Saturday, November 4, 2006

Research trip to Carlsbad library today

Our CVGS plans a research trip every two or three months to a library with a genealogy collection, including San Diego Public Library in downtown SD, San Diego Gen Society in El Cajon, the Family History Center in Mission Valley, or Carlsbad Public in Carlsbad, about 45 miles north of Chula Vista.

Of the libraries we visit, Carlsbad offers the largest selection of genealogy books and periodicals in the County, has the University Microfilm International microfiche collection (about 20,000 surname and locality books), and offers Ancestry, HeritageQuestOnline and NewEnglandAncestors databases in the library. It has been my favorite genealogy library for years, and I have a library card so that I can access HQO at home.

Six members of our society visited Carlsbad today, each seeking genealogy data to fill out their pedigree chart or to add detail to ancestral biographies. I find that Carlsbad is the best place to get up-to-date with the periodicals that I don't subscribe to and to find periodicals dealing with my ancestral home towns.

I helped one of new members today find more information on her ancestry. She has some data from family records, and we had found some census data for her families back in August when we visited the FHC. Today, we found more census data and started working in the Rootsweb WorldConnect and LDS FamilySearch databases, and extended several of her lines a few generations. There are still many unknowns, especially in the immigrant families in the 1800's - we couldn't find several of them in the 1850 to 1880 census records - they are hiding well!

Talking to her about the whole research process is revealing - she is overwhelmed by the quantity of information available, and all of the different resources, and the time it takes to obtain information. However, she is eager to keep the discovery process going and working to document her family history. She is going to tackle FamilyTreeMaker soon, I think, so she can get all of her data organized.

Needless to say, I enjoy the search - whether it is my own or living vicariously through the families of others.

I came home to my grandsons wide awake when they should have been napping. We got dinner down them, got their jammies on and they were both down by 7 PM. This is our first overnighter with them, so we anticipate several get-ups tonight. They are a lot of work, but they are so darn cute and fun. Yawn.

Thoughts and Prayers for Ken Aitken

Ken Aitken's Genealogy Education blog was one of the first genealogy blogs that I found, and I consider him a "brother in genea-blogging." I enjoy the intellectual content and challenges that Ken presents for teachers, librarians, speakers, conference planners and program organizers.

Ken is in the hospital right now being treated for ALS, which he has been quietly battling for 8 months. His son, Neil Aitken, has posted a note on the GenEd blogsite here with news of his father's condition. Neil also posted a note to the APG mailing list saying:

"I have enjoyed immensely our association and the opportunity to meet so many fine professional genealogists from across the continent. And though I will no longer be posting to the list, I will when I can read your comments and messages."

I am hoping and praying that Ken can recover a bit from his current condition and continue to impress and inspire us with his intelligence, honesty and sense of humor on his blog. His voice is unique in the genea-blogging universe and we need to continue hearing it.

Ken - please know that I am praying for your recovery - may God bless you richly.

Friday, November 3, 2006

light blogging this weekend

My daughter and two grandsons are here this weekend, so I've been chasing the 3 year old all day and loving the 8 month old - he's just crawling and standing now. We get them all day and all night on Saturday, because my daughter is going out on the town with her hubby.

My CVGS research trip to Carlsbad library is Saturday, so I won't get back until 3 PM or so, and I anticipate having to work with the boys when I get back.

Given the choice between grandson time and blogging time, the boys win hands down.

If you want something fun to do, go watch the ABC GMA segments here or go watch the Roots Television segments available - all for free here.

Enjoy - and I may post a time or between now and Tuesday.

Megan's Q&A about genealogy on ABC site

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak has a question and answer session posted at the ABC web site here.

The questions are from non-genealogists and Megan's responses are excellent - with some basic research done to help answer specific questions.

What strikes me is the breadth of this field of genealogy - there are so many types of records, each with limitations and benefits. And each person has a different set of research problem - there are so many people! We see this in our society meetings and on the message boards and mailing lists - there are no two alike (discounting twins, etc).

Read all 7 pages of the Q&A for the content - you'll enjoy it.

Obtain Data from 1940 and later census?

According to a paragraph in the "Census Book" by William Dollarhide, published by Heritage Quest in 1999 which is available in PDF form at

The entire book is excellent. Download it and read it.

The paragraph on page 16 that caught my eye the other day was this (transcribed by me):
The Age Search Group of the Census Office is still in operation. The services of this group can be used for a personal census search to locate one person in a census 1930-1990. The request must be for yourself, a deceased ancestor, or for any person alive today who provides written permission. The fee for the search is $40.00 plus $10.00 for a "genealogy" search (which adds the full details for one person on a particular census schedule). The application for a search must be on a Bureau of Census form BC-600, "Application for Search of Census Records," which was obtained by writing to Age Search Group, Bureau of the Census, PO Box 1545, Jeffersonville IN 47131, or by stopping by any local office of the Social Security Asministration and asking for a copy of form BC-600.

Since that was written in 1999, I checked the web for updated information and found this at the US Census web site - The basic changes to what Bill wrote in his book are that the fee has increased to $65. The form BC-600 can be found at
The usual reason for doing this is to obtain a social security, passport or other government identity record, and they recommend getting the census record closest to a person's birth.

The web page states:
RESULTS: An official census transcript will list the person’s name, relationship to household head, age at the time of the census, and state of birth. Citizenship will be provided if the person was foreign born. Single items of data such as occpation for Black Lung cases can be provided upon request. If a person is not found, a form will be sent with that information.

When I first read this information, I thought that a researcher could not get information for the entire household, only for the specific individual. The Instructions for completing form BC-600 do state that, for an extra $10 for each person on the full schedule, you can request and receive information for all persons in the same household, assuming you have authorization (or a death certificate for a deceased person) from each person.

They state that the response time is 3 to 4 weeks, but it can be done faster for an additional fee.

Has anybody tried this? I thought it was useful enough to post, and I'll ask the same question on the APG mailing list.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Robin Roberts (ABC GMA) Roots Video

ABC just posted the Good Morning America video segment for Robin Roberts' search for her roots - the link to the video is here. Robin's roots are in WV and VA, then back to West Africa.

Genea-blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak has quite a few short parts in this video as she shows Robin her pedigree chart and some documents for Robin's ancestors.

Enjoy! I do...

Sam Champion's roots on ABC Good Morning America

The second installment about the ABC Good Morning America hosts and reporters is available on ABC's web site here. Just click on the video of the beautiful Irish scene. This segment was shown on Wednesday, 1 November, and there are two more to go.

The video itself, and the printed report, are very well done, and show the beautiful Irish countryside, describe the reasons for emigration to the USA, and shows some Irish cousins of Sam Champion, the weatherman on GMA.

The next GMA segment was today, and there will be one tomorrow also. I haven't seen these live, but seeing it on the ABC web site is almost as good!

I wish I had Irish roots so that I could visit an old homestead and pub, or find cousins there. Alas, I don't have any to my knowledge. Maybe I can find a rich client that will want to visit and I can live vicariously for a week or so on the Emerald Isle.

It's interesting to me that even though Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (they didn't even try to say her name in this one!) had a chart showing 12 generations back for his paternal Champion line, they concentrated on Sam's mother's Irish line with the Hampston surname.

These videos are professionally done and tell the story well, and might bring more "new genealogists" interested in tracing their family history into local societies.

How can local societies attract these potential members? Only by having sufficient publicity to draw them to the society, and sufficient society programs to teach them research techniques and resources, and personal contact - assigning a mentor or shepherd to help them get started and to be a help when they get stuck. Is your local society reaching out in this way?

blogging will be light - the ER experience

I was cruising along last night, ready to post several more blog posts, making photo sheets of our New England vacation and the grandkids, and working on my Census Records presentation for next weekend.

And my upper right arm hurt - first painful, then almost unbearable. I couldn't lift my arm away from my side and didn't want to. I changed the angle of my mouse on the desk, but that didn't help. My wife came home and I told her what the problem was.

We called the health care nurse, and she recommended going to the ER. We got there about 8:30. I was on a gurney by 9:30 after an EKG and they drew blood. The EKG was normal, so there is no heart problem. Then it was off to a lab where they did an ultra-sound test on my neck, upper chest and both arms. The test showed no blood clots in the veins or arteries. Then we waited for the blood test results to come back - finally about 1 AM the doctor came and said he could find no indications in the blood test - and prescribed ibuprofen or naprosyn. We got home about 1:30 AM and sleep was difficult.

While on the gurney after the ultra-sound test, the pain in the arm lessened considerably and I could move it without wincing. It feels about the same today. It still hurst some, and the prescription is to "rest it and see if it gets better." I can type because my hands don't stress the arm, but I'm mousing with my left hand.

I feel that this is a cyst in the arm muscle or a nerve problem, like carpal tunnel syndrome. I am ecstatic that it is not a blood clot or stroke or heart problems.

Anyway, blogging, and genealogy work, will be light. I am going to try to listen to the podcasts and FGS 2006 lectures that I downloaded recently on my new iPod.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Finding data online - a fun day

Today was pretty much a genealogy day, with our CVGS board meeting in the morning, then delivering program flyers to libraries and senior centers, and finally doing a bit of research on Ancestry (in the 5th day of my 3 day freebie (what's up with that? - I'm not complaining!).

So rather than post something on the blog this afternoon I was digging in Ancestry for data on a friend's family. His father's line came from Norway in the 1875-1895 time frame. His father's surname is pretty rare, but I found his paternal grandparents in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census records in Big Stone County, Minnesota, although the spelling was variable. His paternal grandmother's surname is uncommon and easily misspelled and mispronounced, but I found the family in 1900 and 1910 also in Big Stone County, but not in 1880 (before the great-grandparents married).

Then it was into the databases - WorldConnect had very little on either surname, FamilySearch had very little, and a good Googling revealed a fellow with some data in a web page. There were no message board or mailing list posts for either surname in the localities involved.

The Ancestry databases provided the Minnesota birth (1935-2002) and death records (1908-2002) for the two surnames, California birth (1905-1995) and death (1940-1997) records for my friend's surname, a World War I draft registration for my friend's grandfather, SSDI entries for his parents, the marriage record of his grandparents in South Dakota, a OneWorldTree marriage for the great-grandparents providing the wife's maiden name (actually a farm, probably), and a naturalization entry for the great-grandfather. Not a bad haul for an afternoon's effort.

Now I need to write that all up in an email for my friend and see if he knows much about his father's paternal grandparents and about his mother's family. I need to recommend data sources to him that are not in the Ancestry or other databases that might help with the unknown family names, especially for the paternal surname - my guess is that they adopted a surname when they came to America and it might be hard to find them back in Norway without the patronymic name. We'll see!

I captured all of the data images and put them in a separate directory and will print them all out for my friend to peruse. It was a decent day's work.

Frankly, I'd rather do research than write blog posts or do my society duties, but don't tell my society colleagues - the secret is safe here, I think, since they don't seem to read my blog on a regular basis.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Digital Genealogist" - first issue available

The first issue of "Digital Genealogist" magazine is available for FREE in a PDF format. This magazine is edited by Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, who previously edited the magazine "Genealogical Computing," published by Ancestry and MyFamily (and shut down with the summer 2006 issue). The information about the magazine is here, and the PDF for the first issue is here.

Subscriptions for 6 issues a year will be $20 and will be delivered by either email or online access using a password or membership key.

The sample issue is 42 pages, nearly all of which is content. The Table of Contents includes these articles:

"A sneak peek at the near future" by David Rencher

"Essential technology for genealogists" by Joshua Taylor

"Wiping your hard drive" by Geoffrey Rasmussen

"Family reunion flyers" by Susan Zacharias

"In Search of genealogy software" by Bill Mumford

There are also columns, software reviews and book reviews.

I scanned the Rencher and Taylor articles, and thought they were extremely well done - very informative and timely.

I recommend that you check out Digital Genealogist magazine, download the first issue and read it. Compare it to the recently started Internet Genealogy magazine.

Have you made your video memoir?

An article published recently in a number of newspapers, including the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel (link is here), is titled "With personal histories, everyone can star in a memoir." It was written by Marsha King of the Seattle (WA) Times.

The main point of the article is that:
The explosion of interest in tracing one's roots has given rise to another phenomenon. Ordinary people - particularly baby boomers and their elder parents - are hiring filmmakers and writers to immortalize their histories on pricey videos and books that can look good enough for the History Channel or bookstore shelves.

"It's entertainment combined with history," said RJ McHatton, whose Bellevue company, Inventive Productions, is producing the Echelbarger video. "... We're trying to learn about their personalities, the lessons they learned, the family values and ethics, the wisdom and advice."

The article goes on to cover the Association of Personal Historians conference held in Portland OR in early October, and that the membership of the APH has risen from 15 to 600 since 1995. The APH web site is at

Read the whole newspaper article for context and some examples, including prices for typical video memoirs.

Have you done this yet for your family? A video memoir would capture your personality, voice inflections, and mannerisms in addition to the memories. In the age of digital video and video cameras, this is probably something I want to do before I lose the rest of my marbles.

My cousin had a videotape done back in 1990 in honor of his parents 50th wedding anniversary that had many of the elements described in the article - memories, testimonials, pictures, home movies, etc. But it was short - only 20 minutes or so. It was excellent - done by a professional videographer and they passed copies to the family, which was greatly appreciated.

Find English parish information

A post on the APG mailing list led me to the "A Vision of Britain Through Time" web site. The site includes historical statistics about farming and land use, from 1801 to 2001. There are also links to Travellers Tales, Historical Maps and Census Reports.

If you know the parish or village that you want information on, you can input it into the Search box on the main page and obtain information about the place. For instance, I input Hilperton and received:

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Hilperton like this:

"HILPERTON, or HILPRINGTON, a village and a parish in Melksham district, Wilts. The village stands near the Somerset and Weymouth railway and the Kennet and Avon canal, 1½ mile NNE of Trowbridge; and has a post office under Trowbridge. The parish comprises 1, 078 acres. Real property, £3, 238. Pop. in 1851, 996; in 1861, 880. Houses, 209. The manufacture of cloth is carried on; and the decrease of pop. was caused by the substitution of power looms for hand looms. The property is divided among a few. The manor belongs to Walter Long, Esq. The living is a rectory, united with the rectory of Whaddon, in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £418.* Patron, W. Long, Esq. The church is good, and has a tower. There are chapels for Baptists and Wesleyans, and a national school."

Interesting, and useful in understanding the circumstances of life in Hilperton in the 1851 to 1861 time frame, which is when my Richman family came to America and settled in Windham County, Connecticut.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hallowe'en Families

There are a number of families in the Rootsweb WorldConnect database that have surnames connected to Hallowe'en.

For instance:

1) The GHOST family - there are 346 entries, including the descendants of Philip Ghost of Westmoreland County PA - see 6 generations here. It looks like at least one GHOST from this family is still living.

2) The GOBLIN family - There are 32 entries for this surname. It looks like there are no real GOBLIN family trees - only isolated GOBLIN women who married men with other surnames.

3) The SKELETON family - there are 378 entries but few trees with many generations. Methinks these are mostly misspelled SKELTON people.

4) The FRANKENSTEIN family - There are 794 entries, and most of them are of German origin. One family that settled in rochester NY is here.

5) The WITCH family - there are 108 entries, but no long family lines in the database.

6) The PUMPKIN family - there are 62 entries, but no long family lines.

7) The HAUNT family - there are only 5 entries, none with a family line.

8) The SPOOK family - there are 12 entries, and only one with a three generation family.
There are no VAMPIRE family entries.

What other Hallowe-e-oriented surnames can you think of? Are they in WorldConnect?

Happy Hallowe'en!! Trick or Treat?

CVGS Program today on Salem Witch Trials

We had our monthly Chula Vista Genealogical Society meeting this morning at the CV Library. The highlights:

1) We thanked all of those who made the "Discover Your Family History" workshop on 14 October a success.

2) I was nominated to be President of CVGS for 2007-8. The elections are next month - so far, nobody else has been nominated.

3) The program was our own Bernice Heiter (a former President and current Librarian) with a narrative about the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. She described the conditions leading up to the trials, the trials themselves and the aftermath of the trials, including the finding that ergot fungus on rye may have caused the hallucinations and fits. Bernice had John Finch, our current President, play the part of John Hathorne, a judge at some of the trials. The trial transcripts for Rebecca Nurse (played by Wilma P) and George Jacobs Jr. (played by myself) were read, with Bernice making comments about the testimony of the other people in the trial, including the accusers.

You can find the transcripts for the trials at

All in all, this was a fun meeting, since it had a bit of drama. I got to meet my 9th great-grandmother, Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged in Salem in 1692 after she was found guilty.

Have you tried dramatic readings in your local society meetings? With a little preparation, they can be very effective.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

GenealogyForum chat on Monday night

My third, and last, "chat" on the Genealogy Forum chat board will be on Monday night, 30 October, at 9 PM EST/6 PM PST. The Forum people lined up guest speakers for the month of October, and I chose this night because I figured the World Series would be over. Please join us if you can.

The topic will be "Pursuing Your Elusive Female Ancestors." The talk will focus on finding maiden names of those hard to catch women hanging in your family tree without a maiden name. This is a reprise of my talk at CVGS last month, but I won't be using overheads this time, nort will they be able to "hear" my witty banter.

The format of these chats with a "speaker" are to have the speaker give a "lecture" for 15 to 20 minutes. The lecture is typed (or copied-and-pasted from a computer file) into the input box on the chat web site. I have prepared a manuscript and will be furiously copying and pasting 5 to 6 lines at a time. The challenge for me on this lecture is that I can't show my research examples as pictures - so I've described them in words to support the lecture points.

After the lecture is completed, then the attendees ask questions of the lecturer about his information, or ask for advice on a specific problem. The Q&A is moderated by the forum hosts so there is some semblance of order. Usually, after 10 to 20 minutes of Q&A, the session breaks down into a general chat session with all attendees contributing.

I've enjoyed my two previous sessions, and made several new genealogy friends and blog readers in the process.

While this is 1990's technology, it is not hard to see that a participative webcast, using the Webex tools used in industry for visuals and Skype for audio, is possible for genealogy related speakers and topics. We have already seen some online eConferencing, and Dick Eastman is doing regular Skype voice meetings.

Veterans Affairs Gravesite Locator

A colleague asked me to find where one of her uncles was buried - he apparently died in World War I. So I immediately thought of Joe Beine's Military Indexes site here.

When I selected World War I data, it led me to the Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator site, which is free, at I put in the name she had given me, and his information came up (the site is fairly slow, so be patient).

The web site says:
Search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker.

The Nationwide Gravesite Locator includes burial records from many sources. These sources provide varied data; some searches may contain less information than others. Information on veterans buried in private cemeteries was collected for the purpose of furnishing government grave markers, and we do not have information available for burials prior to 1997.

The data for my father shows:
DATE OF BIRTH: 10/15/1911
DATE OF DEATH: 05/26/1983
P.O. BOX 6237 SAN DIEGO, CA 92166
(619) 553-2084

They even tell you where they are buried in the cemetery, provide a link for a map, and a phonen umber to call if you need help. Great government service, eh?

Then I thought to myself - this is good data to put in my Seaver one-name study, so I put in "Seaver" as the surname and got 119 hits. I spent a little time saving each web page of results in my Seaver surname file. The challenge now is to get it all into the database.