Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Your Dear Genea-Santa Letter

It's Saturday Night - take some time from the Christmas shopping frenzy - and have a little Genealogy Fun!!

Come on, everybody, join in and accept the mission and execute it with precision. Here's your chance to sit on Genea-Santa's lap (virtually) and tell him your Christmas genealogy-oriented dreams:

1) Write your Genea-Santa letter. Have you been a good genealogy girl or boy? What genealogy-oriented items are on your Christmas wish list? They could be family history items, technology items, or things that you want to pursue your ancestral quest.

2) Tell us about them in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook status or Google Stream post.

Here's mine:

Dear Genea-Santa,

I tried so hard to be a good genea-boy this year. I worked hard speaking all over Southern California and teaching at OASIS and CVGS, serving my local societies, writing my society newsletter, my FGS FORUM Genealogy 2.0 columns, my Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal columns, and over 1,300 blog posts, attending two genealogy conferences, and helping several friends and colleagues with their research. In addition, I standardized all of my sources, and added more names, facts and sources to my database. 

Thank you so much for last year's gifts - I love my presentation laser pointer/slide advancer gizmo,  and my travel radio.  During the year, you also brought me the solution to my Elizabeth Dill brick wall as I asked you to do.

I  still BELIEVE!!!!! Come on, Santa, all I want for Christmas for 2011 are:

* A notebook computer that is small and light and full of genealogy capability for my speaking and research and conference adventures. 

*  A smart phone full of applications so I can visit genealogy sites wherever I am, can network and stay up to date on genealogy news and technology.  I need one for my wife too so she can play games while I play genealogy.

*  A genea-robot that can work 24 hours a day on getting my genea-piles organized - that is so boring...but a robot would not have to sleep or eat or share time with my wife.  Maybe I could even train it to write blog posts.

*  A solid lead on the ancestry of William Knapp (1775-1856), Thomas J. Newton (ca 1800-ca 1840) and Devier James Lamphear Smith (1839-1894) would be welcome too!

Thank you, Genea-Santa, for listening to my pleas. I will leave a nice personal meat-lovers pizza in the freezer for you (you can heat it in the kitchen microwave), a rosy red apple and some delicious chocolate chip cookies on the fireplace hearth, and some eggnog (in the refrigerator) for you on Christmas Eve just in case you need fortification. You can get a yummy Dove chocolate ice cream bar out of the refrigerator if you'd like. Nothing's too good for Genea-Santa - mi casa es su casa!

Picture credit:  Sheri Fenley (The Educated Genealogist)

Surname Saturday - WILSON (England > Massachusetts)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week. I am up to number 297, who is Joanna Wilson (1701-1786), one of my 6th-great-grandparents. [Note: The 6th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts]

My ancestral line back through four generations of WILSONs is:

1. Randall J. Seaver

2. Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983)
3. Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002)

4. Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942)
5. Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962)

8. Frank Walton Seaver (1852-1922)
9. Hattie Louise Hildreth (1857-1920)

18. Edward Hildreth (1831-1899)
19. Sophia Newton (1834-1923)

36. Zachariah Hildreth (1783-1857)
37. Hannah Sawtell (1789-1857)

74.  Josiah Sawtell (1768-1847)
75.  Hannah Smith (1768-1827)

148.  Ephraim Sawtell (1735-ca 1800)
149.  Abigail Stone (1736-ca 1800)

296.  Hezekiah Sawtell, born 02 March 1703 in Groton, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died 18 March 1779 in Groton, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  He was the son of 592. Obadiah Sawtell and 593. Hannah Lawrence.  He married  01 August 1723 in Groton, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.
 297.  Joanna Wilson, born 06 January 1701 in Billerica, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died 11 September 1786 in Groton, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States. 

Children of Hezekiah Sawtell and Joanna Wilson are:  Jonathan Sawtell (1724-1801); Hezekiah Sawtell (1725-????); Elnathan Sawtell (1728-1758); Hannah Sawtell (1730-1762); Obadiah Sawtell (1732-1819);  Ephraim Sawtell (1735-ca 1800); Richard Sawtell (1737-1815); Elizabeth Sawtell (1739-1804); Nathaniel Sawtell (1743-1825); Esther Sawtell (1745-????); Rebeckah Sawtell (1747-????).
594.  John Wilson, born 03 January 1673 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died after 1717 in Billerica, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  He married 27 October 1694 in Billerica, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.
595.  Elizabeth Foster, born 07 October 1673 in Billerica, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; She was the daughter of 1190. Joseph Foster and 1191. Alice Gorton.

Children of John Wilson and Elizabeth Foster are:  John Wilson (1695-1764); Elizabeth Wilson (1697-????); Joseph Wilson (1699-????); Joanna Wilson (1701-1786); Alice Wilson (1703-????); Jacob Wilson (1705-????); Sarah Wilson (1706-????); Mary Wilson (1708-????); Esther Wilson (1710-1729); Dorcas Wilson (1711-????); Seth Wilson (1713-1783); Benjamin Wilson (1715-????); Rebecca Wilson (1717-1729).

 1188.  John Wilson, born about 1652 in probably England; died 01 February 1735 in Bedford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.   He married about 1672 in probably Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.
 1189.  Johanna Carter, born about 1647 in probably Hingham, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States; died before 10 November 1698 in probably Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  She was the daughter of 2278. Joseph Carter and 2279. Susanna Chamberlain.

Children of John Wilson and Johanna Carter are:  John Wilson (1673-1717); Hannah Wilson (1674-1676); Hannah Wilson (1677-????); Susanna Wilson (1679-????); Dorcas Wilson (1680-1727); Elizabeth Wilson (1683-1712); Ruth Wilson (1685-1728); Sarah Wilson (1687-????); Francis Wilson (1690-1765); Ebenezer Wilson (1693-1693); Samuel Wilson (1695-1747).
 2376.  John Wilson, born about 1625 in England; died 02 July 1687 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  He married about 1650 in England.
 2377.  Hannah James, born 1629 in England; died after 21 June 1697 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.

Children of John Wilson and Hannah James are: John Wilson (1652-1735); Sarah Wilson (1653-1686); Dorcas Wilson (1657-1714); Samuel Wilson (1658-1729); Francis Wilson (1660-1724); James Wilson (1663-1750); Abigail Wilson (1666-1747); Elizabeth Wilson (1668-1743); Benjamin Wilson (1670-1750); Hannah Wilson (1672-1726).
Data for these families was obtained from Massachusetts town vital record books and from a Wilson surname book:

Ken Stevens, Wilsons From New England; Volume "J" - Descendants of John Wilson of Woburn, Massachusetts (Walpole, N.H.: K. Stevens, 1991).

Advent Calendar - December 3: Christmas Tree Ornaments

This post is number 3 in a series of 24 for the 2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

On the twenty-second day of Christmas,
My super-wifey says to me
It's time to decorate the beautiful Tree!

Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make ornaments?

I really don't remember many heirloom or cherished ornaments from my childhood. Almost all of the ornaments were small or medium sized round glass balls of varied colors. Of course, having three rambunctious boys in the house was rough on the traditional round ornaments.  We usually applied a lot of tinsel to the tree branches.

As school children, we brought home paper chains for the tree. Sometimes we had a popcorn string, but never cranberries. I don't think we made ornaments - we were boys! We did have some of Dorothy's home-made ornaments on our trees.

When we had children, my mother made Christmas ornaments for each of her grandchildren. Each was unique and incorporated angels into the design. They were kiln-fired enamels on flat copper plate. Each had the child's name and the year on it. These were given featured places on our family Christmas trees as my kids grew up. After my mother died, and as my daughters started their families, we gave them to our daughters as a Christmas gift. Each has chosen to display them year round in a case on the wall rather than put them on their Christmas trees.

Originally published on 1 December 2007 (edited since).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Exploring RootsMagic 5 New Features Compendium

Here are my posts to date for the Exploring RootsMagic 5 New Features series:

RootsMagic 5 Released (28 November 2011)
Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 1: The View Screens (29 November 2011)
My RootsMagic 5 Problem was Solved Quickly (29 November 2011)
Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 2: The Research Manager (30 November 2011)
Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 3: The CountyCheck Feature (1 December 2011)

Exploring RootsMagic 5 New Features - Post 4: The CountyCheck Report (2 December 2011)

I will update this compendium periodically.

Last update:  2 December 2011

Follow-Up Friday - Comments about RootsMagic GEDCOM, Places, etc.

I've been trying to Follow-Up on Fridays to answer comments received on Genea-Musings posts and questions in email.  This post will cover issues raised concerning RootsMagic:

1)  In The Strange "Y" in a Death Description Field in a RootsMagic 4 GEDCOM File, there was a bit of discussion about the "Y."  Since I wrote the post, I have seen the "Y" in other GEDCOM files I've created, but had not noticed it before.  The comments are interesting:

*  Bruce Buzbee (creator of RootsMagic) said:

"No, this is not a flaw in RootsMagic (but apparently *is* one in FTM)."
"This is from the GEDCOM spec...

"All GEDCOM lines have either a value or a pointer unless the line contains subordinate GEDCOM lines. In other words the presence of a level number and a tag alone should not be used to assert data (i.e. 1 DEAT Y should be used to imply a death known to have happened but
date and place are unknown, not 1 DEAT )."

"So if you know there was a death but have no date or place (which you would in RootsMagic if the Living flag was unchecked but there was no death fact entered), then GEDCOM says to use:
1 DEAT Y "

*  Russ Worthington commented:

Bruce, which GEDCOM Spec is that in? Just curious. 

Randy: I just ran a Custom Report in FTM2012. What I was able to confirm is that IF there is a Birth Date and No Death Date, a "Y" will appear in the Description Field. If there is a Death Date, there will be no "Y".

There are 86 people in the file, and looking for people with a "Y", there are 49 people. When I look at the Report that Includes Death information, the is no "Y".

I think we have a better understanding of where the "Y" came from. For me, this isn't a finger pointing contest, but to understand the data.

*  Louis Kessler added:

"Russ: You'll find that in GEDCOM 5.5.1 on page 21, used as an example that all lines must have a value or a pointer (so you can't just say: 1 DEAT without the Y).

"The key thing is that the program should NOT change or set the value of DEAT for you. This should be set deliberately by the user because they know the person has died, but does not know the date or place. The program should never use any algorithm to impute it. The person must be the one to set it.

"All the program may do (not required) is to not include the 1 DEAT Y if there is any other death information entered, e.g. date or place."


"... and RootsMagic does it backwards. They should not use a Living flag. They should use a Death flag.  Once a person is dead, they stay dead. That's why GEDCOM did it that way."

*  Sue Adams had interesting comments:

"This is an example of the inadequate data model GEDCOM uses. There are four different pieces of information here:
death date
death place
imputed death

"Each of these should be stored and handled separately, and have an associated source.

"Gedcom handles death data and place by expecting two bits of data for each DEAT tag. It does not allow separate sources for data and place, so you can't cite a grave marker for the date and a burial record for the place.

"It is sometimes useful to input whether someone is dead based on data stored in the database at a particular time (e.g. to produce a calender with birthdays and anniversaries of living people, to check data validity). However, this has problems associated with it. If a birth date is changed, the inputed death value must be updated. How this is handled depends on whether the value is stored or calculated 'on the fly'. The user should have a
choice whether or not to use this flag. It should have a 'source' that tells us when it was calculated and from what data and the criteria used (e.g. born over 120 years ago).

"The living tag serves a different purpose. I suspect the RootsMagic introduced it because users wanted to be able to exclude particular people (usually living) from charts and reports intended for distribution. It is really a on/off switch for displaying data.

"So, Rootsmagic, or for that matter any other program vendor could improve their product and better serve genealogists as follows:

1. ensure that these four data items are stored separately within Rootsmagic
2. ensure that these data items are exported correctly and comply exactly with the Gedcom standard, since we do not yet have a viable alternative
3. ensure that all the functions of Rootsmagic continue to work properly
4. repeat 1-3 for each and every piece of data Rootsmagic currently stores
5. repeat 1-3 for any other data items that customers want and add functionality
6. develop a data model that works properly

"In short: Please don't feed the Gedcom zombie."

*  Bruce Buzbee responded:

"RootsMagic has a Living flag for each person that is checked by default. When the person dies the user can uncheck the box, or when the user adds a death type fact (death, burial, cremation, etc), RM will uncheck the box for them. So RM is *not* doing it backwards."

*  Sue Adams commented:

"The "Living" flag is checked by default?! That makes no sense to me as in reality the vast majority of people in genealogy databases are dead.

"Given that the "living" flag is really a means of the user choosing to whether or not to include individuals in GEDCOM files, reports, calendars or website, for privacy reasons it is mis-named. It is a different kind of information than the flag GEDCOM stores in the DEAT tag, so the two should not be confused."

And there the discussion ended.  I really appreciate the civility of the discussion and the "on point" focus of the discussion.  I learned a lot!  I hope my readers do too. 

It seems to me that the software users need to be aware of the need to check or uncheck the "Living" box (or whatever the software has) when they do not have a birth and death date (from which it might be imputed that someone was dead) and to check it when they know a person is still alive.  Russ noted that FTM 2012 also adds the "Y" for a person not known to be dead.

2)  I received an interesting email from Eddie about Place Names in RootsMagic:

"I have been using RM, 2, 3, and 4.  Getting close to a year ago I got frustrated with the ability to do research by county; so I began the process of reversing the place locations from municipality, county, state, nation to nation, state, county, municipality.  I found it very useful; the place list naturally sorted everything by county name and made county research easy.

"Now we have RM5 arrive; I immediately suspected I had a problem with my reverse order locations when I saw the "CountyCheck".  I sent an email to RM support and received a response from Renee that said, yes, the place list locations must be in order of municipality, county, state, nation for the "CountyCheck" feature to work.

"Are you aware of a program that would easily reverse my place list names?; it has been a lot of work."

My response to Eddie was:

"I have no ideas as to how you could reverse the place list order easily.  A smart programmer could do it by writing a program to read a GEDCOM file (plain text) and reverse the elements when it encountered a PLAC tag.  I used to be able to do that in FORTRAN, but now don't have the tools. 

"You might ask the question on the RootsMagic message board
( or the RootsMagic Forums (   Maybe someone else has your problem and has solved it, or can do the programming task.

"You could turn off the CountyCheck option in Tools > Program Options also and not be bothered by it."

That's all I have on RootsMagic.  I have some follow up to do on FTM 2012 and source citations too.  Maybe next week.

Exploring RootsMagic 5 New Features - Post 4: The CountyCheck Report

I'm exploring the new features in RootsMagic 5, which was released on Monday. This series started with Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 1: The View Screens and Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 2: The Research Manager.  I posted Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 3: The CountyCheck Feature yesterday.

One of the highlights of the CountyCheck feature is:  "Report gives you a list of all events in counties which didn't exist at the time."

Let's look at this County Check report today.

From any View screen, click on the Reports menu item, and select Lists:

I double-clicked on the "CountyCheck" icon in the screen above, and was taken to the "Report Settings" screen for the CountyCheck report.  I decided to select Aaron Smith as my starting person, and select all of his ancestors and children.  On the "Report Settings" screen I selected "Select from list," and the "Select People" screen appeared.  I typed in "Smith, Aaron," selected the right one, then clicked on "Mark group" and the "Ancestors" option and finally, in the "Ancestor Options" I selected "Ancestors and children of ancestors" and "10" generations. Three of the screen windows are shown below:

I clicked the "OK" button twice and was back to the "Report Settings" screen.  The Report will be generated for Errors, Matches and Suggestions.  I clicked on the "Generate Report" button:

After about 20 seconds, a 95 page report appeared (top page below):

Aaron Smith's entry is shown on page 75:

Some of the things I've noticed from this report include:

1)  Aaron Smith (1765-1841) resided in Walpole and Medfield, which was in Suffolk County, Massachusetts before 1793, and in Norfolk County after 1793 when Norfolk County was created.  The report notes for Aaron's birth entry for 1765 in "Walpole, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States" that Norfolk was eliminated in 1679, Massachusetts Bay wasn't created until 1629, and the United States wasn't created until 1777.  The report then makes suggestions for all of the Counties in Massachusetts Bay in British America.  The proper entry is "Walpole, Suffolk, Massachusetts Bay, British America" for this particular Fact.

2)  Rose Shepard (1549-1625) is in my database.  Her 1549 christening record is in "Redgrave, Suffolk, England" is in my database.  The Error noted is that Suffolk wasn't created until 1974 (yes, that's what it says!  Is that right?).  The suggested place name is "Redgrave, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom."

Hmm.  When was the "United Kingdom" formed?    The Wikipedia article for "History of the formation of the United Kingdom" notes that the "Kingdom of England" (which includes Suffolk existed from 927 to 1707, then the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1707 to 1801, and then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801-1922), then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1922 on).  So the entry for the "United Kingdom" for a 1549 date is wrong, it should be the "Kingdom of England."  I just use "England!"

What about later times?  I ran a CountyCheck for an English family from South Petherton in Somerset that emigrated in the 1830s, and found:

*  A birth in Somerset in 1668 was not matched.  Does it want Somersetshire?  I can't tell easily.
*  A death in England in 1733 is suggested as "South Petherton, Somerset, England, Great Britain" so that matches the list above well.
*  A death in 1809 is suggested as "South Petherton, Somerset, England, United Kingdom" so that matches the list well.
*  A death in 1925 is suggested as "South Petherton, Somerset, England, United Kingdom." 
*  A death in 1820 or 1920 entered as "Belfast, Northern Ireland" offers no errors or suggestions, probably because Ireland (Republic and Northern) are not in the CountyCheck database.

I checked the Somerset problem. When you get the message from CountyCheck about the Fact, you can click on the county name. When I clicked on Somerset, it said that Somerset was a County from 1066 to 1974. So the error message was wrong. What happened after 1974? Was the county name changed?  I didn't check every English county to see if the RootsMagic CountyCheck system is correct.

Apparently the system does not differentiate between the different official names for Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

It said that "England" was a Kingdom from 927 to 1707, and a Country from 1707 to the present.  "Great Britain" was a Kingdom from 1707 to 1800, and a Country from 1800 to the present.

Other place names should be checked for inconsistencies between "standard" historical place names and the RootsMagic historical place names, remembering that we're discussing only the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

In order to use this report, I will have to print it out, or save it, and use it to go into each person with a CountyCheck problem and fix the problem.  There is no link from the report to the person in question.

As I stated in Post 3, before I make any changes to my database, I need to make sure that the historical place names for the counties, states and countries are a standard used by genealogists. 

What about how other software programs?  I don't want to do this task again!   Do other programs standardize these historical place names?  If so, do they do it easier than correcting on every Fact? 

The "What's New in RootsMagic 5 Webinar" from 29 November is now available to watch, for free, at Bruce Buzbee goes through all of the new features in this webinar. I commend it to your viewing if you want to see how all of the new features work.

Disclosure: I have received free software and other gifts previously from RootsMagic at conferences, but I purchased RootsMagic

Follow Friday - Have Some Weekend Genealogy Fun

Are you in the Christmas card, family letter and gift shopping mode yet?  It's December, step away from the keyboard, put down your ahnentafel, and have a life.  That's my wife's advice, of course.  Me?  I just want to have some Genealogy Fun this weekend. I recommend:

1) Listen to the Geneabloggers Radio show tonight (Friday night, 9 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. CT, 7 p.m. MT and 6 p.m. PT) hosted by Thomas MacEntee. This week's topic is "Capturing Family Memories – All Year Round."  The special guests include:

Stefani Twyford, President and Founder of Legacy Multimedia in Houston, Texas who will help us understand why preserving family memories is so important and various methods you can use;
Jennifer Shoer of The Scrappy Genealogist blog who’ll explain some of the methods and resources she uses to capture family memories;
*  Lorel Kapke of Sort Your Story whose product can help you organize not just your genealogy data but photos, stories and more!

2) Listen to the FGS Radio - My Society show on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. CT, 12 noon MT, 11 a.m. PT) hosted by Thomas MacEntee.   This week's topic is "Insider’s Guides to Genealogy."  The special guest is:

Kathryn M. Doyle, of the FGS-member society California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland, California. Kathryn will explain how her society was able to compile and publish their Insider’s Guide to California Genealogy in an amazingly short six-week period!
Society Highlight:  We’ll be highlighting FGS member society, San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society in our weekly Society Spotlight feature.
3) Check out the recent FREE Webinars on:

* LegacyFamilyTree:
*** A Closer Look at Google+, by Dan Lynch (Legacy Family Tree, free until 12 December)
*** Celebrate the Holidays and Share Family History with Heritage Collector software, by Kathleen Bitter (Legacy Family Tree).
*** Creating a Shareable CD with Legacy and Passage Express software, by Jefferson Shupe (Legacy Family Tree)
*** Let Your Voice Be Heard in the Digital Conversation, by Drusilla Pair (Legacy Family Tree, available free until 5 December)
*** Exploring and by their founder, Paul Allen. (Legacy Family Tree)
*** "Newspapers for Genealogists: Using to document every day of your ancestors' lives" with Tom Kemp. (Legacy Family Tree)
*** "Organizng for Success" with Karen Clifford (Legacy Family Tree)
*** "The Power of DNA in Unlocking Family Relationships," with Ugo Perugo (Legacy Family Tree)

* RootsMagic Webinars (all free) available at  Recengtly added:

*** What's New in RootsMagic 5
*** Fun Family Gifts with RootsMagic, Personal Historian, and Family Atlas

* National Genealogical Society (NGS) Videos (some are free to view) at

* Thomas MacEntee's Explorinars, including:

*** Easy Website Creation (free to view).
*** Evernote - Easy Note Taking UPDATED (free to view)
*** Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups (free to view)

*'s YouTube Channel has 115 items on it now, including (free to view):
*** LIVE: Unlock the Secrets of the 1790 - 1840 US Census Records  with Anne Mitchell*** LIVE: Search with Ancestry Anne with Anne Mitchell
*** LIVE: One Question with the Barefoot Genealogist with Crista Cowan
*** LIVE: Lorraine's 5 Tips for Online Grave Digging with Lorraine Bourne
*** LIVE: How do I use newspapers on to find out more about my ancestors? with Crista Cowan
*** LIVE: How Do I Find My Ancestors Before 1850? with Crista Cowan.
*** LIVE: How to dress up your family tree ...for the holidays! with Anne Mitchell.
*** LIVE: How to Find Your Civil War Roots on with Anne Mitchell.
*** Emigration & Immigration Records Online with Crista Cowan @ Ancestry Day San Francisco
*** Find Them Fast: Secrets to Searching with Laura Dansbury @ Ancestry Day San Francisco
*** Five Tips for Digging Up Answers at with Jeanie Croasmun @ Ancestry Day San Francisco

4) Respond to my Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge, posted on soon after 12 noon Pacific time (that's 1900 GMT for those who understand time zones).

5) Go to a local genealogical society program. You might want to check out what's offered in your area.

6) Go to a local or close repository with genealogy and family history material. Do some research in traditional resources or order FamilySearch microfilms online with original source records.

7) Do some online research in the latest record collections at:

* FamilySearch (free,,
* Ancestry ($$,,
* Fold3 ($$,,
* WorldVitalRecords ($$,,
* American Ancestors ($$,,
* GenealogyBank ($$,,
* Archives ($$,

8) Add content (names, dates, places, notes, images, sources, etc.) to your genealogy software program. I still have two inches of paper collected from my vacation, and more from before that, and will try to enter some of it into my database this weekend.

9) Spend time with your family doing fun things.  I'm taking my wife to Catalina for two days to celebrate her birthday this weekend..

Go to a local cemetery and clean stones, take gravestone pictures, or transcribe epitaphs for your local society, for Find-a-Grave, or a similar online service.

11) GO SHOPPING for genealogical products or services, or for technology products, for yourself, or for a gift for that special genealogy friend. Online or in a store - go for it!

Whatever you decide, please tell us about your genealogy endeavors on a social network or in a blog post. You never know when your experiences may stimulate or encourage others to do useful genealogy work.

My "On blogs and blogging" article in NEHGS 'The Weekly Genealogist" newsletter

I posted on Wednesday about my article "Welcome to the World of Genealogy Blogs" in "The Weekly Genealogist" newsletter.

Jean Powers has posted the full article on the Daily Genealogist blog today, titled, "On Blogs and Blogging."

The New England Historic Genealogical Society website has several genealogy-oriented blogs - are you reading them?  They are:

The Daily Genealogist by a number of authors, posted by Jean Powers
Question of the Day by David Allen Lambert
View from the Family Tree by D. Brenton Simons
From the Experts by a number of authors

Advent Calendar - December 2: Holiday Foods

This post is number 2 in a series of 24 for the 2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

On the 23rd Day of Christmas,

My Angel Linda gives to me
Turkey, mashed potatoes, and peas.

1) Did your family have any traditional dishes for the holidays?

Our Christmas dinner (sometimes on Christmas Eve, sometimes on Christmas Day) in San Diego was always turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and mince pie. I doubt that I had anything else when I was a child and young adult, at least at my parents or grandparents homes.

After I was married and we visited San Francisco, Linda's parents had one more item - creamed onions (but I didn't like them).

When my family has Christmas dinner now (us, our kids and grandkids), we have - guess what - turkey, mashed potatoes, peas, dressing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. It rarely changes!

2) Was there one dish that you thought was unusual?

For me, it was the creamed onions in San Francisco.

3) Not on Thomas's question list, but ... I just have to share it, because it was associated so closely with the dinner.

The absolute highlight of the Christmas dinner was the family competition that followed the meal, but before the dessert. The game was "toss the pea into the glass." In the beginning, it was just my dad and the three boys. There were always leftover peas, so one of us would commandeer the pea bowl and pass peas to the other contestants. Then we would spread out around the table and set up our water glass at equal distances from each other.

The game was to see who could toss the most peas in the water glass opposite them. Of course, the misses weren't contained on top of the table. And the misses were greeted by howls of laughter and derision. Those who put their pea in the glass, shouted out the number of peas they had made so far.

My mother, my wife and the other adult females would withdraw and not watch, but often commented about "boys being boys." My mother really didn't like this game, and I think she intentionally made fewer peas each year.

To try to assuage her anger and keep family peace, the game has devolved to throwing wadded up paper napkins into the glass or cup. My competitive daughters, and now my son-in-law (and I'm sure it won't be long before the grandchildren) all participate in the Betty Seaver Memorial Pea Toss - but using napkins in deference to her wishes.

This post was originally published on 3 December 2007 (edited since).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Historical Record Collections at FamilySearch - November 2011

I last listed the new or updated collections on the FamilySearch Historical Collections website on 1 November, when there were 812 collections on the list. During November, these Historical Record Collections have been added to make a total of 891 collections as of 1 December:
In the list above, I tried to identify many of the collections as newly added by comparing them to last month's listing. When FamilySearch sends their email notifications to interested parties, they identify whether they are new or previously existing collections - they don't say which collections are added to the list for the first time..

There are 89 items on the list above, but only 79 newly added databases (according to FamilySearch) since 1 November, so I have missed 19. Oh well! I will update the list as I receive more information about the new databases.

All FamilySearch Historical Record Collections can be accessed at You can see the date that collections were recently added or updated by clicking on the "Last Updated" link. However, there is no indicator whether the specific collections are newly added.

Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 3: The CountyCheck Feature

I'm exploring the new features in RootsMagic 5, which was released on Monday. This series started with Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 1: The View Screens and Exploring RootsMagic 5 - Post 2: The Research Manager.

The next NEW feature is called CountyCheck.  The publicity for the program said:

*  Automatically checks every county you enter (US, Canada, UK, Australia) to verify that it actually existed at the time of the event

*  Report gives you a list of all events in counties which didn't exist at the time

*  Lets you access maps and county histories for the US, Canada, UK, and Australia

There is more there than we can work with in one post, so we'll look at them one at a time.

First, I went to Tools > Program Options and made sure that the last item on the menu - "Use CountyCheck when entering places" - was checked.

I have many Facts/Events in my database that have been standardized to the standard of town/city, county, state/province, country standard (e.g., Medfield, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States) even for Facts/Events that were recorded before Norfolk became a Massachusetts County (it was in Suffolk before 1793), before Massachusetts was a State (it was called Massachusetts Bay before the Revolutionary War), and before the United States was a country.  I did this earlier in 2011 when I combined and/or standardized all of my Place Names using Legacy Family Tree 7.  It was the easiest thing to do at the time.

Let's see what happens.  I took these screen shots while I was working with Jonathan White (1732-1806).  I added another Birth Fact to see what transpired:

Here is the Birth Fact entered with 1732 entered as the Birth Date and Medfield, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States entered as the Place:

The Fact was entered into the Fact List on the "Edit Person" screen.  When I clicked the "Close" button, the "CountyCheck" screen came up (left side of screen):

This "CountyCheck" screen indicates that:

"Norfolk was eliminated on 18 September 1679.  Massachusetts Bay wasn't created until 4 March 1629.  United States wasn't created until on 15 November 1777."

The message had Norfolk, Massachusetts Bay and United States linked to an explanation of the dates in the database.  I clicked on Massachusetts Bay and saw:

A window for Massachusetts came up that explained:

*  Massachusetts Bay Colony existed from 4 March 1629 to 7 October 1691 as part of British America
*  Massachusetts Bay Province existed from 7 October 1691 to 10 March 1778 as part of British America
*  Massachusetts as a State was created on 10 March 1778 as part of the United States.

Okay, those look right.  So perhaps I should change all of my Place Names for "Massachusetts, United States" to "Massachusetts Bay, British America" before 10 March 1778.

What about Medfield in Norfolk County in Massachusetts Bay?  The list of Suggested Place Names in screen 2 above provides a list of Counties to select from.  The CountyCheck does not tell you what County a City/Town was in for a specific time period - you have to figure that out yourself and choose the right County.  I know that the area of Medfield in present-day Norfolk County was in Suffolk County before 1793, so if I select that from the list, click on the "Change" button and my Birth Fact is changed to "Medfield, Suffolk, Massachusetts Bay, British America:"

I checked several other place names to see what their historical place names might be.  for example:

*  In 1732, San Diego, British America is suggested for the current San Diego, California, United States after 1850.

*  In 1820, Norfolk, Upper Canada, British North America is suggested for the current Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.

* In 1860, Norfolk, Upper Canada, Canada, British North America is suggested for the current Norfolk, Ontario, Canada.

*  In 1670, Plymouth, British America is suggested for the current Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States (I could find no reference in this CountyCheck that referred to Plymouth Colony). 

*  In 1800, Dixfield, York, Massachusetts, United States is suggested for current Dixfield, Oxford, Maine, United States.

I'm sure my readers can come up their own list of historical place names that have changed over the years.  I'll be happy to test them out for you if you make a comment to this post.

Entering Historical Place Names is what is recommended for Facts/Events, using the jurisdictions existing at the time of the Fact/Event.  The reason is that a historical record will probably be found in the historical jurisdiction rather than the current place jurisdictions. 

That's all very well when you are entering data into the Place fields the first time.  What about my database with about 50,000 place name entries that don't match their historical place name jurisdictions?  My guess is that I have to do these one at a time. 

There may be a way to do this in the Lists > Place List.  I could edit every place name for Facts/Events before 1778 and change it to the Historical Place Names, and then correct the ones after 1778 to the current place name.  Or vice versa.  That would be a major task for me. 

Before I do this, I need to make sure that the historical place names for the counties, states and countries are a standard used by genealogists.  Are they?  I don't know! 

Does anyone know of a standard "Historical Place Name" list for current U.S. states and counties, UK counties, Canadian counties and provinces, and Australian states?

What we need is a place list that lists the historical place names with the time period for the historical place names, and then we could click a button to change all of them (I don't know about you, but I'm going to save a copy of my database before I do this!). 

We'll look at the CountyCheck Report next time.

The "What's New in RootsMagic 5 Webinar" from 29 November is now available to watch, for free, at  Bruce Buzbee goes through all of the new features in this webinar.  I commend it to your viewing if you want to see how all of the new features work.

Disclosure: I have received free software and other gifts previously from RootsMagic at conferences, but I purchased RootsMagic 5as an upgrade. I was not paid to provide this review.

Where Did My Alpheus Smith family reside in Medfield, Massachusetts?

After writing Treasure Chest Thursday - Isaac Seaver + Lucretia Smith Marriage Certificate this morning, I wondered where the residence was when Lucretia (Smith) Seaver was young. 

I had some clues:

1)  In William S. Tilden's book (History of the Town of Medfield, Massachusetts, 1650-1886, published Boston by Geo. H. Ellis in 1887), the family genealogy section of the book provides this summary for Aaron Smith, Lucretia's paternal grandfather:

"Aaron Smith was born in Walpole in 1765, and came to Medfield about 1782. He married in 1795 Mercy Plimpton, and bought the place on South Street near the South School-house. He died in 1841, his wife in 1850."

2)  In the Tilden book, the summary for Alpheus B. Smith (Lucretia's father) says:

"Alpheus B. Smith married in 1826 Eliza Dill of Eastham, and the same year bought the place on High Street near the South School-house. He died in 1840, his wife in 1869."

3)  In the 1860 US Census, Elizabeth H. Smith (age 60, female, widow, born MA) headed a household in Medfield, Norfolk County, Massachusetts which included Daniel D. Hammet (age 40, male, $2000 in real property, $400 in personal property, born MA), Cynthia Hammet (age 45, female, born MA) and George D. Hammet (age 18, male, born MA) ( Page 851, Dwelling #780, Family #841, Lines 3-6, on National Archives Microfilm Series M653, Roll 515).

4)  On, there is an 1876 map for Medfield, Norfolk County, Massachusetts in the U.S., Indexed Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1916 collection.  This map is shown below:

When I looked at the map above, I found the "South-street Schoolhouse" at a fork in the road, and just down the road that angles off to the east-southeast is a house with D.D. Hamant as the owner in 1876.  Hmm.  Is that the Daniel D. Hammet in the 1860 census?  I circled the area in question.

I think so!  I think that this is the house in the 1860 U.S. census that was owned by David Hamant, but that Eliza Smith was the first person listed in the enumeration for some reason.  If I ever search for land records for Alpheus and Elizabeth Smith, my hypothesis is that I will find they sold the land to David D. Hamant.  Note:  Hamant is in the Smith line in Medfield - a Patience Hamant (1735-1780) married Moses Smith (1732-1806) and was the grandmother of Alpheus B. Smith. 

What about the location of this house on today's map?  Here's a Bing map for this same area, with an X marking the approximate spot for the Smith/Hamant house:

The highway going southeast from Medfield towards Walpole is shown - it starts out as Spring Street in Medfield center, then becomes High Street where South Street crosses it.  So the main streets apparently have the same names - at least they match the Tilden book street names.

The satellite map for this area, blown up, looks like this (centered on this house location):

Zooming in the Bing map on the circled houses, it appears that the houses are fairly modern.  But I'm pretty sure that this is the location where the Alpheus and Elizabeth (Dill) Smith  family resided from 1826 until Eliza's death in 1869.  The South-street school house does not appear to have survived the ravages of time - there's a grove of trees on the site as shown in the satellite view above.

That was fun...I think I've found the birth place, and residence of, my second great-grandmother, Lucretia (Smith) Seaver (1828-1884).

Treasure Chest Thursday - Isaac Seaver + Lucretia Smith Marriage Certificate

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to look in my digital image files to see what treasures I can find for my family history and genealogy musings.

The treasure today is the marriage certificate for
Isaac Seaver's (1823-1901) to Lucretia Smith (1828-1884) in Walpole, Norfolk County, Massachusetts in 1851:

I obtained this marriage certificate by postal mail from the Walpole town clerk's office on 7 October 1994.

Here is the transcription of the marriage certificate (typed parts in italics, form lines underlined):

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Town of Walpole, Mass., October 7 19 94

I, Louis E. Hoegler hereby certify that it appears by
the Record of Marriages in the said Town, that a marriage was solemnized, between
Isaac Seaver  and  Lucretia Smith
on the Fourth day of September in the year 1 851

The record is in the following words and figures, to wit:


Name, Isaac Seaver
Surname, after Marriage:  -----
Color,  ----
Residence,  Medfield Massachusetts
Age, 27
Occupation, Blacksmith
Birthplace, Westminster, Massachusetts
Father's Name, Benjamin Seaver
Mother's Name, A.---
No. of Marriage, Second


Name, Lucretia Smith
Surname, after Marriage: -----
Color, ----
Residence, Medfield Massachusetts
Age, 23
Occupation, ---
Birthplace, Medfield Massachusetts
Father's Name, Alpheus Smith
Mother's Name, E.---
No. of Marriage, First

Place and Date of Marriage  September 4, 1851
By Whom Married,  Rev. George H. Newhall, Walpole

I, Louis E. Hoegler above named, depose
and say, that I hold the office of Town Clerk of the Town of Walpole, in the County of
Norfolk, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that the records of Births, Marriages and
Deaths in said Town, are in my custody, and that the above is a true extract from the Record
of Marriages in said Town as certified by me.

WITNESS my hand and the seal of the said Town, on the day and year first above written.

(Seal)  ................................................  Louis E. Hoegler
....................................................... ......................... Town Clerk

I don't see any obvious errors in the entries on this marriage certificate.  The birth dates are not provided.  The mother's names are given only by initials for some reason.  The original town record book must have had their first names because the marriage records in the Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841 to 1910 collection (available on and had them as Abigail and Eliza, respectively.

The other question I have is "Why did they marry in Walpole, and not in Medfield, where both were residents?"  Lucretia was of age so they didn't have to "run away."  Perhaps it was because it was Isaac's second marriage, and Lucretia's mother did not approve of it?  Perhaps they attended the church in Walpole rather than the one in Medfield for convenience?   Perhaps they wanted to have this particular minister marry them and he now was in Walpole rather than Medfield?  Walpole was not far from Medfield, just down the road a bit to the southeast.