has consolidated these important records in comprehensive, one-stop genealogy resources that are now available online and through public libraries. For the first time, genealogists, family historians and others can quickly search these vast, largely untapped archives and easily use recent and historical information in a digital format. Casual and serious researchers will come to rely on the excellent results provided only by NewsBank's exclusive content, resources and services.

I encourage you to read the whole thing and click the link to the Genealogy Bank for more detail.

This offering sounds promising - especially if enough libraries subscribe to it. There is no indication yet what the at-home personal subscription rate will be.

PERSI Update is released

Dick Eastman and Leland Meitzler have posts about the updated PERSI (PERiodical Source Index) release by ProQuest. You can read the entire press release here.

The money quote:
ProQuest Information and Learning and Allen County Public Library (Ft. Wayne, IN) add another milestone in their longstanding alliance with the release of a significant amount of new data in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). With this update, PERSI now contains nearly 2 million citations from over 6,500 periodicals published in the United States, Canada, and abroad. The new release includes indexing for over 235,000 articles from 2004 and 2005. No other index covers periodical research in local history and genealogy as extensively as PERSI.

PERSI can be accessed at HeritageQuestOnline (through a subscribing library card) or at You can order copies of articles from the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I have used PERSI on occasion, and have found it helpful in finding periodical articles, especially concerning localities. There are many genealogy gems in these articles but they are very difficult to mine. Usually, you have to find an index for a specific periodical, or browse the periodical shelves at a genealogy library to find the gems. Some societies, such as New England HistGen Society, have indexed their periodical pages and made the images available, usually behind a membership firewall.

In order to make PERSI more useful to genealogists, there needs to be an every name index and images of the articles. This seems to me to be a very worthwhile project for companies like ProQuest or Ancestry. I think it would be a quantum leap in useful online genealogy data.

Heck, they've completed the census records - they must need new challenges! Are they listening?

UPDATE (9/29, 3:55 PM): It was pointed out to me that there might be copyright infringement issues for all post-1922 periodical issues and articles that would prevent digitizing of the periodicals in the PERSI collection. That makes the "worthwhile project" impossible to tackle. I was wishing and hoping...

An indexing project by the different societies or publishers, or by a subscription site, might be possible. Some journals, like the NEHG Register, already have published indexes, and I know there are quite a few others with published indexes.

My opinion is that the real "hidden gems" that many people strive to find are hiding in small circulation newsletters and journals in the Allen County library. A trip there might be in order.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

CVGS Research Group does Annie Moore

My local society, the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (south of San Diego, 80 members), has a monthly research group that discusses research techniques and helps attendees with their brick wall problems. It's been going about three years now, and has been instrumental in growing our society membership. We average 10 to 15 attendees each month.

We did something different today - I gave them a research problem - Annie Moore (which they had heard about, but knew no details) - providing only what we knew about her in the 1892 newspaper articles. I asked them what genealogy resources they would investigate if it was their problem.

We went around the room twice, and got some interesting responses - 16 in all. There was the obvious (federal census, city directories, birth, marriage and death records, church, newspapers, WWI draft registration for the brothers, probate, property, taxes, naturalization, cemetery) and a few others that were not as obvious (the Irish Moore family, NYC museums or historical societies, state census records, school records). The group figured out that they should research the parents and the brothers in addition to Annie herself. We did all that in about 30 minutes.

I then told them how the researchers solved the problem in about 6 weeks, and about Megan's press conference and presentation at NYGBS. I read one of the Irish Echo articles that described the research and the outcome. We passed the death, census and WWI draft documents around, in addition to Sharon Elliott's list of homes and lower Manhattan map. All in all, it was a great 30 minutes.

I gave them an A for their effort. They identified all of the important research avenues, but didn't know exactly what records were available. We discussed how many of the records were not available on the Internet.

This exercise points out the value of doing a "group-think" on thorny research problems. Somebody usually comes up with a great suggestion for the researcher to follow up on. The absolute best times in the group are when they report back on the results of their searches - and found data based on the group responses.

Does your society have this "bias-for-action" - the willingness to attack thorny research problems and to help each other? If not, you might want to consider a research group.

Have you visited Ancestorville?

While browsing through the Genealogy News, I ran across a link to Ancestorville. Sounded interesting, so I clicked on it, wondering what it was.

Ancestorville is a commercial web site selling ephemera -- but if you find one of your ancestor's ephemera, it might be well worth the look.

The web site is described as:
We sell lost family photos and antique paper ephemera items, and are dedicated to the reunion of family treasures. Our site has over 9,600 surnames and thousands of family photos, letters, ephemera, deeds, advertising trade cards, family bibles, cabinet card photographs, cdv photograph, Victorian calling cards, stereoview or stereoscopic photos, daguerreotype photographs, antique paper items and such. All related to genealogy and family history.

If this is your cup of tea, go for it!

SCGS Genealogy Writing contest

The Southern California Genealogical Society sponsors a yearly writing contest with cash awards.

They are accepting entries for the 7th Annuel (2006) contest from 1 November to 31 December. The announcement is here. The FAQ list is here on the SCGS site.

The types of articles desired are described here:

* What Kind of Articles Do You Want?
The contest is for factual articles: either family-or local-history, character sketches, or memoirs. The entries should capture a sense of a family’s experience(s), or the character of a locality, or reveal an individual’s character and personality. The best articles will help illuminate the human drama—and will also illuminate the era, and/or the historical or social context of the subject.

* What Kind of Articles Do You NOT Want?
Accounts of genealogical research procedures, “how-to articles,” advice, and/or general genealogical columns are not appropriate for this contest.

If you like to write, and can satisfy the requirements, I urge you to submit one or two entries. One of my genealogy friends, Paula-Jo Cahoon, was a winner in an earlier contest with her story of "Fany".

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Canadian Genealogy Research site

I'm still exploring links and articles from the three weeks I was on vacation, so I'm a bit late with this one.

The site looks to be an excellent portal for all sorts of Canadian Genealogy research. The header at the top of the page says "Your guide to the best sources for genealogy research in Canada"

In addition to links for each province on the home page, there are also links to Military Records, Loyalist Records, Acadian Records and Metis/First Nations Records.

If you have Canadian ancestry, you might want to check out this web site. It is well organized and looks complete.

The Genealogy Angel

I found this online here and thought it was funny and touching. It kind of happened this way for me.

by Patty Whitney Gravois

It happens suddenly, without warning. You are going about your own business when -----BAM!!------ your life is changed forever. You are no longer able to resist the strong desire to do something you have never really thought about doing before.

You suddenly want to spend all of your time with books, computers, newspapers, old photographs, and lots and lots of dead people. You start to enjoy going to old courthouses and cemeteries. What has happened to you? Are you crazy? How can your life be changed so drastically so suddenly?

Well, you are not really crazy, although some people might think so. You have just been selected to be the "THE FAMILY HISTORIAN."

It has become my personal philosophy that there is a genealogy angel out there whose sole job is to select one person (or maybe two) to be in charge of protecting and recording each family's history.

It seems that God finds family groups to be very important. After all, a lot of the first part of the Bible deals with who begat whom. (Begat sort of means "Who's yo' mama?"--or thereabouts). Adam and Eve are going to be the only people in Paradise who don't have a belly button. Everyone else was begat by someone. Keeping track of who begat whom was probably not a problem at first. Families sort of stuck together.

As the world's population grew and families kept expanding, someone had to keep a record of who belonged with what family. St. Peter probably started keeping records because no one on Earth knew how to read or write yet. Oral histories were passed on and people kept pretty good track of their families' oral histories because there was nothing else to do at night and in the rain and snow but talk about the family.

Gradually, though, the world continued to expand. Writing was invented, and then reading was invented so people could understand the writing. Some people wrote down who was their family, but others didn't see the point. As people moved around a lot, sometimes families were separated and family histories were lost. Not everyone knew how to read and write. Oral histories were lost.

For hundreds of years family histories were lost when the grim reaper claimed those who held the lore in their heads. Then, I think, St. Peter decided to do something about the shameless lack of respect for roots and family history. Each family was to have someone who would become totally focused on capturing and recording the begats of each family.

These Family Historians would have the job not only of collecting the present day family into groups and recording their histories, but also of trying to undo some of the neglect of the past.

So, don't be surprised if one day you are minding your own business and you suddenly feel a tap on the shoulder but when you look around there is no one there.

It is simply the genealogy angel tapping you on the back to say, "You're it." From that day forward you won't be able to help yourself. You are going to have to take on the very important job of Family Historian.

Do it well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Free NY and MA Passenger Lists from Ancestry

Lorine Schulze at the Olive Tree Genealogy site is offering exclusive free access to two databases at This page says:

Exclusive FREE Use of Databases!

I'm very excited to be able to offer this exclusive free access to two of's databases. This offer is only available to visitors of Olive Tree Genealogy, and is made possible through a co-operative effort of and

** FREE Database Number One is the very popular New York Passenger Lists 1851-1891 & 1935-1938 including Castle Garden passenger lists

** FREE Database Number Two is the Boston Massachusetts Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1943

For a limited time (until Oct. 4, 2006) but only through Olive Tree Genealogy, you can search these wonderful records as often as you like -- with no obligation to purchase anything - and no credit card is required.

It worked great for me - I downloaded the images of the NY lists with my great-great-grandparents James and Hannah Richman, who came into NY in 1855 and 1856, respectively.

If you have ancestors immigrating in these time frames at these ports, I encourage you to check out this free offer.

While you're there, check out the databases that Olive Tree Genealogy has to offer. Lorine has worked on this site for many years and it is wonderful.

Will your data, and deathless prose, last forever?

Leland Meitzler at the Everton Publishers Genealogy Blog pointed to an article written by Charles Piller of the Los Angeles Times, published on Sunday, titled "Going Digital Doesn't Mean Forever." It ran chills down my back.

The article is here in Delaware Online, among other places.

The money quotes include:

Walker's digital amnesia has become a frustratingly common part of life. Computers make storing personal letters, family pictures and home movies more convenient than ever. But those captured moments can disappear with a few errant mouse clicks -- or for no apparent reason at all.

It's not just household memories at risk. Professional archivists, those charged with preserving society's details, tell a grim joke: Billions of digitized snapshots, Hollywood movies and government annals, they say, "will last forever, or five years, whichever comes first."

Digital storage methods, although vastly more capacious than the paper they are rapidly replacing, have proved fallible. Heat and humidity can destroy computer disks and tapes in as little as a year. Computers can break down and software becomes unusable in a few years. A storage format can quickly become obsolete, making the information it holds effectively inaccessible.

Read the whole thing.

It is so true...and it can happen to any of us on a moments notice. I was reminded of that this weekend with my computer problems.

I wrote this several months ago about my personal disaster recovery plan. It's time for me to go and make sure I've done everything I want to do.

"San Diego Place Names" Talk at CVGS

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society program today was excellent - the speaker was Leland Fetzer, a retired SDSU university 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). His talk was titled "Some Crazyt San Diego Place Names - And Where They Came From."

Leland is an engaging speaker - no notes, no overheads, no handouts - just a strong voice, a good sense of humor and a head full of knowledge about the special place I have lived all my life.

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. For example, Tijuana = Aunt Jane (someone's relative or a whorehouse madam)? La Jolla = The Jewel (all the publicity says this? El Monte = The Mountain (sounds logical)? etc. All wrong...and he told us the right answers.

Leland described the derivation of the names of San Diego County places in three time frames - the names given by the Indians (often modified by the Spanish), the Spanish/Mexican names, and the American names. He gave examples of each, and corrected many false impressions. Why are Olivenhain, Blossom Valley and Nestor and other places named the way they are?

His book includes the names given to bays, rivers, mountains and settlements by the explorers (they usually used the Feast Day of the day after the sighting, so, San Diego was named for St. Diego de Alcala because Vizcaino sighted it on a certain day in 1607), the names given to the Spanish land grants, the names given by the Americans (after individuals, places they came from, names made up by someone), the names given by developers, and all of the San Diego city neighborhoods.

At the end of the talk, he opened it up for questions and fielded at least 20 requests for information about place names. The group really enjoyed the talk.

While this was not exactly genealogy, it does provide context for local San Diego history and genealogy research. Most of our members are longtime residents of San Diego, and so the topic had broad general interest. Not every society meeting has to be about genealogy research - having history or geography topics may attract people who might become interested in genealogy.

BMDs in Proquest Historical Newspapers on Ancestry

Ancestry has announced that they have added an online database of birth, marriage and death notices and announcements from the Proquest Historical Newspaper Collection, 1851-2003. The Ancestry page says the database has the following:

This database is a collection of birth, marriage, and death announcements from several major U.S. newspapers for a variety of years. Images of the original newspapers are included.

This database is a collection of birth, marriage, and death announcements for the following years and major newspapers:

** The New York Times (1851-2003)

** The Los Angeles Times (1881-1985)

** The Boston Globe (1872-1923)

** The Chicago Defender (Big Weekend and National Editions) (1921-1975)

** The Chicago Tribune (1850-1985)

** The Hartford Courant (1791-1942)

** The Washington Post (1877-1990)

** The Atlanta Constitution (1869-1929)

Note: There may not be records for all three vital events included in this database for each newspaper and year combination. Also, the above listed newspaper titles are the modern titles. Many newspapers have changed titles over the years and some of them included the words “weekly” or “daily” depending on how often it was printed. For example, the “Hartford Courant” used to be called the “Connecticut Courant.” You will see some of these historical titles in this database.

These newspapers were indexed using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Search results will provide links to images of the original newspapers.

Newspapers are great sources of vital information. They can be used to supplement and verify information found in other vital records and are especially useful as vital record substitutes when actual vital records are either inaccessible or non-existent.

If you have an subscription, this is a fantastic addition - a one-stop location for the data.

If you don't have Ancestry, you may be able to find this data in the ProQuest databases using a local library, but it probably won't have the vital records separated out - you'll have to do your search with words like "died" or "married" or "born."

All in all, this is a very worthy addition to Ancestry, as long as the OCR index was accurate. Has anyone tried this out?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Computer Trouble -- any suggestions?

The bad news is that I'm still having sporadic monitor trouble, so Genea-Musings may go dark for a day or two as I deal with it.

My two year old Dell monitor goes dark sporadically, and then flashes every second, and I can't turn it off except by unplugging it. It seems to do the flashing after the computer has been "asleep" - over several hours time.

One computer guru of mine said to check all the connections, which I did.

My only workable fix so far has been to unplug the monitor and then plug it back in - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Arggh.

If it is the monitor, then buying a new one is the easy solution. I still fear that it is really the video card in the computer which is sporadic, which would mean a bigger, and longer to solve, problem. I've backed up all my useful data recently, so I can be up and running shortly if I have to buy a new computer.

I am so dependent on everything working - a computer failure will really disrupt my genealogy life. I guess I'd better print out my overheads for my presentation next Saturday - just thought of that!

If you have any suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them. If my system goes dark for a longer period, I can still read the comments at my work computer.

The really good news here is that my Padres have won 4 straight and are in first place in the NL West, with 7 games to go. Not genealogy, but ... part of my busy life! We went to the games on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - all pitcher's battles.