Saturday, June 2, 2007

JRH - in the newspapers!

I worked a bit yesterday on Colleen Fitzpatrick's weekly Forensic Genealogy puzzle #111, which I solved using the Proquest Historic Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2003), available at home using my library card for the San Diego Public Library.

Just for fun, I decided to input the string "John Robinson Hall" into the Search box and see if this fellow made the NY Times, since he was such a hot shot aviation enthusiast and promoter in the 1910- to 1920 time frame (that's what he told his wife, anyway!).

Bingo! JRH had at least 7 mentions from 1913 to 1924. In 1913, he was a pupil at the Moisant Aviation School at Hempstead on Long Island. He had an accident in October 1913, but survived. He became the Manager of the New York Times Aerial Derby, which flew around Manhattan Island, in October 1913, In December 1913, he was arrested for forging checks to pay his hotel bill after the meet, and it noted that he went to Philadelphia. In February 1914, he was cleared of the charges. Finally, in 1924, he wrote an article for the Times describing the Aerial Derby in 1911 and comparing aviation then with aviation in 1924.

Needless to say, I was very surprised to find these articles, and my colleague Joan will now have more biographical information about JRH. The file keeps growing!

The ProQuest Historical Newspaper collection is wonderful - I just wish I had access to more than the New York Times with my current crop of library cards!

This is another case of being lucky - and being in the right place when the thought flashes through your brain and you decide to act on the flash.

More about Genealogy Societies - Change or Perish?

George G. Morgan uses his regular Ancestry column (at to share his thoughts about how genealogical societies could or should change their programs, meetings, publications, etc. in order to adapt to the changing environment that societies exist in.

His thoughts and comments are cogent and timely. I encourage all genealogy society members, especially society leaders, to read his comments and see how they fit your own society.

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) is doing almost everything that George suggests for programming. The exception is that we still offer weekday monthly programs, but have started Saturday programs 3 times a year. Perhaps we should do more Saturday programs, but old habits of our members are hard to break.

CVGS doesn't have Special Interest Groups for specific subjects; rather, we have a monthly Research Group to discuss all subjects. We have regular field trips, a computer group, special classes, a cemetery project, and a social half-hour at our meetings.

CVGS publishes a newsletter for those that choose not to receive it via an email notice and PDF download. About half of our members download it now, so that saves a significant amount of money.

CVGS has a web site at and a blog called the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe at

All in all, we do OK by George's list! How about your society? Can it benefit from George's comments and suggestions?

UPDATE 6/5: George G. Morgan has a lengthy comment to this post - please click on Comments and read it too. His best comment is:

"The other thing that societies may overlook and lose out on is getting members involved in projects. The camaraderie and the friendships that form and grow as a result are a major benefit that bonds us all together. In addition, there is a huge amount of fun -- and learning -- involved that you cannot duplicate in an individual genealogical research experience."

Excellent thoughts! While large societies can sponsor seminars and conferences, they can lose the personal touch. Small societies can touch each member and enhance their genealogy education and experience. The best solution is to belong to both kinds of societies to take full advantage of the benefits of both!

UPDATE 6/5, 10:30 PM: Mike Ferguson made some cogent comments today, especially about newsletter publishing, in a second comment. Please click on Comments below and read his thoughts.

Thanks to George and Mike for sharing. Unfortunately, a blog isn't the most efficient way to see comments - a forum with a "flat view" (like what Rootsweb does with their message boards) would be ideal.

Following up on Cornelia Bresee

My "to-do" lists sometimes get buried in my "stack of stuff" and I don't get around to doing the tasks until I find the paper in the stack.

One of the items on my Bresee research list was to email a fellow named Lance who submitted a database to the WorldConnect database on that includes the following information (when you request a Register report):

1. Cornelia BRESEE was born 5 Dec 1780. She married James BELL in Schodack,NY, son of Thomas BELL and Margaret LECKI. He was born 7 Aug 1777 in Scotland, and died in Smithville.

Child of Cornelia BRESEE and James BELL is:
+ 2 i. Betsy BELL was born 23 Sep 1808, and died 1 Apr 1887.


It is apparent from the rest of the genealogy report printed from the database that Lance is a descendant of Betsy Bell and therefore Cornelia Bresee.

Lance's database appears to have been obtained from family records of some sort - he has specific names and dates, but only for one line down from Cornelia, and doesn't have many localities listed.

The key factor here is that the birth date for Cornelia Bresee in Lance's database matches the date in the book of baptisms for St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Churchtown NY (Claverack).

If Lance does have family papers with this information, obtained independently from the church record book, then this is good evidence that the Cornelia who married James Bell is the Cornelia Bresie in the church book.

I sent the email today to see if Lance is willing to share his source for the information about Cornelia Bresee. I should have done this several months ago, but, as I said, my "to-do" list got buried in my stack.

I guess I'd better dig down into my stack and organize everything so that I can find more things to do today...and tomorrow...and ... I really am pretty organized, I just don't know where everything is!

Finding JRH - looking for siblings in 1930 census

I'm helping one of my colleagues find data online to try to find what happened to her John Robinson Hall (JRH), born 1886 in Philadelphia PA). I posted "what we knew" here. The initial research summary is here, and the census search for him, his parents and siblings is here.

The next step in the search is to try to find JRH's siblings in the 1930 census - that would give us more names to find an obituary for and perhaps identify relatives of his that might still be living (and have information about him).

From the 1900 and 1910 census records, we know that his siblings are:

1. Edward Hall, born Feb 1884 in PA

2. William Robinson, born Jul 1888 in PA

3. Martha Robinson, born May 1890 in PA

4. Florence Robinson, born Oct 1895 in PA

5. Warren Robinson, born Mar 1897 in PA

6. Edith Robinson, born 1906 in PA

In the 1930 US census, we were able to find the following families:

In Ward 22 of Philadelphia, Philadelphia county, PA (NARA T626, Roll 2104, ED 628, Pg 12A):

* Warren Robinson - head, age 32, married, at age 24, born PA, parents born NIreland/PA
* Winifred Robinson - wife, age 30, married, at age 22, born PA, parents born NIreland/NIreland
* Mary J. Robinson - daughter, age 8, born PA, parents born PA/PA
* William Robinson - son, age 4, born PA, parents born PA/PA

In Ward 22 of Philadelphia, Philadelphia county, PA (NARA T626, Roll 2104, ED 622, Pg 49A):

* Harry Pfaff - head, age 36, married, at age 29, born PA, parents born Germany/Germany
* Florance Pfaff - wife, age 34, married, at age 28, born PA, parents born Ireland/PA
* Florence Hope Pfaff - daughter, age 3, born PA, parents born PA/PA
* William J. Robinson - bro-in-law, age 42, born PA, parents born Ireland/PA

Remember back in the second post, we found that Mrs. Harry G. Pfaff was the next-of-kin for John Robinson Hall in 1942 on the World War II draft registration card? And here we find his step-sister Florence married to Harry Pfaff (indexed on Ancestry as Harry Pfoff of course, just to throw us off the trail for a minute or two - a search using Flor* and her birth year was successful).

We looked for Edith Robinson in Philadelphia, with no results that fit the known information. We looked for Edith (no surname) in Philly Ward 22 and born 1906 +/- 2 years and had 5 hits, but none fit the known information. There were 313 women named Edith born 1906 +/- 2 years who were wives in Philadelphia in 1930!

We tried for Martha (no surname) too - with no positive results. There were 8 in Ward 22, and 585 in all of Philadelphia. It is too common a name!

That leaves Edward Hall, born in 1884. We couldn't find him in 1910 or 1920, but we tried 1930 anyway, assuming he could be anywhere in the USA. There were 10 Edward Hall's born 1884 +/- 2 years in PA, but none of them fit the known information.

In summary - we have at least three siblings living in 1930 in Philadelphia, and have identified at least 3 children of those siblings (although only one of them is male - the females are much harder to trace, as we all know!).

My recommendation for the next step in the search is to find newspaper obituaries for John Robinson Hall, or for his step-father William Robinson, mother Mary Robinson, sister Florence Pfaff, or brothers William J. Robinson and Warren Robinson to see if they list John Robinson Hall in a certain location.

The problem with this strategy is that it is going to take some time to find obituaries in the Philadelphia newspapers since we don't have any death dates for any of these people. It will be impossible if there is not an index for Philadelphia newspapers. I looked at the Philadelphia Free Library site and

An alternative plan is to search Philadelphia city directories for all of these people and note when they "disappear" from the directories. This might define an approximate death year, but they might have just moved away rather than died.

Another alternative is to request death records from Pennsylvania for John Robinson Hall, or his parents and siblings. They would give us a death date that might help find an obituary. The problem with this alternative is that it is costly to search PA death records when you don't know the death date.

Any comments on the search so far and the plan for further research?

Friday, June 1, 2007

UK Census Records on Ancestry Library Edition

Do you have ancestors or cousins hiding in the England and Wales census records 1841 to 1901? Have you found them in those census records?

Ancestry Library Edition provides access to those census records, but you can access ALE only at subscribing libraries. In the San Diego area, Chula Vista, San Diego city, Carlsbad and San Diego County library systems have access at all branches (I'm not sure about other libraries). In other areas, you should check at your local libraries.

For those persons that have only a US Deluxe Subscription to, and need to access England and Wales records, going to a library with access to Ancestry Library Edition is a much cheaper solution than signing up for a World deluxe subscription to

However, you are out of luck if you need Scotland or Canada census records - you need the World Deluxe subscription. By far the cheapest way to find those records is to wait for a free trial offer on that provides access to them.

Godfrey Library provides access to CT VRs

A colleague received this notice from the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown CT today:

Library Members Receive State Approval for Access to Vital Records

The State of Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a letter of approval on May 24, 2007 to Godfrey Memorial Library which allows current members access to Connecticut Vital Records located throughout the state.

According to the Registrar of Vital Records Elizabeth Frugale, "Members must show photographic identification and a valid Godfrey Memorial Library Membership Card before being granted access to vital records."

"We are very pleased to have received this designation from the state. We suggest that all of our local members make use of this great opportunity to further their genealogical research. We encourage every member to abide by the rules of conduct set forth at each town hall," said Library Director Richard Black.

Richard E. Black, Director
Godfrey Memorial Library
134 Newfield Street
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-4375

That is excellent! You can join the Godfrey Scholar program for $35 and gain access to Connecticut Vital Records. This has been one state that requires a genealogical society membership in order to access town vital records. I'm not sure if they accept New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) members - does anyone know?

My one try to gain access to Killingly town records ended up positively, even though I wasn't a CT society member. In 1994, I showed up at the former location of the Bugbee Library just as the director walked out to go to the new location - and the new location wasn't open yet. He asked what I was searching for, and when I said cemetery records, he led me to the town clerk office a block away and asked them to help me out. The clerk's office had the cemetery records, plus the Killingly town vital records, and they didn't check any credentials since I came in with the library director. I found quite a few vital records, plus the cemetery records.

As I left, there was a lady working in the other room, and she asked me what surnames I was working on. I said Oatley, White and Richmond in the 1830 to 1900 time frame, and she said she was working on a book about a Dr. Hill who served East Killingly in the 1850 to 1900 time period. I eventually bought her book and found only cryptic references to my people - but he was their doctor!

Promising Genealogy Blogs

Genealogy-related blogs continue to crop up with regularity, and Chris Dunham tries to capture all of them at his Genealogy Blog Finder (over 630 are now on his list).

Some of the most recent blogs that I have subscribed to via Bloglines (I have about 145 on my list now) include:

* Creative Genealogy by Jasia - "If you're interested in taking your genealogy to the next level, come join me in exploring creative ways to share your family's history." This is a "beautiful" blog!

* Unofficial Footnote Blog - "Highlighting Features, News and Content of"

* Connecticut Ancestor Connections - "Visit here to share ancestral news in and around Connecticut. Discovering the Past to Connect with the Future!"

* Passing it On - "A site dedicated to preserving, celebrating and sharing family and personal history."

* The G Files - "The truth is out there."

* ephemera - "exploring the world of old paper"

* Exploring Rootsweb - "and making web pages"

* Jessica's Genejournal - "A blog that posts information on genealogy and historical research."

* The Genetic Genealogist - "Adding DNA to the Genealogist’s Toolbox"

These are all fairly new (to me), and have fairly regular postings. If you have some time, go visit each of these and support genealogy bloggers worldwide.

There are now over 30 genealogy or historical societies on the Genealogy Blogfinder - including our Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe!

Do you have a genealogy blog with regular postings that I have missed? Please let me know and I will add you to my Bloglines list and my Blog roll.

Finding JRH - into the census records

I am helping my CVGS colleague, Joan, find records about her John Robinson Hall (JRH). The "what we knew" post is here, and the "first steps in our search" post is here.

The next path we chose to follow is to try to find his parents and any siblings in the census records. If we can identify year ranges for when the parents disappear from the census records, we might be able to find a death record or an obituary. If we can identify siblings, then we may be able to trace their families and find living descendants, or find obituaries for them that might tell us if JRH is alive at the time of the sibling's death.

We started with the 1900 census, since JRH was born in March 1886. The marriage record says his parents were John S. Hall (born in Ireland) and Mary Ann McLaughlin (born in PA). We decided to search in Philadelphia County PA first because John Hall is such a common name.

By inputting Given name = John, Last name = Hall, mother's name = Mary, and Birth Year = 1885 +/- 1 year, we found this family (NARA film T623, Roll 1464, ED 505, pg 14A) in Philadelphia Ward 22:

* William Robinson - head, age 37, born May 1862, married 14 years, born Ireland, parents born Ire/Ire.
* Mary Robinson - wife, age 35, born Jul 1864, married 14 years, 9 children born, 6 living, born PA, parents born Ireland/Ireland
* Edward Hall - son, age 16, born Feb 1884, single, born PA, parents born Ireland/PA
* John Hall - son, age 15, born Mar 1885, single, born PA, parents born Ireland/PA
* William Robinson - son, age 11, born Feb 1889, born PA, parents born Ireland/PA
* Martha Robinson - daughter, age 10, born May 1890, etc.
* Florence Robinson - daughter, age 4, born Oct 1895, etc.
* Warren Robinson - son, age 3, born Mar 1897, etc.

The birth year for John Hall is a year off, but everything else is correct, and the thing that makes it almost a 100% cinch is the surname Robinson. If Mary Hall married William Robinson in 1886, then John Hall was raised by William Robinson for almost his entire life - and may have taken his surname as his middle name - John Robinson Hall.

We searched the 1910 census records for John Robinson Hall (and variations including J., R., Hull, Hale, etc) born in PA in 1885 +/- 2 years with no success - in Pennsylvania, California and the entire USA. He may be there, but there are a lot of John Hall's and the only discriminators we have are his age, his birth state and his parents birth places.

The 1910 census for Philadelphia finds the William Robinson family in Ward 22 again (NARA T624, Roll 1396, ED 458, page 5A) - with no Hall's and all the Robinsons 10 years older, and with another daughter, Edith, age 3. Mary Robinson has had 10 children, with 7 living, so that completes the family. She and William have been married for 23 years, and it is Mary's 2nd marriage. We know the names of all 7 children - two Hall sons and 5 Robinson children.

We searched the 1920 census records for John Robinson Hall (and variations including J., R., Hull, Hale, etc) born in PA in 1885 +/- 2 years with no success - in Pennsylvania, California and the entire USA.

The 1920 census for Philadelphia finds William Robinson in Ward 22, but he is a widower (NARA T625, Roll 1624, ED 620, page 6B) living with his Robinson children. Mary may have died between 1910 and 1920.

We looked for William Robinson in the 1930 US census records in Philadelphia, but there were none that matched the age and birthplace with any of the known children. It is possible that William Robinson died between 1920 and 1930.

We have made significant progress in the census records today, even though we can't find John Robinson Hall after 1900 in the census. Because we found his family in the 1900 census, there are some siblings to follow up on in the 1930 census and later records.

The next step in this search is to try to find some of the siblings in the 1930 census records.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

When was this picture taken?

One of the treasures found in my Aunt Geraldine's photos and papers was this set of photographs encased in a fairly thick case - about 3/8 inch thick on each side.

The photos appear to be on a metallic medium, and are covered with a thin glass (resulting in the blurring of the picture above on my scanner). The whitish marks on the scan above are from fingerprints on the glass, not in the pictures.

The outside of the casing shows a relief of a mother kissing a small child with a large dog (?) watching. This is on both halves of the casing. There is no other identifying feature on the casing - inside or outside.

I am not sure who these people are, but I'm guessing that it was handed down to Gerry from her mother. Depending on the year the photos were taken, I have several candidates for who they are, assuming they are from Gerry's and my father's ancestry.

Can anyone give me an estimate of the year these photos were taken, based on the photo type, the case type, the clothing, the poses, the hair styles, etc.?

UPDATE 1 June, 1:15 PM: In comments, Dana and Jimmy have suggested that these are Civil War era photographs. Joy provided these very helpful links for photo dating:

" and have a lot of links to information about dating historical photographs."

Thank you all! I will report further when I have a better idea for the time frame.

Table of Consanguinity

I've heard the term "Consanguinity" before, but have never really understood it. The definition of it is at It appears that there is a difference between "common and canon law" and "civil law."

When I checked the article about the genealogy butler on the newspaper website, there was an advertisement for International Genealogical Search Inc. ( - an heir search company that claims 97% success and a guarantee of success or you don't pay on "standard searches." I followed the link and eventually found a Table of Consanguinity at I downloaded it and printed it out for future use. This chart is used for Civil Law.

Clicking around the Heirsearch site I found this testimonial:

"We just sent our petition for distribution of the estate to the court filing. We never would have been able to get this far without all of your assistance. You lifted a great burden from our shoulders when you assumed the responsibility of reporting on all of the deceased's heirs (395 heirs). It has been a pleasure dealing with such a professional, yet friendly and understanding group of people." -- Probate Assistant, Fullerton, California.

I'm sure that most of the heir search firms have testimonials like this, but the number - 395 heirs - really stood out to me! I wonder what the record for number of heirs found is?

Please note that I don't have an interest in this firm - I just found the chart and thought the quote was interesting.

I'm still not sure that I understand how the degree of consanguinity is calculated but now I know the definition and have a chart!

Dublin hotel offers Genealogy Butler services

Jimmy at JMK Genealogy Gifts forwarded this newspaper article to me - the link to the article is

The article says:


Shelbourne offers genealogy butler
Thursday May 31 2007

DUBLIN'S Shelbourne hotel has appointed a genealogy butler in a bid to lure high-spending American guests to the first lady of Dublin.

The genealogist, who'll take up residence from tomorrow, will offer guests one-hour advisory sessions and help them to draw up practical research plans.
Those who can't wait to get started on the historical trail can also email forward their family details before they arrive to give the genealogist a head-start.

"When you look at the Americans coming here, a lot of them are coming to trace their roots so this makes sense," said Shelbourne general manager Liam Doyle.

Bill Marriott, chief executive of Marriott International which has the management contract for the Shelbourne through its Renaissance brand, said the service was a "wonderful idea".


Jimmy adds: the Shelbourne is one of the more upmarket hotels in Dublin, Ireland.

That is a wonderful idea! Wouldn't that be a great job? I would jump at a chance to do that if I had the knowledge and the opportunity! Can't you hear it now - "Randall, would you please draw my pedigree chart for me? And bring me a Guinness so we can discuss the visit to my ancestral castle?" The possibilities are endless, aren't they?

Inquiring minds want to know if the butler will be male or female (is the word "butler" masculine?). And if they will provide private research "services" in addition to their services paid for by the hotel?

What other locations would be good for a genealogy butler? Scotland? Sicily? Salt Lake City? Boston? Washington DC? London?

Interesting concept! Of course, that is what the research staff at major genealogy repositories is for - to help researchers plan their time and find resources.

Finding JRH - another piece of the puzzle

I'm helping one of my colleagues find data online to try to find what happened to her John Robinson Hall (born 1886). I posted "what we knew" here. The last known record was in September 1918 in Los Angeles CA (his World War I draft registration card).

At the library on Wednesday, we went methodically through the California Death Records - at There are three databases there - for 1905 to 1929, 1930 to 1939, and 1940-2000. The first two are images of alphabetical lists and are not searchable, except by surname. The 1940 to 2000 database is searchable. Unfortunately, we did not find a likely John Robinson Hall (or John R., or J. Robinson, etc.) in the listings. Perhaps he left California?

Then we methodically searched looking for "John Robinson Hall" or "J. Robinson Hall" or "Robinson Hall." There were some entries in the census records, newspaper records and vital records, but they were not the correct person.

However, there was an entry in the "World War II Draft Registrations" for a John Robinson Hall residing in Philadelphia PA in 1942. The image is below:

Of course, this is one of those images where the back of the card doesn't match the person on the front of the card. But we learned a lot from JRH's card, including:

1) He resided in Philadelphia PA at 214 West Mt. Pleasant Avenue in 1942.

2) The birth date is consistent with the birth date on his World War I draft registration - 21 March 1886 in Philadelphia PA.

3) His next of kin is "Mrs. Harry G. Pfaff" at the same address - who is she?

4) He is employed at F.W. Baer & Son in Philadelphia - I wonder what this company did?

5) The handprinting on the card (by JRH) and the signature of JRH are very similar to that on the World War I draft registration card.

Based on all the points of similarity, this is Joan's John Robinson Hall. So we have moved the "Last Known Record" date up to 1942, and JRH is residing in his home town - Philadelphia PA with the Harry G. Pfaff family. Is that a sister's family? We still don't know who his siblings are - but we will try to find out!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Use GeoNames to find localities and features

Have you tried out GeoNames at ??

The site says:

"The geographical database is available for download free of charge under a creative commons attribution license. It contains over eight million geographical names and consists of 6.5 million unique features whereof 2.2 million populated places and 1.8 million alternate names. All features are categorized into one out of nine feature classes and further subcategorized into one out of 645 feature codes. (more statistics ...). The data is accessible free of charge through a number of webservices and a daily database export. is already serving up to over 3 million web service requests per day.

"Geonames is integrating geographical data such as names of places in various languages, elevation, population and others from various sources. All lat/long coordinates are in WGS84 (World Geodetic System 1984). Users may manually edit, correct and add new names using a user friendly wiki interface."

I tried it out of course - I typed in "Westminster" and selected "United States" in the search boxes. I got a long list of all of the Westminster towns, country clubs, mountains, hills, lakes, golf courses, strip joints, reservoirs, parks, etc. Populated places showed population, most places named showed elevations, and most places named had latitude/longitude coordinates.

I clicked on "Town of Westminster" in Massachusetts and was rewarded with a Google Earth type satellite map (with streets overlaid) and a list of 50 locations of buildings or features in the database, ordered by distance from the selected locality. You can manipulate the satellite map similar to Google Earth.

This is a really cool site. I will use this frequently to capture satellite photos of my ancestors houses and localities.

Finding JRH - what we knew

I posted earlier today about the steps that could be taken to find a person who lived in the 20th century. My CVGS colleague, Joan, asked if I could help her move her research further along, and I agreed. We met at the library today for two hours and we made some progress.

Observant (or shrewd) readers will know that we are searching for John Robinson Hall. Joan had the following information before we started:

1) a World War I draft registration record dated 10 September 1918 that says he was born 21 March 1886, was married to Anna Hall, and resided in Los Angeles. It says he worked in aviation.

2) a California marriage certificate (obtained from Los Angeles County) for J. Robinson Hall (age 31, born PA, parents John S. Hall and Mary Ann McLaughlin) and Anna F. Schrader (age 22, born NY, parents Louis Schrader and Henrietta Weidt) on 16 November 1917 in Los Angeles CA.

3) Family stories that John Robinson Hall left his pregnant wife 3 months before the birth of their son, Louis Robinson Hall. Anna went back to her native New York to have Louis, who was born there in November 1918. She brought Louis back to California and Anna married Morris Largey.

4) Joan had interrogated the databases several months ago for John Robinson Hall and found nothing but the World War I draft registration record. She had also written to the National Archives requesting a census record for him in 1900, but they said they needed a specific roll/ED/page number in order to provide it. Joan did not find him in the SSDI, so she recently wrote to the Social Security Administration asking for JRH's SS-5 application, providing a birth date and a birth state.

Our goal today was to try to exhaust some databases sources and find collateral families that might lead to John Robinson Hall in newspaper obituaries. Based on my review of the above data, I recommended that we:

1) Search the California Death Indexes for 1905 to 2000 to see if JRH died in California and was recorded.

2) Search the SSDI for John Hall, John R. Hall, John Robinson Hall, J. Robinson Hall, and Robinson Hall with a birth date of 21 March 1886.

3) Search the databases again since they have added new databases since she surveyed them.

4) Try to find JRH's birth family in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census records in order to determine when his parents may have died, the names and ages of his siblings (and perhaps their spouses and children), etc.

If we review as many sources as we can, we may be able to find more information that extends the "Latest Known Date" - which at this time is 10 September 1918.

I will post tomorrow about our online searches today and the small successes.

An Evening with the Genealogy Guys

I got this email from Liz Myers of the Questing Heirs Genealogical Society in Long Beach CA. Sounds like fun!

"An Evening with the Genealogy Guys" (George G. Morgan and Drew Smith from Tampa, Florida) at the China Buffet, 4074 Hardwick Street in Lakewood (across the street from Lakewood Center Mall). For at map, visit

Cost for dinner: $10.99 plus tax per person, seniors (65 and older) $9.89 plus tax

George and Drew, internationally known genealogists, will be answering general genealogy questions submitted in advance by those planning to attend this event. Please e-mail me your questions. So we can have a head count, please RSVP to

We will have our regular monthly meeting on Sunday, June 17th at 1:15 pm with John McCoy presenting "Bad Handwriting Day: Why Every Genealogist Needs to be a Paleographer!"

Loran Bures
Publicity &Public Relations Chair
Questing Heirs Genealogical Society

I wish I could attend. I hope they have a good turnout and a lot of fun! QHGS is able to do this because the Southern California Jamboree is the weekend of June 8-10 in Burbank, and they arranged a booksigning with George Morgan.

Dear Genea-Man: How Do I find my Grandfather?

Genea-Man gets hard research questions sometimes, so he's going to answer them occasionally on this blog. He will also try to report progress toward the "final solution."

Q: Dear Genea-Man, my grandfather ran off from his wife and baby son back around 1920 when they lived in Los Angeles. All I know is his name, his birth date and birth place, spouse and child's name, World War I draft registration card, and that he was in aviation. How can I track him down? Do you know where he is?

A: About the only thing I can tell you for sure is that he is NOT alive. He must be dead, so there might be a death record for him in one of the states. There may be other records that were made during his life.

The usual procedure for finding people in the 20th century is to:

1) Try to identify his parents from a birth certificate, a marriage record, a death record, an obituary or a census record. You should try to nail down his parents names, a birth date and a marriage date.

2) Search the Federal census records to try to identify the names, birth dates, birthplaces, residences, etc. of his parents and siblings.

3) Search the available death records (e.g., CA has 1905 to 2000 available online, but many states do not have theirs online) - vital records, Social Security Death Index for the parents and the siblings.

4) Try to find newspaper articles, death notices, obituaries, etc. for the parents and siblings - these might provide a clue to where he lives at a given point in time.

5) If you identify towns where he lived, then use city directories to determine a spouse's name, an occupation, an address. Follow him in the city directories until he disappears - he either died or moved out of town at that time. City directories can be found in local libraries or in regional libraries.

6) Interrogate the online commercial genealogy services like Ancestry, World Vital Records, Genealogy Bank, etc.

* Is he in the One World Tree, Ancestry World Tree or Public Members Tree on Ancestry?
* Did he register for the World War I draft (was he born between 1874 and 1900)?
* Did he register for the World War II draft (information on men born before 1897 are available on Ancestry)?
* Did he serve in the military in World War I or II?
* Is he in the "Stories and Publications" section?
* Is he in the Historical Obituary collection on Ancestry?

7) Write, call or email local libraries, genealogy societies or historical societies to see if there are indexes of newspaper obituaries or cemetery listings available for the city or town he lived in. Ask them to search for your fellow. Alternatively, go there yourself and do the search.

8) Has anybody else posted queries on surname mailing lists or surname message boards about your guy?

9) What about online databases at Rootsweb WorldConnect, LDS FamilySearch,, etc?

10) Have you checked the online cemetery databases?

11) Have you Googled his name forward and backward (since many databases use last name first)?

12) If any of the above searches provide a Social Security number, then you could order his SS-5 application. If you don't have a SSN, you can still request a search - see

20th century research is very difficult in many states because the Vital Records are not readily available to researchers, especially online. Blind searches in state vital records can be costly. Not all newspapers have complete indexes of obituaries, and most don't index Death Notices in the Classified section at all. To obtain obituaries and city directory data, you often have to contact a local repository or engage a researcher.

Do any of Genea-Man's faithful readers have more suggestions for my colleague? What other resources might be found to help find this man? Do you have recommendations for books or articles that might help?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Best Will Ever?

I was looking for information on one of my 9th great-grandfathers - Thomas Fish who died in 1687 in Portsmouth RI - and ran across this work, which was apparently written by a descendant of Thomas Fish - a man named Williston Fish, who wrote it in 1898 for Harper's Monthly magazine. The work is online at



I, Charles Lounsbury, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do here-by make and publish this my last will and testament, in order, as justly as may be, to distribute my interest in the world among succeeding men.

That part of my interest which is known in law and recognized in the sheep-bound volumes as my property, being inconsiderable and of no account, I make no disposition of in this my last will. My right to live, being but a life estate, is not at my disposal, but these things excepted, all else in the world I now proceed to devise and bequeath.

Item; I give to good fathers and mothers, in trust for their children, all good little words of praise and encouragement, and all Quaint pet names and endearments, and I charge said parents to use them justly, but generously, as the needs of their children shall require.

Item; I leave to children exclusively, but only for the term of their childhood, all and every, the flowers of the field and the blossoms of the woods, with the right to play among them freely according to the customs of children, warning them at the same time against thistles and thorns. And I devise to children the banks of the brooks and the golden sands beneath the waters thereof, and the odors of the willows that dip therein, and the white clouds that float high over the giant trees. And I leave the children the long, long days to be merry in, in a thousand ways, and the nights and the train of the Milky Way to wonder at, but subject, nevertheless, to the rights hereinafter given to lovers.

Item; I devise to boys jointly, all the useful, idle fields and commons where ball may be played, all pleasant waters where one may swim, all snow-clad hills where one may coast, and all streams and ponds where one may fish, or where, when grim winter comes, one may skate, to hold the same for the period of their boyhood. And all meadows with the clover blossoms and butterflies thereof; and echoes and strange noises, and all distant places which may be visited, together with the adventures there found. And I give to said boys each his own place at the fireside at night, with all pictures that may be seen in the burning wood, to enjoy without let or hindrance and without any incumbrance of care.

Item; To lovers I devise their imaginary world, with whatever they may need, as the stars of the sky, the red roses by the wall, the bloom of the hawthorne, the sweet strains of music, and aught else by which they may desire to figure to each other the lastingness and beauty of their love.

Item; To young men jointly, I Bequeath and devise all boisterous, inspiring sports and rivalry and I give to them the disdain of weakness, and undaunted confidence in their own strength. Though they are rude, I leave to them the power to make lasting friendships and of possessing companions, and to them exclusively I give all merry songs and brave choruses to sing with lusty voices.

Item; And to those who are no longer children or youths or lovers, I leave memory; and bequeath to them the volumes of the poems of Burns and Shakespeare and of other poets, if there be others, to the end that they may live the old days over again, freely and fully without tithe or diminution.

Item; To our loved ones with snowy crowns, I bequeath the happiness of old age, the love and gratitude of their children until they fall asleep.


Isn't that beautiful? Although written in the fashion of the time, the words still convey their meanings.

Della's Journal - Week 22 (May 28 to June 4, 1929)

This is Installment 22 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.

Here is Week 22:


Tuesday, May 28: Myrtle and Aunt L[ibbie] went home this A.M. We had a nice visit. Ma helped upstairs. A[ustin] & I cleaned all day.

Wednesday, May 29: A[ustin] painted stairs on North. Pd Mrs. Chapman 50 cents for washing two pads & 1 Table cloth. Cleaned up stairs.

Thursday, May 30: Lyle's went to country. We cleaned upstairs, ready for painting kitchen.

Friday, May 31: We cleaned. Have floors scrubbed.

Saturday, June 1 (pleasant): Ed over, mowed lawns. Emily took me out to Ma's house. Mr. Smith moved out. I brought in dirty clothes. Gave Ed $10.00.

Sunday, June 2 (pleasant, warmer): Lyle's worked at home. He trimmed hedge & trees. Took Ma out to her place this morning, she took her lunch, ate with Mrs. Snyder, then called on Mrs. Van Beeber. Lyle's brought her home. Ma met the man who has bought the place next to her. A[ustin] finished cleaning kitchen & Glewing (??).

Monday, June 3: Man came to paint kitchen, Mr. McClure. A & I worked at painting window sills & cleaning. A painted front steps.

Tuesday, June 4: Man varnished floor. A took treatment. I went to town, pd on Bldg & Loan $65, deposited $30.71 2nd Lyle gave us, 90 cents on my Accident Policy. Emily took Ma out to her house, she cleaned. Mr. Van Beeber brought her home. Zack called, is going East. Mrs. Garlock & his sister called.


Well, it looks like spring cleaning and painting is done. There was no mention of Memorial Day on the 30th. However, Lyle had the day off because they went to the country. Austin's vacation is almost over - he is 75 at this time and is still painting, cleaning, etc. Abby (Vaux) Smith is 87 and is still cleaning house. Amazing.

Using Ancestry's "Learning Center" is Frustrating

One of the FREE parts of is the "Learning Center." Here you can browse or search through thousands of articles written by genealogy experts over the past 10 years or so. Richard Eastman, Juliana Smith, Michael John Neill, Kip Sperry, and others have articles in this compendium. These articles and research tips appeared in the Ancestry Daily or Weekly News, Ancestry Magazine, etc.

Due to the volume of articles, it is necessary to use the Search box to find something on your topic of interest.

However, the Search logic in the Learning Center does not work as I expected it to. It is very poor in its' present form. For instance:

* A search with two words results in more hits than with either of the words. For instance, a search for "20th" results in 158 hits. But a search for "20th century" results in 1,511 hits.

* Putting search words in quotes to find words next to each other (e.g. "20th century") results in the same number of hits as when you input the words without quotes.

Frankly, that renders the search pretty well useless, doesn't it? I will take the time to search the 158 hits (at least to see the titles of the articles) but there is no way I will look through 1,511 listings.

It appears that the default search criteria is OR, not AND or NOT. I tried putting in "20th AND century" and got more hits than "20th century."

There is also the Ancestry Library at Here the articles are broken down into categories. In the "How To" section, there are 103 pages of listings with 2,564 articles. There is a Search box here also, and you can choose to search by "Any Word" "Author" "Title" "Exact Phrase" "Free Text" etc. I tried all of those for "20th century" and got the same number of hits - 1,515! So that Search box doesn't work as advertised - they all work as if you requested "Free Text."

How frustrating! Too bad. This library archive is a marvelous resource. But the Search capability is badly broken. How can we get it fixed?

UPDATE 5/29, 10:30 PM: Miriam Midkiff has commented that you can Google search a specific web site. For instance, for the "20th century" exact search I wanted to perform, I should use ["20th century" site: ] in the Google search box to search that particular web site (and all the pages associated with it).

I did that, and there were only 21 hits for "20th century" - that's more like it! I had heard that this could be done, but didn't think of it.

I think that this points up the fact that there is a wealth of knowledge in any genealogy community, and if members of that community are willing to take the time and help others, the benefit to all will be tremendous.

Thank you, Miriam!

UPDATE 5/30, 9 AM: Kathi at the Ancestor Search Blog suggested using the Google search string [ 20th century ] to perform the search. She demonstrated the number of hits for each search word, the combinations, and added a few extra terms for good measure.

Thanks, Kathi! I keep learning things...

Aunt Geraldine's treasures

I posted a month ago about the death of my dear aunt Geraldine (Seaver) Remley. She was the last living sibling of my father. I asked my cousin, who went to help sort out her things, to keep an eye out for family records, papers, photos, scrapbooks, etc. that Gerry's husband's family did not want to keep. I said that if no one else wants to sort these things out, that I would be happy to do it and share as much as I can on a CDROM at Christmas time.

I got a good look at the collection of papers, photos and other things when I was there for the service on May 4-5. I brought a few inches of stuff home in my suitcase, and my cousin kindly boxed up the rest of it and sent it out via UPS.

I spent part of Monday looking through it, and there are some treasures, including:

  • Gerry kept a diary in 1934, 1935 and 1936 (when she was age 17, 18 and 19).
  • Gerry kept a diary when she came to San Diego in July 1942 to attend my parents wedding.
  • There is a photo album with many black and white small family photos, and then collections in envelopes for each of her sibling's families.
  • There is her Master's thesis.
  • She wrote "pomes" to celebrate notable family birthdays and anniversaries - the papers include rough drafts of several of them
  • There is a gold case with tintype photos of a man and a woman. I have no clue who they are, and need a photo dating expert to help me out. I will post these photos soon.
  • The death certificate and autopsy report of her mother, Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver, who died in 1962.
  • The deed to the Seaver burial plot in Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster MA where Aunt Gerry now rests
I'm sure I will find many more goodies. I spent a part of Monday looking at the photos and scanning papers and photos. The photo album is a magnetic type and many photos are pasted or stuck down or together. I can get the plastic sheet off each page easily. I don't want to destroy them, but I want to save them digitally. I could scan the whole page (perhaps?) or take digital pictures of each photo or a group of photos. Any thoughts?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Veteran Admin. Nationwide Gravesite Locator

Arlene Eakle posted about military gravesites and cemetery research today, including the Veterans Administration Nationwide Gravesite Locator. Her post provides excellent tips on where to find cemetery records, plus reasons to use the NGL web site if you are looking for the graves of military veterans and their spouses.

However, the web site address that Arlene gave for the Nationwide Gravesite Locator was wrong - the correct URL is

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."

This information includes all military markers in all 112 military cemeteries, and to private cemeteries since 1997. The database doesn't include data on military markers placed in private cemeteries before 1997.

I put SEAVER in the surname search box and was rewarded with 120 hits, including my mother and father, and my uncle and his wife.

Read all of Arlene's post - she has good advice for finding cemetery records.

My Ancestors who served

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have served our country and have given their lives so that we can remain free.

My known ancestors who have served in the military since the Revolutionary War include:


1. World War II

* Frederick W. Seaver (1911-1983, my father) served in the United States Navy aboard the USS Halford. The picture is from 1944.


2. World War I

* Lyle L. Carringer (1891-1976, my grandfather) served in the United States Marines in San Diego. The picture is from 1917.


3. Civil War
* Isaac Seaver (1823-1901, my great-great-grandfather) of Leominster MA, a blacksmith, served in the Union Army (Civil war Pension File).


4. War of 1812

* James Bell (1777-1836) of Albany NY and later Henderson NY, served in the NY Militia.

* Amos Underhill (1772-1865) of Aurora NY served in the NY Militia.

5. Revolutionary War

* Martin Carringer (1758-1835) of Mercer County PA (RevWaw Pension file)

* Philip Row (1752-1817) of Hunterdon County NJ (RevWar Pension File)

* Peter Putman (1760-1835) of NJ and Yates County NY (RevWar Pension file)

* Stephen Feather (17??-1804) of NJ and Westmoreland County PA

* Rudolf Spengler (1738-1811) of York County PA

* Philip Jacob King (1738-1792) of York County PA

* Burgess Metcalf (1741-1816) of Piermont NH

* Isaac Buck (1757-1846) of Sterling MA (RevWar Pension File)

* Thomas Dill (1755-1830) of Eastham MA (RevWar Pension File)

* Joseph Champlin (1758-1850) of S. Kingston RI (RevWar Pension File)

* Norman Seaver (1734-1787) of Westminster MA

* Benjamin Seaver (1757-1816) of Westminster MA

* Zachariah Hildreth (1728-1784) of Westford MA

* Zachariah Hildreth (1754-1828) of Townsend MA

* Amos Plimpton (1735-1808) of Medfield MA

* David Kirby (1740-1832) of Westport MA

* Joseph Oatley (1756-1815) of S. Kingston RI.


I thank God for these men, the families that nurtured them, the wives that supported them, and the children who learned from them the importance of service to their country.
May God continue to bless the United States of America.

Memorial day cards

I found these hiding on my hard drive - I wonder where I found them?

I'm feeling a bit sentimental, and thankful, today.

Honoring our heroes

1. My country,' tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims' pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!
2. My native country, thee,
land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.
3. Let music swell the breeze,
and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song;
let mortal tongues awake;
let all that breathe partake;
let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
4. Our fathers' God, to thee,
author of liberty, to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright
with freedom's holy light;
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.
1. O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain;
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.

2. O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
till all success be nobleness,
and every gain divine.

3. O beautiful for patriot dream
that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law.

Click the links to see the lyrics and hear the songs.
Say a prayer, shed a tear, and be very grateful to those who have served our country with honor and sacrifice.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

World War II Army Enlistment Records

I've been browsing through the Military Records trying to find NEW databases that might contain meaningful records. One of the databases is the World War II Army Enlistment Records for 1938 to 1946. There is a treasure trove of information in them. I don't have any close family members who enlisted in the Army, so I chose one of the Seaver men on the list.

Here is what is in these records (some of the information may vary depending on rank):


Name: Guy R Seaver Jr
Birth Year: 1918
Race: White, citizen (White)
Nativity State or Country: Vermont
State: Vermont
County or City: Orange

Enlistment Date: 27 May 1942
Enlistment State: Vermont
Enlistment City: Rutland
Branch: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Branch Code: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life

Education: 1 year of high school
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Height: 70
Weight: 166


You don't get to see the actual document. Ancestry has put all of the data into an index and you see what they have transcribed. There is a lot of information there. Unfortunately, only the birth year is provided, but you do get a height (in inches) and a weight (in pounds).

This is one more set of very useful data for 20th century research.

The Creative Gene? Nope, not me!

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy is "Who inherited the 'Creative Gene' in your family?" Frankly, I know that it wasn't me. At least by the definition of painter, musician, poet, writer, wood carver, interior designer, calligrapher, knitter, singer. But my extended family does have most of those talents in the last few generations. Let's see:

1) Painter - my great-grandmother Della (Smith) Carringer painted pictures, and my great-grandfather Charlie Auble was a "painter" according to his obituary (although I doubt that he was an artist!).

2) Musician - I think the winner here is my grandmother, Bessie (Richmond) Seaver, who played the organ and piano at churches all over the Leominster MA Are between 1900 and 1960. She apparently played by ear and entertained at family gatherings to great fanfare.

3) Poet - I don't know any relative with a bent for iambic pentameter or any other sort of rhyming - perhaps my grandmother Emily (Auble) Carringer who liked to recite poems, but not of her own making. My daughter has written some verse for special occasions and to express her own feelings, especially in happy and sad times.

4) Writer - Perhaps Della (Smith) Carringer - at least she wrote a journal for one year! And letters to her family. I hesitate to nominate myself, although nobody else in the family has written as much for public (or private) consumption. The problem is quality vs. quantity - I am prolix and often logophagous (look those up in your Funk and Wagnalls!).

5) Wood carver - my great-grandfather Henry Austin Carringer was a carpenter - he built his own house and much of their furniture out of wood.

6) Interior designer - I nominate my mother, Betty (Carringer) Seaver for this award - she re-decorated her parents home on Point Loma extremely well in Oriental furniture and artwork. A close second is my daughter who "advises" her plebeian parents on all things decorative.

7) Calligrapher - my wife Angel Linda gets this award. She has beautiful handwriting and has dabbled in calligraphy. If only she would dot her i's and cross her t's!

8) Knitter - I know someone in my family must have done this, but I have no clue who it might be! It ain't me - I use velcro shoe ties because of my fumble fingers.

9) Singer - my aunts Ruth (Seaver) Fischer and Geraldine (Seaver) Remley take this honor hands down. They sang around Leominster when they were young and stunning, and led family gatherings all their lives. Beautiful trained voices.

10) Mechanical aptitude (a new category) - my father, Fred Seaver, was really mechanical - he loved puttering in the workshop, painting, taking things apart and putting them together. Over the years he managed to amputate several fingers and hurt himself badly several times while puttering. A close runnerup is my son-in-law who does everything mechanical really well, and his two sons look like they will have a mechanical gene also.

10) Computer programmer (another new category) - I thought of one for ME! During my 35 year career in aerospace engineering, I created fantastically intricate and large FORTRAN programs to solve engineering problems in aerodynamics, aircraft performance and thermodynamics. In addition, I wrote programs to calculate radio wave signal strengths and propagation as a hobby. Needless to say, I am a legend at my former company because everybody knows that these programs exist but nobody knows how to use them (heh heh!) or is willing to learn.

Looking back, I can see my Creative Gene trying to escape from the shackles of 1950's conformity - but I was left handed, one eyed, cut crookedly with scissors, sang in the key of J-flat, and couldn't even color within the lines. As a boy, I created realistic baseball games using dice while announcing them in an authoritative voice, made fantastic street and topographical maps of imaginary towns and places, and wrote fictitious slogans to fit radio station call letters (e.g., "as they say in Volatile, South Dakota at station KTPB - Keep The Pot Boiling!).

As a parent, I love to make up games for kids to play (e.g., light pole golf using a tennis ball, impale the snail on the dart board (using live snails), and throwing peas in the cup (a dinner table game despised by my wife and my mother), etc.)

As for creative writing, parody seems to be my forte, and silly, cynical, whimsical or ironic come in close behind (for evidence, see all of my Census Whacks over the last year!). But I am not a humorist or a creative writer - it's just not my forte.

To each their own! I always figured that no life is totally wasted - you can always be a bad example. I've tried but failed!