Saturday, December 16, 2006

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 2

This is a continuation of my Christmases Past memories - the first part was here.


During the 1950's and 1960's, we would visit Aunt Emily’s (Emily (Richmond) Taylor, a widow by then) house in Kensington (a San Diego neighborhood) every Christmas season. She was my father’s aunt, and she had a daughter Dorothy who was married to Marshall Chamberlain (called “Chuck” by everybody but Dorothy and Emily); Marshall and Dorothy had a daughter, Marcia, who had been my mother’s student at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in the early 1940’s. This was the only Seaver-related family we had in San Diego. The trip to their house was dreaded and anticipated – Dorothy was very non-traditional – she was an artist, a harpist, made her own tree ornaments, and cooked different dishes that we didn’t particularly like. This was also the only time we had to dress up in a shirt and tie. Emily fawned over us, and Chuck was gruff and ornery (in retrospect, a fun “uncle”).

The best part of the visit for us was playing in the backyard – they had a nice fish pond, some cats, and a big awning swing. We had great games of hide and seek there. They also subscribed to National Geographic, and I loved looking through them for pictures of naked women and to steal the maps. In retrospect, I think Chuck placed the really good issues on top where I could easily find them.

Another tradition that we really enjoyed during the 1950’s was the box of Christmas presents that arrived from the Seaver families in Leominster, Massachusetts. They were usually toys, board games for the boys and candy for the family, which we loved. These were sent without fail by our Grandmother Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (Emily’s sister), my father’s brother Ed (and wife Janet) Seaver and their sister Gerry Seaver.

As I grew older, I realized that the true spirit of Christmas meant that I should also give presents to my family. It was easy buying toys and sports gear for my brothers but it was a struggle to find appropriate gifts for my mother and father. Sometimes Stan and I would go together to buy a gift for both of them - I remember one year we bought a new mailbox for them.

During the fall and winter, we had the 'O' gauge Lionel train tracks set up through the living room and into our bedroom with many switches and crossovers. We (my dad, myself, my two brothers) would take turns trying to crash our trains into the other guy's train at high speed. The track layout was elaborate, but the decoration was nil. It was all about speed and crashes, and was competitive. For several years, our Christmas presents included new train track and boxcars and engines.

After I moved out on my own in 1968, and married Linda in 1970, I now had someone else to do the hard work of shopping for the family, and she did it extremely well. We usually went to the 30th Street house for Christmas Eve dinner and gifts with Mom and Dad, Stan and Sheryl, Scott, Gram and Gramps. I usually shopped only for Linda – mainly nice clothes, fine jewelry and kitchen things. I always enjoyed this shopping – the giving part was more fun for me. Of course, once she started her angel collection, the challenge was finding new and better angels for her.


I'll finish next time with my family memories on Monday.

Traffic report -- The Top 40 Genealogy web sites compiles traffic reports for Internet web sites, and has catalogued them by subject.

The Genealogy traffic report is at The top 10 genealogy sites are listed on the right, and the categories of genealogy sites are on the left. You can get higher numbers by clicking on the link available. I can't find any blogs in the categories - they must be hiding somewhere!

The Top 40 (remember the Top 40 song lists from the 1950's?) for Genealogy are:

1. (1417 overall ranking)
2. (2398)
3. (3185)
4. (8909)
5. (11239)
6. (18959)
7. (8909, part of #4)
8. (22066)
9. (1417, part of #1)
10. (41084)

11. (83, part of
12. (47867)
13. (8909, part of #4)
14. (54874)
15. (58541)
16. (69562)
17. (71714)
18. (71336)
19. (77656)
20. (53927, part of another site?)

21. (96611)
22. (122799, a Spanish site)
23. (109021, part of another site?)
24. (125383)
25. (120260)
26. (2398, part of #2)
27. (168833)
28. (146191)
29. (130209)
30. (135067)

31. (138284)
32. (151841)
33. (145186)
34. (177124)
35. (29601, part of another site)
36. (201486)
37. (173029)
38. (182340)
39. (215033)
40. (274257, an Israel site)

I don't understand the numbers completely - some individual sites are part of a suite of sites owned by the same person, and their numbers are lumped together.

There are quite a few sites there that I have never visited, but I'm going to just to see what they offer.

There are several of my "favorite" genealogy sites that are not on the list. So I looked for them: (389785) (371657) (165686, must be part of another site)

It is sad that more researchers don't visit these sites, but waste their time on some of the other sites that don't provide original records or advanced search capabilities.

Genea-Musings is No. 945,511

I finally figured out how to get site rankings at, so I plugged my site in and found out my ranking, among all web sites, is 945,511, with 2 sites linking to it. The ranking is up over 59,000 from three months ago.

My reach (visits per one million users) is 0.85 for the last three months. If there are 91 million users, that's about 77 visitors per day, which matches my stats from Sitemeter pretty well.

For comparison, (Chris Dunham's excellent site) is No. 182,340 of all web sites, and No. 38 for all genealogy web sites, with 56 sites linking to it, and 7.8 visits per million users (about 710 visits per day).

Richard Eastman's site,, is ranked No. 120,260 overall, and No. 25 in genealogy web sites, with 203 sites linking to it, and 15.0 visits per million users (about 1365 visits per day). is the number 1 genealogy site, and No. 1417 overall, with 4143 sites linking to it, and 353 visits per million users (about 32,123 visits per day).

Interesting, eh? It doesn't take many visits to get into the top million web sites. It takes over 50,000 visits to crack the top 1,000 web sites.

Friday, December 15, 2006

New Technology and Trends in Genealogy

I try to check in on Roots Television once a week or so to see what videos have been added, but I've not done it for several weeks due to everything else happening in my life.

There are new videos almost every week. The one I watched tonight - 4 segments for a total of 50 minutes - was Alan Mann talking about New Technology and Trends. The link to the How-To page player is From here, click on the "Lectures" tab and scroll down to the four lectures. This lecture was given several months ago, but it is very interesting, still timely and very well done, although Alan had some problems getting links to work in the conference room in Provo Utah.

Also in the How-To page in the "Research Process" tab is a 26 segment series on the Research Process - it looks great to me for beginning genealogists and those looking for refresher courses.

There are many other videos at - go explore all of the tabs, and the tabs within the main tabs. You can watch them all - it might take a day or so! You do have to sit through a 10 second commercial for each of them - I figure it's worth my time because the real content is free. I can always blog while the commerical plays.

I really like because it has a lot of content, is educational and has lots of variety, including three genealogy blogs - one by Megan Smolenyak, another by Rick Crume and a third by a guy called Og (I think...). I also think that Roots TV is the future of genealogy education - online programs like the Alan Mann lecture are far and above listening to a lecture on an MP3 player or iPod, or reading a syllabus - if you can't be there in person (or via a webcast). Isn't genealogy fun?

"Different" Occupations in the 1880 Census

The 1880 US census search function is unique - you can search on "occupation" on Others have found strange and funny occupations in the 1880 US census, and the 1881 UK census, including this article on Juliana Smith's 7/24 Family Circle blog.

I can't help myself I spent a few hours yesterday, in between dodging popcorn coming off the ceiling and picking through the garage stuff, throwing words into the Occupation box in the 1880 US census and seeing what comes out. Among the usual farmers, servants, bankers, mill workers, engineers, baseball players, there were also:

* H.F. Koenig of Manhattan NY who "works in a space mill" What is that?

* Jos M. Wilkins of Titusville PA was "engineer in a slave mill." Probably an error - a stave mill?

* Elwin Willard of Silver Creek NY "works in smut shop." He's probably Hugh Hefner's grandfather (just kidding).

* John Sowers of Newark NJ was a "brass cock maker." Just what I always needed...

* Stephene H. Martine of Tanner Creek VA was a "proprietor of monkey house."

* Jos. Seymour of Manhattan NY was a "shit manufacturer." Shirt?

* W.T. Scott of Buena Vista CO was a "bull whacker." I'll bet the bull was mad!

* Horace Greeley (age 25, born NY) of Wichita KS was an "Oklahoma Boomer." Is this the Horace Greeley who went west?

* Mary Toomey of Boston MA was a "cash girl (fancy bust)" I'll bet!

* William Haller of Cincinnati OH was a "peddler & philosopher." He probably wanted a penny for his thoughts.

* Wellington Beatty of Monroe LA was a "farmer & thinker."

* Adolph Schuarymann of Brooklyn NY was "publisher of Puck." Was that a magazine?

* Tarrant Putnam of Wilton MN works at "anything that's honest." Diogenes reincarnated, eh?

* Oliver Ewing of Fort Scott KS "steals for a living."

* Benjamin Trulon of Bordentown NJ was "too lazy to do anything."

* Sally Vaughn of Louisa VA was a "trick woman." Hmmm...

* Both Anna Bren and Agnes Bren of Brutus NY were "ladies of pleasure" (residing in a hotel).

* Laura Johnson of LaCrosse WI was a "pleasure girl" (residing in a "house of ill fame" with others with the same occupation.)

* A.E. Lindhofer (and 23 others) of Hammond IN "work in stink factory." I thought there was enough back in 1880 that they didn't have to make it.

* Briget Malone of Bradford PA was a "pot wrestler." Probably a kitchen worker with a sense of humor.

* Austin Robbins of District 8 TN was a "perfect idiot."

* Edwin Marsh of Roundhead OH was an "idol." Probably the first "American idol."

* James Oxford of Gardner MA job was "laziness to perfection." His father must have been mad at him that day.

* J. William Miller of Rye NY was a "speculator" and his wife Ellen's occupation was "hoarding." Teamwork!

* Tom Johnson of Navasota TX job was "beating tin can from morning to night." Poor tin can, but I'm sure his wife was happy, unless the noise got to her.

* Bernard H. McCabe of Rosendale NY was a "hotel moper." Probably sat around all day...

* John MacGaal of Brooklyn NY was a "mad weaver." His wife was probably looming...

* Amanda Williams of Nile OH "boards in grim house."

* Matilda Adar of Springfield OH was a "mad wife." Her poor hubby...I hope it wasn't John MacGaal.

* Charles Young of Virginia City NV was a "lover" residing in a whore house with lots of prostitutes. I guess it kept him young...

* Peter Hogg of St. Louis MO was a "cat. drover." Is this the same as a cat herder? Isn't that impossible?

Well, that's enough for today - I love this stuff!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 1

They say that your life is in four parts – in the first part YOU BELIEVE in Santa Claus, in the second part YOU DON’T BELIEVE in Santa Claus, in the third part YOU ARE Santa Claus, and in the last part YOU LOOK LIKE Santa Claus. I have enjoyed each part – at least so far!

Christmas is usually the very best of times. It has been for me.

Like most children, I looked forward to Christmas time mainly for the presents from my family. The family dinners, songfests and trips to relatives were to be endured, with the reward being Christmas morning. However, it is the visits that are remembered and cherished most, although some special gifts are fondly recalled.

We lived on the second story of a two-story house at 2119 30th Street in San Diego from the time I was 4 until I left home in 1968 at age 25. The house did not have a fireplace, so my brother Stan and I could never figure out how Santa Claus could bring the presents under the tree.

My maternal grandparents, Lyle and Emily Carringer (“Gram and Gramps”), built a beautiful home on Point Loma in 1951, and Christmas Eves were spent there for many years – and it had a fireplace! Our stockings were hung there in hopes that Saint Nick would fill them to the brim. Before bedtime, my grandmother would lead us in Christmas carols while we lay in bed – it was a wonderful way to fall asleep. In the morning, the presents were there by the fireplace, and we relished unwrapping all of them before my grandparents were awake.

Santa was always good to us, probably because, in retrospect, we were usually good boys – mischievous but not criminal, loud but not abusive, whirlwinds but not destructive. We usually received toys that were all the rage of the day, plus the usual boring clothes, and fruit, candy and small toys in our stockings. The most memorable gifts were the "good" toys, of course. BB guns and Davy Crockett coonskin caps in 1954, Flexible Flyers (sleds on wheels) in 1955, bicycles in 1956.

Of course, Santa Claus isn’t mysterious forever. The Point Loma house had a two car garage that my grandfather had filled with generations of stuff – it was a wonderful place to hide, explore and search. We found the bicycles that year, but didn’t tell anybody else. Sure enough, on Christmas morning they appeared by the fireplace and Christmas tree marked “from Santa Claus.” Aha! So, we knew, but being rather smart we didn’t tell the folks – why kill the golden goose? I don’t recall when we stopped staying over at Gram and Gramps on Christmas Eve – it was probably in the early 60’s when Scott was a young child.

University of Houston Digital History web site

One of the most intriguing web sites I've seen recently is the University of Houston digital history site at

There are pages for textbooks, reference books, documents, exhibits, teacher guides, resource guides and multimedia resources. There are interactive sections for timelines, "A House Divided" and "America's Reconstruction." This site looks great to me - a favorite now.

There is a collection of historical maps at that is intriguing and useful.

Check it out!

The Benefits of having children

I received this in email today, and I can't resist putting it in the blog -

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into:

* $8,896.66 a year,
* $741.38 a month, or
* $171.08 a week.
* That's a mere $24.24 a day!
* Just over a dollar an hour.

Still, you might think the best financial advice is don't have children if you want to be "rich." Actually, it is just the opposite. What do you get for your $160,140?

* Naming rights. First, middle, and last!
* Glimpses of God every day.
* Giggles under the covers every night.
* More love than your heart can hold.
* Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
* Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
* A hand to hold, usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
* A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites
* Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140, you never have to grow up. You get to:

* finger-paint,
* carve pumpkins,
* play hide-and-seek,
* catch lightning bugs, and
* never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to:

* keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,
* watching Saturday morning cartoons,
* going to Disney movies, and
* wishing on star's.

You get to:

* frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets
* collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas,
* receive hand prints set in clay or Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for:

* retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof,
* taking the training wheels off a bike,
* removing a splinter,
* filling a wading pool,
* coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and
* coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front row seat to history to witness the:

* first step,
* first word,
* first day of school
* first bra,
* first date, and
* first time behind the wheel.

You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits,

So, one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!!!!!!!

Love & enjoy your children and grandchildren!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Six word memoir contest

Have you entered the six-word memoir contest at This is the antithesis of the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word contest, and certainly appealed to me. So I entered with one about me:

"Descendant of obscure American colonial ancestors." - Randy Seaver

Six words, no more, no less. There are some interesting and funny ones on the web site. And some scatological too (I can see everyone rushing over there now...). There is a prize for the best one - a 4 gB red iPod, but you have to sign up for a free Twitter account.

Chris Dunham at found this web site, and I posted this biography on Chris's blog:

"Son, husband, father, carpenter, soldier, citizen." - Norman Seaver (1734-1787) of Westminster MA.

What would yours be? Go post it at the web site and tell me what it was.

Rootsweb Mailing List Search function improved

Hugh Watkins scoops the genealogy blog world again - with a link to the NEW Rootsweb/Ancestry Mailing List Archive search engine that is being tested at . Hugh likes this "improvement."

After working with this a bit, I think that it is excellent. It replaces the real clunky search process that Rootsweb still has linked on their main page - where you have to search by list, and then by year.

With this new search engine in the Keyword tab, you can search on keywords - and get results from all mailing lists. The "Search tips" read:

* Search for a phrase by putting quotes around a group of words, like "john jones"

* Perform a single character wildcard search using "?". For example, j?nes will find jones and janes

* Perform a multiple wildcard search using "*". This will look for zero or more characters, so jon* will find jon, jones, and jonson

* Use "AND" to require the search to find all words or phrases.
"john AND jones" will only return results with both words

* Use "NOT" to exclude words or phrases. For example "john NOT jones" will return all results with the word john but not jones

If you use the Advanced Search tab, then you can narrow the search to words in the title, words in the body, an email address of the submitter, a specific mailing list, or a date range. That is a MAJOR improvement over the previous search capability.

I counsel patience as Rootsweb/Ancestry improve their products - and if you want to make constructive suggestions to their Help Desk at I think that they will listen!

Mary and Jonas - Love Rather than Money

A story about the marriage of Jonas Prescott and Mary Loker in 1672 has been handed down by family tradition and preserved with much accuracy, according to Butler's "The History of Groton, Massachusetts"


"John Loker of whom we have no other account than as connected with this affair, is said to have been wealthy, and both he and his wife to have been somewhat aristocratic in their feelings and notions. Having only one daughter, and she exceedingly fair and of good promise, they disdained to betroth her to a blacksmith, the son of a blacksmith, however rich or otherwise unexceptionable he might be. They had set their hearts on Mary's marrying a lawyer.

"So when they found that there was a strong attachment between their idol, Mary, and the young blacksmith (Jonas Prescott), they remonstrated, but, like many other imprudent parents, they unwittingly pursued a course well calculated to foster and strengthen it. They forbade his entering their home, or having any communication whatever with their daughter; and the more effectually to prevent any intercourse, they grated the windows of her apartment, in the house; and when they thought there was any danger of an interview between them, they locked her in.

"Jonas and Mary however were not to be baffled by grates and locks. Jonas took opportunities, when the cold night wind blew and the pelting storm raged, when no listener could overhear their soft whisperings, to place himself beneath her grated window and there enjoy sweet communion with his beloved Mary. Their intercourse was soon discovered, however, by the vigilant and chagrined parents.

"The next expedient resorted to was to place her in some secluded spot under the care of some watchful and faithful guardian. Chocksett, now called Sterling, then a frontier settlement, although adjoining to Groton, was chosen as the place of her seclusion. Jonas searched the country around, and made diligent inquiry to find the place of her banishment, for some time in vain. At length, being one day in the wilds of Chocksett, he made his usual inquiry of some young men he saw if they had any pretty girls in their neighborhood. They told him there was to be a quilting that very day, where all their girls would be; that they were going in the evening to dance with them and invited him to accompany them, where he might see for himself. He very cheerfully accepted the invitation, and on arriving at the cottage where the seamstresses of the settlement were assembled, whome should he find but his beloved Mary Loker.

"This was indeed for them a happy adventure. Concealing, as well as they could, their former acquaintance, they took opportunities to be partners in the dance and made assignments for future meetings. Having thus fortunately discovered the place of banishment, he renewed his visits, till her parents, finding it out, took her back home.

"She was then sternly told that she must reject the blacksmith and receive the addresses of the lawyer. She resolutely replied 'She would never marry to any one but Jonas Prescott.' The rejoinder was 'Then you shall never have a farthing of our property.' To this there was a general demurrer; a decree for marriage without dowry followed. The consummation took place before even the most common utensils for housekeeping could be procured (perhaps there was some delay to see if the old folks would not relent and procure or provide some). The tradition asserts that her only implements for boiling was a two quart kettle, and her wash tub the shell of a large pumpkin. From this affectionate and happy pair sprung the doctors, warriors, civilians, statesmen, jurists, historians, &c, noticed in this genealogical record and memoir, with numerous other descendants of whom Mary lived to see one hundred and seventy five."


The facts show, of course, that Mary Loker's father, John Loker, died before she was born in 1653. There is no record of her mother marrying again. Perhaps she had a guardian who remonstrated with her when she romanced Jonas Prescott. Jonas Prescott did extremely well as one of the first settlers of Groton MA.

This is one of the stories I'm going to include in next year's "Seaver-Richmond Family Journal." Jonas and Mary (Loker) Prescott are two of my 9th great-grandparents.

Is anyone reading this also a descendant of Jonas and Mary (Loker) Prescott? If so, we are probably 9th cousins.

Pitching part of my life

No, this post isn't about baseball, although pitching to my Little League and Bobby Sox teams as a coach was one of the most enjoyable part of that part of my life. I prefer baseball on TV over in-person because I can see the pitch locations and spin, and marvel at the artistry and difficulty of pitching well. That's another part of my life...

As I mentioned before, we are "cleaning out the garage" and remodeling the kitchen, family room and entry. There were lots of boxes up in the garage rafters - most of them unmoved since 1975 when we moved in. As I went through them on Monday, I had many memories of people, places and experiences come flooding into my mind.

Throwing stuff out is like eliminating part of your life. I can still remember all of those experiences (God willing), but if I throw the stuff out then I won't have the things that help me remember them. So what did I throw out?

1) My first real job (not the summer spent at the Chargers training camp in 1963) was with a start-up small airplane company - the boss was a German immigrant named Fred Wagner who had a novel aircraft design idea and tried to put it into production. I worked at Sunrise Aircraft as an aerodynamics engineer in the summers of 1964 and 1965, and then from late 1965 to early 1967, when the company folded. I saved many reports and company papers - but they have no value or interest to anyone, I think. I also captured many NASA reports and publications when the company folded. Out they go...except for the NASA scientific report I wrote.

2) My hobby from 1962 to 1988 (years 26 to 0 in Before Genealogy terms) was "listening to the AM radio." Now, you might say "everyone listened to the AM radio" in those days, and that's true, but I was trying to hear "the stations in between the stations." The ones in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, not to mention North American stations. This was mostly a late-night hobby, and there were two radio clubs with about 300 members each that published a bulletin 30 to 35 times a year. I also became an "expert" in radio wave propagation and published many articles in the hobby bulletins. Out they go - except for the masters of my articles and my handwritten log of station receptions.

3) We had quite a collection of magazines that we saved in the early years of our marriage. Out they go.

4) I found all of my college textbooks. They are pretty dated - out they go - to the library used book bin. I can't stand to throw away a book!

5) I found the boxes of O-gauge model train tracks, engines and boxcars that I grew up with. Out it goes - to my daughter who has a 3-year old in love with trains and a husband that can make it work.

6) I found the boxes of Little League and Bobby Sox programs and scorebooks...I'm keeping them for now to see what my girls and my brothers might want.

7) I found a box of old bank records - like 1984 to 1995. I am gradually shredding this stuff, since it had SSNs and account numbers on it. An inch of flat paper creates about two cubic yards of shredded paper - amazing.

So the garage is noticeably emptier, and the 20 foot long trash bin is getting full. Now I think we are going to work on the extra bedroom stuff. I told my wife that we will not be doing anything with the "stuff" in the Genea-Cave or else Genea-Man is going to be one unhappy puppy.

One benefit of this garage cleanup is that we have lots of empty boxes, which we will need when we have to empty the kitchen cabinets for the remodel. See, there's method to my madness.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Not much, in reality. It does have a lot to do with my life - my memories - and the problem of "what do we save, what do we pitch" that all of us face in our daily lives.

I've always kidded my daughters that "we'll leave all of the stuff in the house and the garage for you to sort through when we're gone, so that you can decide what you want to save or pitch." I'm leaving my memoirs to them, which include descriptions of each of these parts of my life - that should be enough.

The genealogy "collection of dead ancestors" stuff is another matter of course - how much can I put into words and pictures and pass on in book or manuscript form? It depends on life choices, health and personal interests, of course. I'm working on it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Research and Evidence analysis

The APG mailing list has been discussing the methods used for evidence analysis, and the opportunities to learn how to do it (I would put a link to the thread here, but the APG list Archive is down tonight). The discussion was started by Ken Aitken a week or so ago, and many experts have contributed their wisdom and experience. One of the major issues has been whether to use a "word processor" document or a software program to drive the analysis of evidence. I contributed my two cents, saying:

As I collect information from sources, I enter the VR data into the right places in my program (Family Tree Maker in my case) and I enter non-VR data into the text notes section, usually in a timeline fashion. I then make a genealogy report (usually a descendants report - I prefer the NGSQ format since I don't have to go to the next generation to see all of the details) and print it out (including sources). I can proofread it and edit it by hand (I proof and edit much better with a paper in front of me than on the screen), then add the changes to the text notes in FTM. I discuss the evidence quality in the notes, and I form hypotheses when needed. I keep the database updated with each bit of information I obtain.

When I am searching for the parents of a person and don't know their names, the results of my search to date is in my database under "Mr. Smith" or whatever, as the father or mother of the particular person. When I make my genealogy report, I start with this unknown person so that I know what I have already searched.For the "brick wall" problems, I use four forms of my own creation:

1) What information I have already found according to type (vital, census, probate, land, military, etc)

2) The books, journals and databases I have already reviewed (and the libraries, archives, genealogical or historical societies that hold them)

3) The Internet databases, web pages, message boards, etc. that I have or need to search in an organized way

4) A to-do list for the particular family or surname, including type of information, specific resources to look for and repositories that may hold them

This system allows me to identify what information I do have and to evaluate its quality, what information I don't have and need to search for, and where I need to search. If the type of record is not extant after searching, I note that too, so that I don't revisit a source, repository or a database without a good reason.

The forms get stapled to the genealogy report and I put the whole package in my research notebook that goes to the repository with me. The database and the forms are also on my laptop computer, but I usually write on the paper forms at the repository.

All of the above is evidence gathering and analysis. Classifying the information as primary or secondary, the sources as original or derivative, and the evidence as direct or indirect helps focus the effort and drive to a solution. I have a lot of experience in gathering and analyzing, but there have not been definite solutions to many of my "brick wall" problems - yet!

This is what works for me. I choose to not use the real "word processor" until I am ready to do a final report. I find it easier to write plain text in FTM and print out the results, proof it, edit it, modify the text, rinse and repeat. I have not used a spreadsheet like MS Excel to analyze genealogy problems, nor a program like Clooz (which does some of this well, I think). Perhaps someone could comment on their experience with Clooz (are there other programs of this nature?) - does it help with evidence analysis?

One thing that also helps me with my "brick wall" problems is sharing them with other researchers and asking for advice. Our local society has a monthly research group where we share our problems and their solutions when we find them. I read some of the journals (NGSQ, NEHGR, TAG, TG) for research problems (and their solutions) similar to mine. I have posted several of my research problems on my genealogy blog.

Gathering information and analyzing the available evidence are the really fun part of the genealogy treasure hunt for me.

What about you? How do you analyze the evidence you have gathered? How do you know what you need to look for? How do you lay it out so that you can evaluate it?

My great-grandparents: Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer

My posts yesterday about Della (Smith) Carringer and her 1929 Journal entries reminded me that I had written about her family before - at . This post collects what I know about them in one article and illustrates what a treasure trove family papers can be.

The house they built in San Diego is in the picture at . I grew up in the second floor of this house (what? you don't see a second floor?) - they moved the house in about 1927 and added a second floor apartment, using the widow's walk as a central core, but taking out the central staircase and adding one on the north side of the building. Then they stuccoed the house into a box (essentially) - totally destroying the Victorian gingerbread architecture of the original house.

Some of the family papers I have from this family include a county history book into which someone (Della, her son Lyle?) pasted pictures and newspaper articles; Della's scrapbook, with many playbills and other ephemera; Della's autograph book, with many names I don't recognize; pages from the Smith family Bible.

Della had an interesting father - Devier James (D.J.) Smith was many things, not least of which was a snake oil salesman, as posted at .

One of the neat things about blogging is that all of your posts are saved in the Archives. One problem is that there is no real index on Blogger. However, you can Google your names or key words and they pop up immediatedly. At least I don't have to type it all again.

Monday, December 11, 2006

World's oldest person dies at 116

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bolden died today in Tennessee at age 116. An article on her life is here. She also has a Wikipedia article here.

The FoxNews article says:

Bolden will have no shortage of mourners. She has literally hundreds of heirs, including 75 great-great-great-great grandchildren.

Wow, there are 6 generations of descendants! I'll bet that makes quite a family picture. I hope she left a will - the probate record might be hundreds of pages long if she didn't.

Emiliano Mercado del Toro, a 115 year old Puerto Rican male, is now the oldest living verifiable person on earth.

A week in the life of Della Carringer - Christmas 1929

I have been reading my great-grandmother's journal (Della (Smith) Carringer) for 1929 off and on during the day - it is intriguing and frustrating. Intriguing because of the daily news and bits of family information, frustrating because there are usually just a sentence or two for each day, plus a weather report.

For example, at Christmas time 1929:


Fri[day], 20 [December], warmest day in years on this date. Ma [Della's mother, Abigail (Vaux) Smith] washed her hair. I worked on cards cut out cushions for Rose - and Xmas things.

Sat[urday] 21 [December] warm. Gave Gilbert girls some Poinsettias & Mrs. Paden. Ed [brother-in-law Edgar Carringer, a single codger] over cut lawn. A[ustin Carringer, her husband] & Ed put cut leaves off Palm.

Sun[day] 22 [December] warm. Ma & I went to see Mrs. Putnam got home ten min[utes] of 4 P.M. Austin watered and put a little manure on fruit trees on West. Miss Thoren [a renter] went N[orth] for Xmas.

Mon[day] 23 [December] warm. We worked on Xmas things. I took box up to University P.O. sent to Kimballs sent Xmas cards.

Tue[sday] 24 [December] warm. Roberts [no clue who this is] called has changed to 5th Ave. Gave him candy, & a box with fruit & cookies. Fixed poinsettias & gave to the neighbors & finished sending cards. Gave boxes of candy to Sim & Union boys.

Xmas Wed[nesday] 25 [December]. We were all at Lyle's [her son, Lyle Carringer, wife Emily, daughter Betty, mother-in-law, Georgianna Auble, a widow] had a lovely time. Went to see the tree picked in morning. Ed over. In afternoon Lyle took Austin Ed & I to see Will Rodgers in "Had to see Paris" Fine.

It appears that they exchanged gifts on the 25th but did not have a big Christmas dinner - they went to a movie! This family was not religious at all, due to the death of Della's first child as a baby - it devastated them and turned them against God, I was told by my grandmother..

The front page of the journal lists the people that they sent Christmas cards to in 1928 and the back page lists who they received cards from. I recognize many of the names - many first and second cousins. I'm going to try to extend my knowledge of these families more than what I have now.

I will probably do a week of the journal at a time on the blog with this material as the year goes on. After a year, I should have this transcribed and can put it into a document to share with my brothers and children. I'm fascinated by the glimpses of each person, especially of Lyle, Emily and Betty (my mother), since I knew them well.

Genea-Christmas: The 12 Days of Christmas

A genealogy oriented version of the Twelve Days of Christmas is available on the Internet - see Kimberly Powell's site at

I decided I would do my own based on using computer genealogy, my own needs and my own research:

On the 12th day of Christmas,

My true love gave to me --

Twelve RevWar pension files (12)

Eleven passenger lists (22)

Ten WorldConnect entries (30)

Nine message board postings (36)

Eight probate records (40)

Seven census pages (42)

Six deed abstracts (42)

Five blog readers (40)

Four marriage records (36)

Three family Bibles (30)

Two draft card images (22)

And a new name in my family tree. (12)

I've put the total number in parenthesis of each item - if you sing the song all the way through, going one number at a time.

My true love is a busy girl, isn't she? But, but, but ... that would take all the fun out of the search, wouldn't it?

My early Christmas gift - from the past

I am floating on air this morning - I am really excited about a really unexpected "gift".

As I mentioned, we are cleaning out the garage and remodeling some of the house. There is a 20 foot long bin out in the driveway and the temptation is to take all the boxes put up in the garage rafters back in 1975 and dump them in the bin, sight unseen. We've resisted that so far.

So there is this box hiding in the corner on the top shelf of the rafters...and it's falling apart. The bottom drops out of it as I bring it to the garage floor. What can this be?

Treasures in the box include:

1) All of my report cards from elementary school through high school, plus some yearbooks. Also some early "artwork." I was really into maps!

2) The scorebooks from the 1960 to 1975 Little League/Pony League seasons that my dad and I coached, plus some pictures and programs.

3) Many newspaper clippings from the 1940 to 1975 time period - cut out.

4) Lots of old maps from National Geographic and other sources. Did I say that I really loved maps?

5) Three old books - "The Analytical Speller" by Edwards & Warren, 1867; "Common Sense Applied to Numbers, The Word System," 1874; "Graded Classics Fourth Reader," 1902.

6) A daily journal from 1928-1930 written by my great-grandmother, Della (Smith) Carringer.

I'm looking forward to perusing the yearbooks and report cards, reading the old books, and transcribing the journal.

They say "luck is the residue of design" - well, I feel really lucky today; I'm not sure what "design" there was here, other than cleaning out the garage. Now there's more stuff in the genea-cave in its own little box, waiting for the treasure hunt!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm almost ready for Christmas

I'm a bit winded from the frenetic activity of preparing for Christmas, sorting and throwing out collected stuff (not genealogy!) as we start our home remodel, shopping for kitchen cabinets and appliances for the remodel, and from rooting on my Chargers.

My major preparations for Christmas are almost over. I worked the last four weeks on:

1) Writing and printing the family Christmas letter - two pages with photos - that we snail mail to about 100 people. This includes making the envelope labels, writing the letter, and printing them two-sided - about a one week job with editsd and rewrites. BTW, if you want a copy of this, please email me at rjseaver(at) and i'll send a PDF version.

2) Writing and printing the 16-page Seaver-Richmond Journal, which I described here. Writing the text and inserting the pictures is about a two week job, including editing. I print this on my HP color printer at home, and usually have a 10% scrap rate as I (or the printer) mess up the double sided pages. This year, I lost only one sheet of paper (out of 400). The secret was, I think, to let the pages dry out for a day before printing the second sides. I collated them and stapled them. This was essentially a 3 day job to print it all out.

3) Preparing the 9x12 envelopes with the family letter, the Journal, a Christmas card, and, in some cases, a page of photos, then labelling and stamping the works took several hours last night. They go in the mail tomorrow. Whew.

So that's done, and now the major struggle is to find some Christmas gifts for my Angel Linda, who works so hard and helps so many people. I think she wants clothes and jewelry, and not computer related things this year.

One more chore - add the downloaded Christmas songs to my iPod! And the downloaded Genealogy podcasts from the Guys, Myrtle and the FGS conference. Then I can listen to them on our trip north to see the kids and grandkids over the holidays. My wife can listen to Dr. Laura, and i'll listen to my iPod. Does Rush have a free podcast? I'll have to check.

Are all of your Christmas chores done? What do you have left to do? Do you like to shop at Christmas? I love to go to the shopping centers and see the families with their kids go see Santa.

Fond farewells - all about eulogies

There is an interesting article about the art of writing and delivering eulogies in The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper today. The link is here (I'm not sure how permanent it is).

The article tells about Cyrus Copeland, who wrote a book in 2004 called "Farewell, Godspeed" with 64 eulogies of famous people, and now has a sequel called "A Wonderful Life" with 50 eulogies.

His best advice for writing a eulogy is:

“People think eulogies are dour, tear-streaked things, but they're not,” Copeland said in a phone interview from New York, where he lives. “The good ones are frequently very inspiring and occasionally very funny.”

But what makes a good one? Copeland offered some tips:

Open strongly. “If you start with 'Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today' you might as well give the audience a sleeping pill,” Copeland said. “That kind of opening is a testament to the lack of creativity that is sure to follow.”

As an example of an opening line that grabs the audience's attention, he cited Madonna's eulogy for Gianni Versace, the fashion designer: “I slept in Gianni Versace's bed.”

Be truthful. There's nothing worse than a snow job that makes the guy out to be a saint when everybody knows he wasn't, Copeland said. It's OK to mention foibles, because they highlight our shared humanity, he added.

Tell stories. “We all want to know our presence made a difference in people's lives,” Copeland said, “and telling stories is one way to show that imprint.”

The article has sidebars, including one for the shortest eulogy:

Rev. Louis Saunders offered a one-sentence farewell to an assassin: "Mrs. Oswald tells me her son Lee Harvey was a good boy and that she loved him, and today, Lord, we commit his spirit to your divine care."

The best eulogy for a matinee idol:
Larry Gelbart on Gregory Peck: "For openers, he had the kind of face that belonged on money."

The most brutally honest:
Rev. Howard Moody, talking about comedian Lenny Bruce: "There are three characteristics of his that I recall: his destructiveness, his unbearable moralism, and his unstinting pigheadedness."

Interesting and useful article. Having written eulogies for my mother, two aunts, an uncle and a cousin, I tend to concentrate on the good things about the person, with lots of adjectives. I need to add some stories, I guess.

Honesty in Birth Certificates

An article in today's San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper describes the story of the birth of Molly Buck on 6 January 2003. The link to the story is here (I'm not sure if this will be available for very long).

The funny part is that Molly Elizabeth Buck's birth certificate (shown in the newspaper, parents names and birthplaces, and home address included - I hope they got permission!) says:

Place of Birth: Automobile

Street Address: Hwy 163 near Hwy 8 Intersection

The funny part of the story is that the parents planned on giving Molly the Toyota 4Runner that she was born in to her on her 16th birthday - but the Toyota was stolen some time ago.