Saturday, July 22, 2006

Genealogy research update

I went to the Family History Center on Friday, since I had two microfilms come in.

Usually, I am able to print off the pages on the films using the 8.5 x 11 film printer, but when I used it, the toner was low and the images were very light. After an hour of the staff trying to find the directions (not found), and then trying to remember how to fill the toner, they figured out that they didn't have any. The machine is no longer on a service contract, and they are ready to scrap it. Frustration!

They have two scanner/computer/printer systems that scan the microfilm page and save it on the computer hard drive. The user can then print the pages, save them to a flash drive, or put them on a CD. I chose to print them, since I need a print anyway to transcribe from, and I knew the CD burning process was very slow (having watched someone else do it months ago). Well, the printing process is slow too! Fortunately, I had only 6 images to print. They chaege $1 an hour to use the system, plus $1 for a CD and $0.25 for a printed copy. Not bad.

I stayed home today and transcribed the 6 pages, which included the will, inventory and account of Joseph Allen (died 1735) of Dartmouth MA, from the Bristol county (MA) Probate Records. The will and account were neat, since they named the husbands of the daughters (mine is Rachel Allen, who married Ichabod Kirby). Previously, I had only the Dartmouth VRs and data from other researchers, which did not prove the father-daughter relationship.

I had copied many pages from the Mayflower Descendant Volume 22 (from microfilm) on an earlier FHC visit, so I also abstracted the wills of William White (1683 - 1780?) and his son, William White (1708-1780?), both of Dartmouth MA, that were summarized by George Bowman in the journal - he discovered that the original will of the elder William White included a mention of the younger, while the clerks copy in the Probate Record books did not mention the younger.

There are still many probate records to find in Rhode Island, where they were filed by towns rather than counties. I made a list of ancestor names, birth-death years, death places, etc. several months ago and am starting to find the records town-by-town.

I am applying my "Chunk Theory of Genealogy" on a regular basis, and perhaps by a year from now, I will have a lot more data, and proof of relationships, than I have now.

Friday, July 21, 2006

World records for number of children

I wondered what the world record was for the number of children born to one mother or to one father. I found an answer at, but don't know if it is correct. The money slide:

Most children born to a woman

The most prolific mother in history was a Russian peasant who had 69 children in the 18th century, 67 of which survived infancy. Between 1725 and 1765, she endured 27 multiple births, which included 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets.

The modern world record for giving birth is held by Leontina Albina from San Antonio, Chile. Now in her mid-sixties, she claims to be the mother of 64 children. Of these, 55 are documented, birth certificates apparently being something of a less-than-serious concern in Chile.

Most children fathered.

The most prolific father of all time is believed to be the last Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, Mulai Ismail (1646-1727). In 1703 he had at least 342 daughters and 525 sons and by 1721 he was reputed to have 700 male descendents.

I am did they ever remember all of their names? Can you imagine housing, feeding, clothing and taking care of more than 10 children at one time? The two women must have had 20 to 30 kids always in the house - old dad probably was out working hard. Old Mulia Ismail must have been really tired out by 1721. He probably had a problem remembering the names of his consorts, but he probably didn't care much.

Are all of these in the Rootsweb WorldConnect database, or on the LDS FamilySearch databases? Nope - I checked and didn't see them under the names Mulia Ismail or Leontina Albina.

I guess the next question is "who had the most spouses?"

E-presentations on genealogy

While reading Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's blog today, I was intrigued by her post about the online E-symposium on Genetic Genealogy. I missed the live symposium the first time around, but after I read her latest post, I thought it might be worthwhile looking into it, and i'm glad I did.

At the E-Symposium site, you have to register for free, and thereby gain entrance to the web site resources. Since the symposium was on Wednesday, you cannot see or hear it live, but you can either download the presentation (view it online or save it to your computer) or hear (via a Podcast) and see the talks online with the speech and visuals coordinated. If you had attended the live symposium, you could have interacted with the speakers after the talk.

I read several of the presentations (in PDF format of Powerpoint slides) and listened to one presentation in an enjoyable half hour.

I urge you to register at the E-symposium site and experience one of the talks with audio and visuals. The content of this set of talks may be over your head (they were way over mine!), but check out the concept. Does this work for all of you Pajama Genealogists?

I believe that this is one of the futures of genealogy education (Ken Aitken, are you reading?). To have world class researchers talk through their presentation while you watch the slides is a fantastic opportunity for visual and auditory learners. I think that it won't be long until we can buy DVDs of genealogy conferences or symposiums for our personal use and education.

I assume that by registering with this company, that we may get publicity about the upcoming genealogy E-symposiums. I hope so!

Thanks to Megan for her post about this.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jasia's Carnival of Genealogy

Jasia at the Creative Gene blog has started a Carnival of Genealogy blogfest in which one genealogy related topic is discussed and links to blog entries or web sites are provided for the reader's pleasure.

The 4th Carnival topic was Family Reunions, and is located at If you want to see what a Carnival looks like, this is a good example.

Jasia also has hosted all four Carnivals so far. They have been posted every two or three weeks.

The next Carnival topic is Historical Fiction and the deadline for submissions is July 31 at

I look forward to the next Carnival, since it's the first one I've participated in. Jump in and contribute!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Book Review - "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Shaara

As faithful readers (both of you!) of this blog recall, I occasionally write a short book review of a history or genealogy book that I've recently read. Earlier reviews covered the two Revolutionary War historical novels by Jeff Shaara (Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause), and the recently published book Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. These reviews are in my archives (probably in May and June).

Gods and Generals is Jeff Shaara's first book, and is the prequel to his father's (Mike Shaara) Pulitzer prize winning book, The Killer Angels.

This book starts before the Civil War as the war clouds gather, then takes the reader through the gathering of the forces, and the battles in Virginia and Maryland that lead up to Gettysburg in July 1863. The strategy on both sides, the troop movements, the battle details and the life of Civil War soldiers in wartime conditions are covered in exquisite and awful detail.

As in the other Shaara books, the story is told through the eyes and words of major protagonists - in this case, Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson for the South, and Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for the North. The reader gets to know the other major figures on both sides through the prism of the four major characters. Maps showing the battlefields and strategic movements help the reader sort out what is happening.

The result is a fascinating insight into the lives and careers of these military leaders as they deal with success and defeat, and the exhilaration and horror of battle.

Naturally, I am going to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara next, and then the third Civil War book in the series, The Last Full Measure. by Jeff Shaara.

If you want to bone up on Civil War history, then these three books by the Shaaras are must reading.

Great Genealogy Charts

You can obtain genealogy charts from a number of sources:

1) has links to many different types of charts.

2) has a pedigree chart and forms online for a free download.

3) Family Tree Magazine has many number of charts and forms available as either a PDF file or an MS Word document file.

4) has several nice freecharts in PDF format (thanks to Lee Anders for the tip). They also sell large wall charts if that is your need.

I know that there are more free chart and form web sites, but these have pretty much what I need and use. I'm partial to the MS Word versions, since I can then type on them and keep them updated easily on the computer without having to print them every time I update them.

Finding an Ancestral Home

I had heard from a correspondent that her ancestor, Eldridge Smith, had bought an inn in Dodge County, Wisconsin from my ancestor, Ranslow Smith. However, I didn't know exactly where the inn had been located, nor did I know if it was still standing. My correspondent had mentioned that it might have been moved to Old World Wisconsin.

The other day I visited the Old World Wisconsin web site at On one of the pages, there was a place to send a query to them, so I did.

I received an immediate response from Marty Perkins of Old World Wisconsin that said:

The Four Mile House, built in Rolling Prairie, Wisconsin, sat midway between Horicon and Beaver Dam. It was constructed in the early 1850s for New Yorker Ranslow Smith and represents a common mid-nineteenth century hotel form - adorned with Greek Revival elements. I acquired the building for Old World Wisconsin back in the early 1980s. It's 3 stories with a ballroom on the third floor, bedrooms on the second, and public rooms on the first. We have gathered a fairly large amount of research material on the families associated with the building and the building itself. It now sits at the heart of the Crossroads Village exhibit area at OWW. I hope you will make plans to visit this wonderful family heirloom. Please keep me abreast of your plans. I look forward to staying in touch.

Now I know where it was located originally, and where it is now.

This is the second building of Ranslow Smith's still standing - I've been by the house in Henderson in Jefferson County NY, but not in it. It's featured in a local newspaper article about Old Houses in the Northern NY area, and was built in the 1830's.

Needless to say, southeastern Wisconsin just jumped up near the top of our list of places to visit! The really neat thing is that they have a Norwegian area with two farm houses and a schoolhouse. Linda's paternal line came from Norway to Dane County WI in the 1850's.

It's nice to get answers to your questions, eh? With a good answer, too.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Apartheid in medieval England?

There is an interesting article in the New Scientist magazine here about the impact of a small group of Anglo-Saxon invaders on the genetic makeup of central England. The setup:

Genetic analysis of men in modern-day central England shows that more than half of them possess a Y-chromosome that can be traced to Germania - an ancient region of central Europe.

Historians argue that fewer than 200,000 Anglo-Saxons invaded the population of about 2 million Celtic Britons during the 5th century. All things being equal, this number should account for just 10% of the gene pool being Anglo-Saxon.

They then go on to claim that:

In an attempt to explain this anomaly, Mark Thomas at University College London, UK, and colleagues came up with a theory that an apartheid social structure benefited the people - and therefore the genes - of the Anglo-Saxon race at the expense of the native Celtic genes.

Evidence of the apartheid system can be found in ancient texts such as the 7th century laws of Ine, Thomas says, which place a greater value on the life of an Anglo-Saxon. For example, these laws stated that if an Anglo-Saxon was killed, the "blood money", or "Wergild", payable to the family was up to five times more than the fine payable for the life of a native Celt.

In societies where one race is socially and economically favoured over another - like the Anglo-Saxons were over the Celts - the dominant race is likely to have more children and these children are more likely to survive to a healthy adulthood. Rather than interbreeding with the native population, the invading Germanic tribes actually out-bred them, Thomas believes.

To my simple mind, it seems that "to the victor go the spoils" - in this case, the fair Celtic women of the time. I sincerely doubt that the Anglo-Saxons brought enough women to England at the time to breed with - they must have taken the hometown girls for wives, resulting in the Y-DNA results quoted in the article.

Apartheid? I doubt it. Ravishing and pillaging - probably. Works every time. Easy, eh? But we are much more civilized and sophisticated now, aren't we? Our esteemed scientists seem to want to apply 21st century social norms to 6th century realities.

What does your surname mean?

A query sent to our local society asked "What is the origin and meaning of my surname?" So I went looking on the web, and found:

At, you can put your surname into a search box and click Search. The result is a definition of the origin and meaning of the surname, such as:

Search results for: Seaver
(origin: Gaelic.)
Saibher, rich;
Sever, local, a town in France.

Or for another name in my ancestry:

The heading for the page says:

Find the ethnic origin and meaning of last names.
Surname dictionary and genealogy helps include names
of Irish, German, English, French, Italian, and Jewish descent.

However, when I input a number of German sounding names, like Carringer/Geringer, Auble, Karcher, Rau, etc., I got no definition. Likewise, English names like Richman, Hildreth and Marshman result in no definition.

There are lists of nationalities in the left hand column so that you can see what is available for each.

The page does helpfully provide numbers for occurrences of the name in some of the databases, which are interesting and not helpful, but there are no links.

There are other sites like this, I think, so maybe I'll do a bit more looking.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Are you trying to read old handwriting?

One of the challenges that genealogists face as they obtain and try to understand original source documents (or images of them) is to read the handwriting. This is especially true before 1800. The study of handwriting is called Paleography.

A summary of the challenges is provided at this page, which deals mainly with British Isles documents, but the challenges often apply to colonial English-speaking America also.

The real gem here is the link at the bottom of the page, which leads to the UK Archives Introduction to their tutorial on paleography. From there, use the links on the left hand side of the page to get into the tutorial and improve your handwriting deciphering capability.

The "Where to Start" link and the "Quick Reference" link provide wonderful information about reading and transcribing, handwriting styles, date styles, numbers, money and measurements that is useful for British Isles and colonial America research.

I struggle mightily with the legal and secretary forms of the handwriting found in documents in the 1500 to 1700 time frame. Practicing here has helped me somewhat when faced with an old New England will.

Try it out!

WorldVitalRecords Databases

There was a big stir when the PR surrounding the revitalization of the web site was released several weeks ago. Then they started adding records.

As of today, it appears that the databases online at the site include:

Social Security Death Index
Maine Death Records
Louisiana Slave Index
Land Patents - Ohio
Land Patents - Arkansas
Land Patents - Alabama
Land Patents - Wisconsin

That's a start, although the list of records available does not describe the database itself, until you get to an actual record. The records are transcriptions, not images of the record.

You should know that you can obtain these records at other web sites, depending on the subject matter. When WVR gets this site populated with many databases, then there will be a lot of records available in one place and it will be more useful.

The only way to use the databases at this time is to enter a surname, given name, date or location (or any combination thereof) and click the "Find" button at the top of the main page.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A light genealogy weekend

This has been a light weekend for genea-blogging and for doing any useful research.

On Saturday, I had the choice of going to the CGSSD meeting on Digital Cameras or to the FHC to do some Ancestry lookups (since my Rhode Island probate films haven't arrived yet). Instead, I chose to stay home and have some fun with Lauren, my 17 month old granddaughter (pictures at It was a great decision!

A genealogy project I did work on is a presentation for my upcoming speaking engagements at SDGS and CVGS. I'm moving from MSWord to Powerpoint-type presentations. I don't have a laptop, and CVGS doesn't have an LCD projector, but I'm planning for the future.

I downloaded the FREE OpenOffice suite of MSOffice-like programs (from several months ago. They have a word processor, a spreadsheet called Calc, a presentation program called Impress!, and other modules. It seems that the OpenOffice programs don't have all of the bells and whistles, like a wide variety of document templates, found in Microsoft Office.

My work-around for my project was to use the Powerpoint templates at work to create master sheets and then email them to my home eddress and use them in Impress!. I've learned a bit about both Powerpoint and Impress! The presentation creation is about 50% done - I'm still trying to find good examples of documents to scan from my paper files to include in the presentation.

I'll post some genealogy stuff tomorrow - we have a church meeting and a play to attend this afternoon and tonight.