Saturday, August 12, 2006

Abraham Lincoln in San Diego today

Abraham Lincoln was the guest speaker at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting today. He came in top hat, bow tie, white shirt and black suit coat and pants to tell us his life story. He described his ancestry, known to him, his childhood, young adult and adult life, right up to the April 14, 1865; he said he doesn't remember anything after that.

William Truman Peck lives in the San Diego area and is a professional Lincoln impersonator. He bears a resemblance to our 16th President, and has spent 24 years studying the man and his deeds. He said he was one of the 21 Lincoln impersonators at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum dedication in Springfield, Illinois in 2005. He took questions also describing different aspects of Lincoln's life, and talked about his work as an impersonator. It was a good meeting.

At the break time, there was an ice cream social event and people could have their picture taken with Honest Abe. I held myself in check and had only two scoops and one topping, and didn't even try to ask Abe about his supposed real father, Abraham Enloe (see here for the supposition, and here for the rebuttal).

The attendance at this meeting was the highest at an SDGS regular meeting for a long time - I estimated about 100 seats were filled, including many guests and some people brought children. Was it Abe or the ice cream - both were big hits!

If you are trying to enliven your society meetings, having Abraham Lincoln (or another historical personage) as the guest speaker may be just the answer.

A good genealogy day...

It was an interesting genealogy day. I went to the Family History Center for 90 minutes, and then to the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting which featured Abraham Lincoln as the guest speaker. I'll blog separately about Abe's talk.

At the FHC last week, I found that they had the South Kingstown RI probate records on pertmanent loan on three films. Keen readers of this blog will recall (yeah, sure!) that the only film reader printer they had was out of order three weeks ago, and I had to get prints off of the film/fiche scanner hooked to a computer system and a printer. The reader/printer is still out of order and will soon disappear, leaving the scanner/computer system the only option to get images of film and fiche records.

I had four target records on the South Kingstown RI first film, which encompasses Volumes 1 and 2 of the probate records (about 1694 to 1735 or so). The wills, inventories and other probate records of Stephen Hazard, Thomas Greenman, Samuel Tefft and Moses Barber were the records I wanted. I found them easily on the film installed on the film/fiche scanner, and methodically added images to the computer software file, ending up with 39 images. For each image, I adjusted the brightness of the image since the images were fairly dark on the film and the scanner.

Rather than print the pages, I thought I could save time (each printed page takes a minute or two on the system) and money (each printed page costs 25 cents) by saving the images to my thumb drive and then I could print them at home. I installed the thumb drive on the computer with no problem, and started to download the images using the image software. The thumb drive stopped blinking after several minutes, but when I checked the directory, only 16 images had downloaded because my thumb drive was full. I had chosen TIF files as the format of choice since these were ancient handwritten records. OK, on to Plan B.

Plan B for me was to buy a CD-ROM at the FHC for $1 and burn all the images to the CD, take them home, transfer them to my computer hard drive, and print them. After several tries, and much consultation with the center experts, we figured out that the CD drive on this unit didn't work. OK, on to Plan C.

Plan C was to delete all of the files off my thumb drive (I can always put them back, right?) and copy all 300 mb of the 39 images to the thumb drive using the computer Windows Explorer. To do that, I had to:

1) Create a "Trash" directory on the center computer
2) Save the images still on the Image software to the Trash directory on the center computer.
3) Install the thumb drive on the center computer.
4) Delete all files on the 512 mb thumb drive.
5) Copy the files in the Trash directory to the thumb drive.
6) Check to see if the images look good on the thumb drive after all this
7) Close out the Image software on the center computer.
8) Delete the Trash directory on the center computer.

Plan C worked! It took 30 minutes, but it worked. At home, I'm in the process of printing the 39 inages so I can transcribe or abstract the probate data for my four targets. I still have 7 more targets to obtain probate records from these films - probably two more trips to the FHC.

The lesson here is to keep your thumb drive empty, and your options open!

In the end, it was a good genealogy day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Colonial Free African-American book online

Lee Anders at The Geneaholic blog provided a link to a web page with the 2000 page book about Free African-Americans in the Southeast in colonial times. The web site is

The description of the book is:

by Paul Heinegg

The history of the free African American community as told through the family history of most African Americans who were free in the Southeast during the colonial period.

About 2,000 pages of family histories based on all colonial court order and minute books on microfilm at the state archives of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Delaware (over 1000 volumes), 1790-1810 census records, tax lists, wills, deeds, free Negro registers, marriage bonds, parish registers, Revolutionary War pension files, etc. There are also another 2,000 pages or so of abstracted tax lists, census records, etc., under "Colonial Tax Lists..."

There are links for each resource that is available, and then alphabetical indices for the family genealogy reports in some of the chapters.

This is a tremendous resource for researchers with African-American roots in these states. I quickly checked to see if my wife's Maryland slave-holding ancestors are mentioned - they aren't.

More curious, strange and humorous names

It's a pretty slow genealogy news day, and I'm tuckered out from transcribing wills and deeds for most of the day, get more curious, strange and humorous names from the posts on the BlackSheep mailing list:

* Fathergone Dinley -- I guess Mom named this baby!

* Watching Mather -- this baby must have had big wide open eyes

* Repent Savage -- hmmm, this could have lots of meanings

* Pleasance Jolly -- I'll bet he never spoke badly of any person

* Constant Clapp -- it's not the baby's fault!

* Preserved Clapp -- Clapp used to be an honorable surname

* Brightberry Brown Gardner -- different!

* Ima Dymple -- this seems too good to be true. Wonder who she married?

* Icy Ann Frost -- a cool name for a little girl

* Possom Sisson -- unbelievable, eh?

Then there were whole families with interesting children's names:

* Jordan family -- children Dominicus, Rishworth, Neafpon, Lonxy, Fowlke, Keziah, Tristram, Clement, Styleman, Shuah, Mehitable, Melatiah, Sylvanus, Israel and Lemuel.

* Johnson family -- children named Commodore Perry, Andrew Jackson, Zachariah Taylor, Capotle, Pheuba Jane and Noble.

* Holcomb family -- children named Mary Safronia, Ettie Any, Jappie Jay, Aral Tee, Jimmy Dee, Nettie Anner, Tone, Billie Dee, Vonnie B. and Oral.

God bless each one of them - at least the boys weren't named Sue.

What were their parents thinking???

Thursday, August 10, 2006

WorldCat now Online at OCLC

The Worldwide Library Catalog, known as WorldCat is now online directly through OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). The direct link to WorldCat is here.

Before this direct link, you had to access WorldCat through a library online database system. This makes it so much easier!

What is WorldCat?
WorldCat is the largest library network in the world. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their free resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.

You can enter key words into the WorldCat search engine. You then get a list of books in the WorldCat system - which indexes libraries all over the world. When you click on one of the books, you can get a list of the libraries that have that book available. If there are too many libraries on the list, you will be asked to select a country, state, province or postal code to limit the search. One problem with the limits is that you can't eliminate it except by getting off the OCLC site and coming back to it.

Using this system, I found out that the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston has a collection of Seaver family papers dating from 1672 to 1944, including deeds, wills, inventories, account books, etc - a real treasure trove of data. While that is not my family line, I will make the effort to visit MHS in the future in order to review this information to help me in my Seaver Family project.

Another entry I found is a book titled "The Frank R. and Blanche E. Seaver Story - "Every Man is a Trustee." This is a book published in 1993 and is located at four university libraries in Southern California. I could either go to those libraries to read it, or see if my local library has InterLibrary Loan (ILL) with one of the libraries and borrow it that way for a small fee.

There is a special web page for genealogy searches here, including a tutorial.

Cool. I love it when free things are made easier to use!

A hat tip to Leland Meitzler at the news site for this one.

What Can Local Societies Do to Attract More Members?

My blog post of yesterday followed a Dick Eastman post about heightened genealogy interest, yet society membership is declining and conference attendance is decreasing. My post offered a discussion and theory about the size of the market. Today I want to discuss what local societies could do to increase their membership.

Increasing society membership needs to be a three-pronged effort:

1) Retain your existing members by providing services and programs that keep them interested and active.

2) Encourage those active members to mentor other members in the society, and to encourage their genealogy friends to join in the activities.

3) Be a presence in the community - team with the local library, and the local historical society, and participate in community events (fairs, farmer's markets, parades, etc). Try to get publicity through local newspapers and free magazines.

Using the categories from my earlier post - the people that your society wants to attract are those in the community with an interest in genealogy, those who have done some research but have stopped, or those who are "fairly actively" doing genealogy research but are not members. My estimate is that there are about 300 people in Chula Vista (200,000 population) who are in the last category alone (4 times our CVGS membership).

I will use my local society, Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS, 80 members, with monthly programs with speakers), as an example for these efforts - we have added many activities in the last four years. Some of these ideas may work for you, and others may not. They are offered freely:

1) The CVGS monthly meetings are held on a Monday morning, which is fine for seniors who enjoy the outing, but not so good for working people. We decided that we would also offer a program with a speaker on four Saturday mornings each year when nobody else has a genealogy program - the fifth Saturday that occurs in 4 months out of the year. This year they are in January, April, July and September. We had 8 visitors at the July program, out of a total attendance of 28, and 2 joined the society.

2) Offer a Computer Interest Group to help members and guests learn to use the Internet and genealogy web sites. We access the Chula Vista Library Computer Lab once a month for two hours, and have a yearly "Beginning Computer Skills for Genealogists" series.

3) Offer a Research Group to help members and guests with their brick wall problems. We have a round table discussion of research problems, suggesting opportunities for further research. This has been so successful that half our meeting is now about research successes, with members passing copies of interesting documents around. This year, we've added 5 minutes of genealogy industry news and a 10 minute lesson on some aspect of genealogy research. The typical attendance is 10 to 15 on a Wednesday morning.

4) Sponsor research trips to libraries in different cities. Our membership is fairly elderly and many don't drive the freeways, so we car-pool to the SD FHC, Carlsbad Library (the best genie library in the county, with home access to HQO with a card), the SDGS library in El Cajon, or the SD downtown library. It's a good social outing, and our people experience another library environment - perhaps it holds the record they need. Our trip last week to the FHC had 16 attendees - we used all the computers at the FHC.

5) Find new and interesting speakers and topics for the society meetings. We had an "Antiques Roadshow" program last year with a local appraiser who kindly donated her time. We had a Genealogy Humor program that was a hit, as was the Forensic Genealogy program. We recently had a Civil War love story program that touched the attendees, and a Digital Photo Restoration program. On tap is a program on San Diego Place Names and one on the Witches of Salem.

6) Communicate with the membership frequently. We have always had a monthly newsletter and a phone tree to notify members about the meetings. Over 60% of our members have email, and they receive notice via email of all society meetings and also about genealogy research news and tips (e.g., free access to Ancestry or other subscription sites). We added content to the newsletter, especially news about the different groups and articles about Internet research. We just put the newsletter on the web in order to save postage costs. Since there is no weight limit for postage costs online, we may add further content to the newsletter for online readers.

7) There are about 15 local libraries in the Southern part of San Diego County, and a number of large community centers and retirement homes. We deliver 10 program flyers a month to these places, and also to the San Diego Family History Center. By getting to know the librarians and activity directors, we have advocates in all of these places. The cost is about $6 per month, plus the time and gas to deliver them.

8) Notices of our meetings appear in the community calendar section of the San Diego and Chula Vista newspapers. It's free. Through this contact, we know who the editors and reporters are and they have asked, on occasion, if there are opportunities for newspaper articles about genealogy or family history.

9) October is Family History Month. CVGS is teaming with the Chula Vista Library to have a "Search Your Family History" program for families with school-age children. Since the kids usually have a homework assignment to tell about their family history, this is intended to give them a head start, and to hopefully interest some people to research further and join our society. The families will be given a handout when they sign up with directions to fill out a pedigree chart, and bring it to their meeting. We will have a CVGS member mentor the family, give them information in a 30 minute round table session, followed by 30 minutes in the Computer Lab, and a visit to the Family History section in the Library. In addition, we are going to have a Family History Month display case in the Library entry way with charts, photos, books, magazine, papers, etc. during October and November. The Library is enthusiastic about helping us, and vice versa.

10) Provide a free 4 to 6 hour brown-bag seminar on a Saturday featuring basic genealogy topics and research techniques, with the hope that it will not only attract potential members, but also serve as an update for members not actively attending the regular meetings. The cost was essentially the handout cost, with the 5 speakers being members of the society. When we did this in 2004, we added 4 new members.

Naturally, all of the above takes dedicated volunteers to make things happen. CVGS is fortunate to have a cadre of about 20 members who do most of the work and attend all of the meetings. The program speakers are usually either local San Diego researchers or genealogy professionals from Southern California.

Because of the Computer group and the Research group activities, we have "grown" the research capabilities and knowledge of our members to the point where many can mentor someone else. While our numbers are relatively small, we know most of our members by name and ancestors, we have a lot of fun and provide real service to our membership.

I would love to hear from YOU about what your society has offered to retain current members or bring in new members. Please share them by commenting to this post.

Glen Abbey Memorial Park (Bonita CA, near San Diego) Burial Records CD on Sale

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society recently completed the publication of the "Burial Records of Glen Abbey Memorial Park," which is located in Bonita CA, just east of Chula Vista and south of San Diego. It is the largest cemetery south of San Diego in the County. Over 35,000 people were buried here between 1924 and 1999 (deaths since 2000 are not included). The complete work is arranged in alphabetical order by SURNAME and is searchable and printable. This volunteer project took over ten years to complete by our members working with the cemetery people. In paper form, the work is 1,562 pages.

The Society has put these records on a CD-ROM and is selling the CDs in order to recoup our costs. This CVGS web page provides more details.

There is an Early Bird Special for orders before October 1, 2006: the price before October 1 is $14.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling (a total of $19.90), plus $1.15 sales tax if you are a California resident (for a total of $21.05). For orders after October 1, the cost is $19.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling (a total of $24.90) plus $1.55 sales tax if you are a California resident (for a total of $26.40).

You can order the CD by sending a check or money order in the appropriate amount to Chula Vista Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 3024, Chula Vista CA 91909-3024. Please state how many CD's you wish to buy and provide your name and address. For more information, please call the CVGS President, John Finch, at 619-990-0127. A one page flyer is available from Randy Seaver via email at rjseaver(at)

CVGS is not done...we have started the Burial Records of La Vista Cemetery in National City, the next largest cemetery south of San Diego.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

If Genealogy interest is so high, why are the numbers down?

Back in early July, Dick Eastman on his blog asked this question, and received quite a few comments, including two from me. Dick made the observations that:

Fact #1: Genealogy is more popular today than ever before. It is the second or third or fourth most popular topic on the Web, depending upon whose sources you care to cite.

Fact #2: Attendance at all genealogy venues is down. The average attendance at genealogy conferences is declining. (Note that I wrote "average." There are some notable exceptions.) Membership in genealogy societies is also declining. Finally, the number of visitors to most major genealogy libraries reportedly is declining.

Is it just me, or does anyone else see a contradiction in these two "facts?" If interest in genealogy is growing, why aren't we seeing more and more people at conferences, libraries, and society meetings?

You can read the rest of his article and the comments at the link above. It was a good discussion, with a number of views represented.

In my opinion, the two big factors that caused the decline include:

1) The proliferation of genealogy resources on the Internet.

2) The aging of our genealogy population.

The Internet is very seductive - you can spend months collecting new data for your family, without knowing a whole lot about doing real genealogy research in original sources. This type of "pajamas research" appeals to the generation of boomers (still working) who want everything "now." Unfortunately, many don't want, or don't realize the need, to take the next step and go to a library, join a society or attend a conference.

The aging of those who have done "real research" and don't do much Internet research precludes them, physically and financially, from going to conferences or attending society meetings. It's unfortunate, but true.

That's why societies have to change their programs to incorporate a blend of traditional and Internet topics, help their members get to libraries, publicize the conferences, etc.

While Dick and others are concerned about conferences, since that is a big part of their genealogy work, many of us are more concerned about our local societies.

My view is that in almost every situation, the 80-20 rule of societal interaction applies:

1) In our society of 300 million people, about 20% express an "interest" in genealogy - say 60 million people.

2) Of those with an "interest," 20% have done some real research, the others are just theoretically interested - so say 12 million have done some research.

3) Of those who have done research, about 20% have actively pursued genealogy research (have a colelction of records, software, databases, etc) - say 2.4 million people.

4) About 20% of those folks are fairly active now in pursuing their ancestry, the rest have let it lapse or can't pursue it now due to any number of reasons - so we're down to about 500,000 people who are currently "fairly active".

5) About 20% of those "fairly active" research folks are in local, regional or national societies, the other 80% either can't afford it, do their research independent of any group, etc - say about 100,000 people.

6) About 20% of those folks in the local societies are "real active" - they are officers, volunteers, speakers, attendees at nearly every meeting, etc. The other 80% attend once in awhile or don't count society activities as a high priority, but as a "nice to do once in awhile." So we're down to maybe 20,000 real active people.

7) About 20% of those folks who are real active on the local level become speakers, attend conferences occasionally, and consider becoming a professional - that's maybe 4,000 people.

8) About 20% of those folks are actively engaged in the genealogy profession - they write books, magazine articles and research articles, they attend and speak at conferences, they work for clients, they are accredited, etc. That adds up to about 1,000 people.

So why are only 1,000 (more or less) regularly attending the major conferences? It comes down to those 4,000 people in 7) above - their health, travel costs, schedule conflicts, and other factors, I think. About 20% attend, of whom some are the item 8) professionals!

The above is just my own theory, but in my local area it sort of pans out. My small Chula Vista (city has 200,000 population)society has 80 members - we have about 20 who attend just about every meeting, 4 are regular speakers, none is a professional. The larger San Diego (city has population of 1.2 million) society has about 400 members, has an average meeting attendance of 80 or so, has 15 to 20 who are speakers, and several who are professionals. The percentages don't add up exactly, but you get the idea.

So how can we increase the membership in societies and increase attendance at confderences? We need to attract more people in groups 3) and 4) above by communicating better and by offering new and different programs at times convenient to these people. Many of them work, and cannot attend a weekday society meeting. We also need to get these people back to the library to pursue research in original sources - records not found on the internet (yet! See yesterdays post on Arlene Eakle's article).

I'll close this long-winded analysis here, but I welcome your thoughts and comments! Did anyone read the whole thing? You get a gold genealogy star today!

Early California vital records article

An interesting article about Early California vital records was published in the Los Angeles Times on 8 August, titled "Huntington Library Database Tells the Stories of 100,000 Mission Indians," by Larry Gordon, Times Staff Writer.

The article was posted to the CASANDIE-L message board at Rootsweb. Unfortunately, access at the LATimes is behind their firewall - you have to be a registered user to see it.

The article reads:

Reclaiming a neglected part of California's past, historians Monday unveiled an immense data bank that for the first time chronicles the lives and deaths of more than 100,000 Indians in the Spanish missions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In an eight-year effort, researchers at the Huntington Library in San Marino used handwritten records of baptisms, marriages and deaths at 21 Catholic missions and two other sites from between 1769 and 1850 and created a cross-referenced computerized repository that is now open to public access.

The Early California Population Project, its creators hope, will help bring the state's Spanish colonial and Mexican eras from out of the long shadows cast by the 13 English colonies on the East Coast.

"What we are trying to do here is to say these people have a history, and it's not a history that can be caricatured," said the project's general editor, historian Steven W. Hackel. "It's a history that emerges from a deep native past and a deep Spanish past and shows how the two came together for better or worse."

Huntington officials say scholars and amateur genealogists will be able to track, among other things, how many descendants of a Miwok Indian survived into the era of U.S. statehood, how many people died in an earthquake or a measles epidemic, how frequent intermarriage was between Spanish soldiers and Indian women, or how many Indians worked in farming or became skilled artisans.

The database does not offer judgments on the long debates about whether the Franciscans forced Indians into the missions and treated them brutally or whether Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California mission system, deserves to be, as he is now, just one step from sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

However, it does document the Franciscans' obsessions with converting Indians to Catholicism and its bans on polygamy and illegitimacy. And, death by death, it shows an extraordinarily high mortality rate as Indians became exposed to European diseases such as measles, influenza and smallpox.

"People who think the missions were places of cultural genocide and terrible population decline can look at this database, and they'll see that people came into the missions and died soon after," said Hackel, a history professor at Oregon State University. "People who want to see something else in the missions can look here too. It also shows tremendous Indian persistence and attempts to maintain their own communities within the missions."

The public can gain access to the database through an Internet link at . Conducting searches on the site can be complicated at first because of the many choices involved.

The project, which cost $650,000, used records mainly taken from microfilm of the originals. They overwhelmingly concern Indians in the coastal regions from the San Diego to Marin County areas, perhaps as many as half of the Indians within the current state borders. Some Spanish soldiers and Mexican settlers are included through the turbulent times of Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821 and California U.S. statehood in 1850.

There are some gaps in the documents as the missions declined, the Franciscans were stripped of their authority and Indians revolted. After the San Diego mission was burned down in an insurrection in 1775, the priests re-created the logs from memory, Hackel said.

Still, the Franciscans remained good record-keepers. They assigned numbers to each baptism and carefully noted parents and godparents, village of origin, ethnic background and trades. As a result, many people can be traced with astonishing specifics through life and, with computer links, their progeny.

For example, a 2-day-old Indian boy, given the name Francisco, was baptized Aug. 11, 1786, at Mission San Diego, the project shows. The information links to his marriage at 18 to a woman named Maria Loreta, also 18 (a spinster by that era's customs) and her death five years later with no children.

Francisco married again the next year to Antonina, who died childless 10 months later. He married a third time, to Thomasa (she was 13 and he was 26) and had a baby girl, Ynes, who died at 6 months. Francisco died April 4, 1817, apparently held in high regard by the Franciscans because he was given a deathbed communion, not just an anointing.

Thomasa married twice more and had 10 more children, two of whom are recorded as dying in infancy.

The causes of deaths in that clan were not given, but other records reveal risks of Western life beyond disease. Some people died from bear and snake attacks and others drowned in wells. The 1812 San Juan Capistrano earthquake killed 39, all buried in the ruins of the mission church.

"It tells us one heck of a lot about the people of California before 1850," said Robert C. Ritchie, the Huntington's director of research. "It has an enormous amount of detail that sits below the big story we know: the dying of so many native people along the coast."

Although surveys of smaller groups of missions were done in the past, none pulled together populations from across what was known as Alta California, scholars say. Plus, no other project on this topic was designed for the average person, not just experts, to navigate.

"The goal is democratic and open access to records that previously were, if not inaccessible, very, very hard to get," said Hackel, whose 2005 book, "Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis," examined Indian-Spanish relations in that period.

The raw records can be difficult to read, interpret and put into context, he added.

The project involved eye-straining work that took the equivalent of between two and four full-time employees since 1999. Their job was to take hundreds of thousands of bits of information from the microfilm of sometimes damaged and illegible mission books and put them into easy-to-read computer formats.

Anne Marie Reid, the inputting team leader, recalled feeling ill sometimes after long days staring at dark microfilm in Spanish and Latin and entering names and dates into computer logs.

But she said she also gained a feeling of fellowship with the Indians and priests as she recognized their names in various references. "You come to know these people," she said recently in her small workroom with consoles and screens.

In all, statistics were gleaned on an estimated 120,000 people, including some with incomplete records and some mentioned just once as a parent. Included are about 101,000 baptisms, 28,000 marriages and 71,000 burials at all 21 missions and from the Los Angeles Plaza Church and the Santa Barbara Presidio.

Partly because of the size, the project experienced some delays this summer because of software glitches.

The Huntington has a few original and very valuable mission records, including a page in Serra's very legible hand about three baptisms on Dec. 1, 1783, at Mission San Luis Obispo. Missions and other Catholic archives hold most of the surviving books but usually allow scholars to see only microfilm copies, some made 50 years ago.

Among the institutions lending microfilm for the project were the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, the archdioceses of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Santa Clara University. John R. Johnson, curator of anthropology for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Randall Milliken, a Davis-based anthropologist and mission expert, helped with planning.

The largest financial support for the project came from the National Endowment for the Humanities ($294,000), the California State Library ($163,000) and the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation ($110,000).

The Dan Murphy Foundation and the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation were among other donors.

Anthony Morales, tribal chair and chief of the Gabrieleno/Tongva Band of Mission Indians of San Gabriel, said he thought the project would "really catch the interest of all kinds of people like educators and researchers and just average folks who are interested in their families."

Some people, he said, will search for evidence of brutality in the mission system such as forced conversions and labor, while others will look for a more positive picture, such as "what did happen after my great-great-grandmother got converted and baptized."

Robert Senkewicz, a Santa Clara University historian who is an expert on early California, said the accessibility of the database is its "great virtue."

"It will make genealogists feel like they died and went to heaven," he said.


I'm not sure I believe the last quote - I think that only the genealogists who need these records will feel great about it - the rest of us will say "that's nice," and forget about it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Indexing the World?

Well-known genealogist Arlene Eakle has started a weekly blog, and her two articles so far are very interesting.

This week, Arlene passed word on the new LDS FamilySearch (R) Retooled in her article here. The money quote from her article:

The records and Information Division estimates that it will take 6-7 years to scan all 2.5 million microfilm rolls stored in the Granite Mountain Vaults. In the meantime, technology development continues so that every word in those frames can be digitally indexed and electronically stored for retrieval.

And what will be the impact on researchers? Arlene thinks:

With electronic help, each and every name, each and every word in each and every record can be indexed! So that all of us can find particular ancestors quickly. Names become the primary focus of the databases; localities and jurisdictions become identifiers.

We need a whole News Sheet to discuss the dramatic impact of an every name and every word index to the original genealogical documents of the world. And we need some time to let the above news sink in! Let me mention just one exciting option: surname intersections. This search feature will identify where 2 surnames intersect in marriage records so you can find the place of the marriage and print the marriage document itself.

I can hardly wait, but will have to temper my enthusiasm for at least a while.

Go read the whole article. And put Arlene's blog in your Favorites or Bookmarks for weekly reference.

We are seeing more professionals blogging and sharing their news, experience and research. That is a really good thing.

I Love "Cow Hampshire"

New Hampshire is one of my favorite states, and the one I've been to most after Massachusetts and Nevada. I have a number of cousins there that we visit occasionally. We're going again in two weeks.

Cow Hampshire is a blog written by Janice Brown, which covers New Hampshire history, genealogy, photography and humor, plus a lot of Cow material. I visit the site regularly to read the material and view the beautiful pictures, and I love the humor - all about cows or New Hampshire. I asked Janice for sightseeing recommendations for our vacation, and she came up with a nice list for our visiting pleasure.

Visit Cow Hampshire and enjoy the material - I love it!

New Everton's Genie Helper issue

The first issue of the Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine with Leland Meitzler as Managing Editor has hit the library shelves, so I went browsing through it.

The feature articles are by Richard Hooverson ("Musings and Glranings from the World of History and Genealogy"), George G. Morgan ("Cracking the Cousin Code"), Aaron L. Day ("DNA to Africa"), Loni Gardner ("The Magic of Mindmapping"), and Bill Dollarhide ("State Censuses and Substitutes: A Selected List for all 50 States"). The Dollarhide article is excellent - a keeper for serious researchers. The other articles were mildly interesting, but not real helpful to me

The regular features are still there through the editing change - with at least one major exception (detailed below). The "Bureau of Missing Ancestors" has queries from readers, while the calendar of upcoming events, the CDROM and book reviews are all useful. The Computer Helper section had two articles - one by Leland about "Your Fake Genealogy" - huh? The other by a Ph.D about using automatic word-linkage techniques to find elusive ancestors in the census records. The results of the technique are explained, but I couldn't figure out if he was using an available program (and if so, where to obtain it) or if this was a super-secret tool that only Ph.D.s can effectively have and use. Even Google turns up zero hits for the term.

The major disappointment for me in the editorship change is the loss of the column that listed the brickwall problems of readers along with answers by professional researchers suggesting avenues for further research. I found that feature very informative and useful, and was my major reason to read the magazine.

It's probably too late now to join one of the genealogy cruises advertised in the magazine - there is one from BC to Alaska, two to the Mexican Riviera, and one to the Eastern Caribbean. They are all in October or November and our calendar is already full this year. They sound like fun - I wonder if my wife would enjoy one of these?

Monday, August 7, 2006

Grill your Granny?

While browsing through the new Everton's Genealogical Helper issue today, I ran across an advertisement for

Aside from the obvious concern that this was a bad joke about barbecuing your beloved ancestor #5 or #7, I figured I'd take a look. In that respect, the ad worked great! In a saner moment, I guessed that the title really was aimed at questioning your grandmother about her ancestry.

The web site sells ornate family trees (pedigree charts or fan charts up to 8 generations) that you can fill in with your ancestors. They sell the paper copy individually in up to 22 x 17 size, or CDs with 10 images on each CD.

To each his own, I guess. I'm not sure I would have named my web site Grill Your Granny, though.

Book Review - "The Sleuth Book for Genealogists"

I bought four genealogy books several weeks ago in order to upgrade my personal library.

The first one I read was "The Sleuth Book for Genealogists" by Emily Anne Croom, published by Betterway Books, Cincinnati OH, 2000, list price $18.99.

The book concentrated on providing information for the "detective" part of the search - when you're stuck and against a brick wall and need help. The chapters included:

* Developing a Research Plan
* Broadening the Scope: Cluster Genealogy
* Documenting Research
* Gathering Information
* Examining Evidence
* Arranging Ideas
* Reporting

Each chapter provides a wealth of information and lists of research ideas to try and execute. There are many nuggets here, for the beginning to advanced researcher, to mine and use in the search for elusive ancestors.

However, the "cute" idea of using quotes of famous historical or fictional sleuths (Sherlock Holmes, etc) to enliven the narrative became a distraction to me.

For me, the most interesting part of the book was the three case studies in the last 62 pages:

* Finding the Parent Generation: The Search for Isaac Heldreth's Parents (10 pages)
* Finding Slave ancestors: The Search for the Family of Isaac Davis Sr. (12 pages)
* Finding the Parent Generation: The Search for Ann (Robertson) Croom's Parents (40 pages).

These three chapters were excellent examples of putting to use the principles and ideas described in the content part of the book. Each case study described the research steps taken to solve a difficult research problem. Cluster genealogy research concepts were used in all three case studies.

The book includes an overview of basic research resources and techniques, and a guide to documenting research.

All in all, it was a useful and helpful book for me, and I recommend it highly.

Genetic genealogy article - myths or mistakes?

A positive genealogy article was published today in the San Gabriel (CA) Valley Tribune newspaper here. Several local genealogists are quoted about research in general and DNA testing in particular in "Family History Research Gets a Boost" by Pam Wight (published 8/7/06?).

However, there are two particular statements about DNA research made in the article that I disagree with:

Miller predicts that within 10 years, DNA technology will be able to tell people what family line they are related to - before they do any other research.

That is pretty far-fetched - if there is a match on a Y-DNA test, then you can identify a common male ancestor sometime back in the patrilineal line. It doesn't define the exact patrilineal line, only an unknown starting point and at least two guys have the same Y-DNA, even though they may be down different lines from the common ancestor. It's only one "line" out of 16, and it doesn't define anything in the other 15 great-great-grandparent lines. There is still lots of research to do!

DNA helped WAGS member Stephen Yung find new relatives in England while searching for the birthplace of his maternal great-grandfather, Richard Chamberlain. "I wanted to know where in England the family was from; it was a stumbling block," said Yung, 66. Through Civil War military records, Yung narrowed his search to North Cadbury, England.

"There were hundreds of Chamberlains over 500 years," said Yung, who spent two weeks poring over birth, death and marriage certificates in North Cadbury in 2004. "I wrote letters to 20 of them and visited some of them. One agreed to do a DNA test."

"He turned out to be a perfect match, so now I can trace my lineage all the way back to 1535 in North Cadbury, where there are still relatives," he added.

So did Mr. Yung use his own Y-DNA for this test? If he did, then it would help define a patrilineal ancestor, but not a maternal great-grandfather's line. He would have had to use a brother of his mother or a nephew of his mother (through a brother) to get the right Y-DNA. The other issue with Mr. Yung is he hasn't defined his lineage, only a common male ancestor at least 500 years ago.

Perhaps Mr. Yung told the story right but the reporter got it wrong. Or perhaps all of these folks have it wrong and need a DNA lecture from an expert. Megan? Colleen? How will Megan Smolenyak rate this article?

Speaking of Megan, she has a great story about how DNA proved a relationship here.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Carnival of Genealogy #5 is posted

Jasia at the Creative Gene blog has posted the latest Carnival of Genealogy, #5, with the topic being Historical Fiction books.

What is a Carnival of Genealogy you ask? It's a collection of blog posts by various bloggers that have been collected by the carnival master or mistress (Jasia in this case). The carnival usually has a specific topic to focus on an issue. Go read the Carnival #5 - you'll understand it after you've read it.

The next Carnival will focus on Historical and Genealogical Societies. The deadline is 15 August. You can submit articles for the Carnival using this Carnival of Genealogy submission form.

Please go read the latest Carnival - perhaps you can find some good books to read. And blog about historical and genealogical societies - answer Jasia's questions on your blog, then submit your blogpost to the Carnival. Eventually, the genea-blogging community will see your ideas and opinions. After all, that's why we do this, isn't it?

Thank you Jasia for your hard work on this.