Saturday, April 28, 2007

Year-by-Year Information

Do you ever need to know some basic history? Do you ever wonder what happened in the world that you ancestors or family witnessed or experienced?

The Information Please web site at has year-by-year information on the following:

* World historical events
* U.S. historical events
* Economic highlights
* Sports highlights
* Entertainment highlights
* Science highlights
* Notable deaths

At the web site, you can any year between 1900 and 2007. Or you can pick from several different timelines. Or see the information for each decade, with a quiz. There are plenty of other web links on this page - go explore them if it suits your fancy.

African-American Research - watch Roots Television

The 28th annual Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) Conference was held last October in Salt Lake City. There were many presentations concerning researching African-American ancestry.

The Roots Television Program Guide has added several talks to their long list of genealogy videos. Included are (several have 3 or 4 parts to them):

1) "Where Should I Start: Beginning Research on" by Adele Marcum.

2) "Beyond the Dawes Rolls: Black Indian Genealogy East of the Mississippi" by Angela Walton-Raji.

3) "Trails Back - Tracing Ancestors in Slavery Through Census, Probate and Land Records" by Beth Wilson.

4) "Roots West: African-American History in the Trans-Mississippi West" by Dr. Quintard Taylor.

5) "Finding Records of Your Ancestors: 1870 to Present" by Mary Hill.

6) Howard Dodson, Chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library

7) Spencer Crew, CEO of the Cincinnati National Underground Railroad Freedom Center discusses the activities and achievements of the Underground Railroad.

I watched parts of several of these talks, and they are extremely well done. If you are just starting out in African-American research, watching these videos may be very helpful to you. Even if you don't have African-American ancestry, the talks are interesting and informative.

I continue to believe that, if the profession and hobby of genealogy and family history research is to thrive, video learning will be the engine that drives it into the younger generations. Roots Television is doing a great thing by collecting and making available these videos from conferences and other venues for all researchers - young or old, novice or experienced - to watch and learn from. And the best part of it is - so far it's available for FREE.

Interesting Colonial Portsmouth RI town records

I posted the other day about my lucky (or good?) find of the printed colonial Portsmouth (RI) town records on microfilm (FHL 0,945,382). My eye caught several interesting "social" items in these records. To wit:

Page 71 (handwritten, transcribed on page 66 in print):

"At a towne meetinge of the Inhabitants of Portsmouth march the third (1654)

"In respect of severall inconveniences that have hapined in this towne It is ordered that no man signe any writinge as a bill of divorce unlesse the seperation be alowed by the Collonie he that shall offend in this case shall forfeit tenn pounds Sterling; and any that shall sett to there hand as wittness to any writinge of this natuer not alowed by the Colonie shall forfeit tenn pounds Sterlinge.

"It is further ordered that no man shall detaine or harbor another mans wife after warninge forbiding he that shall offend in this respect shall forfeit five pound Sterlinge for every night of offendinge; every forfetuer in these respects aforesayed shalbe taken by the Sargiant of the towne."

Inquiring minds wonder just who this decision was aimed at. I should review the succeeding pages to see if anyone was brought before the Town Council and fined for these offenses. I wonder if any of my ancestors are involved?

And on page 93 (handwritten, transcribed on page 88 in print):

"At a meting of the Fre habitants of Portsmouth this 16: of February 1658

"wheras there is presented to this present meeting A lickelyhood of Charge that may fall on the towne, by A child which is said by the mother of it beinge Mathew Greenell wife to be Jacob Mots Chyld, upon which occasion this meetinge wass Called and is mett together: uppon the afore-said bussnis the Towne doe juge that the officers have not acted according to ther Comision and Authority, to keep the towne from charge Therfore the town doe order and declare trheir Result, which is that thay are noe way ingadged, to be at any charge on account of that chyld which is to say Mathew Greenells wife chyld aforesayd."

So the town is most concerned about avoiding having to support this child of Mathew Greenell's wife, ostensibly fathered by Jacob Mott.

My interest is in Jacob Mott (1636-1711, son of Adam Mott and Sarah --?--) - he is one of my ancestors. My data shows that he didn't marry Joanna Slocum until about 1661 in Portsmouth, so he was single when this liaison with Mathew Greenell's wife occurred. A little research at the WorldConnect database shows that Mary --?-- was Mathew's wife's name, and that a Daniel Greenell was born in about 1655. I wonder if anybody is descended from this Daniel Greenell? There is a line in the WorldConnect database.

It will be interesting to see if a Daniel Greenell/Grinnell descendant has a Y-DNA test result that matches a Greenell/Grinnell Y-DNA test result of another Mathew Greenell/Grinnell descendant. Somehow I doubt it!

I am not descended from the Greenell/Grinnell line as far as I know.

I will add this town record to my file on Jacob Mott also!

New LDS FamilySearch site testing

The following letter was sent to LDS church members two weeks ago asking for help in evaluating the new web site. If this is something you want to do, you can follow the link below and participate. You will have to fill out a short survey. Here is the letter:

"Dear LDS Church Members and Friends,

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is developing a new version of the website. This new website will help members identify ancestors, link them to families, and provide temple ordinances for them.

"Can you volunteer an hour of time to help evaluate this new website? Do you know someone else who might be interested? We need feedback to make the final website as easy and enjoyable to use as possible. We are especially interested in feedback from individuals who are new to family history work.

"Anyone over age 18 interested in participating in this evaluation should go to:

"Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm. We greatly value your time and opinion.


FamilySearch Evaluation Team
Family and Church History Department
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"

I decided to test this out. The survey questions include your age, gender, interest in genealogy, time on the Internet, use of FamilySearch, etc. I completed the survey and provided the contact info requested (name, location, phone, email). They will send an email telling me if I am selected to be a tester.

On the signup form, the Frequently Asked Question links don't work for some reason.

From the letter, it is apparent that they want young people and less experienced researchers to help them with this task. Oh well.

Friday, April 27, 2007 Meeting at NGS in Richmond VA has posted an invitation on their blog for a user group meeting at the National Genealogical Society conference to be held in Richmond from May 16 to 19, 2007 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. They would love to have a wide range of genealogists attend.

The invitation is at

This sounds like something that all of the online commercial services should hold on a regular basis - for subscribers and non-subscribers alike. It's a competitive world out there, and this is essentially free advertising for their product, and an opportunity to get feedback from users, since they will be there with a booth and presentations.

Unfortunately, I cannot attend this conference or the user group meeting.

CVGS Meeting on 30 April - Margaret Read

The April 30 program meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society will be held at 10 AM in the Chula Vista Civic Center Library auditorium. The program will start in the Auditorium at about 10:20 AM. A short society business meeting, led by President Randy Seaver, will take about 20 minutes.

The program speaker will be Margaret Fairfield Read, who will speak on "Strength of Western Women - Quilting Women's Lives." Margaret's grandmother left a book of hand-colored quilt patterns. Finding scraps of information about ancestors' lives is a challenge, which is made even greater when the ancestors are female. The object of this presentation is to give you ideas for learning more about your female ancestors. This talk will focus on the female ancestors of Margaret Read, showing the places information has been found and the ways in which Margaret has pieced together the fabric of those lives, starting with her grandmothers, then going back to their grandmothers, and great grandmothers when possible.

Margaret Fairfield Read taught elementary school in Encinitas for thirty-seven years. When she retired in 1998 she was able to devote her time to genealogy, and now teaches classes for North San Diego County Genealogical Society and also OASIS. She is a member of numerous genealogical and historical societies in the United States and in Ontario, Canada. She has attended NGS Conference, SCGS Jamboree and several family history fairs.

Guests and visitors are always welcome to all CVGS meetings and programs.

Ancestor death records finder

The blog Ancestors at Rest linked to a web page that provides an excellent list of resources to find death records of an ancestor. The introduction says:

"Most genealogists search death records such as Cemetery records, Obituaries and Vital Stats (Death Registrations or Certificates). If we don't find our ancestor in one of those death records, we're stuck! Where to search next? My ADF (Ancestor Death Finder) can help.

"What happens when a loved one dies? What events take place around the death of a family member? What kind of death record paper trail is created on the death of an individual? The answers to these questions will lead you to other sources of death records and hopefully end that brick-wall.

"When an ancestor dies, many records of that death might be created. Let's talk about records kept before an ancestor death and those created after a death."

The article then provides a list of questions about what happens next - all the way from records of an illness, death records, notifications, the funeral, the burial, after the burial, etc. It's an excellent list with many links to other web sites to follow.

WorldVitalRecords at LDS facilities

Leland Meitzler at the Everton's GenealogyBlog has it on good authority that the databases at will be available for FREE at all LDS facilities. Leland's post notes:

"World Vital Records online research service, which includes the content of the Everton Genealogical Library, will now be available, without charge, at each of the LDS Church’s Family History Centers.

"That’s 3,400 worldwide Centers and the Family History Library here in Salt Lake City! The ramifications of so much free access to WVR and Everton data will be huge. Remember, all the Everton Genealogical Helper magazines (60 years worth) and Family Group Sheets/Pedigree Charts are indexed and available on WVR. Over 250 distinctly different newspapers from small communities across the country are now accessible free of charge at the Family History Centers through WVR. Everton Collection books are scanned and posted continuously on the WVR website. Numerous datasets available nowhere else are found on WVR as well as data from Google Books, the National Archives and other governmental agencies."

Now that is wonderful news. The genealogy company whose goal is to be Number 2 just made a very shrewd and generous move to provide genealogy data to many researchers. Bravo!

My opinion is that the real jewel in this collection is the Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts from the Everton collection. They may contain unique records that are not available anywhere else - people submitted them to Everton's, and the collection has not been available to many researchers. I'm not sure that 60 years of the Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine queries will be that useful - they are queries, not answers. They may provide contacts for researchers, but the submitter addresses may be outdated.

As WorldVitalRecords adds even more content, the whole collection will become even more important and useful to all researchers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Genealogy Magazines" blog

A new blog called Genealogy Magazines has been started by Illya D'Addezio, who runs the Genealogy Today data portal.

The blog features lists of articles - title, author, summary - from Family Tree Magazine, Family Chronicle magazine, Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine and Internet Genealogy magazine.

I appreciate the effort here, but would like to see a more complete list - the article lists cover only the feature articles. Often, the regular columns in these magazines have exceptional and helpful leads for genealogy research (see my post from yesterday for some examples).

What other North American subscription genealogy magazines aren't covered here? I can think of Ancestry Magazine and Digital Genealogist. There are other subscription newsletters also.

The end of a generation

It's been a hard two or three days for my wife and I. My aunt, Geraldine (Seaver) Remley, died this morning in Augusta, Maine. She was taken to the hospital last weekend and they found that they couldn't do more than make her comfortable. Gerry married Jim Remley in 1970 and they had no children. Jim's three children welcomed and loved Gerry as their own, and she greatly enjoyed the Remley family. She was 89.

Gerry was the family communicator. She loved seeing her siblings, her nieces and nephews, and all of the kids. She wrote letters and cards to everyone. In the last 10 years, we talked with she and Jim on the phone every month or two.

She loved my research findings and reveled in every Christmas newsletter filled with family news, pictures and genealogy data. She was my biggest "fan" and encourager.

After I started doing the family genealogy work in 1988, Gerry made three hour-long cassette tapes of the Seaver/Richmond family life, including biographical information on family members, and her own life. Gerry is very analytical (she was a musician and a teacher), and had tremendous insights into the personalities. She was the youngest daughter, and spent the most time with her mother in her 20 year widowhood. What a fount of family knowledge!

Gerry and Jim married in Newton MA, and retired to Maine. They moved to Florida in the early 1980s, and we visited with them there several times. And when they had to go to assisted living, they moved to Augusta in 2004 in order to be close to Jim's family. We visited them in 2004 and in 2006 there.

My family has so many wonderful memories of Gerry and Jim. We took a wonderful trip to New England in 1982, when the kids were youngsters (8 and 5). For a week we visited them at their summer cabin on Lake Cobboseccontee in Maine near Augusta. We fished, sunned, talked, ate, rested, laughed, shared our lives, and bonded all of us to them. My girls still remember the trip and the visit.

Gerry was the last of my father's 6 siblings to die. The children of Frederick and Bess (Richmond) Seaver died at ages 98, 75, 5, 92, 71, 90 and 89. There were 11 children in the next (my) generation, and 20 in the next (my kids) generation. I think Aunt Gerry met each person in those two generations, and even some in the next generations too.

We don't know about services yet. They will probably be in Leominster MA where a place in Evergreen Cemetery is reserved for her. We want to attend to celebrate her life, but it will depend on when it is, since we already have commitments for the second and third weekends of May. Now I have to make some phone calls - I hate passing along sad news.

It was a life well lived, full of love and laughter. Rest in peace, my dear Gerry.

The Robert Leroy Thompson brick wall

I posted several times back in January about my search for the ancestry of Robert Leroy Thompson (born 12 Aug 1880 in Huntland, Franklin County, TN, died 26 Sept 1965 in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, NC). He married Lillian Daniel (born about 1900) of Anderson County TN in about 1917. In some records, he is known as Leroy Thompson - no Robert.

The family had military records from World War I and memories from his four daughters, one of whom is still alive. The four daughters included Gwen Margaret Thompson (born 7 May 1921) and Lois Elizabeth Thompson (born 18 July 1926). After Robert left the Army, he attended college in Georgia and they reportedly lived in southwestern Virginia and in Kingsport, Sullivan County, TN where Lois was born.

Robert Leroy Thompson's parents, according to all the family records and the death certificate, were William A. and Lydia (Childress) Thompson. They had at least one other child - William Thompson - before Robert's birth. The family says that Lydia died when Robert was 3, and his father married again. The records also say that William A. Thompson's parents were William S. and Parthenia (Dean?) Thompson.

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results. I'm going insane checking census records for these families. I cannot find ANY census record for any of these three families.

I started in the 1930 census, hoping to find Robert Leroy and Lillian Thompson somewhere with their daughters Gwen and Lois. There is one Robert L. Thompson married to a Lila living in Guilford NC with a young daughter, Hazel. I don't believe that this is the right family. I've tried looking for just the children, for each of them with either their given or middle name, etc. I've tried searching for just Robert (or Leroy) and Lillian, using wild cards and spelling variations, without success. They are just not in the 1930 census records with any of these names (now watch someone find them - of course, that's what I'm hoping for - I'm not that proud!).

I also can't find them in the 1920, 1910 or 1900 census records.

In the 1880 census, there are Thompson families in Franklin county TN, but none with a son William or parents William and Lydia Thompson. I've looked
for parents named William and Lydia and son William (using wild cards) without success.

In the 1870, 1860 and 1850 census, there are not entries for William and Parthenia Thompson - and alternative spellings, using wild cards, etc.

So there are 7 sets of census data without a hint of three generations of this family. What are the odds for that? If the chance of an incorrect census index entry is 20%, then 0.2 to the 7th power is 1 in 78,125. Those are pretty long odds!

Did this family change their name at some point? Did they hide from the census taker every year? Were they dropped off from a UFO?

This mystery is driving me crazy. I have not had this experience before.

Any other suggestions out there? Please share them - I need all the help I can get.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Automated Genealogy has Canada Census records

In the half hour between dinner and the start of the Padres game, I decided to look at some of the Canadian web sites touted in the article "A Research Guide to Finding Canadians in Canada" by Elizabeth Lapointe in the March/April 2007 issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine.

The first one I tried was, but it looks like it is a bookmark page. You click on something and it shows you a bunch of Google ads - no substance to it at all. That doesn't look right...

So I tried and that does look right! So there is an error in the article. The projects ongoing at this site include:

1) The 1911 Canada census - over 97% complete by volunteer transcribers.

2) 1906 Canada census (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan only) - over 98% complete by volunteer transcribers.

3) 1901 Canada census (all but Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) - 100% completely transcribed and partially proofread by volunteer transcribers.

There are several other volunteer "linking" projects for the Halifax Explosion, the Soldiers of the First World War, the Canadian Virtual War Memorial Project, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Project, and the British Home Children Project.

Thank goodness for volunteers!

I need to go look for my Kemp folks in the Norfolk County area and some of the collateral families related to my great-grandmother, Georgianna (Kemp) Auble.

Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine - March/April 2007 issue

I do not subscribe to the Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine. I read it at the library, which has a subscription. It's been about a year now that Leland Meitzler has been the managing editor and the magazine has significantly improved in content over the older version. There are more feature articles and regular columns that focus on Internet research.

The March/April 2007 has interesting articles about:

* "A Promise Kept" by Beverly Smith Vorpahl - a Civil War story about Milo E. Royce and the 10th Regiment, Vermont Volunteers. A great story about how a Civil War pension file of a young soldier uncovered an interesting family history.

* "The Richard Schellens Collection of California Historical Materials" by Cath Madden Trindle - describes one of the best Northern California research sources (mainly San Francisco area) - available at the Redwood City library. I need to go visit this!

* "Obsolete Names and Abolished Counties" by William Dollarhide - a list of US counties that been abolished, merged or had their name changed.

* "The Numerical Index - Another Land Record" by Mary Clement Douglass - using this index helps determine a sequence of land transactions. I will look into this.

* "Beginning German Research" by Horst Reschke - his regular column covers the basics of German research, including a list of 30 most useful books.

* "Everton's Best Rated Genealogy [Photo] Sites" by William Dollarhide - a superb list of the web sites with historical photos - first general sites, and then by state, plus Canada and the UK.

* "A Research Guide to Finding Canadians in Canada" by Elizabeth Lapointe - an excellent list of web sites for Canadian research, including several that I haven't visited.

This issue of the magazine has genealogy news items (all from the site), lists of genealogy societies by state, many queries, and many ads.

You can subscribe to the magazine for $27 per year (6 issues) at A combination of access to and Everton's Online Library is $48. That combination plus the Helper magazine is $74.90.

Cornelia found - Egg on my face

Back in the very beginning of my search for the parents of Cornelia Bresee (who was born 5 December 1780 in NY, married James Bell about 1797, lived and died in Jefferson County NY), I searched the LDS International Genealogical Index (IGI) for her using her Bresee surname. It looks like I didn't try all of the surname variations.

While looking for the families of the Brissie people I found in the Greenbush (NY) church records yesterday, I found a Cornelia Bresie, with a birth date of 5 December 1780 in Churchtown, Columbia County, NY, daughter of Petrus and Maria Bresie. This is a church record from St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Churchtown (which is near Claverack, I believe). Bingo.

Oops! Wipe that egg off my face! All of that time and effort to search every nook and cranny of the Internet for her parents, and I missed it in the first two days. One of my favorite sayings, "Pobody's Nerfect" applies here. Another of my favorite sayings probably applies - "No one is a complete failure - you can always be a bad example."

So how did this eggsplash happen? I can blame the LDS Search system for the mishap, or my own lack of thoroughness. Ultimately, it is the latter.

But I want to explain how it happened, and hopefully save other researchers from making a similar mistake. Here is my survey of the LDS IGI search system:

For all searches, I used Cornelia as a given name, North America as the region, and 1780 plus/minus 5 years for the Event date. The "Exact Search" box was unchecked. Then I plugged in the following surnames:

* Bresee - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie
* Bressi - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)
* Bressey - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)
* Bressie - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)
* Bressee - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)

* Brisee - 0 hits
* Brissee - 0 hits
* Bresey - 0 hits
* Breesy - 0 hits
* Breese - 0 hits
* Breesey - 0 hits

* Bresie - 1 hit spelled Bresie
* Brisie - 1 hit spelled Bresie
* Brasee - 1 hit, spelled Bresie
* Brazee - 1 hit, spelled Bresie
* Brazie - 1 hit, spelled Bresie
* Breesie - 1 hit, spelled Bresie

The last group is the one that had the Cornelia Bresie born 5 December 1780.

Why did the other surname searches not reveal the Cornelia Bresie entry? In every case, the consonants are the same - the Soundex code would be identical for all of those listed. It is apparent that the Search Engine on the IGI is not based on sounds but is probably based on some sort of key word for a given spelling. The key word was probably determined by someone with a list of surnames. 'Tis a mystery! Another one. If someone knows how the key words get assigned, I would appreciate knowing it.

So what should I do now? My plans are:

1) Review the Bresee surname book on microfilm that is on order at the FHC. This may define the Bresee (and variant) families in the Columbia County NY area based on all of the church records in the region. Will Cornelia be included in the book?

2) Order the Churchtown church book to obtain the actual record of Cornelia's birth date and check the parents and sponsors names. Also, I will collect all of the Bresee (and variant) surname entries in that particular book.

3) Contact the correspondent who gave me the birth date of 5 December 1780 back at the start of this search. I need to find out if this date was obtained from some other record, or from the IGI record. If it was some other record, then I need to get a copy of it.

What else should I do? Does anybody have a fresh washcloth? Rotten eggs smell terrible. I'm embarrassed. But glad I found the lead!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Starting the Bresee search in "traditional" records

I ordered two microfilms on 29 March to start my Bresee (and variant surnames) research in traditional resources. My last post about this search was here.

I'm looking for the parents of Cornelia Bresee, born about 1780 in NY, married about 1797 to James Bell in Schodack, Rensselaer County, NY (according to family records). My online research indicated that there was a small Bries/Brees family that resided mainly in Rensselaer County, and a fairly extensive Bresee/Brazie/etc. family that resided mainly in Columbia County in 1780. However, Schodack is right on the border of Columbia County. On which side of the line did Cornelia come from?

The FHC called me about two weeks ago to tell me that one of the microfilms that I ordered on 29 March was already on permanent loan at the FHC.

That microfilm turned out to be number 0,017,136 Item 1, "Cemetery Records of Rensselaer, Dutchess, and Columbia Counties (NY)," by W.S. Coons, a typed manuscript at the NYGBS in New York City.

When I ordered this film, I hoped that it would be a comprehensive survey of the cemetery records in the three counties. I thought that if I could find cemetery records of Brees/Bresee people, that I could figure out who died in which location. Boy, was I disappointed! There were only about 15 pages of excerpted records for a few cemeteries in each county. Other items on this film covered other counties, with quite a bit of data from Long Island. For me, this search was useless, but now I can cross that film off my list.

I decided to see what other microfilms for Rensselaer and Columbia Counties are on permanent loan at the FHC. There was one for Schodack Baptisms and Marriages (0,860,296), so I looked at that. There were no Bresee or Bell entries there. There is another film with Schodack Dutch Reformed Church records (on film 0,534,204), which I have not ordered yet, but probably will order soon.

Another film on site at the FHC was the Greenbush Dutch Reformed Church Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths from 1788 (film 0,017,628). After realizing that it was wound backwards (!), I fixed it, and then read it. There were entries for Brizee, Bresy, Brees, Bries, Brasy and Brosee surnames in the 1788 to 1810 time period. No Bell's though! I wrote down about 20 baptism records (listing baptism date, parents names, childs name and birth date, and witnesses if listed), one marriage record and one membership record.

Three entries really intrigued me - Hendrik and Cornelia (Van Buren) Brizee had children Cornelius (born 8 Aug 1788), Tanneke (born 25 Jan 1792) and William (born 29 Jan 1797) baptized in this church. Are these the parents of my Cornelia Bresee?

I recalled that a Cornelius Bracy resided in Jefferson County NY in the 1820 to 1840 census records. Hmm, can this be the same Cornelius? If so, he may have traveled there with a sister or aunt Cornelia. Checking my census post, I found that the Cornelius in Jefferson county was born between 1794 and 1800, so it may not be him. This may just be a coincidence.

One surprise in these church records was that they were in Dutch. The immigrants came to this part of New York before 1700, but the mother tongue is still used in the church records.

I'm looking forward to the phone call from the FHC saying that the Bresee surname book that I ordered has arrived. I will wait until after I review that book to order more microfilms of church records in Rensselaer and Columbia counties.

I think and hope that I'm getting closer! The hope is that the surname book will clearly identify her and her parents. That will set off a frenzy on my part to fill out her pedigree chart. I'm hoping that it results in identifying a distant cousin relationship to President Martin Van Buren. However, based on past experience, I have tempered my enthusiasm until I have found the link.

It helps to be lucky

The old saying is "I'd rather be lucky than good." My version of it is that "I'd rather be lucky AND good." You get the best of both that way!

I went to the Family History Center today - they called on Monday and said my film (number 0,945,382) of "Portsmouth (RI) Town Records (1638-1850)" had come in (it took 8 weeks for some reason).

When I started reviewing it, the pages were handwritten in that Secretary hand from the 1600's. To make matters worse, the first 25 pages or so were just fragments - one side or the other, for the first years of the town records. Oh no, bad luck! But I found the wills of Anthony Paine and Adam Mott on later pages that were not damaged, but the writing was still cramped and hard to read.

I was ready to take it off the reader and go to the Scanner computer system, but I noticed my page for the record from the FHLC said "Item 3 is a transcript of town meeting records 1638-1697." Well, I thought, I might as well take a look at that.

Am I glad that I did! The whole handwritten volume had been transcribed (including the fragments of pages) back around 1900, and printed in a book titled "The Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth" by The Librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society, published in 1901. By the way, the book even has an index! Wow - all of that terrible handwriting has been read and interpreted and transcribed by an expert. Thank you, RIHS! My good luck!

It was a lot easier to read the transcription, and I found many of my ancestors in the land transactions, town office appointments, ear mark records and the probate records. I copied the handwritten probates, the front material of the book, and the land records and probate records from the book transcription. I saved them on my flash drive and will print them out at home.

So now I can easily read the records I copied and can enter them into my database program. I will explain that the transcription book is my source. Can I trust the transcription book? I am very sure that RIHS did a much better job of transcribing it than I could ever do.

I will compare the handwritten work against the transcription, but more for my own benefit of learning how to read the paleography of the handwritten work - I won't be this lucky every time, or maybe ever again!

I realized that I had not checked to see if this book, or others for Portsmouth and other RI towns, has been digitized and is available on Ancestry, HQO, Google Books, or other web sites. I found it on HQO but not on Ancestry or Google Books. So I wasted $6 on that film, it turns out! Not lucky - just dumb!

So my lessons learned today are:

1) Make sure you search all of the Items on an FHL microfilm - it may be you will get lucky and find a transcription or another pertinent source.

2) Before you order an out-of-copyright book or manuscript, see if they are available on Ancestry, HQO, Google Books, or another online book source.

While browsing in the online book databases, I saw several surname books for my families from Portsmouth. I will have to check and see if I have copied pages from these books in my earlier research. If not, then I don't have to order them at the FHC, I can read (and download) the pages at home.

I will probably post a few excerpts from these records for my ancestors - there are some interesting items that will liven up my ancestral biographies.

It was a lucky genealogy day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Top 10 List - Genealogy Words

JDR at the excellent Anglo-Celtic Connections blog (affiliated, I think, with the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO)) did some research on the Rootsweb mailing lists (using the search engine at, no doubt!) and came up with the Top 10 Genealogy Words - based on the frequency they occurred on the mailing lists (over 31 million posts!).

The blog post for the "Top Ten Genealogy Words" is here. I'm not going to spoil it - you need to go look at the list for yourself.

I was surprised, however, that "ancestry" or "ancestors" was not on the list.

Della's Journal - Week 17 (April 23-29, 1929)

This is Installment 17 of the Journal of Della (Smith) Carringer, my great-grandmother, who resided at 2115 30th Street in San Diego in 1929.

The "players" and "setting" are described here. Pictures of some of the players are here. Last week's Journal entry is here.

Here is Week 17:


Tuesday, April 23 (pleasant): I went to town, pd water bill, gas & electric, A[ustin]'s lodge dues, & safety box rent at First National Bank. Ma went in sun room part of time, is getting along nicely. I had the Prescription of Dr. Longeworth filled for her for constipation, $1.35. West Shore People have not paid Int[erest] yet. Got Rose's book she bought & left at Woolworth's Co. Wrote her a letter tonight about a woman that Mrs. Sorrenson brought over to get work. Rose wants a woman to care for the children.

Wednesday, April 24 (pleasant): Ma is getting along. She wrote to Aunt Libbie. I worked outside. Ma walked out.

Thursday, April 25 (pleasant): I washed. Ma better.

Friday, April 26 (cool): Ma wrote Ruth. I wrote Jessie about watch. I went down to school with Emily & her mother to see the school exercises. I bought a ginger bread 25c. Letter from Rose. I ironed. Watered fig tree.

Saturday, April 27 (cloudy): Did not hear from Ed. Emily cut our East lawn. I trimmed edges. A[ustin] watered them. I worked on West lawn in A.M. Got my shoes half soled & rubber heels, $1.40.

Sunday, April 28 (cloudy): Ma walked over to Mrs. Matarska. We did not go any place. Lyle's went to country. A[ustin] & I worked on yard. He put some ferterlizer on East lawn. We took out tile in front with white moss.

Monday, April 29 (pleasant): Letter from Ed that he was getting along but not able to work. I set out Lippia in west lawn & around ? tree. Ma walked out over to Mrs. Thompson's. I burned our weeds. Emily worked at store.


This was definitely not an exciting week. Ma continues to improve. Della went to town to do business. They all worked in the yard since Ed couldn't come over. Della and Emily went to Betty's school. Left unsaid throughout the Journal is that Austin continues to work at Rockwell Field on North Island as an aircraft mechanic, and their son Lyle works at Marston's department store in downtown San Diego as an accountant.

Learning from the experts

One of the reasons I read, and collect, family history articles from the Internet is so that I can learn from them - how do the experts find those elusive ancestors?

I've been searching for several "problem children" in the 20th century with mixed results, so an article, titled "From Carol to Karolyn" by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak in the November 2006 issue of Ancestry Magazine caught my eye.

Megan explains how a daybook found at an antique store was rescued by Carol, and Megan then found living descendants (including Karolyn) who were ecstatic to receive this gift of family history. Megan used the census to identify descendants, then the SSDI, obituaries and People Search to find the living descendants and make the contact. It's a wonderful story and a great example of an act of genealogical kindness.

Here's one with even more detective work by Megan and another researcher - "She Had Me At Junkyard" in the March 2007 issue. A junkyard dealer found a photo in a wrecked car, passed the info to Megan, who found a related genealogy researcher in Albuquerque, who eventually found the family who had lost the box of family stuff.

I love stories like these - they give me hope that I can find the elusive people I'm searching for in the 20th century.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Finding Recent Court and Property Records

I was browsing through the San Diego County (CA) USGenWeb site maintained by Sheila Larson this morning, and ran across some links to the San Diego county Assessor Index and the San Diego County Court Index systems.

These have fairly current information in them. For instance, the County Court Index system lets you search for records between 1974 and 2007. You have to choose between Party Name, a Case Number or a DA (District Attorney). I chose Party Name, and then had to enter in the form one or more of the Case Type (civil, criminal, domestic, mental health, probate), the Case Location (North County, South County, East County, San Diego, Kearny Mesa, Ramona or Unknown-All), the Last Name or Business Name, and the First Name.

Using this, I checked out the Probate records for my grandparents and my parents, and all Seaver people. There is a link that tells you where the record can be found. I could print out a summary of each case, but could not order the file online. On the Domestic Case Type, I looked for my brothers' divorce records - yep, now I have the date it was filed. On the Criminal Case Type, I found that neither of my brothers have had a case filed. Hey, this is fun!

The other major public record here is the County Assessor's Office, which handles land transactions. The online record index covers 1982 to 2007. I input the surname Seaver, and there were 583 hits. I input my name and there were only 4 hits - all of which I knew about. I input my brothers' names, and there were a lot more! I could have purchased any of these documents for a fee.

The Assessor's Office also had a Parcel Map Search, so I put my address in and the parcel map for my subdivision popped up. I tried my old 30th Street address, but no map was available (probably not digitized, since it was laid out in 1894).

What about your county of interest? Are there recent records that you could find for distant relatives who may have died, or sold their property, or - shudder - were taken to a civil or criminal court. You might check the USGenWeb site for these records, and if you don't find them there, then Google the county or state of interest.

USGenWeb Special Projects

During his talk at the CGSSD meeting on Saturday, Alan Jones mentioned the "Special Projects" sponsored and hosted at If you click other "projects" link on the header on the opening page, you get This provides an index for all of the projects. There are many that I was not aware of.

The list includes:

1) The USGenWeb Archives Project - The USGenWeb Digital Library (Archives) was developed to present actual transcriptions of public domain records on the Internet.

2) The USGenWeb Family Group Sheet Project - The USGenWeb FGS Project is designed to help researchers locate family lines through online Family Group Sheets, benefiting from research already done by others who wish to share.

3) The USGenWeb African American Griots Project - The USGenWeb African American Griots Project is dedicated to assisting all of those in pursuit of their African American ancestry by being a central depository for African American records of historical proportion.

4) The USGenWeb Genealogical Events Project - The USGenWeb Genealogical Events Project is here for the purpose of providing a place to list Genealogical Events that are taking place across the country.

5) The USGenWeb Kidz Project - The USGenWeb Kidz Project is designed to help kids learn their way around genealogical research.

6) The USGenWeb Lineage Project - The USGenWeb Lineage Project is designed for the purpose of providing a place to list researchers who are looking for descendants of one particular ancestor who must have lived in the US at one time and must have been born before December 31 1850.

7) The USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project - The USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project was started to encourage people to walk cemeteries and donate copies of the surveys to The USGW Archives.

8) The USGW Digital Map Library - The USGenWeb digital map library is to make available to genealogists, useful, readable, high quality maps.

9) The Pension Project - This project will endeavor to provide actual transcriptions of Pension related materials for all Wars prior to 1900.

10) Online Census Images Project - Provide census records - some have come from publishers of census records.

11) Church Records Project - Provide church records.

12) Marriage Records Project - Provide actual transcriptions of Marriage Applications, and other Marriage Records.

13) Obituary Project - Newspapers have given permission to archive published obituaries to help researchers.

14) Immigration and Naturalization Project - provide transcriptions of immigration and naturalization records.

15) Special Collections Project - Items that don't fit in the other projects, such as scanned books.

Most of us are familiar with the records found on the USGenWeb State and County sites - many of those records have been provided as a result of these projects.

USGenWeb needs more volunteers to support these projects - please support them! tells you how to volunteer. Look through the list of cemeteries that have NOT been transcribed and volunteer to contribute to the Tombstone Project. Or submit your material (probably hiding in your computer already) to the Group Sheet Project, Lineage Project, or whatever other project strikes your fancy.

Are you just getting started in genealogy research? There is a great set of "how-to" articles at

Lastly, what about a search capability for all of these records? There is one at that searches all of the USGenWeb Archives.

USGenWeb is one of the jewels in the FREE genealogy world - I urge you to use it and contribute to it.