Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Cold Third Wife

Allkison Sibert posted this newspaper story to the Black Sheep mailing list today, and I thought it was a fine example of what you can find in newspaper archives about your potential ancestors or shirt-tail relatives. Allison's post is here.

Apparently, the husband is Allison's great-great-grandfather, and he froze his third wife in a rain barrel during winter time. The article:


Ironwood Daily Globe,
Ironwood, Michigan
March 12, 1954
Page Six

Bridegroom, 78, Held in Death of Third Wife
Deckerville (AP) --

A gaunt, 78-year-old bridegroom was held for investigation of murder today in the bludgeon-slaying of his third wife.

Police planned to question him in the mysterious rain barrel drowning of hisfirst wife. Sgt. Murell Clark, of the Sandusky State Police Post, said John F. Brabant, a retired Deckerville marine engineer, admitted killing Mrs. Flora Brabant, his 76-year-old bride of six months, Thursday, but didn't "know why I killed her."

Brabant's first wife, Hattie Belle, 73, was found dead in a partly filled rain barrel Nov. 5, 1951 at the couple's home in this small "thumb" area community.

A search of the back yard Thursday disclosed the weapon, a crude steel tool, buried beneath a water pump. It had been partly burned. Clark said Brabant admitted burying the tool after trying to burn it.

Further investigation showed that the third Mrs. Brabant had made out a will last Feb 27 in which she left all her possessions to a son by a previous marriage, Vernon le Gear of Warren, Mich. The extent of her possessions was not disclosed.

Clark said that he was dissatisfied with Brabant's denial of a motive and had planned a further questioning today. He said he also planned to inquire into the death of the first wife.

Brabant, who had six sons and a daughter by his first marriage, was being held in the Sanilac County Jail at Sandusky. Brabant's second marriage in 1952 lasted only two weeks before it wound up in divorce courts.


Needless to say, Allison qualified for membership in the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists (IBSSG).

Obtaining Civilian Federal Personnel Records

Many families had persons employed by the Federal government in an agency, and the government has personnel records of that employment.

To see what records might be available, and the process needed to obtain them, you can visit the web site of the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri at

To obtain an Official Personnel Folder (OPF), the directions are:

"The NPRC, CPR stores official personnel folders (OPFs) of former civilian employees from most Federal agencies world-wide. The records date from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. OPFs are retired to the center within 120 days after separation from Federal employment.


"If the subject of the file is LIVING, the NPRC, CPR will provide copies of documents or information only to:

* the subject of the file.
* someone with written authorization from the subject of the file.

"If you are not the subject of the file and do not have authorization from the subject of the file, only certain data may be obtained: position titles and occupational series, grades, annual salary rates, duty stations, and position descriptions for the present and the past.

"If the subject of the file is DECEASED, copies of some documents and some information about the deceased may be releasable to someone who submits a request.

"If you are looking for your own records, and less than 120 days have elapsed since your separation from Federal employment, write to the last Federal office that employed you for your records.

"To request information from an OPF, follow the steps below.

"STEP 1 - Provide written authorization.

"* If you are the subject of the file, send a signed letter indicating that you are requesting information from your own file.
* If you are not the subject of the file and the subject is living, send a letter signed by the subject indicating that he/she authorizes the NPRC, CPR to release information to you.
* If the subject of the file is deceased send proof of the subject's death. Proof of death is not required if the subject of record was born more than 100 years ago.
"STEP 2 - Provide information needed so that the NPRC, CPR can identify the file. Lack of the following information may result in our inability to identify a record and you may receive NA Form 13022, Returned Request Form.

"* Full name used during Federal employment
* Date of birth
* Social Security number, if applicable
* Name of employing Federal agency
* Beginning date of Federal service
* Ending date of Federal service

"STEP 3 - Identify the documents or information needed and explain the purpose of your request.

"STEP 4 - Mail to:
National Personnel Records Center

Civilian Personnel Records
111 Winnebago Street
St. Louis, MO 63118-4126"

The problem here is that a descendant may not know about all of the agencies for which their ancestor worked, or their dates of employment.

I don't have any 20th century ancestors who worked for the government, so I haven't pursued this research opportunity.

NGSQ Theme Issue: Law and Genealogy

The September 2007 issue (Volume 95, No. 3) of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) came during the week, and I've been reading it during the baseball playoff games on TV. It is a "Theme Issue" - the theme is Law and Genealogy, with four major articles.

The Table of Contents for the articles includes:

* "The Common Law of England: A Key Resource for American Genealogists" by Donn Devine, J.D., CG, CGL -- page 165

* "Civil Law Concepts and Genealogy: Learning from the French Model" by Claire Mire Bettag, CG, CGL -- page 179

* "Genealogical Applications of American Statute Law" by Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL -- page 197

* "Protestant Church Law and Records in America: Some Denominations and Archives" by David McDonald, M.Div., CG -- page 211.

There are also a number of book reviews, including one for Elizabeth Shown Mills' book "Evidence Explained ..." I use these reviews to add to my To-Do lists of "Books I Want to Buy" or "Books I Want to Review."

This issue was difficult to read because of the subject (and perhaps my attention was drawn away by the games and my granddaughter dancing on the floor) but the issue is excellent material for the serious genealogist.

Each article has plenty of examples of the application of the different types of laws to genealogy research, but the "Protestant Church Law and Records in America ..." article was the highlight for me. It provided a summary of the beliefs of many denominations, a survey of the available records, and the church archive locations. The article identified the genealogically valuable records as:

* Membership records
* Baptism records
* Marriage records
* Ordination records
* Burial records
* Miscellaneous Administrative Records

As an example of the information for each denomination, here is the description for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

"In 1830 Joseph Smith founded the LDS church. Adherents view The Book of Mormon as a companion volume to the New Testament. Throughout its first half-century, the church held polygamy, or plural marriage, as one of its tenets. The church formally renounced plural marriage in 1890. LDS belief in baptism of the dead by proxy has led to the church's support of genealogical research on a grand scale. Its extensive microfilm archive of vital records and genealogical data is accessible worldwide through a system of more than 3,500 branch libraries. Its main Family History Library is at 35 North West Temple; Salt Lake City, UT 84101. A useful Web site offers an extensive online index to genealogical records, a collection of compiled genealogies, and a catalog of library holdings [ ]."

The paragraphs for the other denominations follow the same pattern - some are quite long when there are offshoots from the original denomination (e.g., there are paragraphs for Freewill Baptists, Primitive Baptists, American Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists and Southern Baptists in the "Baptists" section).

This article is a great aid to understanding how the different denominations formed, what they stand for, the records that might be available and the location of the church archives.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Family History for Kids

At the risk of being a Maureen Taylor cheerleader today, I want to pass on her web site called Family History for Kids.

Sharp readers will recall that I had a question at one of our CVGS meetings about genealogy resources for children and all I could think of was to find applicable articles online and books on Amazon.

Maureen's site has a number of pages:

* Family History for Kids Resources - this has quite a few books addressing the subject.

* How to Get Kids Interested in Family History - three articles that describe organizing and preserving children art, getting children involved in scrapbooking, and five reasons to teach genealogy to children.

Following a link on the web site, I found a new genealogy-related blog (at least for me) called The Last Muster. One of Maureen's book projects is finding photographs of Revolutionary War veterans.

"Photo Detective" Article in WSJ Today

As an avid reader of genealogy magazines and genealogy blogs, I feel like I "know" many of the authors and writers who frequently contribute to these outlets. And I often wish that I knew them better personally and professionally, since I really appreciate their talents.

Such is the case with Maureen Taylor, whose beautiful face peers at me every issue from Family Tree Magazine (and previously from the New England Ancestors magazine). Maureen has a web site at and a blog, aptly titled The Photo Detective at

Maureen's work was summarized today in an article titled "The Photo Detective" by Alexandra Alter in the 12 October 2007 issue of The Wall Street Journal - online here (for how long, I don't know).

This is a wonderful article about Maureen and her work, and provides an insight into her accomplishments, her workstyle, and her life. This paragraph from the article describes her current worklife:

"Since she launched her business 10 years ago, Ms. Taylor says, she's tackled some 10,000 photo puzzles. Working out of a cluttered office in her Westwood, Mass., home, she receives about 30 requests each week, up from five a decade ago. She is sought out by collectors, historians and even TV producers to weigh in on controversies. Her current preoccupation: finding lost or unidentified photos of people who lived during the Revolutionary War."

The article provides stories and pictures for several examples of her detective work. Read it and appreciate her talents and her willingness to share them with us.

The one strange thing I noticed was that the video on the article web page was made about Colleen Fitzpatrick (who has the web site and not a video of Maureen Taylor.

SDGS Meeting on Saturday 10/13

The San Diego Genealogical Society monthly meeting is on Saturday, 13 October at 12 noon at St. Andrews Lutheran Church (8350 Lake Murray Blvd. in San Diego (at Jackson Drive).

There will be two presentations:

1) "Everyone Has a Story" with Karon Jarred.

Have you ever wished that your ancestors had written down their life stories? What a treasure that would be to help fill in their lives. Through our research, we get all the names, dates and places, but miss out on the rich details of how they lived their lives. What were their joys and successes as well as their challenges? How did they deal with the history unfolding in front of them? Wouldn't you give just about anything to have these answers?

Well, have you written down your life's story? If not, why not? Come and learn how easy it can be to capture your life's memories for future generations. While your genealogy will always be there, your own life story may not be unless you do it - before it's too late.

Since retiring from SDG&E 21 years ago, Karon Jarred has pursued her interest in genealogical research. A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (where she serves as National Chairman of the Public Relations and Media Committee and California State Recording Secretary), she is also active in the promotion of historic preservation, education of our youth, and patriotism. Her hobbies include needlework and life story writing.

2) "Hidden Items/Treasures You Can Find in Any Library" with Penny Feike.

Do you know how to use a library to its full potential? Every library has unique and valuable collections that may not be found where you think they should be and unless you know what to look for, you may be missing that breakthrough discovery. Penny will share with you what to look for and how to broaden your library searches to find these hidden gems and improve your research success.

Society member Penny Feike has been researching for more than 40 years. She has taught and worked at the Family History Center in San Diego where she has helped many researchers over the years improve their skills. As a professional genealogist, she does U.S. and international research, as she puts it, "anyplace that uses the Latin alphabet." Her extensive knowledge and recall is always amazing (including citation of the book call numbers). Always popular and not to be missed.

I will attend these talks, and will have flyers to hand out for the 20 October seminar "Genealogy Online - discover Your Family History." I look forward to seeing many of my San Diego readers at this meeting.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Am I a H.O.G.S. blogger?

Terry Thornton at the Hill Country of Monroe County blog has coined a term to denote a special brand of blogger - a H.O.G.S. blogger who writes about:

H = History
O = Observations
G = Genealogy
S = Stories

I think I qualify... I write about Observations (I call them "musings" but they are observations), Genealogy (endlessly, it seems) and Stories (more now than before). I don't write much about History (events, dates, places) but I do write a lot about Family History, so I guess that counts.

You know, you can turn H.O.G.S. into another word by adding a letter - how about G.H.O.S.T?

G = Genealogy
H = History
O = Observations
S = Stories
T = Tribe

The "Tribe" classification might include posts about a blogger's current life, especially the events and experiences of the immediate family (like my penchant for writing about my grandchildren ad infinitum). It might also refer to a group that the blogger writes about, like a genealogy society (ahem!).

I'm sure other genealogy bloggers can come up with other acronyms for what they do. How about it - put those fertile minds to work and create a great new acronym that fits your blogging style!

Thanks Terry for the neat idea. I am definitely a H.O.G.S. blogger, but I think I'm a G.H.O.S.T. blogger as well.

Fun and Games when I was a boy

Juliana Smith at the 24/7 Family History Circle blog has posted another set of five questions for people to reply to in honor of Family History Month. This week, the topic is Fun and Games. Here are my memories:

1) What was your favorite game when you were a child? Were you a board game enthusiast? A card shark? Or perhaps a kick-the-can kid?

I invented my own baseball game using three dice and a scorecard - my Padres always beat the other team for some reason. I didn't worry about balls and strikes - just roll the dice and a total of 3 was a home run, 18 was a triple, 4 and 17 were doubles, 5, 6 and 16 were singles, 7 was a walk, 15 was a strikeout, 8, 9, 13, and 14 were ground outs, 10, 11 and 12 were flyouts. I would announce the games just like Al Schuss the Padres radio guy (his home run call was "And There It Goes") and kept score.

Outside, we played bicycle tag all over the neighborhood and "cops and drivers" on the block using our flexible flyers (sleds with wheels and brakes). We used chalk on the sidewalks for stop signs, one guy was the cop and tried to stop the others and give them tickets for infractions or reckless driving. We made big stop signs and tried to control traffic on the street, but the cops came and talked sternly to us and our mom.

My brothers and I grew up being very competitive but fair-minded. We invented games and played them with abandon. We played baseball and football in the street and down at the park. I was almost always the quarterback and play-caller and couldn't tackle worth a lick. I couldn't hit in baseball, so I was usually a pitcher.

2) Did you play any particular games with your family as a child? Easter egg hunts? Thanksgiving Day football games? Scavenger hunts? Charades?

At the dinner table, the family played "Ghosts" (I have no clue why it was called that!). This was a spelling game - the words had to be more than 4 letters, and the player who spelled a word got a point - five points and you were out of the game. This got me into the dictionary, and when the first letter was "b," I always said "d" and the word had to be "bdellium." When the first letter was "m," I always said "n" and the word had to be "mnemonic." I could often control who got the point. We eventually modified the game so that you could add 2 letters if a word would be spelled with the next letter - and got words like "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "pneumonoultrasilicos... darn, can't remember it now! ) I found lots of great words that way, and still remember some of them. My folks loved this game since it was competitive and educational for us.

We usually played outdoor games as a family in the small patio - whiffle ball, kick ball, dodge ball, ping pong and basketball. My mother used a different ping pong grip than the rest of us, and we learned to slice, carve and spin. I finally was able to beat my mother and father in ping pong when I was 12 or 13.

There were Easter egg hunts all over the yard. The family occasionally played Canasta (a card game), and Monopoly and Parchesi board games.

We had a Lionel O-gauge train set and ran tracks all through the house with at least two engine controls. We spent our allowance on train engines and box cars and tried to create collisions at intersections. My dad loved playing with us on the trains.

3) What were some fun places you visited as a child? Did your family go camping? Did you take family vacations? Was there a local destination that was a family favorite?

The family vacations we took were mainly to state bowling tournaments in the 1950's - we went to Fresno, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Barbara, and Stockton, as I recall. We stayed in motels with pools and visited tourist sites (I remember the Winchester House in San Jose!). One year we came down Highway 1 south of Monterey for some reason - and the road was washed out.

Our first family vacation was in 1954, and we went to Bass Lake, just south of Yosemite National Park (500 miles away). I learned to swim there, and it was my first camping experience. We hiked, boated, swam, and had a lot of fun.

Living in San Diego, we went to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park a lot. It was free for kids, and we spent many days at the Zoo - we played hide and seek there. When Disneyland opened in 1954 in Anaheim, we went every few years.

4) What activities did you do with family members? Did Grandma teach you to sew? Who taught you to cook? Did you go fishing with Grandpa? An uncle? Who coached your baseball team?

My grandparents lived in Point Loma just above San Diego Bay, and we would go to the fishing pier there with my grandfather.

My brother and I had stamp and coin collections, and my grandfather supported that interest with plate blocks every month or so.

My grandmother was a dear - she loved us, taught us and fed us. She raised me for several years during WW2 when my dad was in the Navy and my mom was working. Some of my most precious memories are singing Christmas carols at their house in bed with her leading.

My dad managed my brothers' baseball teams from 1956 to 1971 or so. I coached and kept score for him for many of those years.

My mother was an only child so there were no aunts or uncles or cousins around from that side. My father's family was back East - an uncle, 4 aunts and some cousins, so we didn't know them. My dad had one cousin in San Diego that we saw at Christmas time.

Cook? Sew? Wash? Who, me? I was way too busy playing games as a kid.

5) Did you enjoy watching professional sports? What was your favorite team? Do you have any special memories of sporting events?

The Padres were my favorite baseball team (AAA Pacific Coast League 1936-1967). I listened to the radio for almost every game (sometimes beneath the covers!) from 1949 to 1960 or so. We occasionally took the bus downtown to go to games at Lane Field at the harbor, and then to Westgate Park in Mission Valley. The Pads were the farm team for the Cleveland Indians in the 1950's, and we saw Herb Score, Rocky Colavito, Bob Lemon, Luke Easter, Bob Elliott, Earl Rapp, Max West, Jack Graham and other players on their way up or on their way down. The Pads won the PCL pennant in 1954 which was real exciting.

The Chargers came to town in 1961 and they became my favorite football team. They won the AFL championship in 1963 and were a playoff team in 1961, 1964, 1965 and 1966.

The 1950's were a really fun period to grown up as a kid in San Diego. This was a fun set of questions!

Can you recommend a web site?

I'm busily putting together my presentations for the 20 October seminar, and thought that I would ask my faithful, experienced and really smart readers for their recommendations.

The first of my talks is an "Internet Genealogy Survey." My plan is to list the "best" web sites for each type of genealogy or family history record - e.g., locality books, surname books, census, military, cemetery, immigration, naturalization, vital, land, probate, Bible, etc. records. I also have lists for data portals, search engines, societies, online databases, and the like. I am limiting this to US research for now.

I am not the sharpest knife in the genealogy drawer, and I'm absolutely sure that I haven't visited every great genealogy web site available, so I would appreciate your suggestions. I am looking for that "great" site that not many researchers know about.

I am covering Ancestry, Footnote, WorldVitalRecords, GenealogyBank, Rootsweb, USGenWeb, FamilySearch, National Archives, CyndisList, HeritageQuestOnline and other sites in some detail, so please don't recommend those.

Please write a comment to me by clicking "Comments" below or email me at rjseaver(at) Thanks!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

FTM 2008 News

I'm still catching up on my lost long weekend without genealogy.

One of the most significant posts from early this week is by Benjamin Nettesheim on the blog about Family Tree Maker 2008 issues and plans. This was a follow up to the first post here, which has 49 comments to date.

He discusses the major bug fixes, Timeline, items in the shipping product, items purposely not included of changed significantly in the new release, items fixed in a current patch or the October patch, items being developed, items being considered for the future, items identified as new problems, benefits and improvements in FTM 2008 (relative to FTM 2006?).

There are 25 comments from readers and users of FTM 2008 to this post, many with complaints. This is going to be a long hard slog to get FTM 2008 up to snuff - where it works well and makes the customers happy.

My wish list is fairly short - I posted at length about it here. I'm still looking for the "right" software - and am considering FTM 2008, RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree and The Master Genealogist.

Della's Journal - Week 41 (October 8-14, 1929)

This is Installment 41 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 41:


Tuesday, October 8: I took my bath & did some work. A[ustin] got along very well. I went to town, met Lyle at Bank of Italy, had him sign to be on Safty box with me. Then I pd $30 for my Inshurance on this house at Shreves for 3 yrs at $5000 then went to see Montgomery Ward store and up to Elva's, had a nice visit, got home by dark.

Wednesday, October 9: I gave $1.00 for Red Cross in community. Went with Emily & mother up to Park. Betty went to her school & I to Bridges Galery then to lilly ponds, saw seven wimmen painting pictures. Picked figs gave them all away. Mrs A[uble] made a little jam.

Thursday, October 10: I trimmed shrubery & tied up Poinsettas. Ma worked too, then we rested in afternoon. Ma wrote Mary Dyar yesterday.

Friday, October 11: Ma worked around little fig tree & I ironed. This afternoon posted on my Bank books and sewed a little. A[ustin] got pay.

Saturday, October 12: Ed over, mowed lawn, brought some apples & grapes. Emily went to L.A. this 6 A.M. with Mr. Nolan's. Emily took some 3 hats to see if she can get some to make. Mrs. Auble Lyle & Betty go up at 2 P.M. come back tomorrow or Mon[day] morning.

Sunday, October 13: Miss Thoren (pd rent $25) went to Los Angeles to visit her sister. I worked on west Lawn. A[ustin] watered & put some furtilizer on. I did not do anything this P.M. At 8 P.M. Glen Loucks called up to say (Hellow) & tell us he was married the 23 of Sep[tember]. A[ustin] watered Lyle's lawn. Lyle's came home about 9 P.M. had a nice time.

Monday, October 14: I went to town, put deed on lots 10, 11, 12 Bk 61 Seaman & Choat in Safty box 1st Nat[ional] & Inshurance Papers on 2115-30th St in Bk of Italy box. Deposited $20 of Miss Thoren's rent & $90 of A[ustin]'s [pay], got $8 of drug suplies on sales at Monarch & Owl drug store. The Motorcade arrived from Florida today. I went to cooking school, home by 5 P.M.


Della continues to take her bath on Tuesday, and does her banking work throughout the week. I think that the Glen Loucks marriage date is new information for me, but I don't know his wife's name. I can probably find it in the 1930 census and perhaps in the CA Death Index. I wonder if they had any children?

SUV CW Grave Registration Web Site

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War have a grave registration database at You can input a surname and given name into a search box (there are more boxes for birth date, death date, unit, cemetery, city, county, state, etc.) and determine if a soldier is in their database.

Since I am collecting "all" Seaver surname records, I input only "Seaver" in the surname box and got 43 hits. The results box shows only the soldier's name, When you click on one of the names, the state they served, the branch of the service, and the cemetery location. When you click on the soldier's name, then a separate window opens and there may be information for:

* Soldier's name
* Birth date
* Death date
* Union or confederate soldier
* Unit, state, branch, company or ship, and rank
* Enlisted and discharged
* Miscellaneous information
* Cemetery name and street location
* Cemetery lot, section, and grave number
* Cemetery city, county, state
* GAR post and department
* Grave marker indicators

Many of the entries in this database have only a few of these items included. There is an opportunity on the web site to register and add information if you know it.

This is an excellent resource for Civil War soldiers. If you are searching for the burial location of a Civil War soldier, this is a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Can You Put a Price on Your Family History?

Jasia at the beautifully done (in fall colors) Creative Gene blog asks the question "What Is Your Genealogy Worth To You (DIY)?" She talks about doing it herself rather than hiring someone to do it, and that it might have been cheaper to hire someone. She notes that "money isn't everything when it comes to discovering your family history." Amen!!!

I started this post thinking, "well, I can take the number of years I've done research, times the hours per year of digging for records plus the microfilm costs, then add in the hours putting it in the software, then add in the cost of the copies and documents themselves, and don't forget the trips to distant repositories to find cousins and records, then there are books, magazine and database subscriptions...hmmm, that's a bunch of real money."

During the first 16 years of my research (1988-2003), I was going to the FHC nearly every Saturday for 3 to 6 hours, and often ordered 3 or 4 microfilm some weeks (but they were cheaper then). So that might be about 180 hours at the FHC, and say 100 microfilm a year. If the hourly cost of a professional was $15 an hour then (high for 1988-2003? not for a good one), and a microfilm was $3 each, then the cost would have been $3,000 per year. Adding in say another 360 hours per year to collect, review, organize, and input the data into a useful format and a software program gets us into real money! Plus about $500 per year for books, magazines and subscriptions. Add in an average of one research trip each year (let's see, New England 6 times, England, Norway, PA/NJ/NY/Ontario, Seattle, San Francisco, DC/MD/VA, I've probably missed a few trips) - say $1,000 per year for the genealogy part of the trips.

With all those assumptions, it comes to about $10,000 per year. Over 16 years, that is over $160,000 if I had hired a professional who worked the same number of hours and followed the same leads I did to find my family history.

Of course, it all depends on what level of research you want to find; just the family roots - names, dates, places, relationships? Or real family history - stories, deeds, wills, tombstones, obituaries, etc?

Say the professional was much more efficient and was able to pursue my genealogy and family history over those 16 years and spent only half of the hours I spent, but searched all of the microfilms I did? Well, that's still about $80,000, isn't it.

The above doesn't count the last 4 years which I've spent trying to add more family history data in original records - wills, deeds, etc. I haven't visited the FHC as often since about 2004, but I have spent significant hours at home transcribing, abstracting and inputting what I have. When Internet databases for the census records became available in 2003, I spent hours at the FHC doing my one-name studies (I had already found census records for my ancestral families, except for some of them who were elusive before the search engines became useful). Assuming the same level of activity, but not the microfilm expense, the last 4 years add up to another $8,000 or more a year (time and money). Of course, I have spent more time on blogging than on researching over the last 18 months, so my "costs" have gone down a bit.

I made the choice 19 years ago to pursue this hobby (now addiction) myself rather than hire professionals to do it for me. I am glad I did.

What has it really cost me in dollar terms? Really, just the cost of things I rented or purchased (microfilm rentals, magazines, periodicals, books, copies, airfare, hotel rooms, food on the road, databases, etc). Perhaps that came out to be $1,500 to $2,000 a year on average. My time and labor costs are not included in that estimate. It's still a chunk of money.

Was it worth it? YES!!!!!!! The last 19 years have provided me with:

* An opportunity to do real "research" - something that as an engineer I loved doing throughout my career, and when I got into management I no longer had the opportunity. Rather than researching at work, I started doing research at home.

* A chance to get to know my family members (siblings, cousins, in-laws, aunts, uncles, etc) and communicate with them on a regular basis.

* The ability to learn my family "history" - where my ancestors lived, what they did, how they lived, the events in their lives - a measure of personal history for each of them through the snapshots that the various documents provided to me.

* An outlet for my creative and deductive energies - to write, to help others, to learn techniques and processes. I love mysteries and histories.

* The opportunity to share with colleagues my enthusiasm and love for genealogy and family history through presentations, society leadership and blogging.

Genealogy research has been a major part of my life through the last 19 years, and I have enjoyed almost every minute of it. By my own accounting, I do spend about 500 to 600 hours a year (and perhaps more - every time I start a journal I lose track of it after a week or two). Does that seem like a lot? 600 hours averages out to less than 2 hours a day over a year. There are few days that I don't do something genealogy related, and there are many days when I "work" 8 to 12 hours on genealogy. To me, it's not really work - it is play - it's fun. It's stimulating. It's fascinating.

Is this a good subject for the Carnival of Genealogy? Probably! I look forward to Jasia's further comments on the subject. And those of others, either as comments to this post or as posts by other genea-bloggers.

Genetic Genealogy segment on CBS 60 Minutes

I missed the Genetic Genealogy segment on CBS 60 Minutes show on Sunday (putting two little boys to bath and bed really limits one's genealogy activity!), but several genealogy bloggers didn't miss it and wrote comments about it.

Megan Smolenyak's post "60 Minutes on DNA: Deja Vu All Over Again" observed that she had made many of the points in her previous posts and articles over the past few years.

Blaine Bettinger's post "Genetic Genealogy on 60 Minutes" provides links to a number of blogs and lists that discussed the show. He also provided a link to the CBS summary of the show here.

John D. Reid's post "TV Genealogy" provides a nice summary of the show's main points and conclusions.

I read these three posts before I read the CBS article, and I can understand the concern that the show hyped the "controversy" that different DNA analysis companies don't tell the customer everything.

However, the underlying story of Vy Higgensen (an African-American woman in New York City) and Marion West (a European-American from Missouri) is a grabber - they turn out to be cousins through the Y-DNA analysis (they had a common male progenitor in their paternal lines). From there, CBS goes into what Vy was told by the different DNA analysis companies about her African ancestry (in her mother's line) - there were several locations in western Africa found by different companies. Interestingly, they didn't explore the paternal line to find the most recent common patrilineal ancestor (it was probably a slaveholder somewhere in the South, I'd guess, or perhaps colonial RI or NY) shared by Vy and Marion.

I'm sorry that I missed the show - read the CBS story "Reconstructing the Family Tree" for all the details.

Thanks to Megan, Blaine and John for the analysis and the links - it was a fun read tonight. Even though I don't understand the technical aspects of DNA testing and analysis, I do try to understand the results and the consequences.

To me, any TV show that does a fair job of explaining the methodologies used and the results obtained from genealogy and family history research is a plus - it will interest more people in our addiction, er, vocation or avocation, and that's all good.

Best of the Genea-blogs - Week of September 30-October 6

I just got home from Santa Cruz, and have a massive list of email and a stack of snail mail and newspapers to sort through, so I'm going to take the smart way out this week.

Rather than take several hours to go find and list my favorite genea-blog posts of the last week (since I didn't make a list like I usually do), I'm going to give you the link to Terry Thornton's post "Don't Miss These ..." on his Hill Country of Monroe County blog.

He has neatly listed a number of outstanding posts from the last week. Please go visit Terry's blog and read the recommended articles. As always, there is at least one post on this list that I haven't read, and a blog I haven't put on my blog list. I will!

Thanks Terry!

Monday, October 8, 2007

A quiet day in the redwoods

I'm still in the Santa Cruz mountains at my daughter's house. It's a little cabin with a room addition in back - pretty small for a growing family, and surrounded by redwood trees. When the boys (ages 4 and 19 months) are around I call it Chaos Manor.

The older boy is really into airplanes - they went to a Blue Angels air show last week and got a great book with airplane pictures, maneuvers, stories, etc. I've been showing him the different maneuvers using a Blue Angels F-18 model airplane. I've also started explaining how an airplane works - lift, drag, thrust, weight, pitch, roll, yaw, etc. Another couple of lessons and he'll have it down. He has a box full of airplanes, and some airplane toys that are launched outside, plus some rocket ship models. It's really fun to work with him.

The little guy is really tough and adorable. When his brother grabs him, he fights back - they weigh almost the same. He loves being with men - we sit and he points at body parts and when I name them he points at his own body part. He knows them all. He's just starting to say words, but he has Yes and No (complete with head motion - Yes is hard!) and OK down pat. I'm sleeping in the same room with him, and my slumber has been fitful. He woke up at 12:30 AM last night, so I got him in bed with me and he went until 3 AM, then woke up and his mom nursed him a bit, and put him down. He woke up before 6 and she took him into bed with her. Both boys were up by 6:30 and I went out to monitor their feed and play activities while mom slept a bit more.

We took them both to pre-school (separate schools) this morning by 9 AM, then went for a walk in the state park in the redwoods with Annie (the dog), and had breakfast before we went shopping. My daughter is off at the preschool now for a meeting, and she'll bring the boys back after 3 PM. So I have 2 whole hours to do my thing - post this blog, take a nap, read my book, watch TV, etc. When they get home, I have to supervise dinner, bath and night time, so I'm sure it will be chaotic for awhile.

I go home tomorrow afternoon, so I won't post anything until the evening. I have lots of work to do - our CVGS seminar is in 11 days, and I have to finish my four presentations. I'm about 30% done right now, but I have it all planned out. Then I need to work on the syllabus.

I'm sorry I haven't posted more about genealogy things - but I know my fellow genea-bloggers have, so if you're bored by Genea-Musings please click on one of the links on my blogroll and see if they've written anything interesting.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

My first real job

Prompt #25 at Miriam Midkiff's Ancestories 2 blog is for "Your First Job." She has a series of 10 questions to answer. I'm not going to follow the questions exactly, but I'll try to cover most of them.

My first "real" job was working for my favorite football team, the San Diego Chargers during the summer of 1963. I didn't apply for it, it just happened by luck. I was 19 and hanging out with another guy named Randy Lee, who had a car (I didn't) and we were having fun riding around, going to the beach, and playing music on his pirate station. His father was an independent TV producer, and was part of an investment group that owned a dude ranch in the San Diego backcountry called "Rough Acres Ranch." There were about 20 cabins with 4 bunk beds each, a kitchen and program building, and several football sized fields.

Early in training camp, Randy's dad took us out there on a Saturday to see the team practice. We got there just in time for lunch, and when we walked in, Sid Gillman (the coach) came over to meet us and asked Randy's dad "So are these my new camp boys? I need two." His dad said, "well, what do you think? Want to give it a try?" Of course, Randy and I said yes. We stayed that night and learned the ropes and looked agog at the players we knew only from the newspaper and TV.

The Chargers were started in 1960 and played in Los Angeles for a year. Then they moved to San Diego and were the AFL Western champs in 1961, losing the championship game to Houston. In 1962, the team faded when QB Jack Kemp (yep, that Jack Kemp) got hurt and they finished out of the playoffs. In 1963, Sid Gillman claimed that they had to get tougher - so it was out to Rough Acres Ranch, a curfew during the week, no women, just work hard and get strong.

Our jobs were to sweep and mop the floors and clean the toilets every day in our assigned set of rooms. I think we probably had 10 rooms each. We did this while the team was at morning practice. In the afternoon, we could watch the practice. After dinner, the players would sit outside in small groups and shoot the bull, play cards, or pull stunts. The favorite stunt was for some country boys to get a rattlesnake rattle, put it on a stick, find some city boys sitting around and try to scare them - it usually worked! The other stunt was to catch a scorpion in something - a bottle or bag), wait until the targets were in their room with the door open (no A/C then), and the toss the scorpion into the room - you should have seen the big guys scramble to get on their bunks and not get stung by this little guy with his stinger running around the room.

For a young San Diego sports fan, this was an ideal job! I got to see and know (well, sometimes it was a "hi kid"!) Sid Gillman (head coach), Al Davis (coach), John Madden (coach), John Hadl (QB), Yobin Rote (QB), Lance Alworth (WR), Dave Kocourek (TE), Paul Lowe (RB), Keith Lincoln (RB), Ernie Ladd (DT), Earl Faison (DE), Chuck Allen (LB), Frank Buncom (LB), Charlie McNeil (CB), and many others - now I can't remember the names off the top of my head.

The job for me was 6 weeks long. My friend Randy Lee lasted about 4 days - he hurt his back and went home to recover. I don't remember how much I made - perhaps $50 a week plus room and board. And free pre-season tickets for my brother and I. I brought a rattlesnake skin home as a trophy - my folks hung the smelly thing outside, and when the flies came around, my 8-year brother caught them for his turtle.

The most memorable experience was the night that Ernie Ladd (6'9" tall, 300 pounds, he was later a pro wrestler). The team had a special bed built for him, but hadn't ordered extra length sheets. Ernie was a holdout until the last week of camp, and when he signed, we had no warning. We were already in our room in bed, when there was a knock on the window and a gruff voice saying "Hey kid, make mah bed!" I scrambled, found some sheets and a blanket, and hurried over to his room and made the bed and quickly disappeared without hearing a "thanks, kid" from Big Ernie.

One of the players made friends with most of the camp boys, and he took us out hiking and hunting in the evening and early morning. We climbed the hills, looking for snakes and rabbits, and saw several beautiful morning sunrises. Frank Buncom was a prototype linebacker, 6-2, 230 lbs, a big, well-spoken, happy black guy from Mississippi (I think) who graduated from college in 1962. He was in his second year and had a heart of gold and a tremendous hunger to prove himself on the field. Unfortunately, Frank got traded to Cincinnati in 1964 and died on the field in 1967. What a tragedy.

One day, I asked my mother if we could invite Frank over for dinner. She said OK, and I called him up through the Chargers office. He accepted and came by on the appointed night. My little brother wanted to play catch with a real football player, so we went out on 30th street and threw the football around. He was so nervous that he couldn't run his routes well - he was really awestruck by Frank. My father was too - he had never known many black people, and was amazed that Frank had a college degree and was looking forward to being a teacher. My mother really appreciated Frank that he had befriended me and broadened my world a little. I don't know what we had for dinner, but my brother and I have always remembered that evening.

The Chargers went 11-3 and were AFL champions in 1963, beating the Boston Patriots 51-10 at Balboa Stadium in San Diego. I was there with my brother. That is the only championship team in major league sports for a San Diego team. The Chargers finally made it to a Super Bowl in 1995, but lost to the 49ers by 49-23.

While the job was fun for me, and not mentally challenging like my college work was, it provided some spending money and raised my stature in the eyes of my parents and brothers. I "knew" the players on the team.

This was not the biggest or most important moment in my life - that would come later with marriage and children. But it was my first step to independent living and I learned that I could stick with something and succeed on my own. I had a little help from a friend, but I did it my way (mixing my Beatles and Sinatra there, but you get the idea!).

Deal of the Year?

Lee Drew at the FamHist genealogy blog found a real "deal" on genealogy software and an Ancestry subscription. See his post "Genealogists - Deal of the Year." There is a link on his page to buy FamilyTreeMaker 16, GenSmarts, an Ancestry subscription and more stuff for $15.49 plus shipping from a website called

Lee thinks that the year's subscription to Ancestry may be the World Deluxe subscription.

The regular price for this was $99.99 and they say it is a $450 value. We'll see. I ordered it because I want to try GenSmarts. If it is really a World Deluxe subscription to Ancestry, I'll keep it and use it for myself, cancelling my current US Deluxe subscription when it expires in a month. I'll probably donate the FTM 16 and other items to CVGS for the opportunity drawings we have each month.

I'll let you know what I get when I get it. Sometimes deals like this are too good to be true, and sometimes they are everything they claim it to be.

Thanks to Lee for his sharp eye for a good deal. Did he order it also?