Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - This Week's Genealogy Highlight

Calling all Genea-Musings Fans: 

 It's Saturday Night again - 
time for some more Genealogy Fun!!

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

1) What genealogy fun have you had this week?  What is your genealogy highlight of the week?  It could be attending or watching a webinar or local genealogy society meeting,  it could be finding a new ancestor, or it could be reading a new genealogy book, or anything else that you have enjoyed.

2)  Tell us about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a comment to this post, or in a Google Plus or Facebook post.

Here's mine:

My highlight from the past week was the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting on Saturday, 10 August.  The speaker was Mary Van Orsdol, who spoke on:

*  "Library Skills for Genealogists, or How to Use the Carlsbad City Library Genealogy Collection Effectively."  Mary noted that we genealogists collect people, places and records.  The records need to be understood - who created them, what, when, where, and how were they created, where are they now, and how can we access them?  She then described the Carlsbad City Library Genealogy Collection, which has over 25,000 surname and locality books and many national, state and local periodicals.  

*  "New Netherland Research."  This is the first talk I've heard devoted to this topic, and I was fascinated by the breadth of information available.  Mary described the time frame and geopolitical events of the 17th century, described the Dutch naming conventions, and then described the Dutch and English record groups available for researchers.  In addition to a short bibliography, she made her 13-page syllabus on the subject available to attendees.  The syllabus contains information for Dutch naming conventions; Dutch Reformed Church records; New Netherland civil records; New York colony civil records, including town records, marriage records, land records, probate records, lists of inhabitants; New Jersey civil records; collected genealogies; Research Guides; Organizations and Journals.  

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Surname Saturday - MOTT (England to colonial Rhode Island)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week.  

I am in the 7th great-grandmothers and I'm up to Ancestor #709, who is Elizabeth MOTT (1659-1723) 
[Note: the earlier great-grandmothers and 7th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts].

My ancestral line back through three American generations of this MOTT family line is:

1.  Randall J. Seaver (1943-living)

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

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

10.  Thomas Richmond (1848-1917)
11.  Julia White (1848-1913)

22.  Henry Arnold White (1824-1885)
23.  Amy Frances Oatley (1826-1864)

44.  Jonathan White (1806-1850)
45.  Miranda Wade (1804-1850)

88.  Humphrey White (1758-1814)
89.  Sybil Kirby (1764-1848)

176.  Jonathan White (1732-1804)
177. Abigail Wing (1734-1806)

354.  Benjamin Wing (1698-1776)
355.  Content Tucker (1695-1738)

708.  Matthew Wing, born 01 March 1674 in Sandwich, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States; died before 21 July 1724 in Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States.  He was the son of 1416. Stephen Wing and 1417. Sarah Briggs.  He married  04 September 1694 in Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States.
709.  Elizabeth Mott, born 09 August 1659 in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island, United States; died 1723 in Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States.  

Children of Matthew Wing and Elizabeth Mott are:

*  Joseph Wing (1697-1778), married 1717 Catherine Cornell (1699-1778)
*  Benjamin Wing (1698-1776), married (1) 1722 Content Tucker (1695-1738); married (2) 1738 Rhoda Rogers; (3) 1764 Mary Devol.
*  Abigail Wing (1701-1792), married 1726 David Durfee (1700-1788).

1418.  Adam Mott, born 1623 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England; died before 08 September 1712 in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island, United States.  He married October 1647 in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island, United States.
1419.  Mary Lott, born before 22 October 1630 in Clare, Suffolk, England; died 08 October 1712 in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island, United States.  She was the daughter of 2838. Jeremy Lott and 2839. Sarah.

Children of Adam Mott and Mary Lott are:

*  Bethiah Mott (1644-????)
*  Rebecca Mott (1649-1719)
*  Adam Mott (1650-1676)
*  Mary Mott (1656-????)
*  Sarah Mott (1657-????)
*  Elizabeth Mott (1659-1723), married (1) William Ricketson; married (2) 1694 Mathew Wing (1674-1724)
*  Phebe Mott (1661-????)
*  Abigail Mott (1666-1730)
*  John Mott (1671-????)

2836.  Adam Mott, born 1596 in of Saffron Waldon, Essex, England; died Bef. 12 August 1661 in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island, United States.  He was the son of 5672. John Mott and 5673. Elizabeth.  He married 28 October 1616 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England.
2837.  Elizabeth Creed, born about 1598 in England; died before 1635 in England.

Children of Adam Mott and Elizabeth Creed are:

*  male Mott (1617-1617)
*  John Mott (1618-????)
*  Adam Mott (1523-1712), married 1647 Mary Lott (1630-1712)
*  Jonathan Mott (1626-????)
*  Elizabeth Mott (1629-1694), married 1647 Edward Thurston (1618-1707).

Information about these Mott families were obtained from:

*  The English ancestry and biography of Adam Mott was provided in the book Ancestral Lines, Third Edition, compiled by Carl Boyer 3rd, published by the compiler in Santa Clarita, California in 1998.

*  Adam Mott has a sketch in the book The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volume V, by Robert Charles Anderson, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 2007 (pages 181-185).

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Friday, August 16, 2013

Roger the Watchdog is in the 1911 England Census

I received an email announcement this past week from that contained one of those great and humorous finds in the 1911 England, Wales and Scotland Census records.  I checked it out for myself and saved the image...

This is the household of James Ange Little and his family in the Camberwell Registration District in London, England.  James Little's occupation was listed as a Journalist (I think, it's difficult to read the writing).  He must have thought it was a matter of great national interest or importance to list his dog in the census records on his family sheet.  He noted on line 9:

"Incidentally, we have an Airedale Terrier.  I don't know whether particulars are required, but in case you want them, here they are:"

On line 11 are these entries for the column headings:

*  Name:  Roger
*  Age:  5  Sex: Male
*  Particulars as to Marriage: ?
*  Completed Years of Marriage:  ?
*  Total Children Born Alive:  ?  but something over 100
*  Children Living:  ?
*  Children who have died:  ?

*  Personal Occupation:  Watchdog
*  Industry or Service:  Looking after house
*  Type of worker:  On own account
*  Whether working at home:  at home or outside
*  Birthplace:  Keighley, Yorkshire
*  Nationality: [blank]
*  Infirmity:  [blank]

This is one for my Genealogy Funnies presentation!

One thing I like about the FindMyPast downloads is the file name - this one was GBC-1911-RG14-02457-0097.jpg which is a code for GreatBritianC????-RecordGroup14-somenumber-imagenumber.  Does anyone know what the numbers mean?  If I knew, then it would be easier to work with it.

One thing that I wish FindMyPast would add to their website is the ability to browse collection images - to go to the next or previous image, or to a specific image.  At this time, I have to search for a specific person, and cannot search an entire parish (which I would love to be able to do in the earlier census records).  The same thing happens in the USA Census records - I can search but not browse.  Have I missed something here - is the capability there and I've missed it?

Do you have a favorite Genealogy Funny from the census records?  If so, give me a link and i'll be happy to post it.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Dallas Genealogical Society Writing Contest Deadline in 31 August 2013

I received this via email from Carolyn Davis at the Dallas Genealogical Society:

CASH AWARDS OF $500, $300, AND $150

Dallas, TX, August 14, 2013The Dallas Genealogical Society reminds all potential entrants to the 2013Writing Contest that the deadline for submissions is August 31.

Announced in May, the contest will accept original material, not previously published, from members and non-members, hobbyists and professionals. Multiple entries are allowed, but only one prize per entrant. Among the judges will be J. Mark Lowe, a professional genealogist, author and lecturer.

Submissions will be judged on accuracy, clarity, and style. Winners will be announced at the annual DGS Awards Luncheon in December 2013 (winners need not be present), and will be published in a future DGS publication. All prizes may not be awarded.

Send entries via email only, with “DGS Writing Contest” in the subject line to:

An entry form and complete rules and guidelines are on the DGS website at

About DGS

The Dallas Genealogical Society was formed in October 1954 when 22 people met at the downtown Dallas YMCA to discuss having a society with goals to preserve heritage and records. It was chartered as a non-profit corporation in November 1955.

The Society’s mission is to educate by creating, fostering, and maintaining interest in genealogy; to assist and support the genealogy section of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in Dallas, Texas; and to collect, preserve, copy, and index information relating to the Dallas area and its early history. The genealogy collection at the Central Library has been recognized as one of the Top 10 research libraries for genealogists in the United States.

DGS conducts general meetings on the first Saturday of each month except June, July, and August with local speakers. DGS also hosts a Lecture Series with nationally recognized speakers for a full-day workshop each spring and fall, and a 2-day Institute during the summer.

DGS is a member of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS).

DGS is organized and operated as a non-profit tax-exempt Section 501(c)(3) as defined by the Internal Revenue

Service and eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170.

For more information about DGS or the contest, visit

The URL for this post is:

Follow-Up Friday - This Week's Interesting and Helpful Reader Comments

Here are some of the helpful and interesting reader comments on Genea-Musings posts from this past week:

1)  On Member Tree Changes (posted 11 August 2013):

*  Elizabeth H. said:  "I noticed this suggestion to try out the new feature and chose to click on it today to try it out. I like this new feature because I can see the details of a person without clicking all the way into the person's edit page.

"One aspect that you didn't note is that if you hover your cursor between the tree and the "preview card" in the right-hand column, a thick green line appears. If you click it, that individual preview column "hides." You can make it reappear by moving your cursor to the far right and finding and clicking on that thick green line again."

*  Pamela D. Lloyd noted:  "I also had to check this out and, initially, I didn't see the option. But, as I moved back and forth between the Home page and Tree pages, the option became available.

"Overall, I like it, because it gives me more information about an ancestor when I'm on the tree page, as well as the opportunity to review hints without leaving the tree page. For a short while, I was concerned about the loss of space when viewing the tree, but then I discovered that when you hover to the left of the new profile panel, a green bar appears; click the bar, and the panel closes. Move your mouse over to the far right of the page, and the green bar appears again; this time, when you click it, it will open the panel."

*  Geolover commented:  'Randy, you noted: '9) My first impression after using this was: "They've made it a lot easier to attach Hints to a Person Profile - it seems faster to attach several Hints now." But it probably isn't...I still have to 'Review' and 'Save' and wait for it to happen.

"My second impression was: 'Hmmm, maybe that's not a really good idea. Don't we want users to thoughtfully add Hints to their tree, and add sources too?' But then, adding the Hint does add a source (albeit of not Evidence Explained quality).'

"I agree with your reservation with an additional reason: it skips the step where one has access to the actual image (where available) of the item that will be saved-to-tree. I advocate **always** looking at the image, where there may be a contraindication for saving, or interesting/surprising additional information (in City Directories, maybe occupation or death, or same-surnamed persons living in the same place -- which may or may not be indexed).

"There has been some comment on this new stuff on message boards. It was first rolled out with a little blue banner saying "see sidebar" but the link did not always work. There appears to have been some twiddling with it."

*  Jacqi Stevens added:  "Randy, the changes do look promising, but I'm with you on the 'Hints' issue. No matter how easy Ancestry makes it to add hints to a tree, I've learned to always proceed with great caution, review the hint thoroughly, and double check before adding it to my tree."

My comments:  Thank you all for trying it out if you had access to it.  Ancestry contacted me with the "fix" after this was posted, and noted that this potential feature was being beta tested as we speak.  I just happened to find it and blog about it.  If you are able to use this feature, then you should provide feedback directly to Ancestry using the Feedback button they provide on the screen.

My thanks to Ancestry for helping me "recover" this feature, and I still like it a lot for the reasons stated in my blog post and by the commenters above.

2)  On Using the Web Tags Feature in RootsMagic 6 (13 August 2013):

*  Ben commented:  "Web Tags are also synchronized with URLs on FamilySearch Family Tree sources if you're synchronizing RootsMagic with Family Tree.

"Here's a post that at least talks a little about this:  "

My comment:  Not exactly.  A WebTag in RootsMagic 6 does transfer to the FamilySearch Family Tree.  But a web tag in a Family Tree source does not go into the RootsMagic WebTags field - the Family Tree source does get added to RootsMagic 6 as a free-form source containing the website URL.

*  Robbhaas said:  "I use Web Tags for people and sources - What I like mainly is that fact that these tags are uploaded as part of the data in the 'Publish Online' feature.

"According to Bruce they intend to make web tags available for more areas of RM in the future.

"I do agree that it takes a lot of clicks to get to and from some of the Web Tags especially the source citation ones and hopefully that will be fixed at some point."

My comment:  Excellent point about the "Publish Online feature.  Another column on the "Edit Person" screen for an Event/Source WebTag (like Note, Source and Media) would streamline the input procedure, I think.

*  Robbhaas added:  "There is a webinar about Web Tags - Webinar #44 on the RM webinar page"

My comment:  Thanks, I missed that!

*  Kim Mills helped:  "I do use Web Tags and find them quite useful. I prefer to keep links to online pages about the person there, rather then my browser bookmarks menu.

"I do hope that it becomes possible to enter a Web Tag once then link it to the person, source, and research log instead of having to copy it to each.

"I did find that you can enter a link to a file on your pc hard drive and it will open it as well.
Family Tree Maker has a web tag feature, but my RM tags do not import into it properly. I end up with a number of empty web tag events/facts."

My comment:  Very helpful tips - thanks!

*  Jacqi Stevens disserted:  "Randy, I am not a professional genealogist--nor do I play one on TV ;)  However, I can understand why such a topic generates so much frustrated discussion.

"If a person has come from an academic background (and, after all, isn't that where the whole concept of 'research' comes from?!) or has been trained in that discipline, that writer understands the liberties given in pursuing making one's point:

"+ The writer makes an assertion (hypothesis, thesis, or whatever you want to call it), then writes a defense of that position.

"+ In the body of that defense is usually found several supporting statements, often taken from the academic works of others, usually authorities. 

"+ When specific wordings from those older works are used in limited segments by the new writer, they are quoted and attributed to the originator of the statement.

"That's what footnotes are for. They give readers a chance to go back to the source document and check it out to see for themselves if what the subsequent writer has said is correct.

"Those footnotes also help notify other new researchers of the specifics of older works. End result: more people are now informed about that original study and may even purchase the original book or report, if it is available for sale.

"That process is considered an academic license ('fair use') that so many of us in our culture have taken for granted. It is a liberty we have mutually consented to take--even though the original work was copyrighted material. It, in effect, points the way back to that original, groundbreaking study or observation.

"Not so for those of us researching genealogy, if we wish to share a quote from a historic newspaper--if we just so happen to have found that newspaper column via one of the subscription services everyone is discussing.

"The problem here is that it puts a bottleneck on the flow of information, which eventually creates a backflow for which roadblock the typical person will seek a work-around. Unfortunately, these very companies themselves seem only to provide untenable resolutions for this dilemma.

"Granted, the individual user is not one who has the resources to fight monolithic 'powers that be' in the name of fair use. But from all the signs of resentment sparked by bringing up such a topic, it's evident that we still live very much in a culture that still considers it a right to quote with proper attribution--no matter what story the online providers assert grants them otherwise."

My comment:  Thanks, Jacqi, for the discussion.  For me, the "fallback" is "fair use."  I can quote, with attribution, a portion of what I find, or perhaps all of a short article.  If the original newspaper is not protected by copyright, I can transcribe the whole thing.  This debate really concerns the image - a full page image or an image of just the specific article in question.  

*  Judy Russell corrected me:  "Just one note of clarification because of the blog title. These are not COPYRIGHT issues. They are CONTRACT issues. Terms of use arise in the context of a contract between the website and its user. Copyright is law adopted by the Congress. The two may have similar constraints -- but contract law may impose much more stringent restrictions than copyright law requires."

My comment:  Point taken.  note to self:  sanity-check your blog post title too!

*  T noted:  "I was SO excited to find Wyoming County New York included in the wills to browse. And then I started browsing the 1,903 images and realized Browse was the word. They are in no order, just whatever page got picked up next, I guess. I gave up. I have browsed those kinds of lists before. At the end of the collection I had wasted 3 days and had nothing. So this one will just be there for someone to browse but it won't be me. If it were even alphabetized or by year or something!"

My comment:  Please don't give up!  There may be an Index in each Volume.  Try to find the index if there is one - at the beginning or end of the volume.  I checked Volume 1 for Wyoming county and there is no index.  However, there is an index in the "Wills, 1841-1859 Vol 1-2" volume.  So some volumes have indexes and some do not.  When they don't, it's page-to-page as you noted.  

Collections like this would make an excellent indexing project for a local or county genealogical society.  The index could be put on the county USGenWeb site, or put online on a society blog, or printed and sold to interested parties, or provided to FamilySearch to include in the collection, and really help researchers.  

*  Karmen Jones said:  "Hello, Our sincerest apologies about your recent experience. We appreciate your feedback and would like to make things right, please contact Karmen via email at so we can help you obtain a refund for charges you have incurred."

My comment:  If you were one of the persons who complained about this site, please avail yourself of this option.  I didn' I don't need to obtain a refund.  Interested parties should read my blog post and all of the comments made by readers.

6)  That's it for the week of exciting Genea-Musings commentary.  These commenters were able to defeat the dreaded and malicious Captcha system which really works well finding spam comments.  Congratulations and thank you to my readers who succeed.

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Family Tree Magazine's "101 Best Websites for Genealogy in 2013"

Family Tree Magazine publishes their list of the Top 101 Genealogy websites every year.

The 2013 list is at

This year, the list is broken up into these categories:

  • Best US Genealogy Websites
  • Best Southern US Genealogy Websites
  • Best Northern US Genealogy Websites
  • Best Midwest US Genealogy Websites
  • Best Western US Genealogy Websites
  • Best Genealogy Websites for Tracing Immigrants
  • Best Big Genealogy Websites
  • Best British and Irish Genealogy Websites
  • Best Continental European Genealogy Websites
  • Best Genealogy News Websites
  • Best Online Genealogy Tools and Trees
  • Best Genealogy Photo and Mapping Websites

  • Two genealogy blogs were listed in the "Best Genealogy News Websites," including:

    Two genealogy podcasts were also included:

    *  Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems 
    *  Drew Smith's and George G. Morgan's Genealogy Guys 

    Once again, Genea-Musings maintains its perfect record of not making this list.

    Check out the lists - they're free to read and each website has links to explore more.  You may find something new and useful from these sites.

    copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

    TGF Message Board Discussions on GenealogyBank Copyright Issues

    My email inbox has been humming with messages on the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF) message board recently - the messages concern the limitations that GenealogyBank places on users according to their Terms of Use.

    Miriam Robbins started the discussion with her message Obituaries and Newspapers on 13 August 2013.  You can read the whole thread in the August 2013 archives.

    Actually, Judy Russell's blog posts Looking at the News Sites and GenealogyBank Perissions Clarified were the seeds that caused this discussion to bloom into a significant issue over several days.

    Jay Fonkert helped grow the discussion, saying:

    "After a little checking, I can confirm that Genealogy Bank does not permit researchers to use their service for professional research -- that is, as I understand it, research done for a paying client. They go on to acknowledge that professional researchers may find it useful to use Genealogy Bank, but they 'request' that a researcher take out a separate subscription for each client he/she serves. They say that you can, then, 'provide them with documents and articles you discover on their behalf.'"

    Why does GenealogyBank have these particular Terms of Use?  They say this:

    "Even if (content is) otherwise in the public domain, NewsBank may have obtained access and a license to the content only by agreeing to certain terms and conditions regarding use of content contained in these Terms and Conditions that are required by the content providers."

    Other messages discussed the nuances of the issue, including why GenealogyBank's Terms of Use say what they say, and some messages raised the issues of working for a not-for-profit organization and a government agency.  Some messages offered possible solutions, including:

    John Yates said:  "If you want a copy for a client, click a box, add it to a shopping cart, whatever, and pay some reasonable amount for it. On the order of maybe several dollars. Professional genealogists will do that, and pass the cost along to the customer, and not "cheat". They are bound to be ethical. Many small charges would add up for the provider, and genealogists would not have to play silly end-around-run games and waste time (and money! time is money!)."

    Judy Russell offered:  "I can tell you that, were I in your shoes, with a client who wouldn't  subscribe and give me the log-in info, I would fill out the account info in my own name for the client, as in "Judy G. Russell for John Smith." I might even code the client info, as in "Judy G. Russell for 2013-3."

    I'd use my address, my phone, my credit card, etc. I would not provide any access info for that account to the client."

    Another commenter noted that GenealogyBank does offer a monthly subscription rate that could be used to minimize costs to the client, and those costs could be included in the expenses paid by the client.

    Both of the suggestions above are reasonable and helpful in my view.

    If this topic interests you, please read the two Judy Russell articles and the entire message thread.  There are a lot of thoughtful comments, and also a disagreement between some of the commenters.

    The URL for this post is:

    Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

    Treasure Chest Thursday - Post 177: Birth Certificate for Frederick W. Seaver (1911-1983)

    It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to showcase some of the collected documents and other treasures of my ancestors.

    Here is the Birth Certificate for my father, Frederick Walton Seaver (11911-1983), obtained from the Fitchburg, Massachusetts City Clerk by my father in 1940:

    The transcription of this birth certificate is (typed portions underlined, handwritten portions in italics):

    Commonwealth of Massachusetts, U.S.A.
    City of Fitchburg, Mass.  December 26, 1940


    I, Sanford E. Worthington, City Clerk of the City of Fitchburg, in the County of Worcester and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, hereby certify that in the Records of Births in said City there is recorded the birth of

    Frederick Walton Seaver, Jr.

    and that the following facts appear in the record of such birth, to wit:

    Date of Birth:  October 15, 1911
    Name of Child:  Frederick Walton Seaver, Jr.
    Color:  White;  Sex:  Male
    Place of Birth:  116 Lawrence Street, Fitchburg, Mass.
    Name of Father:  Frederick W. Seaver
    Maiden Name of Mother: Alma Bessie Richmond
    Residence of Parents:  116 Lawrence St., Fitchburg, Mass.
    Occupation of Father:  Comb Manufacturer
    Birthplace of Father:  Leominster, Mass.
    Birthplace of Mother:  Killingly, Conn.
    Informant:  John W. Stimpson, MD
    Date of Report:  May 1912;  Vol.  C - 8, Folio 321

    I further declare that the Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths in said City are in my custody, and that the foregoing is a true extract from the Records of BIRTHS in said City, as certified by me.

    [SEAL]                   In Witness Whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal
                                     of said City, the day and year first above written.

                                      Sanford E. Worthington
                                       City Clerk.

    The source citation for this birth certificate is (using the Evidence Explained template for a Birth Certificate, local level):

    Frederick Walton Seaver, Jr., birth certificate - no number; extracted from Vol. C-8, folio 321 (15 October 1911, obtained 26 December 1940), City Clerk's Office, Fitchburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

    I see no known errors on this birth certificate.

    I believe that it was obtained, by postal mail, by my father in December 1940 when he was applying for work in San Diego, California in December 1940.  He had just arrived from Massachusetts.  It was found by Randy Seaver in the personal papers passed from my mother to me in the 1988 to 2002 time frame.

    The URL for this post is:

    Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    Dear Randy - Where Did You Get All of Those Probate Records?

    In my recent post Amanuensis Monday - Probate Records of John Mousall (1595-1665) of Woburn, Mass., reader T asked in Comments:

    "Randy, did you have to visit all those places where you got wills and deeds or did you find some on line? I need to find something interesting about my really old ancestors but have had no luck finding anything at all about them. Checking all the family trees at there isn't any document on any tree that wasn't from me in the first place. At least I helped a few people with documentation and I did get the credit for it. Double win!"

    My response:  

    I have collected Probate records for my ancestral families from several sources over the past 20 years:

    1)  I visited the Courthouse in Worcester, Massachusetts twice back in the 1990s in order to access Probate Packets (in an envelope, closed with a string or ribbon) for my Worcester County ancestors.  The Probate Packets have all (or almost all) of the original papers (e.g., will, bond, administration, inventory, distribution, account, etc.)that dealt with a specific estate, and they are numbered 1 through nnnnn in several series (different year ranges).  This option requires travel to and from, and lodging and other expenses at, the location of the Court.  Consequently, I haven't done any of this in recent years.  I obtained photocopies of many of the original papers at the court house for an exorbitant copy price, and had to wait quite a long time to get service at times.

    2)  I have used the Family History Library microfilms in order to access Probate Court records for specific estates all over the USA.  This was cheaper than 1) above, but required several visits to the Family History Center here in San Diego and the rental of many microfilms.  I also accessed these films while in Salt Lake City when attending conferences or companies there.  Usually, there is a Probate Docket file (on microfilm) for the County that lists the types of papers in each Probate packet, with a volume and page number.  Each one of the original papers in a Probate packet was entered by the Probate Court clerk into the Probate Court records  in a Volume and Page format.  If there are five separate records, then there may be five separate pages to find in as many as five different volumes.  I obtained photocopies or digital images of these pages at the Family History Library or Center.

    Sometimes a user gets lucky and finds that the probate packet papers themselves, rather than the probate court records, were microfilmed.  One example of this is Middlesex Counties, Massachusetts.  Fortunately, that's the County with the most ancestors on my family tree!

    Other repositories may have microfilms of the probate records - for instance, the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston has probate records for Massachusetts counties on microfilm.

    3)  There are books and periodicals that have extracted information, abstracted information, or transcribed papers.  For instance, some of the early Connecticut probate records were published by Manwaring;  the early Middlesex County, Massachusetts probate papers were published by Rodgers;  the Rhode Island Genealogical Register abstracted Rhode Island wills;  the Mayflower Descendant extracted information from Bristol and Plymouth County, Massachusetts probate records.  I know I've missed some on that incomplete list.

    4)  Some Probate records are available online.  For instance, A number of transcribed Essex County, Massachusetts wills are available at  Individuals have published wills and other records online - an example is my Amanuensis Monday Posts at

    5)  FamilySearch has Probate Records, usually in browse only form, in their historical record collection - enter the search term "probate" on the page.  There are collections for several English counties, New Zealand, and quite a few USA states and/or counties.  For example, "New York Probate Records, 1629-1971" is at  There are waypoints for each County, and then for each "book" in the collection.  The collection for each state and county may be incomplete - the user needs to be aware of that.  This is a bit cumbersome, but it is free and it is usable on any day and time, and the user can capture a digital image of each page.

    As I've stated before, Probate Records are one of the very best resources to gather evidence of family relationships and to be able to assess the real and personal property of a person.  They are also a "finding aid" - the property descriptions can lead to land records, the relationships can lead to church and vital records, and the probate dates often provide a death date and place, and can lead to cemetery records.  Lastly, they wills usually provide a glimpse into the religious beliefs of the testator.  Inventories reveal the property owned by the testator.  Probate records are potential ancestral gold mines!

    The URL for this post is:

    Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

    CGSSD Program on Saturday, 17 August: Searching Effectively

    The ComputerGenealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) meets on the 3rd Saturday of each month (except December) from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the campus of UCSD, University of California, San Diego. See our web page  for directions.

    The next meeting will be held on 17 AUGUST 2013 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Here are the details:

    9:00 a.m. - User Group: Family Tree Maker; 
    10:00 a.m. - Break
    10:20 a.m. - Announcements followed by program:

    “Searching Effectively” has many wonderful features--a lavish buffet where it is hard to choose what to use and how to use it. Randy will discuss the effective use of such features as new or old search algorithms, basic or advanced search forms, exact or ranked matches, full names or wild cards, specific or all databases, restricted or whole collection, and site navigation.

    Randy Seaver is a native San Diegan.  His ancestry is mainly colonial New England and Upper Atlantic, with some colonial German, French and Dutch forebears, and several 19th-century English immigrants.  He has been pursuing his elusive ancestors since 1988, and has been online since 1992.

    Randy is a former President of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society, and is currently the Newsletter Editor and Research Chair.  He speaks to Southern California societies, libraries and groups, and teaches "Beginning Computer Genealogy" adult classes at OASIS three times a year.  He is a member of NGS, NEHGS, SCGS, SDGS, CGSSD and CVGS.  Randy blogs daily about genealogy subjects at Genea-Musings ( and the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe ( 

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

    (Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Post 269: The Wedding Cake Picture

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

    Here is a photograph from our wedding album:

    This was taken on 21 March 1970 at Chula Vista Presbyterian Church in the reception hall after the wedding of Randall Seaver and Linda Leland in the church sanctuary.  

    Linda planned and executed this wedding in five weeks and it went perfectly.  She even let me hold the cake knife for awhile, but kept her hand nearby.  I thought the samurai cut might be impressive, or the Marie Antoinette beheading cut might dazzle the guests, but she said that we had to feed them, not impress or dazzle them.  

    I need to find these pictures again and make scans of them with higher resolution ... ah, a future ScanFest task!  I think I know where they are.

    The URL for this post is:

    Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver