Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Tracing Ancestry with Genealogists" on TV

If you don't want to go to all the trouble of tracing your own ancestry using online and traditional research techniques, just have someone do it for you.

Greg Wayland, a New England Cable Network (NECN) reporter, went to the New England Historic Genealogical Society to get help - and got a tour from CEO Brenton Simons and a lot of help from Michael LeClerc of the NEHGS staff. The result is a 5 minute, 44 second video story titled "Tracing Ancestry with Genealogists" shown on NECN. The link to the story is here.

I thought that this video was extremely well done - tying Wayland to his great-grandparents using records and gravestones. It touched on New England resources, a Nova Scotia ancestor, and an Irish immigrant family. The mix of short video with photographs and voice-overs was very effective. It is sure to bring some new researchers to the NEHGS door in Boston. Everybody wins here - NECN gets a public interest story, and NEHGS gets some good publicity.

We need more video stories like this on local television all across the country. Our societies would really benefit from something like this shown on PBS or local cable stations.

Finding out exactly where they lived

One of the tasks I like to pursue is to try to find out exactly where my ancestors lived at moments of time. To do this, you need maps that show houses or farms or shops. One question I've always had is "do the maps that show houses show every building, or just selected buildings?"

I noticed that is featuring their "Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000" collection of maps, which includes maps with homes or farms shown on them. I picked Killingly in Windham County, Connecticut because I thought I knew where my Henry A. White family lived and where my Jonathan Oatley lived in East Killingly. Ancestry has an 1869 map of Killingly, and an inset map of East Killingly showing much more detail.

I chose the 1870 census to compare to the 1869 map. When I input Henry White, I found him on the census on page 115 of (Post Office) West Killingly, not East Killingly. I looked on the map for a West Killingly and didn't find it. So I checked for Jonathan Oatley, and found him on the census - he was on page 122 of (Post Office) West Killingly. Strange - they both should be in East Killingly. I decided to check the neighbors, and in the process found out several things -

1) There are a lot more houses enumerated in the census than there are on the maps. There were at most three or four houses that showed on the map that were enumerated on the same census page, and some census pages had no houses shown on the map.

2) The census taker did not write the family information down in the exact order of house location. I don't know what method they used, but it wasn't house to neighbor house in every case. Did they make rough notes from their walk-abouts, and then fill out the census form later from the notes?

3) The census taker erred in this location - the Post Office had to be East Killingly because all of the people on the 1869 map in East Killingly are on the West Killingly PO census list. I wonder how many other errors there are for Post Office or town name?

As an example of comparing houses on the map with a census page, on page 122 of this census (NARA Film M593, Roll 116, page 445, Image 323), the houses on the page are headed by:

# 725 Joseph Oatly (on the map) - household includes Jonathan Oatly
# 726 Elliot Burton (on the map)
# 727 Franklin Burton
# 728 Harris O. Burton
# 729 Ruel Cole
# 730 John Russell 2nd (on map)
# 731 David D. Chase
# 732 Elisha Soule
# 733 Lydia Mitchell (probably the Mrs. Mitchell on the map)
# 734 Alfred E. Adams

So there are four houses from this page on the map. But I don't know if the houses were enumerated in order, do I? About all I can be sure of is that not every person on the census is shown on the map.

My Henry A. White was not on the map, but his brother John White, who was listed just below Henry on page 115, was shown - right there on the road towards Killingly Center on the north side of the road, just three houses from Dr. E.A. Hill (page 116) and five houses from Rev. Daniel Williams (page 116). So I think I know about where Henry A. White lived in 1870 - between Dr. Hill and John White. On the map, it measures about 20 rods between John White and Dr. Hill - about 330 feet - essentially the length of a football field.

My Jonathan Oatley was age 79, and living with his eldest surviving son, Joseph H. Oatley in East Killingly in the 1870 census. J. Oatley's house is shown on the 1869 map about 18 rods south of the main east-west road through East Killingly, on the east side of the road that leads toward Foster RI to the east. Wm. Oatley's house is also shown two houses closer to the main east-west road.
My best guess is that Jonathan Oatley is living in the house he built or bought back in the 1830's when he first came to Killingly to pastor the Baptist Church. Now I know where it was in 1869.

I was surprised to find both of these families in "town" - I thought that they both lived to the north of the East Killingly center on the road toward East Putnam near the border with Rhode Island. They may have lived there earlier, but there maps are not available for the earlier period.

I learned the three things listed above from this exercise, and also learned the probably location of the White and Oatley homes in the 1870 time period.

I wonder if these houses are still there? I will try to find out - it's another good reason to go to New England on vacation again!

Have you tried to find the locations of your ancestor's homes using these maps? Did you find them? I'm going to go look for more later.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cousinhood to Mitt Romney

In my unending quest to find cousin relationships with famous people, I went searching for my connection to Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney. I found that I'm probably an 9th cousin once removed to him.

Our Most Recent Common Ancestors are probably Francis Nurse and Rebecca Towne (yes, the Rebecca Nurse hanged as a witch in 1692 in Salem). Here is the descent from them (with ahnentafel numbers and information from here):

1. 1954 Francis Nurse (????-1695) m. 1644 Rebecca Towne (????-1692)
2. 977 Elizabeth Nurse (1665-????) m. 1678 William Russell (1655-1744)
3. 488 Ebenezer Russell (1688-1762) m. 1710 Deborah Hubbard (1687-????)
4. 244 Ellis Russell (1730-????) m. 1751 Joanna Wolcott (1733-????)
5. 122 Oliver Russell (1777-????) m. 1794 Nancy Newton (1779-????)
6. 61 Nancy Russell (1799-1889) m. 1815 Robert Berry (1783-1847)
7. 30 Robert Berry (1823-1905) m. 1842 Elnora Warner (1822-1865)
8. 15 Rosetta Mary Berry (1843-1918) m. 1865 Charles Edward Robison (1845-1883)
9 7 Alma Luella Robison (1882-1938) m. 1903 Harold Arundel LaFount (1880-1952)
10 3 Lenore LaFount (1908-1998) m. 1931 George Wilcken Romney (1907-1995)
11 Willard "Mitt" Romney (1947- )

My line from Francis Nurse and Rebecca Towne is:

1. 2394 Francis Nurse (1618-1695) m. 1644 Rebecca Towne (1621-1692)
2. 1197 Sarah Nurse (1648-????) m. 1669 Michael Bowden (1651-1740)
3. 598 Michael Bowden (1673-1741) m. 1697 Sarah Davis (1676-1754)
4. 299 Mary Bowden (1705-????) m. 1726 Michael Bowden (1703-1748)
5. 149 Mary Richards (1733-????) and Isaac Buck (ca1730-????)
6. 74 Isaac Buck (1757-1846) m. 1780 Martha Phillips (1757-1820)
7. 37 Sophia Buck (1797-1882) m. ca 1833 Thomas J. Newton (????-????)
8. 18 Edward Hildreth (1831-1899) m. 1852 Sophia Newton (1834-1923)
9. 9 Hattie L. Hildreth (1857-1920) m. 1874Frank W. Seaver (1852-1922)
10. 4 Frederick W. Seaver (1876-1940) m. 1900 Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962)
11. 2 Frederick W. Seaver (1911-1983) m. 1942 Betty V. Carringer (1919-2002)
12. 1 Randall J. Seaver (1943- )

So in this line I am the 9th cousin once removed to Mitt Romney.

There are several other New England colonial families that we share; the common immigrant ancestors include (ahnentafel numbers from here)

1952 William Russell and Martha --?--
3920 William Towne and Joanna Blessing
and probably others in later generations

Do you think that if Mitt Romney becomes President, that he will consult with me, or even acknowledge our distant relationship? If he does take the office, I'm going to write him and tell him that I am at his genealogical service. He'll probably pick someone more known than me, but maybe he will give me some consideration.

Do you have a connection to Mitt Romney? What about any of the other Presidential candidates?

Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (1882-1962)

Alma Bessie Richmond was born on 16 February 1882 in Killingly, Connecticut, the seventh child and fourth daughter of Thomas and Julia (White) Richmond. The family was active in the Episcopal Church in Killingly and Putnam, and had a rich musical tradition and abilities. The Thomas Richmond family moved to Leominster, Massachusetts before 1895. Her father was a foreman in a textile mill, first in Burrilville, Rhode Island, then in Putnam, Connecticut and finally in Leominster, Massachusetts.

She married Frederick Walton Seaver on 21 June 1900 in Leominster, Massachusetts. They had seven children - Marion born in 1901, Evelyn born in 1903, Stanley born in 1905 and died in 1910, Ruth born in 1907, Frederick born in 1911, Edward born in 1913 and Geraldine born in 1917.

Bess had exceptional musical talent, and was taught by her father, who was a choir director and tenor singer, and her mother, who was an organist, piano player and alto singer. As a pianist, she played very difficult pieces, especially Chopin, her favorite composer. After taking organ lessons, she played the church organ as a teenage girl at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Leominster for several years before her wedding in 1900. After her marriage, she stopped playing the organ because of family responsibilities (seven babies in 17 years). In about 1923, she again was organist at St. Marks until 1941 when her husband was ill.

After his death, Bess moved with her daughter Geraldine to Northampton for a time. After about two years, she moved back to an apartment in Leominster to be nearer family and friends, and took jobs as music director and organist at a Methodist church in Fitchburg and as the organist at the Episcopal church in Whalom. Gerry says "She played music instinctively... she memorized so quickly that she could play one thing after the other without any music in front of her because she'd memorized it."

Gerry also says "...her life was pretty hectic trying to take care of all those kids. The thing that saved her was the fact that she had the piano. She would go to that piano right after dinner, I remember very well. She would go religiously, and leave the dishes for the girls, and sit down and play the piano for at least two hours, sometimes longer... many a night I have gone to bed and listened to the strains of Chopin coming from downstairs..."

Her son, Edward Seaver, described his mother: "My mother was a very beautiful woman, my early memories of her were with beautiful black hair with a swatch of white coming right up the middle. I used to love to watch her sitting at the vanity combing her hair. She was a very nice looking woman. As the family grew up and expanded and the grandchildren started to come, she just adored every one of them, and they, in turn, thought the world of her. She was always attentive to the children, always listening to their problems"
Bess and her daughter Geraldine traveled by train to San Diego, California in July 1942 to attend the wedding of her son, Frederick Seaver. In 1959, Bess accompanied Walter and Evelyn (Seaver) Wood to California, driving from and back to New England. This was the only time that Bess saw her three California grandsons.

Bess died of gall bladder cancer on 29 June 1962 in Leominster, Massachusetts. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster with her husband and young son, Stanley.

"Heirloom Discovery Day" at CVGS on 11/26

The next Chula Vista Genealogical Society program will be on Monday, 26 November 2007 at 10 a.m. in the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library (365 F Street) auditorium.

The program will be an "Heirloom Discovery Day" - a show and tell of family heirlooms brought and described by their owners and then evaluated by Georgie Stillman, a professional heirloom appraiser who lives and works in Chula Vista. These will not be professional level appraisals at this meeting - Georgie will provide an estimated value and briefly comment on the origin of the piece.

Georgie Stillman is a Senior member of the American Society of Appraisers, past President of the San Diego Chapter, and Founding Director of the International Society of Appraisers, having held many offices in each. Her expertise is in evaluating and appraising silver, China, glass ware, furniture, artworks, quilts and samplers,many dolls and other collectibles. She does not appraise pre-1830 Chinese or Oriental pieces, Oriental carpets, antiquities, jewelry with gemstones (costume jewelry is fine), coins or stamps.

We had an immediate sign-up for this program once it was announced - 15 members will share their treasures and hope to learn something about them. The audience will admire the heirlooms and Georgie's skill in talking about them. We had Georgie do this same type of program in 2005 and it was very popular and fun - one of the best responses we've had.

There will be a short business meeting before the main feature. Please enter the auditorium through the Conference Room so that you can sign in, buy a raffle ticket, pick up handouts and have a snack.

This program should be of interest to genealogists, family historians, and antique collectors. We welcome guests and visitors to all of our meetings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Pilgrim's Thanksgiving in 1621

The traditional "First Thanksgiving" in North America has always been the one in Plymouth in 1621 celebrated by the "Pilgrims" who came from England and Holland in 1620. There were earlier celebrations, as David Bowles and others have pointed out.

Caleb Johnson has an excellent summary of the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 at On his radio program today, Dennis Prager read Edward Winslow's letter, written 12 December 1621, describing the first celebration in Plymouth:

"Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.

"They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

The second description was in the history Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford written in about 1641:

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

Caleb Johnson's page has a list of the foods probably eaten at the first Plymouth Thanksgiving. Contrast the variety of the foods available to them at the time with what we eat at our Thanksgiving celebrations today.

Today I thought about the hardships that these hardy Plymouth settlers endured to travel to North America and to survive the first winter. I had at least six ancestors at this first Plymouth Thanksgiving:

* Susanna (--?--) (White) Winslow (ca 1590-1680?)
* Peregrine White (1620-1704)
* George Soule (1593-1669)
* Richard Warren (ca 1580-1628)
* Francis Cooke (1583-1663)
* John Cooke (1607-1695)

I am very thankful for their courage and sacrifice, and for their good example of sharing a feast with Massasoit and his people.

Happy Thanksgiving!


by Edgar Albert Guest (c) 1917

Gettin' together to smile an' rejoice,
An' eatin' an' laughin' with folks of your choice;
An' kissin' the girls an' declarin' that they
Are growin' more beautiful day after day;

Chattin' an' braggin' a bit with the men,
Buildin' the old family circle again;
Livin' the wholesome an' old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother's a little bit grayer, that's all.

Father's a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an' to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin' our stories as women an' men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we're grateful an' glad to be there.
Home from the east land an' home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an' best.

Out of the sham of the cities afar
We've come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an' be frank,
Forgettin' position an' station an' rank.

Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,

Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An' I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Am So Thankful

--- for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

--- for my wonderful loving wife, Angel Linda, who makes every day special.

--- for my two beautiful and smart daughters, and their great husbands, who work so hard to do so well in order to live securely.

--- for my three precious grandchildren, so innocent and with so much potential, and so much fun to be with. And for the fourth one on the way.

--- for my enthusiastic father, who provided a large New England ancestry to research and an undying love for the game of baseball.

--- for my loving mother, so patient, loving and kind, whose ancestry provides such challenges.

--- for my brothers, their wives and children, who are interested in the family history.

--- for my grandparents and earlier ancestors, who worked hard, played by the rules, raised healthy families, and provided a firm foundation for their children.

--- for my aunts, uncles and cousins, who opened their homes and their hearts and shared their memories.

--- for my genealogy society colleagues and fellow genea-bloggers who encourage and appreciate me.

--- for the brave passengers on the Mayflower and other early ships who colonized New England, and instilled a republican form of government based on personal freedom and responsibility.

--- for the courageous citizens who revolted to secure our freedoms, and created the institutions that are the foundations of the USA.

--- for the soldiers, sailors and pilots, of every historical time, who have defended our country and kept us safe and free.

--- for the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights - especially the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly. I am awestruck that the Founders wrote such a magnificent set of documents that have stood the test of time.

--- for educational opportunities, whereby every and any person in this country can be the best that they can be, but they have to really make an effort.

--- for the free market and free enterprise economic system that encourages and rewards work and innovation, and has allowed me and my family to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

--- for the marvels of science and engineering, that drive our health, transportation, communication and entertainment industries.

--- for the wonders of nature that beautify our world, inspire us and occasionally overwhelm us.

What are you thankful for on this 145th Thanksgiving holiday?

CVGS Computer Group Meeting today

The monthly Genealogy Computer Group meeting for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society was held in the Computer Lab at the Library today. We had 16 attendees, which were more than the 12 available computer stations, so several of us floated and had other things to do.

It took some time for Gary to get the projector and computer station hooked up - it was a computer cable problem. While he got that working, I tried to access Ancestry Library Edition and failed - the Library IT people had moved the Online Databases page to some place we could not find. Shirley went to ask the IT people about it.

Everybody could get on the Internet, so I asked them to go to and showed them how to get to the three Webinar videos at home (click on the "Help" link on the home page, then the "Webinar" tab on the Help page) and also how to use the Ancestry Learning Center ( The Learning Center has thousands of "how-to" articles concerning genealogy research and are an excellent free resource of information.

Shirley came back and led the group through a number of places on - including the Freepages, the Message Boards, Mailing Lists, Town and County templates, etc.

I helped one of our new members find information about church records in Mexico using the LDS databases and the Family History Library Catalog. I also told him about ordering microfilms at the Family History Center. We found out that there is a monthly Hispanic Genealogy Group that meets at the FHC, and showed him the contact information.

After the meeting, I met briefly with the IT person and separately with the Branch Manager in order to sort out how we can be assured of access to Ancestry Library Edition. They volunteered to install a shortcut on the Computer Lab screens that go right to the Library Databases. Hopefully, this will solve our access problems and reduce our frustrations.

Finding records for living persons

In her presentation "Digging Up the Un-Dead" last month for CVGS, Joan Lowrey gave some practical advice for finding living people using online resources. She briefly mentioned online databases for City or County court, probate and land records.

For San Diego County, the County Recorder and Assessor office provides minimal property information online. For land records, the web site is You can use the Search box (use last name first) to find the type of transactions (e.g., trust deeds, deeds, reconveyances, notices to creditors, tax liens, etc) and document numbers for property transactions. With the document number, you can order the document for a fee.

For probate records, the San Diego County Probate Court web site is here. On this page, put "Court Index" in the right hand search box and then select a "Party Name Search." If you input a surname, you get a list of the Probate Court cases on file between 1974 and 2007. Clicking on the Probate Case number gives you some information about the case - the type of case, the case category, the date filed, and the case file location. There is a link that tells you the physical location of the case file. In San Diego, most of them are in the Madge Bradley Building at 1401 4th Avenue in downtown San Diego.

Civil, criminal and domestic court records can also be found at the San Diego County Court web site. You get essentially the same information as for a probate case. The records are stored in a different location than the probate court records.

But you can find more information about property records by going to one of the Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk locations - there are five locations in the county (downtown San Diego, Kearny Mesa, Chula Vista, El Cajon and San Marcos). The offices permit public access to computers with several databases on them. For instance, there is an index of current property owners and the tax assessments on those properties. By inputting a surname, or a surname and given name, you can find the properties they own, the property assessment value, the tax assessment, and a mailing address for the owner. You can also input a street address or a property identification number. This database is fairly difficult to use because it is function key driven, not mouse driven. But it is extremely useful.

The Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk offices also have an index of San Diego county marriages from about 1960 to 2007. The information is sparse - names and date of marriage - but it can be very useful.

All of these records are records that can be accessed by the public. To obtain the actual record, you need to go someplace to obtain it, but a committed researcher, or any person, can find them and obtain them.

That brings up the issue of "should a genealogist help a customer, colleague or correspondent find records such as these?" I'll discuss this in a later post.

Do you have "living persons" to research? Have you checked the Vital Records system, Court system records,and the Property records system in the place where they live? If so, tell me about your successes and failures.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ancestry has US Passport Applications, 1795-1925

The promised and long awaited set of United States Passport Appications has been made available by in their US Deluxe subscription.

The sources for this information include

* Passport Applications, 1795-1905; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1372, 694 rolls); General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

* Passport Applications, January 2, 1906-March 31, 1925; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1490, 2740 rolls); General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

* Registers and Indexes for Passport Applications, 1810-1906; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1371, rolls 1-3, 13); General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

* Emergency Passport Applications (Passports Issued Abroad), 1877-1907; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1834, 56 rolls); General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

I took a quick look for some of my ancestors and haven't found any yet - a pity because this is a very nice set of data for those persons included. But being the self-appointed collector of all genealogy things Seaver, I looked at a few of them to see what was on them. Below is the application for Edwin P. Seaver of Newton MA in 1905.

A genealogy researcher would get this information about Edwin P. Seaver -

* his wife's name, birthplace and birthdate (Margaret W. Seaver, born Milwaukee WI, 10 June 1844)
* his birth date and birth place (24 Feb 1838 in Northborough MA)
* his permanent residence (Newton MA)
* his occupation (teacher)
* his signature for the oath of allegiance
* a physical description -
** age (66),
** Stature (5' 11"),
** forehead (high),
** eyes (black),
** Nose (Roman),
** Mouth (medium),
** Chin (average),
** Hair (gray),
** Complexion (dark),
** Face (oval)

He could have listed the children who would travel with him and their birth data. He could also have told how long he was going to be out of the country.

All in all, a nice set of information and a pretty good physical description. There was no picture for this passport, but I saw several with a picture (black and white).

Of course, these are not NEW records, they've been available at a National Archives on microfilm for a long time. What is new is that they are now digitized and indexed and online for the first time.

Do you know if your ancestors, or their siblings, applied for a passport before 1925? Go find out!

Elusive Ancestors in New England

Many persons doing genealogy think that pre-1850 New England research is "easy." There are a number of myths, including

* that the town, land, church and probate records provide all of the evidence needed to construct families back to the European immigrants in the early 1600's.

* that the surname books and locality books written in the late 19th and early 20th century have completely defined these New England families.

* that the "tan books" of pre-1850 town Vital Records are complete.

* that books for all New England towns have been published.

* that the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) publications have defined many New England families completely.

* that all of these records were extracted by the LDS and included in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and the Ancestral File (AF), and that the information can be trusted.

* that many families have been completely researched and documented by other researchers in online family tree databases or web sites, and all you have to do is find the information.

There are elements of truth in each of these statements. Many records have been published in book and periodical format, and some of them are online in databases or web sites digital format

But the real truth is that New England records are anything but complete. While many towns in Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and coastal Maine have published books compiling vital records up to about 1850, there are many towns in the other states that have few published vital records. Record keeping seemed to break down before the Revolutionary War and are fairly spotty in many cases until vital record registration began for each state.

State compilations of pre-1850 records exist for Massachusetts (e.g., the "tan books" and databases on ), Rhode Island (the Arnold books, available on and, and Connecticut (the Barbour Collection available on Unfortunately, NEHGS and Ancestry have only selected town records and other records for Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for this time period in digital format. Many more town record and history books are available in published book form that are in repositories (like NEHGS), and in digital format (on, HeritageQuestOnline and other resources). Nearly all of them are available on loan on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library.

Even with all of that good information, there are some family lines that resist yielding the elusive ancestor that is mine, or yours, or his, or hers.

In my case, my Thomas J. Newton (ca 1800 born in ME - ca 1850 in MA?) continues to puzzle and elude me. I have a candidate, but no real evidence for even his existence except for two marriage records of his children. I've searched records from Oxford County ME, in Lamoille County VT, in Windsor County VT, in Worcester County, MA and Middlesex County MA. TJN is still elusive for me, no matter what I seem to do.

I have many more "elusive ancestors" in New England - most of them are females for whom I can't determine the parents. An example is my Elizabeth Horton Dill (ca 1794-1869). In this case, the available records conflict - two death records give the same mother's name (and I can find no records for her existence) and two father's names (one exists, the other name may have been a brother).

Bill West recently posted "The Search Goes On" about his elusive John Cutter West (1802 in Plymouth County MA - 1867 in Oxford County ME). I've made several suggestions to Bill for further research and done a little search and analysis, but this is a difficult research problem.

The good news is that many of these problems can be solved because there are so many records available for New England.

Solving these research problems takes patience, hard work and some good luck. They cannot be solved using only online resources because the online resources are incomplete. These types of problems are usually solved by finding probate records (wills, administrations, guardianships, etc.), land records (deeds), church records (baptisms, marriages, memberships), and handwritten town records (tax lists, town officers, warnings out, etc.) to go along with the published and online resources. Many of these records are available but only on microfilm available from the LDS Family History Library at the present time.

They are also solved by extensively searching people with the same or similar surname in each locality that the elusive ancestor lived, and researching their associates (family, friends, neighbors, witnesses, etc.). People moved from place to place with a group of people known to them - a cluster, if you will. The challenge is to find the cluster people, search their records and determine the relationships to your "elusive ancestor."

Those of us with colonial New England ancestors are really spoiled because we know so much about many of our ancestors in this region. The expectation when you look for a "newly found ancestor" is that you will find him or her in the records, document your research, enter them in your database, and move on to the next one.

However, the "elusive ancestors" are the ones that you have to really work hard on, by finding all available records and evaluating evidence with a critical and discerning eye. By doing so you hone your research skills and broaden your experience and knowledge.

The bottom line for me is that until the LDS Church digitizes and indexes all of their microfilms and microfiches, which contain the unique and ancestor-catching records, I will still have to go to the local FHC and find them on microfilms obtained from Salt Lake City.

UPDATED: 7:30 PM, added a bit more text and corrected some errors.

Place Names in Your Genealogy Database

The reason I absolutely "love" and appreciate the APG mailing list is that genealogy issues are brought up and discussed in a relatively civil manner by experienced and professional researchers. Even the simplest question can elicit many comments over several weeks.

As an example, a post about "Use of 'County'" was sent on 15 November, and 5 days later there are 45 responses so far. The list has discussed many of these, and I've added some of my own:

* What locality distinctions should be made in genealogy software and in genealogy reports?
* Should you put the word "County" or the abbreviation "Co." in your database to denote counties?
* Should you put the word "Township" or the abbreviation "Tp." in your database to denote townships?
* Should you add the word "Town" if the town is a distinct entity from the township (e.g., as in New York)?
* How do you handle independent cities (e.g., St. Louis, many in Virginia)?
* How do you deal with identical town and county names when the town is not in the same-name county (e.g. Des Moines is in Polk County IA, not in Des Moines County)?
* How do you handle a common town name in many different counties?
* What about church names, cemetery names, street addresses, etc. in the first place location for births, marriages, deaths, baptisms, burials?
* How do you handle locations where the county boundaries have changed? The record you want may be in the old county.
* Should you put the name of the colony or state, and the larger governing entity, at the time the record was produced? What if there was no government at the time (e.g., at sea aboard a ship, or fur traders in the Midwest in the 1700's)?
* What about locations where the county entity has been eliminated (e.g., in Connecticut) but earlier records were deposited in a county entity? Should the county be listed anyway in order to identify a general physical location?
* Do you abbreviate state names (e.g. CA for California)?
* Are you consistent with your locality naming practices?
* Should GPS coordinates be added to the locality name?
* Is the GEDCOM standard for place names (town or city, county, state, country) obsolete?
* Should genealogy software allow you to pick and choose what locality entities you want to print out on genealogy charts, genealogy reports and books?
* What will the latest genealogy software, that interacts with a set list of locality names to obtain maps for your databases and reports, require - will they demand a set standard? Will each genealogy program have a different standard?

Some people say "It's my database and I will do what I want with my information." Others say "you may not be able to find non-standard formats in a genealogy database."

Apparently, genealogy software makers conformed to the GEDCOM standard for a long time so that the output could be submitted to the LDS Ancestral File database (according to one poster). Now, some software (TMG was mentioned) has up to 10 fields for locality information, all of which can be searched. Some commenters would like to have "metadata" where there is only one searchable field with all the locality information.

In my own databases, I have tried to standardize on Town/City/Township, County, State, country (when not the USA). That's not perfect by a long shot, and I know it, but changing it now means a lot of non-research work. For example, some of my typical localities look like

* Medfield, Norfolk County, MA
* St. Michaels and All Angels Church, Hilperton, Wiltshire, ENGLAND
* Delhi Township, Norfolk County, Ontario, CANADA

However, the records of many of my ancestors in Medfield MA are in Suffolk County records, since Norfolk County was formed in 1793. I really should modify that locality to read -

* Medfield, Suffolk County (now Norfolk County), Massachusetts Bay Colony (in New England), ENGLAND

Likewise, if the date for my Delhi, Ontario locality was before 1840 or so, it should read:

* Delhi Township, Norfolk County, Upper Canada (now Ontario), ENGLAND.

One thing I have throughout my databases on FamilyTreeMaker is my own shorthand source notes with the locality, like "(VR, 246)" "(MA VR, 123:345)" "(Probate Record)" "(Birth Cert.)" "(christening)" that tell me that I have a vital record or some other record to support the date and location. Way back when I first started, I wanted to be able to see what source I had for a record without printing out my PAF facts and notes. Frankly, I would hate to give that up! I'd love to have another field in the genealogy software to make a short source note like that so that it's visible in my genealogy reports or family group sheets without using footnotes or a source listing. FamilyTreeMaker puts a little indicator in the Source button next to the locality now, but it just says you have a source, not what it might be.

I really don't want to be forced into a box of standard localities - but in order to use the next generation of software I may have to be. I just hope the box is big enough for me to include a locality like these

* 290 Central Street (back bedroom), Leominster (city), Leominster Town, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States of America.
* Evergreen Cemetery (Lot 7, Section 45, Block 17), Leominster (city), Leominster Town, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States of America (GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 42.5333, Longitude: -71.7492).

Perhaps a data convention like [local detail], [standard locality name], [source detail] could be generated to cover many of these issues in the new genealogy software.

Like I said, I really love and appreciate the APG Mailing List. It makes me think about genealogy issues and helps me determine what I should be doing in my own research.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Della's Journal - Week 47 (November 19-25, 1929)

This is Installment 47 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 47 -


Tuesday, November 19: We washed & I ironed. Ma pumped some water on Fig tree.

Wednesday, November 20 (warm): Fred & Jessie came, stayed to lunch, brought us some butter & buttermilk. I went to town, Pd on lots 10, 11, 12 1st Inst[allment] on Co[unty] tax $49.44, Ma's 1st Inst[allment] on Co[unty] tax $17.51, Check SDT&S Bank $66.95. Changed my old savings box to new one in Bank of Italy. Pd. for change on Telephone Bill to the 11th of month 67 c[ents]. Asthama Powder 65c, Snuff 10c, Nets 25c, thread 25c, lastick 25c, combs for hair 45c, Store Items $1.20. Pd A[ustin]'s W.O.W. lodge dues for Dec[ember]

Thursday, November 21 (foggy nights, cooler): I worked in yard, transplanted some ferns. Mrs. Wilson gave me the keys to the Flat 2116 Fern and I started to clean, put Flit over everything. Betty came over here from school as her Mother & Mrs. A[uble] were at a Birthday party.

Friday, November 22 (pleasant): Ma & I worked all day cleaning flat. Ma wrote Mary Dyar. Thompson's rent their upper N flat, has been empty so long. Emily worked 1/2 day.

Saturday, November 23 (pleasant): Ed over, did not cut lawn. I rented Piano. Ed & I took off doors in hall then the men took it out the Sun room, after they got it on their truck found they could not get it up stairs at Thompson's Flat so had to bring it back in again. The lady was so disappointed, will have to get one downtown. Vivian came to stay all night.

Sunday, November 24 (cool night & morning): Lyle's worked @ home & took ride in afternoon. Vivian & Betty visited and I helped get Ma ready, Earnest Kimball came after her to spend the day with them.

Monday, November 25 (pleasant): Emily worked. I worked in forenoon & showed the Flat in afternoon, the lady brought her husband and they took it. Pd $9 down rent to commence on the 1st, she has her own bedding & linnen, some dishes & kitchen ware, $40. The man used to work in Marston's is a window decorator, Mr. Paden. I went to town, Pd gas & water bills. We have lost only one week rent, but Mrs. Wilson moved so I had two days to clean.


I've wondered all year what lodge that Austin Carringer was a member of - the W.O.W. - Woodmen Of the World. I think that Della was also a member.

It very clearly says "Flit" in the journal - sounds like some sort of cleanser. This page says it is an insecticide. Makes sense!

Earnest Kimball is a new name in the Journal - he's probably a long time family friend - the Kimball's were the big honchos in National City in the 1870 to 1900 time frame. I don't think that they were related, but Austin Carringer's parents are buried in La Vista Cemetery in National City in the same area as the Kimball town fathers.

Next week is Thanksgiving. It will be interesting to see how they celebrate it.

36th Carnival of Genealogy - a Pot Pourri

Jasia has posted the 36th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy at There are 31 articles by 26 authors in the largest Carnival of Genealogy yet. This was a "carousel" edition, which means that there is no specific theme. Jasia did a wonderful job of rounding up these posts and making supportive comments about them. Bravo!

If you want to spend an hour or so reading genealogy, family history and family memory articles, this is a great place to start.

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: Wish Lists! Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner and these are the seasons of gift giving and receiving. What are you wishing for this Christmas? The Genea-Santa wants to know! Do you have any suggestions for the folks who have to buy a gift "for the genealogist who has everything"? We had the same topic for the COG last year about this time. If you participated then, perhaps you'd like to review your list and comment on how your wish list is different this year.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using our carnival submission form. The deadline for submissions will be December 1st. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Name Game, er, Meme

Terry Thornton at the Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog has challenged the genea-bloggers to play with this Name Meme - you create names for different types of public personas. See his post for the directions, and then post your names either in his Comments or on your own blog.

My names are:

1. "Rootie Toot Toot Chevrolet" is my ROCK STAR NAME

2. "Rocky Road Chocolate Chip" is my GANGSTA NAME

3. "R Sea" is my "FLY" NAME

4. "Red Cheetah" is my DETECTIVE NAME

5. "SeaRa" is my STAR WARS NAME

6. "The Green Screwdriver" is my SUPERHERO NAME

7. "Frederick Lyle" is my NASCAR DRIVER NAME

8. "de la Torre Denver" is my TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME

9. "Valentine Poinsettia" is my SPY NAME

10. "Tomato Shorty" is my CARTOON NAME

11. "Rice Krispies Jacaranda" is my HIPPY NAME

12. "The Genealogy Rain Tour" is my ROCK STAR TOUR NAME

13. "Jeffrey Chula Vista" is my SOAP OPERA NAME

14. "Virginia Walton" is my WITNESS PROTECTION NAME

Let's see, the Name Game was:

Virginia, Virginia, bo Birginia,
Bonana fanna fo Firginia.
Fee fy mo Mirginia,

Let's try the first one --

Rootie Rootie bo Bootie,
Bonanana fanna fo Footie,
Fee fy mo Mootie,

I guess now I should come up with genealogies and family histories for each of these public personas, especially the last one. Or write a fiction book that includes each of these names, along with those of my wife and daughters and grandchildren. Or I could start a blog for each of them and really waste my time every day. Um - probably too much work!

Best of the Genea-blogs - November 11-17, 2007

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. I don't list posts destined for the Carnival of Genealogy, or my own posts (hopefully, others will do that!).

* "Database Envy" by Jasia on the Creative Gene blog. She describes her frustration at the plethora of English language records, and includes her top 5 "wants" from WorldVitalRecords.

* "Unceretain Future" by Apple Snowville at the Apple's Tree blog. Apple mother wonders what will happen to all the stuff she has - something we all have to deal with in our own families.

* "Loving Genealogy ... for Over 30 Years" by Miriam Midkiff at the Ancestories: The Stories of my Ancestors blog. Miriam is reading her mother's letters and find out something about herself.

* "Christmas Meme" by Jasia at the Creative Gene blog. Jasia has a 24-day list of things to write about during December. Pretty nice list. I know Jasia has a two-fer this week, but she deserves it!

* "Genealogy WebSite Templates" and "Pedigree Chart Template" by Patrica Geary at the Genealogical Computing Tips and Tutorials blog. These may be real helpful to many researchers.

* "Can You Top This?" by John Newmark at the Transylvania Dutch blog. John has an ancestor who fathered 22 children, and challenges the rest of us to top it. Read the comments too.

* "Page 161 Meme" by Lori Thornton on the Smoky Mountain Family Historian blog. Lori started a meme tag game - look in the book you currently are reading and tell us what the 6th sentence on page 161 says. She is keeping a list.

* "Episode 33 - Census, Blogs, Silhouettes, Gadgets, oh my!" by Lisa Louise Cooke on the Genealogy Gems Podcast blog. Lisa summarizes information from her Episode 33 podcast. She also has some genealogy videos.

* "A Small Collection of Online Genealogy Databases" by Joe Beine on the Genealogy Roots Blog. Joe has a list of newly available databases that may help researchers.

* "Why Double or Triple-Checking Facts is Important in Ancestral Investigations" by the Editor at the Genealogy Watch blog and web site. Some wisdom here!

During this week of Dick Eastman, Leland Meitzler and Pat Richley blogging withdrawal (well, I think Dick did post once), the above bloggers and many more produced genealogy blog content. Are you reading them? You should be - for variety, information, wit and wisdom.