Saturday, October 27, 2007

What new content do you want on Ancestry?

The blog has the results of a survey of 10,000 subscribers about new content on The results are shown in a bar chart here.

I am glad that Ancestry has been taking surveys to sense customers desires. That is always the first step to improve customer relations.

If they had asked me, I would have said my desires for new content would be, in priority order (with my own perceptions as comments):

* Vital Records information - Ancestry has births, marriages and deaths from some states available in online databases, but not all states. Many of these records have been microfilmed but not digitized. They are, by far, the best authoritative resource for direct evidence if they exist.

* Military Records -- complete Rev War pension records, complete Civil War pension records, other pension records from War of 1812 to whenever.

* City Directories -- Ancestry has 1 or 2 directories from many cities, but the real need is for every year available in every city. A big job.

* Court, Land, Probate and Financial Records -- there are very few of these available anywhere online. Ancestry has some indexes but few wills, inventories, deeds, guardianships, court records, etc. A really big job, since the records themselves are mostly handwritten records.

* Newspapers and Periodicals -- Ancestry has a fine collection so far. But there are many newspapers from cities large and small that are not available yet. San Diego, for instance. Los Angeles is another. I'll bet there are others!

* Census Records -- Ancestry has done a great job for US Federal census and the UK census records. State census data, US mortality, agricultural and manufacturing census data, and records from other countries are needed.

* Families and Local Histories -- Ancestry has been adding these quickly, and now has the premier collection with the best search engine. They need to keep adding them!

* Directories and Member Lists -- Ancestry has a pretty good selection here, but the last year for the phone book material is 2002.

* Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers -- Ancestry has added quite a few of these recently. Keep adding them, please!

* Immigration, Emigration and Citizenship Records -- US Naturalization records and Passport applications would be wonderful helps.

* School Yearbooks -- there aren't many on Ancestry, and they are hard to come by. But they give us pictures of young people.

* Family Trees -- There are too many of these out there - somehow they need to be blended into one giant family tree with correct information. Probably impossible. I do like the Public/Private Member Tree concept.

* Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and Reference -- images of the actual pages for Who's Who and the others would be nice ... but there may be copyright problems.

Not on Ancestry's list but very high on my list is data in Periodicals and Journals. PERSI is great, as far as it goes. Again, there are copyright problems. Perhaps some deal with publishers to at least index names and places, a definition of the source, and a place to order an article could be made. These are probably the most underutilized source of information because they are not available online.

Likewise, Family Bibles and Family Papers are an area that are not even on the Ancestry list. The DAR has a lot of these (and the FHL has them on microfilm), as does NGS and other sites.

How about a collection of web site data (personal pages, blogs, etc.) that have genealogy data posted? Oops, been there, done that I guess. It was a good idea badly implemented and should be considered with more sensitivity to the web site owners. Not everybody Googles.

The key to Ancestry's popularity and future growth is the sheer volume of records, the indexing and the searching capabilities. They are outstanding now and may improve even more.

What else would YOU like to see Ancestry digitize and index? What is most important to you? Tell them.

Hey San Diegans - go to the FHC!

Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Just go to the San Diego Family History Center and use the computers to access FamilyLink, Godfrey Memorial Library, Footnote, HeritageQuestOnline and WorldVitalRecords for free.

Yep - these links to the subscription web sites are installed and running well. I was there today to copy more Rhode Island Probate records, and checked the computer as I was about to leave. I stayed for another 30 minutes checking things on WorldVitalRecords.

To access these services, you have to start Internet Explorer, then go to Favorites and click on the "Premium Databases" folder, and then on the "Family History Center Services Online Portal" and that will take you to the FHC-only web site. That site looks like this:

This site indicates that still not available are, and Kindred Konnections.

I did not ask about the status of this at the FHC today because I figured it was still months down the road here. Wrong! I like being wrong sometimes. I'm guessing that there has been no publicity at the FHC about it because they don't want a deluge of users and they want the staff to get familiar with using it. So I'm using my little bloghorn (hey, a new word! Mine!) here to shout out to my San Diego area colleagues. Anybody reading?

Ancestral clues from DNA studies

I still have not had my DNA tests done to determine my Y-DNA and mtDNA markers. Nor have I asked my wife, my brother-in-law, my female Seaver cousins, or more distant cousins to be tested. I should ...

I wrote a post about what I might determine from my own mitochondrial DNA in the post My mtDNA matrilineal lines. I also wrote a post about my Y-DNA patrilineal line in My Lonely Y-DNA strand.

I discussed my moral dilemma about a possible step-sibling in my post A Challenging Moral Dilemma. If the step-sibling was male, then a Y-DNA test would prove our common paternity.

Here is what I think could be done if all those other people were tested:

1) If my wife, daughters, or brother-in-law was tested, their mitochondrial DNA might be matched with other tested persons in the line of:

* Edna May (Schaffner) Leland (1913 CA - 1979 CA, married Leo Leland)
* Edna Catherine (McKnew) Schaffner (1884 CA - 1974 CA, married Paul Schaffner)
* Jane (Whittle) McKnew (1847 Australia - 1921 CA, married Elijah McKnew)
* Rachel (Moore) Whittle (wife of Joseph Whittle, probably born in England, resided in Australia in the 1840's, emigrated to San Francisco in late 1840's(?))

2) If my brother-in-law was tested, his Y-DNA might be matched to other Leland descendants from Norway. The line from his father is:

* Leo Severt Leland (1911 MT -2002 CA, married Edna Schaffner)
* Severt Oliver Leland (1878 WI - 1940 CA, married Amelia Brocke)
* Torger Sjursen Leland (1850 Norway - 1933 CA, married Anna Ellingsdtr Natvig)
* Sjur Torgersen (1804 Norway - 1889 WI, married Brita Olsdtr)
* Torgeir Olsen (1753 Norway - 1827 Norway, married Anna Sjursdtr)
* Ole Torgeirsen (1700 Norway - 1772 Norway, married Barbra Magnesdtr)
* Torgeir Pedersen (1648 Norway - 1730 Norway, married Agate Olsdtr)

As an aside, look at the years between births in that line in Norway. These guys married relatively late in life!

3) If one of my wife's female cousins was tested, her mtDNA results might lead to further identification down this line:

* Amelia Anna (Brocke) Leland (1884 ID - 1975 CA, wife of Severt Oliver Leland)
* Anna (Grieser) Brocke (1859 MO - 1936 ID, wife of Nicholas Brocke)
* Katherine (Guddy) Grieser (1840 Bavaria - 1920 ID, wife of Ignatius Grieser).

4) There may be living male and female cousins of the Brocke family living in Idaho who could be tested for the Brocke line, which leads back to Germany.

5) On my mother's Kemp line, I have male third cousins living in the Los Angeles area who might provide some clues for my Kemp line. My cousin's Kemp line goes like this:

* Leroy James Kemp
* Leroy Gordon Kemp (1896 - 1933 CA, married Laura Ehlers)
* James Alexander Kemp (1872 Ontario - 1934 CA, married Bertha Fuller)
* James Abram Kemp (1831 Ontario - 1902 Ontario, married Mary Jane Sovereen)
* Abraham James Kemp (1795 Ontario - 1881 Ontario, married Sarah Sephrona Fletcher)
* John Kemp (1768 NY - 1861 Ontario, married Mary Dafoe)
* John Kemp (1723 ?? - 1793 Ontario, married Anna Van Vorst).

This last John Kemp is a brick wall ancestor. He may have been an English soldier in the French and Indian War in NY. A Y-DNA test might connect him to another Kemp family line in North America or England.

6) On my mother's Carringer line, I would need to find a living male Carringer descended from Henry Carringer (1800 PA - 1881 IA, married Sarah Feather). The male line from his son David Jackson Carringer has petered out (literally).

7) My mother's Smith line has also petered out, I fear. Devier J. Smith (1839 NY - 1894 NE) had a son, David, but he had two daughters. Devier's father, Ranslow Smith had only one son.

8) My mother's Vaux line may have some potential, but I would need to find some living female third cousins.

9) On my father's side, there are living male third cousins with the Richmond surname. They could provide some link to other Richman/Richmond males in England and the USA. The Richman/Richmond line is:

* Thomas Richmond (1848 Wiltshire - 1917 MA, married Julia White)
* James Richman (1821 Wiltshire - 1912 CT, married Hannah Rich)
* John Richman (ca 1788 Wiltshire - 1867 Wiltshire, married Ann Marshman).

Both John Richman and Ann Marshman are brick wall ancestors for me.

10) There may be female living distant cousins in England who were descended from John Richman and Ann Marshman and might lead to mtDNA connections to a Marshman line.

11) Likewise, there may be distant female living cousins for the Rich surname line in England.

12) There are probably some male Hildreth distant cousins that could be tested to get the Y-DNA markers for that line on my father's side.

13) I'm sure there are a lot more possibilities!!

Unfortunately, many of the above possible DNA connections would require extensive 20th century genealogy research, contacts with the cousins, their agreement to be tested, and somebody to pay for it.

My purpose in writing all of the above down was to try to figure out if DNA test could help define more than my own patrilineal and matrilineal markers. Once you start thinking about the possibilities, and actually identifying potential cousins that could be tested, there are many more than just two lines.

It seems to me that there is the probability that most people could define a line for all four grandparents and perhaps most of the 8 great-grandparents, but you need to know the family structure, identifying all-male lines and all-female lines. The reduction in size of 20th century families due to birth control and family planning makes the probability of big families, and therefore more candidates, lower.

It makes a great case for identifying cousins from common ancestors, doesn't it? The easiest way to identify possible DNA matches would be on a descendants chart for each potential family line. I'm going to work on that! The challenge is to populate it with all family members that lead to living 21st century persons.

The application of the Y-DNA tests to genealogy is pretty straightforward and understandable. The application of the mtDNA tests to genealogy is not as straightforward - I really don't understand just how exact the results are and how they can be effectively used.

That was fun! I wonder what Blaine Bettinger will do with it? We'll see!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nuggets from the newspapers

I've spent several hours tonight putting "brick wall ancestors" names into the "Stories and Publications" search box on I've had quite a bit of luck finding books with my possible Lewis ancestral families, to the extent that I need to order some microfilms to gather vital records data in Long Island and Staten Island records from the 1670-1770 time period.

The biggest surprise were several "nuggets" found in the Newspaper clippings from the Sussex (NJ) Register, 1897-1899 concerning my David Auble. These items were in a column titled "Ancient Local History, compiled from The Register," which was published in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey.

1) From the Register for 4 April 1838:

"David J. Foster and David Auble form partnership and begin business as shoemakers in building recently occupied by George Dennis, and next to W.T. Anderson's law office."

David Auble (1817-1894) is my 2nd great-grandfather who married Sarah Knapp in 1844. David Foster was a brother-in-law, married to Sarah's sister Hannah Knapp in 1839. The two David's were partners, and David foster probably introduced David Auble to his future wife.

2) From the Register, 10 September 1844:

"William Auble, a native of Sussex, and a brother to David Auble, stabbed to death during a quarrel in Philadelphia, by two brothers , who sang obscene songs as Auble was returning from a party with ladies. Auble had a loaded pistol, but did not use it. The deceased and the men who sent him to an untimely grave were intimate acquaintances, and but for improper use of strong drink the trouble never would have occurred."

I do not have this William Auble in the family of John and Anna (Rau) Auble. In the 1830 census, there are 5 boys enumerated, and I only had the names of three of them (David, Robert and Hampton). What a sad story.

The Register newspaper in the late 1890's was picking one story from each day in the old newspapers - it's just luck that they picked these two stories on this particular day. Now I wonder if there are archives of this newspaper back in the 1830-s and 1840's that would have the full stories, and probably more about my Auble and Knapp families that resided in Newton. I visited there one day back in 2004 - they have a nice county library on the north side of town. Another item for my "to-do" list.

A final San Diego Fires post

As I noted on Wednesday, the weather turned cooler with winds from the west that stifled the westward progress of the fires in San Diego County. However, now the fires are burning on their eastern edges, mainly in National Forests. We had haze yesterday (from the smoke blown offshore coming back onshore) and this morning we had a thick fog. The fires are not all out, but they are being contained.

The number of people in the evacuation centers is dwindling, and people are returning to many areas, including Ramona (the first ones to evacuate on Sunday) but they can't use the water in Ramona yet. Now the stories about "what happened to me" are in the newspapers and on the radio and TV.

The TV news had constant video of homes burning and people walking in the rubble. They rarely showed maps or discussed where fires were burning. Usually, it was announcements of evacuations, discussion of resources, interviews with politicians, or news conferences. The radio news stations (KOGO-600 AM, KFMB-760 AM) had call-in programs 24 hours a day with reports from residents in fire areas, and was more useful but not comprehensive. The newspapers had excellent maps and summaries, but they were a day later. The web had some blogs with pictures and reports, KOGO had a chat room with many comments, and the news outlets had web sites with reports, maps and pictures.

The Reverse 911 phone system worked extremely well, and the evacuation centers worked well. Getting air and ground resources to San Diego was delayed by the distances involved, the other fires that started earlier, and by some bureaucratic red tape. In one case, the US Navy helicopters in San Diego weren't permitted to fight the fires because there weren't enough CalFire observers to ride along on them. They finally got airborne on Wednesday with Navy fire spotters and one CalFire observer for every 3 or 4 helicopters. They've gotta fix that.

You can see up-to-date posts from the San Diego Union-Tribune blog at . There was one today about how good things sometimes happen to good people - read this particular post. The highlight for me was:

"Kate Leidiger's first week on the job certainly as been more eventful than expected. The 20-year-old Del Cerro resident was a brand new EMT with Rural Metro when the fires broke out.

"Monday, her first day on the job, she worked the frontline for more than 30 hours.

"But the grueling job isn't without a few perks. Within the first 18 hours of her shift, she had the chance to shake hands with Gov. Schwarzenegger. The next day, she met Pres. Bush, who tucked her under his arm in an embrace."

Talk about a serious change in someone's life, and a fantastic experience for a young lady just trying to work her job and do good. She really made "family history" this week, didn't she? She will always remember it, and will probably have the pictures to prove it.

I prefer being lucky and good

One of my favorite sayings has been "I'd rather be lucky than good" but now I much prefer the saying "I want to be both lucky and good." There is also the saying that "luck is the residue of design" (which apparently comes from author John Milton, but is often attributed to Branch Rickey). I prefer the saying "good luck happens when you plan well."

In any case, I had a stroke of good luck last night as a result of methodically going through my genealogy database for my "brick wall ancestors." I don't do this as often as I should, but I will probably do it more often now!

I haven't used the "Web Search Resources" in FamilyTreeMaker at all, but I decided to try it out last night. Two of my "brick wall ancestors" are William Hutchinson (1745 NJ - 1826 ON) and his wife, Catherine Lewis. I found very little on the web search for Mr. Hutchinson but the search for Catherine Lewis netted a number of possible ancestral families. The site gave me the option to integrate those results into my database. I don't usually do that, but prefer to investigate the data posted for the suggested families in as many sources as possible. However, I wanted to see how the process worked, so I set up a "dummy" Catherine Lewis and downloaded some family data over several generations.

The source for the Catherine Lewis connection was the One World Tree database at, so I was able to bring it up and print out some information - pedigree charts, note pages, and family group information. I checked for the families on the Rootsweb WorldConnect database, and found some interesting notes and the same data for many of the families. Now I need to check online and traditional resources to prove that the Catherine Lewis in the databases is the same one who married William Hutchinson. But now I have some leads.

This morning, while waiting for the cable man to come to diagnose my cable modem problems, I Googled the search string ["william hutchinson" "catherine lewis" loyalist]. I got my own ROOTS-L mailing list post from 1996 (!) and another mailing list post that provided a link to a WorldConnect database that listed William Hutchison (not Hutchinson!). The page for Mr. Hutchison is here for those curious about what I found. William Hutchinson's life has been well documented in this database, and most of it is data that I did not have previously (probably because I've always searched for Hutchinson rather than Hutchison). Not only that, the families of his children have been researched, with the exception of his daughter, Mary Jane Hutchinson. Guess which child is my ancestor? Yep - Mary Jane! However, there was great information about Mary Jane on her father's page. It reads:

"Mary Jane Hutchinson, eldest daughter of William, married Frederick Sovereign, the founder of Fredericksburg. Her children are enumerated in the Sovereign genealogy. This old pioneer mother was known far and wide as 'Aunt Jane Sovereign,' and was noted for her generous hospitality and her quaint, off-hand manner of speech. She was an indefatigable worker, and found rest in busy activity; and to sit still for any length of time was misery to her. She was a regular attendant at church, and to sit in a pew for a solid hour and keep awake until the old-fashioned "fourthly" had dragged out its weary length, was a cross that she was not always able to bear. On one occasion during a "protracted meetin'" the sermon had been unusually long, and when the "conference" exercises began "Aunt Jane" stood up, but said nothing. The kind-hearted pastor, divining that some great trouble was weighing upon her mind, called her by name and offered words of encouragement. "Oh!" exclaimed Aunt Jane, as she looked up with arms akimbo, "I've just stood up to rest my hips abit."

"As these lines are being written an old familiar scene presents itself. In my mind's eye I see the old fire-place aglow once more with its flickering flame. In it I see the old crane, and once again I hear the sputtering of the old iron teakettle. In front stands the bent form of a dear old familiar figure. With arms akimbo, she looks into the glowing coals for a moment while the ashes from the inverted bowl of her clay pipe drops upon the old hearth. For a brief moment I turn aside to catch a glimpse of some other passing scene, and when I look again, behold, all is changed! Was it only a phantom? Verily so. The old chimney is dark, damp and musty; the old hearth has caved in and the old crane lies buried in the dust. The old tea-kettle has yielded up its form and the elements of which it was composed have been incorporated into other and newer forms, and in the village cemetery I see a granite column whereon is engraved these lines: "Mary Jane, wife of Frederick Sovereign, died April 16th, 1868, aged 76 years, 2 months and 25 days."

Isn't that amazing? A personal recollection of my 4th great-grandmother, Mary Jane (Hutchinson) Sovereign. Priceless! To me, anyways.

The information about William Hutchinson was a fantastic find, and the recollection of Mary Jane is just one of the cherries on top of the whipped cream on top of the ice cream on top of the "cake" of my genealogy research about my ancestors.

Design? Intentional? Planning? Lucky? Good? Yep. It's been a lucky and good genealogy day so far!

"Digging Up the Undead" Program on 29 October

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society meeting is Monday, 29 October at the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library auditorium (365 "F" Street in Chula Vista). Doors open at 10:00 a.m., and the program will start at about 10:20 a.m. Please enter through the conference room off the east entrance to sing in, pick up handouts, and have a snack. There will be a short business meeting before the speaker.

The program speaker will be Joan Lowrey of La Jolla, whose talk is titled "Digging Up the Undead - Finding Living People." In this presentation, you will learn the best websites and techniques for finding living people. Most people can be found, even those with unlisted phone numbers, using the tools that will be demonstrated in this presentation.

Joan Lowrey is a professional genealogist, specializing in the U.S. and Germany. She has extensive experience in San Diego County and also does missing heir research. A good part of her work is finding living descendants. Joan is the founder and past President of the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD), and the editor of its fine newsletter, Compu.Gen.

CVGS welcomes guests and visitors to our meetings. Please come and enoy the program and our hospitality.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

TGN's CEO Tim Sullivan Interviewed

Kimberly Powell at her About:Genealogy blog has scored an excellent interview with Tim Sullivan, The Geneations Network President and CEO. He addresses the buyout, future plans for Ancestry,, Rootsweb, the Internet Biographical Collection and FamilyTreeMaker 2008 release, and more.

It's an excellent and revealing interview. The things I found most interesting were:

* The buyout by Spectrum Equity Investments replaced current owners, and resulted in a majority owner named Dick Parker who is tuned in to genealogy.

* They weren't out to "steal" content with the IBC, and were hurt by the level of anger by many commenters.

* On FTM 2008, the research and testing somehow missed how important the genealogy report and publishing options were.

* There is a new search engine coming out as a beta, and they will user-test it before they implement it.

Read all of Kimberly's interview.

My opinion is that TGN is not well in tune with their customer base for Ancestry and FamilyTreeMaker. They really need to survey their customers, listen to their needs and opinions, and provide products that respond to those needs. You don't get this feedback from the professionals and magazine writers - you get them from the grass-roots users - folks who are not wealthy, who don't spend all day, every day doing genealogy, and who just want what they buy to work well.

I understand that the programmers want to implement the latest and greatest software bells and whistles, and make it work better, and there will be so many great things, and ..., and ... (take a breath). TGN needs to understand that many people are averse to change - it takes a while to accept change and then a while to understand and use what has changed. I think that changes should not be abrupt - they need to be add-ons rather than replacement at least for some interim period.

UPDATE 9:30 PM: The Genealogue also interviewed someone named Tim Sullivan here - leave it to Chris to make the oh-so-serious issue a laugh-out-loud funny! I needed it.

Followup to "Deal of the Year?"

I posted on 7 October about what appeared to be the "Deal of the Year?". I received the box of software and documents a week later, and it appeared that it had everything promised. I waited until today to install the software due to my other time commitments.

I quickly installed FamilyTreeMaker 16 (in a separate directory from FTM 2005), GenSmarts (and updated it online) off the CD, and downloaded the Ancestry Reference Library (quite a few reference books, in a separate program called AncestryView), the 1-2-3 Family Tree in PDF format, The Official Guide to FamilyTreeMaker 16 in PDF format, and the Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary in PDF format. In addition, there are two DVDs with the FTM 16 Official Training DVD and the Ancestry Historical Maps & Photos Collection on DVD. There were also The Official Guide to FamilyTreeMaker 16 in book form, plus the small QuickStart Guide for FTM 16 in booklet form which provided directions for installing and signing up for everything.

I have not been able to fulfill the come-on of a one-year Ancestry subscription as part of this deal. The QuickStart booklet calls it a FREE TRIAL subscription, accessible through the FTM 16 Internet menu and the "Start an Trial Subscription" link. I did that and got put into the Ancestry Store web page default screen with no visible link to proceed. I finally chose to "buy" a book for $6.95 just to get into the shopping cart area and there a Trial Subscription for $29.95 was listed. I eventually X-ed out of the web page. So I don't have the subscription yet.

One of the commenters on my previous post said that they had to call to get the subscription, so I will call them and see what can be done. I will update this post when I find out what happened.

All of that was obtained for $16.95 plus $6.00 shipping at Note that this specific deal item (using the link on Lee Drew's FamHist2 blog) is now $49.95 at that web site. There is another deal with a 9-month subscription and fewer add-ons for $29.95, and another with a 6-month Ancestry subscription and fewer add-ons for $14.95.

If someone didn't have genealogy software, these would be excellent deals even without the Ancestry subscription. Even if someone had an earlier version of FamilyTreeMaker, this is a pretty good deal for an upgrade plus GenSmarts and the books. If the subscription comes through, then it was an outstanding deal.

I would be interested in how other folks did with this deal, especially with the Ancestry subscription part of it.

UPDATED 12:30 PM: I called Ancestry and talked to a very nice woman (Sherry) who told me that since I already had an account, that I couldn't have two accounts at the same time. She said I needed to cancel my present subscription when it is up, and call them to activate my new subscription on that date.

It was difficult to find the Ancestry phone number - in the US, it is 1-800-ANCESTRY (262-3787). I did note that you can cancel your subscription online, but you need to know the date it ends or else you'll get billed for another year.

Genea-Musings Greatest Hits

I read the "Popular Pages" and "Entry Pages" blog post statistics for Genea-Musings almost every night on and Unfortunately, I only get information about the last 100 visits, which is usually the last 8 to 12 hours.

Certain Genea-Musings posts are always on the list. They include (in approximate order of popularity):

* Family tree tattoos? I really don't know where I'd put one - on my head? At least it would be visible. I worry that my dermatologist would wipe out an ancestor or two if she found a cancer spot.

* World Records for number of children. Every time I read this I worry about how they dealt with the confusion and mayhem around the house, and the cost of college educations for all of them.

* Spooky names in the census. Others have done this, including myself.

* John Tyler's Grandson is still alive!. This was the most amazing research story.

* How rare is your personality type? I'm ISTJ, what are you?

All of these posts are picked by people Googling key words - they are not genealogists, just curious people.

My own favorites? I think that they are:

* Shopping for the Genealogist who has everything. I need to find new gifts for my wife's birthday and Christmas - I'd better start soon!

* Index for my Cornelia Bresee search. This links to all of the posts that detailed my efforts to tap online genealogy resources to find Cornelia's parents.

* The Ultimate "Dodging the Census" Puzzle. This lists my futile search for the Robert Leroy Thompson (1880-1963) family and his parents in the census records from 1850 to 1930. Not one positive census record, which leads me to think he had a name change.

* The Census Whacking Index. A list of my posts about strange and funny names in the census. Which reminds me, I haven't done one for a long time.

* Best of the Genea-Blogs (last one). My almost weekly series of posts highlighting genealogy blog posts that I judge "best of the week."

You can click on the categories at the bottom of each post on the actual blog page to see the "collection" in each category. I still haven't changed my blog to be able to list all of the categories - I worry that I will lose it all.

If you want to do a Google search of my blog, put the keywords in the little "Search Blog" box up at the top of the web page header.
Of course, this post is just another obvious attempt to create additional page views so that I can have my most ever visits and page views in October, and to increase my Reach in the Quantcast ratings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five Questions -- Family

Juliana smith, at the 24/7 Family History Circle blog, has been providing five questions to post memories about in honor of Family History Month. This week’s topic is family. I'm assuming that these questions pertain to my childhood and young adult years:

1) How has a member of your family influenced you?

There are many ways for someone to influence another person - through words of advice, wisdom or warnings; or through actions and deeds - being a good (or bad) example.

My mother was a wonderful example of unconditional love and support, and of the value of an education. My father was a strong, silent type who rarely had a good word for us kids - I learned that I didn't want to be that kind of father. My grandfather was a model of a quiet, confident, hard working and smart man who encouraged me constantly. My grandmother was nurturing, I loved being with her.

2) How often did you see extended family (e.g., aunts, uncles, cousins), and what was it like when you all got together?

My father's mother, brothers and sisters and almost all of his cousins were in Massachusetts, and we were in San Diego 2,500 miles away. I met my grandmother Seaver once, in 1959 when she came with my dad's sister Evelyn (Seaver) Wood, Evelyn's husband, Walter Wood, and Evelyn's granddaughter, Diana. We had a fun time with Diana, who was our age. In the 1960's, my father's sister, Geraldine Seaver, came from Massachusetts with a friend to visit. I took business trips twice in the late 1960's to Boston, stayed with Aunt Gerry, and visited family in Leominster and got to know my aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad's brother and other sisters eventually came to visit us in San Diego. My father never went back to Massachusetts, and was jealous of us (myself, wife and children) for going in 1982 and having a wonderful time.

My dad's aunt Emily (Richmond) Taylor lived in San Diego with her daughter, Dorothy, and her husband and daughter. We always visited them on the 4th of July and at Christmas time.

My mother was an only child of only children, but there were several great aunts and uncles and second cousins in the Los Angeles area. When I was small, they would come visit, but I don't remember which ones they were or when they came. I do remember, as a young boy of 5 or 6, having to kiss these old people with white hair (and mustaches?) sitting on the couch in our living room.

3) What kind of traditions did/does your family observe? Were there special ways you celebrated birthdays? Holidays?

Birthdays were usually a barbecue in the back yard patio, with a ping pong game or two and finally cake and ice cream. We always played word games or board games after it got dark.

We usually went to my grandparents home on Point Loma for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We always had roast turkey, mashed potatoes, peas for dinner, and pumpkin pie and ice cream for dessert. One tradition we had, which started when we were boys, was to have a post-dinner game of "toss the pea in the glass" - each person playing would try to do this across the table and we would keep score. My dad and brothers and I always played, but my mom always hated it - it seemed uncouth to throw food. We eventually graduated to tossing wadded up napkins instead of peas. My brothers and daughters (and their hubbies) now play this at Christmas in honor of my folks, with much laughter and challenges.

4) Did your family have pets?

We always had cats. Our house was between two busy streets, so most of the cats didn't last too long. But there were always cats around - we would adopt one that would eat in the house and sleep with us for awhile, but they always wanted to go hunt outside. Squash! The longest lived was named Rootie-Toot-Toot, whose mother was Tootie. They were gray semi-Persian breed, and were happy to be petted, talked to and chased around.

5) What foods did your family enjoy? Was there a special dish that was always on the table at family get-togethers?

When we went to Aunt Emily's house, Dorothy would always fix gourmet meals. We always had to ask what things were, and were ordered to try them. We rarely liked it. Where was the good stuff - meat, potatoes and vegetables?

I grew up not eating salad, sauces, dressings, shellfish, and rare meat. There were always fruit, berries, vegetables in the house for growing boys. Breakfast was cereal or shredded wheat, and sometimes scrambled eggs and bacon. We sometimes had fried egg sandwiches for lunch on weekends. My mother made what she called "vermicelli" at dinner - a white sauce over toast with grated egg yolk over it. When we had steak, which was only rarely, it was cooked well done, as were hamburgers.

CVGS Research Group on 10/24/07

We had only five attendees at our CVGS Research Group today - apparently many people are heeding the directions to stay home, don't drive and take it easy due to the fire disaster here.

We discussed the Genealogy Research News for October 2007, and then talked extensively about the research problems of two attendees.

Chuck, a new member, described his problem: He doesn't know the names of his great-grandparents surnamed Reynolds. His grandfather, Elisha Reynolds, was a twin (to Elijah) born in Indiana in about 1870. In the 1880 census, Elijah R. Dean and Elisha R. Dean (both age 10) lived in Perry County IN with W.H. and S.J. Dean, and William's children William Dean (age 13) and daughter Susan Dean (age 12). Eventually, Elijah Reynolds and Susan Dean married and had children. In other records, S.J. is listed as C.J., Susan is listed as Susannah (her tombstone) and Annie. Elisha's full name is Elisha Wilson Reynolds.

Chuck had found an 1875 marriage record for a William H. Deen and Cerilda J. Reynolds in Perry County, Indiana, and thinks that this is a second marriage for both of them. Cerilda, C.J. and S.J. are probably the same person. He doesn't have death certificates for Elisha Reynolds, Susan(nah) (Dean) Reynolds, William H. Dean or Cerilda J. (--?--) (Reynolds) Dean.

We discussed this at length, noting that it is a typical research problem that can probably be solved using a cluster genealogy technique. We counselled that he needs to obtain as many birth, marriage and vital records as possible for all known family members, including the twin brother Elijah Reynolds who ended up in Illinois. He should check surname books and county history books for these families. He should check probate (admins, wills, guardianships) and deed records for the 1870-1880 time frame - if Elisha's father died, he may have left these records. They may be in Perry County or surrounding counties. There are probably land plat maps for the county that show land ownership in certain years. He should check the USGenWeb county pages, the surname and county message boards and mailing lists, and check the 1870 census for Cerilda Reynolds (with all of the potential spellings for both names).

Dick knows that his father, who lived in Wisconsin, served in World War I, but can find no records of his service. We suggested that he write the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis to see what records they might have. We also suggested that he check the World War II draft registrations for his father. Dick also wondered how to get employment and other information from Social Security. We recommended that he check the SSA web site and a recent Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog post with information.

It was an interesting meeting. We have this meeting every 4th Wednesday of each month, and we usually have 10 to 15 attendees.

UPDATED: corrected the names a bit, I got Elisha and Elijah mixed up. I did find an Indiana marriage record on Ancestry for Cerilda J. Reynolds and William H. Deen on 1 Dec 1875 in Perry County IN. I also found a marriage record for Cerilda J. Flinn and Benjamin J. Reynolds on 22 Sept 1867 in Crawford County IN. I think that this is his family data, since her given name is so unusual and the surnames match well. I can't find Ben and Cerilda in the 1870 census, or Cerilda Flinn in the 1860 census. I passed the marriage data to Chuck to he has more mystery ancestors!

San Diego area fires - day 4

The situation for my family has not changed - we are safe, slept well, we taking sustenance, minimizing our electric and water use, watching TV and listening to radio, trying to stay off the roads, and trying to entertain granddaughter Lolo. It is hazy with blue sky above, the sun is shining fairly brightly (the past few days have seen no blue sky and an orange ball in the sky obscured by the haze and ashfall) and there is no ashfall right here right now. The closest the fires got to us were about 8 miles east in the Eastlake area of Chula Vista.

The TV here has been "all fire, all the time" so we have had no national TV news or regular shows on the local stations. I watched Fox News Channel last night for a bit and the anchor confidently said "Chula Vista has been evacuated." Wrong-o! About 1% of Chula Vista residents were evacuated. I've heard that NBC and CBS have news anchors here - I hope they got it right. The local TV folks don't get it right sometimes either - I saw one report last night that said the winds were out of the northeast so the fires were burning in the northwest direction. Neither the anchors or the reporter could figure it out.

The fire situation in the county has changed. The Sign On San Diego Wildfires 2007 blog has the latest announcements, and is my best source for news. The major fires and their status as of 7 AM are now:

** Witch Fire: About 196,420 acres in northern San Diego County from Witch Creek east of Ramona to Rancho Santa Fe. It has burned up into Valley Center and down around El Capitan Reservoir. One percent contained; 500 homes, 100 businesses and 50 outbuildings destroyed; 375 other structures damaged, including 250 homes and 75 businesses. Two civilians and 12 firefighters injured.

** Harris Fire: About 72,000 acres - started 70 miles southeast of San Diego north of the border town of Tecate, and ranged west and northwest to Jamul, over Mount San Miguel to the southeastern edge of Sweetwater Lake and the northeastern edge of Chula Vista. 10 percent contained; 200 homes destroyed; 2,000 homes and 500 commercial properties threatened. One civilian killed, 21 civilians and five firefighters injured.

** Rice Fire: At least 7,500 acres in Fallbrook in northern San Diego County. 10 percent containment; 206 homes and 2 commercial properties destroyed. One firefighter injured.

** Poomacha Fire: 20,000 acres on the La Jolla Indian Reservation and in northeastern San Diego County. This fire is straddling State 76 east of I-15, and is climbing up Palomar Mountain, which has lush vegetation since it hasn't burned for many years. No containment; 50 homes destroyed and 2,000 homes threatened. Ten firefighters injured.

** Camp Pendleton Fire: 6,000 acres on the Marine base north of San Diego. 10 percent contained. This fire has closed I-5 through the base, and caused the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

** McCoy Fire started on the west side of Cuyamaca Mountain, and burned eastward yesterday, and the mountain town of Julian was evacuated, but the fire did not get into the town.

The Santa Ana winds have reduced strength and may be over by this afternoon. The problem with that is there will likely be light winds off the ocean from the west and the eastern fronts of each fire may burn eastward into areas not previously burned. This is especially true for Fairbanks Ranch east of Rancho Santa Fe, and for Jamul east of Mount San Miguel.

To put it all in some kind of perspective: About 500,000 people were evacuated out of danger. The evacuation zones are larger than the burn areas. That's about 1 person in every 6 in the County. About 50,000 of them are in shelters somewhere, the rest are with family, friends, a campground or a hotel. About 1,300 homes have been lost so far, that's less than 1% of the homes in the affected areas. Some neighborhoods, especially in Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Dios, Poway and along State 94 were hard hit - in some case, whole streets and blocks were lost. Almost all of the homes burned are on streets facing canyons or forest.

Thank you for all of the emails inquiring about our health and safety. We still have Lolo who came down on Saturday for a two night visit with her friend - we'll probably take her home on Thursday if I-15 is open.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Almost a genealogy free day

I have so much genealogy work to do, but not a lot of time to do it this week. It would help if the computer would cooperate with me.

The only useful thing I did today was to compile my "Genealogy News of the Month" for the CVGS Research Group meeting on Wednesday. I will post it tomorrow on the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog tomorrow after the meeting.

I write it in an email to myself so that I can forward it later to the email list. I had to do it twice. I had it pretty much done - and then my email program froze before I could save the draft or send it. Now the darn thing won't send for some reason - it says it is too large. Arrgggghh. Add that on to my ongoing download problem (the speed for downloads of files, photos, videos, etc. is less than 20 kb/sec - it should be 200 kb/sec or better) and I'm ready to scream.

I need to install the FTM 16 that I bought two weeks ago for $16.95 (with a year's Ancestry subscription and GenSmarts) from (they don't have that offer any more, but have some good ones) and make sure everything works.

I have two microfilms at the FHC to review and capture probate record images from. I have about 40 pages to transcribe from the last image capture caper.

It looks like we're going to drive Lolo back to Victorville on Thursday, so I may have light blogging until Saturday.

The Chula Vista Address

"Three score and four years ago, a maternal progenitor brought forth a bundle of joy, conceived in love, dedicated to the proposition that the venerable Seaver line shall go forward and populate the Earth.

"They inexplicably named him Randall. He would grow up in beautiful San Diego, graduate from college, have an engineering career, live and die with the Padres and Chargers fortunes, marry a wonderful angel, enjoy home, travel and life tremendously, continue lifelong learning, and sire two darling daughters, who would marry well and produce at least three beautiful grandchildren. Life is really good.

"And now he is engaged in a great challenge - to identify and learn about his ancestors and their families, to share that knowledge with his family, and to help others identify and learn about theirs also. He highly resolves that these ancestors shall not have lived in obscurity, that this family shall continue to grow and thrive, with appreciation of those who have gone before. He dedicates this hallowed blog post to the proposition that pedigree charts of the family, for the family and by the family shall not disappear from the earth. 'Tis a noble goal, and one that will be celebrated to the ends of time by his progeny and colleagues."

With apologies to Abe Lincoln. See here for a celebratory song and more comments [please forgive my self-indulgence here, I've wanted to do this for many years].

Smoky and quiet for now

The situation for my family has not changed - it's smoky outside, there is lots of ash on the ground, we are staying inside, and there is no threat to our safety right now.

It was a rough night for folks in Spring Valley and eastern Bonita - the fire came over Mount San Miguel as I figured it would, and is threatening homes on the northern and western slopes of the mountain.

There is now a voluntary evacuation for the Otay River valley and the Otay Mesa area - south of Main Street and east of I-805. I'm trying to figure out why - did the fire split and go south of Otay Lakes? Or is the fire that burned into Mexico out near Tecate burning around the south side of Otay Mountain and threatening the US side of the border? I've heard nothing about any fires in Mexico, although I fear that there are several there.

Watching the TV for endless hours of fire news, and the constant replays of houses going up in flames, is very depressing. The TV stations don't really know much - they broadcast many items with errors in them. The radio is a little better. I've found a blog at that provides official information. There is still no one spot that tells us where the fires are advancing and burning. Susan Kitchens has a post here that shows a satellite photo of the Southern California fires - from yesterday. She is in the San Gabriel Valley east of LA, and may have fire problems too.

I've spent the morning watching the Disney Channel with Lolo and working on puzzles, playing with blocks, sharing breakfast, tickling and cuddling, and chasing her around the house. It's been a fun morning, although I've gotten nothing else done besides this blog post while Lolo is entertaining her grandma.

UPDATED 11 AM: The mayor of Chula Vista was on the radio a while ago and said that the fire east of Otay Lakes had split and a finger was moving southwest around the the south end of Otay Lakes. That would explain why the area south of Main had an evacuation order.

Someone else out in Rancho San Diego (where my brother lives just off Hillsdale) said on the radio that the wind had shifted there and was starting to come out of the west. This should have the effect of stopping westward movement of the fingers of fire, but then it may force the fingers of fire north and south, or east.

The large National Guard airplanes - 6 of them - are on their way to California. They hope that there will be some working in San Diego County. Right now, Chula Vista police and fire are working the Harris firefighting - there are apparently no CalFire help on this end of the fire.

Up in the Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar area, the fire is slowly progressing westward, and the report is that the winds have picked up again.

UPDATED 3:30 PM: Nothing much has changed here in Chula Vista. Some residents of Poway and Scripps Ranch are going back to their homes. The evacuation order for Rancho San Diego was cancelled. Apparently, the water drops by military helicopters has worked well there. There are evacuation orders for parts of Jamul, parts of Julian, parts of Valley Center, parts of Encinitas and parts of Carlsbad.

There are fingers of fire on the north and west sides of Lake Hodges. There is a new, big fire on Palomar Mountain called the Poomacha Fire. The wind has shifted to the east in the Cuyamaca mountains, the Eagle Fire, and is threatening Julian.

The latest statistics I've heard are about 1,200 homes lost, only 1 death, and over 250,000 acres burned. The Harris fire near Chula Vista has burned about 70,000 acres.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Della's Journal - Week 43 (October 22-28, 1929)

This is Installment 43 of the Journal of Della (Smith) Carringer (1862-1944), 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 43:


Tuesday, October 22 (foggy last night in night): Ma took bath & we did the washing. Got my tax statements.

Wednesday, October 23: I went to town, paid Water, Gas & Elec. & A[ustin]'s lodge dues, and $12 and some c[en]ts on the little lots, the Cardiffs, two Pacific Beach.

Thursday, October 24: Ma & I worked in forenoon in yard.

Friday, October 25: Ironed. We worked in yard again today. Lyle went with me to the Stock holders meeting of the 1st 2nd & 3rd Securities. It was very interesting. Alpine had some of the forest fires burned the old Sanitarium & small buildings, has burned over thousands of ackers of water shed, fires all this week. Ma got Birthday card from Aunt Libbie.

Saturday, October 26: Austin stayed home. We went down to Dr. Bill's he pulled 2 teeth $3.00 for A[ustin]. Emily took us down. Ed came, he cut lawns & we transplanted two roses to front of house west of the Los Angeles. Lyle & Emily went to a party at Miss Crow's (?) given for Miss Shiller, she has worked there 30 years. Ma had Oleander stump taken out.

Sunday, October 27: We did not go any place. Lyle's took a ride.

Monday, October 28: Ma's birthday. Mary Dyar sent card. Lyle's gave her neck chain, writeing paper & nice cap and two bouquets. We gave a bouquet, some candy & card. Ma & I worked in yard. I put down some bricks.


As we saw last week also, there were forest fires in the back country in October 1929. 78 years later, we have fires not only in the back country, but in the coastal areas too.

It was Abigail (Vaux) Smith's 85th birthday this week. She was born 28 October 1844 in Aurora township, Erie County, New York, to Samuel and Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux. She married Devier J. Smith on 4 April 1861 in Rolling Prairie township, Dodge County, Wisconsin. Abigail died 11 September 1931 in San Diego, San Diego County, California. Since she is my great-great-grandmother, I often think of her as an elderly woman from long ago. But she was my grandfather's grandmother, and the only grandparent of his that was living after 1902.

Della and Austin owned the "small lots" in Cardiff (on the coast above Del Mar) and two lots in Pacific Beach (part of San Diego city). I imagine that Austin's brother, Ed, lived in one of them, probably rent-free. I haven't searched for deeds for any of these properties. I should.

NEHGS and Ancestry team up

I got an email announcement from NEHGS (the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I am a member) that says:

"The New England Historic Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the launch of the NEHGS & collaboration, making available for the first time special pricing and other member benefits.

"This collaboration is one we hope marks the beginning of future programs and specials that bring together some of the most important and vital research information to amateur and professional genealogists everywhere. We are excited to offer the following specials to our members and friends:

"To start, all current NEHGS members can purchase’s U.S. Deluxe membership, normally priced at $155.40, for only $99.95! That’s a tremendous savings that allows you to begin accessing some of the most important online information anywhere.

----- <> -----------

"Additionally, if your NEHGS membership has lapsed, or if you’ve been putting off joining the NEHGS family, this is a terrific time to rejoin. You can purchase both an NEHGS annual Research membership and a U.S. Deluxe membership together for one low price of $155.40. This incredible opportunity is available for the first time ever, and brings together two of the most valued and important genealogical research tools available today. Please note that current NEHGS and members are not eligible for this price.

------- <> ---------------

"NEHGS is also pleased to offer a special price of $60 for current members who want to join the NEHGS family. recognizes the incredible wealth of information available at NEHGS and we welcome their members to help share in our wonderful history.

"We encourage all our members and friends to take advantage of these special prices today! Visit our website at to learn more or to sign up for this incredible offer. Please note that this offer is only valid from, and only until December 31, 2007."


Well, that doesn't help me, since I subscribe to both. But it may help others who have pondered joining NEHGS or subscribing to Ancestry.

There is nothing in this announcement concerning sharing databases across the firewalls - you still have to be a member of the site with the databases.

NEHGS has some unique databases that are available only at repositories in New England, at the Family History Library and FHCs on microfilm, and on their web site, They include the Massachusetts Vital Records to 1849, the Massachusetts Vital Records from 1841 to 1910, the full text of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, etc.

I do wish that NEHGS would put more vital records, deed indexes, probate indexes and church records from CT, RI, VT, NH and Maine online - many of these are available on microfilm at the FHC, but are not, in general, in online databases (there are CT and RI vital records at NEHGS online is pretty much Massachusetts oriented.

FIRE! not here yet, but who knows?

Mother Nature is usually absolutely beautiful. Sometimes she is an absolute horror. It's not all nature's fault - homo sapiens sometimes helps things along.

Tornado. Hurricane. Flood. Earthquake. Storm. Fire. Those have happened since time immemorial - swaths of land are devastated. Homo sapiens have marvelled at, almost worshiped, them from afar. In the middle of them, homo sapiens are helpless.

In San Diego, our two biggest threats are fire and earthquake. In the coastal cities we are about 100 miles away from the San Andreas Fault. The effect of a major earthquake here would be power, water and food shortages due to a big quake somewhere else - like Los Angeles or the Imperial Valley. Fire poses the bigger local threat, especially when there is a high pressure system over the Great Basin - we get Santa Ana winds, usually from the northeast and east, that can gust up to 80 miles per hour. Once a fire starts, the winds carry it quickly, and it often leaps over highways and whole blocks.

San Diego County, and other areas of California, are under siege again from Santa Ana winds and fires (started by people, lightning or downed wires). In the San Diego area, there are several large fires burning westward and southwestward from their origin.

Ramona, with 35,000 people, was evacuated last night. Overnight, the Witch Creek Fire branch north of Ramona rode the winds westward about ten miles right into the heart of suburban San Diego. Whole areas (tens of square miles) are under evacuation orders. This fire is essentially in the San Dieguito River watershed area which stretches from the mountains to the ocean. This river passes south of Escondido skirting Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos, then through posh Fairbanks Ranch and posh Rancho Santa Fe to posh Del Mar. It has crossed and shut down I-15 south of Escondido as it burned into the Rancho Bernardo area.

There is another branch of the Witch Creek Fire south of Ramona that is burning in the San Diego river watershed - much of which burned in the Cedar fire in 2003. That may threaten Barona Ranch, Lakeside, Santee and points west. In 2003, the Cedar fire burned across I-15 all the way to I-805 near UCSD in La Jolla.

In southern San Diego County - 30 miles south of the Ramona area fire, the Harris fire started in Potrero, just a mile north of the US-Mexico border near the BC city of Tecate. This fire will likely burn into Mexico along the Tijuana River watershed. It may go up or around Otay Mountain. If it burns around the north side of Otay Mountain, then it may threaten Chula Vista as it burns into the Otay River watershed area east of the city.

There are several more fires in the northern part of San Diego county that have flared up this morning. We thought 2003 was bad - this may end up worse.

Homo sapiens, in its infinite wisdom, has settled in river valleys, on plains and on mountain tops. They build houses all right in a row, sometimes right on top of each other. They love green belts in this quasi-desert area - whole corridors of river bottom and canyons have been made into parks and greenbelts. These parks have tremendous fuel for fires - trees, brush, etc. They become "fire daggers" right into and through the heart of settled areas.

The settled areas are not out of danger. Houses are made of wood and stucco here, with shrubs and trees for beauty. Once started, they burn well due to the construction materials and the contents. Fortunately, most people have replaced their wood shake roofs and treated their eaves. But once a house starts to burn, it burns unless water is on it very quickly. The reality is that a house that starts to burn will burn down, and may take neighbor houses with it.

The fire services are not able to stop the fires from advancing. There are not enough firefighters, not enough engines, not enough water to stop them. The helicopters and fire-fighting aircraft were all sent north over the weekend to fight the Malibu and other fires. Even if they were here, they likely couldn't fly because of the winds and the low visibility. They can only notify people to evacuate and try to control the traffic.

The weather will eventually stop it, with moist air and cooler winds from the west turning the fire back on itself. That may happen on Wednesday or Thursday. All that people can do is save themselves by evacuating away from where the fire is or will be. There are evacuation centers at high schools, and schools are closed.

Right now at 6:30 AM, we are in the middle of the city of Chula Vista, and are not under a fire threat or evacuation order. Who knows what the day will bring? In 2003, the fires were to the north of us and to the south of us, although they burned up to the eastern edge of Chula Vista before the weather turned.

Last month, we had our brush and low tree branches on our hillside cut down, which is the south side of a small canyon with a two-block long greenbelt on our side. There are no bushes or anything near our house, which is at the west end of a cul-de-sac. The winds are from the east - and any fire will burn to the west. The neighbors to the east have lush brush on the hillside. If houses just to our east burn, then we may be in danger.

What should I take in an evacuation? Family papers. Pictures in frames and albums. Laptop. Portable electronics. Batteries. Books to read. We can fill two cars with stuff.

There may be power outages today, so I don't know how long I'll be at the computer today. Our granddaughter is at friends in Chula Vista, and our daughter is 150 miles away. She was going to come down and take Lolo home, but the freeway is closed at Escondido. We may end up with Lolo for the week, which could be fun.

All of a sudden, genealogy is going to take a back seat to survival.

UPDATED 8 AM: Added some detail after reading it. I copied my critical genealogy data from my desktop computer to my flash drive so that I can update my laptop sometime. We've been watching the TV reports on all the local channels. I'll probably go to the library for awhile today. I'll probably stop and get a full tank of gas on the way.

UPDATED 1 PM: There is smoke smell everywhere, and some ashfall. The fires are not in "rich fuel" areas - forests with a lot of wood fuel to burn -- so there is not a lot of ashfall now, and probably won't be. They are evacuating areas about 10 miles east of me and an area south of me. There is little info on the radio or TV for my area - most of the news is about the North County where hundreds of homes have been lost already. In San Diego County, about 300,000 people have been evacuated.

UPDATED 9 PM: The Harris fire has continued to advance westward toward Chula Vista. It has not reached Otay Lakes yet (they form a natural barrier to much of eastern Chula Vista, called Eastlake) but it may during the night or tomorrow morning. There is a mandatory evacuation for the northeastern part of Eastlake - the area on the southern slope of Mount San Miguel. There is a voluntary evacuation call for some of the Eastlake area. The latter is about 6 miles east of us. The winds where I am (just west of I-805 off East Naples) were pretty low all day, but they have been higher out in the back country.

The news media tries so hard, but they don't do live TV well with place names and they don't have a lot of good information. The radio is better with phone callers saying where there is fire or evacuations.

Our 2-year old granddaughter came down with family friends from Victorville on Saturday night, and our daughter was supposed to come get her and take her home today. She couldn't come due to the closure of I-15. The friends evacuated from Eastlake to Lemon Grove, so we have our precious Lolo for probably two nights. She had a rough time going to sleep tonight. We hope there is enough good air to go have fun with her on Tuesday.

The weather report is that the winds will pick up again on Tuesday morning, and die down quite a bit by Tuesday night. I can see the Harris fire going up the southeast side of Mount San Miguel and over it into Spring Valley. It's already advancing on Jamul, which is to the east of the mountain.

If the wind shifts from westerly to southwesterly (which it might), the fire could advance into Eastlake and the city of Chula Vista (which is about 12 miles wide east-west and about 5 miles long (north-south) with 250,000 residents. There aren't too many evacuation centers left now - my thought is that we go rent a room in Coronado and have fun on the beach.

Historically the 1971 fire burned over Mount Miguel and advanced into what is now eastern Chula Vista (which wasn't there in 1971), and the 2003 fire burned right up to Otay Lakes but not up and over San Miguel. There is not the high acreage for this fire (in 2003, there were 245,000 acres burned - about 400 square miles - the total in the county is something like 170,000 acres. The reports say that 600 homes and 1 life have been lost so far in the county, which has 13 separate fires burning, nowhere near the 2003 fire numbers -- 2,000 homes, 15 lives -- at least yet. They may find some people in cars along Highway 94 near where the fire started, or some illegals that crossed the border, but nobody's looking yet - they're too busy fighting the winds and the fires. The evacuations have gone fairly well - many people find shelter with friends and family, but the community shelters are full and up to speed, I heard there were 10,000 at Qualcomm Stadium.

It may be a long night for some people near the fire lines. A blog with frequent posts is at

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Best of the Genea-blogs - Week of October 14-20

Here are my picks for great reads from the genealogy blogs for this past week. My criteria are pretty simple - I like posts that advance knowledge about genealogy, or are funny and/or poignant.

* "Another Law Lesson: The Basics of Defamation" and "Avoid Defamation" by Craig Manson on the Geneablogie blog. Craig continues to write about legal issues that may face genealogy researchers and especially bloggers.

* "What Our Genealogy Customers Want" by Paul Allen on his Paul Allen: Internet Entrepreneur blog. This provides results from the WorldVitalRecords survey of customers taken last week.

* "WDYTYA- Margot Kidder" by John D. Reid on his Anglo-Celtic Connections blog. This post is about the Canadian TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" which traced some of Kidder's ancestry. I wish we had this show in the US! John also had some useful Canadian genealogy links in his post.

* "Why Post Your Genealogy / Family History Online?" by whoever writes the Family History Quick Start blog. This relatively new blog/web site has some useful how-to and advice posts.

* "Young Men at Yorktown" by Tim Abbott on the Walking the Berkshires blog. Tim describes the activities of his ancestors at the penultimate battle of the Revolutionary War. Fascinating.

* "The Dick Cheney - Barack Obama - Orrell Connection" by Reb Orrell on the Bob and Reb's Genealogy Blog. Here is the story about how Lynne Cheney made the connection. In addition, the Oliphant cartoon is priceless (is this a copyright infraction?)!

* "Country Words and Sayings, A to Z" by Terry Thornton on the Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog. I liked this the best of Terry's posts this past week, because it helps me understand certain people, and it was funny. Jiggered? Mully-grubs? Uggle-muggled? I swore that I wouldn't give Terry more hits this week, but I can't help it that he writes so well.

* "Inside Scoop on Ancestry Acquisition" on The Ancestry Insider blog. This is about the biggest news of the week, and the Insider gives us the scoop from the employee level. I don't know who is making the disparaging comments, though - it's not NewspaperGirl as far as I can tell from her blog.

That's it for this week - please visit these fine bloggers and either learn from them or enjoy their writing efforts. Thanks to all for a really interesting blogging week.