Saturday, April 26, 2008

Channeling Edwin P. Seaver

A strange thing happened this week... I was browsing through's book offerings and found a book, "Northborough History" by Rev. Josiah Coleman Kent, published in 1921. It had many mentions of "Seaver," including decent biographies of Abraham Wood Seaver (1809-1887) and Edwin Pliny Seaver (1838-1917). I opened my Seaver database and transcribed the paragraphs, citing my source.

The paragraphs for Edwin Pliny Seaver included:

"Edwin P. Seaver, who ranks among the best educators that the state of Massachusetts ever produced, was born in Northborough, February 24, 1838, and he always reserved a warm place in his heart for his native town. He was a product of the district schools of Northborough, having been a student at both the South and the Center Districts. Upon his graduation from the Bridgewater Normal School he embarked upon a career of teaching which has held few parallels in the country. His career is partially told in a letter to Miss Harriet L. Allen, who, in 1912 prepared a paper on "Some of the Teachers Who Have Gone Forth from Northborough." This letter is such a charming bit of biography that we publish it in full. He says:

" 'After graduating from the Bridgewater Normal School I taught for one spring term (13 weeks) a district school in East Stoughton - now the town of Avon; and in September of that year went to the Friends' Academy in New Bedford where I was the assistant of the late Thomas Prentice Allen , having charge of the English branches. Mr. Allen, as you know, was born and educated in Northborough, and was one of the most renowned teachers of his time.

" 'I remained with Mr. Allen three years devoting my spare time to the study of Latin and Greek, and receiving Mr. Allen's instruction in these languages as part of my compensation for teaching. Sometimes it happened that I recited Latin and Greek with the same boys I had taught arithmetic the hour before, or would tech geography the next hour. In this way I was prepared for college; but feeling some doubts as to the thoroughness of my preparation, thought it best for me to enter the Phillips Academy at Exeter for one year. This I did, and during the year 1860-61 took double work, finishing my preparation for college with a higher class and doing the whole work of the freshman year. This cannot, however, be considered as doing the whole of two years' work in one; for I was already well advanced in mathematics.

" 'During my college course I did some teaching, including one winter term in the East District in Northborough. After graduating from college I came back to the Friends' Academy for a year (1864-65) and was then called back to Harvard College, where I served as tutor and assistant professor of mathematics for nine years - 1865 to 1874.

" 'Then I was elected Head Master of the English High School in Boston, and held the position for six years, 1874-80. After which I served the City of Boston for 24 years as Superintendent of Public Schools -- 1880 to 1904.' "

I thought to myself, "well, that is a really neat life's work" for my 6th cousin 4 times removed. In his own words, too.

Then I received an email from a lady who had Googled and found this blog and then found my Seaver web pages and found more about Edwin P. Seaver. She wrote a nice email that said in part:

"I grew up in Boston (Jamaica Plain). I attended the Edwin P. Seaver Elementary School on Eldridge Road. I was doing a bit of research on Seaver and came across your blog. I just wanted to say hello.

"I was wondering if you knew that a school had been named after him. I believe the structure has been used for housing in recent years. But when I was five, in 1955, I attended kindergarten there and "The Seaver" was my little school right up through the sixth grade. It was a Boston public school and it only went from K to 6, and I have fond memories and I smile when I think back on how many times I must have printed EDWIN P. SEAVER SCHOOL at the top of my blue lined yellow writing tablet paper over those first few years of life. Something like that becomes ingrained into your soul."

It only makes sense that they named a school after Edwin P. Seaver after he served 24 years as the Boston Schools Superintendent, doesn't it?

Serendipity strikes here - an obscure book reference found and a former student of the school named after the book reference come into my knowledge base in the same week.

Why do I bring it up here? Because it demonstrates how people we don't know (yet!) can find our posts or web pages, contact us, and perhaps provide additional information about our families. My other reason is that it's Saturday night and I needed something to post!

My thanks to Colette for her email that brightened my day and provided more context to the life of Edwin P. Seaver.

Terry Thornton's Blog-iversary

Do you read Terry Thornton's Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi genealogy and local history blog? If you don't, you should. Terry started his blog one year ago today, and has posted 600 notes - most of them chock full of interesting and humorous stories about his family, his life experiences, and his little corner of the world. Terry's post noting the blog-iversary is here.

The hill country of northeastern Mississippi really didn't pop up on my radar screen until about a year ago. Why in the world would I, who grew up in the big city of San Diego and has never been to that part of the country, be interested in Terry's blog? The answer is really pretty simple - we are all on this big blue and tan whirling sphere together and we need to understand and work with everybody else on the planet. Terry writes about his life and the place he lives. Every county, or part of a county, should be so lucky to have someone like Terry writing about "olden times" in the place where they grew up and where they live. Besides, he is erudite, humorous and prolific - all the things I admire in a writer!

Terry points out in his post that he was quickly integrated into the group of genealogy bloggers that struggles eaxh day or week to post helpful and interesting articles. The fact is that this community of genea-bloggers is very accepting - we love new bloggers who write about genealogy and history. It's not a competitive thing for any of us - it's an inspirational and educational thing - finding out about another part of the world. The beauty of our hardy little group is that we feed off each other - a comment or question can spur a whole avalanche of posts by many bloggers.

Congratulations to Terry for creating HCOMCM and for writing 600 posts in a year - it's a very impressive portfolio. It is also a priceless historical treasure for Terry's family and the inhabitants of the area to have. Terry - please keep telling us about your life, your family and your little corner of the world.

What's a "Utah" Name?

My son-in-law was checking around for baby names not to use for his soon-to-be-born daughter, and found this web site page "The Utah Baby Namer" and the article titled "What's In a (Utah) Name?" and

So what's a "Utah" name? The web page describes them as:

"The quintessential Utah name often has a French-sounding prefix such as Le-, La-, Ne-, or Va-. Often names appear to have genesis in the combined names of the parents--Veradeane or GlenDora, for example. Related is the practice of feminizing the father's name--as in Vonda (dad is Vaughan) or Danetta. Others, such as Snell or Houser, appear to be surnames called into service as first names.

"Related is the curious tendency, more common in Utah than elsewhere, for men (women do not seem to do this) to use the first initial, then the full middle name as the given name, such as L. Flake Rogers, who ran for office in Utah County when we lived there. (Come on, you've noticed this habit among the general authorities of the LDS church!) Besides puzzling over why someone would want to be known as "Flake," it makes one wonder just what the "L" stands for."

You need to read the whole page, and then read the list of absolutely amazing (and sometimes beautiful and sometimes curious) list of "Utah" names categorized at Unless their tongues are implanted in their cheeks, and I can't tell for sure, these names are real names (probably unique, in many cases!).

I'm not making fun of these names - just noting the list for those who are looking for a really unique name for their newborn.

By the way, they're going for Audrey. Thank goodness it's not Hallah Lujah, Dazzlyn, G'ni, Xtlyn, Lovalee, K-8, Jeopardee, Tiarrhea, ... Aren't humans creative?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Yep, I'm related to Jack Kemp!

I like to do searches and find relationships to famous, notable or even infamous people. So when Thomas MacEntee asked me, in a comment on my post "The Elusive John Kemp (1723-1793)," if I was related to Jack Kemp, the football player, congressman and VP candidate in 1996, I was curious. Thomas' comment said:

"I am curious to know if your John Kemp is an ancestor of former congressman Jack Kemp of Buffalo, NY. It would make sense given the proximity to Ontaria, Canada."

I've been away from home with little time to "mess around"in genealogy family trees for about a month, but I finally found an hour the other day. Jack's Wikipedia article is here; it provides the names of his parents, Paul and Frances (Pope) Kemp. A Rootsweb WorldConnect database titled "Four Family Tree" submitted by "apleclare"on 9 April 2008 provides the only family tree record for Paul Kemp who married Frances Pope, but it doesn't list their children.

However, this database provides many generations down the Kemp line into New England (but not the Pope line). From the data in this database, which appears to be fairly well done (but not well documented), it appears that Jack Kemp and I share several colonial ancestors, including:

1) Thomas Chase (1654-1733) and Rebecca Follansbee (1660-????)

2) Joseph Keyes (1667-1757) and Joanna Cleveland (1670-1758)

For the Keyes link, Jack's line from Joseph and Joanna (Cleveland) Keyes is:

1. Joseph Keyes (1667-1757) and Joanna Cleveland (1670-1758)
2. Joanna Keyes (1695-1787) and Thomas Kidder (1690-1729)
3. Joseph Kidder (1725-????) and Rebecca Chamberlain (1728-????)
4. Sibyl Kidder (1756-????) and Aaron Chamberlain (1749-1797)
5. Rebecca Chamberlain (1784-1867) and John Kemp (1786-1853)
6. John Edwin Kemp (1818-1896) and Caroline Sigourney (1818-1867)
7. Oscar Paddock Kemp (1857-1906) and Elva French (1860-1950)
8. Paul Robert Kemp (1897-1977) and Frances Pope (1901-1960)
9. Jack Kemp (1935-living)

My line from Joseph and Joanna (Cleveland) Keyes is:

1. Joseph Keyes (1667-1757) and Joanna Cleveland (1670-1758)
2. Joseph Keyes (1698-1744) and Elizabeth Fletcher (1698-1775)
3. Jonathan Keyes (1722-1781) and Elizabeth Fletcher (1720-1761)
4. Elizabeth Keyes (1759-1793) and Zachariah Hildreth (1754-1828)
5. Zachariah Hildreth (1783-1857) and Hannah Sawtell (1789-1857)
6. Edward Hildreth (1831-1899) and Sophia Newton (1834-1923)
7. Hattie Hildreth (1857-1920) and Frank Seaver (1852-1922)
8. Frederick Seaver (1876-1942) and Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962)
9. Frederick Seaver (1911-1983) and Betty Carringer (1919-2002)
10. Randy Seaver (1943-living)

So from this comparison, I am a 7th cousin once removed (Joseph and Joanna are my 7th great-grandparents, and they are Jack's 6th great-grandparents).

We are also 7th cousins once removed based on our common ancestry of Thomas and Rebecca (Follansbee) Chase.

I'm not surprised by this - I'm related to almost anyone who had early colonial ancestors in eastern Massachusetts.

"Google Your Family Tree" Web site and book

Dan Lynch has written a book titled "Google Your Family Tree, A Genealogist's Guide to Unlocking the Hidden Power of Google" and has launched a web site to promote the book - the web site is

At this time, there is no information about how to purchase the book on the web site. I'm sure there will be!

For genealogy researchers, there is a "Google Search for Genealogy" page at You can input a first name, a surname, a place name (and it will exclude a keyword) in the Search box and obtain Google results just like if you used Google's home page at Or so I thought!

I input "russell" as first name, "smith" as surname, and "oneida" as place name and the search string used was

"russell smith" OR "russell * smith" OR "smith, russell" oneida - ~genealogy

It found 423 results in 0.07 seconds with SafeSearch on, including my own blog posts about my elusive Russell Smith.

This is the easiest-to-use genealogy search combination that I've seen. It does several of the Boolean combinations that many searchers won't think about.

One problem is that many posts, web pages or databases don't use the word "genealogy" on them.

I did a similar search in Google and found:

Search string ["russell smith" oneida] - 982 results
Search string ["russell smith" genealogy oneida] - 735 results
Search string ["russell smith" ~genealogy oneida] - 545 results
Search string ["russell * smith" oneida - ~genealogy] - 255 results
Search string ["smith, russell" oneida - ~genealogy] - 310 results
Search string ["russell smith" OR "russell * smith" OR "smith, russell" oneida - ~genealogy] - 1020 results

I wonder why my Google search using the exact search string produces 1020 results while Dan's Google search has 423 results.

I hope that Dan Lynch will let us know when his book will be published.

My thanks to Jennifer on the Rainy Day Genealogy Readings blog for the link to the Google Your Family Tree" web site.

Survey from WorldVitalRecords about Social Networking

I received an invitation to participate in a survey about naming a social networking site sponsored by Of course, they presently have as their social networking site. I like that name and I think that it denotes their purpose.

Here is the survey, and my responses:

1) We are developing a service that will make it easier to find and stay in touch with your relatives. This service will allow you to share family news, photos, audio and video clips, and family history documents with each other. Which domain name do you feel best describes such a service?
* - I picked this one.

2) Why did you select

* It sounds personal and connected.
* It conveys the purpose of the intention of the web site.

3) What is your second choice?

I picked

4) What type of content are you most interested in seeing from your close (immediate) family?
* family photos - my pick
* family news or blogs
* video clips or audio clips
* what my relatives are doing right now
* new family history discoveries about my ancestors
* family tree updates
* other

5) What type of content are you interested in seeing from your extended family? (same choices as #4)
* family news or blogs
- my pick

6) How often would you check a web site that contained the latest photos uploaded by your relatives, including your children and grandchildren?
* as often as it is updated
* several times a day
* daily
* several times a week - my pick
* weekly
* don't know
* not interested

7) How interested are you in finding people you are related to that you didn't know about?
* Not interested
* Somewhat Interested
* Interested
* Very Interested
* Extremely Interested -
my pick

I really like their choice of web site names - there are some good ones there.

I see two problems with any social networking site that is just starting up now:

1) There is a lot of competition - I listed many of them several weeks ago, and many of them are not growing or thriving. The ones that have a significant market share are going to try to improve their service and market share by trying to keep their loyal members. The ones that might suffer having customers picked off are the ones that charge a fee.

2) Family social networking on the computer is not a priority for the vast majority of adults, or genealogists, over age 30. Maybe it will be in the future as today's computer-linked teens and college students grow into adulthood, but for couples with children it is not a priority. My kids share photos with me, and I with them, but they just don't have the time or the interest to spend hours putting photos, news and stories online for the world to see. The people who do have the time or interest to do this are those with an empty nest or grandparents, but in many cases (maybe 80% to 90%?) they do not have the computer skills to do it. So there is a limited market, in my opinion.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Pace of Genealogy Research - Post 2

In my first post in this series, I wandered a bit through genealogy research history and noted that the use of the Internet and online genealogy databases has speeded up genealogy research in general. It also has had the effect of leaving some very experienced, but computer-leery, genealogists behind.

Today I want to address the effect of this increased pace on "new" or inexperienced genealogy researchers. In the extreme cases, these people start with online genealogy research and never get into a library, FHC or genealogy society. They happily cruise through family trees, VR indexes, census records, immigration records, online newspapers, cemetery records, etc. and proudly add information to their social network genealogy databases. They then get "ancestrally challenged" when they can't find more records to take them back to earlier generations - either because of too many or too few people found with the right name. The temptation then is to select one name that looks "right" and to continue merrily along the online genealogy highway. That part of research really hasn't changed - I think we all did this when we started out.

Fortunately, many of these new and inexperienced genealogists start to educate themselves about doing genealogy research, using online resources, reading books and periodicals at a library, or joining a genealogy society and asking for help. They often learn about the original source and primary information documents that are not online - the vital records, deeds, probates, naturalizations, town records, etc. But some of them get frustrated because they have to go to the FHC and order microfilms and wait two weeks for the films to come to the FHC, and then they aren't indexed... Welcome to Genealogy 102! It is exactly these original source and primary information documents that prove relationships and events. Some of them get it, others never do. I see both types in my local society.

One of the hazards of the increased pace of genealogy research using online resources is that the expectation level is raised - researchers want the critical document or database now, indexed, in digital form, and readable. In short - many researchers are spoiled by the riches of online genealogy resources.

Another hazard is that the every-name indexes and OCR text are imperfect - each of us needs to learn to do wild-card searches, vary the search parameters, and try to understand what is or is not available in an index. I did this yesterday - I used "Bohemian" as an origin and the record said "Hungary" (probably in error). It took an hour for me to not search for "Bohemian."

A third hazard is that not all records, for many record types, are available online or in repositories. Vital records are a great example - some states have indexes online but many don't. Not all deeds or probate records are on microfilm and very few are in online databases. Not all historical newspapers are online. Not all cemetery records are online. In many cases, you have to write to or visit the locality to find these records, often with a lot of research time.

The benefits of the increased pace of genealogy research resulting from online resources is that the availability of every-name indexes and document images has enabled researchers to find records that were difficult to find otherwise. For example, without the 1910 census index, I never would have cold searched through many microfilms of Chicago Illinois census records to find the Charles Auble family (I had checked Soundex, but he was indexed as Aubbe, and I finally found it when the index became available).

Another benefit is that the "survey" phase of the research cycle is faster and easier to do online and at home - using surname and locality books, VR indexes, census records, immigration records, historical newspapers, family trees, etc. We can find more information about a person or family faster now - often in hours. We can then move on to the "search" part of the research cycle finding and using original source and primary information documents. Unfortunately, we can also "make more misteaks quicker." The adage that "the faster I go, the behinder I get" is often true!

A third benefit for genealogy societies is that many of these new and inexperienced genealogists eventually ask for help from a society and its members. Using online resources can provide a feeling of success for the newbie and a good experience for the society member who helps. Many newbies join the society where they got help.

The lesson here is that we all still need to follow the principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard - especially the first point - "doing a reasonably exhaustive search." Reviewing only online resources is not "reasonably exhaustive" - at least, not yet. Maybe in the future when the LDS has imaged and indexed their microfilm and microfiche collection, but certainly not now. In 2008, we still need to go to libraries, FHCs, and society repositories to find the critical documents that prove relationships and events.

I have several more posts planned on this topic. What other benefits and drawbacks are there because f the increased pace of genealogy research? Tell me.

UPDATED 2 PM: I posted this in a hurry and have edited it a bit to add explanations and examples and to correct grammar.

BIGRA's Annual Tea is Saturday 4/26

The British Isles Genealogical Research Association (BIGRA) is meeting this Saturday, 26 April from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The program announcement includes:

BIGRA's annual tea will feature Sam Gibson, speaking on "The Lost Scottish Church Records". He was born in Baillieston, Scotland and raised in Shotts, his father’s hometown and parish; his mother’s village of Allanton was in the neighboring parish. A mechanical engineer, he came to California in 1979 on a two-year contract and never went back. He began compiling information on his family as a boy and continued his research in California. He has taught and consulted on Scottish Research at the Los Angeles Family History Center for over 13 years and for the past five years has been in charge of the Scottish Film & Fiche Collection, the largest in North America outside of Salt Lake’s Main Library.

The Collection also ranks as one of the major collections in the World--5th in size outside of Register House in Edinburgh. For the past few years he has been building a catalog of as many of the Scottish Non-Conformist Church Records as he could find (Non-Presbyterian Churches). Bits and pieces have been identified through the LDS filming of Scottish Church Records in Edinburgh in the 1950s and 1970s. In some respects these are considered lost records, because many researchers presumed they were lost or destroyed during all the religious upheaval in Scotland; however, most of them are in the Scottish National Archives. Sam’s catalogue now lists around 4,400 churches and some of their records.

The Tea will feature favorite foods from our members. Reservations are required. Fee: $5. Guests welcome.

Location: Joyce Beers Community Center, Vermont St. north of University Ave., in Uptown District Shopping Center, North Park. Please use underground parking.

Contact: June Hanson, 619-583-8352,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frustration then a Happy Dance

I mentioned yesterday that I was meeting a lady at the library today to help her find her mother's immigration record. I don't have a lot of experience in searching passenger lists, but I figured that using the skills I've learned about name spellings, birth years, and birth places would help me out a bit. It did, but it took a while to find the right combination.

My new friend was right on time, and I was able to connect my laptop to the Internet on the library's wi-fi system (but not back in the genealogy area for some reason!). She was looking for her mother - named Katarina Lev (or Levova) from Bohemia, born in 1883 in Bohemia, and she thought that her mother immigrated in 1907, since she married Charles Sindelar in 1908 in Chicago.

We started in the Immigration databases on - using wild cards for Kat* and Lev* and didn't find any "low hanging fruit." So we looked for combinations of Kat* and Cat* and Lev*, Liv*, Lov*, Sev*, Fev*, etc., still with no matches. I then looked for Kat* and Cat* alone and added a birth date of 1883 +/- 2 years,an immigration year of 1907 +/- 1 year, and origin Bohemian and checked out all Lev* and then all Kat*, still with no matches that worked. Frustration!

I decided to look in the census records, and easily found Katie Sindelar with her husband Charlie and children in the 1920 and 1930 census in Montana - right where my friend said they were, and where she was born. The 1920 census said she immigrated in 1907 and they were both naturalized in 1913.

We were wrapping up, and I said "let me try one more thing" and input Kat* as a given name, 1883 +/- 2 years, immigration date 1907 +/- 1 year, but left out the origin - and there was a Kathi Lew who emigrated in 1907 (born in Hungary it said, but Bohemia was right below her entry), with Josef Sindelar in Fort Atkinson IA (her fiancee's brother) as the contact person who she was going to live with. Bingo! Happy dance! What a nice way to end the session.

When I got home, I searched for the Sindelar family in the 1910 census, but they seem to be well hidden. I also found Karel Sindelar's passenger list entry and his World War I draft registration card.

My friend doesn't have a computer, but her daughter does and I promised to download the images at home and email them to her daughter. The daughter can print them out. Or I can print them and mail them to my friend.

So it was a good day. Perhaps I've lit a spark in a lady interested in her Bohemian ancestry. Perhaps she'll join our society. She said "this is so much fun ..." and I agreed!

As I mentioned yesterday, doing consultations like this that help someone without much research experience to find something meaningful on the Internet, is a great way to bring new genealogy researchers into a society.

Social Security Death Index data

I love to poke around in databases trying to figure things out. I was curious about the Social Security Death Index as to how many deaths per year are in the over 80 million person database.

For my study, I chose the SSDI at Rootsweb - now at The latest version there was last updated on 22 February 2008, and has 81,074,156 records.

I expected that the earliest deaths in this database would begin in the early 1960's but I was wrong. Here are the numbers for a variety of years:

* 1950: 18,540
* 1955: 44,430
* 1960: 90,468
* 1962: 300,606
* 1965: 747,494

* 1970: 1,261,339
* 1975: 1,641,032
* 1980: 1,851,578
* 1985: 1.888,674
* 1990: 1,856,077

* 1995: 2,142,198
* 2000: 2,229,845
* 2005: 2,279,129

Surname SEAVER: 1,255
Surname RICHMOND: 11,813
Surname CARRINGER: 223
Surname AUBLE: 261
Surname SMITH: 806,744

What's really interesting is that there are quite a few entries for people listed with a death year before 1937. For instance:

* 1930: 67
* 1920: 103
* 1910: 26
* 1900: 88

I believe that almost all of these are errors in data entry. Or is there another explanation of how people who died before 1936 have a Social Security Number and their death was reported to the SSA?

The earliest death date for a person that I found was 2 October 1899 for Ruth M. Riggs, she received her SS card in Illinois, and her last address was in Las Vegas NV. Interestingly, her birth was also listed as 2 October 1899. I'm guessing that Ruth was born in 1899 and died in Las Vegas on some unknown date and the death date in the database is incorrect. It might throw off a researcher looking for Ruth, eh?

My point here is that errors occur in all databases due to data entry misteaks - the question is how many errors are made? One way to check this SSDI error rate is to assume that data errors are random based on typing errors. I checked out SMITH and obvious spelling variations:

* SMITH: 806,744
* SMIHT: 2
* SIMTH: 6
* SMTIH: 120
* SMTH: 4
* MSITH: 3

That's only a 0.017% error rate - 1 in 5,976 on a fairly easy name to double-check. That's pretty good on the name. We have no idea about the birth date and death date, however.

I have another reason to list these numbers here - and that is to see if older death records are added to the SSDI on a regular basis. Every so often, I will check the most recent SSDI to see if the numbers have changed much.

Dick Eastman recently posted a summary describing the SSDI at It's very helpful. Dick also posted some information about the recent newspaper article about fraudulent use of Social Security numbers at Read the comments for both articles too.

Family Photographs - Post 2

I'm posting old family photographs from my collection on Wednesdays, but they won't be wordless posts like others do - I simply cannot have a wordless post. Besides, I would need another post to identify the people in the picture, the time frame and the setting.

Here is one of the more interesting photographs from my Seaver family collection:

This house is located at 149 Lancaster Street in Leominster, Massachusetts. This picture was taken in about 1907 based on the children who are pictured, and the one who is not. The people in this picture are (left to right):

* Evelyn Seaver (child born in 1903)

* Stanley Seaver (child born in 1905)

* Marion Seaver (child born in 1901)

* Harry Seaver (male adult standing in back of Marion, born in 1884)

* Frank Walton Seaver (male adult standing, born in 1852)

* Fred Walton Seaver (male adult standing, born in 1876)

* Hattie (Hildreth) Seaver (female adult sitting, born in 1857, wife of Frank Seaver.

* Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (female adult standing, born in 1882)

* Sophia (Newton) Hildreth (female adult sitting, born in 1834).

Frederick and Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver, my grandparents, are the parents of the three children, Marion, Evelyn and Stanley. Stanley was born in October 1905. I think that the picture was likely taken after October 1906. Their daughter, Ruth, was born in September 1907, so the picture was probably taken before then (Bess Seaver looks fairly wide in this picture, at age 26 - she's probably pregnant).

Frederick Walton Seaver and Harry Seaver were sons of Frank Walton and Hattie (Hildreth) Seaver, my great-grandparents.

Frank Walton Seaver was the son of Isaac and Lucretia (Smith) Seaver, my great-great-grandparents, who were both deceased in 1907.

Hattie (Hildreth) Seaver was the daughter of Edward Hildreth (died in 1899) and Sophia (Newton) Hildreth, my great-great-grandparents.

This is the only picture I have of Frank Walton Seaver (my great-grandfather), Harry Seaver (my great uncle, brother of Frank), and Sophia (Newton) Hildreth, my great-great-grandmother who died in 1923, outliving both her daughter and son-in-law.

A copy of this photograph on cardboard was found in a cedar chest in the possession of my mother in about 1990. I had it duplicated and sent it to each of my aunts and uncles in 1990 - no one else had seen it to their recollection.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pace of Genealogy Research - Post 1

I've been thinking about how we can help society and community members find their elusive ancestors. One observation is that the "pace" of genealogy has increased significantly over time.

One hundred years ago and more, genealogy research was performed mainly in town halls, court houses, libraries, churches and in family homes. I am always amazed by how much information was obtained by researchers in those times - especially in New England. The searchers used the mail to correspond with others and horses and trains to travel from place to place.

By the 1950's and 1960's, the mode of travel had changed to automobiles and airplanes, but research was still performed in essentially the same places. Many researchers had extensive correspondence with distant cousins and others with the same family surnames. One big change was that genealogy societies and libraries flourished and many had a significant collection of books and periodicals - that was great if you lived near them. The National Archives had census and other records available, but the researcher had to travel to them.

By the time I started my research in the 1980's, the LDS church had opened Family History Centers in many locations and had created databases - the AIS 1790-1850 census indexes, the International Genealogical Index and Ancestral File - all on microfiche. You could go to an FHC and rent microfilm for many records, or you could visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Researchers still used personal correspondence with cousins, other researchers, repositories, etc. I started my research in 1988, and visited the FHC weekly and other local libraries regularly.

In the 1990's, the Internet started up and services like Prodigy, AOL and CompuServe had genealogy groups where people exchanged information similar to the way message boards are used today. Email gradually replaced written correspondence for many researchers. More records and indexes came online over the years to the point where several record types are 100% available online. In 2008, I can do a single census lookup in minutes (sometimes it takes an hour or more to find it, abstract it, capture it, print it) that took me two to three weeks to perform in 1988 (go to the FHC, rent the film, wait for it to come in, go back to the FHC, mount the film, search it page-by-page, try to get a printout). If I was lucky, the FHC would already have it on file and the lookup would take two to three hours (assuming we didn't have a page number from an index).

The pace of genealogy research has quickened considerably. With all of the resources available online in free databases, commercial databases, contacts on message boards and mailing lists, and near instantaneous genealogy news via newsletters and blogs, a research survey for a specific research problem can be performed in hours or days. The biggest change in recent years is the increasing number of free and commercial databases available online, plus the every-name indexes for databases, newspapers, documents, etc. More is on the way as Ancestry, WVR, Footnote, FamilySearch and others add content in competition and cooperation.

On one hand, this is really great for those of us confident, enthusiastic and ept at doing online research. On the other hand, it is very frustrating for those who do not have a computer or are leery of using one. These people attend society meetings where the speaker flashes record after record on the screen and extols this web site and that (I'm guilty of this - in spades), and they wonder "has genealogy research passed me by?" They hesitate to ask for instruction from the very busy "computer-literate" society members who use the computer, or for help accessing databases online. My educated guess is that about 25% of my local society don't have a computer, and that only 25% of my local society members are really computer literate and comfortable searching online. The rest use email, try online searches don't make much progress, and admire or envy the speaker presentations, but they are really frustrated by online research.
One potential solution for this problem is to match up patient researchers who are computer literate with access to databases with those who don't have computer access, or database access, and to try to help them by sharing time with them. CVGS has a monthly "Computer Group" in which the leader demonstrates web sites and databases to the attendees, many of whom are computer-leery. One other thing we've tried at CVGS is asking an experienced online researcher to offer a "free certificate" for one hour of research consultation at the library or FHC as part of our "opportunity drawing" at our meetings. I've done this twice, and besides being fun and successful, I've learned a bit about slave research and passenger list research.

I have an appointment tomorrow at the library with a lady who called today - she needs help finding her mother's immigration record but doesn't have a computer or know how to use one. I'm willing to invest an hour with this lady, whom I've never met, because it is an opportunity for me to connect with a potential society member and to help her pursue a family history interest. I've done this type of thing before, but I've learned not to do all the research for them. Instead, I've learned to let the inquirer try and succeed at doing research with the free databases available (our library has Ancestry Library Edition).

If my society has ten people willing to do this on an appointment basis, we could probably help ten to twenty people each month. I think that we have the ten people - we need to find the people who need help. What to call it? A mentor program? It sounds too teacher-student, doesn't it? And the so-called "student" may be able to teach the so-called "mentor" a thing or two about genealogy research. A "Help me solve my genealogy mystery" program? Perhaps, but it has to be couched in the right terms to lure the computer-leery member out of their bookcases of paper and into the library.

What do you think? How have you helped people with their research? What works for you or your society? Please share it with us!

This is the first of several posts on this subject that I've been mulling for awhile - I will have more posts about the Pace of Genealogy Research.

Fire in a Snow Storm

This article was found in the historical newspaper archives at It was published in the Watertown (NY) Daily Times newspaper dated Tuesday, 3 January 1922. The article reads:




With Mercury Below Zero, Huge Snow Drifts Keep Would be Rescuers From Scene of Conflagration Near Malone - Lose $5,000.

Malone. Jan 3.- Flames swept the farmhouse of George Seaver in the Lamekiln road six miles southwest of Malone, shortly alter 7 Sunday night , destroying it with all it contained. Seaver, with his wife and four children, two of them five-month old twins, escaped with the clothes they wore. The loss from the fire, said to have been caused when a chimney burned out, was estimated at nearly $5,000. The barns and stock were not burned.

Intense cold, with below zero temperature, coupled with a driving wind and blinding snow. kept all except a scattered handful of neighbors from giving aid. So quickly did flames envelop the home nothing In it was saved. It burned like tinder„ and only the fact that the wind was in an opposite direction saved the barns from being consumed.

In several Instances where farmers and others responded after being called by telephone to fight the fire, snow drifts encountered, and which were unable to penetrate, forced them to give up the battle. An auto with help from Malone became installed in drifts three times in endeavoring to reach the fire after It left a main highway and took a crossroad.

Half frozen by the cold and their fight against the snow the occupants had to turn around and return when a mile from the fire. The blinding snow driven by the wind that never once abated in Its fury made the blaze appear like a bonfire In a field, even when viewed from short distance away.

There were several farmers who lived in the same road who failed to we the fire until other neighbors called their attention to it. Unlike in most instances and especially at night when a fire might be viewed from a long distance, there was no reflection. The snow hid the fire from view.

Seaver and his family were seating themselves for supper when the fire was discovered. The meal was never finished. An endeavor to check the flames at the outset proved unsuccessful in the face of the wind and biting cold. Within a few moments the whole interior with Its furnishings and all that was treasured most was a roaring furnace.

Members of the family had barely time to don their wraps when they were obliged to flee from the house. Neighbors living close at hand quickly responded when they saw the flames, but had there been plenty of water it was doubtful their aid would hare been of avail against the wind and cold. The home was leveled In less than a half hour, only smouldering embers remaining.

Coming at the beginning of the new year and as a climax to a series of misfortunes, the loss of his home and furnishings will be a severe one for Seaver to bear, his friends stated. The farmer's lifetime saving were virtually wiped out by the fire. Only a small amount of insurance was said to have been carried on the property.

Several years ago Mrs. Seaver met with an accident in a downstate city, while only a little more than a year ago Seaver was seriously hurt when be fell into an excavation for a turntable here. He filed suit against the railroad, a jury rendering a judgment of about $7,000 in his favor. About a month ago, the appellate division reversed this judgment, after much litigation, and Seaver lost his case.

Until they can make other arrangements Seaver and his family will be cared for at the home of Joseph Peryer, across the road from his farm, where they were housed Sunday night.

This article has tremendous historical value to members of this George Seaver family - it documents a tragedy that was probably talked about for generations.

This type of article really points out the family history value of having an index for the historical newspapers and a search capability. I also believe that many "brick wall" problems will be solved when small local newspapers have been digitized and indexed. Presently, these small local newspapers are only available in a local library, local genealogy or historical society, or in someone's attic or basement in a box (or worse).

Personal Computers and me in genealogy

In an earlier post, I described my computer experience before, and other than, personal computers. In this post, I'll discuss my own personal computer experience, especially as it applies to genealogy.

I had watched the computer industry grow, and was envious of those who could program their Radio Shack, Commodore, Atari and Apple computers that came out before 1983. I was able to use the IBM mainframe computers at work for my hobby interests, which was studying radio wave signal strengths and propagation paths. Note that I didn't start genealogy research until 1988.

In February 1983, I finally convinced my wife that we needed a PC, and we bought an IBM PC for over $3,000, with a 4.77 mhz 8088 processor, 64 kb of RAM and 64 kb of hard drive storage, with a green screen 12” monitor, two 356 kb disk drives, a dot matrix printer, running DOS. We bought it through my brother-in-law's company, which gave us a discount. I used the EasyWriter word processor for almost everything, including transcribing family memoirs. Unfortunately, I can't access these files any longer, although I still have them on the 5.25" disks. I used this computer until 1992.

In 1992, I bought an IBM clone PC for about $1,500 from a local computer shop; it had a 33 mhz 386 processor, about 1 mb of RAM, about 64 mb of hard drive, a 1.4 mb disk drive, a 15” color monitor, running Windows 3.0. With this computer, I was able to use a 300 baud dial-up modem to access bulletin boards and the Prodigy computer network. I also started using the Personal Ancestral File genealogy database program. I eventually upgraded to Windows 95 and added more hard drive, RAM and a faster modem. This computer's hard drive failed in November 1998, and I had to pay $300 to recover the files from the failed 386.

In late 1998, I bought another PC clone 1998 for about $1,200 from another local computer shop that had a 350 mhz Pentium II processor, 64 mb of RAM, 6 gb of hard drive, a 3.25" floppy drive, a Zip drive, a CD drive, a 17” monitor, a 56kb modem, an ink jet printer, a scanner and Windows 98 as the operating system. When I purchased this computer, the data recovery service installed the files from my previous computer on this one. I bought FamilyTreeMaker 5 in late 1998 to use as my genealogy database program. I upgraded this unit with a cable modem in 2001, which made internet surfing and research much easier.

After six years on the 1998 PC, I decided to buy a new Dell computer in October 2004 before the 1998 unit failed. The Dell Dimension 3000 had a 2.6 ghz Pentium 4 processor, 256 mb of RAM, an 80 gb hard drive, a CD burner and DVD drive, and a 17 inch flat screen monitor, using Windows XP Home Edition. I was able to transfer all of my 1998 PC data to the new computer using an external hard drive. I also bought a new HP 2350 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier unit that produced outstanding quality color photos. I invested in a 19-inch flat screen monitor in October 2006. The hard drive crashed on this unit in February 2007, and my son-in-law installed a new hard drive. He was able to recover most of my files (the exception was Outlook Express emails). In early 2008, we added more RAM so now I have 1 gb of RAM. I am using this unit at present.

In November 2006, I bought a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop which I used as my primary computer when my Dell desktop hard drive crashed in February 2007. I just hooked it up to my external hard drive and captured my backed up files, and hooked it to my cable modem directly. I've since used it, using a router, to access the Internet while at home watching TV, in various libraries, and on the road at hotels and my daughters' homes. My problem is keeping the information on it synchronized with the desktop. I use my USB drives for the important files, and occasionally just copy whole directories off of the external hard drive to capture what I've missed. I don't use any synchronization program on the computer at this point.

I'm still using FamilyTreeMaker, having upgraded from FTM 5 to 8 to 11 to 16 (buying ther latter for $16.95 with a 12 month trial of Ancestry last October). I still use Microsoft Word for documents, but have added OpenOffice 2.2 for spreadsheets and presentations.

So what have I done with the obsolete hardware and other stuff? I put the 1983 IBM hardware in the trash can in about 1992. I still have some of the parts of the 1992 and 1998 computers - like the towers, monitors, the keyboards, the printers, a scanner, etc. in the garage in boxes that could be taken to the computer recycling centers whenever I have the opportunity - I always seem to miss the dates due to a genealogy meeting. We also have a fine collection of other electronic equipment - two stand-alone word processors, another monitor, several digital cameras frozen in time, and lots of wires and cables from many things in boxes in the garage.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Greg Matthews has a great web site at that has a collection of web tools and ideas designed to make genealogy easier for each of us.

The tools and ideas include:

1) A customized Google toolbar for genealogy - you can download "gadgets" into your Google toolbar and have a one click search in Rootsweb, Ancestry, FamilySearch and other genealogy web sites. This page shows you how to obtain the "gadgets" and use them. I had a small hiccup when some didn't work because I neglected to click inside the Google Search box before I used each "gadget."

2) Using Google for deep data mining is discussed in several notes on this page, including getting the most out of simple searches, advanced search techniques, how to exclude terms in Google searches, and the best Google searches you've never heard of.

3) Using genealogy newsfeeds is on this page. Notes include using newsfeeds to speed up your searches, view mailing lists without subscribing, how to add feeds to your news reader, and several sites to add to your news reader.

4) Using Firefox as your internet browser is here. Notes include advantages of using Firefox instead of Internet Explorer and unique features of Firefox, including tabbed browsing and smart keywords.

Greg has created a nice set of very helpful and useful notes that are easy to understand and use. I downloaded some of the Google toolbar gadgets and have been using them ever since.

"A Terrible Accident"

One of the stories found in the historical newspaper archives at is this one about Edward E. Seaver (not an ancestor, but a distant cousin):

This obituary for Edward E. Seaver was published in the Watertown (NY) Daily Times dated Tuesday, May 8, 1882. The obituary reads:


Edward E. Seaver Struck by a Saw and Bleeds to Death at Remington & Co's Paper Mill This Morning

A heart-rending accident in which Edward E. Seaver lost his life occurred at Remington & Co.'s paper mill about 11 o'clock this morning. The facts, as near as they can be learned, are as follows: Edward and his father, together with other hands, are employed in the wood mill, where long sticks of wood are sawn up preparatory to putting them in the wood machines to be ground. A swing saw is used, which is arranged so that it can be brought forward when in use, and when the stick is sawn off, it goes back and the timber is moved along. The saw used on this occasion was a 36-inch one, and Seaver had just cut off the end of a stick to square it. It seems that the end, or a portion of it which was quite small, had dropped down in the trough which the saw runs in when run forward. Young Seaver ran the saw, and was In the act of moving the stick along, when suddenly the saw came forward and struck the end of the stick, which had dropped down, and pushing it along, it shoved the guard off at the end of the trough, which was nothing but a piece of inch board nailed on. The saw struck Seaver in the right leg above the knee and laid it open clear to the groin. One of the teeth of the saw also struck him in the breast and made an ugly wound. Seaver dropped back immediately. Dr. Spencer was telephoned for, and being in (he office, Drs. H. G. P. and U. P. started Immediately for the scene of the accident, but when they arrived. Seaver bad breathed his last, having bled to death. The doctors gave it as their opinion that had someone been there to stop the flow of blood perhaps his life might have been saved.

Edward E. Seaver was 21 years old and a married man, having married Miss Heintzelman, daughter of Joseph C.Heintzleman, the baker in Streeter's block, only last fall. He was the son of Richard F. Seaver, who lives at the corner of Burchard and Rutland streets, and has four brothers, two being employed in the Davis sewing machine shop, one in the wood mill with himself and father, and the other, George, is clerk in Zimmerman's grocery store. Ex-Supervisor A. D. Seaver is his uncle. Edward is spoken of very highly by his associates in the mill and the accident cast a gloom over the whole island. In fact at all the manufacturing establishments in town it was the topic of conversation and many were the expressions of sympathy and grief.

The body was removed from the mill to Ballard & Rollinson's undertaking rooms, where it was dressed, and where it has been viewed this afternoon by a large number of people.

When the news of the sad fate of her husband was told to Mrs. Seaver, she Immediately swooned arid afterward had several fits. She is enceinte, and her condition is such as to cause alarm. Dr. Spencer was sent for, and when he left her about 1 o'clock she was better, and he thought there would be no serious consequences.

The image is poor in places - I can't read the 8 letter word (now in red, see the update below) in the last paragraph - it looks like "encloses" but it can't be.

What a sad story - a young man working to support his bride, and he dies in an accident. The full, gory details were published in the newspaper for all to be horrified by. As the saying goes, "if it bleeds, it leads."

UPDATED 4/23: DearMYRTLE loves to figure out things like indecipherable words, and suggested in email "pregnant" or "expecting." I played with the magnification on the article and at 75% I was pretty sure it said "enciente" in italics. I Googled the definition of "enciente" and found the definition of "enceinte" in French is "carrying an unborn child," from the Latin "inciens" for pregnant. The key was the italics - it was obviously a foreign word once I looked at it closely.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Computers and me - before PCs

Miriam Midkiff on the Ancestories2:Stories of Me for my Descendants has posted a prompt to write about the computers I have known and their impact on my life. Ahem... this may take awhile, given my prolix nature and my known affection for logical machines that follow directions perfectly. I'm not going to follow Miriam's prompts exactly, however - I'll do it in a chronological order.

1) I loved mathematics, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and differential equations in high school and college (1958-1966). I carried my Keuffel and Esser slide rule to school every day and became expert at doing calculations using it - logarithms, trig functions, multiplying and dividing, etc. After all, this is how the world really works - according to scientific laws and equations. I still have the slide rule, and I used to show it off to young engineering graduates who hired into my company - they were amazed by how we "did calculations" back in the dark ages.

2) My father had a primitive adding machine that only added numbers. As a boy, I would challenge him to beat me with the machine - I would do the sums on paper and he on the machine. I was competitive! When I got my first job in 1964, the company had what I call a mechanical "threshing" adding machine - it could add, subtract, multiply or divide numbers - making lots of noise and finally showing the result. In my second job in 1965, the company bought a four function electronic calculator that did these things silently in mere seconds - a tremendous improvement. But they could only afford one of them. In 1966, we got one that could do square roots too! When I joined Rohr in 1967, they had the threshing machines. In 1972, Hewlett-Packard offered a scientific calculator that did arithmetic, trigonometry, powers, logarithms and much more - only $395. I got one immediately. In 1975, the HP-45 with even more functionality and speed came out for $495 and I got one of them too for myself.

3) I saw my first computer keypunch machine at San Diego State in 1965. I took a FORTRAN programming class and used the keypunch machine to punch rectangular holes in cards so that the Univac 1107 computer could read the card and execute FORTRAN program commands. I became very proficient at punching holes and writing FORTRAN computer programs. The programs could be used to solve engineering and scientific problems that used algebraic or differential equations.

4) When I joined Rohr in late 1967 as an Aerodynamicist, they had a Univac 1107 also, and were just purchasing an IBM 360 computer system. They used coding forms with 80 columns and keypunch machines located in the office area to create the programs and data, then you put the cards in a box with a rubber band around them, and trudged about 200 yards to the computer center and submitted your "job." The next morning, you went back to the computer center and retrieved your box of cards (hoping that they hadn't shuffled them in the mean time) and any computer output that resulted from your job. If there were errors, then you debugged the program and/or data and resubmitted the job that afternoon. The maximum random access memory that you could use to run your program was 368 Kb as I recall.

5) For 12 years, my job was to create, debug and run FORTRAN programs to simulate aircraft flight paths, aircraft performance analysis, aircraft design, engine inlet and exhaust flows, especially around aircraft parts designed by my company. When I left in 2002, we still used these programs, and many more written by myself and others to simulate more complex flow fields, aerodynamic loads and other phenomena. I loved doing this - it was my creative outlet for many years, and provided significant job security because nobody else knew how they worked (heh heh!) even though I dutifully wrote user's manuals for them.

6) In 1979, the company finally invested in remote readers and printers - we could put our boxes of cards into a reader near our desk and receive printed output when the jobs were completed. By now, the computer was an IBM 3033 which was used for all company computer needs. By this time, I was using the computer and my programming skills to analyze things of interest other than my work, such as radio wave propagation.

7) In 1983, the company invested in a Digital VAX 11-780 computer system that could be run without cards. We exported our cards onto a tape, ran the tape into the DEC, and it created files that we saved in an account. Each of us had an account, and set up directories and run scripts and shared them with each other. Each scientific group in the company had standardized computer programs. We also started buying or leasing computer programs to perform specific calculations that were industry-wide accepted programs. We started out with one terminal for each group of 10 users, but by 1992 or so we had a terminal for each user, if they wanted one. The Digital system grew with more capacity and speed in later models until about 2001, when the company shut it down, and we migrated all of our programs and data onto PCs.

8) The company finally brought Personal Computers into the company in about 1997, but on a shared basis. It wasn't until about 1999 that each person got a PC on their desk to perform all the computer functions necessary to perform their job.

Of course, PCs were in my life before that - and I'll describe my experiences with them in another post.

Best of the Genea-blogs - Week of April 13-19, 2008

Here are my picks for great reads from the genealogy blogs for this past week.

My criteria are pretty simple - I pick posts that advance knowledge about genealogy, address current genealogy issues, provide personal family history, are funny or are poignant. I don't list posts destined for the Carnival of Genealogy, or other meme submissions (but I do include summaries of them), or my own posts.

* "The Census Taker Cometh" by Michael John Neill on the Rootdig blog. Michael's article explains why census records for different years don't match names, ages, birthplaces, etc.

* "Google Trends" by John Newmark on the Transylvanian Dutch blog. John follows Kathi's post from last week with more charts and analysis about genealogy, ancestry, geneology, beer and sports teams.

* "FamilySearchWiki" by Jessica Hacken on the Genealogy Buds blog. Jessica discusses the new FamilySearch Wiki and how it may be used to provide a wealth of information about all aspects of genealogy. I agree!

* "Sources and Resources on the Southwestern Pennsylvania Frontier" by Arlene Eakle on Arlene H. Eakle's Genealogy Blog. Arlene has very useful information about the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society Quarterly periodical - this is one of my ancestral areas!

* "Meeting David Wilson" by Jennifer on the But Now I'm Found blog. Jennifer summarizes the recent MSNBC show (now out on DVD), which I missed.

* "Friday from the Collectors - A Monumental Task" by guest blogger Terry Thornton on footnoteMaven's Shades of the Departed blog. Terry provides some photographs from his local cemeteries and tells his methods of transcribing cemeteries.

* 'Then resumed the chaos louder than ever..." by Lisa on the Small-leaved Shamrock blog. Lisa's contribution to Poem in My Pocket Day is Walt Whitman's "The Artilleryman's Vision." Moving. Sad. True.

* "When Genie-bloggers Meet" by Juliane's granddaughter on the Two Sides of the Ocean blog. Jg tells about her talk on blogging at the Berrien County (MI) Genealogical Society and meeting Apple afterwards.

* "Treasure Chests," "Happy Exhaustion," "It Just Gets Better," and "A Bright spot in a Frustrating Day" by Charlotte on the Apple's Tree blog. Apple takes us along with her as she travels to Michigan to research in the Bentley Library in Ann Arbor, and meets two genea-bloggers as well.

* "5 Online Games for Genealogists" by Chris on The G-Files: A Blog For solving Genealogy and Family History blog. Chris highlights five games that can be played online or downloaded and played on your computer that are great for genealogy buffs.

* "6 worst things to do with a genealogy chart" by Janet Hovorka on The Chart Chick blog. Janet has some advice for what not to do, following up her earlier post on the "10 best things to do with a genealogy chart."

I encourage you to go to the blogs listed above and read their articles, and add their blog to your Favorites, Bloglines, reader, feed or email if you like what you read. Please make a comment to them also - we all appreciate feedback on what we write.

Did I miss a great genealogy blog post? Tell me!