Saturday, March 3, 2007

Live Blogging the Family History Fair

We made it to Escondido from Chula Vista in record time (35 miles) and registered at the Family History Fair in Escondido at the LDS South Stake. The venue has a large chapel, a second large auditorium and six smaller meeting rooms. There are four sessions in each of the seven rooms after the keynote speaker (Kory Meyerink) at 9 AM.

8 AM: In the display room, we found our Chula Vista Genealogical Society table and set up our displays and handouts. I spied an electric outlet and hooked up the laptop. A fellow came by to see if the wireless connection was working, and helped me get online.

There are tables and displays for the San Diego African-American Genealogy Research Group, San Diego Genealogical Society, Computer Genealogy society of San Diego, North San Diego County Genealogical Society, Hispanic Heritage Project, Escondido Genealogy Society, German Research Association, National Archives, Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Sons of the American Revolution, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, etc.

9:15 AM: So far, about 10 of our society have come by to say hello. We have a visitor's log to see who picked up handouts. Several people from the Chula Vista area have come by and were surprised to see that there was a local society. Potential members!

I will try to post something after every talk I attend. My 10:15 session with Richard Wilson was cancelled, so I'll try to hear Alan Jones on "The Magic of Rootsweb."

10:05 AM: The keynote address by Kory Meyerink was on "Googling Genealogy." It is a large task to summarize Google and it's application to genealogy in 40 minutes! Kory has a great handout in the syllabus - chock full of information about using Google for genealogy. He started out very simply - as if the audience was being introduced to Google. One lesson I learned is that the Boolean operators are my friend - I have not been using them and I should be using them. I also learned that Google indexes only part of a large page - that may be why some of my big research web page names don't appear in a Google search but some do. I have been trying wildcards at the end of words (e.g., "town*" does not return "townland"), but that doesn't work in Google. It also doesn't find truncated words (e.g., "marr" does not return "married"). He went through Google Directory, Books, News, Maps, Images, Earth, Email updates, etc. Kory has many great tips for using Google - this was a great presentation!

11:25 AM: I attended Barbara Renick's presentation on "Let Your Fingers Do the Walking." She took us through finding online resources, finding resources close to home, and ordering them from home. Her theme was that the smaller the geographic area covered by a resource, the more likely you are to find information on your obscure ancestors. Amen! She spent a lot of time on the WorldCat projects and stepped through a number of web pages to find small manuscripts in small libraries. I didn't know that the LDS Family History Library is not indexed on WorldCat. She also mentioned that the Southern California Gen Society in Burbank has excellent county resources. Barbara emphasized inter-library loan and copying services - from the FHL, Allen county Library, Library of Congress, the DAR and free lookups at local libraries or RAOGK. Another excellent presentation.

12:30 PM: I attended Beth McCarty's presentation on post-1837 Research in England and Wales. She showed typical birth, marriage and death records that were used for the Civil Registration after 1837. These were indexed in quarterly registers in separate registration districts. Beth explained how to find the names in the indexes - either online at or on microfilm (at an FHC). She presented strategies to find brides and grooms on the same page. She recommended obtaining the certificates using an agent in England that accepts US checks or credit cards, rather than pay a fee to a bank for a check in pounds sterling. Beth described the available census records, and how to find them online ( or on film (at an FHC). Lastly, she covered probate records after 1858 - film indexes are available on microfilm and the records have been microfilmed.

2:30 PM: Dee Sallenbach presented "Using US Probate and Deed Records to Track Your Family" to a large audience. She introduced the definitions of many probate terms and tips for using them, then did the same for land records. She spent half of the hour demonstrating how these records can prove relationships within families - tracing four generations of a Manning/Read family in South Carolina. There was a lot of good information here and in the syllabus.

3:45 PM: It's late, I'm tired, my butt hurts from the metal seats, so I decide to go to Kory Meyerink's presentation of "An Overview of Advanced Research Methods." Wow. A two week course in 60 minutes. I can't summarize this well, except to say it challenged me to consider things that I rarely consider. His charts expand on his outline, unlike most of the speakers today. Kory's theme was that Advanced Methods don't just use different sources - they deal with finding all resources and evaluating all of the information available. Putting your ancestors into context - the times they lived in, where they lived and why, their religion, occupation, financial status, education, etc. To solve some problems, you have to deal with their neighbors, associates, relatives, - the cluster of people they dealt with in their public lives. I couldn't take notes fast enough! I'm not tired anymore - which is good because I have to drive home now. A terrific presentation - one of many!

That's it -- I hope you enjoyed my running commentary.

8:00 PM: Well, we had 13 CVGS members in attendance. i'm guessing that the total attendance was over 300.

We made it home quickly, with lots of talk in the car about the speakers and their presentations - all positive. Now I have to read the rest of the syllabus.

When I set up the laptop at home, it would not boot to Windows - only a blank screen with a flashing cursor. Arghh. I called my son-in-law, who said to disconnect the AC cord and take the battery out, wait a minute or tow, and put the battery back in. Yep - that worked! How? Why? Who knows...but I'm back in business, but not knowing if it will happen again. We went out to dinner to celebrate my technical prowess. Umm, I guess it would be my son-in-law's technical prowess.

Friday, March 2, 2007

19th Edition of Carnival of Genealogy is Up

The 19th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is posted by Jasia at The theme this edition was "Shelter from the storm, stories of the home and hearth. " My submission was here.

Many of the regular players contributed stories about their childhood or ancestral homes, but there are some fresh voices with interesting stories.

The next Carnival of Genealogy will have the theme of a tribute to One Woman in this month of March, which is Women's History Month. It's a great opportunity to write about someone special or perhaps someone on the family tree who never married or had children and who has no direct descendants to carry on a memory of them. The deadline for submissions is March 15th. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Genealogy using our carnival submission form.

Slave Owners in the Political Woodpile

Now the news media (or is it a political machine?) are making the case that Barack Obama has slave owners in his ancestry through his mother. What a surprise...except it is not a surprise if you think about it.

Many people with 5 generations or more of Southern ancestry likely have a slave holder in their ancestry - whether their race is white or black.

Indeed, there have been many Presidents with a slave holding background - including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Current Presidential candidates with a Southern background, and likely slave holders in their ancestry, include John Edwards, Al Gore and John McCain. Are they going to be scrutinized and their integrity questioned also?

The known ancestry of many political candidates and office holders are provided by William Addams Reitweisner at . It's a great web site!

Perusing Reitweisner's site, I found that I am a 9th cousin to Mitt Romney (most recent common ancestors are Francis Nurse and Rebecca Towne), and an 8th cousin to Bill Richardson (MRCA are Joseph Farwell/Hannah Learned and John Bigelow/Mary Warren). I can't find any link to Hillary Rodham, Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, or John Edwards.

And a confession - I have ancestors who had slaves in Rhode Island in the 18th and 19th centuries - I see them being bequeathed in some of the wills I've been transcribing. I guess this means that I can run for President too!

As I said before - all of this doesn't really matter. What does matter is how each person acts and communicates their principles and ideals. The moral sins of the fathers (and slavery was a moral sin in my thinking, even though it was legal) should not be attached to the later generations.

However, it does sell newspapers, make people cluck at the perceived character flaw, and provide blog content to some of us!

Escondido Family History Fair on Saturday

The 2007 Family History Fair at the Escondido (CA) LDS South Stake building is on Saturday, 3 March, from 8 AM to 4 PM. This is a FREE all-day seminar, but you must have registered by March 1. A syllabus is available for those that pre-paid for it. This fair has attracted over 200 attendees in past years. The fair web site is

Many San Diego area genealogical societies will have tables and displays, including the Chula Vista Genealogical Society. We will display some posters, some pictures, have membership brochures and Glen Abbey cemetery CD order forms available. Not many vendors attend this fair because they can't exchange money on the grounds.

The keynote speaker (at 9 AM) is Kory Meyerink, speaking on "Googling Genealogy."

There are four speaker sessions (10:15, 11:30, 1:30 and 2:45) with 7 classes at each time. This year, Kory Meyerink, Barbara Renick, and Richard S. Wilson will speak at four sessions; Beth McCarty, Alan Jones and Ann Montgomery will speak at three sessions; Daniel Bartosz and Dee Sallenbach will speak at two sessions; and Cassandra Helzer, Kathy Hofer, Joan Lowrey, and Everett Ireland will speak at one session.

I signed up for:

10:15: Comparing Genealogical Software Programs - Richard Wilson

11:30: Evaluating Compiled Resources - Barbara Renick

1:30: Using US Probate and Deed Records to Track your Family - Dee Sallenbach

2:45: An Overview of Advanced Research Methods - Kory Meyerink

I look forward to this seminar every year. The price is right and the speakers are national conference quality.

I will bring my laptop to the seminar and will have it set up at the CVGS booth. If there is a wireless internet hookup available, I will live blog the seminar. If not, I'll post about it on Saturday night or Sunday.

If you attend, please stop by and meet me and my CVGS colleagues - I enjoy meeting my readers and commenters.

Only 6 Questions on 2010 Census?

Well - not exactly.

An article by June Kronholz in the Wall Street Journal, and published in the San Diego Union-Tribune dated 2 March 2007 (I'm not sure the link will work), described the questions to be asked in the 2010 census on a one page form.

For each person in the household on 1 April 2010, the census will ask the head-of-household to write down the:

1) Name

2) Relationship to head of household (14 choices, but not foster Child because it would have been off the bottom of the page)

3) Gender (male or female, check one only)

4) Age, and date of birth (children less than 1 year old are to be listed as age 0)

5) Of Hispanic origin (yes or no, if yes, then check Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican or Other, and write in a nationality if Other)

6) Race (one or more of white, black, American Indian, choice of 6 Asian, choice of 3 Pacific Islanders, plus a write-in line for any other Asian nationality)

The head-of-household will be asked to answer three more questions, but only the one about home ownership/rental is defined now.

The article concludes that about 40 million households - one third of the total - will not send the survey back and will be visited by a census worker to help fill out the form.

In the 2000 census, about 3 million households were asked to answer a longer census form about home size, income, commute time, daily life, etc. This is now a yearly survey called the American Community Survey and is separate now from the census. Funny, I haven't heard of anyone having received one since 2000 - there should be a 1 in 6 chance that a person would have received one since 2000.

Oh - all of that will be released to the public in 2082. I can hardly wait! Ummm, maybe my grandchildren will be excited to see the marks I will make on the 2010 form.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Googling for Google Maps

You probably already knew this, but I just figured it out.

I have a Google search box on my Internet Explorer menu bar and use it frequently to search for name combinations and localities.

During my searches today for Bresee (and surname variations) people in the census I ran across some township names that were not on the maps available on the USGenWeb site for Columbia County NY. Like Livingston and Hillsdale. Where were they?

I clicked into the Google search box, put in the search [ livingston "new york" map ] and the first result is a link to Google Maps centered on Livingston, Columbia County, NY. From there, I searched up and down the county and into the adjacent counties, and all the way down to the Delaware Water Gap before I realized I had lost my focus. I love maps!

Google maps are not new, but they are still wonderful, and I am ecstatic that I found an easy way to answer my "where is it?" question.

"Making of America" Digital Library

I'm like a kid left alone in a candy store sometimes. One of my society colleagues tipped me to this, and I spent an enjoyable hour this afternoon reading and searching.

The University of Michigan and Cornell University have been working on the "Making of America" digital library for some time. One site is at

The web site describes the project as:

"Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints. For more details about the project, see About MoA. Making of America is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. "

This resource had not caught my sttention previously, but it is certainly a worthwhile free resource for 19th century books about the building of the USA.

You can enter search words into the search box; quote marks for phrases are not allowed, but an asterisk (*) wild card is permitted (one letter minimum at start of a word, no * allowed in the middle of a word). A search for "norman seaver" resulted in 4 hits that reflect some of the available books:

1) Speeches of Benjamin Harrison, twenty-third president of the United States; : a complete collection of his public addresses from February, 1888, to February, 1892.

2) A municipal history of the town and city of Boston, during two centuries. From September 17, 1630, to September 17, 1830. By Josiah Quincy.

3) Memorial. Genealogy, and ecclesiastical history [of First Church, New Britain, Conn.] To which is added an appendix, with explanatory notes, and a full index ... By Alfred Andrews

4) The Presbyterian memorial offering, 1870-1871.

Interesting records, all! This collection is worthy to be right up there with the other online digital libraries for history and genealogy. I imagine that many of these books are in one of the subscription site digital libraries, but this one is FREE.

Pardon me for awhile, I'm going back to the candy store...

Cousins finding me

One of the great things about genealogy blogs is that what you post is indexed by Google and other search engines.

The other day I received an email from a Bell descendant of James and Cornelia Bell of Henderson, Jefferson County, NY (James was born in 1777, died 1836). I had posted a note back in October about a deed that named his children here, and my correspondent had found me. He had more information about the Bell family, including a daughter that I had not previously identified.

He pointed me to a Rootsweb WorldConnect database, posted in August 2006, that contained James and cornelia Bell, and documented another daughter's line. It also provided birth dates for James and Cornelia, and identified her maiden name as Bresee. It also said that James Bell was from Scotland, and that they were married in Schodack, Rensselaer County, NY.

So I'm on the hunt for Bresee families (Breese, Bries, Beece, etc) in the Rensselaer/Columbia Counties area in the 1750 to 1800 time frame. I have found some decent leads, but no tie of Cornelia Bresee to a set of parents. It looks like these people were of Dutch extraction and immigrated in the late 1600's or early 1700's.

If James Bell is from Scotland, then this is my first known Scottish ancestor. I have hoped for Scottish, Welsh and Irish ancestors for a long time, and now my hopes are coming to a partial fruition.

There is another lesson for me here - I need to check the Rootsweb WorldConnect database (and the Ancestry member databases too) more often for my "problem children." I last checked on James Bell with a wife Cornelia back in 2005 and had not checked since.

Kid's T-shirts at JMK Genealogy

JMK Genealogy Gifts has some genealogy stuff for kids (at that say:

1) A T-shirt that says "My grandma kicks ass at genealogy" (and one that says grandpa too).

2) A bib that says "Will trade pacifier for web site subscriptions"

3) A bib that says "I need to transcribe some census records and update my genealogy blog, but.... could you please change my diaper first?"

There are several other kids items at their commercial site -

Way cool stuff. This of course leads to the temptation to find other genealogy themes for kids' shirts, bibs and even jammies. How about:

"Pre-school is great, but a day with grandpa at the cemetery is fun"

"My grandpa says I am a 14th generation American"

"Climbing family trees with grandpa is fun"

"My ancestors made me what I am"

Do you have any suggestions? Tell me a saying or two that would be appropriate and funny for kids' gear.

Check out their other offerings too at . Note that I am not affiliated with JMK - I just like their products!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Best Online Genealogy Tutorial

In our Research Group today we started on our "Internet Genealogy Boot Camp" effort to introduce online databases and web sites to some of our less experienced members.

Of the 14 attendees today, only three of us had explored the SSDI and WorldConnect databases on The group had a range of experience, from beginner to long-time traditional researcher. All who attended have a computer, use email, and occasionally surf the web, but most do not use the web routinely for genealogy research. I believe that this is typical of many local genealogy societies with a fairly elderly membership (the exception being a computer-related genealogy society like CGSSD in San Diego).

We visited the web site today. This site has an online genealogy tutorial that is excellent for both beginner and veteran Internet researchers. The tutorial is in six modules:

I- Getting Started (Home Sources, Charts, Recording Information, Citing Resources)

II - Using Online Resources (Online Databases, Search Engines, Directories)

III - Gathering Key Records (Vital Records, Federal Census Records)

IV - Exploring Further (Probate Records, Church Records, Military Records, Newspapers)

V - Sharing Information (Discussion Lists, Message Boards, Software Programs)

VI - Quiz

We started in Module II, which provides tutorials for:

1) Social Security Death Index

2) Rootsweb WorldConnect Project Database

3) LDS FamilySearch Databases

4) Ellis Island Database

5) (only the 1880 Census)

6) Google

7) Cyndi's List

8) USGenWeb Project

In each tutorial, there is a summary of the database or web site, and links for Demonstration or Practice.

If you click on Demonstration, you will get step-by-step directions in the left-hand frame for how to use the database of web site with examples shown in the right-hand frame.

If you click on Practice, then the step-by-step directions appear in the left-hand frame, the actual web site input boxes and results are in the right hand frame, and you can input your own ancestors into the databases.

It works beautifully. And it is free!

The whole tutorial can be used to provide a fairly complete course on how to effectively pursue genealogy research on the Internet. IMHO, it is much better than any static lecture course because the student can see a demonstration and then practice using the databases with the step-by-step directions on the screen.

If your local society is struggling to provide online genealogy research instruction to your members, this is by far the best online tutorial I have found.

We are going to continue to use this online tutorial in our Computer Lab classes because we see how effective it is in bringing hesitant researchers into the online genealogy world.

If anyone knows of other online tutorials with different or better qualities, I would appreciate knowing about them.

CVGS Research Group today

We had our monthly Research Group meeting today at the library - 14 people were there. Our usual format is to discuss the news of the month, ask for and discuss research problems that the attendees have, answer research questions, and tell success stories. We did that for the first hour today, with the usual results - lots of discussion and some very useful research tips.

Perhaps the most useful tip was showing how the Family History Library Catalog could be used to find resources that can be rented at the FHC. Another useful tip was that most libraries have an Interlibrary Loan program, but few people are aware of it or use it.

We discussed the content of the Drouin red and blue books (French-Canadian records) and how useful they are. We discussed surname spellings and how thinking creatively can lead to further ancestral lines. A member noted that a mention of one of his surnames at lunch on Monday led another member to offer information on that surname. I described my research on the living relative problem I posted about last week.

The last 45 minutes of the meeting were used to demonstrate a genealogy tutorial web site that is useful for any researcher - beginner or experienced. I'll post about that separately.

Unfortunately, the wireless signal in the library conference room is tenuous - we never had four green bars on the wireless icon, usually it had two red bars. The downloads took so long that we need to rethink doing wireless internet in the conference room. Frustrating, to be sure.

Looking for Maps?

I was looking for New York county maps last night to try and figure out my latest research mystery. Then this morning reading my favorite blogs (well, letting bloglines find them for me), I saw that George G. Morgan had posted an article on "Exploring the World With Historical Maps Collections Online."

This list looks interesting and I am going to explore these sites when I get home from my CVGS Research Group meeting today.

George's columns are always useful - I had a nice collection of them on my desktop computer before the crash, but they didn't get backed up.

Sandy Burglar to the Rescue

Chris Dunham at the Genealogue has a different take on things like the NARA fee increases - see for his "exclusive" story.

Rather than complain about them, "Sandy Burglar" has taken an entrepreneurial step and started a new business to obtain NARA documents at reduced prices. Of course, Sandy was caught the last time he tried this, so it is not recommended for "the rest of us" since we don't have access to high government officials to let us off with a slap on the wrist.

This is Chris at his best...original thinking far out of the box - funny and thought-provoking.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Will of Solomon Carpenter (1677-1750) of South Kingstown, RI

I mentioned the other day that I was collecting probate records for my ancestors who died in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. I transcribed three probate files today, including that of Solomon Carpenter (1677-1750). Here is the will transcription (transcribed from the clerk's copy in the South Kingstown (Rhode Island) Probate and Town Council Records, Volume 4, Pages 318-320, on FHL Microfilm 0,931,834) and abstract of the other records:


"In the Name of God Amen the Thirtyeth Day of April Anno Domini one Thousand Seven Hundred fifty. I Solomon Carpenter of South Kingstown in the County of Kings County in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England yeoman. Being ancient but Perfect in mind and memory Thanks be therefore given to Almighty God and Calling unto Mind the Mortality of My body and Knowing that it is Appointed for men once to Dye do make and Ordain this to be my Last will and Testament That is to Say

"Principally and first of all I Give and Recommend my Soul into the Hands of God that Gave it and my body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in a Decent Christian Like manner at the Discrestion of my Executor hereafter Named And as Touching such worldly Estate wherewith It hath Pleased God to bless me with in this Life I Give Demise and Dispose of the Same in the following manner and form (Viz)

"Imprimis my Will is That my Just Debts be Duly Paid by my Executor herein and hereafter Named.

"Item I Give and Bequeath unto my well beloved Daughter Elizabeth Braman the Sum of Fifty Pounds in good and Passable Bills of Publick Credit of said Colony to be paid by my Executor hereafter Named with in Twelve Months Next after my Decease.

"Item I Give to my Grandaughter Joanna Rogers the Sum of fifty Pounds in good and Passable Bills of the Colony before said to be paid by my Executor hereafter Named at his Discrestion and as he shall think she the said Joanna hath agreed thereof.

"Item I Give to my GrandSon Samuel Carpenter the sum of Twenty Shillings in good and Pasable Bills of Publick Credit in the Colony aforesaid to be paid by my Executor hereafter named when the said Samuel shall Arrive to the Age of Twenty one years and the reason why I Give him no more is because his Deceased Father had received his Part of my Estate in his Lifetime.

"Item I Give and bequeath unto my GrandSon Joseph Carpenter the sum of twelve Pounds in good and Passable Bills of Publick Credit in said colony to be Paid by my Executor hereafter Named when the said Joseph shall Arrive to the Age of Twenty one years.

"And as to the rest and Residue of my Estate both Real and Personal be it of what Kind or Nature soever or Where soever the Same is or may be found I do Give Demise and Bequeath the same unto my well beloved Son Daniel Carpenter to him and his Heirs and Assigns for Ever And I do hereby Nominate Constitute make and ordaine my said Well beloved Son Daniel Carpenter my whole and Sole Executor of this my Last will and Testament and I do hereby utterly Disallow Revoke and Disannull all and Every other Former Testament Wills Legacies and bequeaths and Executors by me in any wise before Named Willed and bequeathed Rattifying and Confirming this and No other to be my Last will and Testament. In Witness whereof I have herewith Set my hand and Seal the Day and years first before Writen.

"Signed Sealed Published Pronounced and Declared by the said Solomon Carpenter as his Last will and Testament in the presence of us the Subscribers
..............................................Solomon Carpenter (Locus Sigillus)
Rouse Helme
Job Gardner
Oliver Helme"

On 8 October 1750, the subscribers personally appeared before the South Kingstown town council and declared that they witnessed Solomon Carpenter sign, seal and declare this instrument to be his last will and testament and that they signed as witnesses in his presence, and that Solomon Carpenter was in his perfect mind and memory at the time.

No inventory of the estate, executor's account or distribution of the estate was found in the town probate records.


The will mentions daughter Elizabeth Braman, granddaughter Joanna Rogers (perhaps a daughter of Elizabeth Carpenter or Sarah Carpenter), Grandson Samuel Carpenter (probably son of Solomon Carpenter Jr), Grandson Joseph Carpenter (probably a son of Solomon Carpenter Jr), and son Daniel Carpenter, who is my ancestor.

Are there any other researchers with Solomon Carpenter and his wife Elizabeth Tefft as their ancestors? If so, please contact me.

NARA Rate Increases

Dick Eastman posted the news release about the National Archives and Records Administration increasing their rates for many records requested by mail.

Leland Meitzler posted much the same information, and included email and snail addresses for persons to comment on the proposed fee changes.

The consensus opinion among genea-bloggers and the APG list posters is that this is in response to the news some time ago that NARA funding would be restricted and the hours that the Archives branches are open were reduced significantly.

It is important to understand that many of these records are NOT on microfilm and available to researchers online or at an FHC - only the Revolutionary War Pension records are on microfilm, from what I've read.

On the APG list, one poster thought that this would be a boon for DC area professional researchers, since NARA's staff was their main competitor in providing Archives documents to researchers by mail. The researchers currently go to the Archives and copy documents available only at the Archives for their customers - they know how to deal with the system and find the documents efficiently.

While the proposed fee increase is not good news, it is not the end of the world. The documents are still available to all of us - but at higher prices by mail or in person at the Archives. It would be real smart to order documents now - at the current mail order prices - rather than wait until the prices rise. The date of the price increase is not given - but April 27, 2007 is the date for the closing of the comment process.

After the prices rise, using a professional researcher may be the best recourse. If the pertinent files are at a nearby Archives branch, going to the Archives branch will still be an option.

Does anyone know if the documents that have not been microfilmed (including the civil War Pension files) will be digitized and indexed by and offered on their commercial web site?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Memories from my youth

We visited with my brothers and their families on Sunday. Unfortunately, my kids and their families couldn't attend. They missed out on some reminiscences and some fun.

I seem to recall events from my childhood and youth in a general way. for instance, when I was about 16, my brother and I went downtown on a Saturday and found a KDEO radio station "sweater girl" in an elevator, and won $25 (it was a station promotion). That's the extent of my memory - we did it, we won, hooray.

My brother, who is three years younger than me (but we often did things together), remembers more detail. We went downtown with my friend Paul, who had a '49 Ford tricked out, and sneaked into the San Diego Club (a men-only club) to play handball. As we were going up in the elevator, a female employee in a lavender cashmere sweater got on. After some consultation, my brother asked if she was the KDEO Sweater Girl. She responded that she was, took his name and phone number, and he received $25 for being in the right place at the right time. $25 was a big deal in 1960 for a young teenager, even if he split it three ways. My brother says he even remembers what the young lady looked like, and he said we were all focused on the sweater for some reason.

There were several other stories like that last night - one of us remembered more about an event than the other two.

It struck me that I, and other researchers, might be missing out on significant family history if we rely only on our own memories, or the memories of just one family member. We should strive to gather family memories from all of the family members we can.

One problem that is fairly common with family interviews is that some people will protect themselves, their siblings, or their parents, and not tell negative stories about people. Only by using multiple sources can you really gather all of the memories.

Age and gender make a difference too. My Aunt Geraldine was her mother's youngest child and lived with her the longest. In her mother's later years, she was her mother's confidante, and heard all of the stories from her mother's point of view. Aunt Gerry was objective enough to realize that her mother's stories promoted her mother's view, and told me not only her mother's view but also her view on the cassette tapes she made for me about 15 years ago.

Aunt Gerry and her sisters (or their female children) told me consistent stories about my father's love affair, and the outcome of it. My father's only brother said that it didn't happen (protecting him? or just unaware?). Who should I believe? I think the story rings true, but I value my uncle's view - perhaps he was unaware of the event since he was newly married and the girls kept the secret. I wish I had my father's version of his life. Unfortunately, he died in 1983 before I started doing genealogy research.

Have you had experiences like this? Have you written down your memories? Have you asked your aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and parents about their lives and family events?

Della's Journal - Week 9 (February 26-March 4, 1929)

This is Installment 9 of the Journal of Della (Smith) Carringer, my great-grandmother, who resided at 2115 30th Street in San Diego in 1929.

The "players" and "setting" are described here. Pictures of some of the players are here. Last week's Journal entry is here.


Tuesday, February 26: Lunch with Mrs. Jones

Wednesday, February 27: no entry

Thursday, February 28: Went to town. got A[ustin] under clothes.

Friday, March 1: A[ustin] got pay. I gave Emily $20. She got two carpets. I got day bed for Ma's house $20.00. Congoliam rug for our kitchen $3.00. I went out with man to deliver bed to house.

Saturday, March 2: Ed over. Gave him $12. I went out to Ma's house had Mr. Van Beber help me an hour pd him 50 c[ents]. I stayed and fixed things. Mr. Schmidt sick in bed. Mr. Van B and I put old carpet down for them I gave them. Mrs. Nolan & girl & Mrs. Marvin got home, were gone North over a week.

Sunday, March 3: Lyle's went to country. We did not do anything. Mr. Roberts called, gave him box candy.

Monday, March 4: I went to town. Pd $200 on Bld & Loan & $25 (?) monthly pay. Fluffy had kittens, five. Willie, Lee & sisters called.


At the beginning of this week, Della obviously didn't journal much, even missing a day. The big news of the week is that the cat had 5 kittens - I never knew the cat's name, of course. Again, Della does all of the family business - banking, payments, etc.

Palaeography and Translation web sites

Dona Ritchie's list of handwriting (palaeography) and translation web sites include:

1) Old Style Handwriting and Printer's Ligatures - A Beginner's Guide (Smoot Family Association) -

2) Palaeography - Reading Old Handwriting tutorial -

3) Reading Early Writing -

4) Early English Handwriting -

5) Scottish Handwriting - online tutoring in the palaeography of Scottish documents, 1500 to 1750 -

6) English Handwriting, 1500 to 1700 - an online course -

7) Deciphering Old Handwriting - from a genealogy course taught by Sabina J. Murray -

8) Handwriting guide - German Gothic Resource Guide -

9) Tutorials for reading Old German, French and English Handwriting -

The free online translation sites include (each of these also offers professional translation services for a price via email):

1) Free online translation of text (English to Spanish, French, German, Norwegian, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and vice versa) -

2) Free online translation of text (the above, plus Arabic and Korean) -

3) Free online translation of text (the above plus Greek and Swedish, but not Norwegian) - [not available now]

Note that for the translations to non-Latin alphabets, you must have the proper character sets installed on your computer. All-in-all, these sites look fairly easy to use for short phrases. The prices to translate a fairly long document may be high.

I input the last paragraph into the English to French translator at the WorldLingo site, then translated it back to English - it came out:

"Note that for the translations with the alphabets not-Latin, you must have the suitable character sets installed on your computer. All-in-all, it looks at rather easy employing these sites for short expressions. The prices to translate a rather long document can be high."

That isn't too bad, actually. These sites generally will translate 150 words for free.

At the Free Translation site, it costs $40 to translate a paragraph like that into Spanish, or $50 to translate it into Chinese. If you need a translation of something short, the free translator may be the way to go. For longer documents, you may want to pay the price or try to find someone in a local genealogy society or an educational institution to help you get it right.

My thanks to Dona for letting me post these online resources.

Do you have other palaeography or translation options? Tell me about them!

Excellent CVGS Meeting today

Our monthly Chula Vista Genealogical Society meeting was well attended today. It was our annual business meeting, and we presented the "state of the society" with a report of 2006 activities and the 2007 society budget report. CVGS sponsored over 50 events in 2006 - not bad for a small society of 86 members.

The program featured Dona Ritchie presenting "Interpretation of Handwriting." Her talk covered the handwriting peculiarities of early US and English records and German records. She covered the obsolete letter forms (the leading-S, the thorn (not a Y as in Ye), the double-f, the X for Christ, the ampersand, the I's and J's, the U, V, W, etc.) and showed pictures of many documents that had a variety of script types, and provided examples of "look-alike" letters found in the records. Dona also provided helpful techniques for transcribing and translating documents. Her handout included a list of useful web sites and reference books on deciphering handwriting and document translation. I will post her list of web sites, with her permission, in a separate post.

Our tradition is that the President treats the speaker to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Today, five of our board members joined us, and we had a lively discussion about our personal research problems, especially as they related to handwriting and transcribing records.

It was a fun and interesting genealogy day.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Genealogy is in the news

So I take a day off from genea-blogging, and look what happens.

1) Noted genealogists Megan Smolenyak and Tony Burroughs break the news that Al Sharpton's ancestors were probably owned by Strom Thurmond's ancestors - see the New York Daily News article here.

2) Some of Mitt Romney's ancestors were Mormons who practiced polygamy. The original Boston Globe story is here.

We heard about the biracial ancestry of Barack Obama a while ago (and I found out that he is my distant cousin). Hillary Rodham Clinton's ancestry has been known for many years. Some researchers and authors make a living tracing the ancestry of the rich and famous.

It should be only a matter of time before we know more about the ancestry of John McCain, Rudy Guiliani, John Edwards and other presidential hopefuls.

One Bible saying is interpreted as saying "the sins of the father will be visited on the children for three or four generations." However, many Biblical scholars (I am NOT a scholar) say that this is not what God meant (see this article). In 2 Kings 14:1-6, the Bible says "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin."

The latter sums up my own attitude - let every person be evaluated and judged on their own acts, words and deeds - not on the acts, words or deeds of their ancestors, or other family members.

The newspapers and commentators are trying to make political hay from the ancestry of our candidates for office. We in the genealogy community should monitor these efforts, correct any errors in the research, and appreciate the publicity that the articles generate.

The reactions and attitudes of the candidates toward the revelations about other candidates will tell me more about their character. Likewise, the candidate who says that he has learned lessons from the words, deeds and acts of his ancestors, and tells us what the lessons are, will be rewarded.

I am reminded of the famous Mark Twain quote - ""Why pay money to have your family tree traced? Go into politics and your opponents will do it for you." So true!