Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Discover Your Family History " Workshop a Success!!

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society, working with the Chula Vista Public Library, hosted a free 90 minute workshop today. The purpose was to introduce genealogy and family history to families with elementary age children (who might have a homework assignment to research family history) and adults (who might be interested in learning, and in joining CVGS).

The workshop was 90 minutes long for the attendees - 30 minutes of very basic introduction and work on a pedigree chart, 30 minutes to try to find data on the computer, and 30 minutes for a visit to the library computers with installed and to the genealogy book collection in the library, with a pitch for CVGS at the end. A society member was assigned to each attendee to mentor them and help them work through the process. Due to space limitations in the computer lab, we were limited to a maximum of 42 attendees over 7 time periods during the day.

We had publicity out a month ago, with signups in the library, which included a homework package that focussed on finding information for a pedigree chart. As of last Monday, we had only 5 signups. By Thursday we had 18 reservations, and then we had an email from a National University teacher who wanted to bring her sociology class of 10 to the workshop. We anticipated that we would have some walk-ins also.

On Saturday morning, we awoke to the first rain of the season in San Diego. The library had also commandeered 20% of the parking lot for the light-bulb exchange. In the first 10 minutes after the doors opened, all we saw was cars orbiting the lot looking for space. Our mentors arrived on time, ready to go thanks to training done in the last week. 3 of our first 5 appointments were no-shows, but two walk ins made up for it. The class arrived for their 11 AM appointment, and had done their homework, and were excited about the subject. In the end, we had about 24 attendees (some with children) who were introduced to and received a taste of genealogy and family history concepts.

Many of the attendees were excited about their search results and complimented the workshop and the mentors. Some new friends were made. The community was well served. The library staff was happy with the results. Our 16 mentors were ecstatic - they helped strangers find their family history and were able to share their knowledge and expertise. The society officers, all of whom took part in planning and executing the workshop, were very satisfied with the results.

We will have a post-mortem on what went right, what didn't go right (besides the weather and the parking lot), and how could we improve the experience during this next week. We also want to capture the mentors' experiences and learn about the individual success stories of the attendees.

The cooperation by and with the library staff was excellent - they supported us with everything they had and we greatly appreciate their effort and enthusiasm. It was a real win-win for both the library and the society.

For me, the biggest payoff was seeing the excitement and outright glee in the eyes and smiles of our members as they worked hard to make this workshop a success - both the officers and the mentors.

During the last two sessions, the mentors who weren't "working" those sessions stayed in the computer lab and played with our new "toy" - Ancestry Library Edition (CVPL got it in September). They got some real research done and are very enthusiastic to continue using it in the library.

Learning and experiencing genealogy is a gradual step-by-step process - we all know that from our own experiences. Helping community people start that research was a wonderful teaching and team-building experience for our members. We will probably do this again next year - especially if it results in some new members.

I will write up our post-mortem and success stories in another post.

Yep - a success!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Discover Your Family History" Day at the Library

Saturday the 14th is "Discover Your Family History Day" at the library. The Chula Vista Genealogical Society and Chula Vista Public Library are holding a 90 minute workshop for individuals and families who want to learn about genealogy and family history.

This has been a major effort for our 80 member society. We have over 20 members actively involved in supporting this workshop. The library has been great, supporting us with meeting space, publicity and taking the reservations.

While each workshop is 90 minutes (work on a pedigree chart, find data on the Internet, visit the library genealogy books), we have 7 sessions scheduled so it is a full day. We had a potential of 40 slots available for the community, and have about 30 reservations now.

My blogging will be light until Saturday night since I will be at the workshop all day on Saturday. I'll blog a bit about the experiences we have - the good, and the bad. Wish us luck!

Nuggets in the Newspaper Archives

There is useful information in many of the newspaper entries on the different Newspaper Archive sites. I used's database some time ago to find out about my father's or my grandfather's nefarious doings in Leominster MA in the late 1930's (they had the same name, and the articles don't say if it was Senior or Junior), via the Fitchburg Sentinel.

For instance, one of them had his car stolen, one of them hit a person on a bicycle, and one was arrested for drunk driving (my aunt says it was Senior). I know it was my father in the semi-pro baseball box scores and basketball scores. I've been collecting these and will share them with the family in the Christmas family newsletter.

I went looking today at the FHC for articles about the earlier generations in Leominster. For instance:

1) In the 28 August 1890 issue of the Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, there was a great article about the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. James Hildreth of Leominster (James was brother to my great-great-grandfather, Edward Hildreth). It lists their children and grandchildren, their siblings, their nieces and nephews, plus a list of gifts they received. It ends with a beautiful poem about 50 years of marriage.

2) The 28 December 1925 issue of the Fitchburg Sentinel has an obituary for Edwin Butler Bryant, widower of Juliette G. (Seaver) Bryant. Juliette was a daughter of my 3rd-great-grandfather, Isaac Seaver by his first wife. I never knew her death date. The obituary lists it as 1 September 1925. In addition, it tells about Edwin Butler Bryant - he was born Edwin Butler, but changed his name before his marriage in 1889. He was known as "Yankee Notions" for many years in Fitchburg, and was a junk dealer. I looked for an obituary for Juliette, but found none - I think they only did the males in those days. uses the Newspaper Archive collection for these old newspapers. With the image on the screen, you can print the page (at 8-1/2 by 11, they come out real small - you will need a magnifyer), save the page to your hard drive or thumb drive, or send it to your email address, from whence you can print it or save it. When you send the page to your email address, you get a link to the Ancestry image, and you have a limited time in which to access it on

The problem I have with this newspaper collection is that they have indexed every word, so when you use a search string like "juliette seaver bryant leominster" you get a number of hits for pages with those words on them - either the words together or all the words separately (e.g., Juliette Smith, Hiram Bryant, Leominster mills, Fred Seaver). It works well for uncommon names, but you will get a lot of hits for common names (e.g., "edward hildreth sophia leominster" gave me about 30 hits between 1890 and 1910). On the other hand, the current system sure beats searching the newspapers page by page on film.

By the way, the Fitchburg Sentinel was 12 pages on 28 December 1925 and cost two cents. It has interesting ads, also.

Have you investigated the old newspapers in the Ancestry collection, or in collections held by your public library or genealogy society? You may find some interesting nuggets to add family history flesh to the bones of your ancestors.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Newspaper resources articles

One of the best articles describing the use of newspapers for genealogy research is by Kimberly Powell at the web site. The link to the article "How to Find & Research Newspapers for Genealogy Research" is here.

Another is Ruby Coleman's article at with lots of links - the article is "Finding Newspaper Records" here.

There are also a number of articles about Newspaper research at the Ancestry Library site here.

It is difficult to keep up to date with what newspaper records are available online. There are several companies (ProQuest, Newsbank, NewspaperArchive, Ancestry, Accessible Archives, etc.) that have extensive online databases with historical and current newspaper records, including search capabilities. I blogged about the GenealogyBank newspaper archive recently. has a good list of free and for-fee newspaper records that are online or in repositories. There are web sites like has a list of their newspaper archives here. I usually start with Ancestry, then look in my local library databases.

Your local library may have some of the newspaper archives available for home access using a library card. In San Diego, the San Diego, Chula Vista and Carlsbad libraries have a variety of resources, especially for current issues of selected newspapers. The SDPL has the ProQuest newspaper archives for hundres of US newspapers, all of them fairly recent. They also have the NYTimes Archive 1851-2003.Chula Vista and Carlsbad have access to ProQuest newspapers for current major papers -NY, LA, SD, WSJ.

Is there an up-to-date list of the newspaper archives available online - either free or for a fee? If not, that would be a great resource for someone to create.

Google News Archive Searching

A recent post on the soc.genealogy.computing newsgroup by James W. Anderson highlighted the ArchiveSearch ability at Google - the ArchiveSearch link is here.

I worked for about an hour in this archive today and found it fairly useful, especially for obituaries before about 1980. Many public libraries permit home access to ProQuest newspapers or Newsbank newspapers of recent vintage, but few have access to earlier articles. Ancestry recently included access to ProQuest Historical newspapers to their home subscription clients, but not in Ancestry Library Edition. Some genealogy societies (e.g., New England HistGen) allows access to the ProQuest Historical newspapers and other news sources.

At the Google Archive Search site, you get a mixed bag. Some articles that come up on a surname search provide an abstract of the article, and some provide only a few lines of the article, and some provide a small picture of the page and an OCR transcription. In each case, there is a link to a newspaper database that will charge you a per-article fee or a monthly or yearly fee for complete access.

All in all, this is a pretty good search site, especially if you use the advanced search capabilities to limit your search to certain years or publications.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Isn't she beautiful?

One of the pictures in the family collection is of Ada Woodward, age 13, taken in November 1898 - according to the handwriting on the back of the picture.

Look at the long hair. Look at the eyes. Look at the face - absolutely beautiful. Stunning in fact.

The writing on the back of the picture says:

"Ada Woodward, 13 years old, Nov 1898.

"Nellie Woodward's girl, her father Charlie Woodward played organ at our wedding in Wano Kan 1887, Sep. 11th. Her brother Gene was a little older, after they went away from there he died of Dyptheria."

In 1900, she was age 15, and resided in Belleville, Republic County, Kansas with her grandparents, Frank and Celia Munger, along with her sister Nellie.

I don't know what happened to beautiful Ada Woodward. I hope that she had a wonderful life and passed on the genetic makeup that her Redfield and Vaux ancestors passed to her.

UPDATED: 8 February 2008 to reflect the words on the back of the picture.

Did you solve the Forensic Genealogy puzzle #79?

About a week ago, I posted the note about Colleen Fitzpatrick's Forensic Genealogy quizzes and puzzles - my post is here.

The picture and the answers to the quiz questions, plus a lot more information, are posted on the contest #79 page here.

This was typical of the puzzles that Colleen has posted. I try to visit her site and solve the puzzle on a weekly basis. I had the right answers this time, but time got away from me before I remembered to submit the answers.

Rather be Lucky than Good?

Sometimes you find the gold mine of family information without expecting it. Such was the case when I was gathering the land records for my Ranslow Smith in Henderson, Jefferson County, NY. He was in the Grantor index as "Ranslow Smith et ux":

In an 1839 deed, I found (as abstracted):

On 3 December 1839, six heirs-at-law of James Bell sold 65.68 acres of land in Henderson to Jedediah McCumber for $1,046.86. The six heirs-at-law included Harvey Smith (and wife Sarah), Ranslow Smith (and wife Polly), John Clark (and wife Nancy), David Bell (and wife Emeline), Cornelia Bell, and James G. Bell (and wife Nancy). The property in Henderson was part of subdivision 1 of great lot 13, bounded by stakes and stones. Another heir, Orin Bell, owned a seventh part of the lot, which was not included in the purchase (Jefferson County, New York Land Records, Deed Book I3, page 534, accessed on FHL Microfilm 0,886,700).

Further research indicated that the persons named were sons and daughters (and sons-in-law) of James Bell, the deceased, plus his wife, Cornelia.

This is the only record I have that indicates that Ranslow's wife, Polly, was a daughter of James and Cornelia (--?--) Bell. Now I'm wondering if Harvey Smith was Ranslow's brother or cousin.

This experience emphasized to me (again!) that I need to track down every bit of information available for each of my ancestors, especially the ones hiding behind brick walls.

My next problem is, of course, to find out where James Bell and Cornelia --?-- were from, the parents, residence, etc. That will be a difficult task, but no more difficult than finding who the parents of Ranslow Smith are and where they resided.

I found this elusive female ancestor (Mary/Polly (Bell) Smith) by searching land records for her husband. There are many case studies printed in the genealogy journals (NGSQ, NEHGR, TAG, TG, etc) that demonstrate this point over and over again.

Have you had a success finding your female ancestors name in a land record? If so, tell me about it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life's Connection with the Past

There was an article titled "Searching for Life's Connection With the Past" written by Riva Richmond and published on Page B6 of the Tuesday, October 10, 2006 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, it is behind the WSJ firewall (Dick Eastman has a link for those with a subscription - I found it in the end bathroom stall at work today). The subheading is "Aided by Online Records, More Hobbyists Turn Genealogy Into a Business."

The writer tells about Laura Prescott, including:

Ten years ago, Laura Prescott immersed herself in her family's history and its tales of Westward-bound pioneers, New England farmers, Revolutionary Soldiers and Mayflower passengers.

Following the trail of ancestors who lived in New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the 17th century, Ms. Prescott saw "how much my family was tied into the nation's history, just on a common level" as farmers, tradespeople and Minutemen, she says.

Now Ms. Prescott, 48, a college history major who worked in banking and marketing, is turning her love of a good puzzle, a gripping story and an era gone by into a full-time profession. Last year, she joined the growing ranks of self-employed professional genealogists who make a living tracing and chronicling the lives of ordinary families.

"You can be a professional genealogist if you can get as interested in someone else's family as you are in your own," she says. "My big passion in genealogy is not just the names and the dates and the facts. It's tying it into history and putting flesh on the bones of the data you gather."

The article goes on with more information about Laura Prescott and additional quotes by Kathleen W. Hinckley, Loretta Dennis Szucs, Megan Smolenyak and D. Joshua Taylor. The article says that professional genealogists charge an average of about $50 an hour, depending on location and special expertise. Megan's paragraphs include:

"It's all history mysteries," and its all about the individual's own life, says Megan Smolenyak, the genealogist and author who recently corrected history by uncovering the identity of the real Annie Moore, an Irish girl documented as the first immigrant to enter Ellis Island who was later confused with another woman of the same name. "That's why so many people get addicted to it."

Ms. Smolenyak, ..., who was a management consultant for 15 years until she changed careers, has made a living mainly as a consultant on television programs, and by helping the U.S. Army track down the family members of unaccounted soldiers from past wars. She says she does 90% of her work on the Internet, and has her own web site,, but she is also quick to pick up the phone and call distant family members or anyone else who might speed her research. "The two most helpful populations for me are librarians and funeral home directors," she says.

All in all, a very nice article about genealogy research, professionals and turning a hobby into a small business, plus a short biography of Megan, one of my favorite genea-bloggers.

A Wondrous Life

I often ponder what life was like in olden times - when New England was settled, the glorious cause of the Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War, settling the midwest and the west, growing up in San Diego, surviving the Depression, etc.

It struck me that my grandfather, Lyle Carringer, saw so much in his lifetime of 85 years, and enjoyed almost every minute of it, often expressing awe and wonder at nature, engineering feats and science. I beleive that he had a wondrous life.

Lyle was born in 1891 in San Diego, and was over-protected as a boy because his parents had lost a baby boy in 1889. His parents built a house on 30th Street in San Diego and owned most of the block. He learned from the school books of his parents - the McGuffey's readers and almanacs - and attended school, graduating from San Diego High in about 1912. Lyle was curious and inquisitive, and as a boy and teen he explored San Diego and environs on foot or on his bicycle, and on the trolley that ran down 30th Street to downtown. He started working at age 15 as an errand boy at Marston's a downtown department store, and learned how business worked.

As a young man, he stood 5 foot 7 inches and weighed 123 pounds dripping wet. So, he enlisted in the Marines in 1917, but never got out of San Diego, serving at the PX in Balboa Park. He had met, and then married in 1918, Emily Kemp Auble and they soon had a baby - my mother, Betty, who was an only child. Soon, they built a house on the same block as his parents and settled in, with Emily's mother, a widow. The book case in the home was full of popular novels, travel stories, popular magazines and the encyclopedia. Lyle progressed at Marston's and eventually became the accountant and the paymaster for the store.

Like most people of the time, he had his own account book to tally his income and his expenses. Four of these books still exist - from about 1920 to about 1945. In them, he counted the eggs collected from the henhouse and sold, the daily expenses at the grocery store, his income and bank deposits, the trials, tribulations and expenses of driving and maintaining the car (tires were very fragile, the roads were terrible), and details of where they drove and with whom they visited. The details are fascinating - to me, at least.

On the home block, there was always plenty to do. More houses were built for rental, and his parents house was moved from the corner to the center of the block. Repairs to the homes and rentals were endless, furniture was bought, sold or scrapped, gardens were put in and tended. I have rental agreements, rent receipts, home repairs and appliance purchases for the years 1940 to 1975.

Excursions to Balboa Park, La Jolla, the beach, Tijuana, or the mountains were weekly occurrences. There were cousins in Whittier and they often visited them, stopping at Knotts Berry Farm in Garden Grove for dinner. The family took several long road trip vacations - going all the way to Victoria BC one year - and the journal tells all about it (where they stopped, who they visited, how much things cost, etc.) - fascinating!

My mother married in 1942, and I was born in 1943, my first brother in 1946, and my second brother in 1955. My father went into the Navy in 1944 and my mother and I moved back in with her parents. My grandparents doted on me, told me stories, took me places, and let me explore my little world. My grandfather had a movie camera, and I have many 8 mm films of my early childhood. I believe I got my love of history, geography and family from my grandparents - nurtured in my early life by time spent with them.

After his parents died in 1945, Lyle inherited the whole set of property. They moved into his parents home and sold the second home and the vacant lots on the south end of the block (which was my ball field playground). With these proceeds, they bought a small parcel of land on Point Loma with a postcard view of San Diego Bay. They built a home on the lot and moved into it in 1951. This home became our Christmas haven - since it had a fireplace, and we spent many happy Christmas Eves snug in our makeshift beds waiting for Santa to visit us. Gramp took us fishing down on the Bay, or out to the end of the Point to explore the tidepools, or we climbed the hills and explored the canyons near their house.

He had always collected stamps and had many overseas correspondents. He went monthly to the Post Office to buy sheets of new stamps, and often gave plate blocks and single stamps to my brothers and I for our collections.

Lyle finally retired in 1961 after 55 years at Marstons, and settled into his retirement. He still came over to the 30th Street property and worked on the buildings and the gardens. And to see his daughter's family and to talk to his grandsons - to hear about their education and exploits and dreams. He was so proud that his daughter and grandson had attended and graduated from college.

He succumbed in 1976 to colon cancer, and his dear Emily joined him soon after. Their deaths pained me, but became the catalyst that made me examine my own life and beliefs, and firmed up my life's goals.

My grandfather was the most moral, upright and intelligent man I've ever known. He spoke quietly, listened well, even to his loudmouth grandsons, and enjoyed good humor. He never lost his sense of awe and wonder.

During his life, he witnessed and experienced - either in person or via newspapers and TV - the development of the automobile, the movie camera, running water and toilets in the home, the washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator, dirt streets to interstate highways, telegraph to radio and television, barren scrub land to Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo and Palomar Observatory, gliders to airplanes to blimps and rocket ships, Sputnik to the moon landing, war (Spanish-American, WW I, WW II, Korean, Vietnam), peace, boom times, recession and depression times, 16 Presidents, a 58 year marriage, the birth and growth of a daughter and three grandsons.

It was a wondrous life. And the best thing he ever did, perhaps intentionally or perhaps subconsciously, was to spend endless time with his family - wife, daughter, grandsons and friends - telling them stories, listening to their stories, hopes and dreams, playing board or card games, and encouraging everyone he met to be a good person - to be the best they could be.

I miss him greatly. I wish that I could have him back for just a month or so - to ask him questions, to hear more about his family, his life and experiences, to thank him for loving me and molding me and providing a wonderful stash of family history material.

Who do you miss most? Who had a wondrous life in your family? Who loved you and molded you? Tell me about them - please?

Telling stories to the kids

There is an interesting thread on the APG list concerning the lack of knowledge of the younger generations about the pop culture icons of the older generations (Lucy and Ethel, Davy Crockett, Kennedy and Nixon, etc.). The discussion quickly morphed into lamentations that, more importantly, the younger generations don't receive a history education either, and what can we do about it. Alas, hasn't it always been this way? I remember hearing my grandmother scolding the younger generation (me and my brothers) because we didn't want to sit and talk if Davy Crockett or Hopalong Cassidy was on TV.

Frankly, the best thing for each of us that does family history research or loves history is to teach the younger generations about their ancestry, collect stories and artifacts to share with them, and then present it in a graphic or visual manner that will keep their attention for some time. Getting away from the pop culture - by going for rides or walks, by visiting nature or historical sites - with the grandkids and spending one-on-one time with them when they are young seems like the best way to build their interest in the history of the family or the locality or the country.

My 3-year old grandson wants to hear stories. I try to tell two minute stories about my life or of my ancestors (hiding the goodies from the British, serving in the militia, driving across the country, seeing the President, going to the cemetery, coming on the Mayflower, playing ball at school, etc.). It really doesn't matter what the topic is - the best thing is to spend the time with him and tell him things that he might remember. What he will remember is that you told stories. When he is 5, 10, 15 or even 20 he will want to hear more from Grandpa, and he will be receptive to longer stories and family history. The problem, of course, is living long enough to get to that point in time, and being able to remember everything! That's why we write books. In the future, I think we will all make videos about ancestors and locations and history, and share them on DVDs to play in the car or at bedtime - probably great sleep inducers.

Monday, October 9, 2006

More Census Whacking - Strange but True Names

I really can't help myself sometimes - I found these on HeritageQuestOnline today while wasting time...

Would Ida Whopper (1920, White County AR) go for Big Mack (1920, Lyon County NV)?

How about Desire Lovejoy (1870 Chautauqua County NY) with Ernest Lover (1910, Kings County NY)? Probably too young for her. I hope she made a good match, and he lived up to his name.

Would Katherine Messy (1900, Essex County NJ) do well with Waldo S. Perfect (1900, Delaware County OH)? See, somebody's Perfect! It's probably not Kathy.

Would Pleasant Quiet (1900, E. Feliciana Parish LA) get a word in edgewise with Chance T. Talker (1900, Scotland County MO) or even Pete Shouter (1920, Douglas County NE)?

Are Peter Whistle (1910, Essex County NJ) and Daisy Whistle (1920, Belmont County OH) cousins? Maybe Daisy would go for Valentine Lips (1900, Cook County IL).

Does Truth McNaught (1920, Ouray County CO) talk with Small Riddles (1900, Barnwell county SC)?

Would Love Dickers (1900 Rockcastloe County KY) hook up with Tiny Dick (1900, Madison County TN)? Don't even think about their kids names!

What about Flora Eyes (1900, Lancaster County PA) with Wink Lott (1900, Smith County TX), or with Christmas Blinker (1900, Orleans Parish LA)?

Would Lilly Pooh (1900, Black Hawk County IA) find Sig Farter (1910, Polk County MN) attractive? They could have a daughter named Winnie and be famous.

Would Hoseley W. Whimper (1920, Mississippi County AR) and Homer Sneer (1900, Isabella County MI) be friends?

Would Fanny Ache (1900, Northampton County PA) find Nook A. Laugh (1900, Barbour County WV) funny? They could name a kid Billy Ache Laugh to honor both sides of the family.

How about Happy Boozer (1900, Newberry County SC) having a drink (or more) with Sunny Person (1900, Nash County NC)?

Would William Killjoy (1880, Cook County IL) spoil the fun of Valentine Killer (1900, Dupage County IL)? Or maybe he would find Desire Lovejoy attractive? But would she?

That leaves Marion Headless (1900, Wayne County IL) getting together with Hugh Brain (1900, Winnebago County IL). Who would have thought of it?

Believe it or not, these are all REAL people (unless they were indexed or enumerated incorrectly) on the HQO head of household index. Of course, each one didn't know the other above, but look at the missed possibilities!!!

I realize that many of you have been waiting for this - so ENJOY! Isn't genealogy FUN?

Saving and Reuniting Bibles - one at a time

There is a wonderful article in the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal newspaper today, written by James Hannah of the AP, about Earlene Scott, who finds old Bibles at estate or garage sales and then tries to return them to a descendant of the peole in the family sections of the Bible. The article is here.

Earlene describes her mission as:
Scott has reunited Bibles, or information from Bibles, with about a dozen families. Data recorded in the Bibles by families that owned them provide many descendants with family history crucial in tracing their ancestry.

"They now can hold it, touch it, and hopefully share it," she said. "When each piece of the puzzle begins to fit into place in your own family, you're just that much closer to knowing who you are and why you're the way you are."

The absolute best quote in the article is this one:
Sandwiched between the Old and New Testaments of the Bibles are several blank pages for the owners to record family history. Once Scott establishes the identity of the original owner, the hunt begins.

In the early days, Scott had to do some of the detective work in the field, often accompanied by her husband, Jerry.

"We've stomped around in cemeteries and old courthouses, sneezed our way through libraries and said, 'Oh my gosh,' as you rubbed your eyes, 'is this fun or what?'"

Priceless. What a wonderful woman. May God bless her richly for doing this work.

Overcoming Enumeration and Indexing Errors

One of my presentations is about "Finding Your Elusive Ancestor in the Census Haystack." As part of this talk, I show some of the surname variations I've found in my own research that resulted from either enumeration errors (written wrong on the census pages) or indexing errors (reading the handwriting wrong or misspelling the index entry).

Some examples:

1) In my SEAVER surname research, I've found that almost every letter in the surname can be read differently, resulting in about a 10% error rate. The obvious enumeration or indexing errors (not counting Seavers, Sever, Severs, Seever, etc.) include Seaven, Seamer, Seaner, Sener, Seanr, Searer, Scaver, Scover, Seover, Seuver, Seaves, Seaber, Seeber, Seavar, Seavor, Seeva, Seave, Siever, Severe, Siever, Slaver, Sedver, Seaser, Saever, Saver, Seavor, Seauer, Seaur, Searn, Sraver, Leaver, Leaves, etc. Some, but not all, of the people with these spellings are actually Seaver/Sever, based on the family structure and other records. Most of them are logical - the capital S looks like an L; the small v looks like m, n, s, r or u; the letter r looks like n or s, the letter e looks like c, l or r; you get the idea.

Some of the other spellings for known Seaver/Sever names include Ceaver, Deaver, Seavey, Seavern, Seavert, Sears, Seares, Searl, Seriver, and Stevenes. Some of these are understandable, some arent't, at least to me. Perhaps the enumerator guessed or the indexer guessed at something unreadable.

2) One of my ancestral surnames is AUBLE, pronounced like "awe-bull". I've found this name as Aubel, Able, Abel, Cuble, Huble, Suble, and Aubbe. These are all understandable to me - the capital A, C, H and S have similar handwriting strokes and can be miswritten or misread. Just today I solved a research problem for a correspondent who was trying to determine if HC Auble was really Herman C. Auble. He is Herman in 1860 and 1880, but is enumerated and indexed as Cuble in 1870, when the list of children matches the 1880 list.

The point here is to think creatively - how can your ancestors surname be misspelled or misindexed? Write it out in long hand and figure out what the misspellings might be. Then go look for them in the census records on Ancestry or HeritageQuestOnline. Think about other records too - who knows if the church clerk, the town clerk, or some other scribe wrote down the name correctly?

If you are in the San Diego area, I will be presenting "Finding Your Elusive ancestor in the Census Haystack" at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting on 11 November at 12 noon at St. Andrews Methodist Church in San Diego (Lake Murray Blvd and Jackson Drive in the San Carlos area).

My Elusive Ancestor - William Knapp (1775-1857)

William Knapp is one of my most elusive ancestors. Here is what I know about him:

1. William Knapp was born 1775 in Dutchess County, NY, and died 16 June 1857 in Newton, Sussex County, NJ. He married Sarah Cutter About 1804 in prob. Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ, daughter of Stephen Cutter and Tabitha Randolph. She was born 06 November 1785 in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ, and died 06 March 1878 in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ (gravestone).

Notes for William Knapp:

The parents of William Knapp are not known. The records of Dutchess County, New York are very sparse for this time period. A search of available vital records indicate there were many Knapp families in Dutchess County in the 1770-1790 time period. Review of the 1790 U.S. census shows many Knapps in southeastern New York.

The books "Supplement to the Nicholas Knapp Genealogy" by Alfred Averill Knapp, published in 1956, and "Nicholas Knapp Genealogy" by Alfred Averill Knapp, published 1953, lists William as the son of Shubel and Rebecca (Mead) Knapp, listing his birth date as 1786. This is surely erroneous, since the 1850 census lists his age as 75 and his death record in the Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey vital records say he was age 81, born in Dutchess County, New York. The Supplement mentioned above provides some of the data on the children listed below.

Data in Catherine Knapp's obituary indicates that William Knapp was one of the first settlers of Newton, Sussex, New Jersey, and had a very extensive acquaintance. He was a Justice of the Peace for many years, and resided on Spring Street on the property later owned by Moses McCollum. The Knapps were among the earliest members of the Newton Methodist Episcopal Church, and with others of that faith, worshipped in barns and other places most convenient, traveling sometimes six or seven miles to service. This was before the members were sufficiently numerous to build and worship in an edifice of their own.

In the 1840 US Census, the William Knapp family resided in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey (National Archives Microfilm Series Roll 260, Page 54). The household included one male age 15-20, one male age 60 to 70, one female age 5-10, one female age 15-20, and one female age 50-60.

In the 1850 US Census, this family resided in Newton township, Sussex County, New Jersey (National Archives Microfilm Series M432, Roll 464, page 137, dwelling #454, family #486, Line 36). The household included:

* William Knapp -- age 75, male, a shoemaker, $800 in real property, born NY
* Sarah Knapp, age 55, female, born NJ
* Catherine Knapp, age 40, female, born NJ
* Elsey Knapp, age 19, female, born NJ

William Knapp was a member and treasurer of the Harmony Mason Lodge in Newton in 1852, according to an 1888 article about the lodge.

His death record is in the Newton, Sussex, New Jersey vital records.

An 1860 plat map of Newton NJ shows a house of W. Knapp near the southwest corner of Adams Street and Spring Street in Newton.

In the 1860 US Census, Sarah Knapp resided with the Manning Knapp family in New Barbadoes township, Bergen County, New Jersey (National Archives Microfilm Series M653, Roll 683, Page 412, house #191, family #216, line 32 indexed as Manning McKnapp on HeritageQuestOnline). The household included:

* Manning M. Knapp -- age 34, male, lawyer, $7000 in real property, $4000 in personal property, born NJ
* Anna M. Knapp - age 31, female, wife, born NJ
* Anna M. Knapp - age 7, female, born PA, attended school
* Sarah C. Knapp - age 78, female, lady, born NJ
* Joseph Madison -- age 3, male, born NJ
* Margaret M. Mann -- age 28, female, domestic, born Ballyhanna, Ireland

William Knapp and his wife, Sarah Knapp, are buried in the Old Cemetery in Newton NJ. The cemetery is located behind properties on Main and Halsted Streets, with access by a driveway between the properties at 77 and 79 Main Street in Newton ("A Record of the Inscriptions on the Stones in the Old Cemetery - Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey," in Sussex County Public Library near Newton, NJ).

Children of William Knapp and Sarah Cutter are:
2 i. Joseph2 Knapp, born in prob. Newton, Sussex County, NJ. He married Elizabeth.
3 ii. Samuel C. Knapp, born 1807 in prob. Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ.
4 iii. Cyrus C. Knapp, born 19 December 1809 in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. He married Catherine Terheun 17 November 1836 in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ; born About 1818 in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ.
5 iv. Catharine Knapp, born About 1810 in prob. Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ; died Aft. 1894 in unmarried, last known residence Terre Haute, Vigo County, IN.
6 v. Benjamin Knapp, born About 1811 in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. He married Susan Stewart 31 August 1833 in Sussex County, NJ; born About 1815 in NJ.
7 vi. Charles C. Knapp, born About 1813 in prob. Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. He married (1) Sarah Smith 03 March 1842 in Sussex County, NJ; born About 1814 in NJ. He married (2) Susan Beach Bef. 1880 in NJ; born 1803 in NY.
8 vii. Hannah Maria Knapp, born About 1815 in prob. Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ; died 22 November 1903 in Newton, Sussex County, NJ. She married David Lum Foster 06 October 1839 in Sussex County, NJ; born About 1813 in NJ; died June 1894 in Newton, Sussex County, NJ.
9 viii. Sarah G. Knapp, born January 1818 in prob. Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ; died Aft. 1900 in prob. Bushnell, McDonough County, IL. She married David Auble About 1844 in Newton, Sussex County, NJ; born 1817 in Stillwater, Sussex County, NJ; died 22 March 1894 in Terre Haute, Vigo County, IN (VR Index).
10 ix. William Knapp, born 09 May 1823 in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. He married Elizabeth C. Brokaw Bef. 1847 in NJ.
11 x. Manning M. Knapp, born 07 June 1825 in prob. Newton, Sussex County, NJ; died 26 January 1892 in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ. He married Anna Maria Mattison 01 April 1850 in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ; born 1828 in NJ.
12 xi. Elsie M. Knapp, born About 1830 in prob. Newton, Sussex County, NJ. She married Wilson.

Does anyone have suggestions for further research?

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Expect the unexpected...

There is an interesting article in the Toledo (OH) Blade newspaper dated 8 October by Jane Schmucker - the title is "Expert says to expect the unexpected, Researching family tree can lead to amazing finds." The link to the article is here.

The article highlights a day-long workshop given by Tony Burroughs, a famed Chicago-area genealogist, to a Toledo-Lucas County Public Library group. While oriented towards African-American research, there are plenty of great research stories and nuggets in the article. The article included:

As Tony Burroughs, an African-American genealogy expert from Chicago, ended his seminar at the Main Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library yesterday, he listed occupations he found on the 1850 U.S. Census.

"Prostitute" and "Pimp" drew chuckles from the audience of almost 70 people.

"Does nothing" elicited outright laughter.

And the audience howled when Mr. Burroughs flashed a Census form on the screen that listed under remarks: "Old hag refused to answer."

"Those are your people," said Mr. Burroughs, a full-time genealogist who wrote Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree.

Read the whole thing!

See the Annie Moore Story on Roots TV

The "Annie Moore Story" press conference is available now on Roots Television at Note that this is the live link today, it may not last, but I think you'll be able to find it under the "Homeland" tab for some time.

There are five videos totalling 45 minutes of the press conference, including Brian Andersson's introduction, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's recounting of the search and Annie's life, Brian again with some documents and pictures about Annie's neighborhood and fmaily, and finally comments from Annie's descendants.

Watching these videos brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful tribute to Annie Moore, and also to Megan and Brian for the research effort and the presentation. This is genealogy and family history at its finest.


Pursuing One-Name Studies

Have you pursued a One-Name Study of your own surname or a surname in your ancestry?

I have pursued several studies for the descendants of a certain person, but not for a general "all-surname" study. For example, my own one-name studies are on my web page at, including:

1) Descendants of Robert Seaver (1608-1683, immigrated to Roxbury MA in 1634) - they are in four files - Descendants of Shubael Seaver, Caleb Seaver, Joshua Seaver and Nathaniel Seaver, respectively. They contain info into the ninth generation from the immigrant, Robert Seaver.

2) Descendants of Martin Carringer (1758-1835, settled in Mercer County PA in 1796)

3) Descendants of Peter Dill (????-1692, settled in Chelmsford MA) - this is primarily a Cape Cod family.

4) Descendants of Andreas Able (????-1751, settled in Hunterdon County NJ)

5) Descendants of Jeremiah McKnew (1640-1700, settled in Price Georges County MD)

I have pursued several more - Richman in Wiltshire, Vaux in America, etc., but ran out of space on my free web site.

In the case of my Seaver surname, the published records (an NEHGR journal article in 1872 and a self-published book in 1924) do not cover the late 19th or early 20th century families, unless someone provided them to the 1924 book author.

Using vital records, military records, probate records, land records, census records and other data has allowed me to define these families well into the 20th century in some cases. I am by no means done with defining most of these families, but putting the research I have on the web helps others in their search, and ultimately helps me expand my database when others contact me.

Fortunately, Google and some other search engines pick up the names in these reports. I often Google a specific couple - say "Norman Seaver" and "Sarah Read" - to see if someone else has posted information about them.

Each week, I receive one or two queries from other researchers requesting information about people in my published web pages. I usually respond with a genealogy report (generated by Family Tree Maker) for their specific ancestor, but I usually do not include my notes. I ask my correspondents to double check the accuracy of my data with their data, and I also ask for information about their family line if I don't have names, dates, places or spousal names for their line.

In England, the Guild of One-Name Studies provides a collection agency for about 7,000 studies, concentrating on English families.

In America, there are a number of family associations for specific surnames, and some magazines have lists of them. Many "Descendants of ..." books have been written by individuals and family associations. Some family associations have active web sites - for instance, the Kemp Family Association.

Using online mailing lists and message boards, you can find information about specific surnames and search them to see if someone else has posted about your specific families. For instance, the Seaver surname message board at Rootsweb/Ancestry is at has 324 messages and the message board at Genforum is at has 354 messages. You can click on those links and then substitute your surname for the last portion of the URL. When you are on a message board, you can search for specific names and/or locations using the Search box provided.

Rootsweb has mailing list archives for all of the surname mailing lists at and has a search engine for the lists at Just put your surname in the Search box to find the right list.

The challenge of one-name studies is to capture all of the information you can and evaluate the data thoroughly to define family units and relationships. This can often be done with secondary information and derivative sources, but in the end each relationship needs to be proven by primary information in original sources, if they exist.

Have you done a one-name study? If so, have you put it on the web for others to find?