Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!!

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rants, Analysis and Gumdrops

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is No News Good News?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 18, 2006

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Author Unknown

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

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

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 3

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"My father was a sperm donor" article

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

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

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

They matched DNA, and then she met him:

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

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

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

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

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

Meanings of given names

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

My given name is Randall - derived from Randolf meaning

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

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

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

CVGS Christmas Party today

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 17, 2006

500th Genea-Musings Post!!!

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

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

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

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

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

14th Carnival of Genealogy is Posted

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

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

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

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