Saturday, December 9, 2006

Genea-Christmas - "O Family Tree" Song

As we approach the Christmas season, I'm going to use some of the material I've collected for many years.

Tonight - the song "O Family Tree" - sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" or "O Christmas Tree"

O Family Tree, O Family Tree
How sturdy are your branches.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
How sturdy are your branches.
Through many years in ages past
You have shown the strength to last.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
How sturdy are your branches.

O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
There is so much for you to tell.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
There is so much for you to tell.
Reveal to me your mystery
As I research my ancestry.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
There is so much for you to tell.

O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
Show to me my heritage.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
Show to me my heritage.
I learn from you so I can see
A part of you lives on in me.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
Show to me my heritage.

-- Author unknown --

If someone knows the author of this, please let me know.

More problems at Rootsweb message boards

I posted on Thursday about the more visible problems at the Rootsweb / Ancestry message boards. After two more days of random playing with the system, there are other issues - more than I noted before. And there are some things that are pretty good.

My new observations:

1) When you click on the post submitter name, you may get an email address (as an image) of a non-Ancestry subscriber. If the submitter is an Ancestry subscriber then you can click on the Public Profile link and see their profile and email, if they have chosen to let you see it.

I decided I would make a public profile on Friday - and I did, with a picture, some notes, lots of detail. I worked 30 minutes on it.

The damn thing is gone today at 10 AM PST - poof! My public profile is blank (Gee, maybe I am just a figment of their imagination? Heck, I paid up.). Humph. So I wrote their HelpDesk a nasty-gram. Now I'll never have a public profile, I fear.

UPDATE: At 10:52 AM PST, the Public Profile is there. Perhaps they were worknig on thier servers or something.

2) The list of recent threads on a given message board still takes up about 40% of my screen width. They modified the list of thread titles so you can see the entire subject line, rather than a truncated single line. And they fixed the user-selected number of threads to list - you can choose 10, 25 or 50. I chose 25.

3) On a given message board, the threads are listed by the date of the last post on each thread, rather than the date of the first post of the thread. I like this.

4) If you click on a thread list, you can choose to see "flat view" (which is the content of each reply) or "thread view" (which is just the title of the replies, indented as required. I like the "flat view."

5) I also input over 40 "favorite" message boards yesterday - and these were saved (go figure?). I input message boards for both surnames and localities - the ones I visit on occasion. Using this, I don't have to save a bunch in my Favorites list on Internet Explorer. However, my list of favorites is not alphabetized - they look randomly placed. The county boards are not identified by state. I would prefer that they be alphabetized by surname and then by state/county.

6) One of the major complaints I've heard is that you cannot, at this time, click on the post submitter and see what other posts they have written on all Ancestry/Rootsweb message boards. This was very useful to many researchers, as it provided more insight into the research capabilities and surnames that the person was searching.

Check Hugh Watkins blog for more observations about the Ancestry/Rootsweb changes.

In addition to the Rootsweb Newsroom blog I linked to on Thursday, there is also an "Ancestry Improvements" message board at There are many complaints there also, most of them valid IMHO.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Jerome Murat video

We interrupt your genealogy reading to bring you an amazing video - a performance by Jerome Murat in France. Not genealogy...unless you have Murat cousins, I guess.

Watch it at

Breath-taking. amazing. How does he do that?

A beautiful life - Ellen Goodman's mother

I'm kind of a softie when it comes to the obituaries, and I appreciate the effort put into a really good obituary.

Here is a link to columnist Ellen Goodman's mother's obituary in the Boston Globe, titled The abiding legacy of my mother -- the listener. It tells the story of her life, and her legacy.

She describes her mother's teachings:

My mother, born before suffrage, before World War I and World War II, before the feminine mystique and feminism, taught me everything I know of family values.

She taught me that family came first. She taught me to make cheesecake and keep peace. She taught me that a real home was a place where you were welcome for Sunday brunch and conversation. She taught me to accept your children's life choices without criticism and with confidence in their judgment.

She taught me patience -- although I am afraid I never passed the finals in that class.

The last paragraph:
So my mother's gift for family, my mother's talent for empathy, was passed down from one generation to the next and the next. It is her abiding legacy.

Read the whole thing. Many of us have gone through this already, and it is often difficult to capture the soul of your loved one in a few paragraphs. Ellen, of course, is a professional writer, and she does this one very well.

Genealogy fraud has a long history

One of the major sources of Seaver genealogy data, especially for families outside of Massachusetts, was a book called "The Seaver Genealogy," published in 1924 by Jesse Montgomery Seaver in Philadelphia. He corresponded with many Seaver families found in city directories or other records to generate this book. Based on my own research, I have found only a few mistakes in his Seaver surname research, considering he did not have access to the census and other records unless he visited the location of each family.

Jesse Montgomery Seaver also wrote many other surname books, some with very common names. Apparently he was one of the first genealogy scam artists, as shown at

A newspaper article in August 1930 includes:

"J. Montgomery Seaver, thirty seven, president of the
American Historical-Genealogical Society, Broad and Norris sts., was confronted withState and Federal charges today.

George C. Baker, superintendent of mails at the post office announced a fraud order against Seaver's organization had been issued at Washington yesterday. At the same time Seaver was being held in $500 bail for court on charges growing out of a collision.

Post office inspectors investigating the Historical Genealogical Society's activities reported he had arranged a plan for selling books purporting to give the records of various families back to the time of William the Conqueror.

After the investigation Horace J. Donnelly, solicitor of the Post Office Department at Washington, reported the plan to be "a scheme for obtaining money through the mails by means
of false and fraudulent promises."

Read the whole article. Poor Jesse got caught. I don't know what happened to him after this.

I fear that old Jesse M. was a descendant of Robert Seaver (1608-1683, immigrant in 1634 to Roxbury MA) and a cousin of mine, although he could not find enough records to prove the connection.

My purpose here is to call attention to him so that other researchers don't rely on his fraudulent works. Researcher beware!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

New York probate abstracts, 1787-1835

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has posted abstracts of probate records - wills, administrations, guardianships) for a number of New York counties (see list below) for the period 1787-1835.

These records are, unfortunately, behind the NEHGS membership firewall. However, I am a member, and many libraries also subscribe to NEHGS and can access the site.

The NEHGS page says:
This compilation of Abstracts of New York Wills, Administrations and Guardianships was created by William Applebie Daniel Eardeley. The original materials are part of the Brooklyn Historical Society's manuscript collection. Eardeley abstracted original estate proceedings in the counties of this state. In addition he indexed on 3 x 5 cards all the names in his abstracts, i.e. those of the decedents, executors, administrators, petitioners, guardians, witnesses, named beneficiaries and minor children. The original abstracts were written in pencil on yellow legal pad paper. Although the original title of the collection refers to the years 1691 to 1860, the bulk of the material concerns the period 1787 to 1835. Also, while the abstracts generally end at 1835, it appears that in a few cases the dates were extended to fill a county's file folder. For estate proceedings of counties formed after 1835, the researcher should look under the names of the parent county.

This database currently contains transcriptions for the following counties: Clinton; Cortland; Delaware; Erie-Niagara; Franklin; Herkimer; Lewis; Livingston; Madison; Monroe; Niagara; Oneida; Onondaga; St. Lawrence; Sullivan; Tompkins; Warren; and Yates. We will add the remaining counties from this collection in future.

I looked for my elusive William Knapp (b. ca 1775 in Dutchess County NY, died 1857 in Sussex County NJ) in this collection, since one of the counties listed was Putnam (which was part of Dutchess before 1810 or so). I didn't find him, but did get a pretty good idea of the scope of these probate abstracts. They would be extremely useful as a finding aid to people searching for probate records of New York ancestors.

The images available are of the handwritten abstracts, not the probate records themselves. They are downloadable. I would be happy to search for one or two items if someone really needs help. Please contact me at rjseaver(at)

Rootsweb message boards have changed a bit

Hugh Watkins alerted us to the changes at Rootsweb message boards - they've changed the format of the boards - they look different - and they work a bit different too. Hopefully, some of the program "improvements" will be reversed, like the URLs in messages not being clickable.

I went and played a bit with some of the boards just to see how things changed. The major things I've noticed include:

1) You get a list of only 10 threads. If you try to get more threads (25 or 50 are offered), then you get a blank page - that needs to be fixed.

2) The "box" with the threads is only about 40% of the width of my screen, and the type is much smaller (increasing font size in IE7 View doesn't work on the font). This is cosmetic only, but may be a problem for those with vision problems.

3) When you click on a thread, you see the first message and a list of responses to the thread. The width of the text box limits how much you can see of many of the indented post titles.

4) If you click on the post submitter's name, then you can obtain the email address of the submitter, unless the submitter has not put a public profile on the Ancestry system. I haven't yet, but I will.

Hugh Watkins also called attention to the Rootsweb Newsroom page at This was the first I've heard about this - maybe I missed an announcement some time ago. I wonder why they keep things like this secret?

The Rootsweb Newsroom says that the changes made include:

** The RootsWeb message board URL is now The “old” URL’s will also still work.

** Registration is now required in order to post a message. This will help message authors keep their contact information
current and cut down on spam posted to the boards.

** The “Community Guidelines” have replaced the “Board Rules” as the “rules” for participation on the Message Boards.

** “My Notifications” has been renamed “My Alerts”.

** The board “Links & Announcements” have been renamed
“Board Information”.

** Clicking on a message author’s name will now take you
to their RootsWeb public profile (if they have one)

One of my "facts of life" is that "all progress requires change, but not all change is progress." Right now, this change doesn't seem like any progress, but I'm fairly confident that they will fix the problems that users will find. The message boards are still (IMHO) the absolute best way to find other researchers working on your surnames or families.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Dear Genea-Santa

I have been a real good genealogy boy this year, diligently tracing my ancestors, learning their stories, citing my sources, and sharing the information with my family and the world.

What would I would like for Christmas? Here's ten ideas - I have more if you want to hear them:

1) Just one measly lead as to the parentage of Thomas J. Newton (born in ME ca 1800, married to Sophia (Buck) Brigham about 1833, had two children in Cambridge VT in the 1834-1837 period, and disappeared).

2) A piece of direct evidence that my Elizabeth Horton Dill (born ca 1794, died 1869, married to Alpheus Smith in 1826) was the daughter of Thomas and Hannah (Horton) Dill of Eastham MA.

3) Some hints as to the parents of Hannah Smith (born ca 1768, married 1789 to Josiah Sawtell, died 1827, resided in Brookline NH) - was she the daughter of Joshua and Hannah (Baldwin) Smith of Brookline NH?

4) An insight into the parentage of William Knapp (born ca 1775 Dutchess County NY, died 1857 Sussex County NJ, married Sarah Cutter).

5) More patience to search the land and probate records of all my ancestors - especially in New England where the records overwhelm me, and in NY/PA/NJ/WI where the records hide from me.

6) More time to do my genealogy work - researching, transcribing, reading, blogging, speaking, working in my society - while meeting my husband, father and grandfather responsibilities, and having lots of fun.

7) Continued skills growth and research success for my colleagues in the Chula Vista Genealogical Society, and sustained member growth and quality programs for the society itself.

8) Wisdom, insight and prolific postings for my fellow genea-bloggers.

9) A younger family member willing and able to participate in the family genealogy research who could eventually grasp the reins and spur our ancestry to new heights.

10) Lots more free data (especially primary information, original source and direct evidence) in online databases - like the planned LDS microfilm digitization and indexing project - and soon, please!

Genea-Santa, I hope that you can grant me at least some of those wishes. They don't have to be wrapped up in a box, or put in my stocking, hung in the Genea-Cave with care. Just whisper in my ear on Christmas Eve while I'm dreaming of library stacks, musty courthouses, or overgrown cemeteries. Or give me a passing thought as I toil in Ancestry databases, FHC microfilms, esoteric web sites or FTM genealogy reports far into the midnight gloom.

By the way, can we genea-bloggers do anything for you? Would you or Mrs. Claus like to know more about your ancestry? What about the elves and the reindeer - do they have pedigree charts? If you want help, just ask! And provide enough information (names, dates, places) to get us started (I'm counting on Megan Smolenyak to help here).

One more question - is Genea-Santa really a fellow named Hugh Watkins, an English genea-blogger at with glasses, a happy face and long white beard?? Inquiring minds want to know! Hugh, are you moonlighting as Genea-Santa?

Thanks to Jasia for the great post idea!

Sons of Union Veterans Grave Registry

Have you checked for your Civil War soldier in the Sons of the Union Veterans grave site registry at

The grave registry is described as:

The SUVCW National Graves Registration Project was established in 1996. Since then, hundreds of dedicated people from within and without our Order have graciously devoted thousands of hours of their time and energy visiting cemeteries, recording, verifying, researching and entering the final resting places of Civil War veterans. From the beginning, one thing was missing - the means for the SUVCW and general public to search and view the results of our labor on the Internet. As the number of registrations grew, it was also apparent that duplication of effort and waste of time was reaching an unacceptable level, without knowledge of what was completed and what needed further investigation.

You can input a surname and get a list of names with the state they served from, their unit and the cemetery location. You can click on the soldier's name and get more information - the cemetery, his birth and death dates, his service dates, and more.

I found 39 Seaver Civil War veterans, some of whom I don't have death dates for in my Seaver one-name study. My Isaac Seaver, buried in Leominster MA, is a Civil War veteran, but is not listed in this registry.

You can create a free account and submit more soldier names and their data to the registry.

Old Family Photos

The latest Rootsweb Review listed several web sites with ephemera - photos, artifacts, etc. They include:

1) -- there are over 18,000 old family photos online for browsing and download. These are reader submitted. You can search them by surname or by locality. There are special sections for Civil War photos, unknown photos, railroad photos, fire department photos and circus photos. This is a way to share your old photos with others, especially if you have group shots and know who all the people are.

2) -- Antique Family Photograph Archives. A collection of antique photographs of individuals and family groups, taken from the Civil War period (1861-65) up to about 1910. These are originals with data that identifies the individual(s). These are, for the most part, tintypes, cartes-de-visite or cabinet cards. Some are large group photographs. There is a minimal charge for returning these original items. Note that you cannot save these pictures - there is a list of them and you have to contact the web page owners.

3) -- Photographs, letters, marriage and birth certificates, Bibles, funeral cards, diplomas, postcards, etc. Submitters of "Available Items" specify an asking price which isdisplayed in the search results. Sometimes, the only cost requested is the cost of postage. When someone searches the database of "Available Items" and finds an item that they would like to acquire, they fill in a form on the website and an e-mail message is automatically sent to the person who owns the item. From then on, arrangements for payment and shipping are made between the two parties involved. Your Past Connections sets up the initial contact and does not charge either party for this service. Again, you see only a list, not the actual item.

4) -- Designed to put people directly in touch with each other regarding lost family treasures. This is also a sales site, but you can also put your name on a "Want" list.

If you are looking for photographs of your families, check these sites - you never know what might turn up.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

More Christmas "characters"

I was devastated when the post came out about the Christmas characters that Dan Lynch posted on his web site, I had worked on most of those names for two weeks and was waiting for the "season" to post them.

So, here are the rest of my "character" findings -

1) Ebenezer Scroggs (1850, Harrison County OH) is as close to Ebenezer Scrooge as I can get.

2) Robert Crachet (1880, Scott County AR). Another Robert Crachet flew into NYC from Paris on Air France on 2 Aug 1956 - maybe to perform in a play on Broadway?

3) Three Grinch brothers (Charles, John and Lenwards) came into NYC on 6 September 1875 aboard the "Egypt" There is no word if they came to steal Christmas. Obviously, if they did, they failed.

4) There is a Jasper Magi and Baldermo Magi (1930, Fairfield County CT) but no Melchior; there are Gaspar Wiseman (1930, Queens County NY) and Melvin Wiseman (1930, Muskegon county MI), but no Balthasar or similar.

5) There are 18 Harold Angel persons in the 1930 census. No Hark Angel, however.

6) Sila Knight (1870, Randolph County, AL) is the closest to Silent Night I could find. Lots of Silas Knight people.

7) There are 3 Noel Noel persons in the 1930 census.

8) Angel Angel (1930, Maricopa County AZ) is one of the repeating angels.

9) There are two Merry Christmas girls in the 1930 census (there are lots of Mary Christmas females too).

10) Holly Bush (1930, Roanoke County VA) sticks out.

11) Christ Tree (1930, LaPorte County IN) probably extended his branches

12) Jessie Manger (1930, Polk County IA) parents were not Joseph and Mary

13) Then there are Santa's reindeer: Were they:
Cupid Wiseman
Melvin Dancer
Hugo Blitzen
Chris Donder
Rudolf Dasher
Dasher Berry
Prancer Saner
Vixen Locke
Theodore Comet

Just wondering!!

You know, if Bah Morgan (1900, Stephenson IL) had married Cecil Humbug (1900, Delaware County PA) we would have had more Humbugs than we would know what to do with.

I'm wondering if Alvin Monk (1930, Schoharie County NY), Simon Monk (1930, Lonoke AR) and Theodore Monk (1930, Cotton County OK) really got together in 1958 to sing The Chipmunk song. I guess they were a figment of Ross Bagdasarian's imagination.

OK, I'm done, but I wanted to get those out in the blogosphere before someone beat me to it.

What other Christmas related names are there? C'mon, lay them on me.

New Online Genealogy Classes

A new opportunity for online genealogy classes on a variety of subjects is offered at The setup is described as:

Each four-week class includes a detailed course curriculum, online class meetings and more, for the low price of $29.95.

Each Class has its own web site. After signing up and paying with a credit card, you will receive a password to access your class web site. When the class starts you will find the first two lessons to download in the 'Digital Library' of your class web site.The teacher will cover two lessons a week. You can work at your own pace, treating your class as an independent study course. Each week an additional two lessons will be made available for downloading.

The classes scheduled for January and February are listed at You can click on each class listed for the course description, teacher biography and the course outline. Genea-blogger Lisa Alzo is teaching the "Jump Start Your Genealogy," "Eastern European Genealogy Research" and "Writing Your Family History" classes.

If you are just beginning your research, or want a refresher, these online classes sound like a cost-efficient and relatively quick means to improve your research skills and knowledge.

Hat tip to blogger Schelly Dardashti (Tracing the Tribe) for this information.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Got Stuff? What will you do with it?

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak has a great article on Juliana Smith's 24/7 Family History Circle blog here. It is titled "How Do We Stop This Epidemic?" and concerns the ephemera found at garage sales, antique shops, trash bins - photos, papers, letters, books, etc. The comments to Megan's article are great - lots of experience there and lots of wisdom.

The money part of Megan's article is:

I’d like to tell you that I rescued these items–and if they had price tags on them, I probably would have. But they were being sold in lots and I would have had to wait hours for them to get to the family photos and documents–Alice’s husband’s Social Security card also being among them–that were scattered around the property. Like everyone these days, I’m busy, and therein lies the problem. We’re all so busy that we hardly give any thought to protecting our own family treasures, much less someone else’s.
I’m trying to be pragmatic. We literally cannot take it with us when we die, and we obviously have to be selective when we downsize into a smaller home or nursing facility. And I’m not trying to insinuate that auctioneers are somehow evil; the fact is that they provide a useful service. But how do we stop this epidemic of family history, and to a certain extent, national history (I’m thinking now of the fact that the only known photo of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island, may have been tossed when her unmarried granddaughter passed away a few years ago) being tossed out, or at least, sold to strangers? This is not a rhetorical question. I’d like to hear your ideas. Seriously.

My own experience is probably typical. When my grandparents died in the 1970s (before I even thought about genealogy), my mother (an only child) had a garage sale and lots of the ephemera went - I remember boxes of old pictures (not with names or captions) and books being sold. Fortunately, my mother kept most of the family photos and letters that she could identify with. My parents moved into the house. Fortunately, they were packrats, like me!

When I started my genealogy research in 1988, my mother gladly gave me boxes of "stuff" - books, letters, photos, account books, etc. They were priceless to me - and provided much unique family information.

When my mother died in 2002, not much was new since the 1970s. When we enptied the house for sale, I concentrated on the family history stuff - the spoon holder, the family Bibles, the photos, and, most importantly, the briefcase up in the corner of the closet. My father had saved the deeds, wills, military records and other family data (including tax returns) after my grandparents died, put them in the briefcase, and put it up in the closet. My brothers and our kids took the artwork and the furniture, but I got the memories.

At present, I have most of this "stuff" in boxes or file cabinets in my genealogy cave. I know what there is, I've abstracted or transcribed much of it, but I don't have a real plan to pass it on if the inevitable happens to me before I know it.

Megan's article is an eye opener - for each of us. Doing something about it is on my to-do list, but it's after the more time-critical activities like the holidays and my society responsibilities.

How about you? You might want to read Megan's article and make a comment on it - either there or here.

Christmas "characters" in the census

I posted two weeks ago my research about Santa Claus(e) in the 1900 to 1930 census records, and his ultimate fate in Saline County MO, where he died in 1957.

Today, Dick Eastman has a post linking to a web site that has done a nice job finding more Christmas "characters" in the census records, including:

1) Elf people - the surname Elf

2) Jack Frost - even one who herds reindeer

3) Kris Kringle - one in Iowa born in Denmark in 1868

4) Rudolph Render (close!) - several, including a 3 year old in 1930

5) Frosty Snowman - nope, but a F. Dudley Snowman whose name was probably not Frosty!

6) Peggy Humbug - whose father was probably not named Bah

7) no Ebenezer Scrooge.

Read the whole page at, it's good work and good fun.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Lucky 13th Carnival of Genealogy is posted

Lee Anders has posted the "13th Carnival of Genealogy" at her "A Matter of Life and Death" blog web site at

Only five intrepid genea-bloggers admitted that they had ever made a mistake in their research. Kudos to those that did, since we can all learn something from each of the posts. As I said, "pobody's nerfect" and ain't it the truth? Some, like Chris, are awfully lucky, though.

Tune in next time to Jasia’s blog where the topic will be Genealogy Gift Giving:

We’re making a list and checking it twice. Have you been naughty or nice? Tis the season of gift giving and this next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be all about genealogy gifts. What is the best genealogy-related gift you’ve ever received? What genealogy gifts are on your holiday wish list this year? What’s your favorite place to shop for genealogy gifts? Maybe you’d really like a digital camera to capture cemetery tombstones. Or maybe Santa brought you software years ago that got you started with your genealogy addiction. Maybe your heart’s desire is for an old photograph of one of your ancestors. If you’ve been a hobbyist for any time at all you’ve wanted or received something to further your genealogy habit. Let’s hear about genealogy gifts! Blog about your favorites and submit them to the next Carnival of Genealogy.

The deadline for the 14th Carnival is 15 December 2006 at Please write about your genealogy-related Christmas gift and submit it to the carnival.