Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looking back - 2006 genealogy activities

We can often learn from reviewing what we've done before. I didn't set New Years resolutions last year, so I can't compare my results to my expectations. Over the months of 2006, my genealogy effort has accomplished:

1) Found probate records for ancestors in colonial Bristol County MA and some Rhode Island towns - copied from microfilm and entered into my ancestral database.

2) Added text notes and VR data for some ancestral families based on data collected previously.

3) Added text notes and data obtained from Ancestry databases (newspaper, military, passenger lists, etc) for my Seaver database. Also started to standardize my notes and sources in the Seaver database.

4) Performed basic online research for four close friends and provided a genealogy report of the findings.

5) Conducted 10 research group meetings for CVGS - each with a brief lesson, then open discussion of members problems or successes. Led 4 research trips of CVGS members to local repositories, and consulted with members.

6) Planned and executed 12 monthly programs for CVGS - arranging speakers, doing publicity, etc.

7) Planned and executed the "Discover Your Family History Day" on 14 October in conjunction with the CV library - intended to draw community interest in genealogy. We discovered a lot of talent in our members and put it to use as organizers and mentors!

8) Prepared and presented three genealogy talks to local societies

9) Subscribed to in November - now I can do more research at home and spend my time at the FHC viewing more films.

10) Created the 19th yearly edition of the Seaver-Richmond Family Journal - a 16 page family newsletter sent to family members.

11) Spent too much time reading blogs and posting on Genea-Musings and not enough time researching, inputting data to the databases, and going to repositories.

In order to create more free time, I retired from my part-time job and stopped watching so much evening TV (I'm down to Padres baseball, Desperate Housewives, ER, and 24).

On to 2007 - HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!!

PS. And why am I posting at 9 PM PST when I should be out partying? Dedication, right? Nope - I caught the grandson's crud this week and am home all doped up while my wife parties with the church group.

Necessary Computer Tools

The Family Matters blog (Tech Support for the Family Historian) aka "Moultrie Creek" has a nice list of computer software that are useful for the computer genealogist - see

The recommended tools include the Firefox browser, Rojo newsreader, Yahoo, Flickr and Diigo accounts, Skype phone service, a screen capture program, a PDF reader/writer, a blog web site and a Lulu account. Go to the site to see his explanation of each and follow the links - it's a nice list.

I use Microsoft IE7 as my browser, Bloglines as my newsreader, Yahoo for several things, Flickr and others for pictures, "Print Screen" for screen captures to MSWord, CutePDF to create PDF files, and this blog. I don't use Diigo, Skype or Lulu - yet! At least I knew what they were!

It strikes me that, compared to say the year 2000, that everything we do is much more complex than it used to be. Using tools like these make the tasks easy to perform - it's just that we didn't do some of these things years ago! Are human minds evolving to be able to grasp these advanced concepts and complex tools, or are we just using a larger fraction of our gray matter? Methinks the latter (or maybe that's why I'm forgetting more as the years go by?).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

1930 census anomaly in Ancestry index

I've been rummaging around in the census records on for most of the day - having fun trying to find the families of my brother-in-law's significant other.

I'm looking for the family of Robert Leroy Thompson (born 1880, probably in TN) and Lillian Russell (Daniels) Thompson (born 1900, in TN), who have children Gertrude, Lois and Dorothy. Lois was born in 1926 in Kingsport, Sullivan County, TN.

You would think that a name like Robert Thompson would not be easily messed up, but I've used all my tricks to try to find him in northeastern TN (and also in TN, VA and NC) without success.

One thing I noticed, that I don't recall noting previously, is that the birthplace of children in a family is not indexed by Ancestry. If I input Lois Thompson into Ancestry in the 1930 census, and put a birthplace of Tennessee and a birth year of 1926 +/- 2 years, I get no hits. If I take out the birthplace, I get 161 hits. Strange - because the birthplace is listed for every child, but it was not indexed, at least in the states I checked. The birthplace of parents and other adults are indexed, it seems.

Sometimes you can put in too much information and when you get no hits you think "well, they just aren't there."

New APG web site

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) has a newly designed web site at

Using the items on the left side of the screen, you can find a researcher by name, by research specialty, by geographic specialty or by location (state).

The research specialties - 26 of them - are also listed on the left side of the screen.

There are tabs at the top of the screen for membership information, chapter information and publications.

If you are looking for a researcher, a lecturer or speaker, or any number of other genealogy specialties, your first stop should be the APG web page.

Friday, December 29, 2006

"The Year Was ..." series

Juliana Smith on the 24/7 Family History Circle blog has a summary post for the 2006 entries of her "The Year Was ...." series at

This series is a recurring feature on her blog and is very informative about what happened in the year in question. There are about 40 years covered between 1776 and 1969.

The short articles provide an overview of the current events of the year - political, economic, natural disasters, etc. and can be helpful in understanding the political and social environment that our ancestors experienced.

Genealogy database lookups

I've been on the mailing list for the Free Genealogy Lookups site (also known as for quite a while now, and have not really used it much. But it has some good features.

They offer a selection of free databases each day. However, you don't get to browse the database - you have to submit a query to a specific database, give them an email address, and they tell you what they find. The response time is usually a day or two.

For a list of the databases available, see . These appear to be databases on specific commercial CD-ROMs. There are birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, military records, ship passenger lists, state records and land records on the list.

If you have just one or two surnames in a given state, this may be the most economical way to determine if there is any data on the surname in a given database - it's free! If you find a gold mine of data, then you could either buy the CD or try to find it at a local library (e.g., the San Diego FHC has a fine collection of commercial CDs).

Reduced Price for Ancestry - but hurry!

Have you put off subscribing to for some reason, or just until the price goes down?

If so, you might consider the offer at . They are offering the US Deluxe subscription for $99 and the World deluxe subscription for $150, after a 14 day free trial. You do have to put a credit card number in - this is not a real free trial - you have to subscribe to get the two weeks free. But it is the best deal I've seen yet if you really want to subscribe to

This deal expires on Saturday, 30 December, so you need to decide pretty soon (BG!).

On a similar note, I just completed a survey (email from Ancestry) asking me if I would definitely renew my US Deluxe membership for $155, or how about $79? Or $155 for the World Deluxe membership? Or $79 for the US and $29 each for additional countries (say, UK, Canada or Germany)? It could be that is considering reducing the subscription cost in order to capture more of the market.

Competition is good for the genealogy industry. I hope the price goes down for everything! FYI, I did subscribe to at the $99 rate for the US package back in November. I thought it was a good deal at the time, and still do.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Genealogy Resolutions for 2007

It's time for my New Year's resolutions for 2007. I thought about them all the way down the California coast today - we left Guerneville at about 10 AM and got to Buellton at about 6 PM, but stopped in Petaluma to see the grandsons one more time.

Here are my 2007 resolutions:

1) Go to the Family History Center more often, and obtain primary land and probate records for my ancestors. I have more time now, since I retired from my part-time job. The problem I have is that I can find and collect more primary records than I can input to the software over a given time period.

2) Complete the probate records collection for my ancestors of Alma Bessie Richmond. I have collected quite a few, but have many more to find and obtain.

3) Determine if any of my San Diego county ancestors left probate and land records, and obtain copies of them. I have never been to the probate court in SD and need to go there.

4) Continue adding complete source citations to my ancestral and Seaver surname databases.

5) Continue to post quality research tips, ancestral stories, and genealogy humor on this Genea-Musings blog. No more rants...unless they are deserved!

6) Serve the Chula Vista Genealogical Society as President with energy, wisdom and patience. The new Board is experienced with many continuing in their positions, so there won't be much of a learning curve. It's been a fairly well-oiled machine the last 4 years, and I don't want to mess it up. However, we need to add "new blood" to the Board in order to improve the society services and programs.

7) Add video learning to the CVGS computer group and research group monthly meetings by using laptops and LCD projectors to demonstrate research techniques and help solve research problems. We will access, other databases, and video sites like

8) Prepare and deliver three new presentations at local San Diego societies in 2007. I have two new topics picked out, and two speaking commitments already arranged.

9) Continue reading genealogy research books, journal articles, online web pages and newsletters, etc. as part of my continuing genealogy education.

10) Find something fun and useful to do with my wife, who often feels like a genealogy widow.

There's my 10 resolutions. How about you? Have you written your resolutions down yet? The time is running out to submit them to the next Carnival of Genealogy.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Life goes on

I finally was able to find time to write a blog post. The weekend and Christmas with my daughter's family was wonderful - many presents and fun times. The little boys were precious, but had coughs and sniffles. I unloaded my O-gauge Lionel train set on them and my son-in-law tried valiantly to make the transformer work. This is 1950's vintage stuff, so it was no surprise. Amazingly, there are still Lionel train sets being sold. The highlight was Christmas morning of course - the 3 year old loved his gifts - including a 16-inch two-wheel bike - and my son-in-law had things put together soon after they were opened. We went out in the afternoon and taught the boy to steer and stop his bike and he pedaled it around the block (hills down, then hills up).

On Tuesday, we headed for Monte Rio to visit Linda's brother on the Russian River above San Francisco. We stopped in Petaluma to see my daughter's in-laws and share pictures and stories about the grandkids. Because Linda's brother had house guests from Florida, we stayed in a motel in Guerneville. We had a nice dinner of Christmas leftovers with her brother and enjoyed sharing stories and pictures. It rained all day in the North Bay and we got drenched several times. The hotel has wireless internet, so I was able to access my email last night and today, but I didn't post last night because the in-room spa caused a flood.

We head for home on Thursday and will probably spend the night somewhere between Paso Robles (270 miles) and Carpinteria (430 miles). We'll be home by Friday afternoon and I should be back to regular daily blogging on Saturday.

Thank you for your patience, and I hope my regular readers understand why there hasn't been much action on my blog this past week.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!!

I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas. I hope that all of your Christmas wishes come true, and that you find many genealogy goodies in your stocking hung by the chimney with care (you did hang one, didn't you?). I also hope that you are with your families and enjoying them, and they are enjoying your presence.

We made it to the Santa Cruz mountains on Friday (400 miles), and are staying in a cozy cabin in the redwoods. My daughter and her hubby are off for a night without kids in Monterey, and we are holding down the fort by ourselves. The 10 month old is such a happy little guy - he plays and laughs and coos and eats and goes to sleep on your shoulder (twice today so far) - all warm and snuggly. The 3 year old is a ball of fire but has a bad cough. He got over mom and dad being gone, ate OK and we watched Signing Time videos and TV game shows (he loves Lingo on the Games Show Channel, go figure!). I had to tell him two stories (he loves princes turned into frogs and vice versa) and then lie on his bed to get him to go to sleep. They usually wake up once during the night, so I may be tired tomorrow.

It's time for my long winter's cap and warm pajamas, so I'll wish you all a good night! And Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rants, Analysis and Gumdrops

Ranting has never been my strong suit. My post yesterday elicited an informative and patient response from Drew Smith, one of the Genealogy Guys who podcast weekly. I thank Drew for his explanations and appreciate his comments. I wonder "why didn't I think of that?" Oh well.

However, it got me to wondering why there isn't more analysis of press releases on the genea-news blogs - what does the released information mean to the genealogy community? In the political blog world that I observe, there is instant analysis (not all good, of course!) on every story. We don't have that sort of controversy in the genealogy world (yet?), but some analysis of press releases would be welcomed by most of us, I think.

On the Christmas front, the highlight of the day was "Gumdrops with Grandpa" - Lauren and I sat and watched TV for about an hour eating the leftover gumdrops and gumballs that didn't make it onto the gingerbread houses yesterday. She didn't eat much dinner, but we sure had fun sharing goodies. We opened gifts tonight and Lauren was very precious - lots of good pictures on laps, opening gifts and playing with her new toys.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is No News Good News?

After two whole days of genea-blog exile, I have the urge to post. I really can't resist it, unfortunately.

Have you noticed that most of the HOT news in the genealogy world this week is not really news? It's shuffling the deck. It's all process, not content. To wit:

1) Inc decides to change the name of their company to The Generations Network. Ho-hum. What's the point? Maybe a marketeer can explain? Did they do a survey? Maybe nobody considered the web sites to be their family. Why didn't they just name it The Genealogy Network? Or the Ancestry Network, if they like that buzzword so much. All I see is having to change all of the references in everybody's database that presently says MyFamily.

2) Cambridge Information Group purchased ProQuest Company, which includes HeritageQuestOnline databases. There are more details that have been published by Richard Eastman and others on their blogs. More process, not news. No information is provided about how it will affect genealogists. If HQO gets renamed again, then all of our sources in our databases need to be changed.

3) Ancestry magazine announced that they are relaunching the magazine with better content or whatever. Doesn't this announcement mean that the magazine has been losing market share in the past years, as competitors have sprung up in traditional paper received through the mail and as Internet magazines delivered via web or email? If the content really changes for the better, then this is actually good news. We'll see.

Re-reading my points after writing them seems real negative, but I am really not impressed by process things - I am impressed by content.

On the positive side, we've had fun with granddaughter Lauren (22 months old) - we spent an hour at the mall today watching her crawl all over the toddler play equipment, and than eating Mongolian food (she loves noodles and tofu). We made gingerbread houses tonight - with candy implanted in the frosting on the house roof and sides. Of course, she had to eat some of it - big grins, giggles and laughs, blue mouth and nose-tip - priceless!

I'll post real news when I find it...

Monday, December 18, 2006

'Twas the Night Before (the Genealogist's) Christmas

I received this parody of Clement Moore's masterpiece via email back in the mid-1990's, the author is unknown to me. Kimberly Powell at the About Genealogy page also has it on her site.


'Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even my spouse.

The dining room table with clutter was spread
With pedigree charts and with letters which said...
"Too bad about the data for which you wrote;S
ank in a storm on an ill-fated boat."

Stacks of old copies of wills and such
Were proof that my work had become too much.
Our children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

And I at my table was ready to drop
From work on my album with photos to crop.
Christmas was here, and such was my lot
That presents and goodies and toys I'd forgot.

Had I not been busy with grandparents' wills,
I'd not have forgotten to shop for such thrills,
While others bought gifts to bring Christmas cheers,
I'd spent time researching those birth dates and years.

While I was thus musing about my sad plight,
A strange noise on the lawn gave me such a great fright.
Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Tore open the drapes and yanked up the sash.

When what with my wondering eyes should appear,
But an overstuffed sleigh and eight small reindeer.
Up to the house top the reindeer they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys and 'ole Santa Claus, too.

And then in a twinkle, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of thirty-two hoofs.
As I drew in my head, and bumped it on the sash,
Down the cold chimney fell Santa--KER-RASH!

"Dear" Santa had come from the roof in a wreck,
And tracked soot on the carpet, (I could wring his short neck!)
Spotting my face, good 'ole Santa could see
I had no Christmas spirit you'd have to agree.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled all the stockings, (I felt like a jerk).
Here was Santa, who'd brought us such gladness and joy:
When I'd been too busy for even one toy.

He spied my research on the table all spread"
A genealogist!" He cried! (My face was all red!)
"Tonight I've met many like you," Santa grinned,
As he pulled from his sack a large book he had penned.

I gazed with amusement--the cover it read
Genealogy Lines for Which You Have Plead.
"I know what it's like as a genealogy bug."
He said as he gave me a great Santa hug.

"While the elves make the sleighful of toys I now carry,
I do some research in the North Pole Library!
A special treat I am thus able to bring,
To genealogy folk who can't find a thing."

"Now off you go to your bed for a rest,
I'll clean up the house from this genealogy mess."
As I climbed up the stairs full of gladness and glee,
I looked back at Santa who'd brought much to me.

While settling in bed, I heard Santa's clear whistle,
To his team, which then rose like the down of a thistle.
And I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
"Family history is Fun! Merry Christmas! Goodnight!"

--Author Unknown

Blogging at Genea-Musings may be light for the next week or so, since we'll be on the road. I will have the laptop and Internet access, but I'm not sure how much genealogy musing I will do as I enjoy my daughters, sons-in-law and grandkids.

To all, I wish a very Merry Christmas, and I hope Santa brings you a special gift for your family history.

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 3

This is the third and final installment of my memoirs about Christmases past, Part 1 covers my childhood memories, Part 2 covers my memories as a young adult, and Part 3 covers my memories as a parent.


We bought our first house on Otay Mesa in South San Diego late 1971 and then moved to our present house on Via Trieste in Chula Vista in 1975. Lori was born in 1974 and Tami came along in 1976, so our Christmases became even more happy and fun.

As the girls progressed from being babies to toddlers to children and to teenagers, the Christmas gifts became more sophisticated - from squeeze toys to dolls to playhouses to games to miniature kitchen appliances to bicycles to sports equipment to cars, plus clothes -- we enjoyed shopping for our girls.

Decorating the Christmas Tree was fun when the girls were small. We would all go pick out a tree, then they would help me put it on the stand and string the lights. Then Linda and the girls would hang the ornaments on the tree. Often, they made popcorn strings or paper chains to decorate the tree. When the girls were young, each year my mother gave them copper enamel angel ornaments with their names on them – priceless handmade treasures. They were put on the tree with care. Then one year Linda decided the whole tree should have only angel ornaments, and that persisted for years, sometimes over the objections of the girls.

On Christmas Eve, we would go to church, then come home and read Christmas stories and set cookies and milk out for Santa. There were often gifts for me to put together on Christmas Eve after the girls went to bed, and sometimes I worked into the wee hours to get them finished. Bicycles and kitchen play sets are my fondest memories.

Then hearing the patter of little feet around 6 AM on Christmas morning, followed by shrieks and laughter and hugs and two excited little girls jumping up and down on our bed wanting us to come open presents before breakfast. And we always did. One year when they were very young, we had Christmas Day a day early because we were flying off to visit the Leland grandparents on Christmas Day.

Every other year we would travel to San Francisco to celebrate Christmas with Linda’s parents, Lee and Edna Leland (“Papa Lee and Mama Lee”), and her brother, Paul. Usually we would fly on Christmas Day and return before New Years Day. Occasionally we drove up and returned after New Years. It was wonderful for the girls to be with their grandparents, who showered them with gifts and hugs and kisses. We would always go down to the beach and walk on the sand, drive around looking at the lights, and often went to the homes of Linda’s aunts and uncles to visit. When the girls were teenagers, we drove to Yosemite for some snow fun on year on our way home. When we did not go to San Francisco, the Lelands came to San Diego to enjoy Christmas at our house.

When we were in town on Christmas Eve, we usually attended the 7 PM church service, but sometimes went to the 11 PM service. At the early service, the Christmas Story was told in song and drama, and I would usually play the part of one of the Three Kings – presenting a gift to the Christ child. Tami was an Angel in this drama for several years. Afterward, we would drive around Chula Vista to Christmas Tree Circle and Christmas Tree Lane to see the lights and displays.

After my father died in 1983, my mother or one of the three boys hosted the family Christmas dinner and gift exchange. When we planned to go to San Francisco, this dinner was usually on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve. Besides the usual talk of sports and work and kids, there were usually friendly and spirited competitions of “tossing the pea in the glass” or “tossing the rolled-up napkin in the cup.” My mother would take offense at her aging barbarian boys ruining the spirit of the day – I think the wives just tolerated it as “men being boys” and the grandkids thought it was fun – rooting on their dads and eventually wanting to compete themselves.

Now our girls are married with wonderful husbands and beautiful children – darling little ones so full of energy and love, bright-eyed and happy - just like their mothers were at that age. They have homes of their own away from San Diego, and we try to visit them every other year at Christmas. This usually means a two week long road trip because we also visit Linda’s brother in the Bay area.

We exchange gifts, but the most meaningful gift for me is the time spent with them – talking, listening, sharing, enjoying, seeing their warm nests and being with them and the grandchildren. I imagine that is what my parents and grandparents were thinking while we were growing up!


Unfortunately, Christmas is the one time of the year that I don't put in the yearly Christmas family letter, so specific memories are missing for many years. This is when I wish I had the patience and the persistence to write a daily journal. One of the reasons for this blog was to try to document my genealogy and family life, so I may write about this Christmas time after we return from our trip to see the family - we leave tomorrow!

"My father was a sperm donor" article

The Washington (DC) Post newspaper has an article published 17 December by Katrina Clark titled "My Father was an Anonymous Sperm Donor." The link is here. It is written from the child's point of view, and she makes valid points as she tries to solve "the puzzle of who I am."

She describes her search process:
I set out to find my own donor. From the limited information my mother had been given -- his blood type, race, ethnicity, eye and hair color and hair texture; his height, weight and body build; his years of college and course of study -- I concluded that he had probably graduated from a four-year university in Northern Virginia or the District within a span of three years. Now all I had to do was search through the records and yearbooks of all the possible universities and make some awkward phone calls. I figured if I worked intensely enough, my search would take a minimum of 10 years. But I was ready and willing.

A few days later, searching for an online message board for donor-conceived people, I came across a donor and offspring registry. Scanning past some entries for more recent donors, I spotted a donation date closer to what I was looking for. I e-mailed the man who had posted the entry. A few days later he sent a warm response and attached a picture of himself. I read through his pleasant words and scrolled down to look at the photo. My breath stopped. I called for my mother, who rushed in, thinking something was terribly wrong. "I think I've found my biological father," I gasped between sobs. "Look at the picture. . . .That's my face."

They matched DNA, and then she met him:

Even though I've only recently come into contact with him, I wouldn't be able to just suck it up if he stopped communicating with me. There's still so much I want to know. I want to know him. I want to know his family.

I'm certain he has no idea how big a role he has played in my life despite his absence -- or because of his absence. If I can't be too attached to him as my father, I'll still always be attached to the feeling I now have of having a father.

I feel more whole now than I ever have. I love our conversations, even the most trivial ones. I don't love him, and I don't know if I ever will, but I care about him a lot.

Now that he knows I exist, I'm okay if he doesn't care for me in the same way. But I hope he at least thinks of me sometimes.

Fascinating - read the whole article - a pretty sharp 17 year old young lady.

Meanings of given names

Have you ever wondered what your given name means? The "Behind the Name" web site at provides information about these names.

My given name is Randall - derived from Randolf meaning

From the Germanic elements rand meaning "rim (of a shield)" and wulf meaning "wolf".
My second name is Jeffrey - a medieval variant of Geoffrey, meaning

From an Old French form of a Germanic name. The second element is Germanic frid "peace", but the first element may be either gawia "territory", walah "stranger", gisil "hostage" or god "god" (see GODFREY). It is possible that two or more names merged into a single form. The name was introduced to England by the Normans, where it became common among the nobility. Famous literary bearers include the 12th-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth and the 14th-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer, writer of 'The Canterbury Tales'.
My mother always said that the choice of my name was Randy or Ranny. I believe, but I'm not 100% sure, that Ranny was the diminutive form of Ranslow, which was my 3rd great-grandfather's name, Ranslow Smith. I can understand why they would name me Ranslow (or Ranny), but why Randall (Randy)? It's not a family name, nor is Jeffrey. I guess it was just a parent's choice. My brother Stanley was named after my father's older brother who died as a young boy.

An interesting site - what does your name mean? Why was it given to you?

CVGS Christmas Party today

Our annual Christmas Party for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society was today. This typically is a potluck luncheon at the Library with CVGS supplying the ham and turkey from a local store. We had about 30 in attendance, including some for whom this is the only meeting during the year due to other responsibilities.

There were two parts to the program today. First was the Officer Installation procedure. Our outgoing President, John Finch, had nice things to say about his Board members, and recapped the highlights of his two year term. Then he introduced the new Officers and read their official responsibilities and each committed to their new position. At the end of this, I, as the incoming President, made my first act to praise and thank John for his work for the Society. I went around the room and got many one-word adjectives describing John - all of them positive and encouraging. I also presented a certificate of appreciation from the Board to him. My second act was to declare that it was time for lunch!

After the luncheon, we had a short sharing time. We had asked the attendees to bring an heirloom or sentimental artifact and tell its story. I described my recent find of my great-grandmother's 1929 journal. Two members brought jewelry from their grandmothers. Another member shared about a letter found in family papers called "Homestead" - a letter from the builder of the house (but taking the house itself as the writer) to the descendants of the builder of the house. The house was torn down, but one of the descendants collected the wood and made birdhouses for each of the siblings who grew up in the house. It was very touching.

Then it was time for our door prize drawing. We had three prizes - a green Santa Claus, a red Santa Claus and a North Pole cake, all made by our members. My wife won the red Santa Claus. Finally, we had our wrapped gift exchange - if you bring one, you get one. Then it was Merry Christmas, goodbyes and cleanup time. I think everybody had a good time, and lots of great food.

It is important for genealogy societies to have traditions and to have social events where the members can get to know each other. We are a small society of 86, but the 30 members who attended today have a sense of community and a connection to each other and to the society officers.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

500th Genea-Musings Post!!!

On a day when I have not advanced my "genealogy research" ball one inch due to "real life" responsibilities and activities (church in the morning, garage cleaning in the early afternoon, gift wrapping most of the afternoon, a short nap, more gift wrapping, and then watching the Charger game tonight), it looks like this post is my 500th in the short life of this blog.

It started out in mid-April as Randy's Musings (and is still listed that way at Cyndi's List!), with posts on baseball (Go Padres!), oldies music, family pictures, genealogy research and family history. In late June, I had the splash of insight (in the shower, no less) that I should concentrate on genealogy in this blog, and came up with the name Genea-Musings. It combines genealogy and musings (deep thoughts?), and also contains the word "a-musing" to cover the funny, strange or peculiar stuff.

Over 8 months (about 245 days), I've averaged about two posts a day. There was a dry spell in August when we were on vacation in New England, and shorter dry spells when we were away for a week or weekend visiting friends or family.

It has been a fun time doing this blog, and I hope to keep it going at about the same rate over the foreseeable future. The challenge is to find fresh content that informs, helps and entertains genealogy researchers like yourself. The fun part is making new friends and contacts through blogging, and hopefully helping researchers find new or improved research tools in the process. I really enjoy digging through the census, and other resources, for strange and funny names, occupations or situations. That's my quirkiness, I know, and I hope you don't mind it once in awhile.

That said, it's back to work looking for content for post #501. We will be going on a 10 day road trip leaving 12/19 and returning 12/29 as we share Christmas with our daughters, their hubbies and children, and then with Linda's brother. I should have web access most days, but blogging will probably be lighter than usual for me.

14th Carnival of Genealogy is Posted

Jasia at the Creative Gene blog has posted the 14th Carnival of Genealogy here. The theme is "Genealogy gift-giving."

Jasia does a wonderful job of sorting out posts from bloggers (not just genealogists, I think). This Carnival was the first one where she had a lot of material submitted to the Carnival page rather than having to go hunt up more items for the Carnival.

Frankly, I'm surprised that more genea-bloggers don't write a post on the theme and submit it on a regular basis.

The next Carnival will be on the theme of "New Year's Resolutions." Now I have to think about what I'm going to needs to be ambitious yet realistic, and helpful to my overall "Genealogy Strategy Plan." Do you have a plan or strategy for pursuing your family history? That might be a good topic for another Carnival.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 2

This is a continuation of my Christmases Past memories - the first part was here.


During the 1950's and 1960's, we would visit Aunt Emily’s (Emily (Richmond) Taylor, a widow by then) house in Kensington (a San Diego neighborhood) every Christmas season. She was my father’s aunt, and she had a daughter Dorothy who was married to Marshall Chamberlain (called “Chuck” by everybody but Dorothy and Emily); Marshall and Dorothy had a daughter, Marcia, who had been my mother’s student at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in the early 1940’s. This was the only Seaver-related family we had in San Diego. The trip to their house was dreaded and anticipated – Dorothy was very non-traditional – she was an artist, a harpist, made her own tree ornaments, and cooked different dishes that we didn’t particularly like. This was also the only time we had to dress up in a shirt and tie. Emily fawned over us, and Chuck was gruff and ornery (in retrospect, a fun “uncle”).

The best part of the visit for us was playing in the backyard – they had a nice fish pond, some cats, and a big awning swing. We had great games of hide and seek there. They also subscribed to National Geographic, and I loved looking through them for pictures of naked women and to steal the maps. In retrospect, I think Chuck placed the really good issues on top where I could easily find them.

Another tradition that we really enjoyed during the 1950’s was the box of Christmas presents that arrived from the Seaver families in Leominster, Massachusetts. They were usually toys, board games for the boys and candy for the family, which we loved. These were sent without fail by our Grandmother Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (Emily’s sister), my father’s brother Ed (and wife Janet) Seaver and their sister Gerry Seaver.

As I grew older, I realized that the true spirit of Christmas meant that I should also give presents to my family. It was easy buying toys and sports gear for my brothers but it was a struggle to find appropriate gifts for my mother and father. Sometimes Stan and I would go together to buy a gift for both of them - I remember one year we bought a new mailbox for them.

During the fall and winter, we had the 'O' gauge Lionel train tracks set up through the living room and into our bedroom with many switches and crossovers. We (my dad, myself, my two brothers) would take turns trying to crash our trains into the other guy's train at high speed. The track layout was elaborate, but the decoration was nil. It was all about speed and crashes, and was competitive. For several years, our Christmas presents included new train track and boxcars and engines.

After I moved out on my own in 1968, and married Linda in 1970, I now had someone else to do the hard work of shopping for the family, and she did it extremely well. We usually went to the 30th Street house for Christmas Eve dinner and gifts with Mom and Dad, Stan and Sheryl, Scott, Gram and Gramps. I usually shopped only for Linda – mainly nice clothes, fine jewelry and kitchen things. I always enjoyed this shopping – the giving part was more fun for me. Of course, once she started her angel collection, the challenge was finding new and better angels for her.


I'll finish next time with my family memories on Monday.

Traffic report -- The Top 40 Genealogy web sites compiles traffic reports for Internet web sites, and has catalogued them by subject.

The Genealogy traffic report is at The top 10 genealogy sites are listed on the right, and the categories of genealogy sites are on the left. You can get higher numbers by clicking on the link available. I can't find any blogs in the categories - they must be hiding somewhere!

The Top 40 (remember the Top 40 song lists from the 1950's?) for Genealogy are:

1. (1417 overall ranking)
2. (2398)
3. (3185)
4. (8909)
5. (11239)
6. (18959)
7. (8909, part of #4)
8. (22066)
9. (1417, part of #1)
10. (41084)

11. (83, part of
12. (47867)
13. (8909, part of #4)
14. (54874)
15. (58541)
16. (69562)
17. (71714)
18. (71336)
19. (77656)
20. (53927, part of another site?)

21. (96611)
22. (122799, a Spanish site)
23. (109021, part of another site?)
24. (125383)
25. (120260)
26. (2398, part of #2)
27. (168833)
28. (146191)
29. (130209)
30. (135067)

31. (138284)
32. (151841)
33. (145186)
34. (177124)
35. (29601, part of another site)
36. (201486)
37. (173029)
38. (182340)
39. (215033)
40. (274257, an Israel site)

I don't understand the numbers completely - some individual sites are part of a suite of sites owned by the same person, and their numbers are lumped together.

There are quite a few sites there that I have never visited, but I'm going to just to see what they offer.

There are several of my "favorite" genealogy sites that are not on the list. So I looked for them: (389785) (371657) (165686, must be part of another site)

It is sad that more researchers don't visit these sites, but waste their time on some of the other sites that don't provide original records or advanced search capabilities.

Genea-Musings is No. 945,511

I finally figured out how to get site rankings at, so I plugged my site in and found out my ranking, among all web sites, is 945,511, with 2 sites linking to it. The ranking is up over 59,000 from three months ago.

My reach (visits per one million users) is 0.85 for the last three months. If there are 91 million users, that's about 77 visitors per day, which matches my stats from Sitemeter pretty well.

For comparison, (Chris Dunham's excellent site) is No. 182,340 of all web sites, and No. 38 for all genealogy web sites, with 56 sites linking to it, and 7.8 visits per million users (about 710 visits per day).

Richard Eastman's site,, is ranked No. 120,260 overall, and No. 25 in genealogy web sites, with 203 sites linking to it, and 15.0 visits per million users (about 1365 visits per day). is the number 1 genealogy site, and No. 1417 overall, with 4143 sites linking to it, and 353 visits per million users (about 32,123 visits per day).

Interesting, eh? It doesn't take many visits to get into the top million web sites. It takes over 50,000 visits to crack the top 1,000 web sites.

Friday, December 15, 2006

New Technology and Trends in Genealogy

I try to check in on Roots Television once a week or so to see what videos have been added, but I've not done it for several weeks due to everything else happening in my life.

There are new videos almost every week. The one I watched tonight - 4 segments for a total of 50 minutes - was Alan Mann talking about New Technology and Trends. The link to the How-To page player is From here, click on the "Lectures" tab and scroll down to the four lectures. This lecture was given several months ago, but it is very interesting, still timely and very well done, although Alan had some problems getting links to work in the conference room in Provo Utah.

Also in the How-To page in the "Research Process" tab is a 26 segment series on the Research Process - it looks great to me for beginning genealogists and those looking for refresher courses.

There are many other videos at - go explore all of the tabs, and the tabs within the main tabs. You can watch them all - it might take a day or so! You do have to sit through a 10 second commercial for each of them - I figure it's worth my time because the real content is free. I can always blog while the commerical plays.

I really like because it has a lot of content, is educational and has lots of variety, including three genealogy blogs - one by Megan Smolenyak, another by Rick Crume and a third by a guy called Og (I think...). I also think that Roots TV is the future of genealogy education - online programs like the Alan Mann lecture are far and above listening to a lecture on an MP3 player or iPod, or reading a syllabus - if you can't be there in person (or via a webcast). Isn't genealogy fun?

"Different" Occupations in the 1880 Census

The 1880 US census search function is unique - you can search on "occupation" on Others have found strange and funny occupations in the 1880 US census, and the 1881 UK census, including this article on Juliana Smith's 7/24 Family Circle blog.

I can't help myself I spent a few hours yesterday, in between dodging popcorn coming off the ceiling and picking through the garage stuff, throwing words into the Occupation box in the 1880 US census and seeing what comes out. Among the usual farmers, servants, bankers, mill workers, engineers, baseball players, there were also:

* H.F. Koenig of Manhattan NY who "works in a space mill" What is that?

* Jos M. Wilkins of Titusville PA was "engineer in a slave mill." Probably an error - a stave mill?

* Elwin Willard of Silver Creek NY "works in smut shop." He's probably Hugh Hefner's grandfather (just kidding).

* John Sowers of Newark NJ was a "brass cock maker." Just what I always needed...

* Stephene H. Martine of Tanner Creek VA was a "proprietor of monkey house."

* Jos. Seymour of Manhattan NY was a "shit manufacturer." Shirt?

* W.T. Scott of Buena Vista CO was a "bull whacker." I'll bet the bull was mad!

* Horace Greeley (age 25, born NY) of Wichita KS was an "Oklahoma Boomer." Is this the Horace Greeley who went west?

* Mary Toomey of Boston MA was a "cash girl (fancy bust)" I'll bet!

* William Haller of Cincinnati OH was a "peddler & philosopher." He probably wanted a penny for his thoughts.

* Wellington Beatty of Monroe LA was a "farmer & thinker."

* Adolph Schuarymann of Brooklyn NY was "publisher of Puck." Was that a magazine?

* Tarrant Putnam of Wilton MN works at "anything that's honest." Diogenes reincarnated, eh?

* Oliver Ewing of Fort Scott KS "steals for a living."

* Benjamin Trulon of Bordentown NJ was "too lazy to do anything."

* Sally Vaughn of Louisa VA was a "trick woman." Hmmm...

* Both Anna Bren and Agnes Bren of Brutus NY were "ladies of pleasure" (residing in a hotel).

* Laura Johnson of LaCrosse WI was a "pleasure girl" (residing in a "house of ill fame" with others with the same occupation.)

* A.E. Lindhofer (and 23 others) of Hammond IN "work in stink factory." I thought there was enough back in 1880 that they didn't have to make it.

* Briget Malone of Bradford PA was a "pot wrestler." Probably a kitchen worker with a sense of humor.

* Austin Robbins of District 8 TN was a "perfect idiot."

* Edwin Marsh of Roundhead OH was an "idol." Probably the first "American idol."

* James Oxford of Gardner MA job was "laziness to perfection." His father must have been mad at him that day.

* J. William Miller of Rye NY was a "speculator" and his wife Ellen's occupation was "hoarding." Teamwork!

* Tom Johnson of Navasota TX job was "beating tin can from morning to night." Poor tin can, but I'm sure his wife was happy, unless the noise got to her.

* Bernard H. McCabe of Rosendale NY was a "hotel moper." Probably sat around all day...

* John MacGaal of Brooklyn NY was a "mad weaver." His wife was probably looming...

* Amanda Williams of Nile OH "boards in grim house."

* Matilda Adar of Springfield OH was a "mad wife." Her poor hubby...I hope it wasn't John MacGaal.

* Charles Young of Virginia City NV was a "lover" residing in a whore house with lots of prostitutes. I guess it kept him young...

* Peter Hogg of St. Louis MO was a "cat. drover." Is this the same as a cat herder? Isn't that impossible?

Well, that's enough for today - I love this stuff!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 1

They say that your life is in four parts – in the first part YOU BELIEVE in Santa Claus, in the second part YOU DON’T BELIEVE in Santa Claus, in the third part YOU ARE Santa Claus, and in the last part YOU LOOK LIKE Santa Claus. I have enjoyed each part – at least so far!

Christmas is usually the very best of times. It has been for me.

Like most children, I looked forward to Christmas time mainly for the presents from my family. The family dinners, songfests and trips to relatives were to be endured, with the reward being Christmas morning. However, it is the visits that are remembered and cherished most, although some special gifts are fondly recalled.

We lived on the second story of a two-story house at 2119 30th Street in San Diego from the time I was 4 until I left home in 1968 at age 25. The house did not have a fireplace, so my brother Stan and I could never figure out how Santa Claus could bring the presents under the tree.

My maternal grandparents, Lyle and Emily Carringer (“Gram and Gramps”), built a beautiful home on Point Loma in 1951, and Christmas Eves were spent there for many years – and it had a fireplace! Our stockings were hung there in hopes that Saint Nick would fill them to the brim. Before bedtime, my grandmother would lead us in Christmas carols while we lay in bed – it was a wonderful way to fall asleep. In the morning, the presents were there by the fireplace, and we relished unwrapping all of them before my grandparents were awake.

Santa was always good to us, probably because, in retrospect, we were usually good boys – mischievous but not criminal, loud but not abusive, whirlwinds but not destructive. We usually received toys that were all the rage of the day, plus the usual boring clothes, and fruit, candy and small toys in our stockings. The most memorable gifts were the "good" toys, of course. BB guns and Davy Crockett coonskin caps in 1954, Flexible Flyers (sleds on wheels) in 1955, bicycles in 1956.

Of course, Santa Claus isn’t mysterious forever. The Point Loma house had a two car garage that my grandfather had filled with generations of stuff – it was a wonderful place to hide, explore and search. We found the bicycles that year, but didn’t tell anybody else. Sure enough, on Christmas morning they appeared by the fireplace and Christmas tree marked “from Santa Claus.” Aha! So, we knew, but being rather smart we didn’t tell the folks – why kill the golden goose? I don’t recall when we stopped staying over at Gram and Gramps on Christmas Eve – it was probably in the early 60’s when Scott was a young child.

University of Houston Digital History web site

One of the most intriguing web sites I've seen recently is the University of Houston digital history site at

There are pages for textbooks, reference books, documents, exhibits, teacher guides, resource guides and multimedia resources. There are interactive sections for timelines, "A House Divided" and "America's Reconstruction." This site looks great to me - a favorite now.

There is a collection of historical maps at that is intriguing and useful.

Check it out!

The Benefits of having children

I received this in email today, and I can't resist putting it in the blog -

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into:

* $8,896.66 a year,
* $741.38 a month, or
* $171.08 a week.
* That's a mere $24.24 a day!
* Just over a dollar an hour.

Still, you might think the best financial advice is don't have children if you want to be "rich." Actually, it is just the opposite. What do you get for your $160,140?

* Naming rights. First, middle, and last!
* Glimpses of God every day.
* Giggles under the covers every night.
* More love than your heart can hold.
* Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
* Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
* A hand to hold, usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
* A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites
* Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140, you never have to grow up. You get to:

* finger-paint,
* carve pumpkins,
* play hide-and-seek,
* catch lightning bugs, and
* never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to:

* keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,
* watching Saturday morning cartoons,
* going to Disney movies, and
* wishing on star's.

You get to:

* frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets
* collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas,
* receive hand prints set in clay or Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for:

* retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof,
* taking the training wheels off a bike,
* removing a splinter,
* filling a wading pool,
* coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and
* coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front row seat to history to witness the:

* first step,
* first word,
* first day of school
* first bra,
* first date, and
* first time behind the wheel.

You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits,

So, one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!!!!!!!

Love & enjoy your children and grandchildren!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Six word memoir contest

Have you entered the six-word memoir contest at This is the antithesis of the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word contest, and certainly appealed to me. So I entered with one about me:

"Descendant of obscure American colonial ancestors." - Randy Seaver

Six words, no more, no less. There are some interesting and funny ones on the web site. And some scatological too (I can see everyone rushing over there now...). There is a prize for the best one - a 4 gB red iPod, but you have to sign up for a free Twitter account.

Chris Dunham at found this web site, and I posted this biography on Chris's blog:

"Son, husband, father, carpenter, soldier, citizen." - Norman Seaver (1734-1787) of Westminster MA.

What would yours be? Go post it at the web site and tell me what it was.

Rootsweb Mailing List Search function improved

Hugh Watkins scoops the genealogy blog world again - with a link to the NEW Rootsweb/Ancestry Mailing List Archive search engine that is being tested at . Hugh likes this "improvement."

After working with this a bit, I think that it is excellent. It replaces the real clunky search process that Rootsweb still has linked on their main page - where you have to search by list, and then by year.

With this new search engine in the Keyword tab, you can search on keywords - and get results from all mailing lists. The "Search tips" read:

* Search for a phrase by putting quotes around a group of words, like "john jones"

* Perform a single character wildcard search using "?". For example, j?nes will find jones and janes

* Perform a multiple wildcard search using "*". This will look for zero or more characters, so jon* will find jon, jones, and jonson

* Use "AND" to require the search to find all words or phrases.
"john AND jones" will only return results with both words

* Use "NOT" to exclude words or phrases. For example "john NOT jones" will return all results with the word john but not jones

If you use the Advanced Search tab, then you can narrow the search to words in the title, words in the body, an email address of the submitter, a specific mailing list, or a date range. That is a MAJOR improvement over the previous search capability.

I counsel patience as Rootsweb/Ancestry improve their products - and if you want to make constructive suggestions to their Help Desk at I think that they will listen!

Mary and Jonas - Love Rather than Money

A story about the marriage of Jonas Prescott and Mary Loker in 1672 has been handed down by family tradition and preserved with much accuracy, according to Butler's "The History of Groton, Massachusetts"


"John Loker of whom we have no other account than as connected with this affair, is said to have been wealthy, and both he and his wife to have been somewhat aristocratic in their feelings and notions. Having only one daughter, and she exceedingly fair and of good promise, they disdained to betroth her to a blacksmith, the son of a blacksmith, however rich or otherwise unexceptionable he might be. They had set their hearts on Mary's marrying a lawyer.

"So when they found that there was a strong attachment between their idol, Mary, and the young blacksmith (Jonas Prescott), they remonstrated, but, like many other imprudent parents, they unwittingly pursued a course well calculated to foster and strengthen it. They forbade his entering their home, or having any communication whatever with their daughter; and the more effectually to prevent any intercourse, they grated the windows of her apartment, in the house; and when they thought there was any danger of an interview between them, they locked her in.

"Jonas and Mary however were not to be baffled by grates and locks. Jonas took opportunities, when the cold night wind blew and the pelting storm raged, when no listener could overhear their soft whisperings, to place himself beneath her grated window and there enjoy sweet communion with his beloved Mary. Their intercourse was soon discovered, however, by the vigilant and chagrined parents.

"The next expedient resorted to was to place her in some secluded spot under the care of some watchful and faithful guardian. Chocksett, now called Sterling, then a frontier settlement, although adjoining to Groton, was chosen as the place of her seclusion. Jonas searched the country around, and made diligent inquiry to find the place of her banishment, for some time in vain. At length, being one day in the wilds of Chocksett, he made his usual inquiry of some young men he saw if they had any pretty girls in their neighborhood. They told him there was to be a quilting that very day, where all their girls would be; that they were going in the evening to dance with them and invited him to accompany them, where he might see for himself. He very cheerfully accepted the invitation, and on arriving at the cottage where the seamstresses of the settlement were assembled, whome should he find but his beloved Mary Loker.

"This was indeed for them a happy adventure. Concealing, as well as they could, their former acquaintance, they took opportunities to be partners in the dance and made assignments for future meetings. Having thus fortunately discovered the place of banishment, he renewed his visits, till her parents, finding it out, took her back home.

"She was then sternly told that she must reject the blacksmith and receive the addresses of the lawyer. She resolutely replied 'She would never marry to any one but Jonas Prescott.' The rejoinder was 'Then you shall never have a farthing of our property.' To this there was a general demurrer; a decree for marriage without dowry followed. The consummation took place before even the most common utensils for housekeeping could be procured (perhaps there was some delay to see if the old folks would not relent and procure or provide some). The tradition asserts that her only implements for boiling was a two quart kettle, and her wash tub the shell of a large pumpkin. From this affectionate and happy pair sprung the doctors, warriors, civilians, statesmen, jurists, historians, &c, noticed in this genealogical record and memoir, with numerous other descendants of whom Mary lived to see one hundred and seventy five."


The facts show, of course, that Mary Loker's father, John Loker, died before she was born in 1653. There is no record of her mother marrying again. Perhaps she had a guardian who remonstrated with her when she romanced Jonas Prescott. Jonas Prescott did extremely well as one of the first settlers of Groton MA.

This is one of the stories I'm going to include in next year's "Seaver-Richmond Family Journal." Jonas and Mary (Loker) Prescott are two of my 9th great-grandparents.

Is anyone reading this also a descendant of Jonas and Mary (Loker) Prescott? If so, we are probably 9th cousins.

Pitching part of my life

No, this post isn't about baseball, although pitching to my Little League and Bobby Sox teams as a coach was one of the most enjoyable part of that part of my life. I prefer baseball on TV over in-person because I can see the pitch locations and spin, and marvel at the artistry and difficulty of pitching well. That's another part of my life...

As I mentioned before, we are "cleaning out the garage" and remodeling the kitchen, family room and entry. There were lots of boxes up in the garage rafters - most of them unmoved since 1975 when we moved in. As I went through them on Monday, I had many memories of people, places and experiences come flooding into my mind.

Throwing stuff out is like eliminating part of your life. I can still remember all of those experiences (God willing), but if I throw the stuff out then I won't have the things that help me remember them. So what did I throw out?

1) My first real job (not the summer spent at the Chargers training camp in 1963) was with a start-up small airplane company - the boss was a German immigrant named Fred Wagner who had a novel aircraft design idea and tried to put it into production. I worked at Sunrise Aircraft as an aerodynamics engineer in the summers of 1964 and 1965, and then from late 1965 to early 1967, when the company folded. I saved many reports and company papers - but they have no value or interest to anyone, I think. I also captured many NASA reports and publications when the company folded. Out they go...except for the NASA scientific report I wrote.

2) My hobby from 1962 to 1988 (years 26 to 0 in Before Genealogy terms) was "listening to the AM radio." Now, you might say "everyone listened to the AM radio" in those days, and that's true, but I was trying to hear "the stations in between the stations." The ones in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, not to mention North American stations. This was mostly a late-night hobby, and there were two radio clubs with about 300 members each that published a bulletin 30 to 35 times a year. I also became an "expert" in radio wave propagation and published many articles in the hobby bulletins. Out they go - except for the masters of my articles and my handwritten log of station receptions.

3) We had quite a collection of magazines that we saved in the early years of our marriage. Out they go.

4) I found all of my college textbooks. They are pretty dated - out they go - to the library used book bin. I can't stand to throw away a book!

5) I found the boxes of O-gauge model train tracks, engines and boxcars that I grew up with. Out it goes - to my daughter who has a 3-year old in love with trains and a husband that can make it work.

6) I found the boxes of Little League and Bobby Sox programs and scorebooks...I'm keeping them for now to see what my girls and my brothers might want.

7) I found a box of old bank records - like 1984 to 1995. I am gradually shredding this stuff, since it had SSNs and account numbers on it. An inch of flat paper creates about two cubic yards of shredded paper - amazing.

So the garage is noticeably emptier, and the 20 foot long trash bin is getting full. Now I think we are going to work on the extra bedroom stuff. I told my wife that we will not be doing anything with the "stuff" in the Genea-Cave or else Genea-Man is going to be one unhappy puppy.

One benefit of this garage cleanup is that we have lots of empty boxes, which we will need when we have to empty the kitchen cabinets for the remodel. See, there's method to my madness.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Not much, in reality. It does have a lot to do with my life - my memories - and the problem of "what do we save, what do we pitch" that all of us face in our daily lives.

I've always kidded my daughters that "we'll leave all of the stuff in the house and the garage for you to sort through when we're gone, so that you can decide what you want to save or pitch." I'm leaving my memoirs to them, which include descriptions of each of these parts of my life - that should be enough.

The genealogy "collection of dead ancestors" stuff is another matter of course - how much can I put into words and pictures and pass on in book or manuscript form? It depends on life choices, health and personal interests, of course. I'm working on it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Research and Evidence analysis

The APG mailing list has been discussing the methods used for evidence analysis, and the opportunities to learn how to do it (I would put a link to the thread here, but the APG list Archive is down tonight). The discussion was started by Ken Aitken a week or so ago, and many experts have contributed their wisdom and experience. One of the major issues has been whether to use a "word processor" document or a software program to drive the analysis of evidence. I contributed my two cents, saying:

As I collect information from sources, I enter the VR data into the right places in my program (Family Tree Maker in my case) and I enter non-VR data into the text notes section, usually in a timeline fashion. I then make a genealogy report (usually a descendants report - I prefer the NGSQ format since I don't have to go to the next generation to see all of the details) and print it out (including sources). I can proofread it and edit it by hand (I proof and edit much better with a paper in front of me than on the screen), then add the changes to the text notes in FTM. I discuss the evidence quality in the notes, and I form hypotheses when needed. I keep the database updated with each bit of information I obtain.

When I am searching for the parents of a person and don't know their names, the results of my search to date is in my database under "Mr. Smith" or whatever, as the father or mother of the particular person. When I make my genealogy report, I start with this unknown person so that I know what I have already searched.For the "brick wall" problems, I use four forms of my own creation:

1) What information I have already found according to type (vital, census, probate, land, military, etc)

2) The books, journals and databases I have already reviewed (and the libraries, archives, genealogical or historical societies that hold them)

3) The Internet databases, web pages, message boards, etc. that I have or need to search in an organized way

4) A to-do list for the particular family or surname, including type of information, specific resources to look for and repositories that may hold them

This system allows me to identify what information I do have and to evaluate its quality, what information I don't have and need to search for, and where I need to search. If the type of record is not extant after searching, I note that too, so that I don't revisit a source, repository or a database without a good reason.

The forms get stapled to the genealogy report and I put the whole package in my research notebook that goes to the repository with me. The database and the forms are also on my laptop computer, but I usually write on the paper forms at the repository.

All of the above is evidence gathering and analysis. Classifying the information as primary or secondary, the sources as original or derivative, and the evidence as direct or indirect helps focus the effort and drive to a solution. I have a lot of experience in gathering and analyzing, but there have not been definite solutions to many of my "brick wall" problems - yet!

This is what works for me. I choose to not use the real "word processor" until I am ready to do a final report. I find it easier to write plain text in FTM and print out the results, proof it, edit it, modify the text, rinse and repeat. I have not used a spreadsheet like MS Excel to analyze genealogy problems, nor a program like Clooz (which does some of this well, I think). Perhaps someone could comment on their experience with Clooz (are there other programs of this nature?) - does it help with evidence analysis?

One thing that also helps me with my "brick wall" problems is sharing them with other researchers and asking for advice. Our local society has a monthly research group where we share our problems and their solutions when we find them. I read some of the journals (NGSQ, NEHGR, TAG, TG) for research problems (and their solutions) similar to mine. I have posted several of my research problems on my genealogy blog.

Gathering information and analyzing the available evidence are the really fun part of the genealogy treasure hunt for me.

What about you? How do you analyze the evidence you have gathered? How do you know what you need to look for? How do you lay it out so that you can evaluate it?

My great-grandparents: Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer

My posts yesterday about Della (Smith) Carringer and her 1929 Journal entries reminded me that I had written about her family before - at . This post collects what I know about them in one article and illustrates what a treasure trove family papers can be.

The house they built in San Diego is in the picture at . I grew up in the second floor of this house (what? you don't see a second floor?) - they moved the house in about 1927 and added a second floor apartment, using the widow's walk as a central core, but taking out the central staircase and adding one on the north side of the building. Then they stuccoed the house into a box (essentially) - totally destroying the Victorian gingerbread architecture of the original house.

Some of the family papers I have from this family include a county history book into which someone (Della, her son Lyle?) pasted pictures and newspaper articles; Della's scrapbook, with many playbills and other ephemera; Della's autograph book, with many names I don't recognize; pages from the Smith family Bible.

Della had an interesting father - Devier James (D.J.) Smith was many things, not least of which was a snake oil salesman, as posted at .

One of the neat things about blogging is that all of your posts are saved in the Archives. One problem is that there is no real index on Blogger. However, you can Google your names or key words and they pop up immediatedly. At least I don't have to type it all again.

Monday, December 11, 2006

World's oldest person dies at 116

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bolden died today in Tennessee at age 116. An article on her life is here. She also has a Wikipedia article here.

The FoxNews article says:

Bolden will have no shortage of mourners. She has literally hundreds of heirs, including 75 great-great-great-great grandchildren.

Wow, there are 6 generations of descendants! I'll bet that makes quite a family picture. I hope she left a will - the probate record might be hundreds of pages long if she didn't.

Emiliano Mercado del Toro, a 115 year old Puerto Rican male, is now the oldest living verifiable person on earth.

A week in the life of Della Carringer - Christmas 1929

I have been reading my great-grandmother's journal (Della (Smith) Carringer) for 1929 off and on during the day - it is intriguing and frustrating. Intriguing because of the daily news and bits of family information, frustrating because there are usually just a sentence or two for each day, plus a weather report.

For example, at Christmas time 1929:


Fri[day], 20 [December], warmest day in years on this date. Ma [Della's mother, Abigail (Vaux) Smith] washed her hair. I worked on cards cut out cushions for Rose - and Xmas things.

Sat[urday] 21 [December] warm. Gave Gilbert girls some Poinsettias & Mrs. Paden. Ed [brother-in-law Edgar Carringer, a single codger] over cut lawn. A[ustin Carringer, her husband] & Ed put cut leaves off Palm.

Sun[day] 22 [December] warm. Ma & I went to see Mrs. Putnam got home ten min[utes] of 4 P.M. Austin watered and put a little manure on fruit trees on West. Miss Thoren [a renter] went N[orth] for Xmas.

Mon[day] 23 [December] warm. We worked on Xmas things. I took box up to University P.O. sent to Kimballs sent Xmas cards.

Tue[sday] 24 [December] warm. Roberts [no clue who this is] called has changed to 5th Ave. Gave him candy, & a box with fruit & cookies. Fixed poinsettias & gave to the neighbors & finished sending cards. Gave boxes of candy to Sim & Union boys.

Xmas Wed[nesday] 25 [December]. We were all at Lyle's [her son, Lyle Carringer, wife Emily, daughter Betty, mother-in-law, Georgianna Auble, a widow] had a lovely time. Went to see the tree picked in morning. Ed over. In afternoon Lyle took Austin Ed & I to see Will Rodgers in "Had to see Paris" Fine.

It appears that they exchanged gifts on the 25th but did not have a big Christmas dinner - they went to a movie! This family was not religious at all, due to the death of Della's first child as a baby - it devastated them and turned them against God, I was told by my grandmother..

The front page of the journal lists the people that they sent Christmas cards to in 1928 and the back page lists who they received cards from. I recognize many of the names - many first and second cousins. I'm going to try to extend my knowledge of these families more than what I have now.

I will probably do a week of the journal at a time on the blog with this material as the year goes on. After a year, I should have this transcribed and can put it into a document to share with my brothers and children. I'm fascinated by the glimpses of each person, especially of Lyle, Emily and Betty (my mother), since I knew them well.

Genea-Christmas: The 12 Days of Christmas

A genealogy oriented version of the Twelve Days of Christmas is available on the Internet - see Kimberly Powell's site at

I decided I would do my own based on using computer genealogy, my own needs and my own research:

On the 12th day of Christmas,

My true love gave to me --

Twelve RevWar pension files (12)

Eleven passenger lists (22)

Ten WorldConnect entries (30)

Nine message board postings (36)

Eight probate records (40)

Seven census pages (42)

Six deed abstracts (42)

Five blog readers (40)

Four marriage records (36)

Three family Bibles (30)

Two draft card images (22)

And a new name in my family tree. (12)

I've put the total number in parenthesis of each item - if you sing the song all the way through, going one number at a time.

My true love is a busy girl, isn't she? But, but, but ... that would take all the fun out of the search, wouldn't it?

My early Christmas gift - from the past

I am floating on air this morning - I am really excited about a really unexpected "gift".

As I mentioned, we are cleaning out the garage and remodeling some of the house. There is a 20 foot long bin out in the driveway and the temptation is to take all the boxes put up in the garage rafters back in 1975 and dump them in the bin, sight unseen. We've resisted that so far.

So there is this box hiding in the corner on the top shelf of the rafters...and it's falling apart. The bottom drops out of it as I bring it to the garage floor. What can this be?

Treasures in the box include:

1) All of my report cards from elementary school through high school, plus some yearbooks. Also some early "artwork." I was really into maps!

2) The scorebooks from the 1960 to 1975 Little League/Pony League seasons that my dad and I coached, plus some pictures and programs.

3) Many newspaper clippings from the 1940 to 1975 time period - cut out.

4) Lots of old maps from National Geographic and other sources. Did I say that I really loved maps?

5) Three old books - "The Analytical Speller" by Edwards & Warren, 1867; "Common Sense Applied to Numbers, The Word System," 1874; "Graded Classics Fourth Reader," 1902.

6) A daily journal from 1928-1930 written by my great-grandmother, Della (Smith) Carringer.

I'm looking forward to perusing the yearbooks and report cards, reading the old books, and transcribing the journal.

They say "luck is the residue of design" - well, I feel really lucky today; I'm not sure what "design" there was here, other than cleaning out the garage. Now there's more stuff in the genea-cave in its own little box, waiting for the treasure hunt!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm almost ready for Christmas

I'm a bit winded from the frenetic activity of preparing for Christmas, sorting and throwing out collected stuff (not genealogy!) as we start our home remodel, shopping for kitchen cabinets and appliances for the remodel, and from rooting on my Chargers.

My major preparations for Christmas are almost over. I worked the last four weeks on:

1) Writing and printing the family Christmas letter - two pages with photos - that we snail mail to about 100 people. This includes making the envelope labels, writing the letter, and printing them two-sided - about a one week job with editsd and rewrites. BTW, if you want a copy of this, please email me at rjseaver(at) and i'll send a PDF version.

2) Writing and printing the 16-page Seaver-Richmond Journal, which I described here. Writing the text and inserting the pictures is about a two week job, including editing. I print this on my HP color printer at home, and usually have a 10% scrap rate as I (or the printer) mess up the double sided pages. This year, I lost only one sheet of paper (out of 400). The secret was, I think, to let the pages dry out for a day before printing the second sides. I collated them and stapled them. This was essentially a 3 day job to print it all out.

3) Preparing the 9x12 envelopes with the family letter, the Journal, a Christmas card, and, in some cases, a page of photos, then labelling and stamping the works took several hours last night. They go in the mail tomorrow. Whew.

So that's done, and now the major struggle is to find some Christmas gifts for my Angel Linda, who works so hard and helps so many people. I think she wants clothes and jewelry, and not computer related things this year.

One more chore - add the downloaded Christmas songs to my iPod! And the downloaded Genealogy podcasts from the Guys, Myrtle and the FGS conference. Then I can listen to them on our trip north to see the kids and grandkids over the holidays. My wife can listen to Dr. Laura, and i'll listen to my iPod. Does Rush have a free podcast? I'll have to check.

Are all of your Christmas chores done? What do you have left to do? Do you like to shop at Christmas? I love to go to the shopping centers and see the families with their kids go see Santa.

Fond farewells - all about eulogies

There is an interesting article about the art of writing and delivering eulogies in The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper today. The link is here (I'm not sure how permanent it is).

The article tells about Cyrus Copeland, who wrote a book in 2004 called "Farewell, Godspeed" with 64 eulogies of famous people, and now has a sequel called "A Wonderful Life" with 50 eulogies.

His best advice for writing a eulogy is:

“People think eulogies are dour, tear-streaked things, but they're not,” Copeland said in a phone interview from New York, where he lives. “The good ones are frequently very inspiring and occasionally very funny.”

But what makes a good one? Copeland offered some tips:

Open strongly. “If you start with 'Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today' you might as well give the audience a sleeping pill,” Copeland said. “That kind of opening is a testament to the lack of creativity that is sure to follow.”

As an example of an opening line that grabs the audience's attention, he cited Madonna's eulogy for Gianni Versace, the fashion designer: “I slept in Gianni Versace's bed.”

Be truthful. There's nothing worse than a snow job that makes the guy out to be a saint when everybody knows he wasn't, Copeland said. It's OK to mention foibles, because they highlight our shared humanity, he added.

Tell stories. “We all want to know our presence made a difference in people's lives,” Copeland said, “and telling stories is one way to show that imprint.”

The article has sidebars, including one for the shortest eulogy:

Rev. Louis Saunders offered a one-sentence farewell to an assassin: "Mrs. Oswald tells me her son Lee Harvey was a good boy and that she loved him, and today, Lord, we commit his spirit to your divine care."

The best eulogy for a matinee idol:
Larry Gelbart on Gregory Peck: "For openers, he had the kind of face that belonged on money."

The most brutally honest:
Rev. Howard Moody, talking about comedian Lenny Bruce: "There are three characteristics of his that I recall: his destructiveness, his unbearable moralism, and his unstinting pigheadedness."

Interesting and useful article. Having written eulogies for my mother, two aunts, an uncle and a cousin, I tend to concentrate on the good things about the person, with lots of adjectives. I need to add some stories, I guess.

Honesty in Birth Certificates

An article in today's San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper describes the story of the birth of Molly Buck on 6 January 2003. The link to the story is here (I'm not sure if this will be available for very long).

The funny part is that Molly Elizabeth Buck's birth certificate (shown in the newspaper, parents names and birthplaces, and home address included - I hope they got permission!) says:

Place of Birth: Automobile

Street Address: Hwy 163 near Hwy 8 Intersection

The funny part of the story is that the parents planned on giving Molly the Toyota 4Runner that she was born in to her on her 16th birthday - but the Toyota was stolen some time ago.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Genea-Christmas - "O Family Tree" Song

As we approach the Christmas season, I'm going to use some of the material I've collected for many years.

Tonight - the song "O Family Tree" - sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" or "O Christmas Tree"

O Family Tree, O Family Tree
How sturdy are your branches.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
How sturdy are your branches.
Through many years in ages past
You have shown the strength to last.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
How sturdy are your branches.

O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
There is so much for you to tell.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
There is so much for you to tell.
Reveal to me your mystery
As I research my ancestry.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
There is so much for you to tell.

O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
Show to me my heritage.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
Show to me my heritage.
I learn from you so I can see
A part of you lives on in me.
O Family Tree, O Family Tree,
Show to me my heritage.

-- Author unknown --

If someone knows the author of this, please let me know.

More problems at Rootsweb message boards

I posted on Thursday about the more visible problems at the Rootsweb / Ancestry message boards. After two more days of random playing with the system, there are other issues - more than I noted before. And there are some things that are pretty good.

My new observations:

1) When you click on the post submitter name, you may get an email address (as an image) of a non-Ancestry subscriber. If the submitter is an Ancestry subscriber then you can click on the Public Profile link and see their profile and email, if they have chosen to let you see it.

I decided I would make a public profile on Friday - and I did, with a picture, some notes, lots of detail. I worked 30 minutes on it.

The damn thing is gone today at 10 AM PST - poof! My public profile is blank (Gee, maybe I am just a figment of their imagination? Heck, I paid up.). Humph. So I wrote their HelpDesk a nasty-gram. Now I'll never have a public profile, I fear.

UPDATE: At 10:52 AM PST, the Public Profile is there. Perhaps they were worknig on thier servers or something.

2) The list of recent threads on a given message board still takes up about 40% of my screen width. They modified the list of thread titles so you can see the entire subject line, rather than a truncated single line. And they fixed the user-selected number of threads to list - you can choose 10, 25 or 50. I chose 25.

3) On a given message board, the threads are listed by the date of the last post on each thread, rather than the date of the first post of the thread. I like this.

4) If you click on a thread list, you can choose to see "flat view" (which is the content of each reply) or "thread view" (which is just the title of the replies, indented as required. I like the "flat view."

5) I also input over 40 "favorite" message boards yesterday - and these were saved (go figure?). I input message boards for both surnames and localities - the ones I visit on occasion. Using this, I don't have to save a bunch in my Favorites list on Internet Explorer. However, my list of favorites is not alphabetized - they look randomly placed. The county boards are not identified by state. I would prefer that they be alphabetized by surname and then by state/county.

6) One of the major complaints I've heard is that you cannot, at this time, click on the post submitter and see what other posts they have written on all Ancestry/Rootsweb message boards. This was very useful to many researchers, as it provided more insight into the research capabilities and surnames that the person was searching.

Check Hugh Watkins blog for more observations about the Ancestry/Rootsweb changes.

In addition to the Rootsweb Newsroom blog I linked to on Thursday, there is also an "Ancestry Improvements" message board at There are many complaints there also, most of them valid IMHO.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Jerome Murat video

We interrupt your genealogy reading to bring you an amazing video - a performance by Jerome Murat in France. Not genealogy...unless you have Murat cousins, I guess.

Watch it at

Breath-taking. amazing. How does he do that?

A beautiful life - Ellen Goodman's mother

I'm kind of a softie when it comes to the obituaries, and I appreciate the effort put into a really good obituary.

Here is a link to columnist Ellen Goodman's mother's obituary in the Boston Globe, titled The abiding legacy of my mother -- the listener. It tells the story of her life, and her legacy.

She describes her mother's teachings:

My mother, born before suffrage, before World War I and World War II, before the feminine mystique and feminism, taught me everything I know of family values.

She taught me that family came first. She taught me to make cheesecake and keep peace. She taught me that a real home was a place where you were welcome for Sunday brunch and conversation. She taught me to accept your children's life choices without criticism and with confidence in their judgment.

She taught me patience -- although I am afraid I never passed the finals in that class.

The last paragraph:
So my mother's gift for family, my mother's talent for empathy, was passed down from one generation to the next and the next. It is her abiding legacy.

Read the whole thing. Many of us have gone through this already, and it is often difficult to capture the soul of your loved one in a few paragraphs. Ellen, of course, is a professional writer, and she does this one very well.

Genealogy fraud has a long history

One of the major sources of Seaver genealogy data, especially for families outside of Massachusetts, was a book called "The Seaver Genealogy," published in 1924 by Jesse Montgomery Seaver in Philadelphia. He corresponded with many Seaver families found in city directories or other records to generate this book. Based on my own research, I have found only a few mistakes in his Seaver surname research, considering he did not have access to the census and other records unless he visited the location of each family.

Jesse Montgomery Seaver also wrote many other surname books, some with very common names. Apparently he was one of the first genealogy scam artists, as shown at

A newspaper article in August 1930 includes:

"J. Montgomery Seaver, thirty seven, president of the
American Historical-Genealogical Society, Broad and Norris sts., was confronted withState and Federal charges today.

George C. Baker, superintendent of mails at the post office announced a fraud order against Seaver's organization had been issued at Washington yesterday. At the same time Seaver was being held in $500 bail for court on charges growing out of a collision.

Post office inspectors investigating the Historical Genealogical Society's activities reported he had arranged a plan for selling books purporting to give the records of various families back to the time of William the Conqueror.

After the investigation Horace J. Donnelly, solicitor of the Post Office Department at Washington, reported the plan to be "a scheme for obtaining money through the mails by means
of false and fraudulent promises."

Read the whole article. Poor Jesse got caught. I don't know what happened to him after this.

I fear that old Jesse M. was a descendant of Robert Seaver (1608-1683, immigrant in 1634 to Roxbury MA) and a cousin of mine, although he could not find enough records to prove the connection.

My purpose here is to call attention to him so that other researchers don't rely on his fraudulent works. Researcher beware!