Saturday, November 25, 2006

"The American Genealogist"

One of my favorite genealogy periodicals is "The American Genealogist" (TAG), which is a quarterly that focuses on New England families and their English ancestral lines. It is currently edited by David L. Greene, Robert Charles Anderson and Joseph C. Anderson, and published by David L. Greene. See their web site for more information.

Of all the scholarly periodicals I subscribe to (NGSQ, NEHGR, TEG, and TAG), this is the one with the most articles concerning my ancestors, mainly because it has concentrated on southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut families for most of its existence. I almost always find a mention of one of my ancestors in each issue. In many cases, someone has solved one of my brick wall problems, or identified an ancestral family in England that I had not found myself.

Have you read TAG at the library? If you have New England colonial ancestors, you should read it regularly.

The Power of Message Boards

Have you noticed that there have been fewer messages posted on many surname and locality message boards - both at Genforum and at Ancestry? I have, at least on the ones I monitor regularly.

That is really unfortunate, since I believe that Message Boards are one of the very best research tools to use to connect to distant cousins researching the same surname or to other researchers in a locality who know more about that place than I do.

As an example: I posted a message about two weeks ago on the Iowa state message boards on both Ancestry and Genforum about the Baldwin family and inquiring about the unknown surname of Matilda who married Fred Baldwin before 1900 and resided in Howard County, Iowa.

I heard from Mary Thiele Fobian on the Ancestry board for Iowa state this week, who had found three articles from the Lime Springs Herald concerning this particular Baldwin family. One included the location of one of Fred Baldwin's brothers in 1952, the second listed Matilda's married name Cannon in an Executor's Deed in 1959, and the third was an obituary for their son Freddie Baldwin in 1962, which listed Matilda's maiden name as Wagner. It is a derivative source, secondary information and indirect evidence, but it's the first piece of evidence I have for Matilda's maiden name.

I had already looked for these people in the newspapers online at, but I obviously did not use the correct search terms. I had found other items from the Lime Springs Herald, but not these three items. My next task is to figure out why I missed them, by testing the search items out. After that, I will be happy to go look for Matilda Wagner as a young lady in the 1880 census to see who her parents might be.

This is FUN work, you know!

All I Want for Christmas

My wife asked me today "what do you want for Christmas, dear?"

My response was noncommittal, since I knew she wouldn't understand...

"Dear Santa:

"Don't bring me new tools, or shirts and ties.
Genealogists have peculiar wishes.
For Christmas I just want a surname.
A new sweatshirt would be great,
But it's not the desire of my life.

"I've just found an ancestor's birth date;
What I need now is the name of his wife.
My heart doesn't yearn for an iPod
or a large screen LCD TV.
What I want is a much cheaper thing;

"Please give me Mary's last name.
To see my heart singing with joy,
Don't bring me a red leather suitcase,
Bring me a genealogist's toy;
a surname with dates and a place."

(found in Illinois State Genealogical Society newsletter 1984, modified a bit by myself)

I've already given myself some Christmas gifts - a laptop computer (it's officially "ours"), a wireless router and a year's Ancestry subscription. I couldn't wait - I've even opened them and used them!

What about you - what gift do you want from the Genealogy Santa for Christmas?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Snake on the plain

In my quest for data on my friend's ancestors, I ran across this article from the Olean (NY) Democrat newspaper dated 8 August 1893, titled "A Fredonia Snake Story":

"Fredonia, Aug. 7 -- Perhaps the largest snake ever seen in these parts was killed by Henry Berts on Arkwright hills Thursday morning. Berts was hunting woodchucks in the fields back of his house, when suddenly he saw his flock of sheep start on a run. Upon investigation he found that a huge black snake had captured one of his lambs and had coiled himself several times about the animal's body. The lamb was dead.

"Berts came up within 35 to 40 feet of the reptile and gave him a heavy dose of coarse shot. The snake began to uncoil from his prey when Berts took deliberate aim and tore the head completely off with a second charge. This had the desired effect, but the headless snake was still a lively antagonist, and slashed his tail and body in every direction. Berts kept at a safe distance until he had placed two more heavily loaded shells in his gun, and then walked up to within 20 feet of his snakeship and filled his writhing body with the contents.

"The snake was of the black variety seldom seen in this section of the country, with a bright yellow ring encircling the neck and dirt greenish belly. It measured 11 feet 9 inches from the place where the head was shot off to the end of the tail, and 6-3/4 inches in diameter at the largest part of the body. This is undoubtedly the same reptile that gave chase to a party of Cassadaga people in a buggy about a year ago. It is by far the biggest ever seen in these parts."

I wonder what kind of snake this was? It chased a buggy filled with people? Mr. Berts must be a good shot. Did Mr. Berts get any woodchucks, or did he settle for a lamb dinner?

Wouldn't you love to find an article like this for your ancestor? It would kind of spice up the dinner table conversation, eh? My great-grandfather, the snake murderer.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Free 3-day access to

I'm late with this news, but I'm away from home and enjoyed a leisurely Thanksgiving Day at my daughter's home. is offering three days access to their collection for FREE (no credit card) at this link.


Blogging will be light until we get home on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I Am So Thankful...

--- for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

--- for my wonderful loving wife, Angel Linda

--- for my two beautiful and smart daughters, and their great husbands

--- for my three precious grandchildren, so innocent and with so much potential, ando much fun to be with

--- for my father, who provided a large New England ancestry to research and an undying love for the game of baseball

--- for my loving mother, so patient, loving and kind, whose ancestry provides such challenges

--- for my brothers, their wives and children, who are interested in the family history

--- for my aunts and uncles and cousins, who open their homes and their hearts and share their memories

--- for the brave passengers on the Mayflower and other early ships who colonized New England, and instilled a republican form of government based on personal freedom and responsibility.

--- for the courageous citizens who revolted to secure our freedoms, and created the institutions that are the foundations of the USA

--- for the soldiers, sailors and pilots, of every historical time, who have defended our country and kept us safe and free

--- for the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights - especially the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly. I am awestruck that the Founders wrote such a magnificent set of documents that have stood the test of time

--- for educational opportunities, whereby every and any person in this country can be the best that they can be, but they have to really make an effort

--- for the free market and free enterprise economic system that encourages and rewards work and innovation, and has allowed me and my family to enjoy the fruits of our labor

--- for the marvels of science and engineering, that drive our transportation, communication and entertainment industries

--- for the wonders of nature that beautify our world and inspire us

What have I left out? What are you thankful for on this 144th Thanksgiving?

The 100 Most Influential Americans

The Atlantic magazine for December 2006 has a list of the Top 100 Most Influential Americans. The top 10:

1) Abraham Lincoln -- He saved the Union, freed the slaves, and presided over America’s second founding.

2) George Washington -- He made the United States possible—not only by defeating a king, but by declining to become one himself.

3) Thomas Jefferson -- The author of the five most important words in American history: “All men are created equal.”

4) Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- He said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and then he proved it.

5) Alexander Hamilton -- Soldier, banker, and political scientist, he set in motion an agrarian nation’s transformation into an industrial power.

6) Benjamin Franklin -- The Founder-of-all-trades— scientist, printer, writer, diplomat, inventor, and more; like his country, he contained multitudes.

7) John Marshall -- The defining chief justice, he established the Supreme Court as the equal of the other two federal branches.

8) Martin Luther King Jr. -- His dream of racial equality is still elusive, but no one did more to make it real.

9) Thomas Edison -- It wasn’t just the lightbulb; the Wizard of Menlo Park was the most prolific inventor in American history.

10) Woodrow Wilson -- He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy.

Read the whole list - there are many deserving and interesting individuals on the list. And many are left off.

My own view is that Washington - the Father of His Country - should be #1. The Founders are near the top - as they should be. I'm happy to see an inventor - Edison - at #9, it is well deserved. The Wright Brothers are #23. I disagree with most of the entertainers on the list, but not most of the authors. Why Nixon and LBJ, and not William Taft or William McKinley? Why not Billy Graham and Nikola Tesla? How about William Brewster, William Bradford, John Winthrop and John Smith?

Your thoughts? Who would you add to the list?

NGS databases open through Thanksgiving weekend

The latest issue of UpFront, the NGS email newsletter, notes:

The National Genealogical Society opens the "Members-Only Data Section"of its Web site for the Thanksgiving Holiday!

In recognition of the number of families that will be together over theThanksgiving Holiday, the National Genealogical Society will open its"Members-Only Section" from November 23 through November 26, 2006 free of charge.

The National Genealogical Society has many resources to assist you in your family history research.

* Our Members Ancestry Charts contain more than a million names, with more than 800,000 names already online. Additional names are being added monthly.
* Our Bible Collection includes more than 3,000 Bibles with more than 50,000 names online.
* Our bookstore includes popular genealogical publications,Genealogy 101, Online Roots, The Organized Family Historian, and Unlocking Your Genetic History. A great Christmas gift for the genealogist in your family.
* Members receive a quarterly NewsMagazine with articles about record sources and methodology to improve your research.
* Members receive the NGS Quarterly four times a year, a scholarly publication which includes compiled genealogies, case studies, essays on new methodologies, critical reviews of current books and previously unpublished source materials.
* An Annual Conference in the States and Family History Fair held this year on May 16-19, 2007 in Richmond, Virginia, will feature "400 Years of Virginia History" along with 150 exhibitors and over 140 lectures, workshops, luncheons and networking events.

For those ready to take the next step, check out our Learning Center where you can sign up for "Introduction to Genealogy" - an online course available at a discounted price for members. If you are an experienced family researcher, our "Home Study Course" may help take your research to the next level.

To access the NGS Members Only Section, click on and enter the username: member and password: ngspromo in the respective textboxes when prompted for credentials. Upon successful login, please feel free tobrowse our website including the Members Only Section

If you are already a NGS member, we hope that this brief open access will enable a family member to make contact with you via the National Genealogical Society and perhaps solve a missing link in your genealogical research.

Give it a try - especially the Bible records which are, for the most part, unique to this database.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Was Tarzan his Cousin?

Chris Dolley posted on his blog about his relationship with Lord Greystoke through Edith Sigurson in "Tarzan: My Long Lost Cousin." It's funny and informative at the same time.

The best part:

For those who find this hard to believe, here's the evidence: In 1105, in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire, Robert d'Oilli, constable of Oxford Castle married Edith Sigulfson, daughter of Lord Greystoke. And we all know who Lord Greystoke is.

My only problem was proving the link between the Norman baron whose father fought with William at Hastings ... and the illiterate brickworkers living in 1760 Surrey.

But I'd seen Alex Haley's Roots. Could I produce my own book Branches - one man's search to prove his link to the King of the Jungle? So began my hunt to find Kunte Cnut and Chicken Godgifu. Or failing those, Cheetah.

Read the whole thing - especially the last paragraph which ties it all together well.

Genealogy Software Review - 2007

I found a Top Ten Review of Genealogy Software at The top 10, according to this list, are (rated on a scale of 1 to 4):

  1. Legacy (4.0)
  2. Family Tree Maker (4.0)
  3. Ancestral Quest (3.5)
  4. Personal Ancestral File (3.5)
  5. Rootsmagic (3.0)
  6. Family Historian (3.0)
  7. DoroTree (3.0)
  8. The Master Genealogist (3.0)
  9. Cumberland Family Tree (2.0)
  10. Win-Family (2.0)

The software was rated on a scale of 1 to 4 for their Feature List, Ease of Use, Ease of Installation and Setup, and Help/Documentation. There is also a checklist of features like Reports and Charts, Tools and supported Windows configurations. Mac software is not included in this chart.

TMG was rated the only 4.0 for Feature Set, but was rated only 2.0 for Ease of Use. Legacy and FTM get a 4.0 for Ease of Use, and a 3.5 for their feature set.

If you are looking for genealogy software, here is one rating chart to consider. You might download demonstration copies of some of these to test them out - I've done that with Legacy and RootsMagic, but haven't found a good reason (yet) to change from FTM.

"Family Chronicle" Magazine

One of my colleagues subscribes to Family Chronicle magazine, and I peruse it occasionally. I picked up a copy of the Nov/Dec 2006 issue on Saturday, and found many interesting and useful articles.

Janice Nickerson wrote an article about "Finding a Wandering Relative" with proven strategies for tracking down ancestors who moved away. The strategies advocated by the author include:
  • Wills and Estate Files
  • Newspaper Obituaries
  • Other Newspaper Stories - family or visitation articles
  • Land Records - look for deeds and mortgages
  • Occupational Clues - what did they do?
  • Other Relatives - did they move to be with family?
  • Chain Migration - did they move with kinship?
  • Historical Events - what happened there?
  • Institutionalization - were they in an institution?
  • Adjoining Territories - did they move across the line?
  • Reverse Migration - did they go back?
  • Boundary Changes - did the locality boundaries change?

There are, of course, several paragraphs for each of those strategies. The article is well written and researched.

I find Family Chronicle to be one of the best of the magazines I subscribe to and read regularly. Have you read it?

Student finds Mayflower ancestor

My very distant cousin, 15 year old Thomas Hull of Yakima WA, is featured in this article in the Yakima (WA) Herald Republic newspaper, dated 21 November 2006. He started researching in 2003, and has been able to join The Mayflower Society (through his father) as a result of his descent from Pilgrims William Brewster, Francis Cooke and Richard Warren.

The top of the article:

Like many teens, Thomas Hull is thankful for his family and friends. But he is also proud and thankful that his ancestors survived their first winter in the New World after traveling on the Mayflower nearly 400 years ago.

Hull, a 15-year-old WestValley Junior High School freshman, has documented his ancestry back to the ship the Pilgrims sailed on in 1620. He started the project of researching his genealogy in March 2003, and has worked on it in his spare time ever since. But, he says, "I'll never be finished researching it."

Hull first became interested in tracing his family history when his father's cousin showed him his work on their family's lineage, tracing back as far as the 1400s.

Read the article - it's great. Maybe he should talk to Zoe Williams?

I also descend from Pilgrims Richard Warren and Francis Cooke, but haven't tried to join The Mayflower Society. I don't know my distant cousin, Thomas Hull, but I would love to meet him and talk to him, and encourage him to keep studying history and doing genealogy. We need more young people like this.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What to put on the Laptop?

I finally got the Dell Inspiron 1505 laptop (it was going to be Linda's birthday present, but it now is our Christmas present to ourselves) out of the box and running last night. I found my FTM 2005 CD and installed it, then put my databases and reports from the desktop computer on the flash drive and saved them on the laptop. I fired up FTM on the laptop and everything worked fine.

Then I copied my old family photos, my 2006 family photos, and several of my genealogy folders (ancestral reports, talks and presentations, society data) onto the flash drive and saved them on the laptop. I found the downloaded files for RootsMagic (demo), Legacy (demo) and PAF (full) on my desktop computer and transferred them to the laptop.

I took the laptop to the library and it connected to their Wi-Fi system with little problem. The thing I noticed was the poor screen visibility due to the overhead lights in the library - I really need it darker there.

I am unsure if I want to copy all of my genealogy files to the laptop. I have a lot of files in an "education" folder - articles, books, podcasts, etc. I'm not sure I want or need to transfer all of them - I probably will copy the books and the podcasts so that I can read or listen to them when I'm away from home or idling. I could play the podcasts at the society Research Group meetings.

I also have a "surnames" folder with many web pages and datasets downloaded from the Internet over many years. I think I will not copy these over just yet anyway.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to best use the laptop in conjunction with the desktop? Should I just copy everything to the laptop so that it "looks" like the desktop computer? I haven't figured out how I'm going to synchronize the two yet - if I change the database on the laptop by adding data, I need to get it back in the desktop file. I can see where this may be a significant problem down the road. Perhaps when I get the wireless network installed (tomorrow's major task), I'll have a better idea. I am not a technical wizard in much of this, but things have been pretty easy so far.

I Updated my Blogroll

It is difficult to keep up with all of the genealogy blogs in the cyber/genea-world. I have a list of over 80 in my Blog category in Favorites, including some 'dead' ones which are obsolete. Each week, I find more genea-blogs, some old and some new, and save them.

If they are posting at least several times a month, I add them to my blogroll on the right side of my page. I added about 20 today. Please go visit them when you have a chance - they may have that insight you need or the research tip that solves your problem.

Rather than click on each blog in my Favorites, I use Bloglines to help me read the latest posts from the blogs I subscribe to.

If you are an active genea-blogger and are not on my blogroll, please let me know and I'll add your blog the next time I update my list.

For the most complete list, please visit Chris Dunham's site This is the most complete list I've found, although it does included dead or dormant blogs.

Ancestor worship? Is genealogy research worthwhile?

An interesting and disturbing article was published in The Guardian (UK) newspaper on 8 November, titled "Ancestor worship" by Zoe Williams.

Her central point is:
A genealogist speaking to the Times at the weekend commented: "It is not just about collecting names. It is about understanding who you are, and how you came to be who you are today. It is about knowing yourself." Superficially that doesn't mean much - in the furthest reaches of the nature/nurture debate, nobody has ever suggested one's distant second cousin could be anything more than a curiosity. And yet that tells you all you need to know about the kind of person who family-trees for a hobby - who thinks that's time well spent, getting to "know yourself, understand who you are". If therapy is for people with more money than sense, genealogy is for those with more time than either.

Read the whole article for more invective and satire(?). Frankly, I hope that Zoe meets a nice young royal with a family tree as tall as a redwood who brags about it.

Is she right? Or is she misguided? What value does genealogy research have for you and me? Why do you and I do this? The questions need to be answered.

Visit the 12th Carnival of Genealogy

The 12th Carnival of Genealogy is posted at The topic this time is
"Solving Technical Problems While Doing Family History."

There are several interesting posts in this collection - go visit!

The next issue of the Carnival will be about Bloopers - this should be fun - I'll have to find some good ones in my collection and experfience.