Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - A Family's Increase

Hey, genealogy fans, it's Saturday Night! Time for some Genealogy Fun!

Your task, if you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible music), is to:

1) Pick one of your four great-grandparents - if possible, the one with the most descendants.

2) Create a descendants list for those great-grandparents either by hand or in your software program.

3) Tell us how many descendants, living or dead, are in each generation from those great-grandparents.

4) How many are still living? Of those, how many have you met and exchanged family information with? Are there any that you should make contact with ASAP? Please don't use last names of living people for this - respect their privacy.

5) Write about it in your own blog post, in comments to this post, or in comments or a Note on Facebook.

Here's mine:

1) I chose my great-grandparents, Thomas Richmond (1848-1917) and Julia (White) Richmond (1848-1913).

2) I made a descendants chart in RootsMagic 4.

3) Their descendants, that I am aware of, number by generation:

1. Children = 9 (all deceased)
2. Grandchildren = 18 (all deceased)
3. Great-grandchildren = 15 (14 living, 1 deceased)
4. Great-great-grandchildren = 22 (21 living, 1 deceased)
5. 3rd great-grandchildren = 34 (all living)
6. 4th great-grandchildren = 4 (all living)
7. 5th great-grandchildren = 0

4) So the increase is at least 102 persons, and probably more. I have met 57 out of the 73 still alive. I met 11 out of the 29 that are now deceased, and 9 of the deceased died before I was born. So that leaves at least 16 still alive that I have not met, and all of them are younger than me and they probably don't have family information to pass on.

My problem isn't with the ones I know about - it is trying to trace the lines that I lost after the 1930 census - descendants of my grandmother's siblings. I know that there should be more persons on this list - I just don't have the second and third cousin contacts I need.

I need to find descendants of:

* Walter Pickford (1864-1918) and Anne Richmond (1869-1939),
* Everett Richmond (1875-1917) and Ethel Pierce,
* Alfred Shaw (1884-1919) and Grace Richmond (1876-1963),
* Edwin Richmond (1883-1935) and Alice Corey (1884-1979),
* James Richmond (1885-1913) and Ethel Judson.

Each of these couples had children that I am aware of, but only in two cases do I know names of their grandchildren, and in only one do I know of a great-grandchild. Our line lost track of many of these cousins when my grandparents died.

From the descendants report for my great-grandparents Richmond, I did not count the spouses of descendants of my great-grandparents, since they are not descendants.

While doing this reporting and counting, I figured out some ways to search for some of the "missing" cousins in online vital records indexes, obituaries and gravestones, at the least!

Was this too complicated? I hope not! It's really a straightforward reporting and counting exercise. The point is, of course, to get you to think about aunts and uncles and cousins that you could contact for genealogy records and family history.

Please Take Elyse's Genealogy Survey

Elyse Doerflinger (author of Elyse's Genealogy Blog) requests the pleasure of your answers on her surveys about genealogy experience and expenses. Please read her The Coolest Statistics Project Ever post and then take the survey.

The survey is in two parts - Part 1 about your genealogy experiences and Part 2 about your demographics.

Elyse will post the results of the survey on her blog after she has received and collated all of the responses. She says:

"This survey is entirely anonymous - I never ask for your name. All of your answers are completely confidential, and the only two people who will ever see your individual answers are myself and my professor. "

Please help Elyse out - the more responses she gets, the better the survey results will be.

UPDATED 1 p.m. Ah, good intentions here, but Elyse's survey is now closed for osme reason. Perhaps she will get it re-opened.

UPDATED 10 p.m.: Elyse has reconstituted her survey - the links above are for the updated survey. This may happen again if she is inundated with responses.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Using Wild Cards for Searches

Many researchers use wild cards routinely to search for elusive ancestors in genealogy databases such as I do, and have come to love the use of wild cards. permits the use of wild cards for its searches, but the rules are a little different. From their Footnote Search Tips page:

"It's always a good idea to try your search with variant spellings to make sure you catch any errors in the records or in the index. You can use the asterisk (*) wild card to replace any number of characters (e.g. Anders*n = Anderson, Andersen, Andersson, etc.) "

When I first read that, I thought "well, OK, it works like the wild cards on Ancestry does." But, actually has a more versatile wild card capability (I could not find this description on their Help sites though!):

* A wild card asterisk (*) can be used before or after any two characters.

* More than one wild card can be used in a search field

Why would I want to use a wild card? Because many names were spelled differently, or written differently, than what we expect.

Let me demonstrate some of the wild card capabilities with some examples. One of my ancestors is Martin Carringer (1758-1835), a Revolutionary War veteran. His last name can be, and was, spelled several different ways in the records. In the Person search field I entered the names "martin" and "carringer" and got matches:

But that is for just the exact spelling of his name as I input it. What if I use a wild card for both names, say "mart*" and "carr*":

Oops, too many! I'm not going to look through all of those. Nearly every record I've seen for Martin ends his surname with "ger" so I'm going to put a wild card in the middle of the name using "mart*" and "car*ger":

A few more than the first search, and the matches might include the first name spelling of "marten" or "martinius" and the last name spelling of "caringer" or "carrenger" or "carriger."

Some records might have a different first letter for "Carringer" like a "G" or a "K" - so what happens if I try "mart*" and "*ar*ger"? Note that I have at least two letters before or after the wild card symbols:

This search found a lot more matches, but I need to check some of them out. I can refine my search by choosing one of the Categories - I chose Revolutionary War Pensions because that's where most of the matches occur for the time period I'm interested in. Then I'm going to refine my search by looking at the last names available - I clicked on the "Last Name" link and then typed "Car" in the query box, and it found 12 different names that start with "Car" in this database:

One of the results was for "Caringer" which was missed by the first Search because it wasn't spelled exactly the same as my search terms. Below the "Last Name" entry box, you can see some of the other names that the search found - Barringer and Springer. It also found a number of "Blank" matches - I'm not sure what those are!

My next step was to use the "Last Name" box to search for similar "sound-alike" and "look alike" names that might refer to my Martin Carringer - names starting with "Cer" "Cir" "Cor" "Cur" "Ger" "Geh" "Gor" "Gur" "Kar" "Kor" "Kur," etc. I didn't find any.

This illustrates two more points about the searches:

* They use an "Exact Search" algorithm, and there are no "Fuzzy Search" capabilities (for sound alike names using Soundex rules like uses).

* The user cannot use a wild card to denote a whole word, like a middle initial or a middle name. Only Google will allow something like that, I think.

I keep learning new things about as I become more experienced with it. I'm passing them on so that other researchers can learn from my misteaks and experiences.

Researchers can be a lot more creative with wild cards using's rules. I appreciate that they can be used this way. My hope is that more database providers will expand the versatility of their wild card searches to match or exceed that of

Disclosure: I am not an employee, contractor or affiliate of I do have a paid subscription. All thoughts and opinions herein are my own.

Genealogy Source Citations Quick Reference Guide

The genealogy gods and goddesses (you all know who you are...) know how pitiful my source citation skills are - I need all the help I can get.

Thomas MacEntee composed a Quick Reference guide to Genealogy Source Citations back in April, posted it on Geneabloggers, and I just found it again on the Internet while looking for something else (isn't that always the way we find neat stuff?).

The Geneabloggers post is here, and the Quick Reference Guide itself is here in PDF format. The guide covers:

* basic concepts of source citations
* the do's and don'ts of using source citations
* components that comprise a citation
* popular citation styles
* bibliography generation websites
* how to code footnotes for blogs and websites
* helpful links
* recommended reads and items

Thank you, Thomas! A keeper.

CVGS Research Group Summary - 14 October

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society Research Group met on Wednesday, 14 October at the South Chula Vista Library in the Conference Room. There were seven in attendance. We went around the table and attendees discussed their recent genealogy activities.

* Dick knows that several cousins have useful information, but he cannot get them to tell him over the phone or even write it down on forms he has sent them.

* Helen has cousins asking questions about their ancestry, and she is trying to help them out. Her mother's family is very secretive and Helen has been talking to her aunt about some of the family stories with some success.

* Shirley worked on her Pearsall line. She found that a Thomas Pearsall in Virginia adopted a boy in 1670, probably named John Beecher, who took the name of John Parshall. This line went to Long Island NY and then upstate NY. This may be provable with some DNA tests of the Pearsall and Parshall lines.

* Susi is searching for more information about her Susan Mattison (Madison? born ca1816 in MA?, died 1879 in IA) who married Noyes Jones in MA or NY. Some cousins say the birth date was 1812, other data says 1816 or 1818, perhaps in Hampshire County MA or Rensselaer County NY. The group suggested further research for probate, land and tax records in the suspected localities.

* John reported on his vacation to NM, AR, NE, CO and home. He visited the unkempt Hillcrest Cemetery in Gallup NM and found nothing helpful. He did have success in Butler County NE where he visited 5 cemeteries after receiving helpful information from a resident via email. He later met the resident at the library. John also went to Rising City looking for school yearbook records at the school, and found pictures of his great uncle with help from the friendly staff. He was referred to Hinkle's Pub where he met some old-timers who talked his ear off, and went to the library where he found probate records of his great-uncle.

* Gary and Wanda just returned from their vacation trip to the upper Midwest. Wanda flew to Duluth and joined a tour that included "Northfest" in Minot ND. Gary flew in later and they went family/friend visiting and leaf-peeping in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They hit the leaf-peeping just right! They took pictures of the Montgomery Wards store in Ashland WI where Wanda's parents met.

* Randy talked about his vacation to the lower Midwest - Kansas City, Topeka, Springfield, Little Rock, Memphis and Branson. He passed around the FGS conference schedule and some of the presentation summaries for people to read.

The next CVGS Research Group meeting will be Wednesday, 11 November at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library.

Should Your Society Have a Blog?

Amy Coffin wrote an article on this subject in the latest WorldVitalRecords Newsletter. You can read it here.

Some key paragraphs:

"A genealogy society's web page is like a store window. It highlights the group's value, hopefully enticing visitors to walk through the virtual door and explore the site. A blog is like a genealogy society's in-store sale circular. It is a good communication tool for the latest information and quickly changing details. A genealogy society's web page serves one purpose and a blog another. "

and ...

"The purpose of a genealogy society blog can be related to marketing the organization, sharing information, a combination of these themes, or anything else on which you may want to focus. "

Read all of Amy's post. Amy Coffin is the author of the We Tree blog in her genealogy life.

The ProGen Group Monster Mash

Sheri Fenley has way too much time on her hands, or she is really good at creating videos, or she just likes to have a lot of fun. Probably all of the above!

Sheri is the "leader" of our small Group studying the Professional Genealogy book. She created a JibJab video "starring" Group D members and mentor and put it on her blog, The Educated Genealogist.

The link to the ProGen Group video is here. I've never sung so well ... all in the key of, what, F-sharp? Or danced so well! My wife and daughters will be surprised. Maybe my grandchildren will bei mpressed.

So who are the people shown in the video?

Thank you, Sheri! Great job.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

AB 130 Signed Into Law - California Vital Records Access

I received this email from Liz Stookesbury Myers today:

On the last possible day for the Governor of California to sign bills into law or veto them, October 11, 2009, he signed AB 130 into law. This law becomes effective January 1, 2010.

Jan Meisels AllenDirector,
IAJGS andChairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

The bill is 13 pages long in PDF format. The Legislative Counsel's Digest summary includes:


AB 130, Jeffries. Vital records: marriage records.

(1) Existing law prescribes specified personal information to be included on birth, death, and marriage certificates. Under existing law, a certified copy of a birth or death record may only be supplied by the State Registrar, local registrar, or county recorder to an authorized person, as defined, who submits a statement sworn under penalty of perjury that the applicant is an authorized person. If an applicant for a birth or death record does not meet the requirements for an authorized person, the State Registrar, local registrar, or county recorder may only issue an informational certified copy of a birth or death record that contains a legend stating “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY.”

Existing law also requires that each certified copy of a birth or death record contain specified information and be printed on sensitized paper with specified features.

Existing law also requires an applicant for a certified copy of a birth or death record to pay, in addition to other fees applicable to the receipt of a copy of a birth or death record from the State Registrar, local registrar, or county recorder a fee of $1, to be used for the development of safety and security measures to protect against the fraudulent use of these records and defray the cost to local officials of any required security measures.

This bill would also make these provisions applicable to a request for a certified copy of a nonconfidential marriage record, and would make conforming changes. By changing the definition of the crime of perjury, and by imposing new duties on local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

(2) Existing law permits a county clerk to issue a confidential marriage license if prescribed conditions are met. Under existing law, a confidential marriage license is a confidential record and is not open to public inspection without an order from the court. Existing law requires a county clerk to maintain confidential marriage certificates as permanent records that are not open to public inspection except upon order of the court. Existing law permits a party to a confidential marriage to obtain a certified copy of the confidential marriage certificate, as prescribed.

This bill would repeal the existing methods by which a party to a confidential marriage may obtain a certified copy of his or her confidential marriage certificate and would instead require that the above mentioned provisions relating to obtaining certified copies of birth and death records be applicable to a confidential marriage record, as specified. This bill would specify that an authorized person, for purposes of requests for certified copies of confidential marriage records, includes only a party to the confidential marriage. This bill would also prohibit the release of an informational certified copy of a confidential marriage record, as specified.

By changing the definition of the crime of perjury, and by imposing new duties on local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

(3) Existing law requires the State Registrar to appoint a Vital Records Protection Advisory Committee to study and make recommendations to protect individual privacy, inhibit identity theft, and prevent fraud involving birth and death certificates while providing needed access to the information contained in those records by persons seeking it for a legitimate purpose.

This bill would add marriage records to the list of vital records under the committee’s consideration for study and recommendations, and would make other technical and conforming changes.

(4) Existing law requires the State Registrar to maintain comprehensive indices of registered certificates. Under existing law, comprehensive birth and death record indices, as prescribed, must be kept confidential and are exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act. Existing law also requires the State Registrar to maintain separate noncomprehensive birth and death record indices for purposes of public release and for law enforcement and fraud prevention. Existing law also prohibits specified uses of birth and death record files. Violation of these provisions is a misdemeanor.

This bill would apply these provisions to both comprehensive and noncomprehensive nonconfidential marriage indices. The bill would require that the noncomprehensive nonconfidential marriage record indices for public release and for law enforcement and fraud prevention be comprised of the name of each party to the marriage and the date of marriage. This bill would prohibit the noncomprehensive nonconfidential marriage record indices for public release from containing the maiden names of the parties mothers. By changing the definition of a crime, and by imposing new duties on local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

(5) The California Constitution requires a statute that limits the people’s right of access to the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies to be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.

This bill would declare that in order to protect personal privacy and reduce the risk of identity theft, it is necessary to enact provisions that generally restrict access to, and release of, marriage records.

(6) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

With regard to any other mandates, this bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs so mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.


There is so much in the 13 pages of legalese here. The questions I have for California vital records and legal experts are:

1) Can a person go to the local County Recorder's office and obtain a birth, marriage or death certificate for another person? I think the answer is yes, with some facts like the mother's maiden name, and the Social Security Number on death records, deleted. And if they don't qualify for a certified copy, they can receive the informational copy with the warning “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY” applied.

2) Can a person obtain via mail (from the California State Government) a birth, marriage or death certificate for another person? Again, I think that the answer is yes, with some facts like the mother's maiden name, and the Social Security Number on death records, deleted. And if they don't qualify for a certified copy, they can receive the informational copy with the warning applied.

3) Will the non-comprehensive birth, marriage and death indexes be available on the Internet? I think that the answer is NO, since Section 3 (b) (8) (B) (page 5 of the text) says:

"(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), individual information contained in birth, death, and nonconfidential marriage record indices may be posted on the Internet if all of the following requirements are met:
(i) The individual information is posted on an Internet Web site that is protected by a password.
(ii) The individual information is posted on an Internet Web site that is available to subscribers only for a fee.
(iii) The individual information is not posted for public display.
(iv) The individual information is available to subscribers pursuant to a contractual agreement.
(v) The individual information is posted for purposes of law enforcement or preventing fraud.

That section says "...if ALL of the following requirements are met." How is an index on used only for "purposes of law enforcement or for preventing fraud?"

4) Can a person post information from previously or newly obtained birth, marriage and death certificates in a book or periodical, or on the Internet? This is another interesting case - and I don't know the answer. Section 4, (e) (page 7) says that:

(e) (1) Birth, death, and nonconfidential marriage data files, and any portion thereof, obtained pursuant to this section, shall not be used for fraudulent purposes and shall not be posted on the Internet.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), individual information contained in death data files obtained pursuant to paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) may be posted on the Internet if all of the following requirements are met:

It lists the same requirements as above.

My literal reading says that a person in possession of a data file (which means, I think, a vital records certificate) cannot publish the birth or marriage information, and can publish the death information only if it satisfies the additional requirements.

5) What about family trees put on web sites? Are subscription sites OK, but not free family tree sites? Even if the people are deceased? Obviously, there are other public records that list vital records dates for persons - like probate records, obituaries and gravestone inscriptions, but someone has to do some research to find them.

I urge all interested parties to read the text of the approved and signed bill. It might be a good idea for people needing California vital records to obtain them before the bill becomes law on 1 January 2010.

Am I being too literal here? I frankly don't know, and will appreciate the legal experts expounding about what it means. Or do we need more legislative action?

Learning new Search Tricks

I am as stubborn as most people about "reading the ..... manual" - I seem to try things out myself, stumble along and learn, and eventually figure out my "best way" to do things. In this case, to check out and use genealogy databases.

I've had a subscription this past year and enjoy the website and the results - they have been very helpful to my own genealogy research. But I never really figured out the best way to search the website for my ancestors or other people of interest. Let me explain by showing you some typical results:

On the home page, there is a search box that invites the user to enter a Person or Keyword (the user has the choice - see the "Keyword" and "Person" words above the search box?). The default seems to be "Keyword."

I entered by grandfather's name "frederick seaver" in the search box in the screen above, and clicked on the orange "Search" button:

There were 4,213 matches ... and the list is provided by database category and specific database titles.

When I checked some of these matches, I found that they were for documents in the database that had the terms "frederick" and "seaver" on the same page - not necessarily "frederick seaver." That makes a lot of sense - it's similar to what other search engines do. Frankly, this is how I've been searching for people for many months! Dumb! Is there a better way?

Well, still using the "Keyword" search, I decided to try using quote marks around the name, using a search for "frederick seaver." Here's the home page search screen:

And here's the results for the quote mark keyword search:

Aha! Only 90 matches. That makes much more sense...all of the matches are for persons with the name "frederick seaver."

What about people named "Frederick * Seaver" with a middle name or middle initial? Nope - the wild card search requires at least two letters before or after the wildcard symbol. Oh well.

Is there another way? Yes! The "Person" search on the home page is shown below:

I entered "frederick" in the first name box and "seaver" in the last name box, and received these matches:

91 matches using the "Person" search box. Why are the number of matches different from the "Keyword with quotes" search? On the "Keyword with quotes" search, it found 6 matches in the Poughkeepsie Journal and 4 matches in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) using "frederick seaver" as the search criteria. On the "Person" search, it found 6 matches in the SSDI, and 3 in the 1930 US Census. Why? Because of the search criteria and the indexing. The newspaper matches were not found in the "Person" search for some reason. The additional SSDI matches and the 1930 census records found on the "Person" search have a middle initial in them, so the "Keyword with quotes" search didn't find them, as expected.

So I've learned that different search criteria produce different search results. Duh! Learned something old...again. Could I have learned this earlier? Yep!

Right there on the home search page is a link to Search Tips. It is that little question mark just on the right edge of the orange "Search" button (but only on the "Keyword" screen). See it? I didn't until last night! I clicked on it to see what came up:

Ah, some search tips, with some examples. Cool. Although it says "It's generally better NOT to use quotes when searching for names." Hmm, I'm not sure that I agree with that, based on my experience above! I'm going to do both tyhpes of searches rather than trust one or the other to return all pertinent matches.

There are several Help functions available for users:

* There is a link to a two-minute video on this "Search Tips" page (it's also on the Home Page), and it is useful. Here's the video screen (you can make it full screen):

* Back on the "Search Tips" page, there is a "Learn More" link also, and when you click that you get a helpful page that explains the Search process in much more detail - discussing Basic Searching, Reviewing Your Results, Narrowing Your Search, Advanced Search and Searching Within a Title or Part of a Title:

* There is also a "Take a Tour" link near the bottom right of the Home Page which provides a page titled "How to get the most out of Footnote." This is a very helpful set of pages.

* Finally, there is a "Help" link up in the upper right-hand corner of the Home Page next to "Sign Out," and down at the very bottom of the Home Page under Site Links, that leads to a "Help" page with Frequently Asked Questions, "Take a Tour" (actually the "Search Tips") and "Getting Started" (the "How to get the most out of Footnote") and Customer Support pages.

Based on this experience of mine, I recommend that make their "Help," "Search Tips," "Learn More," and "Take a Tour" pages much more visible on their Home Page. The user should not have to bumble along like I did or get frustrated by having to find a small question mark icon to get help with their searches.

In the ideal genealogy database world, each user would say "I want to find the explanation of how this website works" and be able to click on an obvious button or link that takes them to all of the Help information, including the videos, the "Getting Started" and the "Learn More" pages.

Disclosure: I am not an employee, contractor or affiliate of I am a paid subscriber. These thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not paid to express them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CGSSD Mini-Fair on Saturday - 4 Presentations!

Linda Hervig sent this notice about the CGSSD meeting on Saturday:

The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) meets on Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 9:00 am to noon.

CGSSD hosts the annual mini-fair in celebration of Family History Month at this meeting.

Select a presentation from 2 sessions. Session 1 meets from 9:00 – 10:00; Session 2 meets from 10:30 – 11:30. A break, refreshments and announcements are scheduled from 10:00 – 10:30. User groups will not meet. The presentations are detailed below.

CGSSD Mini-Fair! Two sessions, 2 choices per session;

9:00 - 10:00 a.m. - Session 1:

A. "Using" by Randy Seaver. has become one of the "must-use" genealogy web sites because of their unique record subscription databases and their free user-contributed "Footnote Pages." Randy will discuss the genealogy records available on, the site's search capabilities and user interface, and how researchers can save their precious family information using

B. "How a Senior Computer Geek Becomes a Computer Genealogist" by Gene Powell. We'll pose some questions to the group such as what is a senior computer geek? What is a Genealogist? What is a computer Genealogist? If we can answer those questions perhaps we may gain some insight as to what it takes for a Senior Computer geek to become a Computer Genealogist.

10:00 - Break, refreshments.
10:15 - Announcements.
10:30 - 11:30 a.m. - Session 2:

A. "Now That You Started a DNA Project, What Now?" by Corlee Morris. Corlee will provide an overview of how to administer a DNA Project.

B. Ellen Barbieri will present two topics:"Tarsia, Italy - Database of Passengers." Ellen will describe elements of her research and how data can be used to further the quest. She recently completed an Excel database of 808 passengers whose last residence was Tarsia, using's search tools for Ellis Island (Gold Form), Italians to America, and Missing Manifests. She found the town name spelled 18 different ways and even found a few passengers arriving in Boston on Ancestry. "Compiling Records from Secondary Sources." With no primary sources available for Lubowo, Poland (now Liubavas, Lithuania), Ellen will demonstrate how she was able to recover significant data using periodicals, books, taxpayer lists and other source documents which she used to compile a database of Lubowo Jews, including emigration and death records.

We meet at the Robinson Auditorium complex on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus in La Jolla. From North Torrey Pine Road turn at Pangea Drive into UCSD. Free parking is available in the parking garage on the left; use any A, B, or S space. Signs will mark directions to our meeting room. Please refer to our website; or the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies website for driving directions and a map.

Michael John Neill's "Casefile Clues"

Michael John Neill started writing his "Casefile Clues" back in February 2009 as part of Dick Eastman's Plus edition of the Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, which is subscription based. A few months ago, Michael started his own "Casefile Clues" blog and subscription based weekly column.

Michael's "Casefile Clues" blog is at and provides a weekly case study newsletter focusing on methodology and interpretation. A year's subscription is $15. You can subscribe here.

He is offering a free sample issue in PDF format - email at Take a look at what Michael offers on a weekly basis.

On his Casefile Clues page, Michael says:

"I write "Casefile Clues" a weekly genealogy newsletter focusing on genealogy research methodology and interpretation. Every week I look at a record or a problem from one of the many families of my children scattered across the US and Europe. "Casefile Clues" does not try to "scoop" the latest news, rather I focus on using and interpreting records. My goal is to give you ideas to help you with your own research. Since 1995, I have written over 600 genealogy columns for both Ancestry and Eastman's Online Newsletter. My new columns for Casefile Clues are distributed only through this site."

I received one of the sample issues (#10), and enjoyed the 8-page case study about one of Michael's research problems. There is a lot more detail of Michael's methods -- obtaining records, evaluating information and coming to conclusions -- than you will find in any published book or journal article.

If this type of detailed case study interests you, then I recommend that you subscribe for awhile and see if it helps you with your genealogy research.

Michael has two other genealogy blogs - his Rootdig research blog and the Genealogy Tip of the Day blog. I enjoy everything that Michael writes. If you are not reading Michael's blogs, I highly recommend them.

Disclosure: I am not a subscriber to Casefile Clues yet, and was not paid for writing this post.

Not Wordless Wednesday - Family Photographs: Post 75: Mother and Daughter

I'm posting old family photographs from my collection on Wednesdays, but they won't be wordless Wednesday posts like others do - I simply am incapable of having a wordless post.

This photograph is from the albums of my Aunt Geraldine (Seaver) Remley obtained in 2007 from the family:

This photograph is of Geraldine Seaver (1917-2007) and Alma Bess (Richmond) Seaver (1882-1962) - daughter and mother - taken in Leominster, Massachusetts in about 1930.

The family had recently bought a house at 20 Hall Street in Leominster and this photograph may have been taken there.

Aren't they beautiful? I wish that they had been smiling!

Alma Bess (Richmond) Seaver is my paternal grandmother.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Genealogical Societies - Socialization Networks

The 82nd Carnival of Genealogy has the topic: What's your favorite genealogical society? Do you belong to a society? Tell us why! Or if not, why not?

This could be a long post! This is one of my favorite topics.

I don't have a favorite genealogical society. I'm a member of several, but each one is different, and serves a specific purpose. I am currently a member of:

* National Genealogical Society (NGS) -- I'm a member of this because of the publications and the conferences. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly is one of the premier peer-reviewed genealogy periodicals. The NGS NewsMagazine has articles about different research aspects that I find very helpful. I joined NGS in 2004, I think.

* New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) -- I'm a member of this society because I have many New England ancestors. The peer-reviewed New England Historical and Genealogical Register is a premier publication that often addresses research problems similar to my own brick wall problems. The New England Ancestors magazine has excellent articles and news specific to New England. I joined NEHGS in about 1990, as I recall.

* San Diego Genealogical Society (SDGS) -- I live in southern San Diego county, and this society provides programs and seminars on second Saturdays. I was able to attend meetings when I was working. They have a local library - it used to be in El Cajon but just moved to Kearny Mesa in San Diego. SDGS has about 400 members at present. I joined SDGS in 1994, I think.

* Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) -- Once I started using online databases, I joined CGSSD because their programs were very appealing. They have programs on 3rd Saturdays and have about 250 members. I joined CGSSD in 2005, I think.

* Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) -- This society meets on weekdays at noon now, and I didn't become too involved with it until I retired from aerospace engineering in 2002. I had joined back in the mid-1990s, and had given several presentations before I retired. I've been Treasurer (2003-4), Program Chairman (2005-6), President (2007-8) and am currently Newsletter Editor and Research Chairman for CVGS. CVGS has a monthly Research Group (solving problems), a monthly Computer Group (helping members with online research) and a monthly Program Meeting with a speaker. I started my speaking "career" at CVGS and still do one or two programs each year for my "home" society. CVGS has about 100 members now. Being relatively small means that many of us "know" most of our members and have friendships with many of them.

There have been other societies that I've been a member of:

* Wiltshire (England) Family History Society
* Cape Cod (Massachusetts) Genealogical Society
* Essex (Massachusetts) Society of Genealogists

I dropped my membership in these as they ceased to provide useful information for my research needs.

I have a number of reasons to join a genealogical society, including:

* To learn, through classes, programs, seminars, conferences and publications about genealogy and family history research. Genealogy research requires a steady progression of education as the researcher gains more experience and is faced with research in different topics and different localities.

* To share knowledge with society colleagues. A society is a social network of people with a common interest in genealogy research, or some aspect of it. I enjoy hearing about the research experiences of others. I also like to share my own experiences in small group settings or as a program speaker.

* To gain experience as a program organizer, a leader, a presenter, a speaker, etc. Being able to present programs to my small and accepting CVGS society enabled me to improve my public speaking skills to the point that I'm speaking to societies and organizations all over San Diego County, and teaching an adult education class in Beginning Computer Genealogy.

Being active in genealogical societies gets me out of my genealogy "caves" at home or in a repository. Online genealogy (and blogging!) is something that we can pursue all night long and can result in isolation if we're not careful. I enjoy the socialization networks that I belong to and contribute to.

I firmly believe that genealogical societies can grow and thrive if they provide services to their members that the members need. For many experienced researchers, that includes offering help with using computers and having days out with friends. For beginners, it includes offering classes to help them get started and programs or seminars to help them learn advanced research techniques. For online genealogists, societies provide the opportunity to socialize with other genealogists and learn that the Internet has only a fraction of all genealogy resources, and that most problems are solved using paper (or microfilmed) records in dusty courthouses and repositories, often in far away places.

"Fanily Trees Yield Big Coin"

Here is the transcription of the article in the 20 March 1934 Spokane (WA) Daily Chronicle newspaper, on page 3:

"PHILADELPHIA, March 20. (AP) --

"Uncle Sam's agents say that J. Montgomery Seaver, 43, made $100,000 in five years by digging around the roots of family trees to report that they extended down to William the Conqueror, Richard the Lion-Hearted and other notables of yore.

He had three offices in Philadelphia and one in Washington but it was a "racket." Postal Inspector A.T. Hawksworth testified in the U.S. district court yesterday. Seaver was give a 15-month sentence in the federal penitentiary.

Twenty-two persons testified that they had paid Seaver $10 for a book of family history and $3 for a coat of arms."

Jesse Montgomery Seaver is fairly well-known in genealogy circles for producing a large number of really thin family history books for different surnames. He never did publish a Seaver surname book, but did circulate a Seaver manuscript that is in several repositories, including the Family History Library and the NEHGS library. I have found few errors in the Seaver manuscript and it has been helpful to my Seaver surname research.

At $10 per book, he sold about 10,000 books, assuming that the word "made" means gross income and not net income.

The scam must have been pretty odious if they prosecuted him for fraud. It probably took him several years to write and publish all of the books with some veracity, at least enough to fool his customers with their recent ancestry. Just think what someone like this could do these days with online databases and family tree software!

Full disclosure: To the best of my genealogy knowledge, I am not related by blood to this man.

Google News Search Archive

I recently revisited the Google News Search Archive ( to search for some older newspaper articles about Seaver family genealogy. [Thank you, Gena Ortega, for the reminder!]

The search page for Google News Search Archive looks like this:

The search string I ended up using was [seaver family -tom -pains]. The "-tom" eliminates many of the articles about my cousin, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, and the "-pains" eliminates many articles about the fictional Seaver family on the "Growing Pains" TV show from the 1980s.

Here is the top of the first page of the matches:

As you can see, there is a timeline across the top of the page which reflects the number of articles found in the search. A user can click on a year in the timeline and see the articles for that year.

Here is the bottom of the first page:

One article on this list caught my eye - "Family Trees Yield Big Coin" about a genealogist who had a genealogy scam selling family history books, Jesse Montgomery Seaver. I clicked on the link and saw the article in the Spokane (WA) Daily Chronicle dated March 20, 1934:

Some of the articles found by Google News Archive Search are free to access, as the Spokane article above was. Some cost money to view and download - it depends on the newspaper company that Google has an agreement with.

I look at this as another newspaper resource - the free articles are wonderful, and the paid ones provide leads for the researcher. The researcher needs to decide if they want to pay the online fee for the convenience of having the information now, or note the source and try to find it using a local library or researcher, or other online resources.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fortune Cookie Advertising has hit on a unique (at least to me) way to advertise some of their genealogy databases.

Go to Unfortunate Cookie ( and see what I mean. Here are some screen shots:

1) The home page --

2) Clicking on the image opens the fortune cookie which has a message inside:

In this instance, the message said "Love of money leads to your exile and disgrace."

3) I clicked on the "See more" link and saw:

A news article from one of the newspaper databases on opens, and the reader can see a part of the article. To see more, the user must click on the link to

4) The user can "Share this cookie" by clicking on the link - and sees a selection of social networking sites (3 screens worth):

What do you think about this? It seems harmless for users. The "fortunes" seem to be tailored to the news article or advertisement. At worst, it is a time waster. It may bring more subscribers to because casual researchers may see it, use it and go to and subscribe to it.

Some enterprising genealogy-oriented computer whiz could really do some interesting things with this concept, couldn't they?

For the record, I saw this promoted on Twitter by user who claims that they are harmless and fun.
UPDATED 7 p.m. John wrote that the URL was wrong - drat! Sorry! Corrected it.

City Directories on has the absolute best online collection of City Directories from large cities to date, especially for the years before 1923.

The City Directories available include:

* Baltimore City Directories, 1863-1923
* Boston City Directories, 1786-1926

* Brooklyn City Directories, 1862-1900, 1902-1912
* Buffalo City Directories, 1861-1923
* Chicago City Directories, 1843-1916, 1923
* Dallas City Directories, 1878-1923
* Detroit City Directories, 1861-1923
* Fort Wayne City Directories, 1861-1923
* Los Angeles City Directories, 1873-1924
* Louisville City Directories, 1861-1923
* New Orleans City Directories, 1861-1923
* New York City Directories, 1786-1922
* Newark City Directories, 1861-1923
* Philadelphia City Directories, 1785-1922

* Pittsburgh City Directories, 1861-1923
* St. Louis City Directories, 1863-1923
* San Francisco City Directories, 1861-1923

* Washington DC City Directories, 1822-1923

Not every year is available for every city, but these collections are very complete after the 1860s.

The easiest way to see the City Directories collection is to go to the Browse Original documents ( page, click on the News and Town Records link, then the City Directories link, and select a state and see the list of cities with a collection. Click on the city and you can obtain a list of the years available.

There is also a collection called Miscellaneous City Directories which has a few city directories for smaller cities in CT, ME, MA, NH and RI.

For any of these City Directories, you can use the search field at the bottom of the Browse screen to search for a surname. I recommend doing this year-by-year in a specific city if you are doing a one-name search.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Best of the Genea-Blogs - October 4-10, 2009

Several hundred genealogy and family history bloggers write thousands of posts every week about their research, their families, and their interests. I appreciate each one of them and their efforts.

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

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

* Carnival of Genealogy 81: The day the geneablogs died by Schelly Talalay Dardashti on the Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog. 12 genea-bloggers contributed their own blog obituaries (none of them recording actual blog deaths) to this Carnival. Some are really sad, some very funny.

* Survey Results: Please Tell Us About Your Experiences by Dick Eastman on the Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. Dick asked many questions about computer usage, use of genealogy databases and software, society meetings and conference attendance, and levels of expertise. He had over 2,000 responses and the results are interesting.

* Watching Over My Shoulder by Lee Drew on the FamHist blog. Lee describes how he gets into his genamension (genealogy dimension) and works for hours at a time - I can relate to that!

* Breaking News: Feds Require Bloggers to Disclose Product Endorsement Connections by Craig Manson on the Geneablogie blog. Craig describes the new FTC regulations concerning bloggers and endorsements or reviews. He promised further review from his administrative law students later.

* "I'll believe it, if you can prove it" applies to genealogy and Which is it? Genealogical Proof Standard or Legal Proof? by James Tanner on the Genealogy's Star blog. James continues his discussions on evidence, proof, and standards from an attorney's, and genealogist's, point of view.

* My Genealogy Surprise Package - Part 1 and My Genealogy Surprise Package - Part 2 by Tina Lyons on the Tina's Genealogical Wish List blog. Tina received a package in the mail from her grandmother. Read about Tina's surprises!

* Understanding Records, Part 1: How Comprehensive is the Record? by Kory Meyerink on The ProGenealogists(R) Blog. Kory's post discusses coverage of records, and links to an interesting NGSQ article by William Saxbe titled Nineteenth-Century Death Records: How Dependable Are They?.

* Using Charts in Your Genealogy Research by Robyn on the Reclaiming Kin blog. Robyn lists a number of very useful charts that help her in her genealogy research. Hey, she's an engineer, what did you expect?

* Where to Find Obituaries Online by Tami Glatz on the relatively curious about genealogy blog. Tami does a great job of surveying for online obituary websites - a keeper!

* Journal Penetration on the Web and Journal Penetration on the Web, Part II by Martin Hollick on The Slovak Yankee blog. Martin is studying if scholarly journal articles about 17th century people are being read and the information transmitted on the Internet. Great concept, interesting but dismaying results.

* Killing The Babies & Captivating First Sentences by footnoteMaven on the footnoteMaven blog. fM talks about writing skills and making the first line of a written work grab the reader. Excellent advice for genea-bloggers.

* Equality among family history researchers by Paula Stuart-Warren on the Paula's Genealogical Eclectica blog. Paula describes the acceptance and encouragement of the wide genealogy world of researchers, writers, and presenters. She's right, and I really appreciate it!

* Year Two: It's My 2nd Blogiversary! by Elizabeth O'Neal on the Little Bytes of Life blog. Elizabeth celebrates her blog's anniversary, and tells a bit of how and why she started writing, and encourages others to do the same.

* Use Blog Prompts to Jump-Start Your Writing by Denise Levenick on The Family Curator blog. Denise has prepared a monthly Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac to help genea-bloggers find writing topics.

* Maybe I Could Touch Heaven by Caroline Pointer on the Family Stories blog. Caroline shares a memory of "home" and why people like going back to where they were raised - well done!

* Surname Saturday: PATER by Donna Pointkouski on the What's Past Is Prologue blog. Donna takes Surname Saturday to a new level - this is a great start on a series of surname posts. Absolutely beautiful work.

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 - all bloggers appreciate feedback on what they write.

Did I miss a great genealogy blog post? Tell me! I am currently reading posts from over 530 genealogy bloggers using Bloglines, but I still miss quite a few it seems.

Read past Best of the Genea-Blogs posts here.

Gena Ortega Wows Them at SDGS Meeting

Gena Philibert Ortega was the program speaker at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting on Saturday, 10 October. She spoke on "Using Google in Your Genealogy" in both halves of the program time - speaking for about 100 minutes total. The program summary and Gena's CV are here.

Gena's talk demonstrated how genealogy researchers can use many of Google's features to help them in their research quest. She described effective ways to use the Search Engine (and the Advanced Search fields) to narrow search results to desired matches using quote marks, Boolean operators, wild cards, searching in a specific website, etc.

Other topics covered included:

* Google Alerts (in Search > More > Even More > Alerts)-- receive daily emails for your desired search terms

* Google Search Options (link on Search results page) -- results in certain time periods, by categories, sorted by a timeline, etc.

* Blog Search (in Search > Blogs) -- search Blogger hosted blogs for search terms.

* Blogger (in Search > More > Even More > Blogger) -- Create blogs and write blog posts to share information

* Google Reader (in Search > More > Reader) -- subscribe to and read selected blogs

* Google Images/Video (in Search > Images or Video) -- find pictures and videos online for persons, events, locations, etc.

* Google News Archive Search (in Search > More > Even More > News > News Archive Search) -- search for historical newspaper results, some are free and some cost to view, not a thorough search, but useful.

* Google Scholar (in Search > More > Scholar) -- search scholarly books and articles. Matches show number of times cited, and sources can be reviewed for more information. Use it for historical content.

* Language Tools (link on Search page) -- translate words from one language to another; translate a web page from native language to another language.

* Patent Search (in Search > More > Even More > Patent Search) -- search by patent number, inventor or invention type.

* Google Maps (in Search > Maps) -- see localities in road map, satellite view or a hybrid view. Many cities have Street View where the user can see specific addresses. The user can create personal maps of localities to show residences, migration paths, etc.

* Panoramio ( -- uses Google Maps, and shows pictures of places or localities submitted by users.

* Google Earth (in Search > More > Even More > Google Earth - downloaded program) -- can overlay map image from your computer with Google Map.

* Google Books (in Search > More > Books) -- many older books are fully digitzed, newer books with copyright restrictions are excerpted. Many Genealogy, Local History and Surname books are available. User can use to find libraries with books for Inter-Linrary Loan.

* Google Docs (in Search > More > Documents) -- useful for online access to a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. User can control sharing with colleagues.

* Picasa (in Search > More > Even More > Picasa - downloaded program) -- use to organize, edit and tag photographs on your computer. Able to share with others by invitation.

* Google Sites (in Search > More > Sites) -- create your own website using online tools without knowing HTML or another language.

* Still More (in Search > More > Even More) -- Google Groups, Google Pack (of useful software), and much more.

Gena had a four page handout describing many of these features in more detail. Her website is and her blog is Gena's Genealogy. There is a post titled Additional Tips for Using Google with even more information about using Google to further your genealogy research. She encouraged the attendees to read or purchase Daniel Lynch's book Google Your Family Tree so that you have a manual to help you use Google effectively.

The two program segments went by very quickly! Gena is an excellent presenter - clear, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, funny. Her PowerPoint charts were mainly screen shots in order to demonstrate the different features of Google.

I even won one of the opportunity drawings - a large five generation family tree chart. Just what I need!